Archive | July, 2012

On Tisha b’Av, let’s usher out the nuclear era

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

By Sandy Pappas

MINNEAPOLIS (JTA) — As July ends and we wind down the Three Weeks before Tisha b’Av, we mourn the destruction of both Holy Temples. Unfortunately, this is not the only destruction that bears remembrance.

This August marks the 67th anniversary of the only time that nuclear weapons were ever used in warfare. The United States tested the first nuclear weapon in July 1945 and dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9 that year.

These events spawned the nuclear race, with 2,056 nuclear weapons tests conducted worldwide and new and more deadly weapons developed at a fast and furious pace. At the peak of the Cold War there were some 70,000 nuclear weapons.

Even though the numbers of nuclear weapons have decreased since the Cold War, enough of them are still around to blow up the planet. Ninety percent of the weapons are in the United States and Russia. America continues to rely on strategic plans, targeting and alert status settings that were conceived during the Cold War. We also spend billions of dollars each year to maintain our oversized arsenal.

In December 2010, the U.S. Senate approved the ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the support of our military leadership and bipartisan support from 71 senators, including all 12 Jewish senators in office at the time. New START reduced U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and established a foundational process for verifying these and future reductions.

It is in America’s best interest to further this nuclear downsizing.

The Obama administration has been working on a plan to establish new policy guidance for the purpose, size and structure of U.S. nuclear weapons. Further reductions and a change in strategies are needed to meet 21st century security needs. As President Obama said in March, “We have more nuclear weapons than we need. I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal.”

Other security experts agree. In April, Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, called for an 80 percent reduction in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Further, Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in June, “I can’t see any reason for having as large an inventory as we are allowed to have under New START, in terms of real threat, potential threat. The more weapons that exist out there, the less secure we are rather than the more secure we are.”

Like Levin, I favor more security and fewer nuclear weapons. American leadership must take action to minimize nuclear dangers. Our nation should lead by example, first urging further reciprocal Russian nuclear reductions, then engaging other nuclear weapons countries to make reductions. We also should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to permanently end nuclear testing worldwide. Taking these steps will position the U.S. to effectively lead the world in thwarting new nuclear weapons development and combating nuclear terrorism.

We ushered in the nuclear era 67 years ago. Now we must do our part to help the world find a safe exit.

Sandy Pappas, a state senator from Minnesota, is a founding member with her husband, Neal Gosman, of the Shir Tikvah congregation in the Twin Cities.

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Sports and the many sides of silence

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

By Avi Weiss and Aaron Frank

(JTA) — Over the past few days, we find ourselves grappling with the concept of silence in two contrasting ways. First, a silence of indifference, acquiescence and complicity, and second, a silence of strength, principle and memory.

In the case of the Penn State tragedy, coach Joe Paterno and others committed the sin of silence. Their silence of indifference, acquiescence and complicity led to the perpetuation of a vicious and destructive pattern of behavior that destroyed the lives of many young boys.

But somehow lost in the headlines this week is the grappling with the need for the silence of strength, principle and memory.

As we look toward the Summer Olympics, the families of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain in the 1972 Munich Olympics have asked for a moment of silence in London. What a moment of unity it would be to express the infinite value of human life and abhorrence of terrorists who target the innocent and mercilessly maim and murder in, of all places, the Olympic Village.

But sadly, the more we grapple with the unfathomable resistance to this proposal, the more it is feeling like the silence of indifference, acquiescence and complicity.  It is because we fear that many of the countries represented do not share the belief that targeting innocents, in this case Israelis, should be met with strength. For them, there are causes that justify terrorism.

This type of silence is nothing new.  It is the silence of those who say nothing as terrorists are venerated as honorable martyrs all over the world — in Tokyo, Moscow, London, Madrid, Tel Aviv and New York. Until the world recognizes that there is no such thing as good terrorists and bad terrorists — that nothing, nothing justifies focused attacks against innocents — terrorism will thrive.

Let it be said clearly: Rejecting the moment of silence at the 2012 Olympics sends the message that you can kill and massacre and the world will go on as usual. Responding to the request for the moment of silence with silence itself is unacceptable. It is legitimizing the horror.

Even if the International Olympic Committee rejects the request, athletes of good will should not. The games are not about the IOC and its members, whose names few people know. It’s about the athletes, the role models, who set the example.

