Archive | January, 2013

Mitzvah of visiting the ill

Mitzvah of visiting the ill

Posted on 31 January 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have a chronically-ill elderly aunt and am wondering if there is a mitzvah involved with visiting the same person often. Is there a point in time during which that mitzvah has been fulfilled?

— Marcy L.

Dear Marcy,

friedforweb2Visiting the sick is considered one of the greatest of all mitzvot. The Almighty Himself visited Abraham when he was sick. To visit the sick is to emulate the Almighty. It is considered the epitome of the performance of chesed, or acts of loving kindness ,in which we are commanded to “walk in the ways of God.”

The Talmud tells a sage once notified a group of students that a colleague was not well. When none of them went to visit him, the sage rebuked them: “Do you not know of the story of the great Rabbi Akiva, who learned that one of his students was sick and, therefore, absent? He went to visit the student and saw the windows were closed, the floor not swept and his student white and close to death. He opened the windows to let the air in, swept the floor and tidied up the place and saw to his student’s needs. The student quickly regained his strength and said, ‘Rebbe, you have saved my life!’ The next day Rabbi Akiva entered the study hall and declared, ‘Anyone who can visit the sick and refrains from doing so is tantamount to spilling blood!’”

The Talmud says, further, that visiting the sick one “removes one-sixtieth of the illness.” This needs explanation, but it certainly is saying that one can help the situation of the sick by visiting.

In Jewish law, there is no difference between one who is a short-term patient or chronically ill; the mitzvah to visit applies equally to both. The mitzvah of visiting the sick also has no limit; as many times as one visits, he or she performs a mitzvah each time.

Given the newfound longevity of our generation, this blessing goes hand-in-hand with a greater number of elderly who are chronically ill, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is, as you reflect in your question, the difficulty in visiting a sick relative over a protracted period. This can be taxing and cumbersome, especially if the patient is not always in the most jovial or congenial of moods.

Yet this also provides an opportunity for the performance of chesed and developing our likeness to God. We were created in the image of God, and visiting the sick, especially when it is difficult to do so, empowers us to develop that image. It is an opportunity to help someone who truly needs help, and at the same time creates a different self, one that is a true giver and less self-centered.

When visiting the sick, especially someone you’re considering visiting often, it’s important to visit when that individual needs it and not when it’s convenient for you. Your aunt should not be viewed as an object through which you fulfill your mitzvah, but rather as a person who has needs and feelings. The purpose of your visit is not to “do your mitzvah,” but to fulfill the emotional and physical needs of your aunt. As such, we need to be sure that visits are not a burden upon the ill, but rather are dedicated to uplifting them. Many times the ill person might feel as though he or she needs to entertain the visitor even if at times he or she doesn’t have the strength or desire to do so. And when we visit, we should not forget that an important part of the mitzvah is to say a prayer for the ill person’s welfare and recovery.

May this mitzvah bring the Almighty to fulfill the verse: “Heal us and we will be healed” (Jeremiah 17:14).

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

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 31 January 2013 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

Every so often, I like to remind folks about the things that the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County does for the community. The Federation supports a ton of educational programs in the area.

But until the evening of Jan. 27, I had little idea how the funds donated to the Federation in Fort Worth would impact Jews in other countries.

The event was “The Legacy of Giving Award” hosted by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and presented to the Rosenthal family, who, as most folks know, have a terrific history of donating resources to all sorts of organizations and events in Tarrant County.

As those who read the Texas Jewish Post might also know, the guest speaker was Alina Spaulding, dean of admissions at American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, N.C. (she was also guest speaker at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Men’s Event the following evening).

Her story can be found online, as she travels around the country talking about her background. Her family came to the United States from Soviet Russia without money or prospects. Yet thanks to the Jewish Federation system, Alina experienced what she referred to as a “transformational impact of a critical moment.”

I can’t do her words justice here; suffice it to say that her talk about moving from despair in Russia to hope in the United States moved me as I suspect it moved others (given the response from the crowd at the event).

It was a more than appropriate talk for the Fort Worth Federation’s campaign kickoff event, and I encourage everyone in the community to be responsive when your receive that donation envelope or phone call on Super Sunday.

It’s important to support the Federation, not only to uphold the programs of Tarrant County (though they’re hugely important), but also to help the Alinas of the world, and their families.

Roz Rosenthal, center, is flanked by her children: from left, Billy and Rozanne Rosenthal and Marcia and Jon Mike Cohen. The Rosenthal family was honored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County on Jan. 27. Photo: Ellen Appel

Roz Rosenthal, center, is flanked by her children: from left, Billy and Rozanne Rosenthal and Marcia and Jon Mike Cohen. The Rosenthal family was honored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County on Jan. 27. | Photo: Ellen Appel

And congratulations once again …

… to the Rosenthal family on receiving the Legacy of Giving Award. And thank you for being part of the community.

A visit from grandkids

Ina Singer tells us that her grandson Bobby Greenberg, his wife Julie and their son Cooper (who is 4½ months old), visited her in Fort Worth from their home in Clearwater, Fla., between Jan. 19 and 26. This must have been a fun visit for all!

Also from Ina

Jewish Women International will have its monthly meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road in Fort Worth.

Guest speaker will be Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Congregation Ahavath Sholom, who will talk about what inspired him to be a rabbi. It should be an interesting presentation (Rabbi Bloom is always worthwhile to listen to), and all are welcome to attend.

