Archive | December, 2011

Handling the ‘December Dilemma’

Handling the ‘December Dilemma’

Posted on 15 December 2011 by admin

By Laura Seymour

The season is definitely upon us and those glancing at the calendar already understand that Christmas occurs smack in the middle of the Festival of Lights.

We sometimes call this the “December Dilemma” — we try to answer the questions of our children as to why they aren’t getting visits from Santa Claus or even getting a Christmas tree, while trying to instill the importance of the Chanukah story.

Fortunately, the JCCs and synagogues have programs to help parents deal with this dilemma. The goal of such programs is to help us, as parents, understand how to handle our children’s questions and desires. Following are some ideas from these programs.

Visit Christmas

Let’s face it — Christmas is part of our society, and cutting our children totally from it would be nearly impossible. Instead, take the time to visit your non-Jewish friends and celebrate their holidays with them, while ensuring they are included in your holiday events.

Help your children understand by explaining, “When we go to play at Bobby’s house, we enjoy his toys but when we leave, we do not take the toys home because they belong to Bobby. When we help decorate Bobby’s Christmas tree, we have a good time, but we don’t bring it home because we don’t celebrate Christmas as Bobby and his family do. So let’s invite Bobby and his family over for Chanukah (or Shabbat or Passover).”

Don’t compete — create meaning

Chanukah isn’t a competition or compensation for Christmas. It shouldn’t be treated as such, nor should it be just about the gifts. This year, make traditions for Chanukah, traditions that will carry meaning in the years to come. We’re fortunate, as Jews, in that we celebrate just about everything! Why not make a big deal about Shabbat? This is a weekly celebration.

Along those lines, Deborah Da Costa’s book, “Hanukkah Moon,” discusses the custom celebrated by Sephardic Jews during this time of year. As Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday that spans two months (Kislev and Tevet), Rosh Chodesh, the new moon, takes place at that time as well. The Rosh Chodesh tradition is that women are not allowed to work while the candles burn — but tradition, rituals and meaning can be built into the new moon observance as well.

Talk with friends

No doubt you’re not the only one experiencing the December Dilemma — no doubt you have friends and family who are going through the same things. Get ideas from them about how they handle things like Santa Claus, lights, songs and so on.

Chanukah also provides a valuable instructive tool. Why not use each night to learn about a different country, and the way in which Chanukah is celebrated there? Are there different foods, customs and songs? Even more importantly, what is the same? What connects us to other Jews around the world?

Celebrating Chanukah means remembering the story of the Maccabees and their fight to keep our traditions and beliefs alive. Today it continues to be a challenge to keep the essence of our Jewishness alive — we are the link in the tradition. So let us teach our children how to appreciate their differences first, by teaching and modeling Jewish life and all the beauty of it, and second, by learning about others and then going home to what we know and love.

Laura Seymour is director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Comments (0)

Hundreds turn out to support JCC at Second Annual ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Hundreds turn out to support JCC at Second Annual ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Posted on 15 December 2011 by admin

The JCC held its annual fundraiser, Dancing with the Stars — Season II, Saturday Dec. 3 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. Community Star Dancers included: Shawn Alhadef, Peter Fonberg, Brian Glaser, Amy Harberg, Bruce Katz, Mark Kreditor, Dan Pidgeon, Stephanie Prescott, Sury Sacher, and Barbara Stein. Over 600 people enjoyed the incredible display of local talent and looked on as Barbara Stein was voted the winner and received the much sought after Mirror Ball Trophy along with prize money awarded on her behalf to The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

Peter Fonberg and dancing partner Michelle Hafle | Photos: Jim Woods

Ruthie Shor, Wendy Stanley, Thomy-Sue Toledo, Scott Cohen, Angela Horowitz and Ellen Ungerman

Dancing with the Starts Contestants with their partners

Nicole Blue, Joey Daniel and Angela Horowitz

Stephanie Prescott, Stuart Prescot and Myra Prescott

Ruthie and Alan Shor

Donna Arp and Herb Weitzman

Marc and Wendy Stanley

Janet and Jack Baum

Kellilyn and Andy Dropkin

Comments (0)

Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 15 December 2011 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

In this issue (and in a previous one, for that matter), Laura Seymour, the “Shabbat Lady” (aka director of Jewish life and learning at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas) writes about what she terms as the “December Dilemma.” When Chanukah and Christmas fall together, there is the tendency to “substitute” one for the other, especially when children are involved. It becomes even more difficult for those kids when, on Dec. 25, their gentile friends are celebrating and they’re not.

One aspect to be considered is that of mitzvot — why not bake cookies and take them to the local fire department or police department, for example? Or contact a local hospital (or nursing home) and see if anyone needs the company. The Shabbat Lady suggests developing traditions during this time of year, as we celebrate the festival of miracles. Community service is a very good tradition to start.

In the meantime, as you light those first candles on the chanukiah, remember to recite the “Shechechyanu” and to be thankful for the friends and family in your life. May this season be filled with light and miracles for you all!

Understanding local history

My thanks goes to Hollace Weiner for keeping us up-to-date on the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s soon-to-be opening exhibit “Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston.” The exhibit opens this Saturday and will be chock full of information about immigrants who came through Galveston Port to settle in the Lone Star state and, in some cases, the Midwest.

As part of this exhibit, the museum will offer a free screening beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 18 of “West of Hester Street,” the 1983 docudrama about the Galveston immigration. Filmmakers Allen and Cynthia Mondell of Dallas will give a talk before the showing.

I highly recommend that everyone takes a few hours during the exhibit’s run to go to the museum at 1600 Gendy St. — this is a priceless opportunity to understand some of our history. Once it shuts down on April 1, it’s gone for good.

