Archive | June, 2010

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 25 June 2010 by admin

CSI says goodbye to Menashe/Musher family

Come to Congregation Shearith Israel, 9401 Douglas Ave., on Saturday, June 26, 9:30 a.m., as they bid a fond farewell to the Menashe/Musher family: Deborah, Rabbi Joe, Molly, Gabriel and Samuel. The Menashe/Musher family will be here through July; however, CSI wants the community to have the opportunity to come together before many members begin their summer breaks.

Farewell breakfast for Rabbi and Mrs. Herb Cohen

The Community Kollel of Dallas bids farewell to Rabbi Herb and Meryl Cohen and salutes them for their years of service to our community. In their honor, the Kollel will hold a farewell breakfast on Sunday, June 27, at 10 a.m. at Congregation Shaare Tefilla, 6131 Churchill Way. The community is welcome to attend. Please call 214-295-3525 or e-mail kollelofdallas@sbcglobal.net to RSVP or for further information.

JFS to review progress in a year of challenge

Jewish Family Service invites the community to its 2010 annual meeting on Monday, June 28, as the organization celebrates its “Innovative Progress in a Year of Economic Challenge.”

Model services, collaborative partnerships and new programs will be discussed. In addition, Todd Chanon, incoming JFS president, and the new officers and board members will be installed. JFS will thank its outgoing president, Robin Sachs, and the officers and board members who have served during the past year, as well as supporters of the organization who have made its achievements possible, and will honor volunteer award recipients.

The program begins at 6:30 p.m. with light hors d’oeuvres, followed by the meeting at 7. It will take place at Temple Shalom, 6930 Alpha Road at Hillcrest. Dietary laws will be observed. Please RSVP to rsvp@jfsdallas.org or 972-437-9950, ext. 303. For more information about Jewish Family Service, please visit the Web site at www.jfsdallas.org or call 972-437-9950.

Waldman Bros. donates funds to benefit three local fire stations

On Wednesday, June 9, partners and senior management from Waldman Bros. gathered at Fire Station 41 at Preston Road and Royal Lane for a public presentation of funds to purchase lifesaving equipment. In conjunction with Fireman’s Fund and CRC Insurance, a donation of nearly $35,000 was made to benefit three local fire stations. Steve Waldman, partner and CEO of Waldman Bros., was given hands-on experience with the newly purchased hydraulic extrication tool. Todd Chanon, partner and COO of Waldman Bros., gave a short speech before the check presentation, praising the service and dedication of the fire crews, and thanking the participating companies that made the gift possible.

Cynthia Mondell launches Sole Sisters project

Calling all Sole Sisters! The right pair of shoes can lift both your spirits and your soles. Join forces with award-winning filmmaker Cynthia Salzman Mondell of Media Projects as she collects women’s stories and mounts the financial campaign for her Sole Sisters film project. Media Projects, Inc.’s mission for Sole Sisters is to produce a documentary about women’s lives seen through personal stories about their shoes. Anchored by the film, Media Projects will develop a multimedia platform with educational and entertainment experiences that include the Web, theater and publishing opportunities. The Sole Sisters project will reach a global audience as it celebrates, uplifts and empowers women of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life.

Share those intimate, never-before-told stories about your relationship with your shoes at www.solesistersfilm.com.

Dallas Holocaust Museum: free admission this summer to military families

Military families with loved ones on active duty are offered free admission to the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance this summer.

The Holocaust Museum is an official participant of a program called Blue Star Museums in which active duty military personnel and their families receive free admission to more than 700 museums across the United States, including several in the Dallas area.

The offer runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The program is the idea of Kathy Roth-Douquet, chairwoman of Blue Star Families. Her husband, Marine Corps Col. Greg Douquet, is on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

“You can feel a little alone in America right now, being part of the 1 percent that’s involved in fighting these wars,” she said. “When the kids and I go to museums this summer, we know we’re being welcomed. It will make us feel less alone.”

The Dallas Holocaust Museum is located at 211 N. Record St. in Dallas’ historic West End district. More information is available at www.dallasholocaustmuseum.org.

Dallas Holocaust Museum hires new development director

Maria MacMullin, an experienced development professional with a track record of successful fundraising initiatives, is the new director of development for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Ms. MacMullin was selected from a highly qualified pool of development professionals from across the United States.

She served previously as director of development for Methodist Richardson Medical Center Foundation, where she cultivated major gifts of over $1 million for the completion of a cancer center. The “Cancer Should Not Have the Last Word” capital campaign raised more than $23 million for the center.

A native of Pennsylvania, Ms. MacMullin also served as assistant director of development for the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden, NJ. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious studies from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Master of Liberal Arts degree from that institution.

“I am humbled and extremely excited about joining the Museum,” MacMullin said, “and I look forward to bringing new opportunities for advancement to the community through enhanced donor-focused programs and services. Many of the Museum’s constituents have so many interesting and important stories to share; one of my goals is to get to know the people behind the Museum and ensure that their legacies are preserved for future generations through successful fundraising, membership and other efforts.”

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 25 June 2010 by admin

SWUSY: Half a century old and it’s still ‘weird’

In 1960 Southwest United Synagogue Youth (SWUSY) was born, and on June 6–9 of this year the group celebrated its half-century mark as the 50th annual regional convention, “Keep SWUSY Weird,” was held in Austin. It was four fun-filled days of ruach, discussion groups, services, crowd surfing, and a ton of weird activities including a toga party and a bubble dance. In attendance were 14 chapters across Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas including local chapters from Fort Worth, Dallas, Richardson and Plano. Belaynesh Zevadia, deputy consul for the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest, was a featured speaker discussing the rise of ongoing defamation of Israel on U.S. college campuses.

As part of the convention agenda, SWUSY held its regional executive board (REB) elections. It was a historic occasion as the 50th SWUSY board was installed.

SWUSY thanks its 2009-2010 REB: Max Leader (Richardson), president; Jonathan Lipton (San Antonio), programming/Israel affairs VP; Benjamin Goldwater (Richardson), religion/education/culture VP; Josh Plotkin (Oklahoma City, Okla.), membership/Kadima VP; Abby Kitmacher (Clear Lake, Texas), social action/tikkun olam VP; and Debra Goss (Oklahoma City, OK), communications VP.

Congratulations to the 2010–2011 SWUSY REB: Abby Kitmacher (Clear Lake), president; Stephanie Mintz (Fort Worth), programming/Israel affairs VP; Alex Hamilton (Oklahoma City, Okla.), religion/education/culture VP; Elijah Price (Austin), membership/Kadima VP; Maya Hunt (Austin), social action/tikkun olam VP; and Drew Lieberman (Austin), communications VP.

SWUSY invited alumni for the final banquet. Alumni in attendance dated back to the 1970s. Special guests at the banquet were Mueriel Carp, president, Mid-Continent United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), and Joe Mintz, the Southwest Regional Youth Commission Chair.

