Archive | January, 2010


Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 21 January 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Often in the adult classes that I teach, I talk about the many entryways to Judaism. There are so many different ways that we define our Jewishness. There are cardiac Jews (“I don’t do anything but I feel Jewish in my heart”); gastronomic Jews (“I love Jewish food!”); sports Jews (“I play basketball at the J”); and more and more. Author David Forman wrote a book titled “50 Ways to Be Jewish” and says that his book is a Jewish “self-help” book — it gives 50 entryways or possibilities on how we connect.

It begins with Way No. 1: Your Name. Way No. 50 is Your Instincts and there is a wide range of ways in between. Way No. 26 is “Your Profession or I’d Rather Be a Sparrow Than a Snail” (from the Simon and Garfunkel song, “El Condor Pasa”). What an interesting title and what a question — is there a Jewish profession today? (And we are not talking about being a rabbi or Jewish teacher or being the Shabbat Lady!) There may not be a specific Jewish profession but there is a Jewish way to relate to the job you have, how satisfied you are and how well you do your job. Here is what Forman says:

“The 26th way to be Jewish is to guarantee that whatever our profession may be, we not only perform our job to the best of our ability, but we also safeguard the human side of our work. It matters little if you are ‘a sparrow or a snail,’ a bricklayer or a nuclear physicist, a manager or a laborer; the important thing is to maintain your decency, sensitivity, dignity. After all, the famous biblical quote, ‘Man does not live by bread alone’ (Deuteronomy 8:3), was not uttered in a vacuum. It is presented as a work ethic. Its message is simple and direct: A job is performed well when one has an appreciation for all that surrounds him or her, for what came before and what will come after (based on Deuteronomy 8:4-10).”

This is something to think about for yourself but also for your children. The best way to teach is simple: Model, MODEL, MODEL! Demonstrate for your children how to make your job special — be passionate and dedicated to making the world a better place through your daily work.

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

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Cotler & Wolpe

Cotler & Wolpe

Posted on 21 January 2010 by admin

Irwin Cotler to speak about Iran at 2010 Federation Men’s and Women’s events


What: 2010 JFGD Men’s and Women’s events
When: Men’s Event: Sunday, Jan. 31. Reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and speaker at 7:15.
Women’s Event: Monday, Feb. 1. Registration begins at 11 a.m., program at 11:30.
Where: Westin Galleria, 13340 Dallas Pkwy., Dallas
Cost: Men’s Event: $54; Women’s Event: $48. Both require a minimum contribution of $365 to the annual campaign.

By Rachel Gross

Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler will speak about Iran and the delegitimization of Israel at the Men’s and Women’s events, Sunday, Jan. 31 and Monday, Feb. 1. Hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, these are the two biggest fundraising events of the year and the focal points of its annual campaign.

The Men’s Event will take place at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31, and the Women’s at 11 a.m. on Feb. 1, both at the Westin Galleria, 13340 Dallas Pkwy. Kosher meals will be provided.

A member of the Canadian Parliament since 1999, former minister of justice and Canadian attorney general, he will address the concern Iran poses to the world and what Americans and Canadians can do to help prevent it.

Cotler said people need to have a better understanding of what goes on in the Middle East and hopes the audience will come away with the urge to take action. He emphasized that many countries look at Israel unfavorably.

“Ahmadinejad’s Iran is emerging as a clear and present danger to Middle Eastern stability and Israeli Jewry,” he said. “What we are witnessing today is the toxic construction of nuclear war, genocide, state support for international terrorism and massive repression … we are also witnessing a flowing international delegitimization of Israel under the cover of law and human rights. It is increasingly being portrayed as the enemy of all that’s good. I will seek to analyze it and set forth some recommendations for combating it.”

Cotler has been at the forefront of the struggle for peace and human rights for many years. His other roles include law professor and scholar, international human rights lawyer and community leader.

“An Israeli society that doesn’t have to face daily threats of terrorism can do what it does best — make contributions to science and medicine. That can be enhanced if they live in peace and security with their neighbors,” he said. “The core problem is the unwillingness of many in the Arab and Islamic world to accept the Jewish state. I speak from my own visits with leaders in the Islamic world and that’s the root cause of the conflict.”

JFGD Campaign Director Debbie Estrin said the goal of the 2010 campaign is to raise $11 million. She said the Men’s and Women’s events are community builders that people look forward to each year.

Estrin added that the money raised will benefit 14 local schools and partner agencies, three overseas partners and 12 national partners.

“This gives members of the community a way to rally around the annual campaign and a great networking and social opportunity,” she said. “People enjoy seeing old and new friends and it’s really a fantastic time when the men and women come together.”

The Women’s Event began 18 years ago and raised over $550,000 last year. Co-chair Sandra Veeder said it brings together women from all different facets of the community.

“It’s really exciting to get that many committed and dedicated Jewish women in a room at one time,” she said. “I am proud that we are bringing in another timely and serious speaker who is serious and thought-provoking. Gathering for a good cause is great, but when you can educate and motivate people at the same time, we’ve really accomplished something important.”

The Men’s Event is embarking on its 16th year; the JFGD hopes to surpass the $1.3 million that the event raised last year.

Event Chair Craig Rosenfeld said this enables men who may only see each other once a year to join together for a good cause.

“It’s a social and a Jewish male bonding event,” he said. “It is not going to be a business meeting, but a more casual event. We want to take care of the bonding and raising money together. There aren’t very many places that bring the entire Jewish community together, but the Federation does. It brings together the entire community together to do good.”

