Archive | March, 2010

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 11 March 2010 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

I am divorced and interested in remarrying one day in the hopefully not-too-distant future. My ex-husband is not religious and not too interested in doing a Jewish divorce, since in his eyes the secular divorce we had is sufficient, but if I told him it’s very important to me, he would probably do it eventually. I’d rather not go there at all if I don’t have to. In this kind of situation is it enough to go to a rabbi to get his blessing to get married, or is it necessary to do what it takes to get a Jewish divorce?

—In a Quandary

Dear Quandary,

The Torah says: “If a man marries a woman and lives with her, and it will be that she will not find favor in his eyes … and he wrote her a bill of divorce and presented it into her hand, and sent her from his house, and she left his house and went and married another man…” (Deuteronomy 24:1-2).

From this we learn that the only way the Torah allows a woman to marry another man is by a “bill of divorce,” known in rabbinical literature as a get. Myriad laws are learned from these short verses and comprise an entire tractate of the Talmud called Gittin, or Divorce Contracts. Among some of the directives outlined in those pages are that the get must be hand-written by an accomplished scribe, utilizing the same parchment, ink and quill employed to hand-write a Torah scroll. A generic blank get cannot be produced with information filled in. The entire get must be especially written from start to finish by the husband, or by the scribe whom he appoints as his proxy, for the sake of divorcing his own wife. Furthermore, the get must be presented by the husband and put into the hand of his wife. This is done either directly or via an appointed messenger if they live in different locales, or if one or both refuse to be in the same room.

Although there are exceptions, the get is commonly written after all other legal proceedings and/or monetary and other decisions have already been made and a secular divorce decree is in force. This is to give the get the finality that it represents. The word in the Hebrew text of the above verse for “bill of divorce” is “sefer keritut,” which more literally translates as “a book [document] which cuts them apart.” This means finality.

The deeper meaning is that a Jewish marriage is called a kiddushin, a sanctification, which is more profoundly and directly translated as “separate.” The couple become separate from the rest of the world, sanctified, and as one flesh. This is a very sacred, hallowed state of being. The only way to break that oneness is through a spiritual separation, called the get, which the Torah very appropriately refers to as a “book which cuts them apart.” Only after the get can the above verse continue — “and she left his house and married another man.”

A divorce, the presentation of a get, is considered one of the saddest occurrences. The Talmud says that every time a get is given, the holy altar sheds tears. On the other hand, the Talmud points out a fascinating observation. The Mishnah dealing with the laws of marriage is written after the laws of divorce. Why would this be? Divorce is only possible after marriage! The Talmud explains that the Torah wanted to provide the cure before the sickness. There are times that a marriage is not meant to be, or allowed, at times by wrong decisions or actions, to decay and spiral downward to the point of no return, so that the very union has become a type of sickness. The get is already there as the cure.

Although it might be somewhat difficult for you, it is well worth the investment of time and effort to receive a proper Jewish divorce, which will disconnect you spiritually and enable you to begin a fresh, new and joyous life.

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

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 11 March 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Studies have proven it time and time again that sitting down to dinner TOGETHER is one of the best things you can do for your kids and your family. And what better family dinner is there than the Passover seder? (Of course, you need to eat dinner together more often than yearly for it to make a difference in your family!) The seder is designed to open conversation and create an enjoyable learning (and remembering) session. This is how we pass on our traditions — through study, conversation, stories and food! It is not too early to begin planning your Passover conversation — the story is really more important than the food.

So as you perhaps peruse a new Haggadah or plan to create your own, I have a book recommendation: “America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story” by Bruce Feiler. The book jacket alone grabs your attention: “The pilgrims quoted his story. Franklin and Jefferson proposed he appear on the U.S. seal. Washington and Lincoln were called his incarnations. The Statue of Liberty and Superman were molded in his image. Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked him the night before he died. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cited him as inspiration. For four hundred years, one figure inspired more Americans than any other. His name is Moses.” This is our story — the one we tell every year — yet it is a story that inspires all. Read the book and add this to your table discussion. The story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt is a story about freedom, a story about an imperfect leader rising to the occasion, a story with lessons on remembering so that you don’t repeat the same bad ways — and it is a story about us. Read this book and you may add a mini-Statue of Liberty or Liberty Bell to your seder table — that would definitely start a conversation!