Barry Roberts and Janice Rubin entertain the crowd at “Daytimers.” | Photo: Larry Steckler

Barry Roberts and Janice Rubin entertain the crowd at “Daytimers.” | Photo: Larry Steckler

Daytimers go Yiddish

According to Barbara Rubin, the Jan. 23 Daytimers event, featuring Janice Rubin, experienced an overflow crowd.

Probably no wonder — Janice Rubin was on hand to share insights about Yiddish folk music, and much of what was performed came from her album, “Feels Like Family.” Janice was accompanied by Barry Roberts, one of the featured performers on the album.

In addition to singing, Janice explored lullabies, children’s play songs, humorous and satiric songs, and ballads of Jewish revolutionaries of czarist Russia.

Barbara introduced Janice (who is her daughter — and Barbara writes that the introduction offered her the opportunity to define the Yiddish word “kvell”).

Emcee for the day was Edythe Cohen and Louis Schultz and Rosanne Margolis greeted the guests at the door. Mary Frances Antweil and Adele Arensberg hosted the buffet table, while Larry Steckler and Ellen Appel photographed the event.

Moving on, the February Daytimers program will feature Dr. Jane Guzman Pawgan, who will present “The Story of Ma and Pa Ferguson,” a strange chapter in Texas history.

And speaking of Dr. Pawgan

Beginning Tuesday, Feb. 5, she’ll be presenting the first of a five-part series titled “Jews in America,” which will focus on the experience of Jews in the United States from colonial times through the late 1940s.

The presentations start at 7 p.m. and will run through Tuesday, March 5.

This lecture series is part of Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s b’nai mitzvah course, but you don’t need to be part of the class to attend and enjoy the event, which is free and open to the public. The presentations take place at CAS, 4050 S. Hulen in Fort Worth.

The final word …

… is news! If you have family news, promotional news, holiday news (Purim is coming up and Tu B’Shevat has just passed) or generally want to brag about something, send it along. I’m at awsorter@­

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Sages offer wise answers to ethical dilemmas

Sages offer wise answers to ethical dilemmas

Posted on 31 January 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

seymourforweb2The words my children would roll their eyes at were: Did you know that … ?

They always dreaded the bits of Jewish knowledge I would throw at them although I’m not sure why — there certainly wasn’t going to be a test, and more often than not, the tidbit was sparked by something that was happening at the moment (I do try for relevancy, plus lessons tend to stick better if they relate to the moment).

So how can you become a parent who has the relevant Jewish story filled with the right values ready for the “teachable moment”? Listen, learn and tuck away the important messages for the right moment.

There are questions that children ask that we answer easily. There are questions they ask that are simply beyond answers. And then there are those questions that challenge us because we must question our own thoughts and values.

An ethical dilemma is hard, not because we don’t know what is right and wrong, but because in a dilemma there are competing “rights” — how do we choose?

No one wants to be told what to do — especially our children — so Judaism has the perfect method. Every answer begins with the statement “The rabbis said….” In other words, you, don’t need to listen to me because people addressing these issues were much wiser.

So with all this introduction in a short little letter, what’s the dilemma and what are the words of wisdom for the day? What do we do and what do we say to our children (and ourselves) when we see people begging on the street?

This is not a new problem and we can turn to the wisdom of a Chasidic rebbe, Chaim of Sanz (who died in 1786), for the answer. “The merit of charity is so great that I am happy to give to 100 beggars even if only one might actually be needy. Some people, however, act as if they are exempt from giving charity to 100 beggars in the event that one might be a fraud,”  he said.

Or the answer from another rabbi: “If we must judge, let us judge favorably.”

Giving the benefit of the doubt is an important Jewish value. Think about it, talk about it, do it — and, of course, teach it to your children.

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

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Open discussions essential to Jews

Open discussions essential to Jews

Posted on 31 January 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebJews have always discussed and disagreed — debating seems to be in our DNA. Our great texts were born of sages pitting intellect and ideas against each other. Much of what we are today came from prior collisions of intelligent minds. But I wish we’d argue more today. Chances to challenge each other run every week in our TJP. But where are the Letters to the Editor?

A rare one recently appeared at the bottom of a back page, and I was especially thrilled to see it because I take exception to its premise. The writer railed against the practice of Torah dedications, equating them with buying the privilege of naming something, anything, in a synagogue.

I think very differently. Brick-and-mortar congregations long ago learned that “selling” the premises — putting a price on something, and putting the buyer’s name on a plaque in or near that something — is good for finances. But a Torah is not a social hall or a classroom or a water fountain. It’s our life, and it’s never for sale.

A personal story: my beloved Boubby the Philosopher and her husband, my Zeyde, were charter members of a little shul, one of many “affinities” founded by early 1900s immigrants who came to the same places in America from the same parts of Europe. They were so devoted to their congregation, that when neighborhood demographics changed and the shul moved to a new location, they moved their own family near it. The original social hall, classrooms, water fountain were left behind; that’s what happens to brick-and-mortar institutions as populations shift. But the Torahs went with them. One had been given to the shul by my mother and her siblings in recognition of their parents’ abiding loyalty to that congregation, wrapped in a mantle saying those two founders were being honored by their children with this gift.

Almost a century later, all the little shul’s original members had long since died and the Jews of their city were once again moving away. Only a few old folks were still clinging to the neighborhood, so the congregation’s directors — my Boubby and Zeyde’s youngest son was one of them — reluctantly decided to close their doors. The building was sold to strangers, but the Torahs were given to family members of the founders for rededication in their own congregations. No money was involved when the Roth Torah, named for my beloved grandparents, came to live in the ark of my own congregation here in Dallas.