There have been moments in the Olympics that transcended athletics. Some were glorious, like when Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the ’68 Olympics raised their clenched fists in solidarity against the discrimination of blacks. Some were infamous, like when two Jews, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, were removed under Nazi pressure from the American 400-meter relay team in the ’36 Olympics. What will happen in London this year has the potential to be one of those moments when athletes will be judged not by athletic prowess but by ethical integrity and the courage to stand up for what is right.

Imagine, just imagine, if during the ceremony, LeBron James and Michael Phelps and the whole American team would declare their own moment of silence of strength, principle and memory for the Israeli 11. Others would follow and the world would hear clearly that terrorism is beyond the pale.

In so many ways, sports is associated with a call to make more noise and get louder. But in other ways it teaches the challenge of silence.

Penn State has shown us that silence can reflect the greatest abuse of the power of sport. But there is hope. It’s up to these great Olympians to make the ultimate dunk, the ultimate record-setting race, to show that athletes can be true examples of a different type of silence — a silence of strength, principle and memory — one that can raise a voice of moral conscience.

To paraphrase the Book of Ethics, “In the place where is there is no person, stand up and be a person.”

Rabbi Avi Weiss is the senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and founder of YCT Rabbinical School, both in New York. Rabbi Aaron Frank is the principal of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School in Baltimore.

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Terror strikes again

Terror strikes again

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

Bulgaria attack survivors recall chaos and tragedy

By Ben Sales

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Vered Kuza was standing with her daughter, Amit, on an airport shuttle bus at Sarafovo International Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, when she suddenly heard a blast.

“It’s an attack!” Kuza, 54, shouted at Amit, 26. “We need to get out of here!”

She pushed her daughter through the door just as the bus exploded at about 5 p.m. local time July 18. Kuza was knocked unconscious. Her daughter landed on the ground, debris ripping into her left shoulder, through her chest and down to her liver.

When Vered Kuza regained consciousness, her feet “were swollen to a ridiculous size.” Her daughter was nowhere to be seen.

“Everything was broken,” Kuza said while lying in a hospital bed in a Tel Aviv emergency room last Thursday, her feet wrapped in gauze and plastic and a red No. 2 scrawled on her forehead. “There were body parts around me. I didn’t know what was happening. It was smoking, hellish. It was horrifying.”

Five Israelis died in the attack that Kuza survived. According to Israeli reports, the five deceased are Amir Menashe, 27; Itzik Kolengi, 27; childhood friends Maor Harush, 26, and Elior Priess, 26; and Kochava Shriki, 44. In addition, the bus driver and suicide bomber died in the attack.

Ynet News reported that minutes before the attack, Shriki called her sister and told her that she was pregnant for the first time. Shriki’s husband, Yitzhak, survived and spent hours searching for his wife.

After the bomb exploded, “I walked toward the exit and called to my wife, ‘Come toward the door!’” he told Ynet. “After a few seconds I realized she wasn’t with me. The fog was thick like sand, and I went to look for her but it was impossible to get through.”

Kuza was one of 33 Israelis injured in the attack to be flown back to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport last Thursday afternoon and sent to hospitals throughout the country, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Her daughter was one of three Israelis who were too seriously injured to make the trip and remained hospitalized in Bulgaria.

The head of the IDF Medical Corps, Itzik Kreis, said that the injured passengers who arrived in Israel “got very good medical care in Bulgaria” and “were less seriously hurt than we expected.”

The IDF Medical Corps landed in Bulgaria July 18 to tend to the victims and bring them back to Israel. Kreis said that the injuries the corps saw were similar to those suffered by bus bombing victims in Israel.

A plane carrying 70 Israeli tourists in Bulgaria scheduled to fly home July 18 was delayed, but arrived the next day.

An airport security camera at the Sarafovo airport in Burgas revealed that the bomber was a Caucasian man with long hair and a backpack who had been wandering around the area for about an hour. He reportedly was carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly accused Iran of sponsoring the attack. He called on “the world’s leading powers” to recognize “that Iran is the country that stands behind this terror campaign. Iran must be exposed by the international community as the premiere terrorist-supporting state that it is.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had information that the attack was the joint work of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Iran has denied the allegations.

Soon after the attack, Amit Kuza was taken by paramedics to a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Her mother “sat on the side of the road,” unattended for two hours because she was deemed to be in stable condition, she said.

“I had no one to talk to,” Vered Kuza said. “I didn’t even have a glass of water. They don’t know English. It was primitive.”

Bulgarian officials told Kuza that her daughter was in Sofia and in a stable condition. But Kuza was not able to speak to her daughter until Thursday morning. Amit and the two others who had remained in Bulgaria were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday evening.

