Archive | December, 2011

Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 29 December 2011 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

It’s hard to believe that the New Year is upon us and we are about to usher in 2012. We are hustling here at the TJP to put this week’s paper to bed a few days early so the staff can take a well-deserved week off. We wish all of you a happy, healthy New Year. Don’t forget the black-eyed peas for good luck!

CHAI Young Adult Brunch

As part of our Young Men’s Service League (YMSL) community service, my 16-year-old son Benjamin and I have volunteered several times on Community Homes for Adults, Inc. (CHAI) projects. From picnics at the park to playing board games with the residents on site, we have seen first hand how the residents there are flourishing, and how important it is for folks with cognitive disabilities to live as independently as possible.

At the CHAI Young Adults brunch are from left, Brett Diamond, Jason Sandler, Aaron Carrol, Stephen Blum, Morris Tauben, and Barry Sheft.

Earlier this month, CHAI hosted a Young Adults “brunch and learn,” chaired by Corey Todres, Nicole and Kevin Cooper, Roxy and Brett Diamond and Amy and Jason Sandler. The event was held at the “Todd House,” group home, on Dec. 4. The residents, staff and several of CHAI’s board members presented and discussed CHAI’s history and recent expansion of services, with “up and coming” young leaders in the Jewish community. Some of the participants were children and grandchildren of past and current supporters of CHAI.

It was delightful to feel the energy and excitement of these young leaders, who have grown up with disabled peers in school and their community their whole lives. Some were surprised that this was not always the case, when in the past, families had few choices for their cognitively disabled loved ones, other than sending them out of state, to a institution, or keeping them isolated and at home.

After 28 years of services for people with cognitive disabilities, CHAI provides an environment where residents and clients flourish, where volunteers, board, staff, families and the clients themselves break down the barriers to inclusion. CHAI is a non-sectarian, nonprofit corporation under Jewish auspices that provides programs and services to enable adults with cognitive disabilities to live full, rich lives in a safe environment and to meaningfully participate in the community.

You can become involved too — volunteer, support CHAI, help clients out with job opportunities, and don’t stand by when you hear others use negative terminology when speaking about someone with a cognitive disability — Get involved, don’t just be a bystander! For more information about CHAI, call 214-373-8600 and ask for Heather Canterbury or Lisa Teschner.

Are you a Camp Chai lifer?

This summer, over 50 Camp Chai parents became part of the first group of “Chai Lifers.” What is a Chai Lifer? The qualifications are simple: come to Camp Chai (camper or staff), grow up and have children and send them to Camp Chai! The JCC has been a second home to so many over the years and the memories of camp stay with us forever. Sending your child to your camp brings back all of those special memories and we relive the experience with our children.

Camp Director Laura Seymour notes, “Although Camp Chai has changed over the years, some things never change like Maccabiah, overnights and gaga. Singing those familiar songs with your children makes camp a real family affair.

“The hardest part of being a Chai Lifer is dropping your child off at camp and not getting to stay,” says Seymour. “We plan to solve this problem by having an “adults only” Camp Chai Reunion.” She added that the JCC is searching for all those Camp Chai former campers and staff to invite so if you are one and know of others, have them e-mail lseymour@jccdallas.org. Remember — you can leave camp but camp will never leave you.

Temple Shalom to host annual Mah Jongg tourney

For all of you Mah Jongg mavens, Temple Shalom Sisterhood will host its 11th annual Community Mah Jongg Tournament Jan. 22 from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. Registration begins at 1:30 and there will be four rounds. Please bring your own card and come enjoy light snacks, fun and fabulous prizes. Cost is $36 to participate, pre-register. RSVP with your check by Jan. 13 to Temple Shalom — Mah Jongg Tournament, 6930 Alpha Road, Dallas, TX 75240. For more information, contact Wendi Klatsky at wendiz@aol.com or 972-781-1155.

Beth Torah bowl-a-thon will support its youth programming

Congregation Beth Torah will hold a bowl-a-thon Sunday, Jan. 15 to support its youth groups. The event is open to everyone and will be held at the Plano Super Bowl, 2521 K Avenue starting at 2 p.m. Rhonda Duchin tells us that there will be raffle prizes, food and fun for all.

For more information, you can friend Rashi USY on Facebook at facebook.com/rashi.usy or visit the group’s website at sites.google.com/site/rashiusy/ or e-mail Youth Chair Debbie Wills, youth@congregationbethtorah.org; Youth Director Melissa Duchin, usy@congregationbethtorah.org; or Youth Director Anna Tasciotti, kadima@congregationbethtorah.org.

Murder-Mystery Theater: Get in the action at the J

To all you fellow “Law and Order” fans, the JCC will hold a murder mystery dinner theater on Jan. 14 at the JCC. “The Speakeasy Scandal” will be held in Zale Auditorium from 6 to 9 p.m.

An enjoyably game of make-believe for adults, where one can attempt to outwit flappers and gangsters in the context of a live-action whodunit. You are literally in the middle of the action; discovering, analyzing and deciphering clues; interrogating your favorite suspects (incognito, improvisational, professional actors). Everyone will be guided through the process of solving the crime while you dine and socialize. An Italian themed Kosher dinner will be served at each table.

Cost is $50 per person. If you’d like to be a “Table Boss,” $500 will net you a private table reserved for six, wine and hors d’oevres upon arrival and one character role in the play.

Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off gains first national sponsor

One of my favorite community events is the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off and from what I hear, this year’s promises to be the best yet. Entering its 19th year, the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off charity fundraiser has received the first national sponsor in its history. Diamond Crystal, a Michigan manufacturer of kosher salt, is benefiting the cook-off with material sponsorship, including donation of kosher culinary salt to be used by the competing teams.

