Archive | March, 2011

13/125 at CSI

13/125 at CSI

Posted on 24 March 2011 by admin

Rabbi William Gershon celebrates bar mitzvah year at Cong. Shearith Israel

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Teacher, preacher, leader, Zionist — these are just some ways to describe Rabbi William Gershon. For 13 years, he has embodied all of those roles as the senior rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) and made a profound impact on the community.

He will be honored for his 13 years of service during 13/125: A Celebration, April 8–10. The weekend will also commemorate the synagogue’s 125+ years of rich history in Dallas.

Since arriving at CSI, Gershon has brought his passion for Judaism to the forefront by creating programs, teaching Torah and participating in mitzvot. He said his love for Torah and the Jewish people is what made him become a rabbi.

“I love Torah, I love the Jewish people and I wanted to give back,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful 13 years. It’s a great marriage and has been more than I could ever imagine. We’ve created a sense of the joy of being Jewish, which is a major theme of my rabbinate. I am proud of the [synagogue] leadership and the community we’ve built. It’s a real partnership between the rabbis, staff, lay leadership and congregation.”

Before arriving in Dallas in 1998, Gershon served pulpits in Southfield, Mich., and Minneapolis, Minn. He grew up in Asbury Park, N.J., in a not-very-religious family, but he was active in his synagogue and USY and said those experiences played a role in his becoming a rabbi, along with attending Camp Ramah. Gershon said he became more observant over time, and started keeping kosher in eighth grade.

He attended the joint program of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Columbia University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies and ancient Semitic languages and cultures. He received his rabbinic ordination from JTS in 1987.

Gershon said his passion for Torah and leading a Jewish life, tikkun olam and teaching has led him to where he is today. All of these aspects, he said, have made his time at CSI rewarding.

“I consider it an honor and privilege to be a rabbi,” he said. “No day is the same in the rabbinate and every day brings challenges. We are with people in their happiest moments and in their darkest times. At the same time, we try and find a way to connect them with God and the Jewish tradition. It’s a great feeling and I like to believe I make an impact. Leading the Jewish people and helping create committed Jews who have a passion for learning is rewarding.”

Gershon added that Israel is important to him as well. He made his first trip to the Holy Land in 1976 on a USY pilgrimage and was hooked. Over the years, he has been to Israel several times and has become a strong supporter of the country.

He is also one of 30 rabbis across North America to serve as a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Learning in Jerusalem. The three-year program consists of four weeks of study every summer and a week every winter, along with 20 sessions of distance learning; Gershon will be in Israel this summer for his second year.

“It’s relevant, powerful, transformative learning and has affected my thinking and the way I teach,” he said. “It’s a wonderful, prestigious program and I enjoy the studying.”

When Gershon isn’t working, he enjoys cooking, which he refers to as “therapy,” bike riding, and spending time with his wife, Raquel Pomerantz Gershon, and his children Benji, Eliana and Yoni, all of whom had their b’nai mitzvah at CSI.

His goals for the future are to continue on the path of building an engaged community at the shul; experiment with prayer and the different modalities of spirituality; help connect congregants through Torah study; and reach out to as many people as possible.

Although there have been many accomplishments over the years, Gershon said there is still work to be done and there is no stopping him from achieving his ambitions.

“I believe that we will continue on this path of transformation and I hope Shearith will be a place for Jewish learning, activity and celebration,” he said. “I want it to be a spiritual home to the members of the congregation and a source of good in the community. We have just scratched the surface of what we need to accomplish; we’ve done a lot and done it together, but we have a long way to go before anyone can think about resting. I am not slowing down and I like to tell my leadership that I’ve just begun.”

Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker said he enjoys working with Rabbi Gershon and has been influenced by him in many ways.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Rabbi Gershon since he arrived in Dallas,” he said. “He is a very fine, dynamic rabbi who always has innovative ideas and creates interesting programs. He has extensive knowledge of Torah, and he actively cultivates an interest for studying Torah in our congregation. His sermons are inspiring and thoughtful; I always learn from him every Shabbat. I enjoy working with Rabbi Gershon and look forward to many more years.”

CSI Associate Rabbi David Glickman added that he has had the privilege of working with Rabbi Gershon since he was ordained at JTS nearly 10 years ago and looks forward to celebrating his accomplishments and impact.