When news of the attack reached Israel, Arik Kuza, Vered’s husband, called the Foreign Ministry to find out if his wife and daughter were alive.

“I called 50 times,” he said, standing at Vered’s bedside. “They put me on hold and I heard music. I waited for hours.”

Lying in her hospital bed, she spoke in a calm and even tone. With her daughter scheduled to arrive in a few hours, she said she felt lucky to be alive.


Colorado shooting suspect worked at Jewish camp

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

James Holmes, the alleged shooter who killed 12 in a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater early Friday morning, reportedly worked at a summer camp operated by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

Holmes, 24, spent a summer working as a counselor for Camp Max Straus in Glendale, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. According to its website, the camp serves underprivileged children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.

He is suspected of opening fire on the crowd at a midnight screening of the new Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.” Twelve people were killed and 58 were injured in the shooting spree.

Holmes was arrested shortly after the shootings. He reportedly set off smoke bombs before firing at the crowd. Law-enforcement officials deactivated his booby-trapped apartment Saturday.

In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Randy Schwab, chief executive of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and director of Camp Max Straus, said of Holmes, “His role was to ensure that these children had a wonderful camp experience by helping them learn confidence, self-esteem and how to work in small teams to effect positive outcomes.” In a later e-mail, Schwab added, “That summer provided the kids a wonderful camp experience without incident.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Saturday expressing his condolences and those of the Israeli people to the families of the Americans who were murdered in the theater.

“All Israelis stand alongside the American people in mourning over this terrible tragedy which claimed the lives of so many,” Netanyahu wrote. “We well understand the pain and loss that you are experiencing.”

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I am on a number of email lists as you can imagine. One email, sent out by the Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah last week, highlighted an amazing medical story straight from Hadassah Medical Center.

The gist: An Orthodox Israeli rabbi may have been cured of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The new treatment is based on stem-cell technology and now in clinical trials at the Hadassah University Medical Center.

This piqued my interest and, coincidentally, the very same day, Dallas Chapter of Hadassah president Terri Schepps also informed me of an interesting program that will include a first-hand report on stem cell research coming up next month when Hadassah continues its 100th centennial celebration. The event will take place from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Museum of Biblical Art, 7500 Park Lane in Dallas.

This elegant Kosher dessert event will provide the latest information and development at Hadassah in Israel.

The program will open with a special appearance of the Temple Emanu-El Choir, performing High Holy Day melodies. Hadassah’s very special guest speaker is Linda Jayaram, a Hadassah multiple sclerosis stem cell trial participant. Linda is a member of Hadassah in Houston and will travel here along with her husband, David Barish, to share her personal experience and participation in the clinical stem cell trials at Hadassah Hospital in Israel. Attendees will learn first-hand why Hadassah’s Multiple Sclerosis Center is the global leader in stem cells.

The final part of Hadassah’s program will include the presentation of the Sarah Mendel Susman Award. This award is given to a member for their extraordinary service to the Dallas Chapter of Hadassah and untiring devotion to its ideals.

The award is given in loving memory of Sarah Mendel Susman, a former chapter and Southwest Region president.

The recipient is traditionally kept secret until it is presented as a highlight of a major chapter event.

Invitations will be mailed to all Dallas Chapter members and should be received by the first week of August. The cost of the event is $36, and seating is open. Several sponsorship/recognition opportunities are available. All sponsors will secure reserved seating.

A PDF of the invitation along with sponsorship opportunities are on the Dallas Chapter website RSVPs are requested by Aug. 15. You can also email or call 214-691-1948 for more information.

Honorable Menschen: Temple Emanu-El

Temple Emanu-El’s program director, Karen Hoffman, was kind enough to share some of the good works of the synagogue with us recently.

Temple Emanu-El volunteers Monica and Eric Hirschler helped redecorate the community room at the Peebles Apartments. Monica coordinated the project.

For two weeks in July, Temple Emanu-El’s Camp K’Ton welcomed and hosted children from Family Gateway (July 3-6) and Vogel Alcove (July 9-13). This gave underprivileged youth an opportunity to experience a fabulous summer day camp and also enriched the lives of Temple Emanu-El kids with the opportunity to make new friends and share their camp experience with other children from nearby neighborhoods.

This was the project’s first year and was a collaborative effort between those organizations, Temple Emanu-El’s ECEC and Temple Emanu-El’s social justice program.

Also this month, Temple Emanu-El has been working in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, painting, cleaning, installing new floors, and providing new furnishings at the Pebbles Apartments Community Room.