For more information, call Debbie Estrin at 214-615-5226 or visit

Third annual LearningFest begins Jan. 30 at Aaron Family JCC

By Rachel Gross

“Learn Jewish, Think Jewish, Do Jewish.”

This is the motto of the Center for Jewish Education and something it continually strives to promote. Jews from across the Metroplex will have the opportunity to learn, think and do Jewish during the third annual LearningFest from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7.

The theme for LearningFest is “From Kugel to Google: 21st Century Judaism.” Sponsored by the Center for Jewish Education (CJE) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, it showcases more than 50 sessions led by rabbis, educators and community leaders. Most will take place at the Aaron Family JCC, and $18 provides admission to all events.

Author and rabbi, David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles, will give the keynote address at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3. Wolpe will discuss his new book “Why Faith Matters,” and how faith plays a role in the way people function Jewishly in the 21st century.

“Faith mixes together all of the parts of life and what you do matters in the world; people seek and need that. It’s a powerful motivator for goodness,” Wolpe said. “I want to spread the message of the power of Jewish tradition to old and young and how it makes your life better, but also how it gives a powerful, close connection to others. I hope people will discover that Judaism acts as a platform to stand upon and as a motivator … life brings joy and sorrow, and faith gives you mechanisms to deal with that.”

LearningFest began in 2008 and attracted 500 people. Some 850 attended last year and the goal is to draw 1,000 this year, according to CJE Assistant Director Melissa Bernstein. The sessions will focus on how Judaism has evolved over time, why it matters and how it works today.

The kickoff event, “From Ana­tevka to Dallas: A Sing-Along with ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’” presented by 3 Stars Cinema, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at the JCC. Participants will have the chance to sing along with the 1971 version of the Oscar-winning film.

Other sessions include “Unplugged and Tuned in to Torah: A Jewish Perspective on the Internet and Social Networking,” led by Rabbi Wendy Pein of Congregation Adat Chaverim; “Seder Shabbat or Homemade Judaism: Quality Time at the Weekly Shabbat Table,” led by Noam Zion, visiting scholar-in-residence at Congregation Shearith Israel; and “The Soul — The Journey Through Life, Death and Beyond,” led by Rabbi Menachem Block of Chabad of Plano.

Stuart Prescott, co-chair of LearningFest with his wife, Myra, said it gives Jews a taste of Jewish education and allows them to see what different types of learning are available.

“What excites me is that people come to learn and we see so many new faces,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are Orthodox, Reform or in between, Judaism applies to everyone, and that’s what our rabbis and teachers are going to teach. This is why Jewish education is so important. People think it stops with the kids, but adults in Dallas are proving how great it is to learn because you want to … Jewish knowledge is power.”

CJE Executive Director Meyer Denn said this is the most dynamic LearningFest yet because of the breadth of people represented and the wide variety of topics. He said the goal is for LearningFest to act as a jumping-off point to continue Jewish learning.

He added that Jewish study is timeless and infinite.

“We often associate Jewish living and culture with the old days and tradition. We need to realize that Jewish living and learning is at our fingertips on the Internet and accessible … for Jews of all ages,” Denn said. “If we can inspire someone, and LearningFest moves them to continue learning, that’s the greatest success we can hope for. There is something for everyone and this is really exciting for our community.”

For more information, contact Melissa Bernstein at 214-239-7134 or To register online and for a schedule of events, visit

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 14 January 2010 by admin

Gov. Rick Perry names UT Dallas instructor to Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsvath, Leah and Paul Lewis Chair of Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, has been named to a newly formed state commission by Governor Rick Perry.

The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is intended to provide educational materials to schools and colleges and help implement course studies and awareness programs of the Holocaust and other genocides.

Dr. Ozsvath said, “I feel honored to be chosen for this important office, and I’ll serve with pleasure the state of Texas, where I found my home 45 years ago.”

The founding director of the Holocaust Studies program at UT Dallas, she is also an award-winning author, having received the Hungarian National Academy of Sciences Milan Füst Literary Award for the book “Foamy Sky: The Major Poems of Miklós Radnóti,” which she co-authored. A Fulbright Award recipient, Dr. Ozsvath earned a final diploma in piano from the Béla Bartók School of Musical Arts, a concert diploma in piano from the State Academy of Music at Hamburg and a doctorate of German language and literature from the University of Texas at Austin. For the past 20 years, she has organized lecture series and international conferences on the Holocaust.

In additon to Dr. Ozsvath, Gov. Perry has named Peter Berkowitz of Houston chair of the commission and appointed Laura Allen ­McCarthy of Richardson, David Schultz of Plano and LaSalle R. Vaughn of Helotes to the commission, which will work with organizations, agencies, museums, survivors and liberators to help preserve information and experiences of the Holocaust and other genocide events.

Joel Shickman to be remembered with musical party

The late Joel Shickman, or “Mr. Joel” as his littlest musical protégés called him, believed in the healing power of music. In his memory, Music Together of Dallas will present its Annual Winter Disco Party benefiting the Joel Shickman Children’s Music Fund on Sunday, Jan. 17, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., in Pollman Hall at Temple Emanu-El. All of the proceeds from the party will go toward the fund, which allows families battling childhood cancer to bring all of their children to Music Together classes for free.

