Archive | July, 2011

Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 28 July 2011 by admin

Dear Readers,

This column is dedicated to addressing your Jewish questions, to which the TJP has appropriated this space for nearly the past decade. However, given my position as dean of the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA), I want to use this space to discuss a concept that has existed since the 40th year of our existence as a nation. What I refer to is the tradition of “semicha” usually translated as rabbinic ordination. The word literally means to “lay ones hands upon another and lean upon them,” as we find in the Torah’s first ordination.

Moses, the first “rabbi,” passed his leadership to Joshua as commanded by God in the Book of Numbers where the subject of semicha is (first?) mentioned in the Torah: “Moses spoke to God, saying, ‘Let the Omnipotent God of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let God’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd.’ God said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hands on him’. Have him stand before Elazar the priest and before the entire community, and let them see you commission him. Invest him with some of your splendor so that the entire Israelite community will obey him… Moses did as God had ordered him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Elazar the priest and before the entire community. He then laid his hands on him and commissioned him as God had commanded Moses.” (Num 27:15-23; see also Numbers 11:16-25 and Deuteronomy 34:9).

Thus started the unbroken chain of semicha for more than one thousand years, from Joshua until the second century CE, when the Roman emperor Hadrian decreed that conferring semicha was punishable by death.

Punctuating the vital importance of semicha is the heart-wrenching story of Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava’s martyrdom. One year, ben Bava took two rabbis and 50 students to a mountain pass far from any settlement or farm for ordination, so others would not be punished. The three rabbis then ordained all 50 students. When the Romans discovered them and attacked, the elderly Rabbi Yehuda blocked the mountain pass with his body, absorbing Roman arrows so the young rabbis could escape and ensure the continuity of Torah to the next generation. Though the direct semicha on that level ceased after that terrible time, the practice of conferring a rabbinical degree continues today.

It would seem to be quite a strange way to confer a degree, with the teacher putting his hands upon the head of the graduate! Such an action, in fact, reveals a profound message. Semicha is not merely a degree showing one has passed a test and exhibits mastery of a body of material. A rabbi, when conferring semicha upon a student, is putting himself into that student, as shown by physically resting his hands upon the student and leaning on him while conferring the title of rabbi upon him. During rabbinic ordination, we “rest our hands and weight” upon the students, giving of our hearts, minds and selves to the next generation of rabbis.

The joy I alluded to above is that, although semicha is usually relegated to the major academies of study in renowned Jewish communities, in just a few days we are about to proudly witness a real semicha ceremony Dallas! Four unique individuals, who joined DATA as rabbis, have spent the past three years diligently studying the Talmud, Jewish law and philosophy in the rabbinic training program of DATA, and are about to receive a graduate-level semicha from a leading rabbinical sage as well as from the Kollel Institute of DATA. This will take place from 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Sun., July 31 at Ohr Hatorah Congregation, 6324 Churchill Way in Dallas. This will be DATA’s third semicha event during the nearly 20 years since our inception. Rabbis previously ordained here have gone on to leadership positions in Dallas and throughout the United States.

I invite everyone to join me and the rabbis for this occasion, and be part of history when Dallas becomes a link in the chain spanning the generations from Moses and Joshua and leading on to the future!

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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Aft car wash

Posted on 28 July 2011 by admin

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 28 July 2011 by admin

Greetings to all!

Under the category of “there are TWO Jewish families in Joshua, Texas?” I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald, who, as she put it, “from one Jewish woman to another” welcomed us to the not-so-sleepy town of Joshua, population 5,910, according to the 2010 census. Thank you, Caryn, for the wonderful greeting. I promise we will connect very soon.

Sharon thought Caryn’s and my situation might form the basis for a story about how those of us in outlying towns manage to stay connected to our faith when the nearest shul is five hours away. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But I’m interested in hearing from those who might have to expend a little more effort to send their kids to religious school or to make it to Shabbat and other holiday services on a regular basis. Please send those thoughts and ideas to me at

Welcome aboard

The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has hired Angie Kitzman as program director/campaign assistant. Angie is no stranger to Fort Worth, having been raised in Cowtown. Now she is able to put her skills and personality to work to help develop programs, manage the website and help with campaign administration for the Federation.

The Congregation Ahavath Sholom Ladies Auxiliary executive committee and board of directors for 2011-2012 is in place and ready to go. Here they are. President: Annette Smith; VP-Membership: Tammie Rhinehart; VP-Programs: Jodi Berger, Susie Herman, Marina Michan; Recording Secretary: Karen Alpert; Corresponding Secretary, Rhonda Goodman; Treasurer: Phyllis Gordon; Membership-Life: Louise Vermillion; Parliamentarian: Betsy Darling; Board of Directors: Ava Beleck, Linda Lavi, Debby Rice, Barbara Schuster.

