Archive | February, 2010


Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 18 February 2010 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

As part of my psychology studies in college, I recently heard a lecture on the relationship between the conscience and the ego. Is there a Jewish view of these topics? Are the two contradictory or one and the same?

Noa T.

Dear Noa,

In the words of Stephen Covey: “Conscience is the still, small voice within. It is quiet. It is peaceful. Ego is tyrannical, despotic and dictatorial.” (“The 8th Habit,” p. 78) This very closely parallels the Jewish view, but differs as well.

Jewish tradition teaches that all of us have within us two opposing powers or pulls, known as the yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara, which loosely translate, respectively, to the inclination toward good vs. the “evil inclination.” These two pulls or powers within a person stem from the two very roots of our existence, our physical bodies and our spiritual souls.

Mankind was not, initially, created in a way that we contain within us a proclivity to evil alongside our desire for goodness. The first man and woman created in the Garden of Eden were completely pure of any internal tug toward negativity. This means that the original bodies of Adam and Eve were barely physical, rather nearly transparent vessels perfectly crafted to hold their souls. Like the glass case which houses the crown jewels of a monarch, the case itself attracts almost no attention; its value is in its ability to expose the beauty of the gems. Those original bodies were showcases for their brilliantly shining souls.

After the sin, their bodies and souls were poisoned with the consumption of the forbidden fruit. The decree was that from then on, mankind would be plagued by evil being mixed together with the good. The body took on a totally new role; it became an end in itself, demanding its own attention besides that of the soul. This new, very physical body and its inclination would attempt to pull the owner toward itself and away from its soul. This gives birth to the ego, which pulls each person to make themselves the center of the world, even at the expense of others. Going back to Covey: “Ego focuses on one’s own survival, pleasure and enhancement to the exclusion of others and is selfishly ambitious…. Conscience, on the other hand, both democratizes and elevates ego to a larger sense of the group, the whole, the community, the greater good. It sees life in terms of service and contribution, in terms of others’ security and fulfillment.”

There is, however, a point where the general understanding of these two concepts and that of Judaism part ways. In Judaism, even the penchant toward evil has a positive side. Evil, in of itself, is not an independent force which runs contrary to G-d’s plan. The potential for evil was allowed to proliferate in the world by G-d Himself in order to leave room for free choice. The test put before man by the choice, indeed the pull, of good vs. evil is in order to attain higher and higher levels of morality and closeness to G-d by choosing the good over the evil. In that sense, even the evil itself, deep down in the source of its existence, is really rooting for man to overcome it and select the good.

Ego, as a manifestation of that potential evil, also has a good side to it by which a person has the urge to accomplish, make a name for oneself and expose the hidden greatness within. There are no absolute bads and goods in Judaism; it depends what you do with them. This is implicit in the words of the classical commentator Rashi when he explains the verse of the Sh’ma which says you should serve G-d with all your “hearts” in the plural: We need to serve G-d with our inclination toward good and with our “evil inclination” as well. We’re out of room, but ponder this point; it’s a key which unlocks much of Jewish thought.

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 18 February 2010 by admin

Dear Families,

Purim is almost here — I hope you bought your costumes the day after Halloween! As we prepare, there are a number of things to do:

1. Begin your mishloach manot preparations. The gift of food is an important mitzvah on Purim, and all of us are obligated to send at least one gift of food to another person. This gift, usually called shalach manot, must consist of at least two types of food that are ready to be eaten, i.e., that require no cooking. This is definitely a family event for planning, preparing and delivering. We are also obligated to give gifts of money to at least two poor people — matanot l’evyonim. This is a good time to make a family donation.

2. It is also time to get out your Megillah and read the story. As our children grow, we adapt the story to their understanding, but first we must understand the story ourselves. The Book of Esther is definitely a book for grown-ups so don’t miss out on the intrigue and s-e-x. There are many commentaries — so Google!