I suspect that our TJP letter-writer was referring to the recent dedication of a new Torah by another local synagogue because some money was requested here, but it was not to purchase the Torah itself. Rather, it was to offer something truly priceless to any Jew who wanted it.

A family or a synagogue may decide to recognize one or more of its own or to mark a very special occasion with the precious gift of a newly-written Torah to the congregation. And the writing of a new Torah also offers the opportunity to fulfill the last of our 613 Commandments, which enjoins all Jews to write a Torah within our own lifetimes. Of course we’re not all scribes, but we can touch the tip of a scribe’s quill pen as he writes, which symbolically allows us to fulfill that commandment.

Although we are asked to give something to the congregation for this essential privilege, nobody is “selling” that Torah, or “buying” a part of it: Rather, this is a kind of quid pro quo through which every Jew may benefit.

My own synagogue’s first Torah is named for the prominent local businessman who donated it when the congregation was just forming and had none. Among its others are one given by a man in memory of his wife, one given by parents in memory of a child, one given by a couple to honor their own young children. Only one was newly scribed, presenting us with the great opportunity to partake in that final commandment. And the mantles of all our Torahs bear the names of those who will be remembered and honored forever, long after the social hall and classrooms are vacant and the water fountain has run dry, because the holy scrolls will be transplanted to new Jewish venues, as so many rescued Holocaust Torahs have been.

So Judaism goes on, and so should exchanges and explorations of opinions and discussions. Hooray for Letters to the Editor! Let’s have lots more of them!

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Small realizes vision with Perot Museum

Small realizes vision with Perot Museum

Posted on 31 January 2013 by admin

By Dave Sorter

A common theme emerges when Nicole Small talks about the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science, of which she is executive director.

“We want to inspire the next generation of Nobel laureates,” said Small, CEO of the $185 million, 180,000-square-foot Victory Park museum that opened Dec. 1. “I was part of a team, and our goal is to ‘inspire minds through nature and science.’”

The opening of the four-story Perot Museum at the northwest corner of Field Street and Woodall Rodgers Expressway was a definite milestone for Small, 39, the daughter of Dr. Charles Ginsburg, senior associate dean at UT-Southwestern Medical Center and a pediatrician. That marked an 11½-year journey that saw three museums combine into one in a new building that had The New York Times’ museum critic’s jaw drop and The Dallas Morning News list Small as one of its Texan of the Year finalists.

Small was named president of the Dallas Museum of Natural History in 2001, two years after receiving a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and after spending one year in San Francisco. She and her new husband, Justin, moved back to Dallas, and the museum job felt like the thing to do.

“I grew up in a house where my father was a pediatrician and my (late) mom was a full-time volunteer,” she said, adding that her family attended Temple Emanu-El, where her two daughters, ages 4 and 7, went through preschool. “I was exposed at a very young age to volunteerism, I met Nobel Prize winners when I was very young,” so she knew the importance of both science and community service.

The kicker came when her husband — who is connected with Congregation Shearith Israel — told her, “Well, you keep ­complaining how Dallas needs great institutions like they have in Chicago and New York.”

Nicole Small, CEO of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, demonstrates one of the interactive exhibits. Photo: Richard Rodriguez

Nicole Small, CEO of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, demonstrates one of the interactive exhibits. | Photo: Richard Rodriguez

Small had previous ties to the Museum of Natural History. While serving as a consultant for McKinsey and Company in 1996-97, the 1991 Hockaday School and 1995 University of Pennsylvania graduate helped her boss, a museum board member, do a pro bono project for it.

She was in for a wild ride. She helped preside over the 2006 merger of the Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children’s Museum into the Museum of Science & Nature at Fair Park. That was almost a given after the new Perot Museum’s 4.7-acre site was purchased in 2005.

From there, it was a matter of raising the $185 million needed, the largest chunk of which came in the form of a $50 million donation from the children of Ross and Margot Perot in their parents’ honor.

“I had so many connections to schools, corporations,” Small said. “It’s all been fun. I’ve learned and grown with the project.”

One thing she’s especially proud of: “It was paid off a year in advance with no public money.”

Small’s pace hasn’t slowed a bit as the fundraising/construction phase morphed into operations mode.

“It’s moved from dream to reality, and I’m pleased to see it in place,” Small said. “Now, instead of walking around talking with construction workers, I’m riding on the elevator and talking with visitors about the museum. We’ve moved quickly from building a building to operations.”

And with that, she dreams of the future Nobel Prize winner who refers to the Perot Museum as an early inspiration. She hopes children will have the fond memories of “The Perot” as children from New York have of the American Museum of Natural History and those from Chicago do of the Museum of Science and Industry.

“I hope many Nobel laureates will remember The Perot as where they got started,” she said.

And Small — a breast-cancer survivor who managed to oversee the opening of the museum just months after undergoing a double mastectomy — says that as a mother, as well as a museum director.

“A focus on careers is important to us,” she said. “We feel it’s really important to make the connection between science and careers, so we have career kiosks set up at almost every exhibit.

“There’s a whole world of excitement,” Small said, with the same look of awe a child might have when seeing giant dinosaurs or experiencing the feeling of an earthquake at the museum.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 31 January 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I am happy to report that beloved TJP columnist Harriet Gross is back home after a rehab stay at The Legacy Preston Hollow to mend her broken femur and ankle. Though not totally back on her feet, Harriet was able to share with us some background on Beth Torah Sisterhood’s Torah Fund honorees, Marilyn Guzick and Roberta Lazarus, who will be honored next weekend at a noontime luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Addison. Cost of the event is $32 with an additional $18 minimum donation for the Torah Fund.

