Archive | June, 2012

Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 21 June 2012 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Hanki Harris was kind enough to gift me a lead for this week’s column. Her aunt, Aarona Berger, turned 107 on June 17.

That’s right, 107!!

We have been covering this centenarian’s annual celebration for several years now. Last Friday, folks clad in pink gathered in the auditorium of Golden Acres and listened to entertainment by Glen Bailey as they wished Aarona many more happy birthdays.

Israelson named American Dental Association trustee

Hilton Israelson, who practices periodontics and implantology in Frisco, has been appointed as the Fifteenth District Trustee of the American Dental Association.

The ADA is the leading source of oral-health-related information for dentists and their patients and works to advance the dental profession on the national, state and local levels.

Israelson is a past president of the Texas Dental Association and the Dallas County Dental Association, and he served as an ADA delegate from 1998 to 2011. Honored as the Dallas County Dental Society Dentist of the Year in 2006, he also has been the recipient of the President’s Award for both the Texas Society of Periodontists (2008) and the Texas Dental Association (2006 and 2011).

He graduated from the Dental School at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and did his training in periodontology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.

Israelson maintains a private practice in Frisco and serves as an associate clinical professor in the department of periodontics at the Baylor College of Dentistry.

More youth group news: BBYO

BBYO held its annual intake pool party June 3. Incoming freshmen gathered at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center pool to learn a bit more about BBYO and meet other newcomers and current members of BBYO’s various chapters.

At BBYO’s annual intake pool party on June 3, prospective freshman learned more about the youth organization and cooled off in the Aaron Family JCC pool. | Photo: Courtesy BBYO

BBYO’s annual registration day is Aug. 12. Stay tuned to the TJP for more information on how to get your high schooler registered for BBYO. To learn more about BBYO, contact Tracy Davis at

News and notes:

• Mazel tov to Marilyn Levitt, who will celebrate the one year anniversary of her pilates and personal training studio, Core Pilates Dallas, in Preston Royal.

• Nothing to do this Friday morning? Load up your youngster and head to Congregation Shearith Israel, 9401 Douglas Ave., for a showing of “We Bought A Zoo” in the Pidgeon Theatre. The movie begins at 10 a.m. Cost is $5 and includes movie theatre-style snacks.

On tap for next Friday, June 29, is the family favorite “Rio.” Children of all ages are invited, as long as they can sit quietly through a movie.

AEPi brothers shared lunch at Alpha Café June 6. Front row from left, Mark Goldstein, Steve Saltzman (host and owner of Alpha Café), Jim Auerbach and Eddie Davis. Back row, Robert Gardner, Mike Hopkovitz, Arthur Wechsler, Alex Ray, Bill Becker, Jim Weiss, Bobby Steinfeld, Paul Hoffman, Bruce Miller and Ronnie Shipper.

• The AEPi lunch bunch held their monthly get together earlier this month at Alpha Café, owned by alum Steve Saltzman. Any AEPi alum or current member is welcome to join the group for next month’s get-together. For more information and to get on the e-mail list, contact Arthur Weschler at

Got something to share or kvell about? Send it to me at We love to hear from our readers.

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Today’s Auschwitz still in bad taste

Today’s Auschwitz still in bad taste

Posted on 21 June 2012 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Remember that I promised more in this space about my recent travels in Poland? I’d like to put off dealing with the topic for as long as I managed to put off making the trip — something I really didn’t want to do. But I knew that as a Jew with a keen interest in Holocaust history, I had to go sometime. So now I also have to resume writing about what I experienced there.

Between Krakow and Warsaw, a day at Auschwitz-Birkenau. As with finally seeing any place anticipated with dread, I found when I got there that I no longer had any idea what I’d been expecting, except that I somehow imagined the Arbeit Macht Frei sign would be much larger.

The reality: Auschwitz today is a museum, with many untouchable exhibits — mountains of human hair behind glass; photo blow-ups of jumbled luggage labeled with family names. Most everything there is beyond human contact, just as the truth of what happened there is beyond human understanding.

One views the place; one does not experience it. Auschwitz is not “interactive.” Probably better for our sanity that it’s this way.

Guided tours are the norm here. Our guide was a young man, very knowledgeable, but very much hewing to his prepared bits of talk, filled with dates and facts and figures devoid of emotion.

I asked him if guides suffer “burnout” from having to deliver those horrific dates and facts and figures over and over. He said the staffers are only assigned to guide groups twice a week, not every day, to avoid that.

His own detachment was palpable. For him, Auschwitz is a job. I’m afraid that instead of paying attention to all his minutiae, I was struggling to understand this: He lives in the neighborhood, but how much does he really know? Is he proud of where he works?

I assumed that he was asked this question many times by visitors before me: “Is there a good place to say Kaddish here?” He knew what the word meant, but not its core importance. He asked me when I’d like to do that. I said, “Any time you think would be appropriate. Just tell me when.” But he never did. As he said goodbye after abandoning us to Birkenau, I thought briefly about reminding him, but thought better of it. What would be the point?