This is part of Temple Emanu-El’s Vickery Meadow Committee of Social Justice, benefitting the residents in that community. Pebbles Apartments are permanent supporting housing for women and children who are coming out of homelessness.

All women who live in the apartments are receiving some kind of services, from mental-health treatment to job training. They have a community room that is used for classes for the moms and also to provide lunch for the children who live there. Temple volunteers have been helping with all areas of this refurbishment project. Yasher Koach!

Dr. Gail Lebovic to be honored by American Cancer Society

Mazel tov to Frisco’s Dr. Gail Lebovic, this year’s recipient of the “Spirit of Achievement Award” from California Spirit, Southern California’s largest gala fundraiser benefiting the American Cancer Society.

The award will be presented to Lebovic, who is the chief medical officer of Focal Therapeutics, at California Spirit 2012. The event will be held Sunday, July 29, at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

California Spirit has raised more than $14 million for ACS’s lifesaving research, education, prevention and free patient-service programs during the past 28 years. Founded in 1985 by Wolfgang Puck, Sherry Lansing and Barbara Lazaroff, California Spirit features gourmet cuisine, premium California wines, live entertainment and a silent auction.

The Spirit of Achievement Award honors Lebovic for “her years of commitment to developing new techniques in the diagnosis, treatment and postoperative care of cancer patients, with a special focus on optimizing delivery of breast cancer care.”

In addition to her pioneering clinical work as an oncoplastic surgeon, Lebovic has founded numerous medical device companies and is one of a select group of women to hold numerous patents. She is internationally known as an inventor of the MammoPad and other innovative devices in women’s healthcare.

Lebovic spent more than a decade as an attending surgeon at Stanford University Medical Center and later served as associate director of the Lee Breast Center at the University of Southern California and director of women’s healthcare at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. She is past president of the American Society of Breast Disease.

George Hermann, CEO and lead engineer at Focal Therapeutics, noted that the team’s most recent efforts show promise for many patients undergoing breast surgery. “We hope the new BioZorb tissue marker will be yet another significant technology in the field of breast healthcare that we have developed with Gail,” he said.

Lebovic also consults, educates and advises physicians and surgeons on the use of devices she has invented and helped to develop. She just finished her two-year presidency of the Frisco-based American Society of Breast Disease.

Lebovic, the wife of Jim Zoller and daughter of Holocaust survivors Ernest and the late Helen Lebovic, is a member of Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano.

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Israeli service decision not easy for prime minister

Israeli service decision not easy for prime minister

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

In less than a week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is supposed to honor the demand of his country’s Supreme Court: Solve the painful, ongoing problem of draft exemptions for Israel’s Orthodox young men, the ones who spend all day in prayer and study of sacred texts.

I’m not a person much involved with politics of any kind. And I believe that as Americans, even Jewish Americans, we have no right to tell another country, even Israel, how to run itself. But we all have opinions, don’t we?

The best analysis I’ve read of this sticky matter was written by Aron Heller for the Associated Press, who gave these statistics: Israel has a population of 8 million, but only 10 percent of that number are ultra-Orthodox. Theirs are the children who not only are not required to do the defense service demanded of all others, but who are subsidized by the government so they can continue their lives of prayer and study uninterrupted.

According to Heller, “Polls show that the vast majority of Israelis, who risk their lives and put their careers on hold while serving in the military, object strongly to the arrangement, and many see it as the essence of everything that is wrong with their country. The fight centers on whether ultra-Orthodox males should be drafted along with other Jews, but it really is about a much deeper issue: the place of Judaism in the Jewish state.”

This philosophical schism both creates and reflects the issue because of its practical ramifications. The Orthodox strive for closeness to God through Torah, and it’s this goal that sets the Jewish nation apart from all others. But in the real world, prayer and study alone cannot assure Israel’s continued existence; it takes warriors to do that.

Zionism was the practical movement that built the basis of this modern Jewish homeland, but many traditionalists are not Zionists; they still believe Judaism can have no authentic home until the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple. These are the ends toward which Israel’s Orthodox young men, far removed from the state’s physical defenses, are dedicating their lives. So, are they already doing their part?

Heller calls theirs “a cloistered community.” When I read that, I immediately recalled reading “Holy Days,” the 1995 book by New Yorker magazine’s Lis Harris, a secular Jew who went to live for a lengthy period of time with a Hasidic family in Brooklyn and told of her experiences afterward. One thing she wrote has stayed with me ever since, and I think it has a bearing on Israel’s current contentious question:

The children of the Orthodox, Harris maintained, do not have the kind of youth experienced by secular Jewish kids. Rather, they are raised as little men and women almost from birth. Because their families are usually large, girls are enlisted at an early age to help their mothers with the smaller children, becoming little mothers themselves, while the boys go off with their fathers to shul for long hours of prayer and study.