In its second half-century, the group faces challenges of anti-Israel rallies and extending aid in world crises. Because the Southwest region is small, its strength is in its spirit, which keeps it alive and kicking!

‘Daytimers’ enjoy ‘Kids Who Care’

“Kids Who Care” returned for an encore performance for the “Daytimers” with an all-new show, “District XI – Believe in Me,” a wonderful opportunity for the guests to bring their grandchildren to lunch. Among the grandchildren present were Sonia and Gerry Hecht’s grandson Adrian Roix. Trudy Post’s guests were her son-in-law Rusty Feld and grandchildren Ben and Esther Feld. Steve and Shelly Sternblitz brought their grandchildren, twins Jessy and Hannah, and Dakota Sternblitz. There were also a number of youngsters there brought by the enthusiastic followers of the “Kids Who Care” program. Special guests included Ina and Mike Singer’s daughter from Kansas City, Madelyn Greenberg. This week is the Singer’s 60th Anniversary, and Ina brought chocolate cake for everyone. There was even enough cake for many of the “Kids” in the program to enjoy.

The “Kids Who Care” organization will send eight or nine Israeli exchange students and a chaperon in July to participate in a musical theater program. This represents the 13th summer of exchanges with Israel. The young people are home hosted by volunteers who open their homes and essentially “adopt” the kids for the month of July. Most students pay a tuition that covers camp, cultural activities, lunch daily and medical insurance. Jewish families in Fort Worth who might be interested in hosting an exchange student from Israel can e-mail kathryn@kidswhocare.org or call 817-737-5437. The students, ninth- and 10th-graders (mostly girls), will arrive July 5 and depart August 2–3.

Next event for “Daytimers” is the annual movie and ice cream social, Wednesday, July 14, at 1 p.m., featuring the Woody Allen film “Whatever Works.” It is about an eccentric New Yorker played by Larry David who abandons his upper-class life to lead a more bohemian existence. He meets a young girl from the South and her family, and no two people seem to get along in the entanglements that follow. The program includes all the popcorn and ice cream you can eat plus the film for only $5. For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109. The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 25 June 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Déjà vu all over again — the recent Solidarity Rally for Israel that drew a crowd, probably numbering 1,000, to Anshai Torah in Plano, where Rabbi Stefan Weinberg quipped about this being a test of congregational parking facilities in advance of the High Holy Days before giving an impassioned, accurate, effective assessment of what’s going on today, what all Jews are facing.

”I wish we didn’t have to be here,” he said. “But Israel needs us. And we need each other.”

Greater Dallas’ Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council sponsored this massive event, along with the local Rabbinic Association and the support and participation of many cooperating organizations. For those of us old enough to have attended them, its size evoked those unforgettable rallies that took place everywhere Jews could gather at the times of the Six-Day War (June 5–10, 1967) and the Yom Kippur War (Oct. 6, 1973). But this time, nobody asked for money. Spirit was being sought here.

JCRC Chair Stephanie Hirsh set the tone in her introduction, drawing applause when she stressed that we American Jews never waver in our support of what Israel is, even though we may not agree with everything it does. Chair-elect Jeff Rasansky continued in the same vein: We were uniting in a pledge for Israel’s security and survival.

Nobody has to be Jewish to support Israel. Alice Murray, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, reminded us that more than 90 percent of the thousands who come to learn are not Jews. “We are teaching for all humanity,” she said. “‘Upstanders’ stand up for the state of Israel.” Ana Cristina Reymundo of American Airlines said “When we go outside, the sun shines on all of us, so we must stand up for the rights of all people.”

Community Rabbi Howard Wolk led in prayer; Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker led us in song. Dr. Zev Shulkin led us forward with powerful words on what he terms “anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism”; he told of recent pro-Hamas rallies not only on college campuses across the country, but in downtown Dallas itself. Members of the rabid Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas will be coming to our city on July 9 to picket our Jewish institutions. “Do not dismiss these protests as extreme,” he warned us. “We are asking for help. We cannot win this war alone!”

The JCRC provided comprehensive handouts on how all of us can make meaningful contact with the media and our elected officials in high places. I’ve done so already. Have you? Will you? Please do! Let me know if you need the how-to information; I’ll be happy to send it on to you.

It was wonderful to look over that sea of attendees and see men and women; children of all ages; people in wheelchairs, canes and walkers; kippot and bare male heads together; women modestly hatted next to those wearing form-hugging jeans. At the door: Susie Avnery, chair of JCRC’s Israel/International Commission, handed out Israeli flags that were waved jauntily throughout. How could you miss Diane Benjamin, with her cowboy hat and huge, eye-catching sign proclaiming the special solidarity of Texas with Israel? Also spotted in the crowd: present and past Federation executives Gary Weinstein and Moe Stein; City Councilwoman Ann Margolin; Posy McMillen, a devout Christian and a devout supporter of Israel, who came from Fort Worth to add her welcome presence. The day’s message was loud and clear: We love Israel, and pledge our allegiance to it — as we did when we stood for both the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah.”

The day before this rally, I was in Plano for the North Texas Komen Race for the Cure. As if to affirm that life and life-giving efforts go on in Israel without a break, despite flotillas and fanatics, I’ve received word that the first such Israeli race is scheduled for Jerusalem on Oct. 28 of this year. It will be held just outside the Old City walls, culminating a full week of awareness-raising about the world’s breast cancer crisis.

Actually, Komen for the Cure has been active in Israel since 1994, already contributing $2 million toward vital research. Now, people from everywhere, of all nations, cultures and faiths, are being invited to race in this new venue. Wouldn’t 2010 be a good year, and a special time, to show double solidarity — by racing to, and in, Israel?

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 25 June 2010 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Our literature is filled with the notion that we are the “Chosen People.” Although I’m not sure what exactly that connotes, one thing I do know is that it smacks of racism, that we’re better than everyone else. How can we continue, in this day and age, to promulgate a concept that flies in the face of the Western ideal that all people are equal?

Mort W.

Dear Mort,

In order for the concept of the Chosen People to be racist, claiming we are racially superior, we would need to be a race. But every race is counted among our ranks. There are Asians, Europeans, Scandinavians, Ethiopians, Caucasians, African Americans, etc. who are all part of the Jewish nation. Jews cannot be defined as a monolithic race; our people are as diverse as all of mankind!

While the term Chosen People does not connote racial superiority, it does imply a uniqueness belonging to the Jewish people. This is defined by the Torah as our unique relationship with the Almighty. “…for you are a holy nation unto the Lord your G-d, the Lord your G-d has chosen you to be a treasured nation from all the other nations upon the face of the earth. Not because you are greater than all the nations G-d desired you and chose you, for you are the smallest of the nations. Rather because of G-d’s love for you…, and you should keep the mitzvah, the statutes and the laws that I have commanded to you today to fulfill them.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 7:6-11)

The unique love relationship G-d has with the Jewish people was earned by their voluntary acceptance of fulfilling G-d’s will in the world, and spreading the knowledge of G-d to the nations. This mission dubs us a “light among the nations.”