“We are extraordinarily pleased to have the support of Diamond Crystal for our Dallas event,” said Rabbi Shawn Zell, spiritual leader of Tiferet Israel, the traditional congregation hosting the March 18, 2012 event.

The Kosher Chili Cook-off is a community gathering created in 1993 by several Tiferet Israel members to raise funds for the congregation and local charities. The cook-off began with a few teams and attendance mostly from the congregation. The 19th Chili Cook-off expects to draw close to 50 teams and attract more than 4,000 attendees from Texas and beyond.

“Kosher salt,” said Rabbi Zell, “originally received its name from its use in making meat kosher. Also used for cooking, the salt is manufactured under kosher conditions and certified as kosher by organizations such as the Orthodox Union, headquartered in New York City.”

Diamond Crystal uses an evaporative process to extract hollow, pyramid-shaped salt crystals from rotating pans of brine. This Alberger process — named for one of the founders of the salt company — creates thin flakey salt with a unique appearance, feel, and taste.

“Kosher salt differs from normal granulated table salt,” said Kari Paulson, spokeswoman for Diamond Crystal. “It crumbles in your fingers and creates lacey-shaped crystals. It sticks well to food and really enhances the taste of food with a flavor burst, rather than giving it a salty bite.”

According to the rules of the Kosher Chili Cook-off, all teams start with the same kosher meat, making their chili unique with added ingredients, including salt and other spices. This year each team will also receive a supply of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

The Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off supports the work of Tiferet Israel and other not-for-profit organizations in the Dallas area. The local charities selected to benefit from the 2012 Cook-off are Chai Community Homes for Adults, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America North Texas Chapter and Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association.

Business Scene: Local accounting firms merge

The local accounting firms of Goldin Peiser & Peiser, LLP (GPP) and Bader & Associates, PC (Bader) recently merged last week. The merged firm, with 31 employees including 8 partners, will continue to be known as Goldin Peiser & Peiser, LLP and will remain located at 16800 N. Dallas Parkway, Suite 240, Dallas, TX 75248.

“We have a great deal of respect for the practice Bader has built over the years,” stated Allan Peiser, managing partner of GPP. “Our decision to merge was based on a number of factors, but for the most part it is because our firms’ philosophies are well-aligned. We both believe in putting our clients’ needs front and center and providing the responsive service our clients deserve. “Moreover, they are looking forward to the additional resources and knowledge base they will have to offer their clients. “We view this merger as the first step to continued success,” said managing partner, Mark Bader. “Our main goal as a firm is to provide exceptional client service. Collectively, we believe this move enhances our ability to provide efficient, timely, and accurate services and guidance.”

Based in Dallas, GPP is a well-rounded, locally-owned accounting and consulting firm serving clients throughout the north Texas area. Founded in 1994, GPP specializes in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, international, technology, and commercial real estate. Their services include accounting, audit, tax, specialty tax credits, business valuation, IRS representation, and doing business in China. Through their alliance with BDO Seidman, they offer the international reach and resources of the fifth largest public accounting firm, with offices in over 110 countries. Clients are offered the best of both worlds — specific market knowledge and personalized attention coupled with the resources of a large international group.

Bader & Associates, P.C. is a well-rounded, locally-owned accounting firm serving clients throughout north Texas. Founded in 1989, it is one of the leading firms specializing in the field of oil and gas, as well as working with small and mid-sized businesses in the fields of real estate, retail, professional services and various other industries. Bader & Associates, P.C. also assists numerous high-net-worth individuals and families with all aspects of income tax compliance and planning.

CSI Mitzvah Community spends time with seniors

Enjoying a moment together at the Legacy Preston Hollow were members of Shearith’s Mitzvah Community and Legacy residents. Seated from left are Marilyn Levy; Margie Diaz; Mildred Rosen and Sandy Bassman Standing from left are Roberta Toback, Esther Nathan, Fred Nathan and Steve Toback

Shearith Israel’s Mitzvah Community recently visited the residents at Legacy Preston Hollow. They viewed a film about the Yiddish Book Center had a great time. Every few months a group of volunteers from the synagogue spend an afternoon with our most jeweled population, the seniors of our community.

Sharon Shalet joins Babich

Sharon Oran Shalet has accepted a position with Babich & Assoc. as a recruiting and placement manager. Babich is Texas’ oldest placement and recruitment firm and annually places more candidates than any other agency in the DFW Metroplex, and possibly the entire state.

Started in 1952 as one of the first women-owned businesses in the DFW Metroplex by Mildred Babich, the firm is led today by Dr. Anthony (Tony) Beshara, the nation’s No. 1 recruiter as determined by a leading industry trade journal, The Fordyce Letter.

Tony is a recognized authority in the job search profession with three successful books, a radio show, and numerous magazine articles to his credit. Tony has become a frequent authority on the Dr. Phil Show, offering his experience and advice to Dr. Phil’s guests and the country.

Babich is organized by industry and placement managers are assigned according to experience to one or more of the accounting / finance, administrative, banking, information technology, legal, sales, or technical / engineering departments.

Sharon is excited to be working for a company that allows her to be of service to so many who are unemployed and struggling to find a job in today’s economy. If you or someone you know is looking for employment, email Sharon at shayna@babich.com.

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This New Year’s, resolve to be your best self

This New Year’s, resolve to be your best self

Posted on 29 December 2011 by admin

By Laura Seymour

It is almost New Year’s Eve and people will be celebrating with a great deal of fanfare, partying and, likely as not, a touch of bubbly. The New Year also asks us to make resolutions to become better people. In the immediate aftermath of the secular New Year, we resolve to do a variety of things: Lose weight, be less critical, spend more time with our children, and so on.