Toddlers can already see what their lives as adults will be. In the most Orthodox enclaves of Israel, a yeshiva-centered childhood morphs into a young man’s full-time job.

I personally don’t see how such a young man could be integrated successfully into the physicality of army life for which he has been so ill-prepared. But that is a reality begging the philosophical question that’s tearing Israel apart, what Heller calls “a clash between tradition and modernity, religion and democracy.”

Israel is a place so Jewish that the majority of its Jews are able to be secular. Many don’t feel the necessity to join synagogues, keep kosher or observe Shabbat because Judaism is in the very air they breathe. They know they are Jews and are comfortable with that, relaxed about it. But — is it actually the Orthodoxy’s devotion that has made such relaxed comfort possible?

The Israeli question now is a political one: Can Netanyahu emerge successful in forging coalitions, spearheading agreements, putting together some sort of compromise in a manner that will satisfy the Supreme Court’s demands? He’s been working at it, but time is running out: the date for action is Aug. 1 — six short days away. The secularists are vocal in their demands that everyone needs to serve Israel just as they do, while the Orthodox continue to pray. I really doubt that they are directing their fervent prayers toward an answer to this very earthly question.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

Congregation Beth Israel of Colleyville joined forces with Carter BloodCare for its summer blood drive Sunday.

Turnout was very good, according to Barry Klompus, who helped coordinate the drive.

“We have a full bus,” he said. The event took place in its well-marked — and large — RV-like bus. “Considering it’s summer and a lot of congregants and their friends are on vacation, I feel very good about this,” Barry said. He added a fair number of walk-ins participated, in addition to those who scheduled advance appointments — also a good piece of news.

Kudos and thanks to those who took an hour or so of their time to donate blood. Donating is a life-saving measure and will provide needed assistance for those in need of it. A true mitzvah, indeed.

An unusual silent auction item

Rishi Gurevitch, rebbetzin at Chabad of Arlington, writes that the Chabad is very busy with many activities at Camp Gan Israel this summer. One of those activities ended up being a colorful table and bench created by the campers, geared specifically to be put on display, through a silent auction. That table and bench is now available, with the proceeds going toward Camp Gan Izzy programming.

Campers at Camp Gan Israel at Chabad of Arlington painted this adorable table and bench. They are being auctioned off through Aug. 1. | Photo submitted by Chabad of Arlington

According to Blanca Sherwin, the Chabad’s art teacher, the idea behind creating these items was to teach the kids about mitzvah. The children understood they were doing a mitzvah — decorating and creating this table and bench — for the purpose of raising needed funds.

Those interested can log onto — at last check, the most recent bid on the table was $340, with the bench having a bid of $160. Bidding will end Aug. 1, so if you’re interested, hustle over to the website and check it out yourself.

If it’s late July, it’s time to hear from Fort Worth Hadassah

Though a variety of Jewish organizations take time off during this time of year, it seems as though Hadassah’s Fort Worth chapter has been working behind the scenes to offer some interesting programming to take place during the next few months.

The first event, taking place at 7 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 26, is “Beat the Heat with Hadassah,” which will take place in the home and studio of Etty Horowitz. In addition to viewing some pretty nifty art, participants will be able to make ice cream sandwiches.

The cost is only $10, but an RSVP is necessary (to make sure there are enough ice cream and cookies on hand). For information, contact Jane Guzman Pawgan at 817-292-5778 or email her at

Further on down the road, Hadassah will sponsor a “Shir and Schmooze with Shoshana and Sheri.” “Shoshana” refers to Cantor Shoshana Abrams, who just took up her duties at Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth. The “Sheri” in the duo is Cantor Sheri Allen, who does duty for Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington and has for a number of years. Also on hand will be sisters Rhoda Bernstein and Laurie Werner, who will discuss the dedication of the Madlyn Barnett Memorial Wing at Hadassah Hospital (due to take place during Hadassah’s centennial celebration this October in Israel), which is named for their late mother.

The local event is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 11, at a to-be-determined location.

Happy anniversary!

May you have many more blessed years as couples.

