Archive | May, 2011

Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 26 May 2011 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried

Why do the Orthodox base a Jew’s status on the mother and not the father? Shouldn’t the father be at least as important as the mother? Does the father have any affect at all on the status of the child?

Marvin W.

Dear Marvin,

This is the first time in anyone has written me to stick up for men’s rights in Judaism!

The answer to your question is based upon a fascinating reversal in the defining status of a Jew, whether it depends upon patrilineal (father-based) or matrilineal (mother-based) descent. During the time of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes, Jewish descent clearly depended upon the father, not the mother. Although the patriarchs took great pains to marry “within the family” and not take Canaanite women, the Tribes did not do so. Their children were, nevertheless, considered the continuation of the covenant and family of Abraham.

This might have been because of the following surprising fact: the patriarchs were the fathers of the Jewish nation, but were not technically Jewish. The Jews became a “Jewish nation” when they received the Torah at Sinai and all went through the conversion process at that time (as spelled out by the Talmudic sources, based upon the relevant verses). If they were already Jewish they had no need to convert; although many already upheld the covenant of Abraham and performed brit milah in Egypt, they still entered a mikvah at Sinai and converted to the Jewish religion presented there.

At that time there was a reversal; G-d dictated in the Torah that one’s Jewish status depends on the mother (matrilineal descent). This is derived from the verse that states “You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son and you shall not take his daughter for your son, for he will cause your child to turn away from Me and will worship the gods of others…” (Deut. 7:3). The question is why is the Torah only concerned that “he,” the non-Jewish son-in-law, will sway your grandchildren away from the service of G-d; but not that “she,” the non-Jewish daughter-in-law, will do the same? The Talmud infers from this that only the non-Jewish father is a concern of swaying the grandchildren away from Judaism, as they are still Jews since their mother is Jewish. But if the mother is not Jewish, it is too late to worry the children will be swayed away, as they are already not Jewish themselves to begin with. The Talmud derives from this that the mother, not the father, determines the status of the child as a Jew; hence the concept of matrilineal descent. (Talmud Kiddushin 88b).

The tribal status of a Jew depends upon the father. Only the father’s lineage can award the status of Cohen, Levi, Israel, and which specific tribe one belongs to with its ensuing inheritance in the Land of Israel. The essential definition of who is Jewish, however, depends upon the mother.

Why the Jewish status depends upon the mother, in my understanding, is because G-d endows the fetus with the soul, its spiritual essence, on the 40th day from conception. In order for the fetus to be the recipient of a unique Jewish soul, the fetus must be in the womb of a Jewish woman. “Womb” in Hebrew is “rechem,” meaning mercy; the woman is G-d-like in that she shares G-d’s mercy in bringing new life into the world. It takes a Jewish womb to enable the entry and endowment of a Jewish soul into the new life she carries. (Location, location, location!)

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

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Dynamic duo hits the right notes

Dynamic duo hits the right notes

Posted on 26 May 2011 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn

Joel Alhadef (left) and Ricky DeVincent are RickyJoel, featured songwriters and recording artists who have released “How’s Your Life Today,” their first album on the Magic Music record label. | Photo by Holly Kuper Photography

“Did you think for a minute you could walk away, And that time wouldn’t slip away? Did you take time out to help the homeless, reach out your hand, to a fellow man?” Questions posed, rather sung in beautiful harmony by Dallas’ Joel Alhadef and Ricky DeVincent who, together are RickyJoel, and who have released their first album, “How’s Your Life Today.” The album features country and rock music.

“When we write lyrics, they come from another place.  Through our hearts, spirits or experiences, through happiness and pain,” said Alhadef.   “Like a line from a new song that we are just finishing, ‘Sometimes it takes a little sadness, before you find your happiness.’”

“We’re proud to have RickyJoel on our label, enhancing the enjoyment and love for music that we have.  That’s really the big picture,” said Alan Wainstein, who with his wife Sara Levy, released the album on their Magic Music record label.

“We first met Ricky through one of our musicians and right away we felt the quality of their music and their passion was something we wanted to be a part of,” said Wainstein, whose Magic Music record label includes Sara Levy’s “Hashiveinu” and “Butta,” and “I Do It For My Daughter,” by Richard Prince, a first season contestant on American Idol.  “We got together and launched!  In our first month, sales exceeded our dreams and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Joel and Ricky, have spent years making Thursday nights a night to create.  “We’ve grown together musically, some of these songs we started working on over 10 years ago,” said DeVincent, recalling their evolution from garage bands to collaborative songwriting.  “We get together and realized we often asked each other, not ‘how are you,’ but ‘how’s your life today,’” said DeVincent, whose studio is the site of their Thursday night sessions.