Interestingly enough, as Jews, we already observed one New Year — Rosh Hashanah — which asks different things from us versus Jan. 1. But one question looms: How can we bring Judaism into the secular New Year?

To answer this, I’d like to share this following well-known story. Both the story and questions that follow are courtesy of the Jewish Child Care Association’s Mandel Center for Jewish Education.

Once there was a rabbi, Rabbi Zusya, who was very learned and a good teacher. The rabbi performed many mitzvot and worked hard to be a good person. But he wasn’t satisfied with his efforts or accomplishments. He knew that, before he could enter heaven, he would be having a conversation with God about his life.

But his life didn’t seem to amount to much, at least from his perspective. He could imagine God asking him: “Why weren’t you more like Abraham? Why weren’t you more like Moses? Why weren’t you more like Solomon or David or maybe even Leah or Deborah?” Rabbi Zusya was so nervous and scared. Then God appeared before him and asked, “Why weren’t you more like Zusya?”

  • Why do you think Zusya was worried about not being more like his ancestors? What was it about his ancestors that he wanted to emulate?
  • Do you think it’s a good thing to want to follow in the footsteps of others?
  • What do you think God meant by the question, “Why weren’t you more like Zusya?” Wasn’t he Zusya?
  • What happens when you aren’t being yourself?
  • How can we be our best selves? What might that require?

As Jews, the question is less about weight loss, smoking cessation or anything else superficial. Rather, the question focuses on how we can be our best selves; what changes we want to make and can realistically make, and the steps necessary to make those changes. So this year, ask yourself what will be necessary to ensure you’re the best YOU that you can be.

Now, if you want to make those surface changes such as losing 20 pounds (and the J is a great place to stick to that resolution), do so. But remember, you can commit yourself to more in 2012.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 29 December 2011 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

Phil Kavakoff built the “Can-Orah.” After being lit, the cans making up this unusual chanukiah were donated to the Tarrant Food Bank. | Photos: Amy Wolff Sorter

Back in the day (all of three years ago or so) when we attended Shabbat services at Chabad of Plano, the spiritual leader there, Rabbi Menachem Block, never failed to start his sermons with “Today is a very special Shabbos … ” Well, I’m going to take a page from the good rabbi’s book and say “Today’s column is a very special one … ”

Lauren Rekhelis took time out from spinning her dreidel to give a smile.

I was fortunate enough to attend two Chanukah candle lightings on Dec. 20; one at Arlington City Hall (sponsored by Chabad of Arlington) and the other at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. I’ll let the pictures I took tell the story; though we’ve closed the book on Chanukah for 5772, hopefully the warmth of the holiday remains for you all. From the Sorter family to all of you, have a happy, successful and healthy New Year.

Save the date

The Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah will host a Shabbat Lunch & Learn at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28. The topic: “Scripture, Salmon and the Fairer Sex,” presented by Dr. Toni Craven from TCU’s Brite Divinity School. Food will also be served — salmon! Questions? Contact Dolores Schneider at 817-294-7626 for more information.

Gearing up for film

Beth-El Congregation, with financial assistance from the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, will launch the 2012 Beth-El Jewish Film Festival with the “Human Resource Manager” starting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 7 at the synagogue at 4900 Briarhaven Rd.

From left, Scott and Kathy Raffel joined Scott’s parents Rhona and Irwin Raffel for latkes at Ahavath Sholom’s Chanukah celebration.

Other films will be “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray” to be shown on Feb. 18 and “Camera Obscura” the feature presentation on March 10.

The films are free with an optional dinner available prior to each film at a cost of $12 per person; reservations for the dinner ARE required and can be obtained by calling 817-332-7141.

And in other entertainment news

Stage West Theater in Fort Worth is offering David Ives’ play “New Jerusalem: The interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation, Amsterdam, July 27, 1656.”

Run dates are Jan. 5 through Jan. 29. Times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and matinee performance at 3 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information, call the box office at 817-784-9378 or log onto http://www.stagewest.org/season/new-jerusalem.

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Come light the menorah …

Come light the menorah …

Posted on 29 December 2011 by admin

Hundreds gather at the Galleria as Chabad of Dallas and PJ Library kick off the Festival of Lights

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Though many people were finishing their holiday shopping last week, there was another reason to visit the Dallas Galleria — to celebrate the first night of Chanukah with the lighting of the giant menorah. The menorah was a centerpiece at the mall for all eight nights of Chanukah.

On Dec. 20, about 500 people, from youngsters to seniors, gathered at the annual event that is hosted each year by Chabad of Dallas, which also held menorah lightings at Starbucks in Far North Dallas and Northpark Mall. This year, the Chabad had a partner, as the Dallas PJ (Pajama) Library co-hosted the event.

Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky, head of Chabad of Dallas, lights the menorah for the first night of Chanukah on Dec. 20 at the Galleria. | Photos: Trevor Kobrin

Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky, head of Chabad of Dallas, led the festivities and said he looks forward to the Galleria lighting each year. “I get to see hundreds of people, both Jewish and not, come together to watch me light the first candle. I love seeing the children and smiling faces; it’s magical,” he explained. “Chanukah has a universal message of light over dark and good over evil, so that’s why it’s so important to have a public lighting.”

In addition to the menorah lighting, the evening included the singing of Chanukah songs and a book reading by the PJ Library. Kim Velevis, a PJ Library supporter, read the book “Hanukkah, O’ Hanukkah” to all of the kids in attendance.