Feiler concludes: “I will tell my daughters that this is the meaning of the Moses story and why it has reverberated through the American story. America, it has been said, is a synonym for human possibility. I dream for you, girls, the privilege of that possibility. Imagine your own Promised Land, perform your own liberation, plunge into the waters, persevere through the dryness, and don’t be surprised — or saddened — if you’re stopped just short of your dream. Because the ultimate lesson of Moses’ life is that the dream does not die with the dreamer, the journey does not end on the mountaintop, and the true destination in a narrative of hope is not this year at all. But next.”

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

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Hotter than ever!

Hotter than ever!

Posted on 11 March 2010 by admin

17th annual Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff this Sunday

The 17th annual Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff at Tiferet Israel Congregation is slated for this Sunday, March 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — and the event promises to be hotter than ever!

Co-chairs Jay Abrams, Diane Benjamin and Janet Bubis have organized an incredible team of volunteers for this festivity that welcomes over 3,000 chili lovers annually. More than 39 local team entries, including past winning teams Tom Thumb, Frisco Fire and Rescue Firemen, Bnai Zion Foundation, Metroplex synagogues and many local charitable organizations, will vie for bragging rights for the best chili on the synagogue campus.

Past judges have included Mayor Laura Miller, State Senator Florence Shapiro and local radio and television personalities. According to Judges’ Chairman Harry Kabler, “This year’s judges must have cast-iron stomachs, but hearts of gold.” They will include Mayor Tom Leppert; Terlingua Chili Cookoff Judge Mike Sweet; Spice of Life Catering owner Jeff Kollinger; Simcha Kosher Catering owner Lowell Michelson; and Frank Seddio, general manager of Sparkman-Hillcrest — and there’s a strong possibility that Kinky Friedman will appear to help with the tasting and book signing.

More than 20 vendors will participate. Barry Wernick, comic book writer and movie producer (www.badkidsgotohell.com), will be on-site to autograph his newest comic book as well. Barry, the son of Diane Benjamin, also produced the Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff DVD, which further demonstrates how Jews in Texas maintain their Jewish identities in a kosher setting. Whether one keeps kosher or not, the event serves to unify the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and unaffiliated in our community while also attracting non-Jews — all who enjoy good, wholesome family fun and camaraderie, Texas-style.

The program will commence with the formal patriotic Presentation of the Colors at 11 a.m. by the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post #256 of the Jewish War Veterans of America. This post is among the three awardees receiving the Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff’s annual grants. This year, grants are also being given to the Dallas Furniture Bank and the Jewish Family Service Special Needs Initiative, which lends educational services to special-needs children. Over $70,000 has been awarded to local charities by Tiferet Israel from a portion of the profits of this fun-filled community event.

Tiferet Israel Congregation, at 10909 Hillcrest Road (corner of Royal Lane), is a unique synagogue enriched by history, culture and tradition, as it is celebrating its 120th year. It is often recognized, according to President Ed Jerome, “as the small but vibrant and fast-growing synagogue with the ‘Big as Texas’ heart.”

Children’s entertainment will include a bounce house, rock climbing, face painting, hula hoop contests, basketball and baseball games and more, with the wonderful background music of the Mazik Brothers performing live on the bandstand. Seated eating areas are also available near the food vendors offering hot dogs, hamburgers, drinks, popcorn and cotton candy. The entrance fee includes all-you-can-eat chili samplings. Admission is $10 for adults; for children under 11, the $5 admission fee includes a hot dog.

For further information, visit www.tiferetdallas.org or call 214-691-3611.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 04 March 2010 by admin

Get an inside look at the IDF

Israel Defense Forces Col. (res.) Bentzi Gruber will be the guest speaker at Congregation Ohr HaTorah at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 7. He will discuss “Ethics in the Field: An Inside Look at the Israel Defense Forces.”

Col. Gruber served as vice-commander of over 18,000 soldiers and as an active member of the IDF Reserves for over 20 years. He will explore the daily dilemmas facing IDF commanders in locating terrorists within a civilian population, the IDF’s unique code of ethics and the truth about the war in Gaza.

The program will include classified IDF footage, shocking statistics and fascinating personal accounts from the field. Col. Gruber’s highly acclaimed presentations have brought critical information and perspectives on ethics in wartime and the day-to-day challenges of a war on terror to military academies, college campuses and communities around the world.

