Archive | March, 2012

Exploring the world to come

Exploring the world to come

Posted on 15 March 2012 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Readers,

We shall resume our discussion of the 13 core principles of Jewish belief.

Maimonides writes in his Commentary to the Mishna:

“The 11th principle is that God rewards those who obey the commandments of the Torah, and punishes those who violate its prohibitions. The greatest possible reward is the World to Come, while the greatest possible punishment is being cut from it. … The Torah teaches us this principle in the following account: Moses said to God, ‘If You will, then forgive their sin, but if not, then erase me.’ God answered, ‘The one who has sinned against Me, him will I erase from My book.’ (Exodus 32:32-33). This shows that God knows both the obedient and the sinner, rewarding one and punishing the other.”

This principle is summed up, in short, in the Ani Maamin prayer: “I believe with perfect faith that God rewards those who keep His commandments and punishes those who transgress His commandments.”

Maimonides explains further in his “code”: “When either an individual or a nation sins … they deserve punishment and God knows what punishment is fitting. In some cases one is punished though his body, while in others, he is punished though the loss of his possessions. … There are some cases in which a person is punished in the World to Come, and absolutely no harm comes to him in this world at all. In other cases, one may be punished both in this world and in the next. This is only true when one does not repent. When a person repents, his repentance is like a shield protecting him from troubles. And just a as a person can sin though his own free will, so can he repent though his own free will.”

“The main reward of the righteous is in the World to Come. This is a life that is not terminated by death, and a good that is not mixed with any evil. The Torah thus says, ‘You will have good, and your days will be long.’ (Deut. 22:7). Our tradition interprets this to say: ‘You will have a good’ — in a world where all is good — ‘and your days will be long’ — in a world that goes on and on. This is the World to Come.” (Maim. Yad, Teshuva 6:1-2. 8:1).

The principle of reward and punishment, while central to the Torah, is a difficult belief to wrap our arms around. It involves concepts we don’t truly fathom and gives rise to troubling philosophical questions. For example, it is predicated on the belief in the World to Come, something we don’t truly understand while living in this world. Further, why do we sometimes see good people suffering and evil people prospering?

In order to grasp some insight into these questions, we must frame our understanding within the immortality of the soul. The soul, a “spark of Godliness,” lives forever. Our entire lifetimes are merely a short visit for the soul compared to its life of eternity. The “World to Come” is an eternal, spiritual “place,” where the eternal soul spends its days. Whether a person prospers or suffers in the short time he or she spends in this world is not indicative of their soul’s station in eternity. At times, suffering in this world may be a reward; it may be a transitory purging of that individual’s wrongdoings to enable their soul to enjoy a complete, stainless reward for eternity. Another’s prosperity may be, in the case of an evil person, all of their reward for the few good deeds they performed. This could leave their soul to eternal suffering as the fair compensation for the immense suffering that person caused others in this world.

A very crucial final element in the understanding of this principle is found in the works of the Kabbalists. God never “punishes” anyone in the way we imagine one person punishing another. It is, rather, a tikkun for that soul to purge it from its wrongdoings and lack of fulfillment of its purpose, enabling that soul to have some level of eternal bliss through a connection to the Al-mighty.

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

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 15 March 2012 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

It’s the Chili Cook-off this Sunday… need I say more? Head out to Tiferet Israel and get your fill of red and more.

This is one of my favorite events of the year, as it seems as though every facet of our vibrant community is represented and engaged in this unifying event.

The TJPers will be at Tiferet, snapping pics, looking for story ideas and promoting our current subscription promotion. Subscribe or renew for three years ($95) and be entered into a drawing for an iPad2 which will take place on April 30, 2012. Diane Kleinman of Fort Worth was the winner of our drawing in August.

Hope to see you there!

Young professionals meet pro boxer, rabbinical student Yuri Foreman

On Feb. 29, nearly 50 people gathered to hear the inspirational story of professional boxer Yuri Foreman. Foreman studies Talmud and Jewish mysticism in the mornings, trains for boxing in the afternoon and attends rabbinical classes in the evening. He entertained a captivated crowd with stories of his upbringing and present day life.

New Leadership Chairs: Danielle Rugoff, Jason Schwartz, Zev Shulkin and Ben Weinstein with Yuri Foreman (holding belt).

Since 2008, the New Leadership Division of Israel Bonds has hosted substantive programs geared toward the Dallas young professional community, ages 25 to 45.

To learn more about this and future programs, “LIKE” the Israel Bonds Facebook page by searching for “Atuda” or contact the Dallas office at 972-661-9191 or email

Raising resilient teens

If you have children of any age, but especially pre teens or teens then Kenneth Ginsburg’s presentation Monday, March 19 at the JCC is not to be missed. “Letting Go with Love and Confidence” offers practical advice on everyday challenging decisions and addresses how to talk to your teen about the really tough issues.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg speaks to parents, clinicians and teens regularly and strives to translate the best of research and practice into practical approaches to build adolescent resilience. Empowering and groundbreaking, this book is a one-stop resource to parenting teens in the twenty-first century. Dr. Ginsburg is an adolescent medicine specialist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the author of more than 90 publications.

“You’re already the expert on your own kid; ‘Letting Go’ helps you learn how to use your intuition and good intentions to raise kids who will be responsible, resilient, and self-sufficient in the 21st century. And learn to like them at the same time,” said Susan Sugerman, M.D. of Girls to Women Health and Wellness.