Tax-deductible tickets are $10 for dancers 8 months and older. You can now order then online.

“Everyone between the ages of 0 and 120 is invited,” said Gila Vinokur, owner and director of Music Together of Dallas. “Disc jockey Joey Ben Ami will spin multi-generational sounds, from swing to disco, rock-and-roll to hip-hop. B.B. Good, formerly with Radio Disney, will be the emcee for the afternoon. We’ll have a musical time and be raising funds for a wonderful cause in Joel’s memory.”

Shickman knew that one of the most perfect matches in all of creation is music and children. The music one learns as a child becomes a part of their being and memory for the rest of their lives. Music speaks when there are no words to express incredible joy, sorrow, fear or love. Shickman was a man who could bring this incredible power of musical expression to everyone around him, young and old.

Joel grew up in a musical household, and his most significant interactions with his parents centered on music. Although his mother, a classically trained pianist, died of breast cancer when he was a toddler, the spirit of her music remained a part of him throughout his life. His father was passionate about classical music, and music remained a uniting force in their relationship. They often played duets, performed choral works and studied music together.

Shickman played violin from the age of 6. He studied theater in high school, where he also picked up the guitar. He was often found playing for free at local cafés on weekends. In college, he decided to broaden his musical studies and learned composition, theory, piano and conducting. He sang with the Houston Symphony and the Dallas Symphony choruses for more than a decade, touring with them around the world.

Joel’s true calling to teach was awakened when he became a father. When his first son was old enough, Joel signed up for a Music Together class. Soon, he was a Music Together teacher. “Mr. Joel” was a magnet to children and parents alike. He was honored to be their guide through Latin rhythms, African drums, American folk songs and classical orchestras.

Joel knew that everyone could speak through music. He empowered the parents in his classes to sing and dance and bang on drums regardless of their pitch, ear or talent. He knew that a child needs to hear a parent’s voice and doesn’t care about quality. When a baby hears Mom or Dad singing, the connection between them is made no matter what key or how broken the tune. He knew that children can learn the languages of rhythm and music to express themselves before they could even speak.

He grew as a teacher and expanded his classroom to include his synagogue and Sunday school communities. He was always seen with a guitar or at the piano leading prayers or songs for children or conducting the choir for the High Holy Days. In 2005, Joel entered the seminary and began studying to become a rabbi. In every way, music was a part of his teaching and learning.

Joel Shickman died in November 2007 of leukemia. During his illness, there were jam sessions around his hospital bed and he played his guitar daily. A visitor to his room during one of these sessions could see him visibly lifted up in strength and spirit by the music. The hospital staff stood in awe at this healing power. They could be seen smiling and dancing down the hall for hours afterward.

Joel’s sons were 2, 5 and 8 when he died. They remember the learning, the love, the silliness — and they remember the music. The youngest always asks to hear Daddy’s CD in the car, at bedtime, and in the classroom. He will smile and say, “That’s my Daddy’s song.”

The Joel Shickman Children’s Music Fund will bring the healing power of music to families who need it most. It will heal them and unite them in unbreakable ways. It will be Joel’s song.

For more information about Music Together’s Annual Winter Disco Party benefiting the Joel Shickman Children’s Music Fund, or to make a donation, please call 972-267-4452 or e-mail or

Yavneh dinner to be held Jan. 25

Yavneh Academy’s Uniting Students of Dallas will hold its annual dinner benefiting the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, in Pollman Hall at Yavneh on Monday, Jan. 25. Keynote speaker will be Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson of the Texas Supreme Court; there will also be presentations by State Bar of Texas President Roland Johnson and Texas Young Lawyers Association President Cori Harbour. The event will start with a 6:30 p.m. reception followed by dinner. Cocktail attire is suggested. For reservation information, e-mail or call 214-295-3500.

Akiba Academy workshop for parents with Ann Lewin-Benham

The Early Childhood Education Department of Akiba Academy invites parents to attend a special workshop on “Reading, Writing and Essentials of Early Childhood Literacy Experiences,” given by well-known educator and author Ann Lewin-Benham, on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Pollman Hall.

Ann Lewin-Benham returns to Akiba to address an entirely new subject: early childhood literacy. Among the topics to be discussed will be how preschool environments can create experiences that support emerging literacy, the benefits of encouraging playing with sounds at home, and how to best nurture early signs of writing.

Lewin-Benham has written two books: “Possible Schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education” (2006), and “Powerful Children: Understanding How to Teach and Learn Using the Reggio Approach” (2008). Her strong credentials have made her an expert in the Reggio educational approach, a method that is a strong element in the philosophy of early childhood education at Akiba.

Currently a consultant to Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, she has been conducting a four-part workshop this year at Akiba, for the benefit of educators and parents of Akiba, as well as educators and members of the Dallas community.

Wine and desserts will be served There is no charge to attend.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 14 January 2010 by admin

Federation campaign kicks off

The evening of Jan. 10 brought the Federation’s Major Givers to their annual reception at Dick and Julie Abrams’ home. Over 40 of Tarrant County’s most generous folks heard from Dr. Richard Golden, director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of North Texas; Dr. Carole Rogers, director of Jewish Family Services; and featured speaker, Dan Gordon.

After shmoozing and enjoying the wonderful food from Chef Point Café, the crowd was welcomed by Dr. Barry Schneider, president, and Marilyn Englander, campaign chair, who began the evening’s program. After a short DVD presentation, Mort House, executive director, introduced both Dr. Golden and Dr. Rogers.