The CAS Ladies Auxiliary will also host a beach party to welcome Rabbi Andrew Bloom’s wife, Michal. The event will take place from 3-5 p.m., Sun., Aug. 7, at the Smiths, 6712 Savannah Lane. Contact Debby Rice, 817-346-2944 or by Aug. 4 to RSVP.

Movie-watching and ice cream — mmmmm

In an effort to stay cool, the Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” of Beth-El Congregation had the right idea, as this group conducted its recent annual ice cream social and movie party. In addition to enjoying dairy treats and popcorn, participants viewed an Israeli short film, “Second Watch,” about a soldier who stands watch, alone, on the Israel-Jordan border. The feature film was Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Thanks goes to Irv and Jacquie Robinson for “door duties,” and Edythe Cohen, for introducing the films.

The next tentative Daytimers event will be a picnic and pool party, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Wed., Aug. 17 at Roz Rosenthal’s home. I say “tentative” because, as of this writing, Roz is dealing with some health issues. Please call Barbara Rubin at 817-927-2736 for reservations and up-to-date information about Roz.


Jewish Family Services of Fort Worth is offering a unique and sweet way to say “happy new year” through its sale of jars of kosher honey. These $12 jars make great Rosh Hashanah gifts, and proceeds benefit the JFS’ Key Operating Endowment fund. The process is simple — fill out a form with the recipients’ names and addresses, write a check (or provide credit card information) to the JFS, and the jars are sent directly to the recipients, complete with festive labels and holiday greetings. For more information, e-mail

It’s not too soon to think about those Chanukah gifts, especially if you’re SELLING those gifts. Vendors are being sought for Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Fall Community Gift and Jewelry Bazaar, which will take place 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sun., Nov. 20 at the shul, 4050 S. Hulen. Booth fee is $65, which includes a free lunch. For more information, contact Annette Smith, 817-370-8807 or

From the travel front

One of the sets and costumes from the “Seven Deadly Sins,” designed by Barbara Rubin’s grandson Nicholas Vaughan

Barbara Rubin just returned from the Castleton Opera Festival in Virginia where she met her daughter, Nina Rubin, and other relatives from Ohio, Virginia and D.C. for what she calls a mini-family reunion. Her grandson, Nicholas Vaughan, designed the sets and costumes for all seven shows — no easy feat — and was kind enough to share some of the photos with us. She tells us Nick is now in Beijing, where he is designing sets and costumes for the “Barber of Seville,” which will be performed at the Beijing Opera House this November.

Positive health news

Corrine Jacobson continues to recover from major surgery that took place in April. During her recovery period, she enjoyed visits from her children, Grant, Janine and Audrey Jacobson from San Francisco, and Elise, Mark and Rachel Krug from St. Louis. Corrine’s granddaughter, Paige Krug, beat the heat by attending a Jewish camp in Wisconsin, while her grandson, Barry Bond, was busy editing the filming of Hooter’s Nationwide Beauty Contest. This contest is scheduled to air on the Spike network. Barry’s sister Lisa, an RN with the Visiting Nurses Association, took time out from her duties as healer to take a four-year tour of Europe with friends.

Genie Long is continues recuperating well in Oklahoma. She’ll return to sing in the Beth-El choir at the beginning of the High Holy Days. Her beautiful voice has been missed.

Finally, congratulations to my own hubby, David Sorter, who continues to recover from very serious illnesses suffered during the first part of this year. He has regained much of his strength and is doing what he does best — namely, racing around Crowley, Texas to collect news in his job as editor for the Crowley Star.


Please send news, upcoming events and information to me, Amy Sorter, at Until next time!

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 28 July 2011 by admin

Mazel Tov!

Mazel tov to TJP columnist and new great-grandmother Harriet Gross on the birth of her great-grandson Alexander James Wilson, son of Mollie and Brett Wilson. Alexander was born on June 15 at Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh where he weighed in at 7 lbs. and measured 21 inches long. Grandparent honors are shared by Harriet’s son Sol B. Marcus, Marjorie Eisner McKee and Dawn and Scott Wilson all of Pittsburgh. Joining Harriet in the great-grandmother department is Ruth Ann Eisner also of Pittsburgh. Harriet tells the TJP that Alexander, whose Hebrew name is Aryeh Yehoshua, is named in loving memory of his great-grandfather Dr. Robert Eisner.

Israel Bonds hosts National Campaign Director

Israel Bonds held a special summer board meeting on Monday, July 18 featuring distinguished guest, Stuart Garawitz, the national campaign director of Israel Bonds. Coming from New York, Stuart spoke of his vision for Israel Bonds going forward and the need to market Israel Bonds to the next generation. There was a record turnout for a summer meeting, which was convened at the home of Sherry and Kenny Goldberg. The meeting was led by Charles Pulman, Dallas/Fort Worth chair for Israel Bonds, and Nate Levine, Southwest regional chair of Israel Bonds.

Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary visits Dallas VA

Volunteers of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary of the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post #256 recently visited the Veterans Hospital and the Fisher House, at the Dallas VA campus, to deliver their annual awards. These volunteers included: President LuAnn Bergman, Diane Benjamin, Ruth Swaab, Fran Bergman, Jo Reingold, Marcy Kramer-Kahn, Ellen Fiebel, Jean Garmon and Lonna Rae Silverman.

The Fisher House, founded by philanthropists Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, affords visiting family members of VA hospitalized veterans, on-site, convenient and gracious accommodations during their stay in Dallas. The JWVA once again, was able to make a generous contribution to this facility in a meaningful way, a gift of stuffed animals was given at the Fisher House, and a notebook computer and three portable DVD players were given to the hospice patients.

The annual Grant A Wish program that the JWVA is able to support, this year was granted to hospice patients who made special requests that the JWVA was thrilled to fulfill.

The JWVA is an assist to the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post #256. The Auxiliary holds monthly meetings wherein the focus is to plan stimulating programs to secure funds for the VA. These active and dedicated volunteers support the semi-annual Poppy Drives; help serve Thanksgiving dinners to the homeless veterans; partake in the recreation activities such as calling the Bingo games at the VA hospital on a regular basis; participate at national conventions by sending its delegates and hosting visiting national JWVA leaders; support to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C.; host Chanukah and other holiday events; and engender a strong camaraderie among it’s members who all share in their many deeds of loving kindness for the United States veterans.

President, LuAnn Bergman said, “This is one of the many ways that our vibrant, dedicated ladies are able to assist our veterans who deserve our ongoing support for their heroism as they put themselves in harm’s way for our country.”

If you are related to a United States military serviceman, the JWVA welcomes your support and membership opportunity! Please contact LuAnn Bergman at             214-320-3712.

Temple Emanu-El Couples Club upcoming event

The Temple Emanu-El Couples Club will have a catered dinner and evening of entertainment on Sunday Aug. 21, in its Tobian Auditorium. The highlight of the evening will be “A Night with Elvis,” with the return of “The King” performed by the famous Johnny Rocket, a highly talented impersonator and singer who has toured and presented this popular show for many years.

The Temple Emanu-El Couples Club, founded 22 years ago, is a social club open to Temple members as well as any other Jewish couples of the community. One member of the couple should 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.

Comedian Keith Barany to appear at Beth Torah

Keith Barany, a comedian and writer with a resume ranging from the “Seinfeld” show to USO tours, will be the special guest at the Congregation Beth Torah Men’s Club kickoff Sunday brunch on Aug. 21.

Barany, a frequent headliner in Las Vegas and praised by the New York Post as “the wittiest comedian working today,” will be on a Texas tour.

“We couldn’t believe we managed to snag him,” said Men’s Club President Alan Hoffman. “He’ll present a Jewish-themed show that will be edgy but still family-friendly. It should be a rousing start for our new year, and we expect to pack the house.”

Tickets are $10, $5 for students, and include the traditional lox-and-bagel buffet that has long been a Men’s Club trademark. The event begins at noon.

As a comedy writer, Barany has contributed to “Seinfeld,” “Politically Incorrect,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and the Emmy Awards show. He has taken his standup act overseas to entertain American troops five times, appeared at clubs in Las Vegas and throughout the country, and co-starred with Bob Hope, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Ray Charles and Lewis Black.

Beth Torah is located at 720 West Lookout Drive in Richardson. As always, the Men’s Club event is open to the entire community. For more information, call the synagogue at 972-234-1542.

Mason joins Legacy team

Elizabeth Mason has been named home health administrator of The Legacy at Home, a licensed home health agency offering skilled and private duty home health services. The healthcare agency will undergo CHAP accreditation and become certified by Medicare, in preparation for their launch this fall.
“We are thrilled to announce The Legacy at Home and even more excited that Elizabeth will lead the operation,” said Michael Ellentuck, president of The Legacy Senior Communities, Inc.

“Her many years of experience in the nursing field as well as in management will enable her to provide for the many seniors we plan on serving throughout the Dallas Metroplex.”

Mason, a healthcare nurse manager, has more than 17 years of leadership in home health operations. She joins The Legacy from Outreach Health Services where she served as Medicare administrator for the North Central Texas region. Previously, she served NurseCore Management Services as regional vice president and also as director of clinical operations. A graduate of Northeastern Oklahoma State University, Mason was the regional director of clinical services for HealthForce Corporate office. She also served as a public health nurse for the Oklahoma State Department of Health Children First Program.

The Legacy Senior Communities, Inc. is the parent company of The Legacy at Willow Bend and The Legacy at Preston Hollow.

Fond thoughts about the senior art class at the JCC

The senior art class at the J spends two hours a week working on their projects. Shown here are from left, Muriel Miller, Pauline Helfand, Clarice Post, Tilly Prengler, Anita Holtzman, Sylvia Greenberg, Jane Guzman, Ilaya Potash, Rachel Frank and Gilbert Cohen. Sitting are JCC President Artie Allen and Veronique Jonas.

