Archive | January, 2013

God commands us to protect earth

God commands us to protect earth

Posted on 24 January 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

seymourforweb2It is beginning to feel like winter (finally), and it is Tu B’Shevat — the birthday of the trees.

Most of us have memories of collecting money to plant trees in Israel at this time of year, and we continue to plant, especially on this “birthday.” There are so many wonderful ways of teaching our children to appreciate the wonder of nature and to learn that the Jewish people have been ecologists and environmentalists since biblical times — commanded by God to care for our earth. Tu B’Shevat is a very special time to remember this.

The Torah tells us how the world was created, but then goes on to tell us how to protect and preserve the earth. A very important Jewish law is Bal Tashchit (do not destroy). The Torah tells us we must not destroy and we must not waste. Take time to talk with your children about the meaning of the various comments from Jewish texts on taking care of the earth.

Before you begin: Do not be nervous if you have never studied a Jewish text. Begin by reading the full text aloud. Ask “what do you think it is saying?” Then begin to break down the text into smaller pieces. Remember, there is no right answer; each of us must find meaning for ourselves, and even young children are capable.

These are taken from “Listen to the Trees — Jews and the Earth” by Molly Cone, a wonderful resource filled with quotations and stories.

“Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai used to say: ‘If you have a sapling in your hand and you are told that the Messiah has come, first plant the sapling and then go welcome the Messiah.’ (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 31b)

“It is forbidden to live in a town in which there is no garden or greenery. (Jerusalem Talmud, Kodahsim 4:12)

“When you besiege a city for a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. You may eat from them, but you must not cut them down. (Deuteronomy 20:19)

“Whoever destroys anything that could be useful to others breaks the law of Bal Tashchit. (Babylonian Talmud, Kodashim 32a)

“The whole world of humans, animals, fish, and birds all depend on one another. All drink the earth’s water, breathe the earth’s air, and find their food in what was created on the earth. All share the same destiny. (Tanna de Bei Eliyahu Rabbh 2)”

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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Focus tzedakah on needy

Focus tzedakah on needy

Posted on 24 January 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have been doing some thinking about my tzedakah-giving situation. I’m not in the category of the rich, but I’m certainly very comfortable. I donate money to charity every year and also spend lots of money on cars, vacations and the nice things in life, which I have worked hard to earn. Lately I’ve been wondering if I’m doing enough for tzedakah, and if maybe some of the luxuries I enjoy should instead be replaced by an increase in my giving. But where does one draw the line?

— Steve L.

Dear Steve,

friedforweb2Let me begin by relating a beautiful story that illustrates to what great lengths our people have gone for tzedakah.

Some 70 years ago in Jerusalem lived Yosef, a very pious Jew who, despite his own very limited means, gave very generously to tzedakah. One day he was approached by the local tzedakah collector who was trying to raise money for a man who was in dire need of a costly emergency surgery. Yosef checked his tzedakah box and found it empty, as he had already depleted his full ability to give that month, and profusely apologized that he simply had no more to give.

A moment after the collector left, Yosef ran after him and stopped him. He told the man that he made a calculation. Every week, he was scrupulous to recite Kiddush over wine. Jewish law states that if one cannot afford wine, he may recite the Kiddush over the challah instead. He calculated the cost of the wine per week and found that if he would recite Kiddush over the challah for the next 10 years, he would save enough on the wine to pay for the man’s operation.

If another Jew is in need and this may save his life, than he, Yosef, feels he can’t afford the wine, and the collector should take a loan guaranteed by Yosef for the amount needed. He would pay it back over the next 10 years, with the wine savings, which he did.

A rabbi once told this story to a group in Jerusalem, and afterward a man came forward and said he is the nephew of Yosef. Until that moment, he had never understood the mystery of his uncle’s strange custom to recite the Kiddush over challah and not wine, and now he’s so proud to know the reason. Imagine, a 10-year sacrifice like that for a man he had never met.

The Jewish people have always given far above and beyond the call of duty, and even until today we are, per capita, way beyond the giving of any other ethnic or other group in the United States or the world, as many studies have shown. Today’s American Jews are, thank God, more affluent than we have ever been in our long Diaspora history.

