Archive | September, 2010

Just desserts in the sukkah

Just desserts in the sukkah

Posted on 24 September 2010 by admin

By Linda Morel | JTA

While most people equate Sukkot with autumn vegetables, I picture the holiday as a tea party. Among Jews who build sukkahs, the evening meal is the most popular time to gather inside these modern-day harvest huts.

Because temperatures often dip at night, I much prefer spending afternoon hours inside a sukkah with a favorite book. As sunlight dapples its pages, I enjoy nibbling cookies and sipping a cup of tea.

Held at the end of the growing season, Sukkot began in ancient Israel as a harvest festival. Just before the crops were gathered, Jews erected huts adjacent to the edges of their fields and lived inside for a week. In Hebrew, one of these dwellings was called a sukkah; sukkot, the plural, evolved into the name of the holiday, which is presently observed for seven days.

Even in a world where food is gathered in supermarkets, many Jews still build sukkahs in their backyards or attach them to one side of their homes. Sometimes they share a communal sukkah constructed at their synagogues.

A contemporary sukkah is a quickly-assembled shed made from wood or other materials. It has a lattice-work roof that supports greenery. This allows sunshine and moonlight to filter inside. Its walls are lined with dangling fall fruits and vegetables whose counterparts are cooked into recipes consumed during the holiday.

While people no longer live inside their sukkahs, it is customary, weather permitting, to eat as many meals as possible inside the huts.

Since the gap between lunch and dinner falls during the best part of an autumn day, I suggest throwing a Sunday afternoon tea party during Sukkot. It’s a convenient time for those who attend school or go to work. In many parts of the country, the temperature is likely to be more cooperative than at night.

My favorite part of social gatherings revolves around dessert. There’s nothing better than a generous portion of pastry, preferably homemade.

During my childhood, I not only loved sweets, but the gooier and more chocolate-laden the better. But over time I’ve gravitated to desserts typical of Sukkot celebrations — those composed of baked fruit.

Although flaky and delicious, Sukkot desserts usually don’t garner much attention. Perhaps that’s because they often overlap with the pastries that were served two weeks earlier on Rosh Hashanah. Apple cakes, apple pies and apple strudel are popular pastries at both holidays.

Sukkot desserts, however, are a distinct genre in Jewish cuisine. Traditional holiday sweets are made with fall fruits such as pears, plums and late-season berries.

Holiday pastries are studded as well with dried fruits, nuts and seasonal spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom. Fruits that are abundant in seeds — notably pomegranates — also are popular in Sukkot baking. Their plentiful seeds symbolize fertility and hopes for a bountiful harvest.

Another group of dessert recipes popular at Sukkot are pastries that call for an etrog, a citrus fruit with a heady lemony scent. Known in English as a citron, an etrog is one of the four species that Jews wave in each of the four directions of the globe during Sukkot.

The other three species are contained in a lulav, which is made of three myrtle twigs, two willow twigs and a palm frond. Together all four represent God’s dominion over creation.

Observant Jews often go on a quest for the perfect etrog, one with unblemished skin and graceful proportions. In America etrogs can be difficult to find, unless you scout for them in neighborhoods where observant Jews live or order them in advance from companies, such as The Esrog Headquarters at 800-550-7230. (They can also be ordered in advance each year through any of several Orthodox shuls in Dallas.)

Because of the etrog’s role in Sukkot ritual, Orthodox and Conservative Jews usually don’t cook with them until after Sukkot ends. While honoring the etrog, many traditional Sukkot pastry recipes call for lemon juice and zest.

As an outdoor hut, the sukkah inspires the most informal baked goods. Lemon Bundt cakes, applesauce cakes, apple tortes, plum and raspberry crisps, pear and apple strudels, pumpkin breads, spice cakes, walnut squares and lemon pound cakes are popular Sukkot desserts.

I suggest serving these confections with coffee, tea, milk or club soda. But for a festive flair, I much prefer the garnet hue of mulled pomegranate juice.

What better way to celebrate Sukkot’s agrarian past than with a buffet of seasonal pastries beckoning under an open-air roof?

The following recipes were developed by Linda Morel.

APPLE PIE WITH FILLO DOUGH CRUST – Dairy

For those who are afraid to attempt pie crust dough, this pie’s flaky crust is easy to finesse.