And what is Birkenau now? There’s nothing left to indicate the extent of the misery that lived here, the lives that died here. It’s a vast expanse of green, green grass and, above it, a blue, blue sky, under which my husband and I stood together to say our Kaddish.

The question I kept asking myself: What kind of mind could conceive of the things that once went on in these places we’d just seen? Before Auschwitz, there had been more than three million Jews in Poland. Now, there may be 20,000. Perhaps even less. Many, for many reasons, do not identify publicly with what they are. Even today.

A few short weeks ago, I read a New York Times article dealing with the resurgence of Judaism in Poland. Jonathan Ornstein, a New Yorker now in charge of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, was quoted: “In many ways, the idea of Judaism in Poland is frozen in 1939, because that was the last time there was a large visible presence,” he said. “There is this idea that Jews only listen to Klezmer music, they have long beards and speak Yiddish.”

The same article referenced Ruth Gruber, whose 2002 book, “Virtually Jewish,” talked of a sort of nostalgia for those beards, that language and music, for an idealized bygone culture like that of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Just a week from now, Krakow will begin the 2013 version of its annual Jewish Festival, a 10-day acting-out by today’s non-Jews of their frozen-in-time idea of Judaism. I see in Jewish organization magazines that tours to Poland now offer the option to attend it. I would not.

Art Spiegelman, artist son of survivors, told his parents’ Holocaust horror stories through “Maus,” in which Germans and Jews play a literal cat-and-mouse game. It was a rousing success that also angered some, like the German reporter who asked him, “Don’t you think that a comic book about Auschwitz is in bad taste?” To which Spiegelman curtly replied, “No. I thought Auschwitz was in bad taste.” Today, for me at least, it is the same.

Warsaw coming up … soon.

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Oh, the stories pots and pans could tell

Oh, the stories pots and pans could tell

Posted on 14 June 2012 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Did you ever hear someone say “If these walls could talk … ”? I think there’s even a show with this name on popular HGTV.

Well, I stand in my kitchen, flooded with more memories than food, and say “If these pots and pans could talk … ” What stories they could tell.

My favorite is the griddle given to me, along with a basic one-quart pot and a standard-size skillet, back in 1955, farewell gifts from the staff members of the settlement house where I was doing my master’s level field work. They knew I was getting married and going off with my new husband, also a social worker, to spend the summer as unit directors at a large upstate New York Jewish camp, where the food was terrific.

What they didn’t know was that cooking terrified me. Kids, I got along with fine. Counselors, I could supervise. And I could prepare food at a campfire. But not in a kitchen.

My mother’s kitchen was her private domain where I could only dry dishes, not concoct anything that was served on them. Mother took me shopping for the bridal standards of the day: sheets and towels, tablecloths and napkins, china and silver. Lingerie and nightwear were shower gifts; small appliances were wedding presents. I don’t know where the other pots and pans and kitchen tools came from; what I remember is the pain I experienced in learning how to use them.

The first time I tried to make soup, I bought a bag of Manischewitz dried mix. But I didn’t realize it was just peas and beans, with no little packet of chicken powder to turn into broth when water was added. So I cooked a pot of vegetables in boiling water and served the result. Believe me, it was not soup. And not just the first time I baked potatoes, but many times after that, we ate them for dessert; I just couldn’t get potatoes to come out at the same time as any main dish.

In later days and years, I learned to love the crockpot, the microwave, the Cuisinart, even the pressure cooker, whatever got me into and out of the kitchen fast, with something edible as a result. But I still use that griddle, that pot, that skillet, and they would have some stories to tell …

The other day, my husband said to me, “I want to buy you a present, but you’ll have to pick it out, because I don’t know what kind you’d want. A new griddle.” No. I want my old griddle. It’s bent out of shape, literally, from more than half a century of contention with gas burners and electric cooktops; its surface is deeply pitted from the thousands of latkes — potato and matzah — that have been not-too-gently spatula-ed from it.

If it could talk, it would tell you how I bit back tears over failures, marveled at miracle successes, cursed the messy cleanup left by hot oil spills. And it would whisper, quietly, “Not much has changed, actually … ” I cannot part with it.

That pot was my first piece of Wagner Ware aluminum, bought before people started saying that cooking in aluminum was dangerous, and after I’d purchased a whole set of matching pieces: five more various-sized pots (a second one-quart, a smaller one, two larger ones and a really big one for soup) plus a much bigger skillet than the gift one.

I lived through the aluminum scare and so did everyone who ever ate in my house, and I use those pots still. All of them are almost as shiny as the day I bought them — all, that is, except for the first one. When I got a dishwasher, years after I got my own kitchen, I put that pot right in it, unaware of how aluminum and dishwashers get along: not very well.