This event is co-sponsored by Girls to Women Health and Wellness, P.A. Cost is $10 in advance or $12 at the door. The program begins at 7.

DHM/CET’s Anne Frank Initiative

The Dallas Holocaust Museum is launching a new initiative aimed at providing every student who wishes to read “The Diary of Anne Frank” a free copy of the book, which is a primary resource for teaching the Holocaust.

The museum’s new Anne Frank Initiative will collect and redistribute copies of “The Diary of Anne Frank” through 2012 to students who are 13 and older at schools that do not have resources to purchase copies. The public may drop off donated copies of the book at selected locations.

Special workshops and programs on the significance of the diary, written by Anne Frank while hiding from the Nazis during World War II, are planned for both students and adults and will be announced in the Spring.

“Ultimately, we hope the Anne Frank Initiative will refresh the reading and understanding of “The Diary,” enhance the overall education that we can provide to the community, and highlight how fortunate we are in North Texas to have our own Holocaust Museum,” said Maria MacMullin, senior director of advancement for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

“The Diary” is used by teachers across North Texas to educate students not only about the Holocaust, prejudice and hatred, but also about the nobility in human compassion of those who hid Anne Frank, her family and four others during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. The book has a universal appeal for teens, as Anne shares her struggles with adolescence, her relationship with her mother and her desire to find a friend she can relate to in a meaningful relationship.

“The Diary” is an honest, intimate portrayal of a unique individual in an extremely difficult and dangerous time in history. Anne Frank shows that no matter what is occurring in the world around us, we as humans share many of the same qualities — emotion, passion, love, desire, hope, fear and strength. Not only does the story educate us about an important historical event, but it reminds us of the importance of learning to accept our differences and embrace diversity.

New or used copies of “The Diary of Anne Frank” may be dropped in special collection bins at: Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, 211 Record Street, Dallas, TX 75202; Jewish Community Center JCC (Foyer), 7900 Northaven Road Dallas, TX 75230-3392; Old Red Museum. 100 South Houston Street Dallas, TX 75202; and the Tycher Library, 7900 Northaven Road Dallas, TX 75230.

Behind the Scenes: Meet the women who conceptualized and created the JFGD’s Centennial Exhibit

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, the Jewish Community Center and the Dallas Jewish Historical Society will offer a fascinating panel discussion with the creators of the Federation’s Centennial Exhibit that is now on display in the Aaron Family JCC. The conversation and coffee is scheduled for Tuesday, March 20 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Carol Aaron, Centennial chair, was the visionary behind this monumental effort. She brought talented and capable researchers and organizers to see this vision through; culminating in the exhibit now on display. Many hours of work in the archives of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society was spent in the research and creation of the exhibit. The exhibit chairs included Becky Bruder, Cynthia Feldman, Robin Sachs, and Krista Weinstein.

Join the DJHS for coffee and conversation and take this opportunity to peruse this powerful display of 100 years of Dallas Jewish history.

Soloveichik at Shaare Tefilla this weekend

Congregation Shaare Tefilla will welcome Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik as its scholar in residence this Shabbat, March 16-17. Rabbi Soloveichik is associate rabbi at KJ and director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. He graduated summa cum laude from Yeshiva College, received his smicha from RIETS, and was a member of its Beren Kollel Elyon.

In 2010, he received his doctorate in religion from Princeton University. Rabbi Soloveichik has lectured throughout the United States, in Europe and in Israel to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences on topics relating to Jewish theology, bioethics, wartime ethics, and Jewish-Christian relations. His essays on these subjects have appeared in Commentary, First Things, Azure, Tradition, and the Torah U-Madda Journal.

The schedule is as follows: Friday Night Dvar Torah: Parshat Parah in the Twilight Zone; Shabbat Morning Lecture: The Iron Lady’s Rabbi: Margaret Thatcher and Rabbi Jakobovits; Shabbat Afternoon Lecture: Adams, Jefferson and the Jews: A Reflection on Religion in America; Seudah Shlishit Talk: Can You Make a Taco out of Matzah & Chili? A Pre-Pesach Rumination. The weekend is sponsored by Karen and Mike Zucker.

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Annual Kosher Chili Cook-off will spice up your Sunday

Annual Kosher Chili Cook-off will spice up your Sunday

Posted on 15 March 2012 by admin

Chiliphiles throughout North Texas are looking forward to some tasty hot stuff this Sunday, March 18, at Tiferet Israel’s 19th Annual Kosher Chili Cook-off. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. at the synagogue, 10909 Hillcrest Road. However, most of the 47 teams will gather at dawn to chop, slice and stir their way toward the ultimate batch of red. In addition to beef and vegetarian categories, this year’s contest has added a third, turkey. Empire Kosher Poultry, which is dedicated to being truly natural, socially responsible and strictly kosher, and is the world’s largest producer of kosher chicken and turkey, will be donating the turkey for the contest.

More than 300 lbs. of ground turkey has been ordered according to Scott Janco, cook-off co-chair.

“I am looking forward to bringing Empire Kosher’s ground turkey to Dallas so that no matter what recipes they’re using, the cooks in the turkey chili division will be able to make the healthiest, most delicious chili out there,” said Greg Rosenbaum, Empire’s CEO. “We are honored to participate, and I’m also excited about all the kosher chili I’ll get to taste.”