3. For older children and teens, issues of Jewish identity and anti-Semitism are both themes in the Megillah, so Purim is a good time to talk about these issues. Here are some questions taken from “The One Hour Purim Primer” by Shimon Apisdorf that are good discussion starters:

  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable or unaccepted because you were Jewish?
  • Are you proud of being Jewish? If the answer is yes, ask the reason why. If the answer is no, ask the reasons why not.
  • Do you think it could ever become dangerous for Jews to live in the United States? Why or why not?
  • If it was against the law to celebrate Purim, would you celebrate anyway, risking your job, a large fine, six months in jail or being denied admission to college? (These were some of the possibilities many years ago in the Soviet Union.)
  • Generally speaking, do you think religion is a positive force in the world or a negative one?
  • What contributes to your Jewish identity? Parents? School? Friends? Israel? Etc.?

After you do the preparations for Purim, go to your synagogue and celebrate — it is a great holiday filled with fun, food and friends!

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

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Wrappers delight

Wrappers delight

Posted on 18 February 2010 by admin

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By David Duchin and Byron Rubin

Over 120 members of the three Dallas-area Conservative synagogues came together the morning of Super Bowl Sunday for the Annual Men’s Clubs World Wide Tefillin Wrap, held this year at Congregation Shearith Israel. From the most experienced tefillin wearers to those putting them on for the first time, the morning prayers were conducted with tremendous energy and intent. The Fonberg Chapel was overflowing with unity of purpose and prayer, yet there was great diversity in the age of the attendees as well as the synagogues represented. Many brought their sons to join them.

Rabbi David Glickman of Shearith Israel started the morning with a memorable performance of his original composition, “Your Tefillin Rap.” Services were led by Shearith’s ritual director, Avi Mitzner, and assisted by Jay Abrams. Rabbi William Gershon of Shearith Israel shared some brief comments at the end of the service. Other rabbis in attendance were Rabbi Joe Menashe (Shearith Israel), Rabbi Adam Raskin (Beth Torah), Rabbi Stefan Weinberg (Anshai Torah) and Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz (head of Jewish studies, Levine Academy).

After tefillot (prayers), the entire group was treated to breakfast sponsored by Shearith Israel’s Men’s Club, and were privileged to hear Noam Zion, director and research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Mr. Zion is in Dallas as Shearith Israel’s scholar-in-residence during the month of February; he spoke to the capacity crowd on the topic of “Jerusalem: From David to David.” Marc Machbitz of Beth Torah made a brief appeal to the group to raise money for “Torahs for our Troops,” a project of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council serving and supporting Jewish chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly $200 filled the tzedakah box at the end of the morning.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the World Wide Wrap. It is an annual event of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs and is held throughout the world every Super Bowl Sunday morning. This year, groups gathered throughout the United States and Canada, as well as other countries like Israel, Australia, Brazil and Colombia. Information about this international event can be found at In Dallas, it is one of many programs and events that the three local Conservative synagogues hold during the year to strengthen community ties among their congregations and Levine Academy. Next year’s World Wide Wrap will be held at Congregation Anshai Torah.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 11 February 2010 by admin

Henry Cisneros to speak at Temple Emanu-El Feb. 23

Housing innovator and former Secretary of HUD Henry Cisneros will be the guest speaker for the annual Rabbi David Lefkowitz Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m. in Temple Emanuel’s Olan Sanctuary. A former mayor of San Antonio and member of President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, he will speak on “Housing: A Platform for Uplifting Families.”

The economic downturn of 2008 brought the significance of housing to the forefront of the entire nation’s thinking. It is a tremendously significant piece of the nation’s lifeblood, both as a vital part of economic health and stability and as a part of the personal investment and financial security of American families.

Housing is at the foundation of the ability to establish places to work, live, meet and grow community. Cisneros will discuss how the housing crisis ensued and why it is vital to continue to sustain ownership, and he will share his experience in showing how this is one of the foundations of establishing thriving communities.

Throughout his career in both the public and private sectors, Cisneros has offered a passionate voice for affordable housing in America’s cities. He is credited with initiating the revitalization of many of the nation’s public housing developments while he was the HUD Secretary.