Recently, Veronique Jonas, local artist extraordinaire shared some thoughts about the senior art class at the JCC with the TJP. “I have been teaching this class for the past eight years. It has been a wonderful and inspiring experience, for me and for students in this class.

“Some of the students are veteran painters, and some had never painted before coming to the class.

“Whether experienced or not, each one of our artists is gifted, creative and enthusiastic about their art.  Their work is an inspiration to me, and very often to each other.

“Each student rejoices in the accomplishments of the others. And each one’s work is different and unique, and yet a sense of camaraderie constantly exudes from this wonderful group of very young seniors.

“The two hours spent with them weekly are a special gift that I will always cherish,” she said.

We’d love to hear your news! Tell us about your vacation, awards or upcoming events. Send your news to or to the TJP office at 7920 Beltline Rd. Ste 680, Dallas, TX 75254.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 28 July 2011 by admin

Jewish Value of the Week: Friendship, Chaverut

Friendship — Chaverut —  helps us to become the best person we can be. We learn from, through and with our friends.

The rabbis took this idea seriously, and insisted that study be done in pairs called chevruta, because they knew this was the best way to learn. It says in Pirke Avot (1:6), “Acquire for yourself a friend.” We can have many people with whom we spend time, but a true friend is unique. A true friend is a partner.

In one story, a rabbi asked his students how they could tell when night had ended and the day had begun. One said, “When you see an animal in the distance and can tell if it is a horse or a cow.” “No,” said the master. Another said, “When you look at a tree in the distance and can tell if it is fig tree or a peach tree.” “Wrong again,” said the master. “Then when?” the students asked. And the master replied, “When you look at the face of a man or woman and see that he is your friend. For, if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is by the sun, it is still night.”

Rabbi Wayne Dosick writes, “In every friendship, you can see and reflect a vision of hope for the entire world: The time when billions of individual people will seek each other in kinship and friendship, and weave a multihued fabric of respect, good will, and affection.”

Family Talk Time

  • What does it mean to be a friend? Talk about your friends and why each one is special to you.
  • Have you ever been “left out” by friends? How does it feel? Have you ever not included someone else?
  • How can you be a friend to yourself? Why is this important?
  • Talk about the meaning of this special song: “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend, and together we will walk in the ways of Hashem.”

Shabbat Discussion

Many Jewish prayers are written using a form called an acrostic. The rabbis took a special word and each letter of the word was the first letter of each sentence. Write an acrostic poem with the word “friend.”

A Story for Shabbat: ‘Why Did I Ask?’

— from ‘Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore’ by Rosalind Chaney Kaye

Mendel the shoemaker was working quietly at his cobbler’s bench when who should burst in but the Emperor Napoleon! “Save me,” the emperor screamed in panic. “They’re going to kill me.”

The good-hearted shoemaker hid Napoleon in his bed under a pile of old quilts, just as three enemy soldiers stormed into the room. They pierced their swords into everything, including the quilts on the bed, but found nothing and left.

Miraculously unharmed, Napoleon granted Mendel one wish as a reward for saving his life. Mendel was perplexed, since he was basically happy and had everything he needed. Finally, he asked Napoleon, “Tell me, if you don’t mind, how you felt when the soldiers poked their swords into the quilts?”

Suddenly Napoleon turned red. He ordered his troops to tie the terrified shoemaker to a tree and shoot him.

“Ready!” The soldiers lifted their guns.

“Aim!” The soldiers aimed. Mendel said his last prayers.

“But the emperor didn’t say “Fire!” What did he say?

“Now you know how I felt!”

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

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JCC Teen Travel Camp hosts car wash; proceeds benefit Brian Aft

JCC Teen Travel Camp hosts car wash; proceeds benefit Brian Aft

Posted on 28 July 2011 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

All smiles at the July 19 car wash are from left, Molly Selz, Miranda Rudomin, and Austin Krohn. Proceeds benefitted Marine Lance Corporal Brian Aft, who was injured in the line of duty. | Photos: Lisa Rothberg

The numbers speak for themself. Thirty teenagers, 50 cars washed and $800 raised. On Tues., July 19, the community came together to support one of its own.

The Teen Travel Camp at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas hosted a car wash to benefit Marine Lance Corporal Brian Aft. Aft, 23, lost both of his legs in April, when he and four other marines stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while in Afghanistan.

Abbii Cook, youth director at the J, said it was meaningful to do something for the Aft family because they have been active in the Dallas Jewish community. In spearheading the project, she wanted to teach her campers about the importance of mitzvot.

“This summer, I am teaching my kids about tikkun olam and giving back,” Cook explained. “The Aft family has given so much to the Dallas Jewish community and any little bit we can do to give back is important.” Becky Slakman, Aft’s mom, was a previous youth director at the JCC. His sister, Elyssa Aft, is a camp counselor, and Brian, who grew up in North Dallas, attended camp at the J as a child.