Dr. Golden, chair of UNT’s Jewish Studies Program, gave an impressive report. The audience was pleased to hear that the program, which was just an idea in 2000, has grown into a full-fledged department with over a thousand students. The Federation, one of the first to support the program, allocated $7,000 to it this year.

Dr. Rogers explained the Federation’s financial assistance program, which she administers out of JFS. Deserving individuals or families are given assistance with housing issues, medical issues and other areas where assistance may be needed. Dr. Rogers emphasized the fiscal responsibility and great care that goes with this program. She, with Susan Luskey, JFS chair, the JFS committee, Mort House and Dr. Schneider, runs this program with compassion and strength.

Marilyn Englander introduced the featured speaker, screenwriter Dan Gordon, who began his talk with a little biographical information that had the audience laughing heartily. Let’s just say that his family immigrated to Calgary and in addition to learning the Black Foot Indian language, the Gordons taught the Indians a bit of Yiddish…. He described his experiences in the Israel Defense Forces, of which he has been a part for 37 years. As a spokesman for the IDF, he was able to tell the audience the real story behind the headlines of Israel’s war with the Hezbollah and the Hamas.

The program ended with a passionate speech by Englander, who shared her motivations for volunteering with the Federation and asked the audience to join her in preserving the community’s Jewish identity. She said, “Thankfully, the economy has improved somewhat since this time last year. While the campaign last year was down by 10 percent, we hope that our donors can increase their generosity and bring our campaign back up to $1 million.”

Kornbleet Scholar-in-Residence Charles C. Haynes to speak at Beth-El, Jan. 21

Charles C. Haynes, an esteemed educator, author and columnist, has been named the 2010 Larry Kornbleet Memorial Scholar-in-Residence. He will speak on “Religious Liberty and the Future of American Democracy” at Beth-El Congregation, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21.

Haynes is a senior scholar at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C. He writes and speaks extensively on the First Amendment and issues concerning religion in American public life.

He is best known for his work on First Amendment conflicts in public schools. Over the past two decades, he has been the principal organizer and drafter of consensus guidelines on religious liberty in American schools. In January 2000, three of these guides were distributed by Pres. Bill Clinton to every public school in the nation.

He is the author or co-author of six books on First Amendment issues. His column, “Inside the First Amendment,” appears in more than 200 newspapers nationwide.

Haynes, who holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate from Emory University, chairs the Committee on Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches. He is also a frequent guest on television and radio. He has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and on ABC’s “Evening News,” and is the recipient of numerous awards.

For over 200 years, the religious-liberty clauses in the Bill of Rights remain the boldest and most successful experiment in religious freedom in human history. But today, through ignorance and contention, there is a growing assault on the separation of church and state that threatens the future of religious liberty in America as it undermines the First Amendment.

No part of our nation’s story better reminds us of what is at stake than the receptions given in 1654 and 1658 to the first two boatloads of Jewish families in what is now the United States. The starkly contrasting receptions in the 17th century echo through our history down to the present-day culture wars over what kind of nation we will be in the 21st century as well as the experience that Jewish children may have in the school systems of Texas and elsewhere.

Parents of school-age children especially are urged to attend and hear Charles Haynes’ call to vigilance about the intrusion of religious doctrine in our schools.

The event is free and open to the public. A dessert reception will follow the presentation. There will be no solicitation of funds. The program is brought to the community through the beneficence of Marcia and Stan Kurtz in memory of their loved ones.

For babysitting reservations (children 4 and under) or more information, please call the Federation office, 817-569-0892.

CAS Film Series continues with ‘Praying With Lior,’  Jan. 17

Movies come and go, but “Praying with Lior,” the second in Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s “Til 120 and Beyond Jewish Film Series,” will remain in your heart and mind for a long time after viewing.

You won’t want to miss this fabulous documentary about young Lior Liebling, a young man with Down syndrome, who is filled with an unquenchable spirit of prayer, a love of singing and reverence for God. As he anticipates his long-awaited bar mitzvah, the film documents how the family and community he loves affirms the essence of the man Lior is becoming.

“Praying with Lior” will screen at 3:30 p.m. The doors will open at 3 for those who want to come early for a good seat.

Remember, the films are free. Popcorn and lemonade are free as well. Cold drinks and candy bars will be on sale with the proceeds going to the shul’s United Synagogue Youth organization. Babysitting is available by calling JoAnn English in the congregation office at 817-731-4721.

Thanks to the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for generously funding the CAS Film Series.

‘Bart Got a Room’ at Beth-El Film Festival, Jan. 16

Nerdy high school senior Danny has spent $600 on the hotel room, the limo and the tux for his prom. He’s missing only one thing: the girl. Hampered by well-intentioned but clueless advice from his newly-divorced parents and unsympathetic mocking from his best friends, Danny battles peer pressure, teen angst and his own raging hormones as he desperately searches for a prom date. His luckless quest turns to panic when he learns that even Bart — the school’s biggest dweeb — has secured not only a date, but also a hotel room for the night.

That’s the plot of “Bart Got a Room” (rated PG-13), which will be shown at the 2010 Congregation Beth-El Film Festival on Saturday evening, Jan. 16. Dinner will be at 6:30, followed by showtime at 7:30. There is no charge for those wishing only to see the film.