Honoring our veterans

A recent Veteran’s Day celebration co-sponsored by Beth-El Congregation and Jewish War Veterans Post 755 welcomed Admiral Harold Robinson as the guest speaker. Admiral Robinson is the highest-ranking Jewish chaplain to serve the United States; in addition, he was instrumental in getting the memorial to Jewish chaplains killed while serving their country installed on the Chaplain’s Memorial Hill at Arlington Cemetery.

Dr. Julian Haber (right) and Liberty House’s Lenny Welpman

Also during the event, Julian Haber, immediate past commander of the JWV post made a presentation of a donation of 30 electric clock radios to Liberty House, a rehabilitation and residential facility for homeless veterans. Dr. Haber also tells us that the JWV also donated an outside table and chairs this Fall to the organization, as well as regularly donating books and magazines.

I want to take this opportunity to thank these veterans for their service to our country — and to offer my apologies to Dr. Haber for the miscommunication in getting the original event into this column. The two groups I very much respect in this country are veterans and teachers; while the former protects our freedoms and rights, the latter teaches us how to use those rights effectively to be good citizens. Both are true callings.

Get your Chanukah on

If you’re trying to figure out how to observe Chanukah while getting out of the house, consider attending one of the two Tarrant County celebrations. You can read more about them on page 10 of this week’s issue. There’s also a great Chanukah calendar of events on page 16-17.

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  4600 Westlake Dr., Fort Worth, TX, 76132. Questions? Call Barbara at 817-346-0331. Deadline for orders is Jan. 16, 2012 — do NOT delay!

We love to hear from our readers! Send your news to Amy at

Comments (0)

Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 08 December 2011 by admin

As y’all may have noticed and as I shared a few columns ago, I’ve been trying out a new approach to the Dallas Doings column, an effort to make it a bit more personal and chaimish. I’m enjoying the process, and I hope you are too. From time to time, I’ve included some observations about this and that, and I am always hopeful that I get the story right. Last week, I shared the amazing bar mitzvah of Aaron Minsky and how multiple generations of the Minsky family were involved in all facets of the celebration. To my chagrin, I neglected to mention that Aaron’s beloved paternal grandmother Lynn Minsky and his first cousin Evan Lacher (son of Debbie Lacher and Rick Lacher) also read Torah at the simcha. With four family members in addition to Aaron sharing the reading of his Torah portion, you can imagine what an impact the experience was. My apologies to the Minskys and Lachers, all longtime subscribers for the inadvertent goof.

Raising Awareness for younger onset Alzheimer’s

Speaking of mistakes, back in October, another longtime subscriber, Hanna Beren, sent me an item about her son-in-law, Phil Sosnick. I misfiled the item, and would like to share it with you now.

Sadly, Phil was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease five years ago at the young age of 64, known as younger-onset or early onset. Phil’s wife Julia, his full-time caregiver. (Hanna and Carl Beren’s daughter) has made a positive out of a negative, by becoming committed to educating folks on younger onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s estimated that about half a million Americans younger than age 65 have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Prior to the Oct. 29 annual Memory Walk, Phil’s Elite Friends, formed to fundraise for Alzheimer’s awareness had raised more than $13,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, South Florida Chapter.

On Aug. 19, 2011 Phil’s Elite Friends held an appreciation luncheon at Calder Casino Race Course to give thanks to its supporters. Well-known Miami philanthropist Bunny Bastian helped to make the luncheon possible, and Phil’s Elite Friends was honored by having a horse race named after the team.

Although the Memory Walk has passed, you can still make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association, South Florida Chapter in support of Phil’s Elite Friends Florida at 6447, Miami Lakes Drive East, Ste 101, Miami Lakes, FL, 33014. To donate locally to the Alzheimer’s Association, send checks to 4144 North Central Expressway, Ste 750, Dallas, TX 75204, or you can donate online at

Like most people, I have been touched personally by the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s watching the disease claim the lives of both my father-in-law and beloved uncle. As the charitable giving season is upon us, I encourage you to consider this worthy cause.

TTI receives challenge grant

Rabbi Yaacov Cohen dropped us a line to let us know that Texas Torah Institute has been given the opportunity to raise some additional funds by year’s end through a challenge grant. A few donors have put together a pool of $25,000. They will match donations to TTI dollar for dollar between now and Dec. 31. To make a contribution to the campaign visit

Brinker to receive coveted award at URJ Biennial

Ambassador Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, will receive Reform Judaism’s highest honor at the 2011 Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial convention on Thursday morning, Dec. 15.

Nancy Brinker

Ambassador Brinker will receive the Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award for Service to the World Community. Named in memory of Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, the executive director and president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations from 1943 – 1973, this award is the highest honor bestowed by the Reform Movement.

Every two years at the URJ Biennial, the Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award is conferred in two categories: Service to Reform Jewry and Service to the World Community. Rabbi Richard Hirsch, who has been called the architect of Reform Zionism and the world-wide movement for Progressive Judaism, will receive the Eisendrath Award for Service to Reform Jewry.

Nancy G. Brinker is regarded as the leader of the global breast cancer movement. Her journey began with a promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything possible to end the shame, pain, fear and hopelessness caused by this disease. In one generation, the organization that bears Susan’s name has changed the world.

Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982 and Komen for the Cure is now the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.

Today, the organization has invested more than $1.9 billion in breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.

Brinker’s creativity in raising awareness led to programs that at the time were revolutionary: In 1983, she founded the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which is now the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer.

She also pioneered cause-related marketing, allowing millions to participate in the fight against breast cancer through businesses that share Komen’s commitment to end the disease forever.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s unwavering advocacy for breast cancer survivors led to new legislation and greater government research funding.