“As Joel’s religious life took a more observant road, he had an idea for a rock version of ‘Ain Kelokeinu.’  We took a age old chant and turned it into our own with a beautiful melody, soaring harmonies and some screaming guitars,” said DeVincent.  “Joel has a deep love for The Beatles along with solid songwriting and harmony brilliance. I was brought up by my parents, but I was raised by The Rolling Stones and you can hear these influences in our music.”

“Tell It Like It Is,” the second cut on the album, “was another shared belief between Ricky and I,” said Alhadef.  “We always try to do just that, in life and in our music there is brutal honesty.”

“I Want You Around” was written for DeVincent’s wife Julie. Lyrics “You sure are pretty when you smile,” are words that come from him, to her, over and again.

RickyJoel, now working on their second album that will include the single “How’s Your Life Today”  looks forward to sharing their music, and is excited about its recent video release through at and

A packaging and printing broker for Stephen Gould Corporation, DeVincent is a Boston native, the son of Jean and George.  In Dallas 18 years, he and Julie are members of Temple Emanu-El and are the parents of Alex, Harley, and Sammy.

Alhadef, a Dallas native and the son of Anita, is the owner and president of Fabulous Floors. Joel and Lori are the parents of Shawn, Bradley and Reagan and members of Chabad of Dallas, Congregation Shearith Israel, Congregation Shaare Tefilla; he serves on the boards of directors of Dallas Kosher and Yavneh Academy.

“And how’s your life today, Did you give more than you took? Do you want to come back for a second look, And how’s your life today? Did you make a sacrifice to change a life today?”  Your life will be better today for having heard RickyJoel’s recordings.

For more information, visit and  The CD is available for purchase on Amazon, Nokia, MySpace and other sites, as well as on iTunes at

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 26 May 2011 by admin

Mark Kreditor returns to ‘Daytimers’ on June  15

Mark Kreditor at one of his Daytimers’ performances

The next event for “Daytimers” is the return appearance of Mark Kreditor with his “Jews of the American Songbook.”  His program will include songs from “Cabaret” to “Bye-Bye Birdie,” all written by Jewish composers.

This will be Kreditor’s fifth appearance for “Daytimers,” but the first one since 2008. The group is eagerly awaiting his unique blend of song and “schtick” from American Jewish composers.

Lunch will be catered by Jimmy John’s Sandwich Shop, and guests will have a choice of a turkey, tuna, or vegetarian sub sandwich.

For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Irv Robinson, 817-731-7447, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76109.

The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

Live from NY’s 92nd Street Y is back at Cong. Beth El

On June 9 at 7 p.m., join Nora Ephron and Rebecca Traister as they discuss the future of politics, women’s issues and life.  The program is part of Live from NY’s 92nd Street Y and is partially funded by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Nora Ephron is the author of the bestseller “I Feel Bad About My Neck” and most recently “I Remember Nothing.” Previous best sellers include “Heartburn,” “Crazy Salad” and “Wallflower at the Orgy.” She wrote and directed the hit movie “Julie and Julia” and has received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay for “When Harry Met Sally,” “Silkwood” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” Rebecca Traister is senior writer for “Salon,” where she has written about women in politics, media and entertainment since 2003, and where she covered the 2008 presidential campaign from a feminist perspective. She has also written for “Elle,” “The Nation,” “The New York Observer,” “Vogue” and “The New York Times.” Suggested donation is $3.

Nasons return from trip to Eastern Europe

Sophia and Alex Nason returned recently from a trip to Budapest and Prague. “We haven’t been to the Eastern Europe since we left Russia 30 years ago. Hungary is very close to the place we came from, so by going there we would get a feel without going back to Russia. Prague has a lot of history and it’s only seven hours on a train from Budapest,” said Alex. “In Budapest there is a relatively new monument (built in 200) ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank.’ It represents the shoes from Jews being killed by Germans. Germans made the Jews remove their shoes before killing them, and were using the shoes for themselves. Also, a very impressive site is the second biggest synagogue in the world.  In the backyard there is a house where Theodore Hertzl was born, as well as a Tree of Life where each leaf has an engraved name of a Jew killed in 1944.

In Prague the most memorable site was the oldest synagogue in Europe built in 1130 the Staranova synagogue where we went for the services on the Passover.” It sounds like it was an amazing trip! Welcome home to the Nasons.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 26 May 2011 by admin

Locals participate in VisionWalk

From left, Greta Herskowitz, Howard Herskowitz, Miriam Creemer, Al Creemer and Marcia Forest at the 5K Vision Walk in Grand Prairie May 14.