Empire Kosher will be on site and distribute samples of its newest product, Ready to Roast, a seasoned garlic and herb chicken that comes in an exclusive cook-in bag and is ready in 20 minutes in the microwave. The result is a tender, juicy chicken. Empire Kosher is one of three national sponsors of the event, which also includes Diamond Crystal Salt and California Delight, as well as dozens of local sponsors. In their tent, Empire will be holding a free drawing at the event’s close (4 p.m.) for a brand new microwave oven, sampling their chicken and distributing out coupons. The chickens will be sold at the Albertson’s at Arapaho and Hillcrest.

Typically, the chili cook-off draws anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 attendees depending on the weather. At press time, forecasters were predicting mild temperatures in the high 70s with a 20 percent chance of rain. However, rain or shine, the cook-off will go on.

Janco, who is co-chairing the event with Stuart Roosth, mentioned highlights of this year’s event. There are three beneficiary agencies that will receive the proceeds of funds raised: Chai – Community Homes for Adults, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of North America and the Zella Sobel Fund of the Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association. Tiferet Israel is also partnering with Royal Lane Baptist Church to hold a food drive the day of the cook-off.

The annual food drive associated with the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-Off ( is underway. Non-perishable food can be dropped off at Tiferet Israel, 10909 Hillcrest Drive or at Royal Lane Baptist Church, 6707 Royal Lane., Dallas.

“You can bring non-perishables to either of these locations now or bring them when you come to the cook-off on March 18,” said Jean Sturman, food drive chair.

The food and other family necessities are bound for the Jewish Family Service (JFS) food pantry, an affiliate of the North Texas Food Bank.

“Some much-needed items are not covered by food stamps so we like to have a ready supply of such things as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and personal hygiene products,” said Sturman, a longtime volunteer at the JFS as well as the Kosher Chili Cook-Off.

The JFS pantry serves residents in 19 ZIP codes in North Dallas. Patrons may visit the food pantry once a month. The pantry is laid out so individuals can choose food items as they would in a grocery store. Kosher foods are available for those who observe Jewish dietary laws. JFS provides home delivery for homebound or disabled individuals as needed.

Royal Lane Baptist, next door neighbor to Tiferet Israel, collects food for the yearly food drive from their members. The staff sends emails to church members and makes announcements for the food drive during worship services. Both Tiferet and Royal Lane Baptist have food collection receptacles. The church is enthusiastic in their efforts, so is the congregation at Tiferet Israel. Besides the food drive collection, they share access to their parking lots for high-attendance events such as the Kosher Chili Cook-Off, Easter worship service,and similar occasions.

This year, with their $5 children’s admission, kids will have the choice of either a hot dog or chicken nuggets. Adult admission is $10 and includes all the chili you can eat. Hamburgers, hot dogs, falafel, drinks and other treats will also be available for purchase. Judges for this year’s contest are radio sportscaster Marc Elfenbein; Dallas City Council Member, District 11 Linda Koop; Dallas City Council Member, District 13 Ann Margolin; The SoupMan David Timothy; Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings; and noted cookbook author Tina Wasserman.

In addition to Janco and Roosth, it takes a cadre of dedicated volunteers to organize the annual event. This year’s team includes: Jay Abrams, Rachael Abrams, Rose Abrams, Diane Benjamin, Janet Bubis, Esther Cohen, Naomi Cohen, Rick Cohen, Diane Goldblatt, Linda Greenberg, Harry Kabler, Caprice Kerner, Bob Kerstetter, Steve Kohansion, Sue Kretchman, Hanna Lambert, Sonja Meltzer, Sarah Moore, Bill Roth, Heddy Roth, Shirley Rovinsky, Jeff Schiller, Jean Sturman, Jennifer Williams and Gene Yarbrough.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 15 March 2012 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Howdy folks, I’m filling in this week for Amy Sorter who has been in California visiting her mom. Amy will be back in print next week.

By the looks of all of the great Purim photos we received from all corners of Tarrant County, it seems as though the holiday was celebrated in style. Unfortunately, do to space constraints, we weren’t able to include all photos that were submitted in print, especially ones that arrived on Monday and Tuesday. However, you can checkout our website,, for more photos from Purim.

I want to alert all of you that this weekend is the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-Off at Tiferet Israel in Dallas, 10909 Hillcrest Road (Northwest Corner of Hillcrest Road and Royal Lane.)

Each year, I always look forward to seeing some of the Fort Worth regulars who come to Big D for this awesome event. It’s worth the trip. Maybe next year we can get some Fort Worth entrants into the mix! I know y’all would be welcome. Hope to see you there.

P.S. Look for our TJP staffers who will be promoting our three year subscription special. All folks who renew or subscribe for three years will be entered into a drawing for an iPad2, which will be held on April 30, 2012. Diane Kleinman was the lucky winner of the last iPad2 drawing we held in August.

Cantorial candidate at Ahavath Sholom this Saturday

Ahavath Sholom will welcome Cantor Elisa Abrams to 9:30 a.m. Shabbat morning services this Saturday, March 17. Cantor Abrams is a prospective candidate for the position of cantor and education director at the shul. She will lead services which are open to the community.

JFS seniors enjoy Purim with preschoolers

Hedy Collins was kind enough to update us on the JFS senior program. Recently, the Lil Goldman Pre-School came and helped seniors celebrate Purim. The children were decked out in costume, paraded sang songs and helped with Shabbat prayers and candle lighting.