Richard and Karen Alpert

Bernie and Ellen Appel

Arnie and Virginia Barkman

Roberto Treviño and Barbara Benjamin-Treviño

Izzy and Jeanne Bloomberg

Sherwin and Cheryl Coplin

Timothy and Blaze Gaines

Howard and Joan Katz

David and Inessa Kisin

Michael and Polina Kuptsin

Shayne and Lisa Moses

Alexander and Sophia Nason

Glen and Zoe Pierce

Daniel and Robin Tirsun

Jerry and Cookie Wise

And finally

I’m hearing from a lot of folks out there who say they’re going to/have gone to some pretty cool places this summer. This is terrific — I’d like to know more about it. Please send information about your travels (along with a photo or two) to me at Thanks!

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Help, and do so with dignity

Help, and do so with dignity

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

By Laura Seymour

We continue our exploration of tikkun olam. The Hebrew word tikkun means to “fix” or “heal” something that is broken; olam means “world.”

Tzedakah is the mitzvah of helping others. Although it is often translated as charity, which is viewed as a voluntary act, tzedakah is a responsibility for everyone, even the poor. The Hebrew root of tzedakah is tzedak, which means justice — it means helping others is the just thing to do. The Torah tells us how important helping those in need really is, but it also reminds us to care about the dignity of poor people.

Mitzvah hero of today’s world: Albert Einstein

Many people who know about Albert Einstein’s scientific accomplishments may be unaware of his dedication to social justice and tzedakah. He was born on March 14, 1879, in Germany, and did much of his work there until the rise of the Nazis.

The man who created the theory of relativity and changed the world of physics forever devoted much of his time to charitable acts. After winning the Nobel Prize in 1921, he visited the U.S. and actually spent much of his time explaining the need for the state of Israel and to raise funds to help settlers in Palestine.

Einstein helped found the International Rescue Committee in 1933 to help all refugees in need. He worked hard to help Jews and non-Jews in need. When Chaim Weizmann died, Einstein was asked to become the second president of Israel. Time Magazine named Albert Einstein “Man of the Century.”

In our ancestor’s footsteps: Maimonides

In his day, Maimonides (1135-1204) was a rabbi, philosopher, author, physician and community leader. He lived in Spain but was forced to leave and, in Egypt, became the physician to the royal family.

Maimonides wrote of how hard it was to be a physician and that he had to be up all hours of the night helping people. Despite his work as a doctor, Maimonides found time to help others. He wrote very important books on Jewish law and philosophy. His works have guided people in how to live as a Jew for centuries.

In his writings, Maimonides wrote of eight levels of tzedakah beginning with the lowest rung — giving reluctantly and with regret — to the highest — helping another to become self-supporting.

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., 1996.

Family talk time

  • Tzedakah is a commandment. Should we be commanded to give and to help others? Or should we do it because we want to?
  • Why should poor people be commanded to give to others? How do you decide how much to give, especially when you are needy?
  • The root word for tzedakah is tzedak (justice). What does justice have to do with giving to others? Is there a “fair” way to give or to be sure everyone has what they need?
  • Sometimes people feel embarrassed or bad when you try to give to them. Why would they feel this way? How can you give to people so that they don’t feel embarrassed or bad?

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

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Laws of the Tisha B’Av fast

Laws of the Tisha B’Av fast

Posted on 26 July 2012 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Could I trouble you to give a short synopsis of the laws of the upcoming Tisha B’Av observance?


— Cathie W.

Dear Cathie,

I’ll try to give it to you in nutshell version:

For those unfamiliar, Tisha B’Av, or the 9th of the Jewish month of Av, is the fast day that commemorates the day upon which both the first and second Temples were destroyed causing the subsequent exiles.

Numerous other calamities took place on the same date, from the event of the spies in the desert, through the expulsion of Spanish Jewry, up until the first shot fired in World War I, which ultimately precipitated World War II and the unspeakable Holocaust. On this day, we mourn all the unfortunate events that have transpired throughout our history.