The question is, do we still have the same feeling of collective responsibility to our fellow Jews as did Yosef and many others among our people?

Hundreds of millions of Jewish dollars are given to myriad good causes every year, so why are so many thousands of Jews living far below the poverty level in Israel and other parts of the world? Why are our educational institutions, day schools and outreach organizations having such a difficult time covering their shoe-string budgets, the teachers being terribly underpaid and at times not paid on time or at all?

The list goes on and on, and shows that somehow, our people need to have a priority shift. We simply can’t afford to give hundreds of millions to the arts and other worthy causes when so many of our own people are being lost to apathy and assimilation, or in states of poverty.

Everyone who works hard and does well certainly may enjoy the fruits of their labors. But a sense of priority, caring and responsibility needs to be there. We Jews are all one family, and many in our family are far from the material and spiritual affluence that many of us enjoy.

I learned a profound lesson from my dear mother-in-law in Jerusalem. Whenever she made a family simcha, wedding, bar mitzvah, etc., she always helped cover a similar simcha for a needy family who could not afford to do it on their own.

The Torah’s concept of Maaser, or tithing 1/10th of one’s earnings to tzedakah, is a wonderful guideline for giving. Those who do so report that they get a lot more than they give, and it is one of the most rewarding aspects of their lives.

Please feel free to contact me, or your rabbinic authority, to help you set specific guidelines to giving, as the parameters of giving are outlined in our holy Torah, as are other areas of everyday life.

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

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 17 January 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

In addition to the community getting to hear Jon Daniels’ insights on the 2013 Texas Rangers (see Page 3), several great sports stories have developed locally over the past few weeks that I’d like to catch you up on.

Amazing Grace does it again

Grace Horn helped make Texas high school girls basketball history when her Plano West team defeated Houston Clear Springs, 107-105, in five overtimes during winter break.

It was the highest scoring girls game in Texas history, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The 212 combined points scored at the Sandra Meadows Classic in Duncanville made it the sixth highest-scoring girls game ever nationally.

One Houston-area newspaper wrote, “Considering the quality of the teams it was probably the greatest girls game ever played in Texas.”

Plano West was ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, the state’s largest, most competitive classification. Clear Springs was No. 4.

Grace played every minute of all four-minute overtimes.

Not bad for a Levine Academy graduate who got her start on the wood backboards in school’s small gym and played for three straight Dallas Maccabi basketball teams that brought home one gold and two silver medals.

A point guard, Grace’s primary responsibility is to run the offense, distribute the ball and press defensively in West’s fast-paced style. It wasn’t until the fifth overtime, after several of her teammates had fouled out and others were in severe foul trouble, that she took it upon herself to shoot more. Grace scored seven of West’s 13 points in the final four minutes to help seal the victory.

“Horn made huge decisions and plays during those overtime periods,” one recruiting newsletter reported. It graded her the top senior guard in the 32-team tournament yet to commit to a college.

Among the schools that have recruited her are Tufts, Johns Hopkins, Brandeis, Emory and Trinity.

Ironically, Grace hadn’t been expected to play much in against Clear Springs. She suffered a foot injury earlier that day in a victory over Beaumont Ozen, the top Class 4A school in the state.

“She gutted it out and that just shows the heart she has,” West coach Don Patterson told reporters from around the state after the game.

Grace is the daughter of Sharon and Barry Horn.

LEFT: Plano West senior Grace Horn  sets up the offense. | Photo: Courtesy Barry HornRIGHT: David Holiner before heading to UT in 2009. | TJP file photo

LEFT: Plano West senior Grace Horn sets up the offense. | Photo: Courtesy Barry Horn
RIGHT: David Holiner before heading to UT in 2009. | TJP file photo

UT junior Holiner Maccabiah-bound

Mazel tov to David Holiner, a University of Texas junior, on his appointment to represent the United States as a member of the 19th Maccabiah Games open tennis team. These games, the third largest international sporting competition in the world, will be held in Israel from June 17-30.

David joins many of the best Jewish athletes in the United States on Team USA and will compete with athletes from more than 60 countries. David represented the U.S. in the 2009 Maccabiah Games, achieving a bronze medal in men’s doubles.