From beginning to end, the campers took on all aspects of the car wash from making posters, to standing outside in 100-degree heat directing people, to washing the cars. Throughout the summer, the teens have also collected money for the Mitzvah for a Marine Fund, with all donations going toward Aft’s recovery.

Cook added that she is proud of her campers and believes that everyone — the teens, community and the Aft family — benefitted from this. It was a win-win-win situation. “This [project] hit home with the kids,” she said. “They got into it and even though it was hot, they worked really hard. They did a wonderful job.”

Nir Rauch (left) and Zach Lampert wash a truck at the Teen Travel Camp car wash.

Slakman said Brian’s recovery is progressing nicely at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC, and she is appreciative of the Dallas Jewish community’s kindness and generosity. “Our family is so humbled by how the Dallas Jewish community has embraced us,” Slakman said. “We are very grateful.”

Aft attends physical and occupational therapy daily, and continues to get stronger and more independent everyday, Slakman added. Another milestone occurred last week when he had his external pelvis pins removed. Last month, Aft was promoted to Corporal and received his Purple Heart Medal.

To see a video related to the story, visit For information about how to donate to the Mitzvah for a Marine fund, contact Sam Insel at 214-615-5239, or, or visit

How to donate

What: Mitzvah for a Marine Fund

Who: All of the money donated benefits Brian Aft, 23, who was injured  in Afghanistan

Through July 31: Write a check payable to Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, with the word “Marine” in the note area.  Mail checks to Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, 7800 Northaven Road, Dallas, TX 75230.

After July 31: Donations, which are not tax-deductible, may be sent to: Norman Slakman, C/O Silverthorn, 5960 W. Parker Road, Suite 278 Box 134, Plano 75093.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 21 July 2011 by admin

Jewish Value of the Week: Honesty, Emet

Honesty is about being truthful. Jewish tradition teaches us that truth, emet, is the beginning, middle and end of everything. The secret of this puzzling idea can be found in the three letters of the word emet. Alef is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, mem is the middle and tav is the final letter. Just as the alphabet helps us discover truth, with emet, we begin our discovery of the values we treasure in Jewish life.

There are seven types of thieves, but a “thought thief” (one who deceives another) is the worst of all. (Mechilta, Mishpatim 13, 135)

Such is the punishment of the liar — even when speaking the truth, the person is not listened to by another. Sanhedrin 89b

Teach your tongue to say, “I don’t know,” lest you be caught in a lie. (Brachot 4a)

Family Talk Time

Many of us know the motto, “Honesty is the best policy.” Is that always true? Is there a time when it may not be true?

Have you ever worried about telling the truth because it would get you into trouble? What did you do?

What does it mean to trust someone? Can you trust someone who has lied to you? Why or why not?

Talk about the difference between fact and fantasy using a story or a movie as an example. How do you know the difference?

Shabbat Discussion

In one famous story, Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai were asked what one should say to a bride who is not very attractive. Shammai opted for truth while Hillel said, “What a beautiful and graceful bride!” (Ketubot 16b) The sages agreed with Hillel, but was he telling the truth? Is there ever a time when it is ok to lie?

A Story for Shabbat: ‘One Hundred Rubles’

— from “Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore” by Rosalind Chaney Kaye

The Czar of Russia learned the answer to a difficult riddle from a poor Jewish farmer working in his fields. He paid the farmer a ruble to keep the answer a secret.

“Swear,” he said, “that you shall not breathe a word about it until you have seen my face again a hundred times.”

The farmer took the ruble and promised. The czar then challenged his ministers to solve the riddle within 30 days.

The ministers all thought they were quite clever, but as the days passed, they began to get desperate. Then one of them remembered seeing the czar whispering with the old farmer. The minister had no trouble finding the farmer, but the farmer refused to tell him the answer.

“However,” added the poor farmer, “if you are able to pay me 100 rubles, then I will tell you.” The minister readily agreed, and the farmer gave the answer.

When the czar learned the answer to his riddle was the talk of the palace, he knew the old farmer had betrayed him, and had him arrested. The farmer was brought before him. “Your Czarness,” he protested, “I did not break my promise.”

How could the farmer have told the secret without breaking his promise?

The farmer had indeed seen the czar’s face 100 times … stamped on each ruble the minister had paid him.

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

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Around the Town

Posted on 21 July 2011 by admin

Welcome Amy Sorter

I’m sure you can all imagine the huge shoes I have had to fill with the death of my beloved mother, Rene, last November. I have been trying the best I can to cover the news “Around the Town,” but frankly I think we can do a better job, and sentimentality aside, mom would want me to. I have been in search of the right person with whom to entrust this column; and I’ve found her – Amy Sorter.

In my years at the TJP, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with families that have ably used their skills to benefit the Jewish community. One of those families is the Sorter family, and the Wisches have been fortunate to have a wonderful and ongoing professional relationship with these talented journalists and editors.

My mother had frequent contact with Amy while she was communications director at Temple Emanu-El and had dealings with Dave during his stints as editor for papers such as the Plano Star Courier. We also were privileged to have Dave work with us for a while at TJP.