“I could not have chosen a better place to develop a rabbinical career than at Shearith Israel with Rabbi Gershon,” he said. “He has been a trusted friend, teacher and mentor over these years. Rabbi Gershon has a strong and dynamic vision for congregational life rooted in a love for the state of Israel, a passion for engaging Torah learning and above all, his belief in the ‘simcha shel mitzvah’ — the joy of living Jewishly.”

Cong. Shearith Israel’s ‘13/125’ celebration to take place April 8–10

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

The year was 1884 and a group of 12 Jews gathered in the back of Wasserman’s store to establish a new synagogue. Fast-forward to today and Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) is a vibrant Conservative synagogue that provides members with prayer, learning and joy.

CSI is celebrating its more than 125 years in the Dallas Jewish community and Rabbi William Gershon’s 13 years at the synagogue at “13/125: A Celebration” the weekend of April 8–10. All events are free to CSI members and will take place at the synagogue, 9401 Douglas Ave., Dallas.

Co-chairs for the weekend are Sandy and Howard Donsky; Stefani and Gary Eisenstat; Marcy and Lew Lefko; and Jill and Jeff Rasansky. The honorary chairs are Carol and Steve Aaron; Janet and Jeff Beck; Cynthia and Robert Feldman; Tootsie z”l and Peter Fonberg; Veronique and Hylton Jonas; and Jackie and Steve Waldman.

CSI President Mark Davidoff said the weekend is a wonderful way to honor both Rabbi Gershon and the synagogue, and he looks forward to celebrating with the entire Shearith community.

“We have people coming in from around the country to honor Rabbi Gershon,” he said. “We thought it would be great to tie the celebration for him and the shul together. My family joined the shul 30 years ago and our kids had their b’nai mitzvah at Shearith. It’s special to be president during this exciting time.”

Over the years, CSI has had many successes. In 1954, it officially affiliated with the Conservative movement and hired Rabbi Hillel Silverman as its first rabbi who was educated and ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In 1956, just three years after the late congregants Rose and Abraham Kahn bequeathed their entire estate to the synagogue, providing the necessary funds for the purchase of the property, Shearith Israel dedicated its historic Douglas Avenue building.

It founded the Solomon Schechter Academy, now the Ann and Nate Levine Academy, in 1979 and established a North Satellite location, Beit Aryeh, there. Today, the shul boasts membership of about 1,300 families.

Sharon Levin, executive vice president who will become president in June, said there are sixth- and seventh-generation families who belong to CSI and that sense of community is what has allowed the congregation to thrive.

“We have a wonderful community and it’s truly a kehilah kedushah, a sacred community,” she said. “This is a great event that’s casual, interactive and multigenerational. It’s been a pleasure and honor to work on this for the shul and community at large. What’s wonderful is that so many of our members are involved within the Jewish community — local, national and international — and love their shul.”

Activities on tap for the weekend include a concert by Craig Taubman, a young families’ Shabbat service and interactive Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning services honoring Rabbi Gershon where more than 50 past presidents will do an aliyah, and much more. Children’s art from CSI’s scholar-in-residence weekend with Mordechai Rosenstein will also be on display.

The Rabbi William Gershon Endowment was also recently established, and those funds will be used for programs for young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Jeff Rasansky, past president and event co-chair, said CSI provides multiple opportunities for members to connect within the congregation and allows people to continue their Jewish journeys through prayer, learning, helping others, social action and celebration.

“Led by our remarkable Rabbi Gershon for the past 13 years, Shearith has created a community of people who cherish the blessings that surround us every day, and who want to share the joy of embracing Torah learning, engaging in meaningful and spiritual prayer and performing deeds of loving kindness,” he said. “Our 13/125 celebration is truly a historic moment not only for our congregation, but for our entire Dallas Jewish community…. Our links to our past also connect each of us together and — no doubt — will help provide all of us the opportunity to keep Shearith Israel flourishing for another 125 years.”

Co-chairs Marcy and Lew Lefko have belonged to CSI for 21 years and the shul plays an integral role in their lives. Marcy added that they are fortunate to be part of a wonderful synagogue community.

“We believe this weekend will bring together the entire congregation and nothing is better than that,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to honor our past and celebrate our future, and we are thrilled to be part of a great congregation.”