Checks for the lunch are to be made out to “Beth Torah Sisterhood” and the donation is a separate check made out to “Torah Fund.” To RSVP contact Elaine Scharf ASAP at 972-307-3521.

Marilyn Guzick

Social Action: that is Marilyn Guzick’s middle name — or maybe a synonym for her vital role in the synagogue that she and husband Larry joined in 1990, when they moved to Dallas with two preschoolers.

The pair loved the congregation’s interactive participation, and Marilyn quickly became active on its Holiday Committee, then moved up to serve on the synagogue board. Five years ago, she was asked if she and Larry would co-chair Karen Leynor Mitzvah Day, Beth Torah’s annual tribute to former Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor’s wife, who died in 2004 at age 38.

The Guzick household was busy then with preparations for the bat mitzvah of their third child, but Marilyn credits her husband for saying “Let’s do it!” The two worked together to build this event from a one-day affair involving 150 people to a day of community service for almost 300 volunteers and over 20 activities. Social Action also now has year-round projects on a monthly (and sometimes more often) basis.

The initial positive response “felt good, and it was fun,” according to Marilyn, who was soon back on the board as Social Action Committee chair, and has since taken over spearheading social action for the Sisterhood as well.

Although money is necessary to accomplish some of her projects, Marilyn says of her efforts at both synagogue and Sisterhood levels, “I try to keep the primary focus on action. I ask for their time, to spend it together on projects that interact with those we’re actually helping. How many lives we’ve touched as a community over all these years! And they are just like us!”

Marilyn’s mother was pregnant with her when the Mimuns immigrated to San Antonio from their home in Tunisia. Most of the family is now in Austin, where Marilyn and Larry met on a blind date and married in 1984; the oil business took them to Houston and Midland before bringing them to Dallas six years later. Their children are Shana, 27, a writer/editor for Chabad in New York; Jared, 25, a wine representative in Dallas; and Alana, 17, now a junior at J.J. Pearce High School.

A physical therapist by profession, Marilyn keeps her own body fit with yoga and walking the family dog. She began a Jewish journey in Beth Torah’s 1996 adult b’nai mitzvah class. She is currently in her second year of studying Biblical Hebrew and is also thoroughly enjoying her study of Mussar, the Jewish soul traits. Today she feeds her family healthy food and home-baked challah, enriching both the soul and synagogue as a regular Torah reader.

For Marilyn Guzick, “It’s all come together,” she says, “and it’s a great feeling!”

Roberta Lazarus

For Roberta Lazarus, education is a way of life. Teacher trained in her native New York, she and her husband Robert came to Dallas in 1976, when their first child was 10 months old. They enrolled him in a Jewish preschool at age 2, and Roberta went into the classroom herself as a teacher there.

Beth Torah didn’t have its own pre-school then, but the Lazaruses joined the synagogue 28 years ago, when Adam was ready for its Learning Center. And that’s when Roberta’s attention first shifted to adult education.

The family moved into its Plano home in 1979, and “it was a culture shock for me,” Roberta recalls today. Like many New Yorkers, she had taken her Judaism for granted, breathing it in with the air of the Boro Park neighborhood where she taught. But life in suburban Dallas made her acutely aware of their religious identity and brought her to the realization that she had to become active in her synagogue.

Roberta says, “I’m really a shy person, so it took a lot for me to get involved, but I finally decided to take the leap.” She jumped right into education, always a major interest, and found a very warm welcome from Mark Siegel, then chairing Beth Torah’s Adult Education Committee. (After his death in 2002, the synagogue named its annual Scholar in Residence program in Siegel’s memory.)

The committee members were not only welcoming, they gave ­Roberta more and more responsibility, which ultimately included joint chairmanship (with the late Mark Siegel’s wife, Nancy) and representing adult education on Beth Torah’s board of directors. And her synagogue involvements expanded to include working with its Social Action program in efforts benefiting an array of agencies, from Jewish Family Service to East Plano’s City House for at-risk teens.

But education never lagged behind. Roberta has continued to further her own Jewish studies in the Melton Program offered at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center; she has served on the Melton board, and on those of both BBYO and North Texas Hillel.

Through it all, Roberta works with her husband in his risk management firm, RWL Group. And she is mom to firstborn Adam, now 37, a criminal defense attorney; in the middle is insurance man Brett, father of their granddaughter; and their youngest, Shane, currently a student.

Now, Roberta hopes to become even more involved with the area’s larger Jewish community. Her goal? “I’d like to have the energy and presence of mind to be as involved in 20 years as I am today!”

New JSI program on tap

The Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas broadens the horizon of interreligious dialogue with its new series called Faiths in Conversation. Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, the executive director of JSI, has long been involved in dialogue with Christians and Muslims. This new series is intended to take interfaith dialogue to a whole new level of seriousness and depth.

The first installment in the series will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Northway Christian Church, 7202 W. Northwest Hwy., Dallas. The session will be devoted to the possible tension between divine authority and personal conscience, and will grapple with the question: As a submissive servant of God, should the religious person ever think or act according to his own moral understanding?

Jewish, Christian and Islamic perspectives will be shared, respectively, by Rabbi Schlesinger; the Rev. Dr. Douglas Skinner, senior minister of the Northway Christian Church; and Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, founder and CEO of the Bayyinah Institute.