To date, virtually every major advance in breast cancer research has been touched by hundreds of millions of dollars in Komen for the Cure funding.

“Few people in our society have had the impact of Ms. Brinker,” said URJ President Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie. “She began with a single caring act and then created a mechanism that literally has changed our world and the lives of millions of people. She exemplifies the values of caring, compassion, and mentshlikeit that are at the heart of Jewish tradition. We are proud to bestow upon her Reform Judaism’s highest honor.”

Grants available Jack and Lois Kravitz Fund for Leadership Development of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation

The Jack and Lois Kravitz Fund for Leadership Development of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation was established to enhance the development of lay and professional leadership in Dallas. Jack served as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas from 1943 to 1973. The fund was established in 1984 by many friends of the Kravitzes (of blessed memory, (in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary).

The purpose of the Fund is to foster leadership development of volunteers in Dallas Jewish communal activities. This purpose will be achieved through varied and flexible means. Support may be given to programs in Dallas dedicated to the subject of volunteer leadership training. Local or outside experts, lay or professional, may be involved in these programs. Funds may also be used to enable individuals, lay or professional, to undertake special training in volunteer leadership development.

Organizations are invited to submit a proposal for a creative project, which is in line with the purpose of the Fund. Please download the application and attachment A at, complete an email to on or before December 30, 2011. If there is additional information you wish to include, please email to or mail to: Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, 7800 Northaven Road, Dallas, Texas, 75230-3296. Your request must be presented in the form provided for consideration by the Committee.

Committee members are: Shirley Rovinsky, chair, David Beer, Linda Blasnik, Cathy Brook, Richard Glazer, Murray Johnson, Robin Sacks, Rena Silverberg, Morris Stein and Andrea Weinstein.

If you have any question about whether a project is suitable, please contact Marna Edenson at the Foundation, 214-615-5278.

Business Scene

Last month, Glazer’s, Inc. announced that it signed a definitive agreement to purchase the Victor L. Robilio Company, Inc. (“Robilio”). Robilio distributes wine, spirits and specialty items in Memphis, Tennessee for many national suppliers, including Diageo, Pernod Ricard, William Grant, Heaven Hill, Skyy Spirits, Treasury Wine Estates, Banfi, Constellation, Kobrand and Winebow. Consummation of the acquisition is subject to normal and customary conditions and approvals.

Glazer’s President and CEO, Sheldon “Shelly” Stein, stated, “Glazer’s is excited about our acquisition of Robilio and the closing of the transaction. Our overall corporate strategy is to aggressively expand our footprint in the beverage distribution business and, when this acquisition is complete, Tennessee will be our 13th state in which we do business. Scott Rawlings, currently President of Glazer’s Arkansas, will assume management responsibility for Tennessee upon completion of the transaction.”

Robilio President, Victor L. Robilio, Jr., said, “We are excited to become part of Glazer’s and are happy to be working with Shelly, Scott and the entire Glazer’s management team. We believe in representing products of the highest quality and marketing them with persistence, great customer service and pride. We know that Glazer’s shares this same philosophy and we’re excited about our future growth together.”

Comments (0)

Discussing the first Principle

Discussing the first Principle

Posted on 08 December 2011 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I was fascinated by the concept you mentioned in last week’s column; the 13 core principles that form the foundation of Judaism. I know this is a lot to ask, but would you consider covering those principles in more detail? I realize this would take way more than one or two columns, but I, for one, would look forward to spending the next 13 weeks to get a better understanding of the principles so briefly outlined.

— Marcie L.

Dear Marcie,

I am more than happy to fulfill your request and attempt to elucidate R’ Maimonides’ principles and would appreciate the feedback of other readers if they, too, would be interested in embarking on this odyssey!

The first principle is the belief in God. I often say that we could have a room full of people who, when asked if they believe in God, will all raise their hands. When we ask them, however, how they define their belief in God, we may quickly find that many people in that room consider the other guys’ definitions to be heresy in their eyes, and not a belief in God at all! It is therefore incumbent upon us as Jews to have a grasp on our own definition of God.

Maimonide’s commentary states: “The first principle involves belief in the existence of God. There is a Being, perfect in every possible way, who is the ultimate cause of all existence. All existence depends on Him and is derived from Him. It is inconceivable that He did not exist. If He did not exist, everything else would also cease to exist and nothing would remain.”

“If, however, we could imagine that nothing else existed, He would not cease to exist. He would not be diminished in any way. Only God is totally self-sufficient and, therefore, Unity and Mastery belong only to Him. He has everything that He needs in Himself and does not need anything else at all. Everything else, however, whether it be an angel, a star, or anything associated with them above or below, all depend on Him for their very existence.”

“The Torah teaches us this first principle in the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God (Exodus 20:12)”

Just as a note, I’m using the translation from the Arabic and Hebrew from Maimonides’ Principles, by Aryeh Kaplan.

This definition, which clarifies the Jewish notion of God, opens up many new questions and inspires much discussion. What do we mean when we say God is perfect in every way? If God does not need the creation, why did He create the world?

The source of this principle requires an even deeper understanding of something else. The continuation of the first commandment is “I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt from the house of bondage.” Why does God not introduce Himself as the creator of the universe, rather focuses on one isolated event; the exodus from Egypt? Furthermore, how is it possible for God to command us to believe in Him? We either believe in Him already or we don’t; whoever doesn’t believe in God wouldn’t heed His commandments anyway!

Nachmanides, another great 13th century commentator, disagrees with Maimonides’ consideration of the belief in God as a commandment; he contends the belief in God is the foundation of our entire faith and cannot merely be considered one of the 613 commandments. All of this brings up another question: How do we understand these two perspectives?