Was this privilege unfairly bestowed upon us? Not if the opportunity to accept the special mission and merit the ensuing privileges was offered to the other nations as well. The Torah tells us that the Almighty offered the Torah to the other nations of the world before he offered it to us, and they turned it down as they felt it entailed too much. (See Rashi to Devarim 33:2 and Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 14:10.)

Privileges do not necessarily imply favoritism or discrimination. If a privilege is offered to anyone who is willing to pay the necessary price, no one can claim it was granted unfairly. A child who refuses to brush his teeth and keep to bedtime can hardly claim that his siblings who did so are racist or arrogant to accept the prize offered by their parents for the children who follow the rules. Nor are the parents considered unjust or preferential in their treatment, since each child was given equal opportunity.

When all the nations rejected the offer to receive the Torah, and the Jews accepted, they assumed the role of ambassadors of G-d to the world. Also, to receive the Torah and all that massive spiritual energy compressed within it, the Jews were endowed with an expansion of their souls to become receptacles for all that holiness and G-dly energy. Anyone born Jewish, or who properly converts and becomes Jewish, receives a “Jewish soul” which is that expanded soul — custom-made to receive and understand Torah, and to radiate the light within it to the nations as a member of the “light among the nations.” This privilege comes with 613 categories of obligations, and only when those obligations are fulfilled does the Jewish soul radiate that light to the nations of the world. When they are not fulfilled, we suffer the consequences and that light is greatly dimmed.

This is far from a racist concept, rather a system of acceptance, obligations and their attendant privileges. May we all merit to be worthy ambassadors and to radiate our mission brightly throughout the world!

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 25 June 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

There is a wonderful story in Genesis about Jacob leaving his family. He takes off on his journey and at night, lies down on a rock. He has a dream of angels going up and down a ladder. When he awakes, he says, “G-d was in this place and I did not know it. How awesome is this place!” (Genesis 28:11-17) We hope each person experiences the beauty of the world and says, “How awesome is this place!” Play, dream, explore, discover!

Each week this summer, all the articles come from the book “Spirit in Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail” by Matt Biers-Ariel, Deborah Newbrun and Michal Fox Smart. Richard Louv, in his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” tells us that children and families need time outdoors and in the natural world. The Torah and our sages taught about the importance of nature for centuries; we are finally catching up. Begin today to get outside with your family and experience the world. We must all become “shomer/shomeret adamah — guardians of the earth.” Teach your children by your example and enjoy the outdoors together!

Begin your summer journey with Tefillat Haderech (literally, “prayer of the road”). This prayer asks G-d to protect travelers from the dangers faced on a journey. We want G-d to be with us as we grow and share with others.

“May it be your will, Adonai, our G-d and G-d or our ancestors, to lead us in peace, to keep us in peace, to direct us to our destination in health and happiness and peace, and to return us to our homes in peace. Save us from all enemies and calamities on the journey, and from all threatening disasters. Bless the work of our hands. May we find grace, love, and mercy in your sight and in the sight of all who see us. Hear our pleas, for You listen to prayer and supplication. Praised are You, Adonai, who hears prayer.”

T’filat Haderech
by Debbie Friedman

May we be blessed as we go on our way

May we be guided in peace,

May we be blessed with health and joy,

May this be our blessing. Amen.

May we be sheltered by the wings of peace,

May we be kept in safety and in love,

May grace and compassion find their way to every soul,

May this be our blessing. Amen.

Life is a journey and we challenge you to take a journey this summer. As you do, answer these questions.

•What do you want to learn on this journey?

•The blessing asks to save us from every enemy and disaster along the way. Is there something to fear on every journey? On this one?

•What can we do to “bless the work of our hands”? How can we do tikkun olam (repairing the world) on every journey we take?

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

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2010 grads march  toward the future

2010 grads march toward the future

Posted on 25 June 2010 by admin

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Akiba grads head for D.C.

On Sunday, May 23, Akiba Academy graduated 23 students who marched right across the stage at Congregation Tiferet Israel and onto a plane headed to Washington, D.C. to explore what being a Jewish American really means.

At the graduation ceremony David Veeder, Akiba alumnus and president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, addressed the graduating class and wished them bon voyage on their journey. Each student also presented reflections on his or her time at Akiba. Graduate Shanee Abouzaglo reminisced, “When I look back at my 10 years at Akiba, it seems like only yesterday we had our first-grade hot chocolate day, our second-grade spelling bees or our fourth-grade State Fair. But as my years at Akiba come to a finish, countless incredible memories rush through my mind, and I notice how fast time has flown by. Only now do I realize how fortunate I was to have grown up as part of the united Akiba family.”

A recurring theme in many of the speeches was unity, a core value of Akiba and one that this class in particular has exhibited. Rabbi Zev Silver, Leadership Team member of Akiba, expounded on this topic in his message to the graduates encouraging them to teach others the importance of unity to enhance the Jewish world and the world at large. Chanale Block, Marcus Rosenberg Cup Award winner, also spoke regarding her leadership roles within the school, saying, “The committees are based on some of the main pillars of Akiba: leadership, respect and unity.”

The united class of Akiba 2010 embarked on their “field trip” to Washington, D.C., beginning with a tour of Mount Vernon, followed by a meeting with Texas Senator John Cornyn and a visit to the Senate and Library of Congress. A major highlight was a private meeting with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She shared with the students how her Jewish upbringing gave her a set of ethical and moral values. Shopping at the endless amount of souvenir kiosks, especially the ones at Union Station; taking the Metro and stopping at the Godiva store; meeting eighth-grade graduates from other Jewish day schools; and other similar experiences made the trip even more enjoyable. The students brought their Akiba-instilled values with them to Washington as they distributed leftover foods to homeless people and made a special visit to the Holocaust Museum. As General Studies Valedictorian Jason Epstein quoted in his commencement address: “Success is a journey, and not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

The roster of Akiba’s graduating class of 2010 was: Shanee Abouzaglo, Shane Appell, Alexandra Aronowitz, Joshua Behar, Chana Block, Jason Epstein, Cayli Fowler, Nathasha Guaqueta, Itai Guttman, Talia Klein, Hanna Liebermann, Zachariah Petsrillo, Alexis Riche, Jacob Robinson, Kayla Anne Rodenberg, Dalia Romaner, Jacob Rosenberg, David Rudomin, Erin Smith, Adam Steinbrecher, Jonah Taurog, Michael Teplitskiy and Hava Toobian.

ATID grads look to future

By Ruth Schor

Proud parents and family members of 17 ATID graduates attended an impressive graduation ceremony on Sunday, June 6. The graduates are Erica Arbetter, Alec Becker, Adam Berry, Sherri Deckelboim, Max Genecov, Zachary Goodman, Dena Kline, Max Leader, Zebulon Loewenstein, Joe Orr, Jennifer Sheppard, Rachel Wayne, Nathan Weller, Natalie Weltman and Mandy Widom.