Fee for the program, open to the entire community, is $10. Congregation Ohr HaTorah is located at 6324 Churchill Way, Dallas. For information, please call 972-404-8980.

‘Death of a Salesman’ to benefit three day schools, JCC

Four Jewish institutions — Akiba Academy, the Ann and Nate Levine Academy, Yavneh High School and the Jewish Community Center of Dallas — have been selected to benefit from the Dallas Theatre Center’s Thursday, May 13 performance of Arthur Miller’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning drama, “Death of a Salesman,” starring the highly acclaimed, award-winning theater, film and television actor Jeffrey DeMunn as Willy Loman. The performance will take place in the Potter Rose Performance Hall of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. This historic partnering of the four institutions known as One Night — One Community — One Cause is an opportunity to raise much-needed funds for scholarships and cultural programming. Now more than ever, help is needed. Currently, more than $2.2 million is required each year to provide tuition assistance to families who desire a Jewish education for their children.

Hopeless fathers and sons are a favorite theme of Arthur Miller’s, and “Death of a Salesman” is one of the quintessential pieces of modern American theater. Written in 1949, this timeless tale, in actuality, is a beautiful portrait of a family dealing with hardships and troubles. It is a tragedy about the collapse of the notion that personal success is measured by one’s financial prosperity. It teaches us that Willy Loman is Everyman — and that we’re all part of a system that pushes the lie that materialism measures the worth of people. To exclude basic human values, knowledge, community and love, is to court disaster, and in Loman’s case, self-destruction. How very relevant it still is 61 years later!

For more information about the event and sponsorship opportunities, please call Judy Cohn at 214-239-7115 or Marilyn Rutner at 214-295-3400.

Kudos to the following sponsors: Producer ($18,000+) Schultz Family, Romaner Family; Director ($10,000+) Carol and Steve Aaron, Five States Energy Company, LLC, Ann and Nate Levine, Texas Jewish Post; Choreographer ($5,000+) Lori and Joel Alhadef, The Blasnik Family, Idea Planet LP, Stacey and Don Kivowitz, Carol and Mark Kreditor, NCH Corporation c/o Walter Levy, Ann Rosenberg, Ruthy and Steve Rosenberg, Sandra and David Veeder; Stage Manager ($2,500+) Randall and Lisa Fleisher Philanthropic Fund, Lizzy and Dr. Jules Greif, Humana Insurance Company, Randall and Darci Iola, Ironstone Bank, Barbara and David Radunsky, Waldman Bros., Bonnie and Jeffrey Whitman; Leading Role ($1,000+) Sara and Mark Albert, Barbara and Arthur Altman, Bank of Texas, James Beaman (Barkwood Mortgage Solutions), Business Express Press, Shay and Kineret Cohen, Marci and Mark Frenkel, Ynette and Jim Hogue, Angela and Gary Horowitz, Kahn Mechanical Contractors, Malouf, Lynch, Jackson and Swinson, Cindy and Mitch Moskowitz, Don O’Quinn, Frank and Helen Risch, Sheri and Andrew Rosen, The Rubin Family Foundation (Ron, Pam and Todd Rubin, Jay, Julie and Sally Liberman), Steve and Lisa Rudner, Sury and David Sacher, Etty and Jack Sardas, Larry and Celia Schoenbrun, Simcha Kosher Catering, Wendy and Marc Stanley, Tobolowsky & Burk, P.C., and Jerry Zahler.

Two prominent Dallas attorneys announce new partnership

Congratulations to Dallas attorneys Roger L. Mandel and Blake L. Beckham, who have announced their partnership and the formation of their new firm, Beckham & Mandel. They have made this move to create a firm that offers the very best in both business trial and plaintiffs’ class action representation.

Firms that have a good track record in trying and settling complex business cases typically don’t have the expertise required to successfully prosecute large class actions against corporate giants, and class action firms almost never have the ability to try complex individual business cases. The union of the two is unprecedented, and Beckham & Mandel are expected to excel in both arenas.

Roger L. Mandel, formerly of Stanley, Mandel & Iola, is a nationally-known class action lawyer who has been lead counsel and liaison counsel in class action cases across the country. Mandel’s efforts have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for injured consumers. He successfully conducted one of the only two class actions known to have been tried to a jury verdict in the Texas state courts. He is a frequent author and lecturer on class action topics. He has been named as a Texas Super Lawyer in the Class Action/Mass Torts category since the inception of the ratings in 2003.