Al and Miriam Creemer, together with their ‘Cheyes of Texas’ chaverim Howard and Greta Herskowitz and Marcia Forest, participated in the 5K VisionWalk supporting the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  VisionWalk is the national signature fundraising event of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. The walk was at Pizza Hut Park, Grand Prairie on 14 May.  Their walk team “Brendan’s Buddies” is named for the Creemers’ grandson Brendan who has Usher’s Syndrome.  The urgent mission of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Inc. is to drive the research that will provide preventions, treatments and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa (RP), macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases.  This year, Brendan’s Buddies raised close to $7000 in support of this effort and the team wishes to thank all our their supporters in the Jewish community and across the US and Canada.

Yavneh Academy Stars Scholars & Schultz Family Community Service Scholarships Awards of up to $20,000 available

Yavneh Academy of Dallas Star Scholars Awards, for prospective and incoming students, who are currently studying in a secular school, and who will be entering the ninth and 10th grades in the fall, provide for up to $20,000 on a renewable basis.  Scholarships are based on student qualities of academic merit, citizenship, community service, and a desire for Judaic study in an environment where Jewish tradition, history, culture, and the preparation for success at competitive universities come together.

Yavneh’s Schultz Family Community Service Scholarship, for current students, rewards community leadership, involvement, and a personal commitment to giving back to others. In addition, these one-year, $3,000 awards, for which students may reapply each year, celebrates academic achievement and Jewish identity, and is one that celebrates the Howard and Leslie Schultz family’s steadfast belief that Jewish education builds Jewish leaders.

Yavneh Academy is Dallas’ only co-ed Jewish college preparatory high school.  The school is home to teachers that are nationally recognized for their excellence and expertise, championship winning sports teams, mock trial, debate, Students Against Terrorism and Points for Peace, HELP/Helping Everyone Live Peacefully, the nationally award-winning Bulldog Print, and other extracurricular activities, as well as small class sizes that guarantee individualized attention.

The deadline for Stars Scholars Awards is June 15.  The deadline for Schultz Family Community Service Scholarships is July 15.  Yavneh Academy is located at 12324 Merit Drive, Dallas TX 75251.  For more information, or to apply, call 214-295-3500 or email

Honorable Menschen

Jason Christian, Jeff Birnbaum and Lee Allen logged the most service hours for the 2010-2011 school year for the Dal-Rich Chapter of YMSL. | Photo: Eileen Birnbaum

For his bar mitzvah project, Markie Merlene has joined the efforts of DATA by selling raffle tickets for the DATA Spring Scholarship Raffle. The raffle prize is a Bachendorf’s $10,000 gift certificate. Markie, the son of Tonia and Mark Merlene, is a sixth-grade student at Robinson Middle School in Plano. Markie attended preschool and kindergarten at Congregation Beth Torah and is a former student of Levine Academy. The raffle is raising money for scholarships for Jewish education programs. Only 999 tickets will be sold at $100 per ticket. Markie’s goal is to sell $100 tickets toward the raffle. Tickets can be purchased via credit card or check and you do not have to be present to win. To help support Markie’s goal, mail a check to DATA FAR North,16818 Thomas Chapel Drive, Dallas, TX 75248. Please include Markie’s  bar mitzvah project in the memo line. For more information, contact Tonia Merlene, 972-978-1972 or The deadline is May 29 and the raffle will be held on June 1.

Yavneh Alum ‘08 and co-founder of Yavneh’s HELP, Helping Everyone Live Peacefully, Gabbi Lewin will be spending her summer making memories, and HELPing the world – her favorite “hobby.”  As a participant in the Uganda Orphans Rural Development Program, she will spend two months promoting care and support to orphans with HIV/AIDS, their families and communities.  Gabbi and her peers will be working on the construction of two primary schools in the Ramogi local village, the renovation of a health center and the building of a community market stall at a trading center. With no running water and limited electricity, Gabbi is expecting this to be one of the most humbling experiences and challenges in her life. “My familial ties to South Africa have always sparked a dream for me to volunteer near my roots,” said the rising senior at New York University, and daughter of Beverley and Peter Lewin.

The project is organized by the American Jewish World Service a non-profit humanitarian organization that partners with grassroots organizations in local impoverished communities to foster growth, alleviate poverty, hunger and disease.  Gabbi was first introduced to AJWS when funds from the premiere year of HELP were shared, through American Jewish World Service Sudan Relief and Advocacy Fund. “Ruth Messinger, President of AJWS, remains a role model of mine and I am excited to participate in one of their largest hands-on projects.”

Gabbi has received a generous scholarship from AJWS to participate with this program, but is hoping to raise the remaining $2,500 necessary.  To donate, visit and enter “Gabbi Lewin” under the “Volunteer Information” section.  All donations, which must be received by June 1, 2011, are tax-deductible and anonymous to other donors.