“I am so excited and proud to represent Dallas and my country,” he said. “These games are the highlight of my tennis career and combine my love of athletics and Jewish heritage.”

David, a business communications major at UT, is a starter on the Longhorns tennis team, which is ranked No. 23 nationally. David and partner Chris Camillone are ranked 13th in the nation in men’s doubles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. As a high school tennis player, David traveled all over the world competing in tournaments and was ranked as the No. 6 junior player in the United States.

David, a graduate of the Greenhill School, is the son of Joel and Wendy Holiner and grandson of Harlan and Ethel Holiner. Sister Camille is a sophomore at Tulane University, majoring in business and psychology.

Parish slates first pink-out varsity basketball game

Parish Episcopal Day School senior and Levine Academy graduate Dillon Shipper, son of Ronnie and Cynthia Shipper, put his tikkun olam thinking cap on this fall and came up with a great idea for raising money for breast cancer research: a pink-out basketball game.

Dillon and his Panthers teammates will take on Waco Reicher Catholic School at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 at the Parish varsity gym. What’s different about this game is that the Panthers will be dressed in special pink uniforms and proceeds from the game will benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Sheri Cole, mom of Panthers player Chris Cole, has underwritten the pink-out T-shirts that the boys are selling, with the BCRF receiving the proceeds.

Everyone that comes to the game will receive a pink headband and pink ribbon. Special prizes and raffles will be given out at halftime. The Parish gym will be pinked-out with balloons.

In addition to Shipper and Cole, members of the Parish varsity team are Justin Albert, Ty Bennett, Patrick Bryant, Tristen Cooper, Kamil Herrji, William LeMaster, Cooper Lyon, Preston Klein, Michael Murph, “Q” Oliver, Davis Plummer and Jonathan Wells.

You may wonder what made Dillon think of a pink-out fundraiser. He was inspired by two things. The wife of his adviser, Richard Perrine, died from breast cancer, and he wanted to do something to honor her memory.

Dillon’s mom, who has had a distinguished career as a national account manager with Wilson Sports since 1984, launched Wilson’s Hope line of sporting goods in 2004. The first item was a tennis racket made exclusively for women, its black cover bearing a distinctive pink “hope” design. A donation from all sales of this racket went to BCRF. In addition to the rackets, there are golf sets, visors, hats, gloves, tennis shoes, socks and headbands. Wilson makes a donation to BCRF with every sale.

Incidentally, Cynthia has a connection to Holiner. She also played tennis for the UT Longhorns after graduating from Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth. She was inducted into the UT Women’s Athletics Hall of Honors in 2005.

ATID to hold blood drive

In honor of Martin Luther King Junior Day, ATID will hold a blood drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20 at Ann and Nate Levine Academy, 18011 Hillcrest Road in Dallas.

Someone is waiting on your donation. There is a critical need for blood donations after the holidays.

To make an appointment or for more information please contact Bob Brenner at or 214-570-9600, or Gail Herson at or 972 740-6751. Carter BloodCare is co-sponsoring the drive.

Sports shorts

• Congratulations to the alephs of Eamon Lacy AZA for winning the fall flag football championship and to Jennie Zesmer BBG for winning the championship for the fall season of volleyball. For more information about BBYO contact Tracy Davis at 214-363-4654 or

• Elie Allen is hoping to raise funds to join BBYO on the March of the Living this year by holding a garage sale from 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 at his family home, 6309 Oakleaf Road in Dallas.

Elie is a senior at Richardson Pearce and is a varsity wrestler. A story on his wrestling success will appear in next week’s edition of the TJP.

Off to Israel

TJP managing editor Dave Sorter is heading off to Israel as part of an American Jewish Press Association press tour, being organized by the Israel Ministry of Tourism and El Al Airlines.

He will visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and parts of the Galilee during his 10-day trip.

Dave will be tracking his thoughts on social media. Follow him on Twitter at @davesorter and on Facebook at

Look for his stories in the next few issues of the TJP.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 17 January 2013 by admin

By Amy Wolff Sorter

As we come out of the secular New Year, we’re almost immediately faced with another new year — Tu B’Shevat.

Tu B’Shevat (this year, at sundown Jan. 25), also known as the “New Year for the Trees” or the “Jewish Arbor Day” provides a great opportunity to reflect on caring for our planet.