“I am thrilled to have Roger Mandel as my partner to lead our class action practice and complement the talent of our strong business litigation and trial team,” said Blake L. Beckham. “Roger is a top trial lawyer, handling major national business and class action cases. His presence will allow us to significantly broaden our capabilities for our U.S. and international clientele.”

Blake L. Beckham has led The Beckham Group since 1994, establishing an overwhelming record of success in commercial litigation. Remarkably, Beckham has never lost a jury trial. He too, has been elected by his peers and annually named a Texas Super Lawyer (in the Business Litigation category) since 2005.

His practice focuses on complex business cases for medium and small businesses and sophisticated individuals. Beckham prosecutes complex litigation in all federal and state courts, representing plaintiffs and defendants.

Dr. Joel Roffman to ride for MS for 13th time

It’s no surprise to find a doctor who is physically fit. When Richardson cardiologist Joel Roffman mounts his bicycle on May 1, he will be combining fitness with fundraising in a big way.

The bike ride — the MS150 — will cover 163 miles over two days before finishing with a grand celebration in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square. Dr. Roffman will join 3,000 riders to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The bike ride funds research and provides patient support services for those with MS. Last year’s ride raised approximately $3 million.

This will be the 13th MS150 for Dr. Roffman, who has maintained his fitness over the years despite a busy medical practice, health issues and other volunteer activities. He learned of the ride when his wife presented him with a brochure she had picked up at a local grocery store. “Are you trying to kill me?” he asked her. But the purpose of the ride and the satisfaction of accomplishing a challenging physical feat as well as helping those in need have kept him coming back each year.

“The funds raised through this ride and other such events have contributed to the great progress made in treating multiple sclerosis. I’m grateful for the privilege of being able to play a small part in that progress,” said Dr. Roffman, who will become president of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society this May, and is actively involved with his synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel.

For more information, or to join Dr. Roffman on the ride, e-mail him at joel.roffman@gmail.com.

To donate to the Multiple Sclerosis Society in support of Dr. Roffman’s efforts, visit the web site www.bikemstexas.org and follow the link to the May 1 ride.

Stop and shop at Eliza’s

Eliza Epstein has done it again. Cozy, inviting and full of unexpected little surprises, Eliza’s Little Shop offers handcrafted jewelry, accessories, clothing and gifts from artists near and far. The shop, conveniently located at 4318 West Lovers Lane, is open noon to 5 p.m. on Mondays and 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Looking for furniture? Eliza’s Little Shop has it. Shop her new and antique pieces from Texas and around the world that’ll turn your house into a home.

When it’s time to give a gift, skip the lame gift cards and treat your friends to something truly unique. From purses to boots to one-of-a-kind jewelry, Eliza’s has the perfect birthday find for every one of your best friends.

Stop by Eliza’s Little Shop today and pick up some inspiration.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 04 March 2010 by admin

Hundreds celebrate Purim at community carnival

Sunday, Feb. 28 found Beth-El Congregation hopping. Over 200 people enjoyed the Purim atmosphere of the community carnival and lunch. Children were treated to carnival games manned by youth groups from the Fort Worth Federation of Temple Youth, Fort Worth United Synagogue chapter, B’nai B’rith’s AZA and Ahavath Sholom Religious School. The Jewish Education Agency provided cotton candy; FWUSY had popcorn. The Men of Reform Judaism offered lunch, and the Women of Reform Judaism sold their hamantaschen. The girls of BBG put everyone in their “jail” and treated the lucky ones to a tasty cupcake walk. Led by President Emily Englander, BBG also collected used clothing to perform the mitzvah of giving to the needy. The clothing will go to Haiti to clothe the homeless. Other mitzvot of Purim were observed including the Purim feast (with apricot hamantaschen) and decorating and filling mishloach manot bags (gifts of food).

Thanks to Adam Siegel of the Men of Reform Judaism for organizing lunch and to Women of Reform Judaism members Linda Hoffman and Eileen House for their super leadership in arranging and providing the hamantaschen. Judd Vermillion graciously helped set up the community games he had built.

This festive event was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with financial assistance from the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation.