Mazel tov to Jason Christian (Class of 2012), son of Dana and Dale Christian, Jeff Birnbaum (Class of 2013), son of Eileen and Scott Birnbaum, and Lee Allen (Class of 2014), son of Mona and Artie Allen, for logging the most community service hours for the Dal-Rich Chapter of the Young Men’s Service league (YMSL). Jeff also posted the most community service hours overall. YMSL is a non-profit organization that initiates and encourages young men and their mothers to pursue philanthropic involvement in their community and provides an opportunity to enhance mother/son relationships. Among the philanthropies supported by YMSL Dal-Rich are: Austin Street Shelter, Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement, Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas Chai Home Levy House, Community Garden at St. Thomas Apostle Church, Dallas Ramps, Jewish Family Services, Gilda’s Club, Groundwork Dallas, Meals on Wheels, North Texas Food Bank, Town Village North Dallas, Trains at North Park and Welcome Home a Hero among many others.

Congregation Beth Torah honors adult b’nai mitzvah class

Pictured from left to right are; Leslie Morgan (co-instructor), Scott Silvis, Myrna Robins, Elizabeth Stein (co-instructor), Sue Friedmann, and Karen Koopferstock.

Congregation Beth Torah will be celebrating the b’nai mitzvah of the 2010-2011 adult class on May 27th and 28th.  The proud participants of this year’s simcha are Sue Friedmann, Karen Koopferstock, Myrna Robins and Scott Silvis.

This is the fourth group that co-teachers Elizabeth Stein and Leslie Morgan have instructed for this special occasion and the eighth or ninth class that have “graduated” thus far from Beth Torah.

As part of the curriculum, the students study the weekly Torah parasha, learn to read Hebrew, learn to lead the Shabbat services, chant Torah and Haftarah trope, understand Maimonides thirteen principles of faith and perform at least 18 mitzvah hours.

This is the smallest class as far as members (the other classes have ranged from seven to 18 students) but they are not small as far as their goals and commitments to Congregation Beth Torah or to Jewish learning.

All of them have embraced their studies with enthusiasm and dedication.  During the actual b’nai mitzvah, they will all lead Shabbat services, be called to the Torah, chant from the Torah and Haftarah and give a speech.  Their speech will include a d’var Torah on the week’s portion as well as personal insight as to why they embarked on this journey and why now.

When Scott Silvis was asked why he was taking this class now, he shared the following “When I was at the last adult class b’nai mitzvah and learned that Susan Blumka (a member of that class) had lost her battle with cancer that night, I didn’t want to take life for granted.  I didn’t want to have any regrets for not doing this and I wanted to do it for her.”

Sue Freidmann considers this class as a logical part of her 10-year spiritual journey.  Karen Koopferstock said she was glad she finally got to “go to Hebrew School and have a bat mitzvah” like her brothers did growing up.  She also feels she’ll be better equipped to support her kids when they go through this.

Myrna Robins shared that she has known that she wanted to do this for a while and the timing was finally “right.”

For all of them, the timing was now “right.”

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 26 May 2011 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,

Customer service is always in the news. Anyone who runs a business or goes to a restaurant, store or anywhere for that matter, is concerned with the level of customer service in that place. When people ignore others or are downright rude, we are upset and complain about the “state of the world.” An important Jewish value is sayver panim yafot or having a pleasant demeanor. “Sayver” means brighten, “panim” means face, and “yafot” means lovely, so “sayver panim yafot” translates to, “Put on a happy face!” This is a wonderful value to teach our children and to remind ourselves. It does not mean that we must always be happy or that we should deny our feelings, but when we greet the world with a smile, we do get smiles in return. The ancient rabbis knew what the doctors are telling us today—when we put on a smile outside, we often begin to feel better inside. “Receive every person in a cheerful manner…be the first to extend greetings to every human being.” (Pirkei Avot). Customer Service has been taught by the rabbis for generations — let’s remember to practice it.

This is an easy value to practice with your children. Make sure you have a mirror handy and together, make faces. Put the emotion with the face—make a sad face, make a happy face, make an angry face. Next put words to the “face” — smile and say “Go to your room for two hours.” How does that look? Then remind everyone to start each day with a happy face — a game will soon turn into a habit and then into an attitude. Finally, each week when you bless your children talk about God’s face: May God bless you and protect you. May God make God’s face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God lift God’s face toward you and grant you peace.

It is also important that we not save our “smiling face” just for the outside. Remember to smile at your families and those closest to you.

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

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 19 May 2011 by admin

Two hundred teens gather at 2011 J-Serve

Jillian Herstein plants a tree during J-Serve.

On Sunday, April 17, nearly 200 teens gathered at the JCC to participate in an afternoon of community service. They seized this opportunity to fulfill the Jewish values of gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), and tikkun olam (repairing the world). The teens were participating in J-Serve, America’s Global Youth Service Day. Across the globe, teens joined to make their communities and the world a better place.