Udel Elgurt and Betya Safir celebrate Purim and Shabbat with Lil Goldman students. From left Neta Benjamin, Dylan Finkelstein and Jaxson Knight.

Seniors and youngsters shared challah and grape juice. The children also presented the seniors with mishloach manot bags which included handmade, by the children themselves, hamantaschen, candy and Kroger gift cards to help the seniors with groceries and medications.

“It was so beautiful to see,” wrote Hedy. “Each bag was individually presented to the senior, with their names on it, by a costumed child.”

It was received with hugs and quite a few tears. Thank you so much to Rachel Yaacobi and all the teachers and children of the Lil Goldman Pre-School for putting together such a meaningful program for all generations.

Save the date JFS Seniors annual mini seder

Hedy also reminds us that the annual mini seder for seniors is coming up on Thursday, March 29. The seder will start at 11:30 a.m. at Beth El.

This wonderful event, sponsored by the Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith, is sure to be fantastic as always. It is known as one of the best events of the year for the Tarrant Area Senior Citizens.

Join Harry Kahn and his team of chefs as they prepare seder with the area rabbis leading the service. This event is free but a headcount is needed. RSVP to Elsa at the JFS office 817-569-0898.

Boomers to head to Circle Theatre

The Beth-El Boomers group and many others in our community will be going to Circle Theatre to see “The Whipping Man.” The play is set during the Civil War and examines the relationship between slave-owning Jews and their slaves.

A Jewish Confederate soldier, just back from the war, and his two remaining slaves, who themselves are observant Jews, reunite at their ruined plantation trying to deal with harsh reality of post-Civil War life. A fascinating story unfolds as the three men participate in a makeshift Passover service conducted by their former master.

After the Saturday evening, March 31st performance, Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger will lead a discussion about the play.

A $5 discount is available to all members of the Jewish community for all performances starting March 25th if you call the box office at 817-877-3040 and mention the promo code: FLYER.

We would like to hear from our readers! Send your news to Amy at or at

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Rock and roll with nature

Rock and roll with nature

Posted on 15 March 2012 by admin

By Laura Seymour

The opening of the J Naturescape has been so exciting for everyone at the J. We have been exploring and enjoying the beauty and secrets of nature. I could go on and on giving research details on the importance of nature for children and adults, but if you want to know all about it, read Richard Louv’s two books “Last Child in the Woods” and “The Nature Principle” or check out what is happening at

Today, I want to connect Judaism and nature by sharing from “What’s Jewish About Butterflies?” by Handelman and Schein. There is a whole chapter on rocks — what could be more natural? We know that kids love rocks (and even adults find them comforting to hold!) So what does Judaism tell us? At times, the Torah refers to God as “Tzur — the Rock” and we are reminded of God’s strength.

There are many Jewish values that help us explore rocks, but let us focus on “Ma’aseh B’reishit — the Miracle of Creation.” We can go on a rock hunt and discover the varieties — each of us may pick a favorite based on different qualities and just as we are all different but created in God’s image — Btzelem Elohim, rocks are also part of the God’s creation. We can also talk about derech eretz — proper behavior when we are careful not to throw rocks or hurt others with them.

Any rock can be a special, but there are some more special. Israel is well known for Jerusalem Stone and Eilat Stone. Jerusalem Stone comes from the hills near Jerusalem and must be on the face of every building. Eilat Stone is also known as King Solomon’s Stone and it is the national stone of Israel. From King Solomon’s copper mines in the Timna Valley, Eilat Stone is blue in color and some believe that it has healing properties.

Whether you have a rock from Israel or a rock that comes from somewhere else but you love it, that rock can give you strength. It reminds us of God and all of creation. When we find our special rock, we can say this blessing:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam Oseh Maaseh V’reisheet. Blessed are You, O Lord, Creator of the universe, Who makes all of creation.

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

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Purim post pics

Posted on 14 March 2012 by admin

Here is our collection of pics from Purim celebrations around the Metroplex. Click on the images to view them at full size.



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Recording of our thoughts, deeds, relationship to God

Recording of our thoughts, deeds, relationship to God

Posted on 08 March 2012 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Readers,

We shall continue to discuss the 13 principles of Jewish belief.

Maimonides writes: “The tenth principle is that God knows all that men do, and never turns His eyes away from them. It refutes the opinion of those who say ‘God has abandoned His world’ [God does not see], (Ezekiel 9:9). This principle is taught by the prophet when he says that God is ‘great in counsel, might in insight, whose eyes are open to all the ways of man’, (Jeremiah 32:19). We also find this in the Torah … ‘God saw that the evil of man on earth was very great’ (Genesis 18:20) … (he further cites other sources in the Torah).”

The “Ani Maamin” recital during worship services sums up this principle succinctly: “I believe with perfect faith that God knows all of man’s deeds and thoughts. It is thus written, ‘He has molded every heart together, He understands what each one does’ (Psalms 33:15).”

The “Ani Maamin” brings out an important point in understanding Maimonides: When God knows “all that men do,” it includes not only the actions of man, but even one’s thoughts.

God’s knowledge of man’s deeds and thoughts is the underlying theme of the Torah. The entire system of responsibility, reward and punishment    would not be possible if not for God’s knowing all we do. This is the meaning of the Sages statement “all of one’s actions are recorded in a book.”