Some ways in which the holiday is observed include a seder in which certain types of grains and fruits are consumed. Other people plant trees on this day — and this is also the time of year during which Jewish children request funds to plant trees in Israel.

Now, you don’t have to plant a tree to get in the spirit of the holiday. It is a good idea, however, to reflect on nature and to figure out ways in which sustainability can become an important part of life.

However you decide to observe this holiday, may your trees — and plants — grow green this spring.

Daytimers examine the “Yiddish Song in You” — with books …

In the last column, we mentioned that the next Daytimers’ program at noon Wednesday, Jan. 23, titled “Yiddish Song in You,” will feature Yiddish musician and music researcher Janice Rubin, who will offer some of her insights on Yiddish folk songs.

Janice Rubin makes matzoh balls with her grandmother, the late Gertrude Steinberg Rubin, in this picture on the cover of Janice’s songbook, which will be given out at the next Daytimers event. | Photo: Courtesy of Janice Rubin

Janice Rubin makes matzoh balls with her grandmother, the late Gertrude Steinberg Rubin, in this picture on the cover of Janice’s songbook, which will be given out at the next Daytimers event. | Photo: Courtesy of Janice Rubin

Rubin — daughter of Barbara Rubin of Fort Worth and Sherwin Rubin of Arlington — also comes bearing gifts: She’ll bring 50 copies of her illustrated songbook, “Feels Like Family,” for the first 50 people to arrive.

She’ll also explore various aspects of Yiddish music, such as lullabies, children’s play songs, humorous and satiric songs and ballads of Jewish revolutionaries of czarist Russia.

Accompanying her will be Barry Roberts, one of the performers on Rubin’s album, appropriately titled “Feels Like Family.”

The event takes place at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven in Fort Worth. Lunch will be catered by Pak-a-Pocket.

To make a reservation, have your credit card ready and call Barbara Rubin at 817-927-2736 or Larry Steckler at 520-990-3155.

Jewish Film Festival

If it’s winter, it must be time for the Beth-El Congregation’s film festival. The first film, “Salsa Tel Aviv,” was shown this past Saturday. Remaining films to be screened will be “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 RSVP is suggested. Either call Beth-El at 817-332-7141 or email; for more information.

Kornbleet Scholar event …

The Larry Kornbleet Memorial Scholar-in-Residence program will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, 4050 S. Hulen in Fort Worth.

This year’s the scholar in residence is Raphael Danziger, director of research and information with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and editor of the Near East Report. Danziger will discuss “The U.S. Policy in the Middle East.”

The presentation is free, and a reception will take place afterward, hosted by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. The program also receives funding from the Kornbleet Scholar-in-Residence Fund and the Molly Roth Endowment Fund.

Coming this spring …

Though we haven’t even started discussing Passover, the good folks at the Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah are already thinking ahead to April — 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, to be exact. That’s the date for the organization’s “Check it Out” program, which focuses on breast cancer awareness.

The guest speakers on hand will be Sherree Bennett, director and certified breast health nurse navigator for the Joan Katz Breast Center at the Baylor-All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, and Arielle Yorczyk, certified genetic counselor at the UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Moncrief Cancer Institute, also in Fort Worth.

The program will take place at Beth-El Congregation, and we’ll let you know as more news about this is offered. In the meantime, if you have questions, contact Debby Rice at 817-346-2944.

A final word …

I always want to share your news. I can be reached at

We’re looking for a writer

If you like to write, schmooze and contribute to the Fort Worth/Tarrant County Jewish community, you might want to be the TJP’s next Around the Town correspondent.

Amy Wolff Sorter will soon be giving up the column because of added responsibilities at her primary job — though she will still write occasional features for the TJP — so we’re looking for someone who writes in a lively, informal style and is connected with the people, synagogues and Jewish organizations in Fort Worth, Arlington, Northeast Tarrant County, the Mid-Cities and environs.

The new columnist will be responsible for a weekly 800-900 word column submitted on strict newspaper deadline.

Even if you don’t know everyone yet, we’ll get you off to a good start. And yes, there is some compensation.