As you see, we would need many more columns just to discuss this first principle, the questions raised in this column and more! Let it suffice to share the basic definition and discuss these questions among ourselves; hopefully one day we’ll discuss it all, which, of course, will lead us to new questions. That’s the Jewish way!

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

Comments (0)

Use Chanukah to start traditions

Use Chanukah to start traditions

Posted on 08 December 2011 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Are the holidays early or late this year? This is the perennial questions asked by most Jews. We don’t have the luxury of “in-stone” dates (like Dec. 25, for example). Rather, the Jewish holidays move around each year. One year we might celebrate Chanukah right after Thanksgiving and the following year, the Festival of Lights could begin on Christmas Eve.

Part of the issue here is that the Jewish calendar is a solilunar calendar; in other words, it tracks the moon’s cycles while throwing in seasonal cycles for good measure. Rosh Chodesh means we change months on a lunar cycle, but the majority of our holidays end up falling in seasonal times. Adding to the fun is that seven times in 19 years, we add a leap-month to catch up (during those years we have Adar I and Adar II).

When the holidays are “late,” as they are this year, it means that the eight nights of Chanukah will have Christmas in their midst. This can be difficult for young children especially to understand: Their gentile friends are celebrating with Christmas trees, wonderful presents and Santa Claus — how can this compete with a Jewish holiday which, while boasting a happy ending, still observes a fairly grim time? Let’s face it — a dreidel, songs and potato pancakes (at least in a young child’s mind) are no match for Christmas festivities, a huge tree or Santa Claus.

Certainly one solution is to “isolate” Jewish kids from gentile kids during this time of year, but to me, this is a non-solution. In the Metroplex, especially, it’s next to impossible to put kids into a “Jewish bubble,” nor would we necessarily want to. Let’s face it, Christmas is a fact of life — rather than ignoring it, or telling our children to ignore it, we need to understand it’s there.

Many Jewish families can go overboard with this issue and turn Chanukah into a “Jewish Christmas” for their kids by going out and spending a lot of money on eight nights’ worth of presents (without attaching any kind of meaning to it). But that’s not what this holiday is all about. It’s about celebration and tradition. It’s possible to build traditions into Chanukah without taking the meaning out of it.

In our family, our tradition is to buy a new chanukiah every year, then light all of the ones we own every night. By the time the eighth night rolls around, our house is ablaze with the warm, wonderful light of many candles. Other families I know collect dreidels, offer different recipes for latkes each night, take time to offer tzedakah or host dreidel competitions. There is no one “right” tradition, just one that feels right for your family.

Traditions do a couple of things: They help unite who you are as a family, and help focus on the values you share. Second, and especially important during this time of year, they help define us as Jews. With positive Chanukah traditions, our children aren’t wistfully longing to celebrate Christmas; rather, they’re eagerly preparing for an important, and meaningful, Jewish holiday. Furthermore, the understanding that this tradition is something that takes place annually means that your children will pass it down to their children, and so on. This is the importance of tradition: L’dor v’dor; from generation to generation.

So this year, take some time to start and build on a Chanukah tradition. In developing and maintaining such traditions, your children will end up with some pretty neat memories, and will have a true understanding of the celebrations at hand.

Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Comments (0)

Chanukah gift guide

Chanukah gift guide

Posted on 08 December 2011 by admin

The word on new Chanukah books for kids

By Penny Schwartz

BOSTON (JTA) — Judah Maccabee, meet the Golem of Prague. And Rebecca Rubin, Engineer Ari and Nathan and Jacob, two brothers who are part of a modern American Jewish family.

They are among the characters who take center stage in this year’s crop of new children’s books for Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that begins at sundown Dec. 20. The lively mix includes the recent release of an e-book version of a popular chapter book and a dazzling work of design by a renowned paper artist.

“Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah!”
Illustrated by Olga and Eleksey Ivanov
Marshall Cavendish ($12.99); ages 1-4

A brightly illustrated book version of the popular song features double-page paintings of a family — and their smiling pet dog — celebrating each of the eight nights of Chanukah. Sing along as they light the menorah, dance the hora, eat latkes and play dreidel. An end note explains the origins of the Hebrew and Yiddish versions of the song, a mainstay of the holiday. Music and lyrics are provided. (A PJ Library selection)

“Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap”
Deborah Bodin Cohen, illustrated by Shahar Kober
Kar-Ben ($7.95); ages 4-8

Board a Chanukah train ride set in Israel, the latest addition to the award-winning series of “Engineer Ari” books that will especially delight train-loving kids. A stubborn camel provides the obstacle as Engineer Ari heads home with a trainload of Chanukah treats and toys. A Bedouin farmer named Kalil comes to the rescue, and together they celebrate the first night of Chanukah. Lively cartoon-like illustrations animate the fun and hopeful story. An author’s note explains the building of the first railway line between Jaffa and Jerusalem.

“Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles”
Tami Lehman-Wilzig with Nicole Katzman; illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau
Kar-Ben ($7.95); ages 4-8

“Is it Hanukkah? Is it Hanukkah?” Jacob’s big brother Nathan repeats the question, and many others, again and again, annoying Jacob. Jacob tries to understand that his brother’s autism causes him to think and act differently, but sometimes Jacob loses his patience. Jacob is embarrassed in front of new neighbors when Nathan blows out the Chanukah candles as if it were a birthday celebration, but he defends Nathan when a new friend makes fun of his brother. The family’s creative response brings everyone together in a fun-filled Chanukah celebration. The story tackles a serious issue without being heavy-handed. (A PJ Library selection)

“Chanukah Lights”
Michael J. Rosen, Robert Sabuda
Candlewick Press ($34.99); ages 5 and up

This gift book, a stunning collaboration between award-winning writer and poet Michael J. Rosen and master pop-up artist Robert Sabuda, is one that kids might have to pry away from their parents — or they can enjoy together. Rosen in simple language traces the history of celebrating Chanukah and its aspiration for freedom from ancient times to today, from the ancient Temple to the desert, across oceans, to shtetls and the cities of immigrant families, to an olive grove on a kibbutz in Israel. Sabuda’s mesmerizing paper creations emerge miraculously from the folded pages. The artwork is outstanding in both its detail and the simplicity of the images it evokes.