Their afternoon began with a teen-led Jewish values activity in Zale Auditorium. Thereafter, the teens boarded buses that transported them to 10 different sites for their community service projects.  The projects spanned a wide spectrum of need in the community and served several populations. The teens made ice-cream sundaes, played Bingo (with prizes, of course!), and socialized with seniors at Sunrise Senior Living and Legacy They visited several facilities that serve the needs of underprivileged children, including Rainbow Days, Family Gateway and the Headstart program. While there, they worked on the playgrounds, made coloring books and organized the toys and games. Additionally, they visited Pebbles Apartments, which houses formerly homeless mothers and their children. They distributed donations of household goods and spent considerable time organizing games and playing with the children. The final set of projects had the teens donning work gloves and tending to the environment by planting trees and gleaning at Texas Trees, and the Gleaning Network of Dallas.

All in all, the teens made a positive contribution to the community and embodied the message of this quote by Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Spiritual, uplifting Shabbat service June 3 at Shearith

Danielle Stoler plays bingo with a resident of the Legacy

Shearith Israel invites the community to welcome Shabbat with a new spiritual and uplifting service at the main location, 9401 Douglas Ave., Dallas.  With melodies inspired by Shlomo Carlebach and Debbie Friedman, the redesigned Kabbalah Shabbat service will be more participatory and more meaningful than ever. The service on Friday, June 3rd will recognize all of the synagogue’s  recent graduates, as well as offer a special send-off blessing to children attending summer camp.

Following services on June 3, there will be a choice of dinner experiences. All are available by pre-reservation. Shabbat is to be celebrated with family and friends and there are  multiple opportunities to do that. Shearith will host a family dinner picnic style followed by Shabbat Bingo for the young and young at heart. For those wanting a Shabbat filled with learning and intellectual, spiritual discussion there is an adult-only dinner led by Rabbi William Gershon on the topic of: “Unlocking the Secret Mysteries of Judaism through Kabbalah.” Then for those ages 21-35, the Young Professionals of CSI will host their popular Shabbat in the homes, contact for more information.

Members and guests are invited to come for this fabulous evening. Pre-registration is essential; call no later than May 31 to reserve the dinner of your choice with family and friends. Further information can be found by visiting, or call 214-361-6606.

Congregation Ohr HaTorah fights neighborhood crime.

Linda Koop, a Dallas Council Member of District 11, helped arrange a meeting at Congregation Ohr HaTorah on April 28 with Police Chief Jesse Reyes about fighting neighborhood crime.

Gideon Posner compiled some helpful information from the meeting with the Dallas Police Chief Reyes.

Using 911

Any time you need the police, ambulance or fire brigade, call 911. 911 is not just for an emergency situation, it should be used to report any suspicious activity. For example if you see a suspicious person, vehicle, or suspicious activity – call 911 to report it.

When calling 911 – give your name, address, phone number, service required (police / ambulance / fire) and the situation. The Police Chief said the police statistics showed that 33 percent of the homes broken into had an open window, unlocked doors or open gates; 45 percent of cars stolen or theft from vehicles – had open windows, unlocked doors and items such as GPS on the dashboard or purses/valuables on display in the front seat. Simple things like locking doors and windows and putting away valuables prevent opportunity crimes.

JCC Junior Tennis Academy team aces city tourney

Members of the JCC’s Junior Academy 12 and Under won the city championship earlier this month.

JCC Junior Academy Kids 12 and under won the City Championship on Sunday, May 8, by defeating two other first place teams in their division.  They beat the team from High Point and the team from the Dallas Country Club 6-1.  The team consists of Josh Kane, Max Platt, Gabe Friedstadt, Ben Genender, Ben Pollack, Kobe Roseman and Cal Rothkrug.   Congratulations to all the kids who won  Not shown in the picture, but participating in the victory were Daniel Brickman and Joseph Weinberg.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 19 May 2011 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,

As the school year comes to a close, we look back on how we have grown. With our little ones, it is easy to see the physical changes, and even the intellectual and emotional growth can be observed. How do we “teach” our children to have faith and how can we measure spiritual growth? Talk with your children about wonder and, most importantly, talk about G-d. The ease with which young children talk will strengthen your own faith.  Our children are indeed strengthening their roots and growing strong.  As we enter the summer months and the pressures of the school year are over, take time to enjoy our natural world.  Don’t let the heat or the bugs or dirt keep you inside.  When asked about times when we have felt G-d’s presence, most people talk about times in nature viewing the creation of G-d rather than looking at man’s creations. Many years ago, when I was an 18-year-old counselor, I stood with my group at the Grand Canyon. Most of us experienced the wonder of the moment but one young boy said, “It looks just like the train ride at Disneyland.” From that moment on, I was committed to giving children experiences to love the outdoors. Seeing the world with the fresh eyes of our children gives us faith that the world is a good place!!