For more information, contact Mona Allen at 214-361-6606, ext. 218, or mallen@shearith.org, or visit www.shearith.org.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 17 March 2011 by admin

New 2011 officers of Temple Emanu-El Couples Club installed

At the recent annual meeting and gala held at Prestonwood Country Club, the new officers of the Temple Emanu-El Couples Club for 2011 were installed.

The new presidents for 2011–2012 are Jeanne and Ronnie Isaacson. Co-vice-presidents-elect are Toni and Frank Aaron and Eileen and Thurman Ray. Co-vice-presidents (social) are Edie and Paul Singer and Carol and Lee Zak. Co-vice-presidents (membership) are Frances Sue and Morton Schneider, Sarah Yarrin and Jack Repp. Secretaries, Carole and Barry Cohen. Treasurers, Sandra and Dan Gorman. Sunshine, Joyce and Jerry Zellman. Parliamentarians, Joan and Malcolm Shwarts. Publicity, Renee and Buddy Gilbert.

The Temple Emanu-El Couples Club, founded 22 years ago, is a social club open to all Jewish members of the community.  One of the couple must be 55 years of age or older.  If interested in joining, call Frances Sue or Morton Schneider, 972-398-1771, or Sarah Yarrin or Jack Repp, 214-361-0486.

Rabbi Nancy Kasten to lead Hadassah education program, March 24

Explore the diversity of Israeli women’s experiences and the issues confronting them: Women of the Wall, on the bus, in the army and as the pin-up girl. Rabbi Nancy Kasten will lead a Hadassah education program on Thursday, March 24, at 7 p.m. in the Aaron Family JCC Senior Lounge, 7900 Northaven Road, Dallas. The session will be followed by election of next year’s board of directors and a dessert reception in appreciation of Hadassah’s life members. The Nominating Committee slate for the 2011–2012 board is as follows: president, Terri Schepps; co-OVPs, Linda Steinberg and Jo Zeffren; co-VPs of communications, Robin Moss and Sara Steinman; co-VPs of fundraising, Susie Avnery and Robyn Mirsky; co-VPs of health and education, Francine Daner and Marcy Helfand; co-VPs of membership, Marjorie Rosenberg and Sunny Shor; co-VPs of programming, Robbie Epstein and Margie Shor; treasurer, Amy Applebaum; assistant treasurers, Maureen Brenner and Ety Friedman; secretary, Anna Segal; Nominating Committee chair, Barbara Moses. This program is free of charge and open to the community, but RSVP is required because space is limited. Please RSVP to Marcy Helfand at marcy@helfandpc.com or 972-392-9288. If you need a ride, call Susie Avnery at 469-288-8875.

‘Circumcise Me’: New comedy on the cutting edge comes to Dallas

For one night only, “Circumcise Me” — a new comedy on the cutting edge, a perfect blend of genuine sentiment and hilarious one-liners — is coming to Dallas, Wednesday, April 6, 7:30 p.m. at the Zale Auditorium at the J, 7900 Northaven Road.

Prepare yourself for a wild evening of nonstop laughter and outrageous fun when, following an extended off-Broadway run, Yisrael Campbell stars in his hilarious one-man show that recounts his spiritual journey stretching across four decades, two continents and three circumcisions.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door (senior adults, $20 in advance, $25 at the door) and may be ordered online at jccdallas.org or by calling 214-739-2737.

“Circumcise Me,” based on the documentary film shown at the Jewish Film Festival of Dallas two years ago, is a rare collision of comedy and theater that will have you howling with laughter and, in the end, standing up to cheer! It is poignant, provocative and powerfully witty, the true and truly unforgettable story of an average Irish, Italian Catholic kid from Philly, comic actor, sober alcoholic, recovering drug addict, husband, father, Reform, Conservative, Unorthodox, Orthodox Jew.

The steering committee for this event includes ori and Joel Alhadef, Susan and Ken Bendalin, Zvi Drizin (Intown Chabad), Kellilyn and Andy Dropkin, Kathryn and Bob Frish, Vered and Moshe Golan, Ynette and Jim Hogue, Angela and Gary Horowitz, Florence and Larry Kramer, Carol and Mark Kreditor, Brenda and Peter Marcus, Zelda and Shawn Mash, Barry Mellman, Lori and Trace Ordiway, Myra and Stuart Prescott, Stephanie and Dan Prescott, Ruth and Alan Shor,  Zev Shulkin, and Andy Schultz.