“The Story of Hanukkah”
David A. Adler, illustrated by Jill Weber
Holiday House ($14.95); ages 4-8

Who was that guy Judah Maccabee and what does he have to do with Chanukah? Parents and educators seeking an informative and engaging book about the historic origins of the holiday will be attracted to David Adler’s signature straightforward style. Adler, the award-winning and popular author of more than 200 books for children, including “The Kids’ Catalog of Hanukkah,” is skillful at enlightening readers unfamiliar with the two-millennia-old story of the great military victory of the Maccabees over religious persecution by their Greek rulers and the miracle of the oil. Jill Weber’s illustrations evoke ancient times with the golden glow of the Temple and dramatic battle scenes of mighty Greek warriors on horses and elephants. The story ends with a modern family celebrating Chanukah. Back pages include Weber’s recipe for latkes and instructions for playing dreidel.

“The Golem’s Latkes”
Adapted by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Aaron Jasinski
Marshall Cavendish ($17.99); ages 4-8

Master storyteller Eric Kimmel delivers a deliciously mischievous Chanukah spin on an old world legend of the Golem of Prague, a kabbalistic creature with magical powers to help the Jewish people. When Rabbi Judah of Prague leaves his new housemaid Basha with a long list of chores for the holiday celebration, he cautions her not to leave the hard-working golem alone in the house. The only way to get the golem to stop working is to tell him, “Golem, enough!” Kimmel writes. Kids will delight in the inevitable hilarity when Basha takes off to visit her friend and leaves the golem alone making latkes. The fried potato pancakes pile up higher and higher, out the windows, and take over the city streets. A festive ending gathers the whole city for a latkes-eating Chanukah celebration.

Jasinski’s memorable illustrations show the fantastical golem painted more like a Gumby-style robot than a frightening ghoul. Double-page spreads place readers in the action, from the cobblestone streets of Prague to the mountain-high towers of golden potato latkes.

In an e-mail, Kimmel, author of the popular “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins,” told JTA that he was inspired by earlier versions of the Golem story by children’s writer David Wisniewski, the classic story by renowned Yiddish writer I.B. Singer and the tale of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

“Ghost and goblin stories make for good storytelling,” Kimmel wrote. “That’s why they’ve been around for so long.” (A PJ Library selection)

“Candlelight for Rebecca”
Jacqueline Dembar Greene, illustrations by Robert Hunt
American Girl (6.95 paperback/ e-book available for Kindle and Nook readers)
Ages 8 and up

Set in 1914, Jacqueline Dembar Greene’s historical novel is the third in a series of six popular American Girl books featuring Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish girl who lives with her family on New York City’s Lower East side. Originally published in book form in 2009, it is newly available for electronic reading devices. Rebecca is uneasy when her class is assigned an art project to make a Christmas table decoration because her Jewish family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Rebecca grapples with timeless, universal questions about acceptance and religious freedom that resonate with readers from all backgrounds.

In an e-mail, Dembar Greene told JTA that Jewish readers tell her that they enjoy having their traditions reflected in a series of books. One of the more memorable letters, she said, was from a third-grader at a Catholic school who said that she was amazed to discover so many similarities between the values and social concerns of the two religions.

“Playing Dreidel with Judah Maccabee”
A play by Edward Einhorn
Theater 61 Press ($14.95); ages 12 and up

Edward Einhorn is the artistic director of a New York-based theater company who served as the director of the Festival of Jewish Theater. Einhorn’s play is a fantasy that travels in time between a modern-day synagogue and ancient Israel. As the young Jonathan spins a dreidel, singing the familiar dreidel song, he is startled by the appearance of an old man dressed in armor. The conversation between Jonathan and Judah Maccabee starts out like a comedy routine, each questioning who the other is, but over eight days a warm relationship develops between the young adolescent and the ancient battle-weary warrior that sheds a contemporary light onto the long arc of Jewish history and ritual. Educators may find this a unique play for performing or reading aloud.

Word game now in Hebrew

Bananagrams® Inc. (, the creators of the hit word tile game Bananagrams®, is now available in Hebrew, translating the fast, fun and witty word play just in time for Chanukah, Kislev, 5772! Hebrew Bananagrams launched in Israel this past summer to much praise and fanfare from Anglo-Israelis that know and love the game along with the Bananagrams’ uninitiated. Named Toy Fair 2009’s “Game of the Year,” Bananagrams is a fast and fun anagram game that drives players bananas! Requiring no pencil, paper or board, Bananagrams comes in a small portable banana-shaped pouch and is perfect for kids age seven to 97 at home or on the go.

Created by the word game-obsessed Nathanson family of three generations, ranging in age from seven to 75 years old, Bananagrams is a labor of love that that has quickly become an international phenomenon.

“We are beyond thrilled to release Hebrew Bananagrams,” said Rena Nathanson, CEO aka “Top Banana,” Bananagrams, Inc. “Bananagrams is already bigger than our wildest dreams with more than five million of these little yellow pouches floating around the world, and this opens up the fun to a whole new audience. We’re particularly excited for Hebrew Bananagrams because we continuously receive feedback from our fans that Bananagrams is a wonderful Shabbat — or anytime — activity for the whole family, and now we can offer that same unique inter-generational experience to Hebrew speakers around the globe!”