So when Amy contacted me recently to catch up and said she’d be glad to cover activities in Tarrant County and outlying areas, I was pleased to bring her on board to help with “Around the Town” beginning next week.

Amy’s impressive resume includes close to 30 years as a journalist, with bylines appearing in Dallas Business Journal, Dallas Morning News and D Magazine. She is also an award-winning author, with Jewish-themed novels “Servant of the Gods” and “Soul Obsession” generating critical acclaim.

About a year ago, Amy, Dave and their son Michael gave up their suburban life in North Dallas to relocate to Joshua, a small town south of Fort Worth, sandwiched between Burleson and Cleburne. Life is different in Joshua, Amy told me. Though she likes the slower pace and the friendliness of the people, the nearest synagogue is 45 minutes away, quite a change from the 10-minute drive she used to make to Chabad of Plano. Still, with her family settled, Amy said she, Dave and Michael are eager to reconnect with the Jewish community.

You can help the Sorters reconnect and get your own news into print by e-mailing stories and ideas to Amy at Of course, you can always send story ideas, and items for Around the Town to or by fax or regular mail. I’ll make sure they make their way to Amy. Please join me in extending a hearty “Baruch Haba” to Amy, Dave and Michael to the TJP and Tarrant County family.

Rabbi Andrew Bloom to join Ahavath Sholom clergy

Ahavath Sholom will welcome Rabbi Andrew Bloom to Fort Worth. Rabbi Bloom’s duties begin Aug. 1. Interim rabbi, Gary Perras, will stay on as associate rabbi of the congregation. Rabbi Bloom comes to Fort Worth from Rumson, N.J., where he was the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel of the Greater Red Bank Area.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Maryland, Rabbi Bloom was 19 when he made aliyah to Israel where he immediately enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces. He served as a combat medic in an artillery unit in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza as well as serving as his unit’s medical chemicals expert during the Gulf War. He was honorably discharged in 1991, after two and a half years, having achieved the rank of sergeant.

After the army, Rabbi Bloom began studying Education and History at the State Teachers College- Seminar Hakibutzim. It was there that he met his wife, Michal, also an education and history student. They were married in 1993. After graduating cum laude in 1995 with a B.Ed. and a teacher’s certificate, Rabbi Bloom entered rabbinical school at The Schechter Institute for Judaic Studies in Jerusalem, the Israel branch of the Jewish Theological Seminary. As a student rabbi and after completing his studies, Rabbi Bloom served in various synagogues both in the United States and abroad, including Congregation Kiryat Hayovel in Jerusalem, Saint Albans Masorti Synagogue in England and Temple Emanuel in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Over the years, Rabbi Bloom has been involved in creating family-friendly services which led him to author a prayer book geared toward children ages 5 and younger. His interest in pastoral counseling led him to become a certified Pastoral Counselor after completing the course work in the Doctor of Ministry program at Hebrew Union College and the Post Graduate Center of Mental Health in New York City. Rabbi Bloom is currently working on his doctoral thesis titled, “The image of God that 12-year-olds hold and how an integrative God image assists teenagers overcome the obstacles of peer pressure.”

Among his achievements in the greater community, Rabbi Bloom is particularly proud to having served as the first Jewish Police Chaplain for the Rumson police force. He hopes to continue that service when he arrives in Fort Worth. With all of these achievements, Rabbi Bloom says that his greatest success in life was marrying his wife, Michal, and the birth of their three children, Daniel, Lia and Maya. Stay tuned for more on Rabbi Bloom in an Amy Sorter feature article in the near future.

For more information about Congregation Ahavath Sholom, visit, e-mail or call the synagogue office at 817-731-4721.

David Beckerman remembered by state legislators

State of Texas House of Representative Marc Veasey, a board member of the Multicultural Alliance, wanted to honor David Beckerman’s life with a Resolution from the State of Texas House of Representatives. The Resolution is a formal expression of opinion that is offered for approval to one or both houses of the legislature by a member of the House or Senate. Congratulatory resolutions typically honor individuals, institutions or organizations for accomplishments or commemorate or acknowledge events. Memorial resolutions pay tribute to the life of a deceased individual.

The document acknowledges the life of David Beckerman, his devotion to his family and his promotion of cultural understanding and tolerance as a member of the board of directors of the Multicultural Alliance. The Resolution states that he gave generously of his time and resources to many causes, including MCA. House Resolution No.864 was unanimously adopted by a rising vote of the House, and when the House adjourned on March 31, 2011, it did so in memory of David Beckerman.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 21 July 2011 by admin

Adat Chaverim Sisterhood garners programming award

Adat Chaverim Sisterhood Program Chair Susan Schwartz (left), Officer Dawson of the Plano Police Department and Sharyn Diamond.