A story is told of a young student who questions Rabbi Akiba about the nature of faith. The rabbi brought the student over to a sprout in the ground and said, “Pull it up.” The student does so with little effort.  They walk on to a sapling and again Akiba says, “Pull it up.” This took more effort but was done.  And then on to a shrub which took all the student’s strength to uproot.  Finally, Rabbi Akiba takes the student to a fully-grown tree and try as he might, the student could not move the tree. Rabbi Akiba spoke,“That is also how it is with faith. If the roots of our faith are deep, if our religious views are mature and developed, our faith cannot be uprooted, even by someone trying very hard to do so. Always remember that the strength of your faith first depends on the strength of its roots.”

Shalom, from the Shabbat Lady.

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

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Mankoff family funds Dallas PJ Library; first books slated to arrive in August

Mankoff family funds Dallas PJ Library; first books slated to arrive in August

Posted on 19 May 2011 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Local philanthropists Ron and Joy Mankoff, who are funding the PJ Library in Dallas, believe the program is a way to maximize Jewish learning. | Photos: Rachel Gross Weinstein

After a long day, many of us enjoy curling up in bed with a good book. Now, bedtime can also become educational for children and their parents as they read books about Jewish values and traditions.

This happens through the PJ Library, (PJ stands for pajamas), a national book program made possible the Harold Grinspoon Foundation designed to strengthen the identities of Jewish families and their relationship to the Jewish community. The PJ Library offers free, high quality books and music each month to more than 75,000 children in 140 communities across the United States, Canada and Israel.

It will soon be available in Dallas by a grant from the Mankoff Family Foundation. Children ages 6-months-old to 6-years-old are eligible to enroll and will receive a book or music in the mail each month. A community-wide mailing will go out in July and families will be able to sign up then, with the first books distributed in August.

Meyer Denn, executive director of the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, where the program is housed, said the purpose is for families to connect and discuss Jewish values.

“The idea is for parents to engage their children in conversations, and it creates another portal of entry for being Jewish,” he said. “These books have proven successful in other communities. Jewish values are something we can all agree on, whether

Rivae Balkin-Kliman, PJ Library community coordinator, and Meyer Denn, executive director of the Center for Jewish Education, display some of the PJ Library books. The program is free and families can sign up in July.

we are Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox, and that’s why the program is so successful.”

He added that the goal is for 1,400 kids to sign up during the first year.

The books are chosen by a selection committee from the best of Jewish children’s books and music. All are age appropriate, have colorful illustrations and come with reading guides for discussion and activities.

The national PJ Library pays for 60 percent of costs, while the individual communities are responsible for the other 40 percent. Joy and Ron Mankoff, who are funding the Dallas program, said they chose to support the PJ Library because they believe it is a wonderful way to maximize Jewish learning.

“When we heard about this, it touched our hearts,” Mrs. Mankoff said. “This program is about the continuity of Judaism. What I love is that the books speak about mitzvot, tzedakah and tikkun olam. These values are important to children’s growth and we believe many people will benefit from the books.”

Mr. Mankoff added that another goal is for the PJ Library to be a resource for mixed marriages so a non-Jewish parent can become educated on Jewish content and have meaningful experiences with their kids.

He believes that by learning Jewish values early on, children will develop a stronger Jewish identity.

“This is also an opportunity for parents to learn and ask questions,” he said. “Religion is about teaching ethics and values. Judaism has a wonderful message, and we don’t always share that with children early on. At a young age, they are most receptive to learning values that are portrayed in the books.”

Rivae Balkin-Kliman, PJ Library community coordinator, said she plans to host events where families can unite and share their thoughts about the books. She hopes that as more young families move to the Dallas area, they will be impacted by the program.

“This is exciting and I believe we will be able to reach a lot of people,” she said. “With everyone being so busy today, this is a great way to bring Judaism into the home and have interaction among families. The fact that there is no cost for it is amazing. There is no reason not to sign up.”

The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has had the PJ Library since 2006 and more than 100 kids have signed up for it. Jennifer and Hal Ratner’s 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, has been receiving the books since she was 3-years-old.

Jennifer said they always look forward to the books arriving and she has devoted an entire bookshelf in their home to Jewish literature. She added that they have great family discussions and believes the program has been beneficial.

“All of the books have different Jewish topics and enable good conversations centered around Judaism,” she said. “There is nothing better than a bedtime story with Jewish content. Everything about the program is well thought out and put together and it’s wonderful for any community. I feel fortunate that we have been able to benefit from it.”