Hebrew Bananagrams can be played on various levels, making it a fun experience to those with only basic Hebrew knowledge, and very challenging for the more advanced player. An educational package will be available with the goal of integrating the game into the classroom.

Hebrew Bananagrams ($19.99 SRP / 99 NIS) is available online now at and in the United States.

‘Shalom Sesame’ available in boxed set

Join lovable, furry Grover and celebrity host Anneliese van der Pol (That’s So Raven, Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast) as they travel to Israel in this 12-part award-winning DVD series co-produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, and Israel’s Channel HOP! Designed to help bring the vitality of Jewish culture and tradition, as well as the diversity of Israeli life, to American children and their families, each 30-minute, live-action and animated DVD focuses on storylines drawn from Jewish cultural traditions, highlighting lessons on Hebrew letters and words, unique sites in Israel, and Jewish values.

In addition to Anneliese van der Pol, the series features guest appearances by top name talent including Jake Gyllenhaal, Debra Messing, Matisyahu, Eva Longoria, Christina Applegate, Greg Kinnear, Debi Mazar and more!

Culminating a year-long campaign during which individual DVDs were released every few months to coincide with the Jewish holiday seasons, the entire set is now available for the first time. It comes boxed in a handsome slipcase, at a savings of close to $30.00 if purchased individually, making it perfect for Chanukah gift-giving.

Each DVD in the set includes a wealth of over 20 minutes of bonus extras including trailers, sneak peeks of all the titles, Grover’s Video Player (music videos), sing-alongs and Karaoke of favorite tunes like “Aleph Bet Song,” “Rosh Hashanah Hannah” (a spoof of Hannah Montana) and the famous “Rubber Duckie” song (in Hebrew!) among others. One of the highlights of Grover’s Video Player on Adventures in Israel is “There Must Be Another Way” by Achinoam Nini, Mira Awad and the Shalom Sesame puppets — the song that represented Israel in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, sung in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Shalom Sesame 12-DVD Gift Set Collection includes the following titles:

“Welcome to Israel,” “Chanukah: The Missing Menorah,” “Shabbat Shalom, Grover!,” “Grover Plants a Tree,” “Mitzvah on the Street,” “Be Happy, It’s Purim!,” “It’s Passover, Grover!,” “Grover Learns Hebrew,” “Countdown to Shavuot,” “The Sticky Shofar,” “Monsters in the Sukkah,” and “Adventures in Israel.” To order Shalom Sesame DVDs visit

Comments (0)

Around the Town

Posted on 08 December 2011 by admin

By Amy Wolf Sorter

There is nothing like a good cold snap to really put me in the mood for winter festivities and Chanukah. As I write this, the temperature is hovering around freezing and a couple of snow flurries are drifting past my window. Not enough to shovel, thank goodness, but enough for me to break out my cozy sweaters and slipper socks.

Speaking of Chanukah, we’re fortunate to live in an area that boasts a lot of great Chanukah activities that young and old can enjoy. I also highly encourage all of you to turn to this week’s “Foodie” column — Annabel always introduces some scrumptious stuff, and this time, in keeping with the holiday, she has some great-looking recipes for oil-fried foods. Chanukah is about the oil and the lights, so cook those latkes and attend one of the many events going on throughout Tarrant County!

A Musical Daytimers

Before you delve into Chanukah, think about attending the Daytimers event on Wednesday, Dec. 14, which will feature Beth-El’s favorite mezzo soprano, Genie Long.

Genie will treat attendees to various songs from several decades in a program entitled “A Sentimental Journey.” Beth-El’s Brad Volk will also be there as accompanist.

In addition to treating your ears, you can treat your tastebuds with lunch, courtesy of Pak-a-Pocket (pita sandwich choices are turkey pastrami, chicken schwarma or babaganoug — eggplant).

Interested? Call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Irv Robinson, 817-731-7447, or mail checks to Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109. You can also reserve online at

Bring your chanukiahs and rub elbows with city leaders

Kick off the eight days in grand style! Congregation Ahavath Sholom is inviting the community to bring their chanukiahs, two candles and their families to participate in the first night of Chanukah activities beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at the shul.

Joining the folks at CAS will be Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Congresswoman Kay Granger, who will light the outdoor chanukiah, located at the shul’s main entrance, to kick off both this event and the eight-day celebration. The religious school students will lead participants in song.

Following the main chanukiah lighting, the event will move indoors, where the preschool children will sing as families light their own chanukiahs.

Also on tap: Dinner, dancing and Klezmer music.

This event is free and open to the community, but reservations are suggested — call the office at 817-731-4721 or e-mail Naomi Rosenfield is chairing Ahavath Sholom’s Chanukah Celebration.

Committee members include Linda Collins, Elsie Blum, Yossi Yaacobi, Shoshana Howard, Judd Vermillion, Marvin Beleck, Debby Rice, Rabbi Andrew Bloom and Rabbi Gary Perras.

Meanwhile, in Arlington …

Also kicking off the first night is Chabad of Arlington, which will have its own chanukiah lighting at 6 p.m. on Tues., Dec. 20, at Arlington City Hall. Admission is free and the event will offer hot latkes and donuts, live music and arts and crafts. Bring a can of food for the needy, and watch as a “Can-Orah” (a giant menorah) is created from all those donated cans! Those cans will, in turn, be sent to a local charity. The Chabad is looking for sponsors as well. Interested? Log onto

Another Chanukah observance

Congregation Beth-El offers a pre-Chanukah celebration on Friday, Dec. 15. Following a Shabbat service at 6 p.m., dinner will be served, complete with latkes made by the Brotherhood. Also on hand is a musical program with the Crowley Honor Choir. RSVPs are required for the dinner; contact Beth-El at 817-332-7141 or e-mail

Bowling for Dreidels

Well, not really. One typically bowls for pins, but those who don’t have plans on Dec. 25 are invited to the annual Chanukah Bowl from 4 to 6 p.m. 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).