The Yucatan Taco Stand meal, $12/person, will feature roasted tequila lime chicken, chipotle mashed potatoes, braised Latin vegetables and Yucatan house salad with fried plantains. Reservations for the meal must be made in advance by calling the Temple office, 817-332-7141.

For children, two films will be shown: “The Chosen” and “Something for Nothing.”

The Congregation Beth-El Film Series is funded by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

‘Fiddler’ lands at Bass Hall’s roof, March 9–14

Performing Arts Fort Worth and Casa Manana will welcome back the family-friendly musical “Fiddler on the Roof” to Bass Performance Hall March 9–14. Single tickets are $30–$75, and will go on sale Monday, Jan. 18, at 10 a.m.

Starring in the lead role as iconic milkman Tevye will be Harvey Fierstein, replacing Chaim Topol, who left the production last year due to a shoulder injury. Fierstein played Tevye in the recent, critically acclaimed Broadway production of “Fiddler.” Audiences now have the rare opportunity to see the Tony Award winner embrace one of his favorite roles in this Jerome Robbins-inspired production.

“Fiddler on the Roof” has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its universal appeal and timeless message. The North American tour continues the tradition of the 1964 Jerome Robbins, Tony Award-winning production.

When “Fiddler on the Roof” opened in 1964, it was a time of change and crumbling traditions in our own country. Students of the time identified with the rebellious student, Perchik, and strongly related to the breaking of hallowed traditions. Tevye and others of his time struggled with these problems in 1905, and emerged triumphant, offering the hope and promise of reconciliation to a turbulent society.

Today, “Fiddler on the Roof” is as relevant as ever. Forty-five years and a generation later, new audiences can identify and take heart as they experience the tradition in great musical theater that is “Fiddler on the Roof.”

To charge tickets by phone, call 817-212-4280 in Fort Worth, 877-212-4280 (toll-free) outside Fort Worth; or order online at or Tickets are also available at the Bass Performance Hall ticket office at 525 Commerce St. Ticket office hours: Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 14 January 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Here’s something interesting: a case of cookies. Not a caseful of them, delivered ready for the eating — although that would be delightful! This is a court case.

We often say not to make a “federal case” out of something, but that just might be happening here. But we can be the (informal) judges on whether or not the matter is important enough for that. Although our opinions, however tasty, won’t matter much in the long run.

I opened my daily paper the other day to find a familiar face smiling at me. A smiling cookie face, the longtime logo of Eat’n Park, a chain of family-friendly restaurants in western Pennsylvania. Its Smiley Face Cookies are an important part of the life experience in Pittsburgh, my home town.

But this particular cookie might have been frowning. Eat’n Park is suing a Dallas-area company for alleged trademark infringement, because it too is selling smiley-face cookies. They’re a bit different, but most definitely recognizably close relatives of the northern kind.

All of us lucky enough to have lived in the land of Eat’n Park treasure the authentic Smiley Face. We head there ASAP on return visits to grab and gobble. When my family knows the date of my next visit, someone begins to pick up cookies in advance, freezing them so I’ll have happy companions for my coffee immediately upon arrival.

And here’s something you should know: While Eat’n Park isn’t a kosher restaurant chain, most Jews within eating distance will eat there. If not the frum, the next-most will partake of its exceptional salad bar and enjoy the best fresh fish entry in town: cod baked in orange juice. With a Smiley Face for dessert, of course.

Full disclosure: I have never eaten a cookie from the local competitors. But as a Pennsylvania partisan in this debate, I must insist that taste isn’t what matters most. Authenticity is. A Smiley Face is the one that Eat’n Park trademarked back in 1987. Period.

Additional disclosure: My husband is not a Pittsburgh native and does not properly appreciate either the cookies or Eat’n Park itself. He’s even asked me about that name: Why Eat’n Park? Shouldn’t it be Park’n Eat? Don’t you have to ditch the car before you can come in and sit down to dinner? I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care. I think we all take the things we grew up with just as they are, without those logical questions. And I for one am grateful for the great constants in my life, the few things I grew up with that haven’t changed at all. Eat’n Park is one of them. (In all fairness: Pittsburgh moves slowly in a number of aspects, and has more of those stable elements than many other cities. When you visit a Jewish neighborhood, or an Italian one, or a Polish one, where kids are growing up in the same houses their grandparents were born in, you’ll know what I mean.)

Anyway, I don’t worry about parking at the Eat’n Park in the Jewish neighborhood, which is the one where I meet my son’s in-laws for an early morning breakfast. The little fresh-baked cinnamon buns are the best. So: Hold the toast, please. (But substitute a Smiley Face cookie instead!)

Over the years, Eat’n Park has created a few variations on its tried-and-true symbol. The basic Smiley Face is perfectly round, while the competitor’s entry into the fray is surrounded with petals that try to turn a cookie into a flower. The basic icing is white; the three dots making up eyes and nose, and the wide, single-stroke smile are always the same color — while that color can vary: pink, purple, blue, yellow, green, you name it; pick your favorite from the display up front, near the cash register. On important occasions, shapes and colors may morph, as into smiling black-and-gold footballs to celebrate Steelers’ Super Bowl victories. And I even have Smiley Face keychains modeled on the traditional original for distribution to the deprived. My Illinois grandsons, who only get to eat an occasional cookie, are crazy about them.