The resulting dark relic no longer resembles its brothers and sisters, but I use it more often than any of the others, simply because I continue to put it in the dishwasher. None of the rest has ever had that discoloring experience. But since the damage was already done to No. 1 — might as well take advantage of it.

And about that gift skillet: Scarred, scratched and its handle keeps loosening. I keep tightening. I fried my first lamb chops in it. They were tough, fatty, chewy. Awful. The baked potatoes made a welcome dessert. I’m sure the pan remembers, just as well as I do. If only it could talk …

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All can help fix the world

All can help fix the world

Posted on 14 June 2012 by admin

By Laura Seymour

This summer, we will explore tikkun olam, a mitzvah of action. The Hebrew word tikkun means to “fix” or “heal” something that is broken; olam means “world.” When we do tikkun olam, we are doing acts that will benefit our society from our school to the entire planet earth.

This mitzvah is about making the world a better place and believing that we can and should make a difference in the world.

Mitzvah hero of today’s world: Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Heschel was born in Poland and came to the United Stated in 1940 to escape the Nazis. He became a professor and through his teaching, Rabbi Heschel influenced a generation of rabbis and educators.

Rabbi Heschel wrote an important book titled “The Prophets,” and it was from his study of the biblical prophets that he knew he had to become involved in social issues.

He was one of the first to protest against the Vietnam War and joined Martin Luther King Jr. in protesting against the lack of civil rights for African Americans in the United States. Heschel marched with King in Selma, Ala., in 1965 and declared, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.”

Rabbi Heschel was passionate in his desire to do his part to heal the world. He stated in response to the Vietnam War, “We must continue to remind ourselves that in a free society, all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible.”

In our ancestors’ footsteps: Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972)

Rose Schneiderman was a young immigrant girl at a time when there were very few jobs for immigrants and especially for women.

Most immigrant women worked in sweatshops, which were hot, overcrowded rooms filled with sewing machines at which the women worked 12-14 hours a day.

Schneiderman believed women could improve their working conditions if they worked together. She co-founded the first union of female workers and was the first woman in a leadership position.

Although she was only 4½ feet tall, Schneiderman was a powerful woman. She fought for the rights of working women throughout her life, and when she died in 1972, The New York Times wrote that she “did more to upgrade the dignity and living standards of working women than any other woman.”

The information for this summer’s weekly themes comes from “Jewish Heroes Jewish Values — Living Mitzvot in Today’s World” by Barry L. Schwartz published by Behrman House Inc. in 1996.

Family talk time

  • It has been said that we cannot change the world until we change ourselves. What can you do to change the way you behave to make a difference in the world?
  • Read the newspaper throughout the week and cut out articles the family can talk about at the dinner table. This week, look for articles on people who have tried to “fix the world.”
  • Family brainstorm: Pick a problem in your school, community or even a world problem. Remember, brainstorming means every idea should be put out on the table — even a 3-year-old may have a great solution. First, look at all possible solutions, then decide what your family can do to help.

Laura Seymour is director of camping and youth services at the Aaron Family JCC.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 14 June 2012 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Growing up, it seemed to me that three things resonated with ardent support of Israel: Israel Bonds, the JNF pushke and Hadassah. It is amazing and wonderful that Hadassah is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Participating in the Dallas Chapter of Hadassah’s annual installation ceremony were, from left, speaker Debbie Levine, Margie Shor, Marjorie Rosenberg, Sunny Shor, Shirley Frankl, Amy Applebaum and Ety Friedman. | Photo: Dallas chapter of Hadassah

Recently, the Dallas chapter of Hadassah, which continues to thrive, held its board installation at Congregation Ohr HaTorah.

The installation was conducted by Debbie Levine, who has served in many positions on the Houston chapter board including chapter president.

Levine is the immediate past president of the Houston chapter, serves as its adviser and is currently on the region executive board serving as area vice president for Dallas and McAllen. Debbie was appointed by national President Marcie Natan to serve on the national board as the Society of Major Donor and Guardian chair.

Installed at the meeting were Terri Schepps, president; Jo Zeffren, vice president of organization; Shirley Frankl, communications vice president; Marjorie Rosenberg and Sunny Shor, membership co-vice presidents; Marcy Helfand, program vice president; Susie Salfield Avnery and Robyn Rovinsky Mirsky, fundraising co-vice presidents; and Margie Shor, health and education vice president.

Rounding out the board are Amy Applebaum, treasurer; Maureen Brenner and Ety Friedman, assistant treasurers; and Sheila Cooper, secretary.

The incoming group presidents are: Professional Women’s Group, Valerie Retan and Linda Steinberg; Herzl Group, Jean Sturman; Lillian Wald Nurses and Allied Health Professionals, Dorothy Zarbo and Debbie Ginchansky.