Serving up service in Dallas

J-Serve is a national day of Jewish youth service. Since 2005, J-Serve has been a part of Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day weekend. J-Serve provides teens with the opportunity to fulfill the Jewish values of gemilut chasadim, acts of loving kindness; tzedakah, just and charitable giving; and tikkun olam, the responsibility to repair the world. Across the globe, teens will join each other to make their community and the world a better place. The Dallas J-Serve event will be held on April 17 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Aaron Family JCC and is open to teens in grades seven through 12. There are many choices of community service projects teens can sign up for. To register or for more information, go to www.jserve.org and search “Serving up Service in Dallas.” Registration begins March 27.

Pre-Passover seminar and roundtable at DATA

DATA presents an opportunity you won’t want to “pass-over”: a two-part pre-Passover seminar and roundtable discussion. On Tuesday, April 5, 7:30–9 p.m., take a “Trip-Tik to the Seder,” and one week later on April 12, also 7:30–9, come gain “Insights for a Meaningful Seder Experience.” The story of the Exodus is laced with traditions, commentary and song. These classes will give you all you need to achieve a meaningful Passover experience. For more information, please call 214-987-3282. DATA is located at 5840 Forest Lane in Dallas.

Rabbi Tovia Singer coming to town to give free lecture

Rabbi Tovia Singer will be in Dallas for a lecture on Sunday evening, March 27, 7 to 10 p.m. The renowned anti-missionary activist and educator is coming to town to promote the revised edition of his book. There is no admission charge. The lecture will take place at the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center, 8051 LBJ Fwy. For further details, please call DATA at 214-987-3282.

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Around the Town

Posted on 17 March 2011 by admin

Megillah and music at Beth Shalom

The talented “Purim Players” of Congregation Beth Shalom are hard at work rehearsing their “Musical Megillah,” which will be presented on Saturday night, March 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the Beth Shalom Sanctuary. Cantor Sheri Allen has written lyrics for ten songs set to the tunes of popular melodies and musicals. Each song will complement a chapter of the Megillah. The talented cast includes Marian Feld and her grandson Cameron Lizun, Sherwin Rubin, Hy Siegel, Randy San Antonio, Phil Kabakoff, Stuart Snow, Debra Kaplan and daughter Cailey, and Beth Shalom President Barry Goldfarb. Phil Landsberg will be accompanying the cast on the trumpet. Don’t miss the world premiere of what is sure to be a Super Shpiel!

The evening will begin with a barbecue dinner at 6:30, and end with a hamantaschen celebration immediately after the Megillah reading. Please call Linda Seward at 817-860-5448 for dinner reservations.

Two congregations share Israel Day/Family Day

Beth-El Congregation and Congregation Ahavath Sholom shared a special event for their respective religious schools. Israel Day/Family Day, held Sunday, March 6, brought parents and students from both religious schools to the Great Hall at Beth-El, where Religous School Director Ilana Knust feaured a variety of events to promote learning about Israel.

Participants answered trivia questions, like “Who built the first Temple?” and “What city in Israel is called ‘the City that Never Sleeps’?” (Hint: It’s NOT Jerusalem!) Students could walk on a huge map of Israel, eat traditional falafel and hummus and journey into the Tent of Abraham. And they were encouraged to write prayers on notecards for delivery to the Western Wall this summer.

CAS will host the religious-school Purim carnival for both congregations later this month.

Marvin Blum joins the Miss America 2011 board of directors

Marvin Blum was named to the Miss America 2011 board of directors recently. Chairman of the Board Sam Haskell, III, announced the board of directors for 2011 at the annual board meeting.

“I am proud to present the newest members to join our esteemed board of directors,” Haskell said. “Our board is recognized for having a unique group of talented individuals and professionals who support and add to the success of this organization. They provide us with wonderful direction to grow the nation’s leading achievement programs for young women and aid in building the future of this great American tradition, now celebrating our 90th year.”

He added, “I want to personally take a moment to welcome and congratulate our newly elected board members, Marvin Blum, ‘FOX & Friends’ anchor; Miss America 1989 Gretchen Carlson; Gloria Fine; and Kelley Jenkins McCormick.”