But the real thing is the best thing, whether we’re talking keychains or copycat cookies. I’m hoping Eat’n Park can negotiate an out-of-court settlement. If it can’t, I hope for the real Smiley Face to emerge triumphant. But if not, I guess that will just be the way the cookie crumbles. I will continue to show my loyalty by choosing the originals to crumble up in my coffee.


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 14 January 2010 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

In the Torah reading at the end of the book of Genesis, I’m always bothered by the same question. In the episode of Joseph and his brothers, when Judah is pleading to let their brother Benjamin free, as his capture would cause the death of their father, suddenly Joseph reveals himself to them by proclaiming, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” Why would he ask if his father is alive, if the whole point of Judah’s pleading is to save the life of his father?

Dru R.

Dear Dru,

Your question is posed by a renowned commentary, the “Bais Halevi,” authored by the renowned Rav of Brisk, Lithuania, R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, over 100 years ago. He answers the question in true Jewish fashion, with another question: The Midrash quotes a verse saying “Oy to us for the day of judgment, oy to us for the day of rebuke.” Explains the Midrash, “This is referring to Joseph and his brothers on the day he rebuked them, and they could not answer him, since they were dismayed by his rebuke.” This is referring to Ch. 45 verse 3, which you mentioned in your question. The problem is, that verse seems to say nothing about rebuking the brothers.

Bais Halevi explains that the difference between judgment and rebuke is the following. Judgment looks at the action itself being judged at face value, if it was proper or forbidden, based upon the laws of Torah. Rebuke, however, looks at the action in a different light. The word for rebuke, in Hebrew, comes from the word hochiach, which means to prove to the other person inherently, from within the action itself, the wrongness of the act.

For example, when one comes before the Heavenly court after leaving this world, he or she will be asked why they gave so little tzedakah. If the person will answer they couldn’t afford any more than they gave, they may be asked, “So then why did you have enough to buy a new car every year? Why was the yearly trip to the Caribbean within the budget? If you didn’t have enough money to do what’s important, why did you have enough for that?” In this situation, the act is being judged against itself, giving for one thing against giving for another, which is the ultimate rebuke.

This second type of judgment, rebuke, is what Joseph was expressing to his brothers during the plea of Judah to free Benjamin. Judah’s argument was the unfairness of capturing Benjamin, as he is the most beloved son to Jacob their father, and his capture would surely bring their father’s untimely death. To that proclaims Joseph: “I am Joseph,” the son who, at the time of my kidnapping and sale by y’all, was the most beloved to my father. Is my father still alive? Meaning, did my sale kill him? And if you’re concerned that Benjamin, my only maternal brother, being taken will kill our father, why weren’t you concerned about the exact same effect when you sold me away from my father? They couldn’t answer him due to their dismay from the penetrating power of that rebuke.

The lesson is to take a careful look at one’s own actions, and see how many things we don’t do, based on lame excuses, that we should be doing. We need to ask ourselves honestly, will our answers hold up against the questions of rebuke at the time of truth? Will our answers be turned against us, showing us that all our excuses don’t hold water because what we claimed we couldn’t do, we actually did do, just at the wrong time and for the wrong purposes? We need to be ready for the day to come when we will hear, “I am G-d, did you care about Me?!”

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 fron the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 14 January 2010 by admin

Dear Families,

This week at the J Early Childhood Center we talked about names. Many toddlers are able to tell their name and even the names of some of their friends. By the 3s and pre-K, many children know their first and middle names (and how about knowing what a nickname is and where it came from!). Jewish tradition teaches that each of us has three names: “the one we are given at birth, the one we are called, and our real name. The challenge is to discover our real name.” So what is our “real name”? It is the name we make for ourselves by our deeds and how we live our lives.

It is so important for parents to share the stories of family names with their children. My best memory is the story of how my mother chose my name. That was the story I wanted to hear over and over again when I was a little girl because it was special — our names are special! Spend some time together sharing the stories of the names of all the members of the family.

The Torah is full of names and many of them are popular ones for children today. Sometimes Biblical names describe something about the person, such as Isaac (Yitzhak) which means laughter and came from when Sarah laughed on learning that she was going to have a child at age 90. Today many Jewish children in the United States have their “secular” name and a Hebrew name. Jews of Ashkenazi, or eastern European, descent, name children only after relatives who have passed away while the Sephardi Jews name children after living relatives — this can be a challenge in an Ashkenazi/Sephardi “mixed” marriage.

After the name (or names) has been chosen, we wait for the big announcement. Jewish tradition is that a boy’s name is not announced until his brit — that is eight days to call that baby something different. For a girl, the tradition is for the father to name his daughter on the first Shabbat after her birth when he is called to the Torah for an honor. Today, boy or girl, traditional or not, it is always a time for celebration.

All of these wonderful traditions make for wonderful memories and stories. Tell your children about their names, about your names and about those of everyone in the family. Our names are important and special — they tell us who we are and where we belong.

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

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Historic one-month scholar-in-residence program

Historic one-month scholar-in-residence program

Posted on 14 January 2010 by admin

For the schedule and registration form click here

At the heart of Judaism is the study of Torah. Torah for the Jewish people represents more than just the first five books of the Bible. Torah means the learning and understanding of everything Jewish — our culture, history, holidays, values, our relationship to God and a way of life steeped in ethics, compassion and meaning. Jewish learning is rooted in the study and exploration of our classical and sacred texts. We read these texts, grapple with their contradictions and complexities and gain insight through the wisdom and eternal truths embedded in every line. Jewish study has never been a soliloquy, but rather a dynamic dialectic between student and teacher and reader and text.