The Lefkowitz Lecture is an endowed program generously sponsored by the Rosenstein-Sonnenthol Family Fund of the Temple Emanu-El Foundation. For more information, contact Nancy Rivin at or call 214-706-0000, ext. 155.

Carol Aaron will be honored at BBYO convention in Dallas

BBYO extends sincere congratulations to philanthropist and community leader Carol Aaron of Dallas on being named BBYO’s Alumna of the Year Award recipient.

Dallas has the significant honor of being chosen to be the city to celebrate BBYO’s 85th anniversary. This year, BBYO is honoring the thousands of families with multigenerational BBYO involvement throughout the country. Dallas is a special community with a proud AZA and BBG history and an exciting future. BBYO’s International Convention is coming to Dallas Feb. 11–15.

More than 780 of the world’s leading Jewish communal thinkers — all 18 years of age or younger — will gather at BBYO’s largest International Convention in its history. Nearly 50 teens from the Dallas community will attend the convention, which annually brings together Jewish teens from North America, Bulgaria, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom and Israel.

The weekend will be headlined by the Day of Service, in which teen participants will disperse throughout Dallas to more than two dozen service sites including the North Texas Food Bank, The Promise House, Texas Trees and the American Red Cross. It will be framed with Jewish learning and skill-building sessions on creating social change through community organizing, coalition building, philanthropy and community service.

The Dallas Jewish community is also invited to attend several events throughout the weekend including:

•A Dallas BBYO Friends & Alumni Network (FAN) kickoff event with special guest Lynn Schusterman, co-founder of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, which is dedicated to helping the Jewish people flourish by supporting programs throughout the world that spread the joy of Jewish living, giving and learning. This will be immediately followed by the International Convention opening ceremonies, Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m.).

•Shabbat services and oneg followed by dinner in recognition of BBYO’s Alumni of the Year, Carol Aaron of Dallas and Lee Wunsch of Houston, Friday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m.

•Adult Learning Breakfast focused on Jewish service learning with Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, director of the PANIM Institute of BBYO, Saturday, Feb. 13, at 8:45 a.m.

•Young Alumni of BBYO Havdallah followed by the “Think Pink” dinner to benefit breast cancer awareness, Saturday, February 13, at 6 p.m.

All BBYO alumni and parents are invited to honor Carol and BBYO in Dallas.

BBYO thanks those who support its efforts; please keep in mind, every donation made stays in Dallas and impacts Dallas teens.

For more information, contact BBYO southwest area director Jayme David at

Harriet P. Gross to give talk at JWV monthly meeting

Jewish War Veterans Post 256 and Ladies Auxiliary’s monthly meeting will be held on Sunday, Feb. 21, 9:30 a.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 7900 Northaven Road. The featured speaker will be popular Texas Jewish Post columnist and Dallas Morning News contributor Harriet P. Gross, who will review “The Jews of West Point in the Long Gray Line” by Lewis L. Zickel, a 1949 graduate of the Academy. The community is cordially invited to attend. The usual lox and bagels breakfast will be served for a modest fee.

Please note that the regular meeting date has been changed due to the Purim holiday.

Cooking classes for youngsters

There may still be time to attend the two scheduled cooking classes offered by Rabbi William Gershon and culinary chef extraordinaire, Jeff Kollinger of Spice of Life Catering. The unique cooking classes for your youngsters are set for this Sunday, Feb. 14, and March 7. While the deadline for registration for the first class is past, you don’t want to miss this opportunity to make some great food and spend time with your kids! Class size is VERY limited; instruction is appropriate for children ages 4 and up. For questions or to reserve a spot, please contact Esther Wolf at 214-939-7316 or

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 11 February 2010 by admin

Strategic Planning Project

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Strategic Planning Program — haven’t you?

With the consulting expertise of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has begun a Strategic Planning process. The goal of the eight-month project is to determine a limited number of key strategic imperatives for the Federation and our community to pursue over the next five years. Consultants will utilize a variety of methods for obtaining input on strategic priorities, including an online community survey, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and discussions with the board of directors and other community leaders.