Board members will hold their positions until December 2013. For information about Hadassah, visit

DATA program teaches data security

DATA of Plano will present a program on Internet safety at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 18, at DATA of Plano, 3251 Independence Parkway (the southwest corner of Independence and Parker). Trevor Blumenau will lead “The Nuts and Bolts of Internet Safety and Proper Filtering.”

The need for filtering to ensure safe and appropriate Internet use for families is paramount, according to the organizers.

Blumenau will explain how to set up filtering that is truly safe. He will also share the Internet dangers after filters are in place, as well as concerns about Facebook and other social media

Suggested donation is $5 per person. To RSVP (required), email

Dallas’ Naomi Heller honored by Aggie Chabad

Texas A&M Chabad honored alumna Naomi Heller of Dallas during its fifth anniversary celebration. Heller, the daughter of Reid and Karen Heller and a graduate of Yavneh Academy, graduated from A&M in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She served as Chabad Student Board president for two years and represented the Chabad at the Chabad on Campus International leadership conference. She was honored for her friendship and dedication to the Chabad.

Naomi Heller, left, was honored at Texas A&M Chabad’s fifth anniversary celebration. Schepping nachus is Aggie Chabad co-director Manya Lazaroff. | Photo: Texas A&M Chabad

Heller works as a full-time instructor at Equest, a therapeutic riding facility.

The gala marked the changing atmosphere at Texas A&M University, Chabad officials said. It was the first kosher banquet prepared and served on campus by Texas A&M’s dining services. The kitchen at the George Bush Presidential Library was koshered, and new dishes and serving ware were used. The gala was also one of the first events at the new ballroom at the Memorial Student Center.

From what started out as services and dinners hosted in their own home, Rabbi Yossi and Manya Lazaroff have created a home away from home for Jewish students at the Rohr Chabad Center. Yasher Koach to Chabad at Texas A&M for an amazing five years in College Station. May you continue to serve as a center for Jewish life in the Brazos and grow from strength to strength.

For more information about Jewish life at a Texas A&M contact the Lazaroffs at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center, 979-220-5020 or visit them on the web at

News and Notes

• Mazel tov to four Levine Academy students Sam Eisenberg (son of Dennis Eisenberg and Dana Eisenberg), Aidan Jacoby (son of Eric and Karla Jacoby), Inbar Kidron (daughter of Michal Kidron and Irad Kidron) and Alexander Murphy (son of Melanie Kuhr Murphy and Eric Murphy) for being selected to participate in the Junior National Young Leaders Conference this summer in Washington D.C.

The Levine students will join 250 others from across the nation for the six-day program. The conference aims to teach about the rich tradition of leadership throughout American history, while the students develop their own leadership skills.

• Art historian John Max Rosenfield, a Dallas native, was recently honored with the 2012 Charles Lang Freer Medal by the Freer/Sackler: The Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art in recognition of his contribution to the field of Asian art history.

Rosenfield, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of East Asian Art, emeritus, at Harvard University, became the 13th recipient of the award at a ceremony on April 12. Many of you may remember or heard of Rosenfield’s colorful father, John Rosenfield, who was the longtime theatre critic for The Dallas Morning News when Dallas’ arts culture was in its formative years.

Rosenfield studied at UT before enlisting in the U.S. Army. After World War II, continued his studies at the University of California, Berkeley; Southern Methodist University; and the University of Iowa, earning Bachelor of Liberal Studies, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees. He earned his doctorate in art history from Harvard in 1959 and joined the faculty there in 1966.

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Around the Town

Posted on 14 June 2012 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

Last week’s column included a discussion about Beth-El’s Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger’s suggestion that we consider Shabbat our mini vacation away from the stress and grind of life. This time, another local rabbi, Andrew Bloom, who leads Congregation Ahavath Sholom, added his words of wisdom to the mix of summer, the focus being summer vacation from school.

In his discussion, Bloom points out that school might be out for a handful of months, but the studying shouldn’t just stop.

“Studying is a lifelong pursuit and not just something we do 10 months of the year,” he writes. “Education is year-round; it’s important that all of us remember that.”

Prayer and study, the rabbi says, create a “personal dialogue with God” and also help pass that dialogue — and teachings — are passed to our children.

There are different types of learning, too. Fort Worth offers a wealth of locations (such as the Museum of Science and History and its many art museums) that combine fun for the kiddos with learning opportunities. For older kids, many libraries have summer reading programs. In short, while summer is about relaxation and fun, it can also introduce some new learning as well.

Congrats to Bernie Appel …

… who, about a month ago, told me he is the newest member of the University of North Texas’ Jewish Studies Program’s advisory board. I apologize to Bernie for being so late in mentioning his appointment when I was first made aware of it (we had a long email exchange about it in early May and, as sometimes happens with me, it didn’t go into the right folder in the right time or the right place).

Bernie joins the two other advisory board members from Fort Worth, Morty Herman and Dick Abrams.