Filling Ingredients:

4 baking apples, such as Gala, Pink Lady or Cortland

1 tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. flour

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Dash of salt

Filling Preparation:

Cut apples into wedges. Peel and core wedges. Cut wedges into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Place slices into a large bowl and add the remaining filling ingredients. With a wooden spoon, gently stir apples until all ingredients are well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve at room temperature.

Crust Equipment:

2 (12 x 16-inch) pieces of parchment paper

1 (10-inch) deep-dish pie pan

1 soft-bristled basting brush

Crust Ingredients:

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan

12 pieces of fillo dough (use the packaged variety but, if frozen, defrost it first)

Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream

Crust Preparation:

In a small saucepan on a low flame, melt 8 Tbsp. of butter. Using the additional butter, coat the pie pan and reserve.

Place the sheets of fillo dough on a piece of parchment paper. Cover them with plastic wrap. Then cover the plastic wrap with a clean, damp kitchen towel.

Lift 1 sheet of fillo dough and place it on the second piece of parchment paper. Cover the pile of fillo dough with the plastic wrap and towel each time you remove a sheet of dough.

Using the basting brush, spread butter over the surface of the first sheet of fillo dough. Using the instructions above, remove another sheet of fillo dough and place it over the buttered fillo dough. Brush the second sheet with butter. When you’ve piled up and buttered 4 pieces of fillo dough, gently lift the pile off the parchment and place it inside the pie pan. Because the fillo dough will extend beyond the edge of the pie pan, drape it evenly on both sides. This first pile of fillo dough will not cover the entire bottom of the pan.

Repeat this brushing with butter procedure until you’ve made a second pile of 4 sheets of fillo dough. Lift this pile off the parchment paper and place it at right angles to the first pile of sheets inside the pie pan.

Repeat this brushing with butter procedure until you’ve made a third pile of 4 sheets of fillo dough. Lift this pile off the parchment paper and place it on a diagonal to the other 2 piles of fillo inside the pie pan. You will have covered the entire surface of the pie pan.

Preheat oven to 350°. Spoon the apple mixture evenly inside the pie pan. Fold over the fillo dough that’s draped beyond the pie pan onto the apples. The folded dough will not cover the entire surface of the apples. Brush the folded dough surface generously with melted butter.

Place pie inside oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until fillo dough browns and apples are cooked through. Cool to warm before slicing pie. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired. Yield: 8 servings.

PEAR AND PLUM CRISP – Dairy or Parve

This seasonal dessert is a variation on the wildly popular apple crisp.

Fruit Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable spray

4 firm but ripe pears, such as Bosc

2 plums

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground cardamom

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

Dash of salt

Fruit Preparation:

Coat a 10-inch, deep-dish pie pan with nonstick spray. Cut pears into wedges. Skin and core the wedges.

Cut plums into wedges. Remove the skin and discard the pits. Cut pear and plum wedges into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Place wedges in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining fruit ingredients to the pears and plums. Mix gently with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. Spoon fruit into prepared pie pan.

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 c. unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature

1 c. walnuts, chopped

1 c. dark brown sugar

3/4 c. flour

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream, or coconut or raspberry sorbet

Topping Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place topping ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. With your hands, mix ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of pears and plums.

Place pie pan inside oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until topping browns and fruit is heated through. Cool to warm.

Using a serving spoon, place spoonfuls of Pear and Plum Crisp on dessert plates, keeping topping in place. It’s impossible to cut into even pieces. Serve with ice cream or sorbet, if using. Yield: 8 servings.

QUARTER POUND LEMON CAKES – Dairy or Parve

Original recipes for pound cake called for a pound each of butter, flour and sugar, which is how this pastry acquired its name. This recipe is smaller in scale. An etrog can be used in place of lemon, if desired.

Ingredients:

2 aluminum loaf pans (8 x 3-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches)

Nonstick vegetable spray

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature (if using margarine, keep it refrigerated)

1/2 lb. sugar, about 1 c.

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel, or more, if desired

1/4 tsp. lemon extract

1/2 lb. flour, about 1-1/4 c.

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously coat aluminum pans with nonstick spray.

Place butter (or margarine) in a large mixing bowl and beat it until it turns pale yellow and almost fluffy, about 2 minutes on an electric mixer’s high speed.

Add sugar a little at a time and beat until mixture appears even fluffier. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel and lemon extract, mixing until well incorporated.