The PJ Library, which is housed in the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, launched in August. The program provides free Jewish-themed books and music to children age 6 months through 6 years-old and more than 1,000 local children have been registered for the program to date. The program is underwritten by the Mankoff Family Foundation.

“I’m honored to have had PJ Library included in Chabad of Dallas’ annual menorah lighting,” said PJ Library Community Coordinator Rivae Balkin-Kliman. “We are two strong Jewish organizations coming together to create something unique and special for the Dallas community and it’s wonderful for the children to see their heritage celebrated during the holiday season.”

Community leader Andy Schultz and his family attend the menorah lighting each year and he said what he enjoys most about it is that it’s done in a public venue.

“There are always Christmas celebrations, so it’s nice that Chanukah can be included as well,” Schultz said. “It shows the diversity of our community and that we are able to celebrate, while being inclusive of all religions.”

Marcie and Jason Friedman, who have lived in Plano for three years, joined in the celebration for the first time and were amazed at the sheer number of people in attendance. “This brings everyone together in a warm environment,” Jason added. “For a smaller Jewish community like Dallas, it’s amazing to have different menorahs up around the city.”

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 22 December 2011 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I owe my happy almost 21-year marriage to a JCC singles party. That’s right, it was the Summer Luau of 1988 where I first met Alex, and he captured my heart. Our first date was shortly after and the rest as they say is history. I don’t think that the luau is still a summer staple, however, the annual Dec. 24 singles party, the Matzoh Ball, has grown to epic proportions. This year’s venue, the House of Blues (2200 North Lamar) will set the stage for all singles 21 and over to mix and mingle. There will be hundreds of Jewish singles, a cash bar, drink specials, music, photo booth, self parking for a fee and kosher snacks from Aderet. The dress for the evening is Rock Star Casual! The cost for admission is $25 for JCC Members (membership card required) and $30 for non-members. You may pay at the door (exact change preferred) or to avoid the lines, pre-register at www.jccdallas.org. Premium Bottle Service Rock Star Packages are available this year which include a bottle of liquor, all the kosher mixers, reserved seating for the night and six admission tickets. These must be purchased in advance by going to www.jccdallas.org. The Matzoh Ball is in its 32nd year and is presented by the JCC and The Network. Co-chairs are Jody Martin and Robert Solimani. For more information, contact the JCC at 214-739-2737 or go to www.jccdallas.org.

Shalom Singles to mingle on Dec. 24.

Jan Naxon tells us that Shalom Singles will also be getting together on Dec. 24 for a potluck Chanukah party. At 6:30 p.m., the 40-60 age crowd will gather for their own version of a holiday party, in a warm and inviting atmosphere of a North Dallas private clubhouse. The evening will include fun, friendship, food, latkes, wine, mixers, games, music by a DJ and lots of schmoozing.

The gathering will be held at the Pagewood Clubhouse, 7515 Highmont Street in Dallas. Attire is party casual. There is a $10 cover charge per person, plus a food item or bottle of wine.

Shalom Singles is sponsored by Temple Shalom of Dallas. It is in its fifth year of providing activities including happy hours, brunches, pool parties, sports bars at game time and more for singles from 40-60. Events are open to the community.

For more information or to RSVP, contact hosts Jan Naxon, jan_naxon@yahoo.com, 214-662-3455 or Roger Zelinsky, air
male43@aol.com.

JWV members join Veterans Recovery Center Basement Band

The Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary #256 joined forces with the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post #256 of the Jewish War Veterans as they participated in the annual Thanksgiving dinner that they host at the Veterans Administration hospital in Dallas.

The JWV and the Auxiliary, in addition to supplying and serving the thanksgiving dinner to the homeless veterans each year, made this year extra special. Auxiliary President LuAnn Bergman was the main vocalist along with the VA’s newly formed Veterans’ Recovery Center Basement Band that entertained the homeless veterans at this annual dinner.

As a part of the Auxiliary’s ongoing deeds of loving kindness to the veterans at the VA hospital on Lancaster Road in South Dallas, musical instruments were donated by the Auxiliary. LuAnn and her husband, Doug, assisted in making these instruments a part of this newly formed Veterans Recovery Center Basement Band.

LuAnn’s volunteer work and the enjoyment she has had in weekly practice sessions with these veterans, has launched her own, heretofore latent joy in singing to the extent that she is now a permanent ‘recruit’ as the lead vocalist with the Veterans Recovery Center Basement Band. Doug has been volunteering on this project as well, and has become a guitarist with the band.

The veterans love having them participate. Recently, the band was invited to perform at Temple Emanu-El’s weekly Tuesday luncheons. Auxiliary member Diane Benjamin sat at the luncheon with one of the mothers of the performing veterans who remarked to Diane: “My son hadn’t spoken or smiled since he returned home from his service, and now that he is a part of this band, he has come out of his depression and smiles all the time and can’t wait to attend the practice with the band!”

The Auxiliary is proud of this effort in not only donating the musical instruments, but is even more proud of LuAnn for making these donations a valuable assist to enabling our returning veterans an opportunity to heal while they have helped to heal the world with their own service. For more information on how you can also make a difference as a member of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary, contact LuAnn at 214-320-3712.

Modi to appear at the JCC

After just wrapping up two successful performances of “Annie Jr.,” the JCC will host Israeli-born comedian Modi on Jan. 8 in the Zale Auditorium. Modi has been hailed as one of the Top 10 comics of New York City. There will be a special appearance by ventriloquist Martin Golman and his “dummy” Todd Chanon.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be ordered online at jccdallas.org or by calling 214-739-2737. For more information, contact Judy Cohn at 214-239-7115 or Bev Broman at 214-239-7112.