Blum is a prominent attorney and certified public accountant based in Fort Worth, where he is the founding partner of The Blum Firm, P.C. He received his undergraduate degree in accounting at the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated first in his class, and received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, where he graduated second in his class. Marvin is a frequent speaker and author on estate planning and tax topics. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise, and recognized by New York’s Worth magazine by being named to its “National Top 100 Attorneys” list. He is consistently included on Texas Monthly’s annual list of “Texas Super Lawyers.” In October, Marvin was among a select group of 12 legal professionals named as one of Fort Worth’s “2010 Power Attorneys.” Marvin is active in his community, in his 31st year as treasurer of the Fort Worth Symphony. He is a lifetime trustee of Trinity Valley School, where he served five years as president of the board. He also served as chairman of The Multicultural Alliance.

Up to date with the JFS Seniors

The Jewish Family Services Seniors had the opportunity to dine at Zorro’s Buffet. Forty-eight members dined, ate, ate some more and went back to their homes full, stuffed and totally content. It was a fun outing and a little break from their normal dairy-only meals. Their next adventure will be to the Congregation Ahavath Sholom Purim Masquerade Party on Saturday, March 19. Everyone is very excited about the invitation and already planning on a great time hearing the Megillah, having dinner and dancing.

Remember, the JFS Seniors meet daily at Beth-El from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is served at noon. Please join the program!

SiNaCa Studios School of Glass and Gallery now open

In the fall of 2007, a group of five local glass artists came together with the idea of creating a glass arts school in Fort Worth. Within months, the group had established a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, put together an advisory board and operations board and started the challenging job of fundraising. The people involved believed passionately in this project, and even in an economy that was not friendly to the arts, began working to raise money for the project.

Named SiNaCa Studios — combining the chemical symbols of the three elements of which glass is composed — the school is open to anyone from the beginning student to the professional who wishes to learn new skills in glassblowing, kiln-formed glass, mosaic design and flameworking.

The studio is also available to professionals who wish to rent space for their work. The gallery offers students and professionals alike the opportunity to display and sell their work to the general public. Located at 1013 West Magnolia in the hot new gallery and restaurant area of Fort Worth, the studio had planned the grand opening for fall 2010. Unfortunately, a tragic fire occurred in the facility on the early morning of the planned opening. This did not deter visitors and nearly 100 people came by to view the new school. Good insurance, lots of elbow grease and determination led to the “re” grand opening in January. About 200 friends, glass art lovers and well-wishers came by for the exciting event.

Money has been raised privately and from the Tarrant County Arts Council to establish the school. Two very creative ways of fundraising include the Glass Ambassador program, where a select group commits to raising a set amount of money for SiNaCa, and the annual Vitro Moda–Where Glass Rules the Runway event, which draws hundreds to each gala. This year, Vitro Moda 4 will be hosted at Neiman Marcus Fort Worth on April 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. Professional models walk a New York–style runway showing glass pieces by various artists. The evening will be filled with patrons enjoying food, wine and the opportunity to bid on various glass art. Jeannie Luskey is the honorary chair for this highly popular event.

SiNaCa artists also make themselves visible in the community by participating in gallery shows, working with young students at Imagination Celebration and in various style shows including the Opera Guild of Fort Worth and United Methodist Women. This spring, SiNaCa Studios will open a gallery at the Fort Worth Neiman Marcus store. SiNaCa @ The Zodiac will feature glass works that promote the Spring Style Trends for Neiman Marcus stores.

One of SiNaCa’s artists, Mace Adams, teaches at the Ann and Nate Levine Academy in Dallas. He teaches his art of kiln-formed glass to students in his class as well as to those attending the school’s summer camp for ages 5 to 8.

Many members of the Jewish community serve on SiNaCa’s various boards.

All are invited to come by and visit the gallery on any Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. A regular studio open house is held on the second Friday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m. To stay in touch with what is happening, you can become a friend on Facebook or visit SiNaCa’s Web site at www.sinacastudios.org.

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 17 March 2011 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Thanks for your answer last week. One more question from the Holy Land.