Three years ago the rabbis and educational directors of Congregations Shearith Israel, Anshai Torah and Beth Torah gathered to explore an innovative Jewish education program for Jewish teens. The help and support of a vibrant board, and frequent productive meetings, gave birth to the ATID high school for 11th- and 12th-grade students. “Atid” is the Hebrew word for future; the speeches the young people delivered at their graduation sent a message of new hope and dreams for future Jewish leadership.

Gail Herson, ATID’s education director, who helped the program to reach new heights, said in her opening remarks, “It has been my privilege and honor to serve as education director of the Academy of Torah in Greater Dallas this past year. My time with the teens on Sunday morning is time that I cherish and look forward to. These young people are making the effort to show up and be open to an experience that has the potential to impact them spiritually, intellectually and socially. By participating in ATID classes, they are saying that connecting with their Jewish heritage is important. In response, it is my responsibility as an educator to do all that I can to foster that connection and allow it to strengthen and grow bold. It is a responsibility I take very seriously indeed.”

When Gail was preparing her remarks, G-d’s words to Abraham in Parashat Lech Lecha came to her mind. She added, “[In] the next phase of your lives, lech, go … move beyond your comfort zones, push boundaries, explore ­uncharted territories and maximize your potential. But be mindful of staying true to your values, your heritage and your identity as a Jew.”

The best Jewish curriculum cannot accomplish the most thoughtful educational goals unless qualified, knowledgeable instructors are in the classroom. The rabbis from the three participating Conservative synagogues — Rabbi William Gershon and Rabbi Joseph Menashe from Shearith Israel; Rabbi Adam Raskin from Congregation Beth Torah; and Rabbi Stefan Weinberg from Anshai Torah — are responsible for bringing students closer to Judaism and creating a quest for continuous learning and deeper connection to, and appreciation of, our traditions.

Rabbi Weinberg said to the graduates, “As you depart for college, you become the voice of our people. Stand up tall and be heard. When you take a leadership position, others will always be ready to follow. You represent the best of our young generation. We need each and every one of you to assume leadership roles on your campuses. The Jewish people need you, and Israel needs you.”

In his inspiring talk to the graduates, Rabbi Gershon quoted from Danny Siegel’s “A Blessing,” “May your eyes sparkle with the light of Torah and your ears hear the music of its words. May your study be passionate and meanings bear more meanings until life itself arrays itself to you as a dazzling wedding feast.”

The highlight of the inspiring ceremony was the delivery of speeches by the graduating students, who shared their words with their families and friends with passion and honesty. Sherri Deckelboim, whose attendance at ATID entailed a five-hour round-trip journey, said that she liked being asked for her opinion about discussion topics and studying texts with the rabbis. She said, “As I graduate, I look forward to continuing my Jewish journey at college by participating in the various opportunities that will be available to me.”

Jennifer Sheppard said that she had never seen a good reason to wake up on Sunday mornings. When she began attending ATID, she changed and was excited to arise to a fun and challenging Sunday morning.

The graduation ceremony ended with a delicious lunch catered by Milk and Honey, with friendly and warm chatter around the lunch tables.

Ruth Schor is the educational director of Beth Torah Learning Center. Levine’s grads
each have a say

For the students in the class of 2010, June 2 — graduation day — was their last day at Levine Academy. Many began at age 2; some came in lower school and some, at the beginning of middle school. But regardless of whether they were “old-timers” or relatively new to the school, a common theme permeated their graduation speeches: a love of Levine Academy and its indelible impact on their lives.

Graduation at Levine Academy is unique. Where most schools honor the valedictorian and salutatorian by allowing them to give graduation speeches, Levine Academy honors every student with this privilege. “It is truly one of the most anticipated events of the year,” K-8 Principal Dr. Susie Wolbe said. “Each child spends weeks writing a speech that will reflect the depth of love, knowledge and Jewish identity they have received from being a student at our school. Some are funny, some are poignant and some are filled with similes and metaphors. But all make us realize that what we are doing within the walls at Levine Academy is special and unique. By the time those students graduate, they have become smart, articulate, self-confident and ethically strong young adults who are ready to make their mark on the world.”

Graduation at Levine Academy is not celebrated only by the graduates’ families and friends, it is a community event. Rabbis from both the Conservative and Reform synagogues participate in the ceremony along with a representative from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. Those who took part this year were Rabbis Adam Raskin of Congregation Beth Torah, David Glickman of Congregation Shearith Israel, Debra Robins of Temple Emanu-El and Stefan Weinberg of Congregation Anshai Torah, as well as Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas President and CEO Gary Weinstein.

Congratulations to the students in the class of 2010 who will be attending the following schools next year:

  • Sarah Barnett — John Paul II High School
  • Danielle Berg — Episcopal School of Dallas
  • Ben Calmenson — Shepton High School
  • Michala Collis — Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Bryn Mawr, Pa.
  • Jordan Cope — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
  • Michelle Friedstadt — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
  • Nathan Jajan — Colleyville Heritage High School
  • Sam Kleinman — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
  • Sasha Kislak — Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
  • Riley Lelah — Hillcrest High School
  • Gary Levine — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
  • Natasha Merlene — Jasper High School
  • Matthew Milner — Greenhill School
  • Sylvan Perlmutter — J.J. Pearce High School
  • Jonathan Rosen — Shepton High School
  • Osher Saboni — Yavneh Academy
  • Isaiah Snyder — J.J. Pearce High School
  • Dania Tanur — Yavneh Academy
  • Brent Weinberg — Yavneh Academy
  • Shai Weinstein — Shepton High School
  • Maya Zach — Shepton High School
  • Rosie Zander — Hillcrest High School
  • Jennifer Zetley — J.J. Pearce High School

Melton graduates 30 students on June 1

On June 1, 30 adults celebrated their graduation from the Florence Melton Adult Mini School of Dallas. The graduates received recognition for their two-year course of study and a certificate of Jewish learning from Hebrew University.

Family, friends and faculty were on hand to wish the graduates well. Speakers included Rachelle Weiss Crane, Melton director in Dallas; Artie Allen, president of the Aaron Family JCC; Laura Seymour, director of Jewish Life and Learning, a Melton faculty member and TJP columnist; and Zona Pidgeon, chair of the Melton advisory board.

Keynote speaker Rabbi Glickman spoke about the importance of Jewish education to Jewish continuity in a time when assimilation is rampant. He used his time to teach as well as congratulate the graduates, and explained how education and continuity have been fostered through the ages, referencing three holidays, Shavuot, Purim and Yom HaShoah, These holidays seem distinctly different but have had similar impacts on Jewish thought and practice.