Dallas native makes Broadway producing debut

By age 9, Staci Levine was producing musical and dance revues with neighborhood kids in her Oak Cliff backyard. November 21st, 2011 marked a major venue and cast upgrade as Staci made her Broadway debut as producer for “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin” at the Barrymore Theatre in New York City.

Patti LuPone (left), Staci Levine and Mandy Patinkin.

Staci launched the touring production of the Patti-Mandy concert in 1997 and the show has since toured to 30 U.S. cities as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The critically acclaimed concert finishes the nine-week Broadway run on Jan. 13.

Staci attended Sunset High School in Oak Cliff and The University of Texas in Austin, where she studied political science with hopes to work on Capitol Hill (influenced by years of working on Democratic campaigns with her dad Steve Levine).

While in Austin, she was sidetracked by her love of dance and began managing the semi-professional dance company, Third Coast Jazz. Performing as a kid (Stubblefield School of Dance, Sunset Bisonettes and school musicals), Staci never imagined a career on the other side of the curtain, but through the dance company, she realized she could make a living doing what she loved most.

Staci then became the program director for Believe In Me, the Austin branch of the National Dance Institute created by Jacques d’Amboise.

Moving to New York City in 1997, Staci worked for the Broadway production company, Dodger Theatricals. There she worked on numerous Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring productions including “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Titanic,” “The King & I,” “Footloose,” “High Society, Blast!,” “The Music Man,” “42nd Street,” “1776,” “Wrong Mountain,” “Into the Woods,” “Barbra’s Wedding,” “Bare,” “Urinetown,” “Dracula” and “Good Vibrations,” as a member of the general management team.

It was at the Dodgers that Staci met Mandy Patinkin and began managing his one-man show, “Mandy Patinkin in Concert,” which she still oversees today as producer.

With her own production company, Groundswell Theatricals, and in addition to the Patti-Mandy concert and Mandy’s solo concerts, Staci produces John Lithgow’s one-man show “Stories By Heart,” which recently made three tour stops in Texas, performing in Tyler, Galveston and Austin.

Staci has produced works by the playwright David Simpatico including the play “Mary” and the musical drama “The Screams of Kitty Genovese,” which recently played theater festivals in London and Edinburgh. As general manager, Staci oversaw the Off-Broadway play “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” by Fassbinder and was the general manager for dre.dance, a contemporary dance company created by Taye Diggs and Andrew Palermo.

Living full-time in Manhattan, Staci visits Texas quite often. Her parents, Linda and Steve Levine, still reside in Kessler Park and her brother and sister in-law reside in Austin with the newest addition to the family, Stella Jordan Levine.

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Around the Town

Posted on 22 December 2011 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

Chag Sameach! May your life shine as bright as the candles marching forward on the menorah.

It’s now open

The Fort Worth Museum of Science & History opened its exhibit, “Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston Island,” with an inaugural reception Thursday, Dec. 15, honoring curator Dr. Suzanne Seriff. Seriff is an anthropologist and folklorist at the University of Texas in Austin.

Dr. Seriff is the “brainchild” behind this exhibit; she organized it when it first opened in Austin in 2009 and spent a day in Fort Worth leading docents through the show.

Attending the late-afternoon reception were Rabbi Ralph and Ann Mecklenburger, Adena Cytron-Walker and Hollace Weiner. Arnold Gachman, whose grandfather, Jake, immigrated through Galveston, was also present with his wife, Harriette.

The multi-media exhibit, which examines the arrival of Jewish refugees at the port of Galveston during the years before WWII, also deals with larger themes of immigration. It extends from the slave trade to 1924, when restrictive immigration laws passed Congress.

I’ve said it in earlier columns — this looks like a terrific exhibit. “Forgotten Gateway” is an ideal place to take school-age youngsters during winter break (not to mention the fact that adults can learn something from this exhibit as well). The exhibit is at the museum which is, in turn, on 1600 Gendy St.

There are still openings

Wanting something to do on “that other holiday?” The annual Chanukah Bowl will take place from 4-6 p.m. on Sun., Dec. 25 at Citiview Bowling, 6601 Oakmont Blvd. in Fort Worth. The event is hosted by Chabad of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Dreidels will be included — so will latkes, a light dinner and chocolate gelt for the kids. Cost is $12 per person ($50 per family). For more information, call the Chabad at 817-263-7701 or log onto http://www.chabadfortworth.com/.

Women’s role in Chanukah

And yes, women have had other roles in Chanukah in addition to lighting candles and making latkes! Learn all about it at Chabad of Arlington’s Jewish Women Circle’s “Latkes and Lattes.”

This brunch will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 26 at 2136 Linblad Court in Arlington. Women are invited for coffee, to make beaded serving spoons and, of course, to schmooze. If you’re interested in participating in the Chanukah Grab Bag, bring a wrapped gift $5 or less. Suggested donation is $10 (sponsorships are available for $36) and RSVP is MANDATORY. Questions? Contact Rishi Gurevitch at rishi@arlingtonchabad.org.

Gearing up for film

Beth-El Congregation, with financial assistance from the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, will launch the 2012 Beth-El Jewish Film Festival with the “Human Resource Manager” starting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 7 at the synagogue at 4900 Briarhaven Rd. Other films will be “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray” to be shown on Feb. 18 and “Camera Obscura” the feature presentation on March 10. The films are free with an optional dinner available prior to each film at a cost of $12 per person; reservations for the dinner ARE required and can be obtained by calling (817) 332-7141.