Rabbi Schlesinger invites the community to “Join us, think deeply, and expand your mind.”

In addition to the Jewish Studies Initiative, the Northway Christian Church and the Bayyinah Institute, this series is sponsored by the Memnosyne Foundation and the Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

The second event in the Faiths in Conversation series will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 10. The topic will be “How I Pray — As a Jew, Christian, or Muslim.” The venue is to be announced.

For more information please contact Rabbi Schlesinger at

Incidentally, Rabbi Schlesinger will serve on an interfaith panel at 7 p.m. Feb. 6, as part of the Southern Methodist University’s Association of Student Counselors at Perkins School of Theology, Prothro Hall, Room 106, 5901 Bishop Blvd.

The discussion is titled “Service as a Universal Prescription for Well-Being” and will explore how service has been beneficial to communities across cultural and religious traditions over the centuries, linking up to the current researched benefits of being of service as a therapeutic model.

The idea of service in the mental health profession began with the works of the 19th-century psychiatrist Alfred Adler, whose idea of treating the individual within one’s social construct was paramount in healing, forming the scientific foundation for the benefits of service to mental health.

AJC program will explore immigration reform

Among the hottest topics right now is immigration reform. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Aaron Family JCC, Richard Foltin, AJC director of legislative affairs, and Mark Hetfield, executive director of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) will discuss this issue and other legislative agenda items. The event is free and open to the public. For more details contact ­ or 972-387-2943.

Smart cookies

Congratulations to the following stellar students:

• Sixth-grader Bear Steinberg, son of Laurie and Marc Steinberg of Dallas. Bear won the McCulloch Intermediate School Geography Bee.

• Leigh Kellner, daughter of Marci and Mark Kellner of Dallas, earned a Bachelor of Science in advertising at UT Austin in December. Leigh graduated from J.J. Pearce High School in 2009.

• Eliana Gershon, daughter of Raquel and Rabbi William Gershon of Dallas. Eliana was awarded the 2013 North Campus MLK spirit award at the University of Michigan. This award recognizes students whose leadership and service exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The award was presented on Jan. 21 at a banquet in the Gerald R. Ford presidential library.

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Woman finally finds freedom

Woman finally finds freedom

Posted on 24 January 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebMartin Luther King Jr.’s birthday has come and gone once again, and with it came my annual remembrance of the saddest words I ever heard. It was many years ago in Chicago; the first member of color was attending his first meeting of Mensa, the high-I.Q. society, and what he said as he introduced himself was: “I’m smart enough to be white.”

Usually I let that bruising, tear-infused memory enter my consciousness for just a moment before fading away for another year. But this year, it resonates with me in a newer context.

I recently read “Unorthodox,” Deborah Feldman’s scathing personal expose of her life within, and “escape” from, New York’s Satmar Chasidic community. And I’ve been wondering if what all her words really boil down to is: “I’m smart enough to be a man.” Or perhaps, “I’m smart enough to be a woman in a freer culture than this.”

I have a couple of concerns after finishing her book. First, that any non-Jewish readers without other knowledge of our very diverse people may think all Jews are like those Feldman knows so well and describes so pejoratively. Second, that the “liberated” Feldman may find in herself an ongoing war between her own two worlds: the repressive one she has left and the wide-open one in which she has chosen to live.

Satmar devotion is practiced in hopes of bringing closer the Messiah’s coming through absolute acceptance of God’s word and will. The men study the first, interpreting it strictly, then imposing their interpretations upon their wives and their children, as well as themselves. As for the second, it covers everything that happens — even disasters like the Holocaust are “God’s will,” brought about as punishment for Jews’ non-compliant behavior.

Feldman’s revolt emerges early from a childhood that repressed her desires to learn about any bigger world. She broke some rules, like secretly reading secular books — mostly American girlhood classics such as “Little Women” — then suffering doubly, from guilt at her own disobedience more than raw fear of being caught.

She chafed, physically and emotionally, under the heavy burden of the restrictive “modest” clothing she and all her contemporaries had to wear.

And she was psychologically astute: As she grew, longing for non-existent snacks between mealtimes in her spartan home, she also understood that this was not really what she craved: “There is a yawning chasm in me that threatens to grow wider if I don’t stuff the gap with as much as I can manage. Food is a temporary fix, but it’s better than staying with the emptiness.”

Later, as a married woman, there is a reprise: “On Shabbos afternoon, as I sit on the lawn surrounded by my neighbors and listen to their idle gossip, I am reminded of the yawning gap that is my life, of the burning hunger inside that gnaws at me…I think I was meant for something different than this.”

Feldman was a bride at 17, matched by her family to a young man she spent only five minutes talking to before their wedding day. She resolved to try, for appearances’ sake rather than her own: “I am a good girl, and I will make everyone proud of me. No one will be able to criticize my family when I am a successful, obedient housewife.”

Of course, this was not to be. Eli was not the sweet, understanding partner she had hoped for. Eventually she gave birth to a son — sparing the reader none of her difficulties along the way. Eventually, also, she broke with her past, starting with clandestine enrollment in an adult education program where her way with words and her unusually compelling story were recognized and first put together into what became this book.

Feldman records a final visit to a school friend who once shared her love of forbidden books. “Mindy’s husband disapproved. She stopped reading and busied herself with having children. ‘It’s what God wants,’ she said. But God was not the one who wanted Mindy to have children. Her fate was being decided by the people around her. … ”

In her new secular life, Feldman makes her own decisions. She says she remains Jewish because of her son, maintaining a kosher kitchen and raising him Modern Orthodox, “to keep the differences between his father’s lifestyle and mine as minimally confusing as possible.”