For those of you who don’t know Bernie, the guy has an impressive resume. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard, is a graduate of Boston University and eventually became chairman of Radio Shack and senior vice president of Tandy Corp.

These days, he heads up Appel Associates, a marketing consult service, is president of Safe City Commission Crime Stoppers and is very active in the Fort Worth community, serving on many boards (including Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s board of directors). He’s also received numerous awards and honors (including an induction into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame).

Now, a word about UNT’s Jewish Studies Program — it’s the only one at a public university in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and it offers 48 courses on Judaism. The program offers a minor in Jewish studies, and the board and faculty are working toward establishing a master’s degree in the field. Bernie’s background and dedication to his faith and community will mean good things for this program.

News From Colleyville

The good folks at Congregation Beth Israel have launched their “CBI Summer of Learning.” This is a series of Sunday classes, beginning at 11 a.m. Topics range from the changing role of women, to an understanding of the Pirkei Avot, to a “Bible Belt Survival Guide” which might be a good one to have, given where we all live.

These Sunday sessions are open to anyone ages 13 and older. They run through Aug. 19 and take place at CBI, 6100 Pleasant Run Rd. in Colleyville.

Financial contributions are welcome; suggested contribution is $18. For information, call CBI’s office at 817-581-5500.

Mazel Tov to…

…Nancy and Michael Finfer on the birth of their grandson, Micah Asier Finfer. May the new addition to your family bring much nachas.

And mazel tov to those celebrating wedding anniversaries this month

  • Jerry and Ruth Berkowitz
  • Ed and Eleonora Bond
  • Scott and Ann Cobert
  • Irwin and Lea Ann Blum
  • Elliott and Patty Garsek
  • Aleksandr & Lyubov Gershengoren
  • Jeffrey and Barbara Gilbert
  • Chad and Martis Herman
  • Richard and Terri Hollander
  • Gary and Cookie Kaftan
  • Michael and Patricia Linn
  • Walter and Vanessa Listig
  • David and Idelle Luskey
  • Henry and Jeanie Luskey
  • Lawrence and Susan Margolis
  • David and Elisa Nudleman
  • Don and Judith Peska
  • Don and Emily Rosen
  • Neil and Pat Rosenzweig
  • Jack and Marilyn Rubin
  • Arnold and Ethel Schectman
  • Dennis and Barbara Schuster
  • Michael and Debra Schwanz
  • Irwin and Myra Schussler
  • Mike and Ina Singer
  • Mitchell and Annette Smith
  • Mark and Yvonne Ulrich
  • Marvin and Sara Wolin

Kol Ami and the story of a house

Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound has teamed with three other religious organizations (Islamic Association of Flower Mound, Grace Community Assembly of God and Creekwood Christian Church) to build a home from the ground up this fall in Lewisville, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.

Volunteers will begin building the house in September with the idea of having the selected family move in before the December holidays. Those interested in donating (or in helping) can contact the synagogue by calling 972-539-1938.

Send news, information or anything at all

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Round ’em up for camp

Round ’em up for camp

Posted on 14 June 2012 by admin

By Elizabeth Fields

For current and past “ranchers” — or campers — of Echo Hill Ranch, one fact remains the same: All refer to the camp as a home and to the staff and ranchers as family.

Family owned and operated by the Friedman family since its inaugural summer in 1953, Echo Hill is more than just 400 rustic acres of land nestled outside Kerrville, in the Texas Hill Country. Echo Hill Ranch is a place where 125 Jewish children come together from all parts of the world, including Israel, Mexico and Texas, to laugh, play and grow together each summer.

This summer is particularly special at Echo Hill, as it marks 60 years since camp founders S. Thomas “Uncle Tom” Friedman and Minnie “Aunt Min” Samet Friedman decided to turn their dream of running a child-centered, non-competitive camp for boys and girls ages 6 to 15 into a reality.

Merging Uncle Tom’s experience as a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas and Aunt Min’s longtime dream of establishing a safe and healthy summer community for children, the two recognized that they possessed the passion and the formula to fill a void in the southwest camp community.

“In 1952 there was no (privately owned) camp experience available for Jewish children in the entire southwest,” said Roger Friedman, Tom and Min’s son and current co-director of Echo Hill, “There was no other camp for Jewish kids in this part of the country. That was something that my parents saw that was needed, and there was a huge response to it. And, by the way, we are still the only privately owned camp available for Jewish kids in the southwest.”

With the support of dedicated staff, counselors and families, the ranch on the little green valley would develop into a beloved summer home where original staff, counselors, campers and Tom and Min’s three children, Roger, Kinky and Marcie, would return year after year.

Yes, that Kinky Friedman.