Let’s go one step further. In the previous principles we learned that God is the source of all life. This does not just mean life in general; it includes the smallest aspect of life. The Talmud says we should praise God for every breath we take; each and every breath needs God’s infusion of His will that that breath should, indeed, take place. We could imagine ourselves as a machine that is “plugged in” to God! His energy is necessary for every facet of our existence. This includes even our thoughts; we could not process our thoughts without God constantly infusing us with the ability to do so. Hence it becomes obvious He knows what those thoughts are that He, Himself is lending support to take place.

The Kabbalists explain that, even while we are sinning, God supplies us with the energy to do so as part of His decree to give us free choice. He even puts up with us “slapping Him in the face” at the very moment He provides us the life force to do so!

This knowledge of our deeds and thoughts is a central theme in the Rosh Hashanah prayers, (Musaf, Blessing of Zichronos). We recite: “You remember the deeds done in the universe and You recall all the creatures fashioned since earliest times. Before You all hidden things are revealed and the multitude of mysteries since the beginning of Creation, for there is not forgetfulness before your Throne of Glory and nothing is hidden from before Your eyes. You remember everything ever done and not a single creature is hidden from You. Everything is revealed and known before You, Hashem, our God, Who keeps watch and sees to the very end of all generations, when You bring about a decreed time of remembrance for every spirit and soul to be recalled, for abundant deeds an a multitude of creatures without limit to be remembered.”

To conclude this discussion of the 10th principle, I’d like to share the story of the holy sage Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, better known as the Chofetz Chaim, (d. 1933), when the record player was first invented. A group of people brought a player to the rabbi and they played for him a recorded symphony. The elderly rabbi was first impressed, then burst into tears. He exclaimed, “My kinderlach (children), listen to this! Even though it’s well past the time this orchestra played, it sounds as if they’re playing today! Now we understand what the sages say that when one leaves the world all his actions will be played back to him as if he did them that day!”

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

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 08 March 2012 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to interview nationally known motivational speaker Suzie Humphreys who, at the time, was Ron Chapman’s effervescent sidekick on 103.7 KVIL radio. Suzie had been through the Ringer of Life; going from broke, to out of a job, to divorced — and was also a breast cancer survivor. “Life is what happens when you make other plans,” she told me — and that was the call-out quote used on the article I wrote about her.

Certainly Suzie isn’t the only one to quote that line, but I’m reminded of it every so often when life decides to slap a big old wrench into my carefully planned life. Part of this “wrench” is built-in, it typically comes around this time of year as I observe the yahrzeit of my father, of blessed memory, who died three years ago from complications related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

But this year, more “wrenchiness” came about when, after hauling our 15-year-old son to an orthopedist for a problem knee, we learned he’d sustained damage to his meniscus. The boy gets his knee scoped on March 15, right on the heels of my return from California, where I’ll be visiting my growing-older (but thankfully and finally healthy) mother.

I don’t like to air my personal stuff in this column — this is “Around the Town,” and the topic should be, appropriately, goings-on around the town rather than issues in the Sorter household.

But I did want to explain my incommunicado status to those who have been trying to reach out to me. I also wanted to explain why I’m going to be especially incommunicado during the next 10 days or so. I’m responding to emails when I can, and I truly appreciate everyone’s patience as my schedule gets back to normal.

Search for a cantor

Along the lines of life making other plans, Congregation Ahavath Sholom is in the middle of some interesting changes. The shul is on a hunt for a new cantor, and will be hosting two cantorial/educational director candidates during the next few weeks.

Shoshana Abrams will be in evidence this weekend, from March 9-11, while Elisa Abrams will visit the following weekend, March 16-18. I wish the staff and membership of CAS well as they move through this process of finding the right “fit” for the community.

Texas Jewish Historical Society’s annual meeting

Fort Worth is the site for this year’s Texas Jewish Historical Society’s 32nd Annual Meeting, which will begin on March 30 and conclude on April 1. This will also coincide with the final weekend of “Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston,” which is currently on show at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

The event will feature a private tour, courtesy of the exhibit’s original curator, Austin anthropologist Suzanne Seriff, as well as a panel discussion featuring Seriff and filmmakers Allen and Cynthia Mondell (who will show clips from their docudrama, “West of Hester Street”).

Another event for those arriving early enough on March 30 is an afternoon tour at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving (led by Jewish engraver Richard Baratz) and a banquet on Saturday night with keynote speaker Nick Kotz.

Kotz, a San Antonio native, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author who is working on a book entitled “The Harness Maker’s Vision: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas”.

The cost for the weekend meeting is $80 (not including accommodations, those are available at the Marriott Residence Inn near West 7th Street). For more information, log on to the historic society’s website at Registration deadline is March 15.

It’s never too soon to think about summer

If you’re looking for a fun place for your kids this year, Chabad of Arlington is gearing up for Camp Gan Israel.

Rishi Gurevitch, the Chabad’s Rebbetzin, tells me that early enrollment means an Early Bird special, which will end on March 15.

Also, a trial week is being offered — parents interested in giving this a try will get 50 percent off the normal rate.

Now, I’m going to be boring here because I’m going to talk about “my time in North Dallas,” during which we sent our son to Camp Gan Izzy at Chabad of Plano. I can honestly say those were among the best summers of his life. The experience was filled with all kinds of fun activities (from martial arts to photography lessons and even trips to Six Flags in Arlington) and even better, he got to hang out with a lot of Jewish kids.