Mix in the flour a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl a couple of times. Beat until well incorporated.

Pour half of the batter into each prepared pan. Place them inside the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until tops of cakes are light brown and a tester inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean. Cool to warm and slice or serve at room temperature. Cake freezes well. Yield: about 10 slices.

MULLED POMEGRANATE JUICE – Parve

Representing an abundant harvest, the seeds of pomegranates are difficult to handle. This recipe is an easy way to incorporate this festive fruit into Sukkot celebrations.

Ingredients:

12 c. pomegranate juice (found at most supermarkets)

12 cinnamon sticks

3/4 tsp. ground cloves

4 Tbsp. sugar

Preparation:

Place the ingredients into a medium-sized saucepan. Cover the pan and simmer on a low flame for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. Pour mulled juice into teacups, preferably glass to show off the pomegranate’s glorious color. Place a cinnamon stick into each cup and serve immediately.

To serve in a sukkah, carefully pour the mulled juice into 2 thermoses to keep the juice warm. Don’t forget to bring the cinnamon sticks with you. Yield: 12 servings.

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Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association to celebrate 75th anniversary at Oct. 10 gala

Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association to celebrate 75th anniversary at Oct. 10 gala

Posted on 16 September 2010 by admin

By Rachel Gross

For 75 years, the Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association (DHFLA) has provided residents of the Metroplex a hand up, not a hand out. Since that time, it has given thousands of people a reason to smile.

The DHFLA provides interest-free loans and has lent more than $2,000,000 through General Assistance Loans, Student Loans, Home Health Loans, Adoption Loans and its newest Jewish Youth Experience Loan. To obtain loans, the borrowers must be Jewish, live in the Dallas area for at least six months, have an honest need, have cosigners guarantee the loan amount and be approved by the DHFLA loan committee.

The 75th anniversary gala will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 10 at the Westin Park Central, 12720 Merit Drive in Dallas. Tickets are $145 each, or $1,450 for a table of 10. Different levels of sponsorship are also available.

Co-chair Louis Marx, who has been on the board of directors since 2004, said this is the first gala the organization has had since 2007 and about 350 to 500 people are expected to attend. He said he is most looking forward to spreading the word about the needs of the community.

“Free loans help the community grow,” he said. “Someone’s $100 donation assists multiple people and that money keeps working; that’s significant. Dallas has a great Jewish community that’s always been tight-knit. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the community and that shows how much everyone cares.”

The gala will honor community philanthropist Mike Friedman; Houston-based Fred Zeidman, chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington, D.C., will be the keynote speaker. Honorary co-chairs are Bennett Glazer and Herb Weitzman. Brendan Higgins, formerly of NBC Dallas, will be the master of ceremonies.

The international association of Hebrew Free Loan is holding its international conference in conjunction with the gala as well, and delegates from across the world will be attending.

Co-chair Shirley Strauss said the goal is to make people, especially the younger generation, aware of what the DHFLA does and how it plays an integral role in the community.

“It has made an impact because there are so many different types of loans that are offered,” she said. “I am most looking forward to sharing the history of the organization and [to hearing] our speaker Fred Zeidman. It’s going to be a wonderful evening with a kosher dinner.”

Honoree Mike Friedman has been involved in many facets of the Dallas Jewish community with Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and The Legacy Senior Communities. He also serves on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the Cancer Foundation for Life.

Friedman has been involved with the DHFLA for about five years and said he is motivated by the work it does. He hopes people will realize the impact it makes.

“This is one of my greatest honors because the DHFLA is deep in my heart,” he said. “I have seen with my own eyes the good it does, how many have been helped, the smiles it puts on people’s faces and the desperate need we have in this community to help. Being able to grant someone a loan is wonderful. In all of the good and bad economic times, the DHFLA has survived by generous contributions and has never charged one penny of interest — what a wonderful story.”

Donald Gross, DHFLA vice president, echoed Friedman’s sentiments and added that with the tough economic situation, there are even greater needs in the community today.

“The need is what has made us successful and that need continues to grow,” Gross said. “Education loans are our biggest and when we support students, it is something that will last the rest of their lives. Our contributions never go away and people come back to show their support.”