I wish her luck. And I hope her second memoir, which she’s working on now, will assure me that she’s indeed smart enough to build the fulfilling life she always dreamed of.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 24 January 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I love hearing about folks’ spontaneous efforts toward tikkun olam. Read on to learn about a nifty project spearheaded by Brentfield sixth grader Sydney Bennett.

Honorable Menschen

Sydney Bennett and seven of her energetic schoolmates were on a mission late last month. Despite frigid temperatures on Dec. 30, Sydney organized an impromptu mitzvah project, the 4 G Scavenger Hunt. 4 G stands for “Great Girls Gathering Goods.”

Sixth grader Sydney Bennett, seated front and center, was joined by seven of her Brentfield classmates for a unique scavenger hunt benefitting multiple charities. Shown are (front row from left) Megan Droste, Bennett, Ailis Wynne; middle row from left Camryn Strickland and Lily Flandorfer; and top row from left, Helena Kaplan, Jacquelyn Bodzy and Dena Levy. | Photo: Scott Bennett

Sixth grader Sydney Bennett, seated front and center, was joined by seven of her Brentfield classmates for a unique scavenger hunt benefitting multiple charities. Shown are (front row from left) Megan Droste, Bennett, Ailis Wynne; middle row from left Camryn Strickland and Lily Flandorfer; and top row from left, Helena Kaplan, Jacquelyn Bodzy and Dena Levy. | Photo: Scott Bennett

The girls spent close to two hours knocking on doors to collect donations for Operation Kindness, Goodwill, North Texas Food Bank and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In that short time, they collected 60 items for Goodwill, 150 canned food items, and $185 for MS and 10 items for Operation Kindness. Sydney is the daughter of Leigh and Scott Bennett. Yasher koach!

Noted educator and author Michael Gurian will be Pollman lecturer at Akiba

Akiba Academy will welcome New York Times bestselling author, educator and family counselor Michael Gurian to the school at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30 as part of its Pollman Lecture Series. The talk is free and open to the community.

A prolific author of 25 books, Gurian’s research has demonstrated how the distinction in hard-wiring and socialized gender differences affects how boys and girls learn. Gurian presents a new way to educate children based on brain science, neurological development, and chemical and hormonal disparities. His innovations have been applied in classrooms throughout the country and proven successful, with dramatic improvements in test scores. In his best-selling classic “Boys and Girls Learn Differently,” he explained the origin and nature of gender differences in the classroom. His important book explored the behavior teachers observed and the challenges they faced with both boys and girls in their classrooms.

Important blood drive

Yavneh Academy will host its annual Maddie’s Mitzvah blood drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, Jan. 25 in the school’s Pollman Hall (12324 Merit Dr., Dallas).

First dedicated seven years ago for Maddie White, the granddaughter of Bill Burns, long the school’s printer and supporter of its programs and events, Yavneh is glad to report that Maddie who at one time required many surgeries and the transfusion of hundreds of pints of plasma, whole blood and platelets, is a thriving seventh grader and is doing well.

This year, Yavneh has added a bone marrow registration drive, in partnership with Delete Blood Cancer ( to its Maddie’s Mitzvah, in the merit of good health toward community member Zach Guillot.

Walk-in donors are welcome or contact Deb Silverthorn at 972-839-6916 or to request an appointment.

Lauren Stock will speak to Yavneh’s students Friday morning about her High School Heroes program, promoting bone marrow registration for students when they turn 18.

It’s time to apply for a JFS Klein Summer Internship

The application process for the Klein Summer Internship Program is underway at JFS. High school sophomores or juniors who turn 16 by Sept. 1, 2013, are eligible to apply.

This six-week internship program gives students the opportunity to work with non-profit agencies in the DFW area, matching each student’s individual interests and skills with the needs of the participating agencies. There are approximately 25 internships available this year.

Students are considered for internships without regard to religion, race or ethnicity. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11. Submit online or by email to Beri Schwitzer at For more information or an application, visit

Sports shorts

• Austin College senior Ariel Marder was named by the Jewish Sports Review as a First Team All-American in women’s soccer, Marder, a midfielder from Plano, is one of just 11 players to be named to the First Team, which consists of players from the NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, and NAIA levels. Marder, who was an All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference selection this season, scored two goals, including one game winner, and was among the conference leaders with eight assists. She also led the ‘Roos with 12 total points for the year.

Austin College athletic teams participate as a member of the NCAA Division III and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. Ariel is the daughter of Beth and Charlie Marder.

Alan Rosenthal will cycle in Israel this summer with Maccabi USA at the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel. | Photo: Ana Rosenthal

Alan Rosenthal will cycle in Israel this summer with Maccabi USA at the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel. | Photo: Ana Rosenthal

• Alan Rosenthal, 18, a St. Marks’ senior has been named to the Maccabi USA Cycling team and will travel to Israel for the 19th annual games in July. You may remember Alan from a Good Sports profile in the TJP in September 2011. He is fairly new to biking; he picked up the sport during his freshman year.

The cycling season has started and Alan has been training hard for the past few weeks. His first races of the high shhool season will be Feb. 9 and 10 at the Cedar Hill Race Festival, which is a pre-season event. After that, he will compete in statewide races. The last race he competed in was the Junior 4/5 McInnish Park Crit in December where he placed 1st. A “crit” or criterium is a short, fast bike race usually less than five kilometers. Often held on closed-off city streets, it requires a great deal of technical skill due to the tight corners and close competition.