Want to come on out? Call the nice folks at Chabad of Fort Worth at 817-263-7701 or log onto

Send ‘em off to camp!

I’ve always liked winter breaks — mainly because it means I don’t have to be up at the crack of dawn to get our child out of bed so he can get to school. But one downside of winter break is that the kiddos can get real bored, real quickly.

I was always grateful the Chabad of Plano had its Camp Gan Israel winter camp — and this is why I highly recommend that those with younger kids sent them to Chabad of Fort Worth and Tarrant County’s Gan Israel Winter Camp.

This camp will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Dec. 26 to 30, and it’s a great opportunity to get your kiddo (or kiddos) out of the house for some real fun.

This camp is for those ages 5 to 12, and the campers will enjoy everything from field trips, to crafts, to just hanging out (our son liked the “hanging out” part best).

Cost is $150 for the full week or $34 per day.

Questions? Log onto the Chabad’s website at

Get your theater on

Jerry Russell with Stage West Theater in Fort Worth tells us that the organization is producing David Ives’ play “New Jerusalem: The interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation, Amsterdam, July 27, 1656.”

This is a historical play, for the most part — in 1656, Amsterdam gave special asylum to the Jewish community on the condition that Jews didn’t speak of religion to any resident.

Anyone familiar with Spinoza also understands he didn’t suffer this restriction silently — and this play focuses on the efforts of Talmud Torah Congregation to rein Spinoza in before the entire Jewish community (all of which suffered from the Inquisition in Portugal) gets into trouble.

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

We love to hear from our readers. Send your simchas and news to Amy at

Comments (0)

What are the 13 Principles and what do they mean?

What are the 13 Principles and what do they mean?

Posted on 01 December 2011 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

In my studies of Judaism, I have often come across references to the “13 Principles of Judaism.” I am unaware of these principles; is it referring to certain mitzvot? If there are 613 mitzvot, the 10 commandments seem to be the main principles. But were does 13 come from? I appreciate your directing me to the source of these principles.

— Marcia L.

Dear Marcia,

The “13 Principles” you refer to are the most basic concepts of Judaism. They were codified by the famous 12th century Jewish philosopher and sage Rabbi Moses Maimonides. These concepts appear in his commentary to the Mishna (Sanhedrin Ch. 10), where he draws upon his vast knowledge of all scriptural and rabbinic material to summarize which beliefs are considered the most fundamental, core beliefs of Judaism.

Maimonides called these principles “Ikarim,” which has two meanings in Hebrew. The first focuses on the most important, focal, central beliefs. Secondly, Ikar means “root.” Like a tree is an offshoot from its roots, Maimonides presented the concepts that form the roots of the entirety of Torah, all other ideas flowing forth from these “roots.”

A very short summary of these beliefs are: 1. G-d is the Creator of all. 2. G-d is One. 3. G-d has no physicality. 4. G-d is first and last. 5. We pray to G-d only and to no other. 6. All the words of the Prophets are true. 7. The unique prophesies of Moses are absolutely true. 8. The Torah we have today is the same Torah given through Moses. 9. The Torah will never be changed. 10. G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of all people. 11. The belief in reward and punishment for all our deeds. 12. The belief in the coming of the Messiah, although he tarries, he will eventually arrive. 13. The righteous who have died will eventually be revived.

This sage deemed it crucial to clarify the key concepts of Judaism during a time in history when his family, together with untold numbers of Jews, were uprooted and escaping Muslim persecution. The Jewish world was in an utter state of confusion and in dire need of clarity. Maimonides helped provide that clarity through this and his many other works which became the mainstays of every Jewish library and many Jewish homes during his time and throughout the difficult times of our Diaspora history. In today’s confusing world with its marketplace of ideas and shifting values, Maimonides’ works carry special importance.

Maimonides discussed each concept at length in his commentary, and soon afterward others wrote abridged versions that would be readily accessible to all. Hence the list called Ani Maamin, or “I believe,” which appears at the end of morning services in traditional prayer books.

The 12th Ani Maamin, the complete belief in the eventual coming of the Messiah, is often sung to a hauntingly beautiful melody composed in Auschwitz. It caught on like wildfire throughout the camps and instilled new hope into so many souls who had nearly given up. I have personally witnessed survivors singing that song with tears streaming down their cheeks.

There is also a well known liturgical song called “Yigdal” which appears in the beginning of the prayer books, and was written some 100 years after Maimonides’ passing. The Yigdal sums up the 13 principles in its cryptic but beautiful way. In this way Jews throughout the world start the morning with a “refresher course” in the core concepts of Judaism. Incidentally, a recommended contemporary compendium of these principles, which includes stirring, thought-provoking questions, is in a book written by Aryeh Kaplan and entitled “Maimonides’ Principles.” (Aryeh Kaplan, NCSY OU Press).

Column space means I can only provide a short summary of the 13 Principles and why they are important. Each concept does raise questions and is worthy of more intense study and understanding — especially as they all provide a core basis of what we believe as Jews.

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

Comments (0)

Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 01 December 2011 by admin

I have been shul hopping as of late. It has been a joy to attend my nephew Jacob Wisch’s bar mitzvah recently at Congregation Beth Torah, and last weekend the simcha of Aaron Minsky at Anshai Torah.

It’s fun to learn the minhags (customs) of the different synagogues in our community and about all of the goings-on in addition to the items we are able to include on our pages.