Bat mitzvah of Sarah Celia Silverberg

The Kal and Karen Silverberg clan is celebrating daughter Sarah’s bat mitzvah this weekend at Congregation Ahavath Sholom with a full calendar. Sarah is the granddaughter of Elaine and Herb Silverberg of Fort Worth and the late Audrey and Stanley Kolker of St. Louis, Mo. (Before Audrey’s untimely death, this writer had the pleasure and privilege of being a friend of this lovely woman, who was cared for so lovingly in her critical illness by her children and grandchildren, Karen, Kal, Sarah and Steven, during the several years she lived here. The children called Audrey “GiGi” and she was so proud of both of them.)

Starting the weekend, Sarah will lead “Sound of Music” Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv services Friday night at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. Following services, a family dinner will be sponsored by Sarah’s aunts and uncles, Kimberly and John Bivens, Kathleen and Benjamin Blass, Bonnie and Kenton Kolker, and Felice and David Silverberg.

On Saturday morning, the weekend continues with services beginning at 9:30, followed by a Kiddush luncheon sponsored by Karen and Kal Silverberg. Sarah’s brother, Steven, is sponsoring the bimah flowers in honor of his sister, and the sweet table at the luncheon comes from the fantastic baking team of Sheila Stocker, Nancy Stansbury, Etta Miller, Anita Davidson, and Elaine Bumpus, ably supervised by Elsie Blum and Bessie Bodzy.

Saturday evening the fun continues with Havdallah, dinner and dancing at Mira Vista Country Club. The weekend concludes with a brunch for out-of-town guests sponsored by paternal grandparents Elaine and Herb Silverberg in honor of their granddaughter.

Among family and friends expected from Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Corsicana, Waco, Tyler, Abilene, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Tampa, Walnut Creek, Calif., and Port Allen, La., are former ourtowners Rita and Doron Becker and son Elan of Potomac, Md.

Sarah is a seventh-grade honor student at McLean Middle School and a former student of the Fort Worth Hebrew Day School. An active member of Kadima, the Ahavath Sholom Youth group, she is a Third Degree, Level 3 Black Belt in the International Tae Kwon Do Alliance and a Level 2 Instructor. She is a percussionist in the McLean Symphonic Band and a member of the McLean Mirror newspaper writing staff.

Mazel tov to the Silverbergs, who look forward to a wonderful weekend.

Cooking with Holly Clegg

Fort Worth’s own Holly Clegg has a long history of her success in the many “Cooking Light” books she has authored through the years. The daughter of Ruthie and Jerry Berkowitz, she started her incredible career as a teenager when she baked cakes for friends and neighbors. She has appeared on major television programs, lectured extensively, traveled and had book signings, to mention a few of her activities. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she’s a busy housewife and mother of two beautiful children. Recently, she partnered with Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand to help them develop healthy and affordable meal solutions. Watch for Holly’s new cooking Web sites at www.walmart.com/greatvalue.

Tom Thumb now has kosher items available

Did you know that Tom Thumb on Hulen and Bellaire is not only carrying Passover supplies, but also has an entire section of kosher items, both fresh and frozen? The genial manager, Chris Maiden, is working with the community to maintain availability and is trying to obtain kosher challahs and other bakery items. The store also will carry kosher cold cuts and other refrigerated items.

Works of Beethoven, Bartok, Mendelssohn to be featured at March 20 concert

Beethoven’s “Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97, ‘Archduke,’” Bartok’s “Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano” and Mendelssohn’s “String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 44, No. 3” are the featured works at The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth’s March 20 concert. The concert will be held, beginning at 2 p.m., in the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, located in Fort Worth’s museum district at 3200 Darnell St. Among the artists on this program are Tamas Ungar, pianist, and Ana Victoria Luperi, clarinetist.

Renowned for his powerful performances and innovative programming, Tamas Ungar performs and teaches regularly all over the globe and has become one of the United States’ best-known and most respected teachers of piano. As founder/executive director of Piano Texas International Academy and Festival and a member of the TCU piano faculty for over 30 years, Ungar attracts students from across America, Europe and the Far East.

Ana Victoria Luperi joined the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in 2006 as principal clarinetist. She has served as guest clarinetist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Ms. Luperi currently serves as instructor in clarinet at TCU.

Chamber music regulars appearing on this program are violinist and artistic director, Robert Davidovici; Curt Thompson, violin; Misha Galaganov, viola; and Karen Basrak on cello.