I’m going to be even MORE boring by saying that the Camp Gan Izzy experience replicates the terrific experiences I had, growing up in suburban Chicago, when I was sent to a Jewish-oriented day camp.

In other words, I encourage parents to look into it either by logging onto the shul’s website (, emailing the Rebbetzin at or calling 817-451-1171.

WRJ donor brunch a rousing success

This event, the largest fund-raiser for Women of Reform Judaism, took place Feb. 12 at Beth-El Congregation and featured Jewish Family Service’s Carole Rogers as keynote speaker.

WRJ Donor Brunch chair Trudie Oshman and Dr. Carole Rogers | Photo: Courtesy of Laurie James

Carole had a great deal to offer from what we are told (not that she doesn’t ALWAYS!), but in this case, she touched on issues ranging from volunteer opportunities to practical ideas of incorporating mitzvahs into busy lives.

Even better is that the proceeds enabled the WJR to keep its $10,000 commitment to Beth-El’s religious school, as well as allowing the organization to support the congregation’s other programs. The enclosed photos show that everyone had a pretty good time — nice job!

Daytimers swing into spring

As a reminder, the next Daytimers’ meeting will take place at noon, March 14 at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Rd. Attendees will get to enjoy a swing dance demo by Chandler Smith (with TCU) and Angelia Williams (with Thurston Energy). More importantly, this duo has taught dance together for six years and have taught workshops on swing cruises.

The WRJ Donor Brunch Committee

Lunch is available (Pak-a-Pocket is catering this month); the cost is $9 if you want lunch, $4 if not. Contact Barbara Rubin (817-927-2736) or Hugh Lamensdorf (817-738-1428) for more information, or log onto

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 08 March 2012 by admin

DJHS’ Harold A. Pollman Lecture Series presents “Lunchtime Conversations”

Wednesday, March 14, marks the second installment of a new initiative by The Dallas Jewish Historical Society (DJHS) — Lunchtime Conversations — that brings a top-notch scholar to Dallas to provide provocative mid-week, lunchtime discussions. Part of the DJHS’ Harold A. Pollman Lecture Series, guest speaker, Marni Davis’ program is titled “Jews and Booze.”

At the turn of the century, American Jews and prohibitionists viewed one another with growing suspicion. Jews believed that all Americans had the right to sell and consume alcohol, while prohibitionists insisted that alcohol commerce and consumption posed a threat to the nation’s morality and security.

The two groups possessed incompatible visions of what it meant to be a productive and patriotic American — and in 1920, when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution made alcohol commerce illegal, Jews discovered that anti-Semitic sentiments had mixed with anti-alcohol ideology, threatening their reputation and their standing in American society. You can read more about Harriet Gross’ family’s bootlegger experiences on page 19 of this week’s issue.

In “Jews and Booze,” Davis examines American Jews’ long and complicated relationship to alcohol during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the years of the national prohibition movement’s rise and fall. Bringing to bear an extensive range of archival materials, Davis offers a novel perspective on a previously unstudied area of American Jewish economic activity — the making and selling of liquor, wine, and beer — and reveals that alcohol commerce played a crucial role in Jewish immigrant acculturation and the growth of Jewish communities in the United States.

But prohibition’s triumph cast a pall on American Jews’ history in the alcohol trade, forcing them to revise, clarify and defend their communal and civic identities, both to their fellow Americans and to themselves.

Davis is assistant professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She is the author of “Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition” (New York University Press, 2012), which explores American Jews’ relation to alcohol production and their attitudes toward alcohol consumption during the years of the national prohibition movement’s rise and fall.

Her article, “’No Whisky Amazons in the Tents of Israel’: American Jews and the Gilded-Age Temperance Movement,” was published in the journal American Jewish History in September 2008.

Her essay on the development of an anti-Semitic strain within the American prohibition movement will appear in a collection on the historical encounter between Jews and American capitalism in 2012.

Guests for this program are asked to bring their own dairy brown bag lunch. Beverages will be provided for the program, which begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. Admission is free and the program is open to the public.

Reservations are required as space is limited. Call 214-239-7120 or e-mail the DJHS at to make your reservation.

Why the Jews Rejected Jesus

If there is one thing that Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger learned from the recent wildly successful Dallas Jewish LearningFest, it is this: If you want to get Jews to come in large numbers to classes about Judaism, mention the name Jesus in the title of the class!

Two classes were offered by Rabbi Schlesinger at the Learning Fest. The first Sunday he taught a session entitled “Between Husband and Wife: Extricating Ourselves From the Garden of Eden.” Although the presentation was extremely well received by an audience of about 45 people, that was nothing compared to the group that showed up the next Sunday of the LearningFest. One hundred sixty five people made their way to Zale Auditorium to take in the rabbi’s talk on “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus!”

The session was described by one participant as “stellar … full of charisma and confidence, a most inspiring and persuasive combination.” Many commented that the presentation opened their “eyes to a new level of comprehension concerning the differences between Judaism and Christianity.”

“If you teach something relevant to people’s lives, then they will come to learn,” commented Rabbi Schlesinger, reflecting upon the overwhelming turnout. “Look, Jesus is relevant,” he continued. “We live in the buckle of the Bible Belt of a Christian country. Mention of Jesus is all over the place. And we Jews know that he was Jewish but we know almost nothing about him except that we don’t believe all the things that Christians say about him. And usually, we don’t know why we don’t believe all those things! So of course people are going to be attracted to come and learn about it.”