Echo Hill Ranch founders “Uncle Tom” and “Aunt Min” Friedman hold up a sign welcoming campers in the early days of the camp. | Photos: Courtesy Echo Hill Ranch

For 32 years, Tom and Min co-directed Echo Hill Ranch, creating the strong foundation and connections that would lead to not only to the camp’s credibility, but also to its familial feel. Go to the horse corral, and you would see the familiar sight of wrangler Chuck Hart, a staff member since 1960, feeding, petting and talking to the horses; take a walk to the archery range or the crafts cabin and the Friedman children were playing with their friends.

Echo Hill Ranch provided the consistency of love and people that made campers and their families come back year after year, Roger Friedman said.

When Aunt Min died suddenly in 1985, there was no doubt that Echo Hill was going to continue. Roger, Kinky and Marcie began to assist their father in running camp. In particular, Marcie became the camp’s director in the 1990s. And after Uncle Tom died in 2002, Roger and his wife, Roz Beroza, became second-generation camp directors. Echo Hill Ranch, like the memory and spirit of Tom and Min, would continue.

Every summer, Roger, a psychologist and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and Roz, a clinical social worker and family therapist, pack their bags and head from Maryland to spend their summer at Echo Hill. Roger was very accustomed to camp life after spending every summer at Echo Hill until he was 27 years old. For Roz, however, becoming involved in directing a camp was a fortuitous experience, a “new beginning.”

Roz, born and raised on the east coast, referred to her child self as a “camp failure.” She spent many a camp night crying for home and didn’t return to camp for a second year.

Just like the cowboys of yore, Echo Hill campers and staff sometimes cook their own food over open flames.

“There was something really full circle for me about marrying into a family where camp was the maypole. It just was ironic. I feel so lucky to be able to have another chance for the one I didn’t have,” Roz remarked.

Roger and Roz’s different camp experiences are what make their co-directing so magical. The two provided the necessary strengths to sustain the camp vision that Roger’s parents created.

Roger credits this vision of camp to his mother.

“In my mother’s mind, camp was not a luxury. Camp was as important developmentally as school was,” he stated.

Roger and Roz honor Tom and Min’s original camp by choosing to preserve the natural structures and values of the camp. The camp continues to run without air conditioning, electronics are not allowed, and campers swim in the local river instead of a pool. Additionally, the Friedman family continues in their parents’ giving nature by donating Echo Hill’s facilities and services to underprivileged families and foster homes for special one-week camp sessions.

“Roz and I, like my parents, have continued to pay close attention to kids’ individual development, the dynamics of the bunkhouse groups and the relationship between counselor and camper.” Roger said. “We talk to parents; they are our partners in helping their kids have a successful experience away from home.”

Riding on horseback is among the western-themed activities at Echo Hill Ranch. Campers also participate in rodeo-style activities such as roping.

As much as they look to Tom and Min as inspiration, the Friedmans understand the importance of keeping things fresh, making “Jewish culture relevant to children now.”

Over the years, Roger and Roz have come up with new, innovative ideas such as adding Israeli singing and folk dancing to Friday night services, and embroidery as an arts and crafts activity. This summer, they have even hired Inda Cicelsky, an art educator and song leader from Kibbutz Lotan — which she and her husband, Alex, co-founded 29 years ago — in the Arava Desert of southern Israel.

At these times, “I think a lot about my parents and particularly my mother’s point of view about camp, though I don’t always agree with her, I often find it helpful to think about her perspective,” Roger said. “I think she had a really wonderful understanding of how to create a community for children that was safe and healthy emotionally.”

Grown men and women, parents of current campers, still vividly remember their summers exploring the valleys of Echo Hill Ranch.

“I remember all the secret places on the ranch,” said Andy Reisberg, former camper, camp parent and now Echo Hill archivist. “I can always smell the sycamore tree. I can remember taking my free time with some of the guys and going fishing with home made poles and being like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Often times when I am depressed I can go back to that little fishing hole,”

With the 60th anniversary approaching, Reisberg now has the unique opportunity as an adult to utilize his profession to better understand Uncle Tom, the man he admired as a young boy.

“I am now having a chance to delve into archives, contents of Uncle Tom’s desk from the lodge,” he said. “I guess his desk was never opened or disturbed. I am looking at original letters from the 1930s. The writing is courageous, ambitious. My memory of Tom is enhanced by these writings, these notes on how to put a camp together.

“Videotaping, getting people together, this anniversary is not just another event or a party for me. I did all my growing up at Echo Hill. It is a great opportunity for me to document this as it is a perfect marriage of my profession and my deep connection to Echo Hill.”

Directors, staff and campers alike are excited about the 60th anniversary reunion celebration, which will take place July 20-22 at the camp. Marcie Friedman foresees the weekend as celebration of all things Echo Hill with “campfires and fried chicken.” She is also looking forward to the sharing of stories about her parents and brothers Roger and Kinky.

Like Marcie, alumnus Cristy Herman, past camper and current camp photographer, views this 60th anniversary as a time for reflection.