I was at a medical ethics program that got off course for a bit. We were discussing abortion, and it was asked, “How can one do tshuvah for this?” It was asked by a woman who was 17 when she had an abortion (she was not religious at the time). The speaker answered, “In Judaism we believe that if an individual repents properly and sincerely, Hashem accepts their tshuvah and forgives them. As a matter of fact, one can be sure that if your tshuvah was sincere, Hashem forgave you. Now you must move on from this and grow closer to Hashem through this experience. This was something done many years ago — you were young, before you were religious and you didn’t know any better. I am sure that you have repented many times for this since, and now it’s time to forgive yourself and be sure that Hashem forgave you too. I think in this situation you can’t ask forgiveness from the fetus but only from Hashem.”

I think his answer calmed this woman, yet several of us were bothered by it but did not want to ask a question in front of her to make her feel worse. Hashem can forgive sins to Him. But, when we wrong another person we must ask forgiveness from the person we wronged, so how can she be forgiven by the child? One of the women I was with is a therapist, and liked the idea, but wanted to be sure that the answer was proper. It actually made me remember an old “Touched by an Angel” TV show about that topic. The “angel” tells this woman, “G-d has forgiven you, now you need to forgive yourself,” but that is a Christian show.

Looking forward to your response. I have a monthly “ladies’ shabbat lunch,” so I can report back on the next one.

Thanks, and Shabbat Shalom,

Etta K.

Dear Etta,

Your question touches upon many profound issues in Jewish thought. Each thought is worthy of an entire column, but we’ll use the space allotted to give you some food for thought and perhaps discuss it more at length in the future.

The concept of tshuvah, repentance by which G-d forgives our sins, is a difficult one to understand in the realm of actions between man and fellow man, even in the case of actual murder. How can one turn back the clock and rewrite history? The victim can’t be brought back.

In a previous column we explained at length that through tshuvah one connects to a higher, spiritual world, where our thoughts and desires reign supreme. In that world, our physical acts are merely the shell of our thoughts and desires. If one truly performs tshuvah by completely uprooting their desire to have performed the act, in that higher world the act no longer belongs to that person. Rather than rewriting history, we are disconnecting the action from its doer, by that person spiritually becoming a new individual.

The next point is one that needs much pondering, but has numerous sources in Torah literature. G-d would never allow someone to be killed unless the victim’s life was supposed to end for some other reason.

You are correct that having wronged another person, one cannot complete tshuvah to G-d before making amends and receiving forgiveness from that person. In the case of murder, or especially with your question of an abortion, there is presently no “other” to seek their forgiveness. After the performance of a true, heartfelt tshuvah, including real remorse and sorrow over the past to the degree befitting such an act and a sincere resolve for the future, the lecturer was correct that this woman needs to move ahead with her life.

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

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 17 March 2011 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

The holiday of Purim is about Esther’s bravery — it took courage to go to the king. Ometz lev, the mitzvah of courage, literally means “dedication of the heart.” When our heart is set, we have the inner strength to overcome fear and doubt. This is not only the soldier kind of courage, but rather the courage that we have because we have trust in G-d. It also means the power to have endurance and persistence, and the strength to be a good person.

Jewish history is filled with heroes who showed great courage like Esther. Here are a few to talk about with your family:

Hannah Senesh was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1921. As a teenager, Hannah was very active in Zionist activity, and in 1939, she moved to a kibbutz in Palestine. World War II broke out and Hannah was very worried about friends and family. In 1943, she joined the Palmach, the Jewish army in Palestine. The Palmach planned a raid to help Jews escape from the Nazis. They would drop soldiers behind enemy lines. Hannah volunteered and was the only woman chosen to go on the raid. Soon after landing, she was captured and tortured to give out plans and codes. Hannah refused to speak and was executed by a firing squad. Word of Hannah’s bravery and strength spread to all the Jews. She remains in the hearts of all Jews and is remembered through her poetry for her bravery. “I wounded another not knowing both ends of an arrow mar. I too was hurt in the battle and shall bear a scar.”