If you missed the presentation, or if you were there and want to go deeper into the subject, then here is your chance. On Thursday, March, 15 at 7:30 p.m., Rabbi Schlesinger will be commencing a 10-week series at Congregation Beth Torah devoted to “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus.”

This series is part of the new trimester of classes beginning in mid March offered by the Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas, of which Rabbi Schlesinger serves as the executive director and Community Rabbinic Scholar. Together with his colleague Rabbi Joel Zeff, they teach about 15 different weekly adult education classes in the Greater Dallas area.

Among the new courses to be offered throughout the metroplex are: “Gems of Hassidic Thought for the non-Hasid,” “Talmud with Training Wheels,” “Grappling with the Mysterious,” “Contemporary Topics in Jewish Law,” “Ethics and Philosophy,” “From Slavery to Sinai,” and others.

There are also yearly courses that one can always join. JSI offers daytime, evening and Sunday classes.

For more information, send an email to or call 214-789-7241 or go to

$450 in prizes to be awarded in Dallas Holocaust Museum student art contest

March 23 is the deadline for local students to submit entries for the 2012 Art Contest sponsored by the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Winners will split $450 in prize money.

The contest theme — “April 19, 1943: Choosing to Act” — centers around the Museum’s core exhibition which focuses on that day in the Holocaust.

Students in grades six to 12 are encouraged to research the events that occurred on April 19, 1943 in the Holocaust and respond in an artistic way to those events, the choices made and the people who made them. Teachers and students are also encouraged to visit the Museum as part of their preparation for the contest.

Art work in any two-dimensional medium may be submitted, as long as it is received by the contest deadline of March 23. Complete contest rules are available at the Museum’s website,

Winners will be recognized in two contest categories — sixth through eight grade and ninth through 12th grade. First place winners in each category will receive $100, second place $75 and third place $50.

Winners will be announced April 5, and students will be personally invited to attend the Museum’s Yom Hashoah program on April 19, where their art work will be displayed and they will be formally recognized and presented their awards.

Dr. Tamara Freeman, a nationally recognized Holocaust educator, will present a music lecture-recital from the Holocaust’s Jewish ghettos at the annual Yom Hashoah remembrance, which will be held at Temple Shalom on April 19 at 6:30 p.m.

The 2012 Art Contest in supported in part by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Business Scene: is partnering with local independent retailers in the Dallas Fort Worth area, including several Jewish-owned companies, to promote visiting independent retailers throughout the Dallas Fort Worth area.

Each month, hosts Third Thursdays, where local businesses in North Texas feature special deals to encourage people to come out and visit the local shops in their community. This month’s event is on Thursday, March 15th.

Many Jewish-owned small businesses are participating in the Third Thursday promotion including Sunnyland Patio Furniture, Woody Mann Vacuum, Eden Café, Lone Star Judaica, KidBiz and more.

“Shopping local can be best summed up with one word: ‘better,’” says Randy Katz of Woody Mann. “By shopping local businesses, you will help support members of your local community, receive better information, find better products, receive better customer care and lastly reduce your carbon footprint by not traveling as far.”

Karen Katz of Eden Café agrees. “I was raised to believe that supporting family is very important. Due to the Holocaust our family became very small, so our Jewish congregation at the Temple became a part of our extended family, and we try to support them wherever we can. Additionally, being small business owners, we try to support small businesses like ours, within our community. I believe that McDonalds, Walmart, etc. will be just fine, even in this economy, without my support, but my fellow small businesses and Jewish owned businesses need our support more now than ever, and I will be shopping there as much as I can.”

Added Brad Schweig of Sunnyland Furniture, “’s primary goal is to bring awareness to of all of the great independent stores in the area. We are not asking people to stop going to the big box stores or chain restaurants because they serve an important need in our community. We just ask that consumers spend $50 per month at their favorite local businesses.”

Schweig founded in October 2011. He heard Cinda Baxter, founder of the 3/50 Project, share ideas on how business can work together to promote independent stores in their community. “She inspired me to connect with other local retailers to help support each other, and our local economy,” said Schweig.

The 3/50 Project’s goal is to have consumers spend a total of $50 per month at their three favorite local independent business.

According to the 3/50 Project, for every $100 spent in locally owned stores, $68 remains in the local economy.

In contrast, only $43 of every $100 remains local when spent in national chains, and little or no local revenue results from online purchases.

Other stores participating in Third Thursday include Collected Treasures, Longoria’s BBQ, Castle Gap Jewerly, A Toast To Texas, Olive Tree Market and many more.

We would like to hear from our readers! Send your news, simchas, awards and more to

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True grit

True grit

Posted on 08 March 2012 by admin

Houston hoopsters win battle to play but fall 4 points short in final

By Uri Fintzy

FORT WORTH, Texas (JTA) — In Texas, they say, high school athletics are a religion. But last weekend the saying took on a new meaning.

The Robert M. Beren Academy, a small Modern Orthodox school in Houston, had captured national headlines during the week. Its boys’ basketball team had earned a berth in the state tournament 2A semifinals, but would have been forced to forfeit because the games coincided with the Jewish Sabbath.

Beren Academy breaks the huddle during its championship game against Abilene Christian. | Photos: Khampha Bouaphanh

But an 11th-hour legal challenge convinced the tournament organizer, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, to accommodate the team. And last Friday, hours before Shabbat was to begin, Nolan Catholic High School was the place to be for Houston Jews who had made the four-hour trip to cheer on their boys.