According to Federation President Barry Schneider, “Our community, like many smaller Jewish communities, has seen a lot of change in the past few years, both demographic and psychographic. In order to get out front of inevitably more changes and better manage them, we need to fully understand the role for Federation in the next five years. Our credo is ‘Making a Difference in Your Life’ and we want to ensure that we are correctly positioned to continue to meet that promise to the community.”

You are encouraged to make your voice heard. For 10 days, beginning on or about Feb. 12, you can access a link to the online survey by going to the Federation Web site at Your responses are confidential; no one but the independent consultant will have access to them. The Federation needs as many people as possible to complete this critical information-gathering tool. It will help determine how to best “steer the ship” in the future and continue to properly serve our Tarrant County Jewish community. Also, anyone interested in participating in the small group discussions to be held in late March should contact Mort House at 817-569-0892. The Federation welcomes anyone who will volunteer a couple of hours to participate in this important aspect of the project.

Chevra Kadisha dinner at CAS

A dedicated group of men and women will be honored at the annual Chevra Kadisha dinner this Sunday night at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. They are the volunteers who have the sad task of preparing bodies for the burial service and interment.

Glenn Garoon and Debbye Rice lead this group of dedicated Chevra Kadisha members.

Among them are Elsie Blum, Ed Bond, Ceil Cantor, Scott Cobert, Jetti Cole, Hedy Collins, Tom Collins, Alvin Daiches, Earl Givant, Edrie Goldstein, Sonia Hecht, Morton Herman, Karen Kaplan, Marcia Kurtz, Cynthia Labovitz, Miriam Labovitz, Carmen Lederman, Melissa Morgan, Elizabeth Gordon, Jack Rubin, Chaim Saadon, Phil Sawyer, Ken Sherwin, Sonja Stenzler, Dan Sturman and Sandra Williams.

Members of the Youth Group will assist in serving the 6:15 p.m. dinner.

Reservations are $20 per person and can still be made by calling the synagogue, 817-731-4721.

‘Daytimers’ make reservations for Texas Boys’ Choir

The Texas Boys’ Choir appearance at Daytimers this coming Wednesday, noon, at Beth-El will be a special treat. Here is the latest list of those who have made early reservations for the program: Ellen Adrian, Bettye Baccus, Mike Blanc, Bob Clemmer, Martin Cobert, Bootsie and Joe Coggan, Abe and Lee Cohen, Edythe Cohen, Bernice Friedman, Sara Betty Gilbert, Yetta Gresky, Rita Hoffman, Tobi Kestenberg, Mimi and Hal Klotz, Harry Knudsen, Hugh Lamensdorf, Joe, Lenamon, Sheryl Levy, Rosanne and Bill Margolis, Milton Mintz, Evelyne Neimand, A.J. and Kathy Olivier, Irv and Rhona Raffel, Irv and Jacque Robinson, Barbara Rosenthal, Roz Rosenthal, Barbara Rubin, Frances Saperstein, Arnold and Ethel Schectman, Tina Schreier, Barbara Schuster, Rosalie Schwartz, Ina and Mike Singer, Fanette Sonkin, Steve and Shelly Sternblitz, Jerry Weiner, and Al and Sylvia Wexler.

Lunch will be catered by Ol’ South Pancake House, and guests have a choice of kosher salami on rye, turkey on whole wheat, or tuna salad on rye. Lunch is $9, or guests may attend the program only for $4.

For reservations, call Beth-El Synagogue, 817-332-7141, 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.

CAS teens seek chads for Holocaust project

Dorie Kaye and Jerry Berger wrote on behalf of the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 confirmation classes of Congregation Ahavath Sholom:

“Remembrance Is in Our Hands

“Most people look at WWII as the rise of the Nazis and the fall of the Jews. But in all honesty the Jews never fell and never stopped fighting. We are proof of this. This year our confirmation class at Ahavath Sholom has decided to take a personal interest in the Holocaust. Our class has decided to focus solely on the 1.5 million [Jewish] children killed during the Holocaust. The title of our project is Remembrance Is in Our Hands.