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 19 May 2011 by admin

Dr. Mitchell Schwaber enlightens community on Haiti, Japan relief efforts

Dr. Mitchell Schwaber and Robert Chicotsky

Robert Chicotsky, past president of the Texarkoma Region of B’nai B’rith, reported recently on Dr. Mitchell Schwaber’s visit to Fort Worth.

B’nai B’rith Isadore Garsek Lodge hosted a memorable event leading up to Israel’s 63rd Anniversary. Dr. Mitchell Schwaber, an expert on infectious disease and director of the National Center for Infection Control of the Israel Ministry of Health. Dr. Schwaber shared his experiences on the Israel Defense Force’s medical mission to Haiti following the earthquake of January 2010.

“Schwaber was in Dallas for a professional medical conference and presented his talk to the Fort Worth community as part of the American Zionist Movement’s Café Israel program.  This program brings speakers about Israel and Zionism to communities across the United States to share their experiences in a conversation about their commitment to Israel and Zionism in their personal and professional lives.

“Everyone was proud to learn more about Israel’s humanitarian mission and the impacting effort by the Israeli medical teamfrom the IDF Medical Corps, along with security personnel and search and rescue experts from the IDF Home Front Command. The Israelis involved wholly invested their hearts and good will and made tremendous sacrifices with a display of compassion for the world to see.

“B’nai B’rith’s program featuring Schwaber was held at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. Over 75 people attended.  The talk was filled with fascinating facts about the accomplishments of the field hospital that was established by Israel in Haiti. The field hospital was planned in just 48 hours after the earthquake in Haiti, and delivered by a medical and construction team shortly thereafter.

“The hospital treated 1,111 people, using the newest medical equipment and digital technology. More than 240 operations were performed, 16 infants were delivered, and patient follow-up treatments were provided. Schwaber presented photos to provide an up-close view of the response in Haiti, which kept the audience engaged.  The presentation included touching viewpoints of Israel’s Haiti humanitarian mission, as well as information involving Israel’s assistance in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

“The parent organization, B’nai B’rith International, was very proud to have participated in the relief effort for Haiti, delivering $250,000 of disaster relief assistance, including emergency supplies and expertise to response teams that stayed on the ground in Haiti via IsraAID – an umbrella organization of humanitarian organizations in Israel. Recovery and rebuilding projects are continuing in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Israel’s efforts, as presented by Dr. Schwaber, help bring light onto other nations.”

Texas Boys Choir appears at “Daytimers”

Rosanne and Bill Margolis presided at the buffet table. From left, are Shelly Sternblitz, Sandra Baum, Rhona Raffel, Sonia Stenzler, Bernard Zilberg and Ethel Schectman.

“Daytimers” enjoyed an outstanding presentation by the Texas Boys Choir Town Choir and Training Choir at the May luncheon at Beth-El Congregation.  The Town Choir is one of two choirs in the Texas Boys Choir’s training program for young singers.  It is composed of boys in grades 5 through 8.  This choir, as the name suggests, performs locally throughout the academic year in a variety of entertainment settings.   They were joined at the end of the program by the training choir, composed of boys in grades 1 through 5, which is housed in the Beth-El classroom area, where the primary grades of the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts holds its classes.

Emcee for the day was Irv Robinson.  Barbara Rubin did a memorial presentation for two “Daytimers” steering committee members, Sylvia Wexler and Carl Morgan, who passed away in April.  Greeting guests at the door were Rosalie Schwartz and Kenneth Baum, and Bill and Roseanne Margolis presided at the buffet table.  The choir was introduced by Edythe Cohen.

The next event for “Daytimers” is the eagerly awaited return appearance of Mark Kreditor with his “Jews of the American Songbook.”  His program will include songs from “Cabaret” to “Bye-Bye Birdie,” all written by Jewish composers.  Lunch will be catered by Jimmy John’s Sandwich Shop.

For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Irv Robinson, 817-731-7447. Checks can be mailed to Daytimers,Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76109.

Texas Boys Choir Town Choir at “Daytimers”

The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

Tarrant County celebrates Yom Ha’atzmaut

About 100 Tarrant County Jews  celebrated Israel’s 63rd birthday with an event at Congregation Ahavath Sholom.  Everyone enjoyed the Israeli lunch supplemented with hot dogs and fries for children.  Kids of all ages had fun decorating their desserts—sugar cookies with blue and white icing.  The highlight of the day was the inflatable obstacle course, which was part of the children’s Maccabiah.  The red team and the blue team vied for prizes in several activities, including Family Feud, Israeli style, building towers to ward off the Arab aggressors, learning Israeli geography and cities on the life-sized Israel map, and running the obstacle course.  All of the children earned prizes for their efforts and many had to be pried away from the activities, especially the obstacle course.  The adults had the pleasure of watching an Israeli music DVD, and many stayed to watch the children and schmooze.