Beren would reach the finals on Saturday night but lose, 46-42, to Abilene Christian High School. But even after coming up short, the game’s larger significance didn’t appear lost on the players. For an hour after the final whistle, fans, friends and family lingered in the gym to support the players.

“I am proud to be here,” said Beren guard Isaac Mirwis. “It’s more than just basketball. It’s about being true to who you are.”

That would seem to be the lesson of the whole episode, which saw a little-known Jewish school in Texas cast into the national spotlight for standing firm on its refusal to violate its religious principles for the sake of a basketball game. After a refusal by TAPPS to accede to Beren’s request to reschedule the games, The New York Times, ESPN and other national news outlets picked up the story, which was also much discussed on social networks.

After a second request to TAPPS was denied, it seemed as though Beren was going to have to forfeit. Playing on Shabbat was never considered.

Beren Academy’s senior guard Isaac Buchine (25) tries to break away from Abilene Christian defenders.

It seemed apropos, that the Beren hoopsters’ determination to stand up for religious freedom would happen as Jews in the Metroplex and around the nation and world prepared for Purim observances. Perhaps one of the most gripping stories of religious freedom for Jews, the situation focused on one’s right to observe, rather than being forced to follow rules violating that observance. In fact, many fans on the Beren side of the gym passed around tins of homemade hamentaschen as the Beren Stars battled Saturday night.

“Our priorities were never shaky,” said Chris Cole, the non-Jewish coach who has guided the Beren team for 10 years. “I learned very quickly that there is no compromise as far as upholding the religious faith.”

On the morning of March 1, several Beren players and parents filed a civil rights motion in federal court accusing TAPPS of religious discrimination and asking for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. Before a judge had time to rule on the matter, TAPPS acquiesced and said it would reschedule the games. Dallas attorney Richard Rohan, partner at Carrington Coleman, was the lead attorney who filed the case in Federal Court on March 1. One key to the claim, Rohan explained, was that the initial game was scheduled to be played on a Mansfield Independent School District basketball court, which allowed the state to get involved.

“The experience gave us the opportunity to show how much we care about religion,” said senior Isaac Buchine. “The way you make something special is to sacrifice something that is much greater for it.”

Fans cheer for Beren during a game against Abilene Christian

After the decision, Beren players were in Dallas by Thursday night, receiving home-hospitality from Yavneh Academy students and their families. On Friday morning, the Beren Stars practiced in the Bulldog Gym on the Schultz Rosenberg Campus of Akiba and Yavneh Academies. “Dallas has been so amazing,” said Dorit Guttman, mom of junior, Ahrony. Many of the fans had plans to share Shabbat with Dallas families.

By Friday at 2 p.m., it was time for basketball, and the atmosphere in the Nolan Catholic gym was electric for the semifinals. Beren students who had been allowed to leave school early, families with kids and elderly couples were present. In an e-mail to its families on Thursday night, Levine Academy said students wishing to attend the game could do so without penalty as long as work was made up. As a result, stands were filled with supportive elementary and middle schoolers as well as their parents from the school. At halftime on Friday, Lisa Rudner, mom of Levine seventh grade twins Zach and Josh commented. “We’ve won the moral victory, this is all icing.”

Beren also got some support from an unexpected source — members of the Burton Adventist Academy soccer team showed up to cheer them on. Burton had its own beef with TAPPS a few years before over a Saturday soccer game that TAPPS had declined to reschedule.

“The doors were blown wide off,” said Kevin Klein, the Burton coach, of Beren’s earning the right to compete. “Sabbath keepers across Texas don’t have to fear not being able to play.”

Beren Academy’s junior forward Zach Yoshor (21) shoots against Abilene Christian.

Dallas Covenant proved little challenge in the semifinals for the Stars, who breezed to 58-46 victory led by junior Zach Yoshor, to earn a spot in the Saturday night finals.

“We kind of blocked everything out and focused on playing basketball,” Yoshor said.

After the game, the Stars returned to their hotel to prepare for the finals and observe the Sabbath, with special services hosted by the Dallas Jewish community. The next night, with the game set for 8 p.m., the team didn’t arrive until only minutes before tipoff, since Shabbat had ended only minutes before.

In the locker room, Cole tried to fire up his players.

“Now there are no regrets,” he told them. “You are representing your school, your family and your faith. Make everybody proud.”

After a short prayer, the game began. It was a sloppy one for the Stars, with turnovers and easy shots missed. Beren seemed unable to cope with the Abilene defense.

The Beren side of the gym was packed with supporters from around the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, a virtual who’s who in the Jewish community, with all ages and denominations represented. Supporters continued to file into the gym late into the second half. When asked what brought her out to the game, Fort Worth resident Karen Silverberg said, “History… these kids need to know that just because they are away from home, there are a lot of people who care.”

Despite trailing through much of the first half, Beren managed to forge a 19-19 tie shortly before halftime. But a quick rally to start the second half pushed Abilene ahead for good. After the game the Beren players were left in tears, but they had inspired a community.

Isaac Buchine, left, and teammates react after their 46-42 lost to Abilene Christian.

Robert Beren, the school’s namesake, recognized that the point wasn’t the outcome of a basketball game.

“Win or lose,” Beren said, “this whole experience was a victory for everyone.”

Sharon Wisch-Ray contributed to this report.

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