It was amazing to hear Aaron’s grandmother, Helen Risch, and his mom, Jolene Risch-Minsky, both read from the Torah and dad, Jayson Minsky, led the Musaf service. I don’t recall another simcha that I’ve attended where the family on every level was so thoroughly engaged and involved in the service.

Next up on the bar mitzvah circuit is Markie Merlene’s simcha at DATA Far North. Incidentally, added congratulations to Markie who was recently named starting point guard for Plano’s Robinson Middle School — quite a feat for a seventh grader.

Share Shabbat unites Emanu-El members

On Nov. 11, 225 Temple Emanu-El households participated in Share Shabbat. Fifty Temple Emanu-El member households opened their homes and were matched with 175 member households for a Shabbat dinner experience. Quite an undertaking! Some homes had an intimate group of six, while others had over 20. A number of members chose to host their regular Shabbat dinner crowd of family and friends, while others were excited to make new friends.

Cell phone sleep zone at Cheniae’s Home

Each participating household, whether host or guest, received a Share Shabbat toolkit that included Shabbat Blessing Cards, a Cell Phone Sleeping Bag (Goodnight Phone, Hello Shabbat), Frequently Asked Questions, 100 Things to Do on Shabbat, a Shabbat Playlist, a button that says “I Stop for Shabbat,” a tzedakah envelope with recommended organizations and a Share Shabbat Cookbook.

A big thank you to the Share Shabbat committee members: Barbara Einsohn, Susan Giardina, Jackie Hoffman, Nancy Israel and Wendy Palmer.

Legacy chef shares his expertise

I’ve heard from numerous friends that the food at the Legacy at Willowbend is first rate.

There can never be too many cooks in the kitchen according to Chef James Rowland, the executive chef of The Legacy at Willow Bend, as he recently shared his domain with culinary students from Collin College. The “future chefs” recently visited The Legacy at Willow Bend to gain some real-world experience.

“I am happy to give students a ‘behind-the-scenes’ view of my world,” said Rowland. “Cooking for a large community like The Legacy at Willow Bend is a challenge and one I think every student should be prepared for. I enjoyed getting to know the students and discovering the different aspects of the culinary profession that they are going in to and the different work experiences they are each seeking.”

Rav Hanan Schlesinger named to Rabbis Without Borders

Rabbis Without Borders (RWB), Clal’s landmark initiative that helps rabbis make Jewish thought and practice more available for improving people’s lives, selected its third class for its competitive rabbinic fellowship program. More than 90 applicants competed for the 22 spots. Of those selected, Dallas’ Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger was picked for this prestigious program.

“Interest in the program has only increased over the years,” said Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu, RWB Director. “Rabbis recognize that the religious environment has changed — from family make up to spiritual practice. To reach people where they are, rabbis need to apply their skills in new ways. RWB offers that kind of support. It helps rabbis better communicate in both familiar and new venues, and makes Jewish wisdom an accessible resource for the American public.”

The program, now in its third year, encourages rabbis to think creatively about their work and the new American religious landscape. Building a network of religious leaders from all streams, RWB helps rabbis make Jewish insights readily available, adding to the well of American spiritual resources. As the key disseminators of the tradition, rabbis who can present Jewish wisdom more effectively are better educators and community builders, and can become religious leaders with unique tools to offer the broader culture.

Rabbinic Fellows will gather in NYC four times over the academic year, 2011-2012. The first session, on Nov. 7-8, 2011, featured Prof. Gustav Niebuhr, Director of the Religion and Media Program at Syracuse University and former columnist at the New York Times, who discussed religion in America today. The December 19-20 program will feature social media innovators Rabbi Owen Gottlieb and Daniel Sieradisky, who will discuss technology, social media and gaming.

RWB also has a variety of resources for rabbis to enhance their skills for addressing diverse audiences. From online learning to one-on-one dialogue, participants will work with Clal faculty to develop methodologies that draw on the texts and tradition in new ways. The goal is for these “spiritual innovators” to see their congregations as more than just members of their school, community or institution.

American Diabetes Association honors Dr. Jaime Davidson

Mazel tov to Dr. Jaime A. Davidson who recently received the American Diabetes Association’s Josiah Kirby Lilly Sr. Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to the lives of persons with Diabetes Mellitus.

The gala took place on Nov. 5 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis, Ind. Kvelling were Dr. Davidson’s wife of 42 years, Ana, his sons and daughters-in-law, Aaron and Michelle Davidson and Maurice and Vanesa Davidson and granddaughters Sasha and Samantha.

Business Scene:

Two members of the Waldman Brothers team, Chairman of the Board Howard S. Cohen and Vice Chairman of the Board and Certified Financial Planner Scott R. Cohen, recently earned the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) professional designation from the Richard D. Irwin Graduate School of The American College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

The CAP® program provides professionals in the nonprofit and financial service fields that work with clients in the development and implementation of philanthropic programs with the knowledge and tools needed to help reach their charitable giving objectives, while also helping meet their estate planning and wealth management goals.

Candidates for the CAP designation must complete a minimum of three courses in philanthropic studies at the Irwin Graduate School and six hours of supervised written examinations.

The curriculum addresses issues of advanced design, implementation and management of charitable gift techniques and strategies, as well as philanthropic tools, including charitable trusts, private foundations, supporting organizations, donor-advised funds, pooled income funds and charitable gift annuities.

Over 350 professionals have been awarded the CAP designation since its inception in 2003.

Herzl Hadassah sing-a-long

Mark Kreditor will tickle the ivories on Monday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. in the Senior Assembly Room at the JCC. Brighten your day with a song and learn the background of your favorite tunes. Coffee and desert will be served.

Also, as a reminder at this time of year Herzl collects dollars (cash or check) and children’s shoes for the kids at the Vogel Alcove. You can make your donation at the meeting.

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here