  • The fast and observances begin this coming Saturday night, July 28, and continue until nightfall Sunday. (Like Yom Kippur, and unlike other fast days, we observe this fast from the night).
  • Technically, the actual date of the ninth of Av falls on Shabbat; since we cannot fast or mourn on the Sabbath we delay the observance of Tisha B’Av until Sunday. This gives the day a slightly more lenient status with regards to certain people who have difficulty fasting. One should consult a rabbinical authority to ascertain to whom this may apply.
  • During the entire day of Tisha B’Av, we refrain from five types of activities: eating and drinking; bathing or showering; smearing ourselves with enjoyable oils; wearing leather shoes; and marital intimacy.
  • We do not recite the traditional Havdallah on Saturday night as usual, besides the mention of Havdallah in the evening Amidah service. Havdallah is, instead, recited on Sunday night at the completion of the fast. If an adult is in the category of those who need to eat on Tisha B’Av for health reasons, he or she should first recite Havdallah before eating. (In that case, if, for example, a woman needs to eat because she is, for example, within 30 days of childbirth, her husband may recite the Havdallah as usual and she can drink the grape juice or wine, unless there is a child around the age of 7-9 to drink for her).
  • If a woman is nursing or pregnant, she should consult a rabbinical authority to determine how she should observe the fast or what amounts she should eat and at what intervals, after consultation with her doctor.
  • We are not to sit upon a regular chair beginning Saturday night. Rather, we sit on the floor, a low chair (like that used in the house of a mourner) or upon a cushion on the floor. This holds true until mid-day Sunday (this year in Dallas, approximately 1:33 pm).
  • Tallit and tefillin are not worn on Tisha B’Av morning, and also can only be put on after the time of mid-day; customarily they are put on at the afternoon service near the end of the fast.
  • Customarily, Kinos (dirges) that were written as lamentations are read at night and in the morning in synagogue and can also be recited at home. (I recommend reading them in English to get the full impact.)This is in addition to the reading of the Book of Lamentations (Eichah), authored by Jeremiah the Prophet who prophesized and witnessed the destruction of the first Temple.

The Talmud says that whoever mourns the destruction of the Temple will witness the joy of its rebuilding in Messianic times. Napoleon Bonaparte, while conquering Europe, came across a synagogue where the members were sitting upon the floor and crying. Napoleon consulted his religious adviser; why are those Jews crying and mourning? Did someone important just die?

When he was told it is Tisha B’Av and they are mourning over the destruction of their Temple nearly 2,000 years ago, Napoleon exclaimed: “If it was destroyed so long ago and they still remember and mourn it, I’m sure they will one day see it rebuilt.”

May those words come true soon.

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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Jews must love one another

Jews must love one another

Posted on 19 July 2012 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I don’t fully understand what you wrote last week, “Any generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt it is as if they destroyed it.”

I learned that the reason the Temple was destroyed was because the Jews transgressed the three cardinal sins. I haven’t experienced that the Jews of our generation are guilty of those cardinal sins. How does the lack of the rebuilding of the Temple make us liable for those sins? Furthermore, is there some direct correlation between those sins and the Temple for those sins to be the reason for its destruction?

— Morris B.

Dear Morris,

On the day of Tisha B’av, (which we observe this year beginning Saturday night, July 28 and Sunday, July 29), we mourn the destruction of both the first and second Temples, both which were destroyed on the same Hebrew date of Tisha B’av, the ninth day of Av.

The Talmud cites the reason, given by the prophets, of why each of the two Temples was destroyed. As you mentioned, the reason given for the destruction of the Temple was the transgression of the three cardinal sins: idol worship, forbidden sexual relations and murder.

This reason is cited only for the destruction of the first Temple. The second Temple was destroyed for another reason entirely. The Talmud is, in fact, initially perplexed why the second Temple was destroyed since the population was strongly observant, performed acts of kindness and studied Torah.

The final analysis, as I mentioned last week, was because the members of that generation harbored an inner hatred for each other; they were lacking true love for their fellow Jews.

Our generation is not liable for the three cardinal sins. We are not living in the aftermath of the destruction of the first Temple; rather we are denizens of the exile of the second Temple.

When the sages told us that if the Temple wasn’t rebuilt in our generation it’s as if we destroyed it, we need to look at what caused the destruction and subsequent exile that we are living in today; that of the second Temple. This is telling us that we must still be harboring sufficient lack of love, or even hatred, of our fellow Jews to have caused the destruction of the Temple if it would have stood in our generation.

This thought, Morris, I think you would not find to be too far-fetched to entertain, looking at many interactions between fellow Jews which, sadly, do not always reflect the love we hope and expect to see among members of the same family.

The precise definition in the Talmud for the Jews’ downfall at the time of the destruction was “sinat chinam,” or “hatred for no good reason.” This punctuated a deep level of disconnect; of every man for himself, and of looking at each other as foreigners rather than family. With that attitude of division and detachment it did not take much for fights and hatred to flare up. How true that rings today.

The Temple was the dwelling place of the shechinah, or divine presence of the almighty in this world, among the Jewish people. It was His “royal palace,” the site where Jew and gentile alike could come and feel the Kingdom of God.