In other entertainment news …

Stage West Theater in Fort Worth is offering David Ives’ play “New Jerusalem: The interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation, Amsterdam, July 27, 1956.” Run dates are Jan. 5 through Jan. 29. Times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and matinee performance at 3 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call the box office at 817-784-9378 or log onto http://www.stagewest.org/season/new-jerusalem.

Mahjong cards available

The Fort Worth Hadassah is selling mahjong cards, with proceeds to benefit the organization. Standard size is $7; larger size is available for $8. Send your name, address and size, with a check made payable to Barbara Weinberg to her at 4600 Westlake Dr., Fort Worth, TX, 76132. Questions? Call Barbara at 817-346-0331. Deadline for orders is Jan. 16, 2012 — do NOT delay!

E-mail your news to me at awsorter@yahoo.com.

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Include customs from around the world

Include customs from around the world

Posted on 22 December 2011 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Chanukah is filled with customs. What’s interesting to note is that customs are different around the world. For example, while our custom in the United States is to eat latkes to symbolize the miracle of the oil, Israeli Jews add sufganiyot, or fried jelly donuts, to the menu as well.

This year, why not add some new customs to your family celebration? One that I particularly like is Chag haBanot, or Festival of the Daughters. The idea behind this particular festival is that on Rosh Chodesh Tevet (which falls during the eight days of Chanukah), women don’t work.

Tami Lehman Wilzig, author of the book “Chanukah Around the World” explains this custom beautifully and also provides a recipe to try. Feel free to order the book and add this — and other — customs to your Chanukah celebrations this year!

The cousins had already lit the candles for the seventh night of Chanukah, and Grand-mere explained that this night is for girls only, the way it was in Nabeul, Tunisia.

“Chanukah is the only holiday that starts in one Hebrew month, Kislev, and ends in another, Tevet,” she said. “When I grew up, the Rosh Chodesh that fell during Chanukah was a holiday within a holiday. It was called Chag haBanot, Festival of the Daughters. While the candles burned, we relaxed. No one went into the kitchen. The next day we had a feast for women and girls only. We did serve the men a snack after candle lighting — an artichoke, olive spread or a hard-boiled egg. But the really delicious food was saved for the women’s feast, where young and old gathered to honor Judith, the Chanukah heroine.”

She then went on to tell us the story of Judith. Judith, a widow, living in Assyria, gained the trust of an enemy general, fed him salty cheese that made him thirsty, then gave him wine to drink. As he lay in a drunken stupor, she cut off his head and returned, triumphant, to the Jewish people. Grand-mere said legend has it that the Maccabees were inspired by Judith’s bravery. Grand-mere Added that, on the seventh day of Chanukah we honor only our heroines: Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, Miriam, Judith, Hannah and more.

“That reminds me of another thing we did,” she added. “We settled all fights and apologized to one another. And at the end of the meal we ate special Debla cookies.”

And here is the recipe for Debla’s Cookies. They are, of course, fried in oil, as befitting a Chanukah celebration.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1¼ cup of flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Oil for frying

For topping:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a bowl, beat the eggs, add flour and salt. Knead the mixture into dough, turn out on a flat surface. Roll the dough thin and cut into 1-inch strips. Using a fork, twist each strip into a circle. Heat the oil and drop each circle into the hot oil (fry one at a time). Once the circle has opened and puffed up like a rose, remove and drain on a paper towel.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine topping ingredients over medium heat, cook until thickened. Drizzle over the cookies.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Explore beauty, meaning of Chanukah

Explore beauty, meaning of Chanukah

Posted on 22 December 2011 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

As a mother, I am challenged every year by the proximity of Chanukah to Christmas. This is especially true this year, during which the two holidays coincide. How can we, with our candles, possibly compete with their stunning display of colorful lights that fill the malls, decorate the houses and are on their trees? What do I say when my children ask me if Chanukah is the Jewish Christmas?

— Shawn P.

Dear Shawn,

What you and many like you are facing is truly a real challenge. We and our children are surrounded by the culture of the country in which we live, and if we try to “outdo” those around us, we are doomed to failure. What we must do instead is acknowledge the compelling nature of the local culture while focusing on the beauty of what we have as Jews.

I have always been struck by what I consider one of the greatest ironies of Jewish history: Scholars have shown that many of the customs and celebrations of Christmas are actually based upon our celebration of Chanukah, which predated Christianity by hundreds of years. In their desire to attract Jews to Christianity, its founders established this holiday at the same time as Chanukah, with many similarities, but better. The hope among Christians was that making it better would encourage more Jews to enter their fold.

Hence their lights, which are an embellishment of our lights. Also their gifts, which started later, a takeoff of our Chanukah “gelt.” The original 12 days of Christmas are a replica of the Torah reading of Chanukah, which outlines the gift of the 12 heads of the tribes during the consecration (Chanukah) of the original tabernacle, which took place, appropriately enough, over a 12-day period.

Studies show that more Jews observe Chanukah than any other Jewish holiday. Some sociologists explain this phenomenon by suggesting that, as you mentioned, many Jews consider Chanukah their “Jewish Christmas.” How ironic is it that the very holiday which is a replica of Chanukah should be reversed and serve as the source of Jews observing Chanukah!

There are other ironies as well: Many of the familiar Christmas carols that literally define the contemporary holiday were actually composed by Jews! “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Let it Snow,” “Silver Bells,” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” just to name a few, were all composed by Jews.

The final irony here is that Chanukah was enacted as a celebration of the Jews’ success in withstanding the Syrian-Greeks attempts to assimilate them into Greek culture and society. The miracle of the menorah came about from a single flask of olive oil. Oil, even when mixed well with water, separates and rises to the top. The Jews, too, were not able to be assimilated; they eventually separated and rose to the top; to their connection to God and to each other. As such, the last thing we would expect is for Chanukah to be a way to identify with the culture around us. This would be the antithesis of the Chanukah message!