“Our goal is to raise awareness and to educate people that what happened in the past is permanent but together we can make a better future. We want to collect about 1.5 million white, black, and gray chads, each representing one child lost in the Holocaust. Chads are the circle-shaped scrap pieces of paper left over after hole punching. As we are collecting these chads, simultaneously we will create a 15-panel display of 30 children’s pictures who were killed in the Holocaust; in that way, their memories will last forever. We are giving a voice to the children who were silenced. When our final product is completed it will be accessible for viewing by the public.

“Here is how you can help:

“If you have pictures of child relatives that are deceased, we would be honored to use these pictures as our project display. Please keep in mind that many people in the community will be sending in pictures and we will only need to use 30 pictures, so please do not feel offended if your picture is not used; we will be picking them at random. This is a two-year project that will require a lot of dedication and hard work. With your support and well wishes our goal can and will become a reality!

“We are the voice for the voiceless … and we can’t wait for their voices to finally be heard!”

Beth-El Film Festival continues

The Beth-El Film Festival continues Saturday, Feb. 13, with dinner and movies.

Dinner, at 6:30 p.m., will be Pak-a-Pocket: grilled marinated chicken breast, basmati rice or red potatoes, cold green beans with either tomatoes, onion and garlic or green beans with almonds, Greek salad, hummus, pita bread and baklava. Please call the Temple for dinner reservations; cost is $12 per person.

There is no charge for the movies, and you may choose to come only for the films. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

“Noodle” is the main feature film, for adults and kids ages 10 and up. Children in fifth grade and up can see “The Frisco Kid”; pre-K through fourth-graders, “It Could Be Worse.”

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 11 February 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Here is the way today’s world works. In the Jan. 28 TJP, I wrote about Hannah Rosenthal, our government’s new special envoy to combat anti-Semitism. Early the next morning, I had an e-mail from her — from Poland! Someone had already sent her a copy of my column while she was at Auschwitz as part of the U.S. presidential delegation to commemorate the 65th anniversary of its liberation. My own paper didn’t even hit my home mailbox until late that same afternoon!


Marvin Chosky: If you are reading this, I’d like to hear from you. From your recent letter to the editor of our local daily paper, I think you must have gone to the same high school I did. You wrote “Not everyone should go to college,” added some compelling reasons and noted, “I went to a high school that was one of the first to have advanced placement courses. However, we also had vocational schools….”

We’re from the same city, Mr. Chosky, and your name sounds as if you might be Jewish — which a large percentage of our school’s student body was. A large percentage of its graduates went on to college. But it also offered something called “Distributive Education”: students not bound for college took a half-day of courses that would be most useful for them, then worked real jobs for the other half. A classmate of mine went that route; today, she’d be identified as ADD, but then she was tagged “not college material.” So she took typing and shorthand, held an office job and, after graduation, headed for New York, where she landed as secretary to the president of a major watch manufacturer. She made friends with a lot of rich playboys, accumulated diamonds and furs, led an altogether glamorous life. “My great adventure,” she called it. Her friends, including me, went to college, and we’re all still waiting for our “great adventures.” If she’d had understanding and medication, she’d have turned out as ordinary as the rest of us.


But in college, I did have one friend, a sorority sister, who was anything but ordinary. She passed away just a couple of weeks ago, and if you don’t recognize her name — Zelda Rubinstein — you’ll probably recall her as Tangina, the tiny psychic in the “Poltergeist” movies.

Zelda at 4-foot-3 taught us all the difference between a dwarf (upper body of normal size over seriously foreshortened legs) and a midget (normally proportioned but abnormally short), which is what she was. She preferred to be called one of the “little people.” And she never liked her first name, either, and for a time called herself “Ann.” But after a while she got bored with that, as she did with her lab technician career. Then she went back to “Zelda” and went out to California, where she pioneered a theater exclusively for short actors.