This celebration was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with financial support from the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation and Hartman, Leito, and Bolt, LLP.

Yom HaZikaron Commemorated at Ahavath Sholom

Chabad of Fort Worth Rabbi Dov Mandel sang “El Maleh Rachamim” at Ahavath Sholom’s Yom HaZikaron ceremony.

Israel’s Memorial Day Service focused on the wars fought for the existence of the Jewish state.  The outdoor portion of the ceremony was highlighted by two Israeli soldiers lowering the Israeli flag, the placing of the wreath by Rachel Niv, and the singing of “El Maleh Rachamim” by Rabbi Dov Mandel of Chabad of Fort Worth.  Poignant displays about each of Israel’s wars lined the route to the sanctuary.  The choir from Beth-El, Monica Braverman, Linda Hoffman, Angela Kitzman, Ellen Rubinson, Denae Chance-Rubinson, Christine Levy and Myron Morgan, sang several songs with the accompaniment of the piano played by Trudi Post. Complementing the musical portion was a stirring visual presentation. All of the readings described the sacrifice of the Israeli soldiers who gave their lives.  The evening ended with the 100-person audience joining in to sing the “Hatikvah.”

Shoshana Howard and Rivka Marco led the committee of Shirley Ben David, Etty Horowitz and Diana Krompass.  They were joined by Garry Kahalnik, Shoshana Isgur, Rabbi Zimelman, Corey Mandel, Aaron Wasserman, Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger, Rabbi Gary Perras and Yosi Yaacobi, who all participated in the service.

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

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Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 19 May 2011 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

We had a discussion in our class in religious school if it’s right to ask G-d to help us with everyday activities, like getting to school safely, doing well on a test, getting a summer job or getting over a common cold. Some kids felt it’s improper; G-d has bigger things to worry about. They feel that somebody should only pray for things like someone seriously ill, the people in the South that just lost their homes or to protect the Jews of Israel from terrorists. Our side of the class thought that it’s OK to ask G-d for anything, but we didn’t know how to answer the others who said it’s disrespectful to go to a great King for little things. Is there a correct answer for this or should everyone just do what they think is right?

Megan, Jessica and Jaden

Dear Megan, Jessica and Jaden,

Great discussion!

The great Tzaddikim, pious Jews of old, were known to constantly beseech G-d’s intervention in every aspect of their lives. One writes that this is what sets aside the Jewish nation; that we are constantly praying for success in all we do.

Your friends are correct in their claim that the subjects of a great King would not approach him for what seem to be trivial matters. (I once approached a very powerful, wealthy Jew in the Metroplex to use his influence to take care of a relatively small issue. His response was: “Rabbi, you don’t use a cannon to kill a mosquito.”)

Judaism, however, sides with you guys when it comes to approaching G-d. This is based on a couple of ideas. Firstly, from G-d’s perspective there’s no difference between a big or small matter. The level of G-d’s interaction is the same whether it’s to cure a common cold or a more serious illness. Nachmanides, in his classic commentary to the Torah, (12th century Spain) says there’s no difference, from G-d’s perspective, between splitting the sea and curing a cold. It’s only from our perception that it seems different, since for us one action is outside the laws of nature and one is working within. Nachamanides explains that “nature” is simply what G-d has allowed us to get used to; miracles are events we’re not used to, but for G-d Himself miracles and nature are all the same.

Secondly, Judaism believes that G-d already is involved in the small events of our lives. This is a corollary of the first idea: Nachmanides writes that it is the very foundation of our Torah that all that transpire in our lives, big or small, is the Hand of G-d.

Since even the relatively small, insignificant things in our lives transpire with G-d’s involvement, it would certainly follow that there’s nothing disrespectful in asking Him to have success in those very matters. On the contrary, by praying for success you are showing the Al-mighty that you believe in His involvement, that G-d’s Hand is with you throughout your daily activities. There is no greater honor to G-d than that!

Another, deeper aspect of this is based upon our relationship with G-d as Jews. G-d told the Jewish people before receiving the Torah “You are children to the Lord your G-d.” We, as Jews, are to have a loving relationship with G-d like children. A love relationship is built on the small things, not on large gifts. Imagine a great a powerful king sitting on his throne, protected by his honor guards, with world leaders standing in line to ask the king’s favor. Just then a small boy walks by the guards and through the crowd of dignitaries and asks the king for a lollypop; the king doesn’t rebuke the boy; instead he smiles, hands him the candy and gives him a hug. Who is that boy?  How dare he bother the king for a measly lollypop? Nobody asks that question because, obviously, he’s the king’s son!

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

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