“I remember hanging out with Aunt Min and she showed me how to feed the hummingbirds,” she said. “I had just gotten my first camera, and we would see if we could try to see their wings. Several years ago I bought a small hummingbird ornament, and I keep it in my house to remember her.”

For others, a 60th reunion is a time to give credit, understand success and evaluate how it has been achieved.

“Echo Hill’s success is measured with each child that returns to camp year after year, and measured in the second and third generations of children who are counted in the roll call,” Reisberg said.

Hart, the wrangler, defines the lasting spirit of camp through its positive messages,

“Echo Hill is a child-centered non-competitive camp,” he said. “Sure, we play soccer, but there are no winning teams. It is about what you earn, you accomplish on your own at Echo Hill. Here, you learn about life,” he said.

For others, like Beroza, it’s a time for laughter and pride.

“It’s funny, when you have parents that pick their kids up at the end of the month. They say ‘oh my gosh, you got so big, so tall,’” she said. “I mean, they could not have grown seven inches. I think that maybe they are standing up in a different way. They are standing bigger. ”

And for Marcie, Aunt Min and Uncle Tom’s youngest child and only daughter, the 60th anniversary is a time when the spirits of past campers and her parents will come alive.

“Sometimes you see people for a moment or two, and you see them as that little boy or that little girl. You can see their face inside their face. That spirit is still there. The reunion, getting together with old friends, brings those moments to life. And sometimes, if you come around the building around the right time, at a certain angle, you really see all of that, your old friends as children, and Tom and Min still there,” Marcie said.

To learn more about Echo Hill Ranch, visit

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God caused life to evolve

God caused life to evolve

Posted on 07 June 2012 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I’m having a little problem with reconciling what we’re being taught in high school and religious school.

In high school, we’re taught that we are the products of evolution and random mutations. In religious school we’re taught that God created the world in six days and created each thing within the world by design.

I have trouble thinking that Judaism contradicts scientific facts that have been proven for many years, but I also believe in God. Can you help me?

— Allison B.

Dear Allison,

The first thing, which is very important to know, is that evolution is a theory and should be taught as such, not proven scientific knowledge.

In fact, a tremendous amount of literature has been written which suggest that evolution is statistically problematic, even implausible, as the chances of any one evolutionary variation leading to life as we know it are nearly nil, let alone that all the changes necessary to have life as we now know it.

Sir Francis Crick has said we can’t even know the probabilities, as evolution doesn’t give us the process by which any of these changes are to have taken place. Others who have calculated probabilities have said one would have to write enough zeros to circle the earth, perhaps more than once, to finally put the one after them to illustrate how farfetched is the likelihood that life as we know it came about by chance mutations with no guiding force.

The most basic assumption of evolution is problematic. Evolution assumes that self-replicators came about that replicated themselves with some degree of efficiency, mutating one time in 1,000, etc, leading to changes in the species and new species. Where did these self-replicators come from? Were they a protein or a DNA?

The problem is, neither a protein or a DNA or RNA can reproduce without the other. Only a DNA coupled with a protein can replicate itself. Without both of them, you can’t have a cell. Did they both spontaneously get generated at the same time and join together to make a self-replicating system? What’s the likelihood that happened?

Real science needs real theories that are subject to testing and being proven or unproven. Evolution doesn’t seem to work that way, as it doesn’t provide any system one could prove.

If anything, the existing fossil record doesn’t show the gradual point-mutations postulated by Darwin. Rather, there are huge gaps in the development of species. Darwin answered that this is due to the lack of sufficient fossils, but don’t worry — if we’ll find enough fossils, you’ll find what I claim. Is this the way science works?

Evolutionists have come up with another answer to this problem — called punctuated equilibrium, or occasional spurts of quick evolutionary growth. Is that really plausible? If the giraffe suddenly sprouted a long neck to deal with its need to reach high trees, did a stronger heart to pump the blood to its brain, the nervous system and the new balance system to prevent it from falling on its face when it reached out to eat its first leaf also sprout with the neck? Possible, but probable?

Also, where does human intelligence fit in? How did the capacity to produce Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C minor develop in man’s struggle to survive the saber-toothed tiger and gather more berries? Complex mathematical theorems to boot?

Scientists have raised numerous other issues with evolution. If one looks at websites where people challenge evolutionists on these and other issues, one would be surprised how angry and upset they become, inspiring many to wonder if evolution is really a science; or has it become a sort of religion, allowing atheists to be comfortable not having to confront the uncomfortable conclusions of creation.

We could discuss the Torah’s view on the age of the universe at a different time. We do actually believe that God created the world with all possible species interlocking at every level.

The Kabbalists teach that God wanted to reveal Himself in the world, with all His loving kindness and wisdom, at every possible level, from the most simple cells until man who is created in the image of God. Therefore He created every level of species, which give the appearance that they evolved one from the other. Even if they did, it was done with God’s guiding hand, not by chance.