I have great pictures in my yearbook: Zelda smiling front and center in our sorority group shot; Zelda talking to the “sister” who would soon be crowned “Senior Queen,” our university’s highest honor for a female student, bending down to catch her little friend’s ear as if she herself was the lowly subject bowing to another queen — which of course Zelda was.


The same newspaper that carried Mr. Chosky’s letter reported Zelda’s death, and on its obituary page, I also read about the funeral arrangements for Ruth Natinsky. I never knew her, but she must have been really special, because after all the usual facts about family members, community involvements and the like, there was this, all in italics:

“None can make shoes that fit like the sand, nor clothes that fit like water, nor thoughts that fit like the air, but the love that was shared by Ruth fit like all of these to those who knew her.”

I really like that! I guess I’d be happier if I could add “but God” after the first word; that would make it just perfect. But even without that, I’m sure this was a person well worth knowing.


Well, I’ll never get to meet Ruth Natinsky. And it’s too late now to talk, ever again, with my playgirl friend from high school, or my little friend from college. But I’ve already been in touch with Hannah Rosenthal via e-mail, the way the world works today. And Marvin Chosky: It’s not too late for me to talk to you. I think we may have some memories to share about Distributive Education!


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 11 February 2010 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Zachary and I just had our first little girl, who’s a little angel, and we want her to grow up feeling Jewish. I know how important the bedtime prayers are to Christian children; they remember forever kneeling at their beds with their mother or father. We would like to do something like that with our little Annie, but neither of us ever had anything like that growing up as Jews. Is there a Jewish version of bedtime prayers that we could do with her?

Jessica L.

Dear Jessica,

Mazel tov and much nachas from your little Annie!

I would strongly agree with your assessment that the bedtime prayers are tremendously important and that at that impressionable age they have a long-term impact on the life of the child. This is true both religiously and emotionally, as we will see. Furthermore, ironically, not only do we also have a bedtime prayer; the Christians, as with many of their other customs, got the bedtime prayers from us!

Our prayer is called the “bedtime recitation of the Sh’ma.” It consists of two key component parts and some additional sections. The earliest source of this is in the Torah itself, when G-d tells us to read the Sh’ma Yisrael twice a day: “when you lie down and when you arise.” This we fulfill by reciting the Sh’ma at bedtime. The Sh’ma is not actually a “prayer,” rather a statement of our faith in One G-d and accepting His service.

The earliest sages also penned a blessing which accompanies the recitation of the Sh’ma upon retiring at night. It is known as “Hamapil,” praising G-d for the gift of sleep. In it, we pray for a restful sleep, to lie down and rise up in peace, not have bad thoughts or bad dreams, etc. It is based on the premise of Judaism that when we sleep, we entrust our souls to G-d, and they partially leave us during sleep to return to visit heaven during the night. Much like a cell phone needs to recharge after the day’s use, our heavenly souls, after a day in the mundane world, need a recharge by plugging into their Source to have the strength to go on.

The later sages added further prayers for introspection of our deeds over the past day, forgiving all those who have wronged us, prayers for protection and redemption. The full English rendition can be found in the prayerbook “The ArtScroll Siddur” (available locally at Lone Star Judaica or at, pp. 289-295. I would recommend starting with the two main parts on p. 289, the Hamapil blessing and the paragraph of Sh’ma, which are the most important parts, and ending with the Adon Olam.

I know from my own children how much they love and look forward to my wife or myself lying in bed with them at night and reciting with them the Sh’ma. I look forward to those tired little voices asking me “Aba, will you come and say Sh’ma with me?” It’s a special, unique and tender time in their lives, when we can show them how important they are. Imagine how my 8-year-old feels when I stop a class I’m teaching at home to go and “say Sh’ma” with him!