Single tickets are available by calling 817-924-9207. For more information, please visit the Web site: www.chambermusicsocietyoffortworth.com.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 04 March 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

I’ve just finished reading a book I’d like to talk with you about. It’s a memoir called “The Rabbi’s Daughter.” I hated it!

Yet the story of Reva Mann’s life (which had the telling subhead “Sex, Drugs and Orthodoxy” on its initial British publication) makes a compelling read; it offers all the fascination of watching a snake swallow a live mouse. Because the author — who’s now in her 50s — was a true “wild child” who purports to tell it like it was. Her life story teeters uneasily, looking for balance between the sex and drugs on one side and devout Orthodoxy on the other.

We have to believe it’s true, because she is not only a rabbi’s daughter, but a granddaughter as well, and not of garden-variety rabbis, but of immensely prominent ones. Her late father was Morris Unterman, beloved spiritual leader of London’s West End Marble Arch Synagogue. And her late grandfather was Isser Yehuda Unterman, the scholar who left his native England for Israel and became his adopted country’s second chief Ashkenazi rabbi.

Reva just shortened her family name, and provides a disclaimer: Other names and identifying details as well have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved. But she doesn’t seem to feel the need to protect any of her own private matters — not even her “private parts,” which she lets “hang out,” to use her hippy lingo, quite literally.

Ms. Mann plays the same song over and over: how she’s spent a lifetime trying various ways to unite in herself her warring physical and spiritual urges. But every time she thinks she’s found some place of peace, she loses it again.

The South African playwright Athol Fugard wrote a great scene into one of his early dramas. A young man moves dreamily through life, trying to “find himself”; another, more practical character, challenges him: “I didn’t know you were lost. You’re right here.” But Reva Mann is proof that a person can be totally lost to herself. She loses her virginity in the darkened sanctuary of her father’s synagogue, on the bimah, in front of the Ark — and at an “appropriate” moment, actually shouts “Halleluyah!” Or so she recalls. After a few arrests for drug possession, she goes to Israel, falls in love with the Torah’s mitzvot — or at least the idea of them — and with the dream of marrying a Torah scholar. Which she does. Then, six years and three children later, he divorces her, because he cannot live under the same roof with an unfaithful wife. The Torah teaches that, too. But Reva finds its spirituality restricting her physicality.

And so it goes for more than 300 pages, with Reva searching for some way to glue the two halves of herself together. Throughout, she’s having the same dichotomous problem with her parents. She loves them. She hates them. Their brand of English Orthodoxy doesn’t satisfy her spiritual needs; they are certainly not accepting of how she plays out her physical ones, but they try — unsuccessfully — to save her from herself.

If she reports accurately, her father was a rigid hypochondriac and her mother a self-centered depressive. I feel there’s an ethical problem here: Are Reva’s readers entitled to know all these things? For a long time I’ve been considering, and been concerned with, what responsibility a writer has to the people s/he writes about. Should their privacy be protected? If so: Does making a simple name change provide enough protection? As is the case here, does the death of those people mean all bets are off, and anything is fair game?

I’m not the only one questioning the avalanche of revelations and reproaches in this book, and especially the shucking of all parental coverings. One of her parents’ friends said Reva had certainly not followed the commandment to “Honor thy father and thy mother,” maintaining it still has force even after they are dead, as hers already were when she wrote so fully about them and her conflicts with them. She cites “honest truth” as her cause — and her defense.

Ms. Mann gives her writing a noble purpose. In a Haaretz article, she said she hoped her book would “reach people who are self-destructive, and help them rehabilitate their lives. That they will learn from me.” I think that’s a stretch. I suspect she still has much to learn from, and about, herself.

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 04 March 2010 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

This time of year, as I follow along with the weekly Torah portion, I have a lot of trouble studying the sections we are now reading that deal with the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). I have a problem relating to it; how does a building they built thousands of years ago affect our lives? Why do these portions appear in the Book of Exodus, which is the story of the Exodus from Egypt? Why are they not in the Book of Leviticus, which deals with the sacrifices they brought in the Tabernacle? Thank you.

Joseph T.

Dear Joseph,

Many studying along with the weekly portion may share your questions. The answers to both entail a better understanding of the tabernacle (Mishkan).

The Torah says, “Make for Me a Mishkan (Tabernacle/dwelling place) and I will dwell amongst you” (Exodus 25:8). It should have said “and I will dwell in it”; isn’t this like a homeless person asking a group of people, “Build a home for me so I can move in with you”?