All students were recognized with certificates, and Alma Kron was awarded a certificate for the Honu Frankel Zest for Learning Award, named in memory of Honu Frankel, who was a lifelong learner. Wednesday mornings, studying with her friends at the Florence Melton Adult Mini School at the J in Dallas was very important to Honu. She had a zest for knowledge and set an example for all as she continued her Jewish journey each week. The Honu Frankel Chapter of the Florence Melton Adult Mini School Alumni Association of Dallas is dedicated in her memory and an award is given annually to the graduate who most embodies Honu’s zest for learning. Alma Kron was selected based on her enthusiasm and willingness to challenge her fellow learners in defense of a contrary point of view.

Each of the speakers encouraged the graduates to continue their educational journey toward Jewish literacy with the Gesher graduate program at the J, Melton Scholars Curriculum and adult education classes in their local synagogues.

Several years ago local artist Veronique Jonas created a beautiful water color titled “Eytz Hayim Hi” in honor of her own graduation from Melton. The name of each graduate has been added every year since. This year the following names were added to the painting which hangs in the main hallway of the Aaron Family JCC:

TDSD graduates its seventh class of eighth-graders

An enthusiastic crowd attended Torah Day School of Dallas’ (TDSD) commencement ceremonies for its seventh graduating class on Sunday, June 6. Held at Congregation Ohr HaTorah, the event featured separate programs for the 2010 girls’ and boys’ classes in which each graduate gave a speech and received an award for a particular middah (character trait).

Graduating eighth-grade girls included Ariella Benporat, Brocha Leah Epstein, Atara Fink, Devorah Krycer, Naomi Singer and Estee Udman. The valedictorian of the girls’ class was Naomi Singer, and the salutatorian was Ariella Benporat.

Graduating in the eighth-grade boys’ class were Mordechai Glazer, Eliyahu Klein, Eli Oziel, Tzvi Eliezer Rich and Avichayil Yachnes. Valedictorian for the boys’ class was Tzvi Eliezer Rich, and salutatorian was Mordechai Glazer.

The graduates spoke movingly about their experiences at TDSD, emphasizing the welcoming atmosphere and the care and support they felt from teachers. About half the students have been at TDSD since the school opened seven years ago, while two arrived as recently as this year. Nevertheless, both the boys’ and girls’ groups have impressed their teachers with their sense of unity.

The students plan to attend a variety of competitive high schools and yeshivas.

The majority of the graduating girls plan to attend Mesorah High School for Girls in Dallas. Naomi Singer will attend the DISD School for the Talented and Gifted, which was chosen this month by Newsweek magazine as the No. 1 U.S. high school for the second year in a row.

Mordechai Glazer will attend Ner Israel in Baltimore; Tzvi Eliezer Rich, Yeshiva Beth Moshe in Scranton, Pa.; Eliyahu Klein, Mercaz HaTorah in Belle Harbor, N.Y.; and Avichayil Yachnes and Eli Oziel, Texas Torah Institute here in Dallas.

Yavneh’s class of 2010 is on its way

By Deb Silverthorn

Yavneh Academy of Dallas is pleased to announce the award of Valedictorian to Micah Steinbrecher and the honor of Salutatorian to Sarah Rohan. Joseph Lerer is the school’s Summa Cum Laude recipient, and Daley Epstein graduated Magna Cum Laude. Sophie Geller and Libby Panipinto received Judaic Studies Awards, sponsored by the Sylvia and William Epstein Golden Wedding Anniversary Fund, and Ethan Prescott received the Gabbai Award for excellence and dedication to religious ritual. All honors were shared during commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 30 at Congregation Tiferet Israel.

“For the past 18 years, we have been backseat drivers in our own lives,” Steinbrecher said. “Our control is limited by the real drivers: our parents, our community and our Jewish faith. We have little authority in major decisions, and when we make the wrong decision, the ­consequences are mitigated. Today this no longer ­applies. These ‘drivers’ no longer have an absolute grip on our destiny. Their roles have changed, and this ceremony marks the day these values jump into the back seat and we make our own decisions. Today, these values no longer lead us, they merely guide us.

“Today is a day of thanksgiving for our faculty, who have tagged their aspirations on our endeavors. It is a day of thanksgiving for Mr. [Donald] O’Quinn, [head of school,] who came out of retirement when Yavneh’s future was tottering on the brink. And most importantly, it is a day of thanksgiving for our parents,” Steinbrecher said. “Every child in this room, graduate or not: Do not walk out of this auditorium today without looking your parents in the eye and thanking them from the bottom of your heart for sending you to Yavneh.”

Seniors Ilan Attar, Elizabeth Chatham, Mark Cheirif, Devora Cohen, Sahar David and Rebecca Schisler led the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah,” and Joshua Karnett, Libby Panipinto and Ethan Prescott welcomed all to the commencement. Michael Bierman, Sophie Geller, Paige Koeppel, Rebecca Lipinsky, Julie Meltzer and Mollie Mirsky thanked Yavneh devotees Daniel Prescott and Richard Rohan, and the law firm of Carrington Coleman, for their roles in supporting the school. Mitchell Blumka offered the afternoon’s d’var Torah.

Arielle Burstein, Jaclyn Peiser and Miles Pulitzer, presented the profile of Yavneh Academy’s 15th graduating class; Daniel Moskowitz read “The Yavneh Student,” his poem outlining a typical day and the commitment as such. Seniors Noy Bolurian, Nicole Danilewitz, Noah Donnenfield, Joseph Elbaz, Daley Epstein, David Goldenberg, Aliza Greenberg, Dylan Kaye, Hannah Kessler, Matthew Kirby, Joseph Lerer, Evan Mitzner, Bess Reisberg, Sarah Rohan, Sergiy Rozhdestvenskyy, Adam Sallmander and Micah Steinbrecher completed Yavneh’s graduating class roster.

The members of Yavneh’s class of 2010 have received more than $2,000,000 in Merit Scholarships and served 11,668 volunteer hours. They recorded an average score of 1764 on the SAT exams and an average score of 28 on the ACT; Mark Cheirif was named a National Hispanic Scholar, Daley Epstein a National Merit Finalist, and Micah Steinbrecher a National Merit Commendee.

Students Against Terrorism raised more than $41,000 for One Family Fund’s Sderot AfterShock Project with the eighth annual Points for Peace basketball tournament, Uniting Students of Dallas raised over $15,000 for the Texas Access to Justice Foundation during an evening that featured Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson, and hosted its fourth annual Mix-It-Up Diversity Awareness Day.

Yavneh seniors received more than a dozen local, state and national journalism awards. They were instrumental in the growth of the Music Ensemble and Theatre departments, featured in “The Miracle Worker,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Herschel and the Chanukah Goblins,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Dybbuk.” David Goldenberg brought Pink Day, a national program of Sharsheret, to Yavneh; Rebecca Schisler received the Joe M. and Doris Russell Dealey Award of Achievement in first place; and Evan Mitzner, Libby Panipinto and Bess Reisberg were named finalists in the 14th annual Dallas Public Library “Express Yourself” Youth Poetry Competition.