For more information or to make a reservation, call Deborah Dana at 214-696-8008 or e-mail her at dhfla@sbcglobal.net.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 16 September 2010 by admin

Tycher Library’s 2010 Community Read: ‘Great House’ by Nicole Krauss

Plans are underway for the Tycher Library’s 2010 Community Read. This year’s book is “Great House” by Nicole Krauss (“History of Love”). The author will be in Dallas on Oct. 26 to lead a discussion about her book. The book is not yet available to the public but is on sale now at the Tycher Library, located in the Mankoff Center at the JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. Library Director Joan Gremont told the TJP this week that the hardback book is selling like hotcakes and she has already placed a second order. The regular price is $24.95 and the Tycher Library is selling it for $18, no tax, before Oct. 26. The library will have a limited number of copies to check out. The Tycher Library has reduced the price substantially in the hope that you will buy the book and have it signed by the author at the event.

Please call Judy Borejdo or Linda Blasnik at 214-239-7133 and ask to have a book set aside for you. You will be able to pick this up at the library. A very large crowd is expected for the Oct. 26 event. Nicole Krauss is an award-winning author and very well-known in literary circles. With pre-registration, reserved seating will be available.

JFS to begin grandparents’ group

Jewish Family Service will begin a group for grandparents raising grandchildren next Tuesday, Sept. 21. It is for any grandparent who is raising or helping to raise a grandchild, whether typically developing or with special needs.

Facilitated by psychologist Gretchen Ladd, Ph.D., the group’s mission is to provide support to one another, share resources and develop insights.

Beginning this coming Tuesday, the group will meet on the first and third Tuesdays of the month from 9:15 to 10:30 a.m. at Jewish Family Service, 5402 Arapaho Road, one block east of the Dallas North Tollway The cost is $20 per session; sliding fee scale is available.

For more information, or to register for the group, please call Dr. Ladd at 972-437-9950, ext. 260.

Bike safely!

Whether you are cycling on the road, on the shoulder, on a bike path or in a bike lane, you can do many things to make your ride safer and make the drivers around you happier. Taking a cycling safety class can help you become a better, safer rider and improve the relationship with the drivers on the road with you.

In an effort to make cycling safety classes as affordable as possible, the Cycling Center of Dallas is working with BikeDFW, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping cyclists ride safely. Together they are offering a Traffic Skills 101 course this Sunday, Sept. 19, at the J Sports and Fitness Center.

Many people who ride their bikes on the street have not learned proper etiquette or safety skills. This leads to an unsafe situation for cyclists and antagonism by drivers. The Traffic Skills 101 course covers the basic skills needed to feel comfortable riding a bicycle on the road using legal and appropriate signals and maneuvers. Topics covered in the class include: proper signaling, riding in traffic, avoiding obstacles, quick stops, rapid turns and much more.

Coach Richard Wharton, owner of the Cycling Center of Dallas, points out, “Almost every adult in Dallas who rides a bicycle also drives a car. This gives us a solid motivation for learning to be better cyclists on or near the road.”

For more information or to sign up for Traffic Skills 101, visit the Cycling Center of Dallas Web site, www.cyclingcenterdallas.com.

The Cycling Center of Dallas helps cyclists improve their performance, lose weight and learn basic cycling safety skills through their Cycling Performance, Spin and Cycling Safety programs.

JFS to hold seminars for job seekers

Jewish Family Service will present two exciting seminars for job seekers, next week and in early October.

“Professional’s Guide to Higher LinkedIn Rankings” will be held on Monday, Sept. 20, 9:15–11 a.m., conducted by David Lanners. Mr. Lanners is lead instructor for project/program management education and training at LCS International, Inc., which provides consulting, seminars and recruiting for project/program management, supply chain and quality improvement. LinkedIn is an important tool in today’s job search — and the higher your rankings, the better off you are! Mr. Lanners will show how to improve your LinkedIn ranking.

“The Hidden Agenda: Why They Choose You or Lose You” will take place on Monday, Oct. 4, 9:30–11 a.m. Melinda Marcus, the speaker, is the owner of Marcus and Associates, a 25-year-old marketing and advertising firm. Her key focus is to help executives ethically influence decisions on a deeper level in both niche and personal marketing. Ms. Marcus’ advertising work has been honored extensively, and her original research on factors that impact first impressions has been published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. She is currently writing a book titled “Why Smart Grads Fail to Get Great Jobs (and What They Can Do About It).” At this session, Ms. Marcus will discuss proven persuasive psychology strategies and best practices in body language, negotiations, sales, marketing and linguistics. For the past five years, her coaching clients have been 100 percent successful in winning desired job offers. Now she will show you how to make the power of psychology work for you in your job search.