The ability to question, challenge, disagree and offer new interpretations of our most ancient texts is both exciting and liberating. The Talmud asks the question: “Which is greater, study or action?” And the Talmud responds: “Study is greater, since study leads to action.” Torah learning is the key to unlocking Judaism’s wisdom. Learning helps us to navigate in a world of incredible change, advancement, complexity and dangers. The study of Torah provides the blueprint for tikkun olam, for repairing a world and society that is often broken and crying out for help. The Jewish tradition is about relationships, death, fear, sexuality, love and the complexity of living a moral and ethical life.

You cannot confront such issues of depth and reality easily. They require serious learning and reflection. Torah study and Jewish learning are the basis for leading a rich, meaningful and beautiful Jewish life. To be educated from the Jewish perspective means becoming part of something bigger than yourself. It means not merely to be a student of Torah, but to be of the Torah.

It is for these reasons that Congregation Shearith Israel is launching a historic program of Torah learning and outreach: the Bernard “Beanie” Siegel Scholar-in-Residence Program — “GPS Judaism: Finding Your Place in the Jewish Tradition.” The program is made possible by a gift from Lynne and Andy Siegel and other donors.

“GPS Judaism” will feature Noam Zion, director of curriculum development and research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Noam is one of the most dynamic and gifted teachers in the Jewish world today.

This program will be for the entire Jewish community and will take place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 23. Classes, workshops and study sessions will take place at Shearith Israel and throughout the entire Jewish community in a plethora of venues.

There was an ancient tradition known as hakhel, where farmers who couldn’t study on a daily basis would all gather in Jerusalem once a year to learn Torah in an intense way. “GPS Judaism” will highlight this custom by giving everyone in our community an opportunity for intensive and authentic Torah learning for an entire month.

We invite all the members of the community to join us for a dynamic, spiritually uplifting and intellectually stimulating month of learning and Jewish growth.

Rabbi William Gershon is the senior rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel.

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Akiba welcomes troops, including one of their own

Akiba welcomes troops, including one of their own

Posted on 07 January 2010 by admin

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Students, parents, faculty and staff members of Akiba Academy have been making frequent visits to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport as part of their “caring community” commitment to show respect and offer heartfelt thanks to the members of our military forces serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and other military bases around the world.

Last month, a large contingent of third- and fifth-grade students made its way to DFW to enthusiastically greet our peace protectors, carrying colorful signs of welcome and ample good wishes. This mitzvah did not go unnoticed.

Mr. Joe Schneider, a member of the Welcome Home a Hero organization, took the time to write a note to Rabbi Zev Silver of Akiba, following this visit:

“Dear Rabbi,

“Thank you for bringing out all those wonderful children to welcome home our soldiers. As you probably know, our soldiers appreciate it very much and it means a lot to them when we show our support. I have posted a picture of your students’ greetings on our Web site, under the area ‘Support Groups.’ Hope to see you guys soon, thanks.”

Akiba’s General Studies Resource Janeen Chattaway had her own very important, personal reasons to travel to the airport that same week: the safe return of her son, Chief Warrant Officer II Stephen Chattaway, from a tour of duty in Iraq.

A Black Hawk Helicopter pilot who visited Akiba’s students on campus on Monday, Dec. 14, Stephen had just arrived for a two-week furlough, and returned to the war zone on Dec. 24, where his tour of duty will run until early May.

He was given a hearty welcome home and thanks for his service to our country.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 07 January 2010 by admin

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Kathy Freeman to receive NCJW award

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Dallas Section, will recognize Kathy Freeman with its top honor, the Hannah G. Solomon Award, at its 97th annual Birthday Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 11:30 a.m., at Bent Tree Country Club. NCJW presents this award to individuals with a strong NCJW identity whose leadership efforts have changed the lives of others and motivated others to work for social change, and who have helped expand the role of women in community life.

“Kathy Freeman exemplifies the criteria of this prestigious award,” said Cheryl Pollman, section president. “She is, above all, a doer.”

Early in her volunteer career, Kathy worked with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas to set up apartments for immigrants escaping from communist Russia. Not long after that, she became an NCJW tutor in DISD’s Travis Elementary School. She continued her NCJW career, chairing many major initiatives such as the Juvenile Mediation/Restitution Committee, for which she received the Advocate of the Year Award from the Juvenile Department of Dallas County. From 1998 to 2000, she served as the NCJW Dallas section’s president. Her most recent involvement is in two current major NCJW programs: one that tackles childhood obesity, and another that serves as a bridge support system for teens “graduating” out of foster care. She has been a force, as well, in programs battling domestic abuse in the Jewish community.

NCJW will also bestow honors on Linnie Katz, who will receive the Janis Levine Music Make-a-Difference Award, and Felise Leidner, who will be recognized with the Emerging Leader Award.

Linnie’s Make-a-Difference impact has been felt in many NCJW programs: Safeguards for Seniors, a program that helped seniors manage their medications; Kids in Court, which supports juvenile abuse victims during their court appearances; the Community Board Institute; and delivering Meals on Wheels. She has served as co-vice president of community service for two years, and currently serves as co-vice president of financial development.

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes Felise Leidner’s talents as a hands-on volunteer and a program leader. As co-vice president of community service, she oversees six major NCJW community service projects, yet still finds time to teach English as a Second Language to recent immigrants at Vickery Meadow Learning Center.