David Veeder offered greetings from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. Leon Zeligson, a beloved staple at Yavneh’s commencement ceremonies, accompanied the students during the processional and recessional. Naomi Schrager presented the Judaics awards. Yavneh Academy’s Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum and Congregation Beth Torah’s Rabbi Adam Raskin shared blessings for the future.

“There’s no doubt that this class represents the best and the brightest graduates in this city, but that is not ultimately what convinced me of the greatness of this school,” Rabbi Raskin said. “Where I saw the soul of this school and the depth of this class was when you were all faced with what might have been the most difficult test you have taken all of your Yavneh education. It was a test of your humanity. It was a test of your ability to show compassion, love and sensitivity when, shortly after the beginning of this year, one of your classmates experienced the most devastating loss imaginable. This classmate of yours is here today with his dad and his sister, but his precious mother is observing this occasion, with great pride I believe, from the heavens, rather than in a seat by his side.

“You demonstrated that this Torah is a powerful, living, relevant, life-altering document and you mustered everything that you learned and offered it to one of your own in the form of comfort and presence and hope. You demonstrated them in ways that brought tears to my eyes and, more importantly, that gave me such hope and confidence that this school has prepared you not just intellectually, not just with the facts and figures, the names and dates … but this school has shaped your souls. It has molded your character as people who will undoubtedly succeed on the college campus — nearly any high school can do that. But this school has made you into Jews who understand the significance of your tradition, the meaning of living a life of Torah and mitzvot, the power that each one of you possesses to touch another person’s soul, to be a transformative presence along the journey of life.”

Assistant Principals Chad Baruch and Dr. Tim Cloward shared in the ceremony as Board President Carol Kreditor and Past President Mike Zucker presented the students with their diplomas. Head of School Donald O’Quinn bid each student a personal farewell and offered the group his respect.

“Each of you will be a blessing unto this world,” O’Quinn said. “You leave here a family and you made the Yavneh family a stronger one.”

Ten girls graduate from Mesorah

On Sunday, June 13, Mesorah High School for Girls held its seventh commencement exercises at Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Dallas. Members of the graduating class were Batsheva Benporat, Chana Greene, Elisheva Jacobs, Chavi Oppenheim, Brocha Klein, Shiphra Rosenbaum, Ilana Rosenberg, Aliza Schick, Melanie Solomon and Ariel Vanfossen.

Of the 10 graduates, eight will continue their education at various seminaries in Israel and the United States next year, while the other two plan to attend the Blitstein Institute in Chicago, where they will take combined Judaic studies and college courses. Valedictorian Ilana Rosenberg plans to pursue an engineering degree at Goucher College in Baltimore, Md., and Salutatorian Aliza Schick plans to attend Stern College where she will study pre-med, after their year in seminary. “Each Mesorah graduate has accomplished tremendous goals, both educationally and spiritually, during her time in Mesorah,” said Rabbi Avraham Zev Kosowsky, headmaster. “Our girls work very hard to solidify their foundations as they learn to appreciate the importance of living within a Torah framework, accomplishing what a Jewish woman should, and building a fulfilling life.”

Other speakers at the commencement were Board President Dr. Joe Rothstein, who gave the opening remarks; Rabbi Yoni Schick, founding headmaster, who offered divrei brachah (words of blessing); and Gay Daneman, director of women’s philanthropy at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, who conveyed a message from the JFGD. Refreshments followed the ceremony.

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Dallas Doings

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 17 June 2010 by admin

JFGD to elect new slate at annual meeting

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas invites its supporters to the 2010 Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 22, with a reception at 6:45 p.m. in the Zale Auditorium at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. The program, starting at 7:30, will honor outstanding leaders in the Jewish community who have demonstrated excellence in their support of the Federation’s 2010 Annual Campaign. The agenda also includes the election of new officers and board members. The annual meeting is chaired by Barbi and Scott Cohen.

The slate of new officers and board members selected by the Nominating Committee are Jeffrey Rasansky as chairman-elect and Vice-Chairs Harold Gernsbacher, Brian M. Lidji and Barbara Stein. Board members nominated for a three-year term are Shelley Becker, David Greenstone, Cindy Sweet Moskowitz, Todd Platt and A.J. Rosmarin; for a two-year term, Jack Baum and Eric Pinker; Robert L. Feldman, Daniel J. Prescott and Cary Rossel have one-year chairman’s appointments to the board. Other board members include David Veeder, Chairman, Michael A. Cohen, Seth Davidow, Stefani Eisenstat, Adam W. Fenster, Fred Grunewald, Rick Lacher, Sharon Levin, Lillian Pinkus, Frank A. Risch, Rabbi Adam J. Raskin, Ari J. Susman and Sue Tilis. Carol Aaron is the past chairman and Gary Weinstein, president and CEO.

Stuart Blaugrund and Louis Zweig will be accorded special recognition for their dedicated work on behalf of Federation and the community; Bill Finkelstein will receive the Campaigner of the Year Award; Sandy Cohen, the Helen Gross Leadership Award; Doug Baer, the I. Zesmer Young Leadership Award; and Stacey Baer, the Bess Nathan Young Leadership Award.

David Veeder, the Federation’s chairman, a dynamic leader whose focus is on Federation’s value to the community, has led it to greater efficiencies, as well as creating initiatives to reach out to those not familiar with its work. “It’s been a great first year,” he notes. “There is much to be proud of, and still so much more to accomplish.” Gary Weinstein reflects on the past year: “I am grateful to all of our donors and our wonderful volunteers for their support of the Federation’s 2010 Annual Campaign. We have finished strong and it has been a community effort.”

Yellow balloon campaign for Gilad Shalit

We will soon mark the fourth anniversary of the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit of the Israel Defense Forces. On June 25, 2006, after an infiltration and attack by terrorists near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in southern Israel, two IDF soldiers were killed and four others were wounded. Gilad Shalit was abducted and has been held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip ever since. The International Red Cross has been denied access to Gilad, and his exact whereabouts and physical conditions are unknown. A video of Gilad, released by Hamas in October of 2009, is the last his family has seen of him.

Shearith Israel will participate in a program organized by Koach, the College Branch of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism to help further awareness of this ongoing tragedy. The multifaceted program will include an e-mail campaign to send virtual yellow balloons that say “Bring Gilad Home” and also will use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.  As a participating synagogue, Shearith will display yellow balloons throughout the week of June 21 to show solidarity with Gilad, and will include special prayers in all services.

The campaign urges people to write to their elected officials asking them to maintain pressure on the international community to free Gilad, and to write to his parents expressing support. Shearith Israel will have an information table throughout the week, and members can sign letters at Shearith during its Blues Sunday program on Sunday, June 27. On Friday, June 25, a few members of the Israeli teen performance group, Israel Scout Tzofim Friendship Caravan, will give a special performance at Shearith Israel’s north satellite, Beit Aryeh, located on the campus of the Ann and Nate Levine Academy, 18011 Hillcrest Road.