There is no charge for either of these seminars. Both will be held at Jewish Family Service, 5402 Arapaho Road, one block east of the Dallas North Tollway. Seating is limited, so please arrive 30 minutes prior to the event. For more information on these seminars or any JFS career and employment services, contact Allison Harding, aharding@jfsdallas.org. Be sure to check out the JFS job lead postings at www.jfsdallas.org.

B-I-N-G-O!

The Temple Emanu-El Couples Club is holding a fun bingo party on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in Pollman Hall at the temple. There will be great food from the “Cotton Patch Restaurant.” Admission is only $13 per person. Please RSVP with your check, payable to TECC, by Oct. 3 to Sandy and Dan Gorman, 1393 Sagebrook Drive, Fairview, TX 75069. For more information about this event, please call Roz and Dick Polakoff, 972-701-8721; Jack Tucker, 972-661-0675; Edie and Paul Singer, 972-233-1789; or Carol and Lee Zack, 972-370-9183. For membership information on Temple Emanu-El Couples Club, please contact Blanch and Sol Weinberger, 972-934-9681, or Sara Yarrin and Jack Repp, 214-361-0486.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 16 September 2010 by admin

Learn Torah reading at CBI

Kick off the new year right by getting to know the Torah. A four-week adult education class at Congregation Beth Israel will explore different ways of reading the Torah that can increase our Jewish knowledge and deepen the connection to our tradition.

No texts are required for the course, but feel free to bring the Torah or Bible of your choice. The fee is $18 for CBI members, $36 for non-members. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker will teach the class, which meets each Wednesday in October from 7 to 8 p.m.

Topics will include reading the narratives; making sense of the laws, genealogies and other “boring” passages; reading with classical commentaries; and reading with critical commentaries.

Please RSVP to Stephanie at administration@congregationbethisrael.org. Congregation Beth Israel is located at 6100 Pleasant Run Road in Colleyville, telephone 817-581-5500.

Jewish dance club for beginners starts next month

Fort Worth would like to be among the communities around the world who come together in loose clothing, barefoot, leaping and running, having fun and exercising.

Since Biblical times, the Jewish people have expressed joy through dance. Throughout the centuries, dance has become a part of religious, communal and family celebrations.

Israeli/Jewish folk dancing is done around the world — in Israel, Europe, South America, United States, Canada, Australia and even Japan. Thousands of people participate in Israeli dance classes as a recreational outlet.

In this spirit, with support from the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, a Jewish dance club for beginners will start Wednesday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m., at Beth-El Congregation. Future meetings will also be on Wednesdays: Oct. 13, 20, 27; Nov. 10 and 17; Dec. 8 and 15.

Depending on the participants and the outcome of the class, there is an option to perform on Yom HaAtzmaut or at any other community event.

For more information or to register, please call the Temple at 817-332-7141 or e-mail Ilana at ilanaknust@bethelfw.org.

Daughters of Abraham to meet Sept. 21

The first meeting of Daughters of Abraham will be Tuesday, Sept. 21, at Beth-El Congregation, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The first monthly sessions will be on personal stories of faith. One convert and one born into their religion will address their feelings about their faith. Topics will be discussed at the mosque and Holy Family Catholic Church, respectively. Contact Corrine Jacobson at 817-294-7844 for information.

The Fort Worth group is entering into their fourth year. They will also be collecting school supplies and canned goods for the food bank this fall. The Arlington group is entering their sixth year, as well as a Sons of Abraham in the Metroplex area.

News and notes

Richie and Carol Minker had a whirlwind opening to 5771. They were visiting in Colorado with son Scott, daughter-in-law Tracy and grandson Ethan, when their son-in-law Matt called from Washington, D.C., to say daughter Melissa had gone into labor three weeks early with her second child. The Minkers grabbed a flight, got home late Tuesday night, unpacked, repacked and headed for the nation’s capital to welcome their new addition. While the Minkers were in flight, granddaughter Claire Ella Miller was born at 11:15 a.m. Weighing in at 7 lbs. and 1 oz. and measuring 20 inches long, she was welcomed by big brother Jake. What a great way to start the year, and an especially great present for Richie, whose birthday was the next day.