With this understanding, I would recommend you visit some of the many wonderful Jewish websites that offer a wealth of material you can use to explain the beauty of Chanukah to your children; that material will also help enrich your own appreciation of this special time. Aish.com and Chabad.org, to mention a couple, offer reading material, videos, cartoons and many multi-media opportunities to bring Chanukah alive to your family and friends.

On Chanukah, we begin with one light and ascend to more and more lights, day by day. May Chanukah be a time that all Jews will ascend and grow in their observance and pride to be who they are!

A joyous and meaningful Chanukah to you and all the readers.

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

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Unity and evil’s purpose

Unity and evil’s purpose

Posted on 15 December 2011 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Marcie,

We will continue this week to explain the second of the 13 Principles of Jewish belief, as you requested:

Maimonides writes, “The second principle involves the Unity of God. We believe that the Cause of everything is One.”

“He is not one, however, like a member of a pair or species. He is furthermore not like a single object, which can be divided into a number of elements. He is not even like the simplest physical entity, which is still infinitely divisible. God is One in a unique way. There is no other unity like His.”

“The Torah teaches us this second principle when is says ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One’ ” (The Shema; Deut. 6:4).

This principle, the Oneness of God, seems simple on the surface, but encompasses some of the most profound insights on the workings of the universe and everything that exists within it. It also defines many of the distinct differences existing between Judaism and Christianity, hence debunking the myth of a “Judeo-Christian” belief system.

One example is the understanding of the concept of the “devil.” It is true that both in Judaism and Christianity there exists a notion of the “devil.” In Christianity, however, like in Greek mythology, the “devil” is a manifestation of evil, which stands up to God and attempts to challenge Him and works against Him. It is a separate, independent power that God needs to contend with, a sort of anti-God. This is possible because in Christianity God’s Oneness and power are not absolute and complete.

Through the Jewish principle, however, we learn that Judaism is diametrically opposed to the Christian notion of the “devil.” In Torah thought, the “devil” which is called in Hebrew the satan, is also referred to as the yetzer hara, or “evil inclination.”

The Talmud explains this as an inclination endowed by God within us, which enables the internal struggle between good and evil. This is the foundation for free will that is at the core of our creation “in the image of God,” and is the underpinnings of our obligation and purpose of tikkun olam.

The rabbis teach that this power of evil is totally under God’s jurisdiction. In fact, our belief is that in Messianic times, we will no longer have a need for that struggle of good against evil, since the “evil inclination” will have already served its purpose. It will be eradicated from our hearts by God. This is a corollary of the principle of the Oneness of God; that no powers exist outside of Him or contrary to Him or His will.

The Kabbalistic masters take this a step further. The Oneness of God includes the belief that even the most evil of actions will, eventually, be revealed to somehow fit into God’s master plan. This is not to say that God in any way condones or desires these events or actions. If and when they are performed, it was only by way of man’s free will to choose to do things which are completely evil. The perpetrators of evil are fully responsible for their misdeeds.

What the Kabbalists mean to say, however,  is that no power, including that of evil, is outside the jurisdiction of God. The positive side, the “silver lining” of evil’s existence will be revealed at the time all truth is revealed. In Messianic times, when God will play back the reel of history on the screen viewed by all of mankind, it will become apparent how the Oneness of God includes even those actions and events which were, in this world, contrary to His will.

The Kabbalists explain that the role of evil is as follows: When one is in an artificially lit room, the sight of real sunlight doesn’t have much of an effect. The darker the room, the greater effect the sunlight will have when opening the blinds. The greater the evil, the more the revelation the eventual radiant Messianic light will have upon all who will behold it and have it illuminate their souls. In this way, the darkness of evil fits into God’s master plan and fits into His Oneness.

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

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 15 December 2011 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Chanukah is on the horizon and I am thinking back to last year when I couldn’t get the Maccabeats’ Chanukah tune, “Candlelight” based on Mike Tompkin’s a cappella version of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” out of my head.

I was thrilled to hear that the talented Maccabeats will be performing at Shearith Israel on Jan. 29 as part of the Small Cohen Waldman Concert Series.

With the first candle next Tuesday, our special Chanukah calendar (p. 16-17) is filled to the brim with activities of all sorts to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

Hand painted tea boxes from Yad Sarah make great Chanukah gifts.

We’ve had our share of sore throats and stuffy noses at our house in recent weeks, but we’ve been hitting the hot tea and honey pretty hard. Recently, Sarrina Roffe, a longtime colleague from the Jewish journalism world shared a great idea for tea lovers that can help the worthy cause of Yad Sarah — hand painted tea boxes from Friends of Yad Sarah. Need a great gift for Chanukah, a Shabbat host, a housewarming or engagement? Need a unique party favor or a thank you for someone special? Yad Sarah clients and volunteers paint and decorate tea boxes. Each uniquely-designed box, filled with a variety of Wissotzky teas, will accompany any sweet occasion! To order visit http://www.shopyadsarah.org/

Yad Sarah, the largest voluntary organization in Israel, provides a spectrum of free or nominal cost services designed to make life easier for sick, disabled and elderly people and their families.

Ann & Nate Levine Academy’s Annual Gala will honor Senator Florence Shapiro with Civic Service Award

Levine Academy will honor Texas Senator Florence Shapiro and her commitment to achieving excellence in education at its Annual Gala April 29, 2012. Fred and Kay Zeidman and Frank and Helen Risch will be Honorary Chairs for this event.