Adat Chaverim Sisterhood of Plano will receive the bronze Or Ami “Light of my People” Award for excellence in programming from the Women of Reform Judaism this December at the 48th WRJ Assembly in Washington, D.C. The award was won for their January meeting, “Let’s Play It Safe” children’s safety program. Participants in the program included the Plano Fire Department, Police Department, Adat Chaverim parents and children and Sharyn and Alan Diamond electronically fingerprinting and photographing the children for parent personal records. Natala Assa, Sisterhood president, said, “The award is given out every two years, and honors sisterhoods undertaking unusual and significant social justice programs, community service and educational projects.” Mazel tov to Adat Chaverim’s Sisterhood for winning this prestigious and noteworthy award!

Application deadline for Jewish Youth Tzedakah Foundation nears

Applications are due July 25 for the Jewish Youth Tzedakah Foundation, one of several programs across the country that aims to introduce the concept of tzedakah, (the commandment to give), and all of its responsibilities to teens in 10th and 11th grade. Participants in this program serve on a board with 15-20 of their peers. The board learns about the foundations of tzedakah, various Jewish organizations and works together to decide how to allocate the funds that they have raised. This program gives teens great opportunities to work as part of a group, struggle with important concepts and develop an understanding of the non-profit world and the needs of the world around them. Their work will also include doing community service projects in and around Dallas.

Participants will meet once a month, from September 2011 to May 2012 to explore the significance of Jewish philanthropy, actively engage in community serve and learn leadership and decision making skills. Teens will serve as part of a grant-making board to distribute $10,000 to the Jewish projects of their choice. Participants will make a $250 donation to the fund, which will then be supplemented by local donors. The donation can be made upfront, through sponsorships or be paid over several months. For more information, contact Gail Herson at or 972-740-6751.

Max Grunewald named UTD McDermott Scholar

Max Grunewald, son of Fred and Jerri Grunewald, has been named one of 23 McDermott scholars for 2011. Max is a graduate of Ann and Nate Levine Academy, and the St. Marks School of Texas. An award-winning debater, Max was also a varsity wrestler who placed 4th individually at the state level and helped St. Mark’s to its 13th state title and 35th conference championship. A member of the school’s honor service organization, he volunteered with Jewish Family Service and the Dallas Food Bank, and was a founding member of the Jewish Youth Tzedakah Foundation. He spent last summer in UT Dallas’ George A. Jeffrey NanoExplorers Program; his resulting research on carbon nanotubes earned second place in the chemistry section of the ExxonMobil Texas Science and Engineering Fair. To prepare for a career in environmental engineering, he plans to major in engineering. This summer, he will be studying business and Chinese at Yunnan University in Kunming, China.

Some 600 students applied for the program. Collectively, the 11 men and 12 women were in the top 1.4 percent of their high school classes and averaged a two-part SAT score of 1525. They are athletes, artists, scientists and writers. Ten of them are from the Dallas area, five are from other parts of Texas, and the remaining eight hail from seven other states.

“This is a group of remarkable young people who will contribute greatly to the McDermott Program, the University and the greater community while further developing their potential as they take advantage of the opportunities we will help them to access,” Program Director Molly Seeligson said.

As McDermott Scholars, the students will have educational expenses — including tuition and fees, and stipends for living expenses, books, travel and post-graduation preparation — covered for the next four years. They also will participate in a wide variety of cultural and educational enrichment experiences in the Dallas area and beyond.

The McDermott Scholars Program is carefully designed to incorporate various aspects of experiential learning:

Freshman year includes an orientation trip, weekly leadership development seminars and a trip to Washington, D.C., for an immersion in national politics.

During their sophomore year, scholars take leading roles on campus, and they experience state and local politics during a trip to the state’s capitol in Austin.

Junior year is focused on study abroad and/or internships.

Senior year centers on final preparations for the next phase of scholars’ lives and includes a class service project.

When the 2011 class arrives on campus, more than a decade will have passed since UT Dallas welcomed the inaugural class of McDermott Scholars. The members of this year’s class will join the 55 Scholars already in attendance; these 78 Scholars will eventually join the 105 current alumni of the McDermott Program.

Local educator explores Jewish role in civil rights movement

Gail Herson of the Academy of Torah in Greater Dallas (ATID) was one of 24 Jewish educators from 16 different states and two Canadian provinces who gathered July 11-15, in suburban Boston for the Jewish Women’s Archive’s (JWA) summer Institute, The Power of Our Stories: Jews and the Civil Rights Movement.

The program began with each person telling a two-minute story about an object and the Jewish woman connected to it. From their homes in places as far away as Whitefish, Montana and Winnipeg, Manitoba, participants brought rolling pins, jewelry, recipes, photographs, prayer books, and even in one case, an edible object — blintzes left over from that morning’s breakfast with a beloved grandmother — that evoked stories of Jewish women who were important in their lives.

After sharing their personal stories, the participants began the more formal part of the Institute, a series of sessions designed to introduce JWA’s Living the Legacy social justice curriculum.