Got something to kvell about? We would like to hear from our readers. Send your news to news@texasjewishpost.com or Texas Jewish Post, 7920 Belt Line Rd. #680, Dallas, TX 75254. Or call 817-927-2831 to be included in a future installment of Around the Town.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 16 September 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

At Yom Kippur we’ll be standing together before God, renewing the vows of better behavior that we make every year. But there’s another group of non-Jews who may be doing something very similar: the Noahides — Gentiles striving to serve God in a Jewish way.

I’d heard about them years ago, but learned much more during my recent time in Pittsburgh, where a couple of devoted Jews are assisting those interested in the Noahide way of life. Most are disaffected Christians who find that the idea of reaching God through someone else’s death doesn’t ring true, who’ve learned that Judaism offers another way — one that doesn’t require actually becoming Jewish. Their numbers are small, but growing.

Toby Tabachnick wrote about the Noahide connection in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle during the recent week I was there. He quoted a local Lubavitcher, Michael Schulman, a guide for this seeking-and-finding group: “There are two paths to serve God and have a reward in the world to come, the path of the Jew, and that of the non-Jew. The Noahide has seven commandments given as part of the Torah. If a Gentile accepts these seven commandments and recognizes that they come from God, that’s the second path.”

God gave those commandments to Noah and his family after the flood, and any Gentile who commits to following them is a Noahide. Six are prohibitions: no idolatry, blasphemy, homicide or robbery; certain sexual relations are forbidden, as is the eating of meat taken from a live animal (this last, in its extended interpretation, not only calls for humane slaughter of animals used for food, but for the humane treatment of all animals). Only one of the seven is positive: It requires the establishment of courts of justice.

Tabachnick also quotes Amy Boiles of Denver City, Texas, a small town near the New Mexico border, who was a practicing Christian until “I could no longer pretend that the New Testament is true. There’s a verse in Genesis where God tells Cain he’ll be forgiven if he improves himself, and this is contrary to Christianity,” she says. “In Christianity, you can only be forgiven through a blood sacrifice — through Jesus. I didn’t know there was another option. I didn’t know that under the umbrella of Judaism, there’s a place for non-Jews.” When a friend told her about the Noahide way, it was “liberating for me,” she said. “God doesn’t require man to go through Jesus. You can go straight to God.”

Schulman is a physicist who gave up research engineering about four years ago to run Ask Noah International (ANI), a Noahide outreach organization, full-time. ANI serves as a highly necessary connection between widely scattered Gentiles trying to follow this new path, which is daunting enough itself, even more difficult if their Christian families of origin are not accepting of this choice.

According to Boiles, “When you leave Christianity and the church, you lose community. But I had to do it.” So did Larry Telencio of Naples, Fla., who found ANI after rejecting his Christian background. “The Noahide path was basically all the things I believed in,” he said. “I believe in one God, and Hashem is the only God.”

Another Pittsburgh Lubavitcher, Chaim Reisner, founded ANI and its Web site, asknoah.org, to educate, provide study materials, answer questions and connect Noahides with each other, helping them build a new community to replace the ones they’ve lost.

Schulman says the Talmudic sages felt a duty to spread God’s words to Gentiles, but the need for self-preservation in so many times and places afterward made doing so impossible. It was only about 30 years ago that “The [Lubavitcher] Rebbe said the time has come,” Schulman said. “Societies are open enough. Jewish people have success in the world. There is a new obligation to pick this up again.” Lubavitch took up the cause to assure that Noahide obligations are conveyed to Gentiles in full accordance with Torah. Two books covering the principles of faith and the first six commandments have been compiled and published by Torah scholar Rabbi Moshe Weiner, who is now completing his third and final volume.

What about conversion? Maybe. Boiles says, “Part of me yearns for it. But I take this very seriously. Right now my path is to serve Hashem as a Righteous Gentile. My job is to align myself with Jews, [because] we have a collective mission.”

Let’s pray together this Yom Kippur that these righteous, seeking Gentiles are also favorably inscribed within God’s Great Book.

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 16 September 2010 by admin

Rabbi Fried,

If Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment and Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, why isn’t the order switched? Why not first repent and absolve yourself of your sins, and only then go to the Day of Judgment? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Bart L.

Dear Bart,

Rosh Hashanah begins the period called the “Ten Days of Tshuvah” or repentance, in which there is a mitzvah of introspection and tshuvah. It ends with Yom Kippur, when we finalize our tshuvah for our wrongdoings.