National Council of Jewish Women/Dallas Section is a progressive organization of women AND men who research needs in the community and seek to fill those needs through direct community service and advocacy. Examples of programs researched, initiated and then spun off by NCJW/Dallas Section include: LIFT, CASA, DISD Volunteer Program and the Meyerson Symphony Center Docent Program.

Luncheon tickets are $54. For more information, please call the NCJW office, 214-368-4405, or e-mail them at

Beth Torah Men’s Club welcomes Jeff Morris

Jeff Morris, the founder of a Web site that helps unemployed and under-employed people in the Dallas area find new jobs, will be the guest speaker at the Beth Torah Men’s Club breakfast on Sunday, Jan. 10.

Morris, a former manufacturing manager and career counselor, established in November 2008. The comprehensive Web site includes advice, networking groups, job fairs, resources to get careers back on track and even humor to help people cope with tough times.

The goal, the Web site proclaims, is “giving you the tools you need to land your next great opportunity.” More than 50,000 people from 80 countries visited the site in its first year.

Morris also leads the North Dallas Career Focus Group, which helped place more than 150 people in new jobs in 2009.

The Men’s Club lox-and-bagel breakfast is open to the community. The cost is $10, but anyone looking for a job or unable to pay is invited to breakfast as a guest of the Men’s Club.

The breakfast begins at 9 a.m. Beth Torah is located at 720 West Lookout Drive in Richardson. For more information, call the synagogue at 972-234-1542.

Women’s self-defense workshop

Seconds count! The JCC is offering a life-changing clinic for women, 15 years of age and up, on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. in the Mind Body Studio of the J Sports and Fitness Complex, 7900 Northaven Road. Teens and elders will learn simple, easy-to-retain self-defense techniques; defend against the most common grabs and holds; and understand how to use self-confidence and self-esteem to prevent attacks. Instructor Enrique Welcher, a certified karate instructor on the National Israel Karate Selection Team, was the 2007 World Champion at the World Union-Spain. He developed the Israeli Krav-Haganah technique, the method taught at the Israeli police cadets’ school. There is no fee, but space is limited and advance reservations are necessary by Jan. 13. For more information, please contact JCC Sport and Fitness Group Exercise Director Terri Arends, 214-239-7137 or

Orthodox Union to honor Dallas’ Rabbi Israel Lashak

The Ben Zakkai Honor Society of NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth), the international youth program of the Orthodox Union, will induct Rabbi Israel Lashak of Dallas, director of the NCSY Southwest Region, at the 14th annual Ben Zakkai Honor Society Scholarship Reception, Jan. 10, 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York. Rabbi Lashak, who moved to Dallas in 1990 to head NCSY, was a founding teacher at Yavneh Academy, where he taught for 13 years. The director of Jewish Student Union of Texas and involved in countless other organizations, he will also receive the Rebbetzin Elaine and Rabbi Pinchas Stolper Leadership Award.

“It is a wonderful achievement for nearly two decades of dedication to the teens of Dallas,” said Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt, administrator of NCSY. “Rabbi Lashak is passionate, fun and a burst of Jewish dynamism. He has been there for teens of all backgrounds and has been a source of inspiration to us all.”

Ben Zakkai Honor Society is an alumni “Hall of Fame” whose new members are nominated, and voted on, by its current members based on the nominees’ service to NCSY and the Jewish community. The society’s main function is to raise scholarship funds for high school NCSYers for summer programs in North America and Israel. For more than 40 years, the society has helped pay tribute to esteemed NCSY alumni and community leaders who have demonstrated their dedication to Torah and their service to the Jewish people.

Dinner proceeds will provide scholarships for NCSY members to continue their Jewish education after high school, or to participate in national NCSY programs, such as Camp Sports for Boys, National Yarchei Kallah, and Summer Experience for Girls.

The evening will also honor the legacy of Moses I. Feuerstein, who played an historic role in creating NCSY and the contemporary Orthodox Union. During Feuerstein’s 12 years as Orthodox Union president (1954–66), he took particular delight in mentoring future leaders. He was prominent in the business world yet deeply devoted to Torah and mitzvot, serving as a role model for his generation, teaching young Orthodox Jews that one need not sacrifice commitment to Torah to be successful in the secular world.

Robert Klein to perform at Addison Improv Jan. 12 and 13

Actor and comedian Robert Klein will perform his stand-up comedy routine at the Addison Improv on Jan. 12 and 13 in preparation for his ninth HBO one-man show.

Klein has entertained audiences for more than 40 years, and continues to have an acclaimed career in comedy, on Broadway, on television and in film. He has done eight one-man shows for HBO. He recently released “Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975–2005,” a collector’s special edition DVD box set containing all of his HBO comedy specials.

He was nominated twice for Grammy Awards for “Best Comedy Album of the Year” for his albums “Child of the Fifties” and “Mind Over Matter.” He received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor and won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for his performance in the hit Neil Simon musical, “They’re Playing Our Song.”

Klein co-starred in the hit NBC series, “Sisters,” and regularly appears on talk shows, making more than 100 appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Show with David Letterman” alone. He has also appeared in films including, “Hooper,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Primary Colors,” “People I Know,” “Two Weeks Notice” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” He will be seen in the upcoming films “Dirty Movie” and “Demoted.”

The Jan. 12 show is at 8 p.m. and the Jan. 13 show is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 972-404-8501.

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