AJC Dallas presented with first-place Szabad Award

The AJC Dallas office was honored with American Jewish Committee’s first-place Szabad Award during its 104th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in May. The Szabad Award, originally named in honor of the late Shirley M. Szabad, a longtime AJC leader from Westchester, N.Y., is bestowed for an outstanding program or project among the 28 regional AJC offices.

Catch the spirit of Joyful Noise at Beth Torah!

The sounds of Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw have nothing on the Joyful Noise Ensemble involved in enriching early Kabbalat Shabbat services at Congregation Beth Torah.

The name of the group originates from a biblical quote, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” and its members capture incredible energy and spirit. The goals of the service are to encourage congregational participation by providing compelling and exciting tunes to prayers already known. Bob Austein, percussionist and longtime congregant, marvels that people from preschoolers to seniors wind up with smiles on their faces, songs tripping from their mouths, hands clapping and happiness exuding from their pores.

Early Kabbalat Shabbat services are offered only during the spring and summer months in order to take advantage of the late setting of the sun and to be respectful of synagogue traditions regarding the use of instrumentation once Shabbat begins. Joyful Noise service books with transliteration and translation are provided to enable participants to feel fully comfortable and to join in the joy of this vibrant Shabbat service.

Capturing incredible energy and spirit, the group includes keyboard, soprano sax (which can create a wonderful “klezmer” sound), flute, harp, guitars and percussion. The biggest compliment is when upcoming bar/bat mitzvah families request that Joyful Noise services be conducted on their child’s important Shabbat.

Upcoming Kabbalat Shabbat service dates where you can catch the spirit with Joyful Noise are June 18, July 23 and Aug. 13. Services at Congregation Beth Torah begin at 6:30 p.m. For further information, call Cathey Treider at 972-234-1542.

Ari Schonbrun to tell his personal 9/11 story

DATA–Dallas Area Torah Association will present a riveting lecture by Ari Schonbrun on Thursday, June 24, at 7:45 p.m. On Sept. 11, 2001, Ari was en route to his office on the 101st floor of the Twin Towers when the first plane hit. He recognized a co-worker who had third-degree burns, and proceeded in helping her down 78 flights of stairs to safety. His astounding story was published in many newspapers and magazines and recorded in a number of books. His heroic story serves as an inspiration to many, and is living proof of the tenacity of the human spirit.

Born and raised in New York, Ari Schonbrun moved to Israel with his family at the age of 14. When Ari returned to the United States, he worked at United Mizrachi Bank for ten years, rising to the position of head trader. In 1993, he went to work for Cantor Fitzgerald.

The program will take place at Congregation Ohr HaTorah, 6324 Churchill Way, Dallas. Suggested donation is $10. For more information, please call DATA at 214-987-3282.
Former head of military intelligence from Israel will speak on homeland security
Come hear the former head of Israeli military intelligence and get your summer networking in gear! The Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce presents “Homeland Security, Global Intelligence, High-Tech Security and Intelligent Buildings of the Future” on Wednesday, June 23, 5:45–7:45 p.m.

The speaker, Major General (Res.) Aharon Zeevi Farkash, is a world leading security expert who served as head of Israeli military intelligence and now heads the Intelligence and National Defense Program of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University. He also founded FST21 in 2007 with a vision of developing the key to enter the intelligent building of the future with an automated access technology.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to hear about a variety of important topics including intelligence, technology, security and its applications. The session is especially pertinent for real estate developers, builders and building managers, security companies, telecom/wireless and software innovators, those interested in security and the general public.

The talk will be held at Gardere Wynne Sewell, 1601 Elm St., Suite 3000. Dress is business casual. There is no cost to attend, but please RSVP to Greg Yavner, president and CEO of the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, at gregtxisrael@gmail.com.

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Around the Town with Rene

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 17 June 2010 by admin

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Shuggie Cohen named Jewish Person of the Year

Well-known Dallas/Fort Worth reporter Rafael McDonnell was on the scene at the Jewish Person of the Year Dinner last week. Rafael filed the following report on the festivities as beloved Shuggie Cohen was named the Jewish Person of the Year. Thanks, Rafael, for doing such a stellar job of reporting.

Most of Fort Worth is asleep at three in the morning. But not Alfred “Shuggie” Cohen, the winner of B’nai B’rith’s 2009 Fort Worth Jewish Person of the Year award. His day starts at 3 a.m. with exercise and a three-mile run.

Cohen received the award June 6 at a dinner held at Temple Beth-El in Fort Worth. He said it was a surprise to him. “I didn’t expect it, but I really feel honored that they thought of me to make me the person of the year. I didn’t know that it qualified me for this honor. It should have gone to somebody more qualified,” Cohen said.

As a greeter and volunteer at Congregation Ahavath Shalom for about two decades, Cohen is a familiar figure and steady presence for scores of people. He’s served as a volunteer at many programs including Jewish Family Services. And at midday, you can find him at as a participant in the seniors’ lunch program. That is, when he’s not on the golf course or running his second three miles of the day.

“I’ve been running for over 50 years, three miles every morning and afternoon,” Cohen said. In fact, he estimates he’s run over 50,000 miles in his lifetime. “The only time I wouldn’t run is in the ice,” Cohen added.

Cohen’s devotion to service extends to the neighbors he passes on the early morning run. He takes the time to toss their newspapers closer to their front porches. “At four o’clock in the morning I don’t wake anybody up. They think that they have a good newspaperman; what they don’t know is that it’s an old man,” he said with a laugh.

Cohen was born in Fort Worth, but as a young man he moved with his family to Wichita Falls. That’s where he met his late wife, Eva Dale Cohen, one day at the soda fountain of a drugstore. Cohen went to work for Zale’s Jewelers, which originated in that city, and stayed with the company for several decades. He later moved to Laredo, and then finally to Fort Worth. At the awards ceremony, Cohen was joined by some of his children, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Robert Chicotsky, a member of the committee who chose Cohen as Fort Worth’s Jewish Person of the Year, said Cohen was a logical choice for the award. “We look for Fort Worth community activity, leadership and Jewish community leadership and involvement. [Shuggie] knows everybody, and everybody cares about him,” Chicotsky said.

B’nai Brith also awarded three scholarships as part of the evening program to Eric Kuptsin, Ashley Uptegraft and Shani Hoffman. Kuptsin is a 2010 graduate of Paschal High School; Uptegraft graduated from Fort Worth Country Day School; and Hoffman graduated from Aledo High School. The Texas Gypsies performed while guests dined on barbecue.