Like all Maccabi USA athletes Alan will be required to raise $5,000 for his trip. To help support Alan’s Macabbi USA efforts visit his fundraising page at

Alan is the son of Ana and Leon Rosenthal of Dallas.

Smart cookies

• Ben Schachter, son of Amy and Steve Schachter won the Levine Academy Middle School Geography Bee sponsored by National Geographic. Ben is now eligible to take a written test to qualify for the regional competition.

• Amanda Steinborn, daughter Vivian and David Steinborn of Dallas has been accepted into the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society. Amanda is an eighth grader at Akiba Academy. The Academy, America’s premier Jewish pluralistic college-prep boarding school, recently extended invitations to 50 students worldwide for admittance into its exclusive organization. Now in its fourth year, the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society is an international honor society that acknowledges exceptional 8th and 9th grade students, like Amanda, who have demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, the arts, leadership and service to their communities.

• Dalit Agronin, daughter Carol and David Agronin of Dallas earned Dean’s lists honors for the Fall 2012 semester of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. Students must earn a minimum of a 3.5 grade point average (4.0 scale) to attain Dean’s List status. A member of the class of 2016, Dalit is a graduate of Yavneh Academy.

Keep the news coming! We love to hear from our readers. Send your news to me at or by snail mail to me at 7920 Belt Line Road, Ste. 680, Dallas, TX 75254.

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Exploring Tu B’Shevat’s roots

Exploring Tu B’Shevat’s roots

Posted on 24 January 2013 by admin

Artwork: Alex Morris

Artwork: Alex Morris

By Amy Wolff Sorter

Tu B’Shevat may not have the splash of last month’s Chanukah or the rowdiness of next month’s Purim, but according to area Jewish leaders, Tu B’Shevat, with its emphasis on trees and the environment, is an important date on the Hebrew calendar.

This year, Tu B’Shevat — literally the 15th day of the month of Shevat on the Hebrew calendar — takes place from sundown Friday, Jan. 25 to sundown Saturday, Jan. 26. During that period, organizations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area will focus on everything from the meaning of trees to Judaism, to the relationship between Jews and the planet.

At Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth, children attending the religious school will plant in Gan Ahavath Sholom — its new community garden — and will also take part in a Tu B’Shevat seder.

“That’s what the holiday itself is all about; it’s about the trees,” said Marti Herman, who is spearheading Gan Ahavath Sholom planting activities. “It just made sense. It’s an appropriate time for spring planting, and that coincided at just the right time.”

Meanwhile, in Dallas, Congregation Shearith Israel will have a full-fledged seder, complete with four cups of wine, tasting of fruits, singing, dancing and a dairy dinner. Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano also is having a seder for adults and kids, with foods native to Israel, such as figs, olives and carobs. Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson will have a congregational Tu B’Shevat Shabbat dinner.

“We try to get both the children an adults attuned to Tu B’Shevat and environmental concerns,” said Bob Westle, Anshai Torah’s education director.

In addition to trees, Tu B’Shevat focuses on the environment and environmentalism. But environmentalism and ecology take on different forms in the secular world — some folks are content to stick soda bottles in a recycling bin and call that “environmentalism,” while others refuse to use plastic bags at the grocery store and build a compost heap in their backyards. Given the different definitions of “environmentalism,” it’s probably little wonder that Tu B’Shevat observations and celebrations can differ greatly.

Even the origins of the specific holiday differ. CSI Associate Rabbi David Singer explained that the sages don’t refer to Tu B’Shevat specifically, but to a tree’s “new year” throughout the Mishnah. The sages explained that understanding a tree’s age was hugely important, as it determined whether its fruit would be eaten or offered to the Temple.

“During the first three years of a tree’s life, it’s not ours, but God’s,” Singer commented.

Rabbi Benjamin Sternman of Adat Chaverim in Plano also said Tu B’Shevat’s origins were born from tithes during the days of the Temple.

“It started out as a tax holiday,” he explained. “Any tree that fruited by a certain time would have to be tithed that year, whereas trees fruiting afterward would tithe in the following year.”

Once the Temple was destroyed and the Diaspora was in full swing, many things changed; one of which was the meaning and observation of Tu B’Shevat.

“It’s a holiday that’s changed its focus over time, and its observance has changed over time,” Sternman said. “A Tu B’Shevat celebration depends on the culture of a particular congregation.”

There are practical observances, such as the one going on at CAS’ Gan Ahavath Sholom. Herman said the planting project is ongoing, with the resulting produce going to area food banks. “It’s our hope that the kids can see what their labor of love can produce for others in need,” Herman commented. “Plus they can see the full process of how food comes from the field.”

Some Reform congregations encourage religious school students to plant parsley at this time of year, Sternman added. By Pesach, the vegetable will have sprouted and be ready for harvest, to be used at the Passover seder.

Yet the Tu B’Shevat seders throughout the area encompass more of the mystical side of the holiday, in addition to its practical viewpoint. Rabbi Nasanya Zakon, director of DATA of Plano, noted that Tu B’Shevat seders are filled with blessings over unusual fruits and nuts.

“An important approach to this holiday is a sense of gratitude,” he said. “We live in a world in which so much is synthetic, we can lose appreciation for God’s beauty and creation. Tu B’Shevat is a great way to look at the brilliance of a pineapple and to appreciate the taste of an orange; to appreciate God’s creations.”