Darwin made brilliant observations; we just differ on his conclusions. You need not have any contradictions between science and Torah. All it takes is to know what’s really science and what it says in the Torah.

I recommend you check out Listen to the class on evolution in the audio section and read the article on evolution in the miscellaneous section.

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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The father of many faiths

The father of many faiths

Posted on 07 June 2012 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Our forefather, Abraham, plays a major role not only in Judaism, but also Christianity and Islam. That’s the reason clergy members at a “Connecting our Faiths” discussion last week at Northway Christian Church in Dallas urged practitioners of all three faiths to find commonality, rather than differences.

From left, Imam Yahya Abdullah, Rev. Doug Skinner and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger spoke last week about how Abraham is central to the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, executive director of the Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas; Rev. Doug Skinner, senior minister at Northway Christian Church; and Imam Yahya Abdullah, founder of the Islamic Association of De Soto, all spoke about how Abraham is important to their respective faiths and why it is important for these three religious groups to build bridges instead of putting up walls.

In Judaism, Abraham was chosen by God to be a helper and companion leading the world to destiny and is considered the biological father of the Jewish people, Schlesinger said.

“It is through the Jewish people that Abraham becomes the father of a multitude of nations. He is the teacher of ethics and morality,” Schlesinger said. “Jews, Muslims and Christians are all children of Abraham. From the Jewish perspective, Jews are biological children of Abraham, the seed, whereas Christians and Muslims are his spiritual children.

“I believe the three religions need each other and must see ourselves as partners, not only with God, but with each other. In today’s world, none of us can do Abraham’s work alone.”

This event was the first of four scheduled over the next year, Skinner said. The next three topics to be discussed are how Moses, Jesus and Mohammed play a role in all three religions. The dates are to be determined.

Skinner said the goal of the interfaith dialogue is for the three communities to see each other as one large community, not separate ones.

Skinner said in the New Testament, Abraham is mentioned primarily as the man of faith and the apostle, Paul, uses him as an example of the salvation of faith. The ones who have faith are considered to be the sons and daughters of Abraham, he noted.

He said even though Judaism, Christianity and Islam are very different religions, being able to embrace those differences and notice some commonalities are vital.

“My parents have three children and each one of us is different than the other two, even though we all came from the same source,” he said. “However, we are family, and that creates a bond. I think about this every time I am part of one of these Abrahamic family reunions.

“We all believe different things and don’t leave our differences at the door when we have a conversation like this. Although we do believe some of the same things, the differences are what make this conversation urgent and necessary. What makes this conversation possible is that behind all of those differences, there is one sacred fact — we share an ancestor, a common father, Abraham.”

Abraham is also an important figure in the Quran, as he is mentioned in 25 chapters. Muslims regard him as a prophet and patriarch, Abdullah said, and his purpose and mission through his life was to proclaim the oneness of God. He is also credited with establishing monotheism, the belief in one god, within Islam.

Abdullah added that highlighting the significance of Abraham in different faiths is wonderful for interfaith dialogue and hopes it can continue. Both Skinner and Schlesinger have visited his mosque in the past, and he hopes to participate in other discussions like this.

“Abraham is our faith father that connects us and we were all produced from one mother — Mother Earth,” Abdullah said. “Although Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac had different mothers, Hagar and Sarah, they had one father, Abraham, just like we all do. It’s such an honor to have a conversation like this with my faith brothers and sisters.”

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Stand up, make a difference

Stand up, make a difference

Posted on 07 June 2012 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Guess what? I’ve got a new book to recommend — not a surprise.

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin has edited a new book published by Jewish Lights (if you are looking for interesting Jewish books for all ages, go to Jewish Lights Publishing) titled “Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens.” Each parsha has two short commentaries written by a variety of people.

As soon as I got the book, I looked at the titles for the commentaries rather than go to the parsha of the week. Camp is fast approaching, and I was looking for messages to give our kids and counselors.

Our theme for this summer is “Be Out There.” That means more than just get outside (which is important enough and, of course, has Jewish implications). It means that we need to step up and do the right thing, challenge ourselves, reach out to others and so much more.

The subject of bullying is all over the press. For parents reading my column, you may read this as helpful parenting advice. But bullying doesn’t stop when you grow up — there are bullies all around us (and some may need to look inside as well).

The commentary that caught my eye was “No Such Thing as an Innocent Bystander” by Rabbi William G. Hamilton. The parsha is Shemot and the text he uses is: “The midwives, fearing God, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live.” — Exodus 1:17.

The lesson is simple — when something is wrong, you must stand up against it even if you are scared. This story of Shiphrah and Puah’s courage shows us that even the most unlikely person can challenge cruelty.

Hamilton concludes, “The path to go from being a bystander to an upstander may not be easy, but it will be right. Bystanders are invisible. But like the heroines in Moses’ infancy who stood up for him, upstanders can change the world.”

Try it — it may be scary, but it is the right thing to do.

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

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