The following story illustrates the enduring impact of the bedtime Sh’ma. After the Second World War, a leading American rabbi led a mission to Europe to redeem Jewish children who had been entrusted to convents by their (now deceased) parents for safekeeping until after the war. The priest overseeing one convent, known to house many Jewish children, refused permission to interview the children, claiming it would re-awaken their war memories, denying any Jewish children were present. The rabbi asked to utter merely six words to the entire group, which couldn’t possibly cause any harm. With warnings to the rabbi to stick to his promise of six words, the priest assembled the children in the convent courtyard. The rabbi, with much emotion, stood up and recited these six words: “Sh’ma Yisrael A-do-nai E-lo-heinu A-do-nai Echad!” This awoke in those children’s memories the beloved words they remembered saying with their dear parents at bedtime years ago, and they ran to the rabbi with tears, grabbing his legs and repeating the words of Sh’ma.

May you have much Jewish nachas from Annie and enjoy the ecstasy of this timeless Jewish tradition for many years to come.

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 11 February 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

There are so many things that we can learn from the sages, but often the learning is hard to explain to kids. Sometimes we end up not talking about the big ideas and lessons. So when I find a book that helps teach those big lessons, I get very excited. There is a new book out for children titled “E Is for Ethics — How to talk to Kids About Morals, Values, and What Matters Most” by Ian James Corlett. Corlett is not Jewish and the book is not a “Jewish” book; but the values are for everyone and he teaches in a typically Jewish manner — through stories! There are 26 stories on everything from honesty to politeness to integrity to responsibility. Each story has a series of questions you can use. And, for those who are technological parents, you can even get the book on Kindle, which means that if you have a few minutes while you are waiting with your child somewhere, you can just pull out your iPhone and think.

So what’s Jewish about this? Judaism is a religion of action — it’s not enough just to feel something, we must do it for it to “count.” For all of us, but especially for children, the question is always what the value looks like. I know integrity when I see it, but how do we define the actions that go along with the idea?

Rabbi Hillel, in Pirke Avot, taught us many things. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?” Simple words — but what do we do to live these ideas? When I read Corlett’s book, the Hillel mishnah that came to mind was, “In a place where there are no men, be a man!” When everyone is doing the wrong thing, many give in to peer pressure and say, “Well, everyone is doing it!” Hillel says NO! If it is wrong, stand up and do the right thing. It is hard to teach our children this and even harder to do — at all ages. Talking with our families about the hard decisions we must make helps us make the next one. Stories like those in Corlett’s book help us learn about the many specific values that we should strive to emulate. Hillel tells us to not only do the right thing, but to be a person who strives to do the right thing. What are the words that you want people to use to describe you? You must show respect if you want people to say you are a respectful person.

At camp at the J, we sing songs with the words of Hillel and many of our other sages. Music is a way of teaching and making the words part of who we are. We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and we must know their words to know what they stood for — and then we will be the leaders of the future.

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

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Jewish biathlete bringing passion for success to Vancouver

Jewish biathlete bringing passion for success to Vancouver

Posted on 11 February 2010 by admin

By Ben Harris

NEW YORK (JTA) — When the call from Germany arrived at the Spector family home in Lenox, Mass., last month, the voice on the other end betrayed little of the excitement one would expect from a newly minted Olympian.

Laura Spector, 22, had qualified for the U.S. Olympic biathlon team that will be competing this month in Vancouver.

“It was a very quiet voice, and it was just, ‘Daddy, Hi it’s Laura. I made the team,’” her father, Jesse, recalled. “It was just like that. It was that quiet, from this 5-foot, 100-pound kid. It was probably a very emotional three to five seconds because her voice sounded as though, ‘Dad, I didn’t make the team.’ But she was so composed. It had its own — I don’t know — moment is the only way I can put it.”

Spector will be the youngest American woman vying in the biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing with target shooting. She is also one of five athletes measuring in at 5 feet tall — the shortest members of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.

A student of genetics and Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, Spector is among a handful of Jewish Olympians headed to Vancouver for the 21st Winter Olympics.

Chicago native Ben Agosto, a 2006 Olympic silver medalist, is returning to compete in the ice-dancing pairs. Steve Mesler, a bobsledder from Buffalo, N.Y., is back for his third Olympics.

Israel will field a team of three in Vancouver: Mykhaylo Renzyhn, an alpine skier originally from Latvia, and the brother-sister duo Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky, born in Belarus, who compete in ice dancing.