The sages explain that the purpose of the Mishkan was not that G-d should dwell within it; rather, it should be a conduit through which the Shechinah/Divine Presence should fill all Jewish homes. An electric power plant is not there for the electricity to remain within it, but to run wires which bring the warmth and light of that energy to homes in that city.

The deeper understanding is that the Mishkan was a microcosm of the entire universe. Every step of the six days of creation and Shabbat have a direct parallel in the building of the Mishkan (Midrash Tanchuma; Pekudei 3). All the elements of the universe have a hint, in miniature, in the Mishkan.

Kabbalistic sources say every person is a microcosm of the universe. The Zohar teaches that every organ and limb of our bodies corresponds to a physical or spiritual part of the universe, and to a section of the Mishkan. The Mishkan is a spiritual mirror of the human experience. The human heart corresponds to the chamber of the Mishkan called the Kodesh Hakodashim, the “Holy of Holies.” Just as the heart pumps the lifeblood throughout the body, so too the Holy of Holies, which holds the Ark and Tablets, transmits the spiritual energy throughout the Mishkan and from there to the world.

The purpose of the Mishkan is to have G-d’s Presence dwell within it, and to serve as a conduit to bring the Shechinah into the home and heart of every Jew. This is a profound lesson for our lives. We need to transform our own lives, our bodies and our homes into sanctuaries where the Shechinah will want to dwell.

The patriarchs and matriarchs lived lives so filled with holiness that they were a living embodiment of the Mishkan, and merited the dwelling of the Shechinah in their persons and in their tents. The Jews lost that connection while in Egypt. When they left Egypt, although they were physically free, they were not truly redeemed until they returned to that elevated state of the dwelling of the Shechinah. This was attained by building the Mishkan. Only then were they spiritually redeemed as well, and the Exodus from Egypt was complete. Hence, these portions appear in the Book of Exodus. (From Nachmanides’ introduction to Exodus)

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

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 04 March 2010 by admin

Dear Families,

Everyone who knows me has heard me say, “Camp is the most important experience in a child’s life!” There are so many reasons why I feel this way — camp gives so much to children, and the lessons learned (and experienced) last a lifetime. This goes double (or maybe even triple or more) for the Jewish camp experience. I write this column having just returned from my yearly “pilgrimage” to the American Camp Association Conference and as I prepare for the opening of registration for the J Summer Camps 2010. Let me share the messages from a wonderful book: “How Goodly Are Thy Tents: Summer Camps as Jewish Socializing Experiences” by Amy L. Sales and Leonard Saxe. You decide for yourself how important a summer at camp is for your children and remember how important it was for you! (For a wonderful thought-provoker, go to YouTube, “Because of Camp.”)

  • “Jewish socialization involves acquiring the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enable one to be an active member of the Jewish community.”
  • “A community’s unity, strength, and continuation depend on its capacity to socialize new members — to build commitment to the group and to transmit its knowledge and values to each succeeding generation. Socialization is thus critical to the Jewish enterprise, which is based in community.”
  • “…at camp, Judaism was ‘in the air’ — in everyday ritual practices, in Shabbat, and in the symbolism that defines the physical environment of the camp as Jewish space. When Judaism is in the air, as it is at camp, children take it in as effortlessly as breathing.”
  • “Camp is a mass of contradictions, a simple enterprise that does extraordinarily complex work. Camps are rooted in tradition but also excel at creativity and experimentation. Camp is a quintessentially American invention that produces some of the most powerful Jewish experiences in a child’s life. An institution dedicated to fun, it is responsible for the most serious work of the community: building commitment to the Jewish people and transmitting Jewish knowledge and values to the young generation. These contradictions define camp’s potential as a socializing agent as well as its challenges for the future.”
  • “Jewish tradition says that the study of Torah is equal to all of the other mitzvot because it leads to them all. So, too, is fun equal to all of the other purposes of camp because it leads to them all.”

At the J we are saying it loud and clear: I AM READY. We hope you are ready for a summer of life-changing experiences. You are never too old for camp. Join the spirit by coming by the J during camp — the energy is contagious!

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

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Purim Round-up

Purim Round-up

Posted on 04 March 2010 by admin

Children enjoy the Western Show at Chabad of Plano’s Purim in the Wild West. More Purim from around North Texas.

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