In more ancient times, we had heroes whom we credit with saving Judaism. There is in Rome the famous Arch of Titus showing Romans in 70 CE triumphantly parading spoils from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which they had just destroyed. It is one end of the story of the time that the Romans conquered Israel. This could have been the end of Judaism but it wasn’t, because of the bravery and wisdom of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai. While the Romans laid siege against Jerusalem, ben Zakkai had a plan. His followers pretended he was dead and carried him outside the city gate, but ben Zakkai arose and went to the general who granted ben Zakkai one request: “Give me Yavneh and its sages.” The small academy of Yavneh became the spiritual center of the Jewish people, and a new type of Judaism survived which allowed Judaism to flourish wherever the Jews would go.

Here are some great conversation starters about bravery and courage. As the media speaks daily of the problems of bullying, courage to stand up for yourself and others is an issue on everyone’s mind.

(1) Let each family member talk about a time they did something that took courage. Remember, it doesn’t always have to mean physical courage. Does having courage mean you are never afraid?

(2) When we talk about strength, we usually think of physical strength. What does it mean to be strong in other ways?

(3) Some people talk about “strong families.” What makes a strong family? How can you make your family stronger? Does being part of the Jewish religion or community help you be stronger? How and why?

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

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Super Sunday 2011

Super Sunday 2011

Posted on 17 March 2011 by admin

JFGD annual Super Sunday phone-a-thon fundraising event to take place March 27

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

When the phone rings on March 27, be sure to answer the call. The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) is holding its annual phone-a-thon, one of the largest fundraising events in the Dallas Jewish community.

Super Sunday has been an essential part of the community for roughly 15 years as a significant way to meet the $11 million goal of the JFGD’s annual campaign. The event, which has a Monopoly theme this year, will take place in the Zale Auditorium of the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road, and will have multiple shifts throughout the day.

The shifts are as follows: Get the Game Started Right, 9:30 a.m. to noon; Collect Gifts for the Community Chest, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Make the Call and Be the Banker, 1:30 to 4 p.m.; and Collect the Pledge and Pass Go, 3:30 to 6 p.m.

Mark Kreditor, who is co-chairing the event with Ben Fine, said he considers Super Sunday to be one of the “big three” fundraising events of the year, along with the Kosher Chili Cookoff, which will take place April 3, and the Bagel Run, to be held on May 15.

“I was touched by it when I went as a volunteer; I felt good being one Jew asking a second Jew to help a third Jew,” he said. “It’s the single biggest day of outreach for the campaign and I hope the larger community can participate on some level. The key is for everyone to give tzedakah and be part of the healing of the world.”

All of the money raised will be allocated to the various agencies that are beneficiaries of the JFGD, which will in turn provide services for the sick, elderly and at-risk populations; assist Jews in Israel and around the world; and enhance formal and non-formal education.

Other happenings on tap are face painting and activities for children; prizes will be awarded during each time slot and there will be a drawing for a 32-inch television; one synagogue and one agency, each that has the most participation by percentage, will receive the Golden Phone Award and $500; and breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks will be provided. In addition, all participants are asked to make calls from their own cell phones.

Regan Wagh, JFGD senior campaign associate who is in charge of Super Sunday, said this is a way for the entire community to come together.

“This is a community-building event and it’s a great way to learn how to solicit better,” she said. “We really encourage organizations to send out their volunteers so they can practice making phone calls with us and then go back and use the tools they learned to help their organizations. Super Sunday allows the community to help out in an impactful way.”

Wagh added that they have also reached out to teenagers from BBYO and Yavneh Academy by providing community service hours for their involvement and have targeted the young adult population as well to make calls during the final shift.

Ben Fine, who at 24 years old is the youngest Super Sunday co-chair in the country, said he credits his time at Yavneh Academy as what laid the foundation for learning about the importance of giving back. He previously volunteered at Super Sunday by making calls, but this is the first year he has been involved on a larger scale.

He said without Super Sunday, the JFGD wouldn’t be able to allocate money to other agencies. He believes this is a vital way to strengthen the Dallas Jewish community.

“When I volunteered at Jewish Family Service and Golden Acres in high school, it clicked with me that the JFGD is an important part of our community and I am honored to co-chair this event,” he said. “This is a time where every person needs to help. It’s an integral part to the success of the JFGD and it helps increase the amount of money we can give to our agencies in Israel; that’s the best part.”

For more information and to sign up, visit www.jewishdallas.org, or contact Regan Wagh at 214-615-5259 or rwagh@jfgd.org.

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NFTY

Posted on 03 March 2011 by admin

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