We must attain a deeper understanding of tshuvah to answer your question. The Talmud makes a profound statement: “The wicked, even while alive, are really dead; the righteous, even after they die, are considered alive.” This reflects an insightful definition of “life.” Living is not defined by eating, breathing and being involved in commerce. True life is one’s connection to G-d, “Elokim Chayim,” the Source of Life. To the extent that one is strongly connected to the Source of Life, he is spiritually alive. One’s mitzvot are a connection; when performing a mitzvah and forging a connection to the Al-mighty, he or she is alive. One’s sins cause a disconnect from that Source. The Hebrew word “cheit,” usually translated as “sin,” really means “miss the mark,” disconnect. Every level of disconnect is, in a way, a lacking of life, or a type of spiritual death.

This gives us a new understanding of tshuvah. When one performs tshuvah and repents their wrongdoings, G-d cleans our slates of sin, thereby reconnecting to Him. If one had many sins and would do tshuvah, it would be, in a sense, a “revival of the dead,” back to being spiritually alive. In the daily Amidah prayer we recite a blessing for the eventual period of “revival of the dead.” The commentators say that during the period before Yom Kippur we should have tshuvah in mind when reciting this blessing!

What gives us the strength to bring ourselves back to life?

The answer is: Rosh Hashanah. This day coincides with the day of the creation of the first man and woman. The Kabbalists explain that just as Adam and Eve were created on that day, so too our souls are renewed, in a sense reborn, on Rosh Hashanah.

The Kabbalists explain that there are two key forces in our growth: isarusa deletata ve’isarusa d’le’eyla, which translates as an awakening from above and an awakening from below. This means that often we want to take our own steps and grow in our spirituality but don’t have the inner strength to do so on our own. G-d will, at times, pour down a great spiritual light upon us from above which gives us the strength, if we choose, to proceed to take those steps and climb on to a path of growth. An analogy is that one can’t walk in quicksand; someone must pull them out first.

On Rosh Hashanah, just as the first man and woman received their souls from above, our souls receive an “awakening from above.” The power of the shofar blast is a real awakening of the soul. That renewal gives us the spiritual fortitude to begin the work of renewal from below, in our own lives, through the process of tshuvah. This effort culminates in the tshuvah of Yom Kippur when we complete the process of return and renewal for the coming year.

If Yom Kippur would come first, we would not have the spiritual strength to embark upon the process of tshuvah which is the core mitzvah of that day. That is the beauty and the precision of the order of: (1) Rosh Hashanah, (2) Ten Days of Tshuvah, (3) Yom Kippur.

Wishing you and all the readers a sweet, meaningful and successful New Year with peace in Israel and 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 16 September 2010 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,

Yom Kippur is a difficult holiday especially to explain to young children. There are many things to think and talk about. The Jew’s responsibility during this week is to go to those whom he or she has hurt and to ask for forgiveness. Saying “I’m sorry” is hard for children but often harder for adults. Judaism helps us out by telling us that we must not only ask for forgiveness but also be willing to forgive.

How do we teach our children about forgiveness? First, by recognizing that saying “I’m sorry” on command does not make it true. Our children learn many lessons from us on how to handle mistakes and there is much to learn from the Jewish way of tshuvah. The term, which is often translated as “repentance,” really means “turning back.” We must realize that we have done something wrong and feel bad about it. Children do understand right and wrong even when they cannot always control their actions. Next, when we ask for forgiveness, we must really say and intend that we will not do the hurtful act again. In Judaism, if you apologize then do the same thing the next day, you have not “turned back.” In fact, the rabbis told us that we must face the same temptation to do wrong three more times and not make the same mistake, before we have really succeeded. Tshuvah, repentance, is hard! However, it is an important lesson to teach our children. We must also remember that forgiveness is good for us — it hurts us to be angry at another.

Now, after going to the people we have sinned against, on Yom Kippur we ask G-d to forgive us. Since I was a child old enough to read the prayer book, I always wondered on Yom Kippur, “I haven’t done half those things mentioned — why do I have to stand up and list all those sins?” It took a lot of growing up to realize that I was part of a community and together we ask for forgiveness for our collective sins — together we will be forgiven and together it will be easier to strive to be better in the coming year!

P.S.: For a really great book to explain these tough issues, read “K’Ton Ton and the Kitten.”

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

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