Florence Shapiro was elected to the Texas Senate in 1993. But her journey into Texas politics began years prior and miles away from the Texas Capitol. As a former public school teacher, she first entered elected office as a Plano City Council member. Following six terms on the city council, she was elected Mayor of Plano.

Driven by her traditional values, Senator Shapiro has worked tirelessly to improve public education and protect the lives of all of our children. She believes every child deserves a good education and has worked toward that end throughout her career.

In 2003, she became chair of the Senate Education Committee, where she passed legislation to overhaul the state’s school finance system. Today, she serves as co-chair of the Education Policy Taskforce for the National Council of State Governments, as well as on the Southern Regional Education Board, and the Education Commission on the States, coalitions of elected officials and education leaders that addresses issues such as long-range planning, policy proposals and the advancement of education among the states.

Among her many honors and awards, she is particularly proud of her service as President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate as she was the only Jewish woman to serve in this capacity. To commemorate this prestigious milestone, she hosted the first ever Shabbat Dinner at the Governor’s Mansion when she was Governor for the Day on April 9, 2005. Serving the community has been Senator Shapiro’s legacy throughout her years of public service.

As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Senator Shapiro learned early the importance of responsibility, character, education and the heritage of a rich Jewish tradition. She is actively involved at the Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance.

At Levine Academy, Senator Shapiro is known as a loving mother to Levine Academy parents Staci and Paul Rubin and Jori and Todd Shapiro and doting grandmother to nine grandchildren.

Levine Academy’s Gala will also recognize the following teachers, administrators, and staff who have given 25 or more years to enriching the lives of our children: Beverley Lewin, Sandra Cantor, Wende Weinberg, Deborah Lan, Shirley Green-King, Kathryn Hill, Estella Raphael, Nonie Schwartz and Betty Kenner.

For more information about the gala including sponsorship opportunities, please contact Marilyn Rutner, Development Director at mrutner@levineacademy.org or 972-248-3032, ext. 114.

DJHS’ veteran’s exhibit continues this month

There is still time this month to visit The Dallas Jewish Historical Society’s newest exhibit, “Honoring our Veterans.” The exhibit is housed in the glass cases outside the DJHS offices at the JCC and showcases men and women who have served our country through war time and peace.

Images and artifacts from veterans hail from World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, up until Operation Desert Storm. A number of the veterans featured in the exhibit served during World War II.

The U.S. Armed Forces and Allied Forces included in this exhibit are listed below:

U.S. Navy: Dave Andres (Courtesy of Ruth Andres); Henry David Schlinger (Courtesy of Norma Schlinger); Frederick Leopold Schlinger (Courtesy of Norma Schlinger); William Naxon (Courtesy of Bill and Elya Naxon); Dr. Burton Einspruch (Courtesy of Dr. Einspruch); Dr. Leonard Gravier (Courtesy of Dr. Gravier); Natalie Lewis (Courtesy of Natalie Lewis); U.S. Marine Corps: Bernard I. “Barney” Budow (Courtesy of Jackie Budow Prager and Larry Budow; Roy Elsner (Courtesy of Roy Elsner); U.S. Army: Jack Agress (Courtesy of Idalee Cathcart); Max Rich (Courtesy of Anita Friedman); Abner Aronoff (Courtesy of Norma Aronoff Schilinger); Lehmann “Larry” Miller (Courtesy of OriAnn Phillips); Albert Frankel (Courtesy of Anita Friedman); Rabbi Murray Berger (Courtesy of Rabbi Berger); Mendel Melasky (Courtesy of Mike and Julie Lowenberg); Sol Wald (Courtesy of Sol Wald); Rabbi Murray Berger (Courtesy of Rabbi Berger); Stanley Kaufman (Courtesy Chuck Kaufman); Jake Wilonsky (DJHS Archives); Ruth Lax, R.N. (Courtesy of Ruth Lax); Dr. Jerrold Grodin (Courtesy of Dr. Grodin); U.S. Air Force: Theodore Garber (Courtesy of Bella Garber); Sol Greenberg (Courtesy of Joyce Greenberg); British Auxiliary Territorial Service: Tehilla Katzman Miller (Courtesy of OriAnn Phillips). Stop by the DJHS archives, housed at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road and view this very personal, well-prepared exhibit.

Tzofim Caravan looks to expand its Dallas stay

For more than 35 years, the Israel Scout (Tzofim) Caravan has visited the Dallas area bringing an energetic multimedia and interpersonal message about Israel to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences.

Each Friendship Caravan consists of five male and five female Tzofim who are entering their senior year of high school.

The four Caravans travel throughout North America each summer as emissaries, sharing their lives in Israel through song, dance and story.

Participants are chosen after undergoing an extensive auditioning and interviewing process, ensuring that above all, they are true representatives of Israeli culture and spirit.

The Tzofim Friendship Caravan typically reaches over 35 states, including 250 camps, community centers, churches, senior homes and schools, performing for an audience totaling nearly 100,000 people.

They stay for an average of eight nights in most other major cities during their three-month U.S. tour. David Abrams shared with the TJP, “While the Caravan has visited the Dallas area for five days in the past few years, in order to expand their schedule to eight nights, our committee is seeking additional funding. With the additional time in the Dallas area in 5722, we would be able to expand our programming so that this year’s Caravan can engage people at non-Jewish venues such as malls and churches. We have numerous Jewish families with children who would love to host the Tzofim additional nights.”

The Tzofim committee is looking to raise $4,500 this month to expand the caravan’s Dallas stay to eight nights. For more information, contact David Abrams at caravan@dallasjscouts.org or 214-669-3033.

We love to hear from our readers. Send your news to sharonw@texasjewishpost.com.

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