The sages tell us “there is no king without a nation.” If the nation is not united, it is not really a nation but a bunch of individuals; there’s no honor in reigning over a bunch of disconnected individuals.

Put another way, God is not only our King, but also our Father. A father enjoys visiting his children when they’re all together in a loving way. If, when he comes to be with them, they are all fighting and not showing any love, he will cut his visit short and not want to spend much time dwelling in that situation.

When the Jewish hearts disconnected from each other, God disconnected from the Jewish people. He no longer had a purpose or a desire to dwell among them. The Talmud teaches that “Shalom” is one of the names of God. When there is Shalom among Jews, God dwells among them. When there is enmity between them, He distances himself from them.

If we can use this period to focus upon the positive traits of our fellow Jews, (including, believe it or not, our spouses, children and other family members) and can kindle in our hearts a love for our fellow Jews, we may be well along the path to rebuilding that Temple and welcoming the shechinah back into our midst.

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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Birthday stories mark memories of one’s lifetime

Birthday stories mark memories of one’s lifetime

Posted on 19 July 2012 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

July is my birthday month, filled with memories and stories. I believe everyone’s life is an unfolding series of stories that, by the time we reach a certain level of maturity, contributes in major measure to the makeup of our current lives. If our stories had been different, surely we would all be different people.

For me, BIG birthdays are the ones ending in zero, because as we mark them, they are marking off our lives into neat, manageable decades — fragments of a whole, each with its own story to tell and retell. I’m blessed (but sometimes cursed!) with a photographic memory that lets me put myself right back into the middle of each of those time-stopping moments, to relive them again …

Age 10: the usual little girl’s party. Back when I was one decade old, parents celebrated their offsprings’ birthdays at home, simple affairs with games (Did you ever Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Get frustrated by missing out on a Musical Chair?) and a simple cake baked by Mom, every slice topped with a scoop of ice cream. (One of my best friends cried every year because her birthday always fell in the middle of Pesach, so her cake always had to be naked sponge in that era before Manischewitz mixes.) And then, the obligatory giving of little gifts that provided momentary fun, more in the opening than in themselves.

Age 20: I had gotten my bachelor’s degree the month before at only 19 — much too young! I turned the decade clock as a summer camp unit head — also much too young for that! — then started graduate school, where I met the man (six years older! Wow!) who would become my husband. I thought 20 was so grown up, old enough for major life decisions. But, much too young! In those “olden days,” I couldn’t even vote yet, and I had to bring my mother along to sign the marriage license application — parental permission required under age 21!

Age 30: Two children, and moves from city to suburb, from apartment to house, from carefree youth to adult responsibility. For sure! I was writing for the local newspaper in an office within walking distance of my home, lucky to have abbreviated workdays that ended at the same time the kids’ schools let out. That day, friends were waiting on my patio to hand me a glass of wine and the popular sterling silver Parker pen of the time. It remains my favorite today.

Age 40: Divorced. Still in the same town, same house, same job, but very different children. (How could they be the same, now that they were rebellious teens rather than compliant youngsters?) So I “ran away” to a hoped-for quiet, relaxing week with dear relatives in North Carolina, and spent the whole time glued to the TV, watching the Watergate fiasco unfold. My mother sent me a gold disc for my charm bracelet (all young women of that time seemed to have charm bracelets) engraved “Mazel.” “That’s what you need most at 40,” she said. She was 70 then and knew lots that I still didn’t …

Age 50: The BIG scary one. Usually. But I had had that Mazel, happily remarrying and moving to Dallas four years before. The two kids, now responsible adults, had also married, one in each of the following two years. Fifty was the relaxing time I had wrongly anticipated a decade earlier.

Age 60: Family and friends remembered my birthday, but totally forgot that it was a BIG one. Very depressing! I told everyone then that, when the next 10 years had gone by, I wanted a roomful of black balloons! This is the saddest of all my birthday decade stories.

Age 70: Husband and I sat in the rain on the mountain grass of Vail, Colo., eating soggy sandwiches while listening to the glorious music of the Dallas Symphony in a setting so different from the Meyerson. On our arrival back home, two huge but strangely lightweight boxes were waiting for me, from Pennsylvania and Illinois. When I opened them, many, many black balloons floated out and up to the ceiling, filling the room. My children had remembered!

And so do I remember every one of those birthdays as I mark this year’s, which is not a BIG one, but has its own little story. We all have our stories. When your next BIG birthday arrives, think of your stories, and tell them again. At least to yourself …

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