Singer agreed, pointing out that the Tu B’Shevat observance, no matter which form it takes, provides a priceless opportunity to reflect on the beauty of creation, and to ensure that beauty is cared for.

“God promised not to destroy creation again after the Flood,” Singer said. “As partners, in creation, as partners living on this beautiful earth, we have a responsibility to protect what’s been given to us.”

In addition to the “attitude of gratitude” focus, the holiday offers a good time to reconnect with, and protect, the Earth, something that’s mentioned over and over throughout the Bible.

Tu B’Shevat offers interesting symbolism, especially if examined through Kabbalistic eyes, Zakon said. The holiday takes place during a time of year in which sap begins flowing in trees.

Though we don’t see the actual results of that until around Passover, “in Deuteronomy, there are comparisons between human beings and trees in the field,” Zakon explained. “As trees grow in two different stages — internal and external — humans do as well.”

The mystics explain Tu B’Shevat as a holiday that sets the stage for growth – both human and plants – because it’s a holiday that launches internal growth.

Singer believes that, however it’s celebrated, Tu B’Shevat is nature’s wake-up call to Jews.

“Much like the shofar blast during the High Holy Days is a wake-up call to our souls to help perfect our beings, Tu B’Shevat is the wake-up call for us in regards to nature, reminding us that we have an opportunity and obligation to protect the planet,” he said.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 24 January 2013 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

This is the time of year when the weather is weird — one day it’s in the upper 60s and we fling the windows open; the next day a blue norther comes through, forcing us to slam the windows shut and turn on the furnace.

Participants prepare a meal at Chabad of Arlington’s “Shabbat in An Hour,” on Jan. 13. Those in attendance learned how to prepare quick, tasty Shabbat meals. | Photo: Chabad of Arlington

Participants prepare a meal at Chabad of Arlington’s “Shabbat in An Hour,” on Jan. 13. Those in attendance learned how to prepare quick, tasty Shabbat meals. | Photo: Chabad of Arlington

It’s also the time of year to expand our minds a little. Many organizations have Shabbatons and “scholar in residence” programs, all of which are geared to connect us further to Judaism.

In previous columns, I’ve written about the Kornbleet Memorial Scholar-in-Residence program, which takes place at Congregation Ahavath Sholom (4050 S. Hulen in Fort Worth) beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7. Raphael Danziger with American Israel Public Affairs Committee and editor of the Near East Report is the guest speaker.

A couple of days before the Kornbleet event, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, CAS launches another series, this one titled “Jews in America.” The first of the five-part lecture series begins at 7 p.m. and will run Tuesdays through March 5.

During these presentations, Jane Guzman Pawgan will take participants through the history of Jews in America, from colonial times to 1948.

Those of you who know the presenter know that she brings all kinds of experience to her presenter’s role — she’s a doctor of philosophy, is well educated in American history and political science and is part of the adjunct faculty at schools such as Texas Woman’s University, Richland College and Tarrant County Junior College, among others.

She also lectures at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center in Dallas and at SMU. I could go on, but you get the point — she knows her stuff.

Even better is that this series is free and open to the public, as is the Kornbleet program.

Also open to the public …

… is Congregation Beth Israel’s “Good Food, Good Learning, Good Community” series, featuring guest speakers, dinner and the evening service.

Dinner begins at 6 p.m., the service launches at 7 p.m. and the speaker comes on board at 7:30 p.m. Coming up are Kol Ami’s Rabbi Geoff Dennis (Wednesday, Feb. 6) and Ron Bernstein, Jewish National Fund Israel Emissary for the Southwest (Wednesday, March 6).

All take place at CBI, 6100 Pleasant Road in Colleyville, and are supported by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. To RSVP, email

And now, for a little entertainment

This time of year is also a good one for some movie-watching. Specifically, movie-watching at Beth-El Congregation’s film festival. Films still to be offered are “Bride Flight” (Saturday, Feb. 16) and “My First Wedding” (Saturday, March 23).

The films will be shown at the synagogue, 4900 Briarhaven in Fort Worth. They’re free to the public, but an RSVP is suggested. Either call Beth-El at 817-332-7141 or email for more information.

Also at Beth-El

Women of Reform Judaism are gearing up to host its annual donor brunch — the organization’s main fund-raiser — which takes place from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Feb. 3 at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven in Fort Worth.

This year’s theme is “Fifty Shades of Red,” and, appropriately enough, will feature Israeli wines. Robert Chicotsky of Chicotsky’s Liquor Store will offer his take on the wines, and provide a mini-wine tasting with some good advice about wine-meal pairings.

Feastivities is providing the brunch, a silent auction will take place — and RSVPs are still being accepted (through Jan. 25). Interested? Log onto for more information. Funds benefit Beth-El’s religious school and scholarships to Greene Family Camp, among other worthy charities.

Purim is just around the corner

And the CAS Ladies Auxiliary needs volunteers to help make hamantaschen between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Feb. 3 and 10 in the synagogue’s kitchen — the address is 4050 S. Hulen in Fort Worth.

All the ingredients will be provided; what’s needed are helping hands. Those interested in helping out can call 817-731-4721.

The hamantaschen, incidentally, will be for sale (flavors include apricot, prune, poppy seed and raspberry) at a cost of $12 per baker’s dozen. Advance orders are welcome; call the number above for more info.

The final note

It’s not too late to send “holiday vacation” information to be published in Around the Town. Did you go somewhere fun? Did family come town? Did you celebrate with friends? Let us know! Send your info to me at

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