Among the highlights were presentations by Dr. Debra Schulz, author of “Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement,” Rabbi Jill Jacobs, director of Rabbis for Human Rights and author of “There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition,” and an interview with Vicki Gabriner about her experiences as a civil rights worker in the South.

“This was a professionally run, high caliber conference for Jewish educators,” Ms. Herson said of JWA’s Institute.“We were introduced to a website filled with multiple curricula on a variety of topics with interactive resources.”

The Jewish Women’s Archive Institute for Educators is made possible by a grant from the Dorot Foundation.

The Jewish Women’s Archive was founded in 1995 to respond to the lack of information about and understanding of the contributions of Jewish women to American history. Since then, JWA has amassed the world’s most extensive online collection of material on American Jewish women, all of which can be accessed for free by anyone with an Internet connection.

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Former Levine Academy student meets her future — and Michelle Obama — in the Peace Corps

Former Levine Academy student meets her future — and Michelle Obama — in the Peace Corps

Posted on 21 July 2011 by admin

By Alexis Kanter

Alexis Kanter (left) speaks with Michelle Obama at a recent event in Gaborone, Botswana. Kanter is serving a two-year term in the U.S. Peace Corps. | Photo: Caitlin Anzalone/U.S. Peace Corps

If you had asked me three years ago if I’d be interested in joining the Peace Corps, I would have chuckled and said, “no thanks.” Already three years out of college, the thought of running off to serve a two-year stint in the Peace Corps seemed like an escape from developing a stable career at home. But after realizing the opportunities Peace Corps service can provide, I look back on the past year and know it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005 having majored in history and anthropology. During my college career, I wrote for the university’s newspaper, then later worked in politics on a gubernatorial campaign and at a lobby firm, and had a private-sector job with an architecture firm. Through these activities I developed a passion for the way policy and culture influence the well-being of communities. The decision to finally apply was mostly based on the desire to challenge myself to live in a culturally new environment, and commit to a long-term goal that would enable me to grow personally and professionally. My uncle, who served in Peace Corps Peru during the early 1960s, became an inspiration to me when considering Peace Corps service. His enthusiasm for the program stoked my curiosity, and the more I looked into the benefits, the more I liked the idea of being able to work closely with locals on a local income level.

Following a year-long application process, I arrived in Botswana in April 2010, and was assigned to spend my service in Francistown, the second largest city in Botswana, and home to a vibrant population of over 100,000 people representing all levels of the wealth spectrum. It has a wonderful, distinct flavor that incorporates both traditional and modern Setswana culture. I work with smart, passionate men and women in the District AIDS Office, which is the government office that oversees all HIV/AIDS organizations and programming in the district. Part of my job entails introducing fresh ideas to help improve the way the office functions. I also help connect the District AIDS Office with the community at large, mostly through involvement in HIV/AIDS related campaigns and helping the HIV/AIDS organizations address challenges and improve their skills so they can better serve their community.

Volunteers and locals work together toward promoting positive behavior change, and as a Peace Corps volunteer, my primary focus always centers on making sure the change I bring will be sustainable after I leave. Peace Corps volunteers work not to save the world, but rather strive for incremental improvements that will last after service is complete.

Along with fulfilling my initial goals, new experiences I encounter daily continue to bring a wealth of knowledge I couldn’t acquire in any other setting. For instance, the cramped, long-hour bus rides between cities taught me an etiquette to maintaining order on a bus with almost zero personal space. I’ve seen elephants and lions roam their native habitat, attended a huge wedding celebration in the tiny village of Mapoka, been awakened to beautiful traditional dance and music, and feel as if I’ve become a part of real life here.

More significantly, I’ve worked on a campaign where teenage boys in Francistown signed up by the hundreds to voluntarily get circumcised in order to increase protection from contracting HIV. Never before had I seen such an immense sense of personal responsibility displayed at such a young age.

My work here is fulfilling, and I’m fortunate to have made lasting friendships with volunteers and locals. But service is not easy. I can’t say that I haven’t had some trying days, but that’s where personal growth comes in. Once out of your comfort zone you may begin to answer questions about yourself you never thought to ask before. And then out of the blue, things beyond your wildest expectations push you forward, and answering those questions becomes a little easier.

Recently, Botswana Peace Corps volunteers attended an event held at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in the capital, Gaborone. We were given the rare opportunity to shake hands with First Lady Michelle Obama during her visit to Southern Africa.

It was a fleeting yet incredible experience that reminded me how great things can happen when risks are taken. It’s not every day one gets to shake hands with someone who is essentially living history, and it made me proud to be where I am and do what I’m doing. I try to take nothing here for granted, and so for the rest of my service (and beyond), I intend to live up to that handshake.

Ann & Nate Levine Academy alumna, Alexis Kanter (’96) is the daughter of Nancy and Jay Kanter. She is in the middle of a two-year term of duty with the U.S. Peace Corps. For more on her meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama and her life in Botswana, check out Alexis’ blog at

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