Agosto, 28, who nearly missed the 2006 Olympics because his partner, the Canadian-born skater Tanith Belbin, was not yet a naturalized American citizen, said he was looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere of what will almost certainly be his last Olympics. A last-minute act of Congress granted Belbin expedited citizenship and she was able to represent the United States at the Games in Turin, Italy.

“When that came through it was really a big surprise, but we really didn’t have the time to build up and kind of think of what to expect,” Agosto told JTA by phone from his training rink in Pennsylvania. “We were just kind of thrown into it. There’s a lot that I don’t remember because it was such a whirlwind.”

Spector grew up on a farm in Lenox where her family keeps llamas, alpacas, goats, horses, sheep, turkeys and chickens. She does her academic work during the spring and summer to free up the fall and winter for training and competition.

In high school she would wake before the sun to make tracks on her skis in a field behind the family home. She discovered biathlon at a camp for the sport in Lake Placid, N.Y., when she was 14.

“It was my first experience with shooting a gun, but I loved combining two sports — cross-country skiing (in this case running because it was summertime) and marksmanship — to make each a little more challenging,” Spector wrote in an e-mail. “Therefore, the greater the reward when you do well.”

Her parents describe her as an unusually precocious and passionate person who, from a young age, was adept at meeting challenges.

“She’s not a frivolous kid,” said Spector’s mother, Patty, herself a national champion in marathon canoe racing. “Even when she’s on the road and traveling, she reads books that most people her age would never go near or pick up. She just finished ‘The Gulag Archipelago.’”

When she became a bat mitzvah at the Conservative Congregation Knesset Israel Synagogue in nearby Pittsfield, where her family has been members for 30 years, Spector conducted the entire Shabbat service in keeping with the synagogue’s tradition of lay-led services. Spector also attended the synagogue’s Hebrew school.

“For me, being Jewish is a lot about family and community, and the continuity of tradition,” Spector said. “There is an entire congregation at home responsible for the shaping of my religious and cultural identity. There is comfort in knowing that these are people who have known me since I was born and have instilled in me thousands of years of tradition in ethical behavior.”

Though generally considered a minor sport by Americans, biathlon is wildly popular in Europe and is said to be the continent’s top-rated televised winter sport. Patty Spector compares it to NASCAR racing in the United States.

The Spectors have watched their daughter perform in stadiums packed with thousands of fans in Europe, and they will be in Vancouver to cheer on Laura and the other American athletes.

“What Jewish mother would not go see their daughter?” Patty said.

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In Memory: Akiba Academy announces the Darryl Lazarow z”l Sports Scholarship Fund

In Memory: Akiba Academy announces the Darryl Lazarow z”l Sports Scholarship Fund

Posted on 05 February 2010 by admin

lazarowAkiba dad Darryl Lazarow z”l was a man of great character and purpose and an avid supporter of Akiba Academy and  its sports programs. He enthusiastically enjoyed watching and coaching Akiba athletics, especially soccer. Tragically, Darryl passed away too soon in December 2006, at the young age of 42.

In his memory, The Darryl Lazarow z”l Sports Scholarship Fund has been created by his loving wife Suzy Lazarow-Cohen, and his children Ariana, Jared and Eliana.

These scholarships will be available to Akiba students in kindergarten through eighth grade who need financial assistance in order to participate in sports or fitness programs at Akiba. The offer applies to any sport offered by Akiba through the academic curriculum or through its Discovery afterschool program, or any future program as long as it is a sport or fitness program. Students must apply through the Akiba business office, and the approval process will follow Akiba’s established financial assistance guidelines.

“Darryl’s family is humbled by the opportunity to provide this fund in his memory. We hope it will be a lasting benefit to children who love sports as much as Darryl did throughout his lifetime,” Suzy Lazarow-Cohen said when the announcement was made.

All scholarship awards will be held completely confidential. Akiba will report annually on the distribution of scholarships through this fund. For more information, please contact Akiba’s administrative director, Nancy Skinner, or go to and click on Development to donate online.

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