News and Notes

Brittany Ackerman, daughter of Shawn Ackerman and Gayle Biemeret, and granddaughter of Leroy and Rhoda Solomon, was honored and inducted into the National Honor Society at North Crowley High School earlier this year. In addition to her being selected for her scholastic achievement, Brittany has been active in many community projects. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends. “Shepping nachas” with Brittany’s induction into the NHS are her entire family. Her bubby, Rhoda, was also the recipient of the National Honor Society Award during her high school days in New Jersey.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 17 June 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

The usual question: “What in the name of God — or heaven — was she thinking?” But we don’t have to ask the usual question about Helen Thomas. If we were smart, we knew what she was thinking for a long time. Our question: Why in the world would she say it out loud?

A long time ago, I helped a new social service agency in Chicago set up its public education/information program before I moved to Dallas. Since this organization served seniors (which I was not yet, at the time), a man of “advanced years” was then hired in my place. When I returned to visit some months later, I learned he’d been fired. Why? Because while all of us harbor certain unpleasant thoughts about certain people and events, most of us have the good sense to keep them to ourselves. He did not.

And neither did Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old Wonder Woman of news gathering and reporting. She’s been at it for some 67 years, and at its highest levels since 1974, when she became the chief of UPI’s White House bureau. What an inspiration to female journalists everywhere!

But after all those decades, her own pin pricked that high-flying balloon. Thomas has shown the great bad sense to publicly unveil her personal anti-Semitic bigotry: Jews in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” she said. Her solution to the Middle East crisis? Send them all back to Germany and Poland! Well, everyone who’s been following her career — most currently as a Hearst News Service columnist — already knew her pro-Arab leanings. But who would have guessed that she’d lean far enough over to fall flat on her face?

Both the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs stepped up quickly to condemn Thomas, and to call for Hearst’s suspension of her work. And, sure enough, Hearst quickly announced her retirement. Both of these — the request and the response — were (probably much too) kindly attempts to help Helen save her flattened face, a polite bow to her age and long service. But her unforgivable remarks were the polar opposite of “polite,” and I for one am certainly hoping that, in this context, both “suspension” and “retirement” equal “YOU’RE FIRED!”

Ari Fleischer, a former White House force, was blunt about it: If any other journalists or columnists “said the same thing about Blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs,” was his comment after Thomas’ pro forma “apology,” but before her subsequent “retirement.”

Weighing in locally was Mike Ghouse, a Dallas Muslim who champions interfaith understanding. “Helen may resign and go,” he said, “but the spark of bigotry is in the air, latent somewhere with someone, ready to burst [into a fire] as it happened with her.” He was dreaming a dream beyond Thomas when he continued, “We should not become firemen … we need to extinguish the sparks that are waiting for oxygen….”

Here’s something more down-to-earth: an in-your-face op-ed piece by blogger Sara K. Eisen called “Get the Hell Out of … My Face.” A young Jew who uses words both well and wickedly, she’s a mistress of irony: “You know why we were in Europe to begin with?” she asks, rhetorically, in response to Helen’s “go back to Germany and Poland” bit. “Because we were told by the Greeks and the Romans to get the hell out of Palestine, where we had been living since the beginning of recorded history.” In just a few succinct paragraphs, Eisen encapsulates centuries of forced Jewish migration, then sticks it to Thomas with a litany of major Jewish accomplishments throughout time and across the world, followed by sarcasm: “But none of these things will absolve us of our real sin: existing and overcoming.” Then she winds up with a zinger: “So here’s the thing, Helen: We are not going anywhere this time. This time, getting the hell out is not in the cards. We’re just sick of moving….” (Find the whole story at http://the-word-well.com/.)

Helen Thomas is old, but not senile. Is she stupid, perhaps? Hardly, although her recent action was stupid in the extreme. So what can we say? Only that in a rare moment of unguarded honesty, she opened her mouth, and out came who and what she really is. Maybe, since we knew her roots and her proclivities before, we were the stupid ones. But now we must be smart enough to turn her lapse into our advantage.

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 17 June 2010 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

My brother, sadly, recently lost his 7-year-old son, the victim of a rare disease he contracted this past year. Needless to say, my brother and sister-in-law are inconsolably beside themselves with grief. Can you offer any words of wisdom that can be said to them at a time like this?

Jonathan K.

Dear Jonathan,

I’m so sorry for the loss of your nephew, a loss to yourself as well. As you are well aware, our tongues become feeble and our minds become weak to find words that can console the hearts of the victims of such an overwhelming, devastating loss.

The best I can do is to share with you a story. While studying in kollel in Israel, one of my colleagues, an immigrant from France who studied at the same kollel, lost his 5-year-old daughter. She, unbeknownst to her parents, went out of the house and got herself locked into their car on a hot summer day, and was gone before they could find her. A group of us from the kollel made the trek to the outlying area where they lived to pay a shiva call. We sat down before my friend and his wife, an uncomfortable, long silence ensuing. The heavy mood in the room was intense, the profound sorrow palatable in the air, and nobody really knew what to say. What could one say?

I began to tell the story of Avraham ben Avraham, the renowned ger tzedek (righteous convert) of Vilna, converted by the revered Talmudic sage R’ Eliyahu of Vilna in the 1700s. Avraham began as Count Valentine, a Polish nobleman from the powerful Potacki family of Lithuania. Valentine and an educated friend, Zoremba, heard of the brilliance of R’ Eliyahu, known as the Gaon (genius) of Vilna. They received entry to the Gaon, and posed numerous philosophical and mathematical questions to him. Upon leaving, they were impressed beyond words, exclaiming they learned more in that hour than all their years of university. The two decided to change their identities, leaving Poland and entering a yeshiva in France to study Judaism. After a couple years of intense study, they reappeared before the Gaon, with beards and sidelocks, ready to convert to Judaism. The Gaon, recognizing their greatness and sincerity, agreed to convert them. Zoremba soon married and moved to Israel. Potacki, now Avraham, successfully evaded his family’s intense search for him. He began to shuttle around Europe, utilizing his political prowess to bring much peace between Jewish communities and rabbis in Europe. He became engaged to the daughter of a prominent Jew, evoking the jealousy of a man who wanted her hand, who slandered him to the authorities, telling them who he really was. Avraham, after giving the ring, was seized by Polish authorities from under the chuppah and put into prison for an extended period of time. His family and the Roman Catholic Church tried, with no success, to have him renounce his Judaism. Finally, he was burned at the stake on the second day of Shavuot, amid his cry of “Sh’ma Yisrael….”

That night his widow and her father snuck into the Polish side of Vilna. They gathered Avraham’s ashes and buried them in the Jewish cemetery of Vilna. At the site of his grave a fruit tree suddenly began to grow in the otherwise barren cemetery. The Gaon commented that this was a sign from Heaven that Avraham’s short Jewish life was completely fulfilled; he had fulfilled his mission and his life was bearing fruit.

I told my friend that his young daughter, as well, obviously fulfilled her purpose and mission with her short life, and will bear eternal fruit. His wife began to weep, and my friend loudly exclaimed, “You have comforted me, you have comforted me!”

Perhaps you can share this thought with your brother and sister-in-law, and may it bring them some comfort as well.

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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