Interested? Let us know by sending an email telling us a bit about yourself and why you’d be a great Around the Town columnist. Send it to publisher/editor Sharon Wisch-Ray (

We look forward to hearing from you.

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Give your child a spiritual legacy

Give your child a spiritual legacy

Posted on 17 January 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

seymourforweb2Each week, my favorite Shabbat ritual is blessing the children. I have read much about the reasons, meanings and ways to make it a ritual that we continue throughout our children’s lives. I recently found something posted online by Rabbi Yaakov Pollak of Congregation Shomre Emunah in Brooklyn that gave me much to think about.

God says to Abraham, “Veheyei berachah — You will be a blessing.” What does it mean to be a blessing? Rashi says Abraham was given the authority to bless others. The Ramban (Nachmanides) says Abraham became the model for blessing others.

Pollak suggests another way to look at it. The Torah tells us that Abraham, just before his death, “gave Isaac all that he possessed. And to the children of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts.” If he gave it all to Isaac, how did he have other gifts? The Midrash says that “all that he possessed” was not material wealth, but his spiritual wealth and this he gave to Isaac — the others received gifts.

Then we have Jacob blessing his children, and the Torah says, “Each man according to his blessing, he blessed them.” Jacob individualized each blessing for each son, making it the right one for very different children.

Now, when we bless our children weekly and at the end of our days, what will we leave to them as our blessing for each one? Pollak says, “The meaning of veheyei berachah shouts out to us. You will be a blessing. How much of you did you bequeath to your children? How much of your Torah and moral character, how much of your spiritual legacy will your children inherit? Let us be sure to answer those questions.”

This is the ultimate challenge because it is not something we can wait for the end of our days — rather, we are giving our legacy to our children every day. As we strive to “be a blessing,” we are, in fact, blessing our children and everyone we come in contact with by our presence. Are we living our values so that we can pass them on?

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

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We make our own world to come

We make our own world to come

Posted on 17 January 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

In our temple, we always were told that we Jews don’t believe in an afterlife, but we recently heard in a class that we believe there’s a place called the “world to come.” What does Judaism believe about what happens after death? Do we believe there is an afterlife? If there is a world to come, where is it?

— Taryn and Jamie

Dear Taryn and Jamie,

friedforweb2The belief in an afterlife is one of the core “13 principles of faith,” the 13 most basic Jewish beliefs. This is the foundation for the Jewish concept of eternal reward and retribution. It is predicated upon the eternity of the soul, which is a spark of Godliness.

The soul is matched up with a physical body with a particular mission to accomplish in this world, as part of Jewish and world history. By fulfilling that mission the soul reaches its own private tikkun.

The first place the soul enters after leaving this world is called Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). This place, which is the world of souls, is temporary and is mainly a holding place of bliss and happiness until the final olam haba (next world).

The stage called the next world or world to come refers to that period of time, subsequent to the Messianic period, when the souls of those who were righteous in this world will be reunited with their bodies, which will come back to life in a greatly elevated spiritual state.

Unlike this world, where our souls are mostly covered up by our physical bodies, the bodies will be almost transparent in the world to come, with the intense illumination of our souls shining out. These new, spiritual bodies, which grow out of our decayed physical bodies, remain eternally connected to our souls and share in the soul’s reward.

One reason for this is that our souls cannot fulfill their purposes and their tikkun without the partnership of our bodies. A soul on its own cannot light Shabbat candles, give tzedakah or blow a shofar. A soul in a body can. Consequently, the ultimate reward can only be to the partnership of the body and soul, albeit in a greatly heightened spiritual state.

An example of this idea would be a plain gray caterpillar, which spins a cocoon, its “grave,” and “dies” there, only to emerge from its “death” as a beautiful multi-colored butterfly that can soar into the sky. Our dense, physical bodies will come out of their state of decay into immense, spiritual bodies that will soar above anything we can now imagine. It is in that state that the new, improved bodies will reunite with the soul and together enjoy the eternal reward for all they did together in their first life upon this world.

The bliss and ecstasy the body/soul will enjoy in the world to come is a direct outgrowth of the actions the person performed in this physical world. More deeply, the reward is actually the mitzvot that the person fulfilled. Every mitzvah is filled with spiritual light; we just don’t have the “spiritual eyes” to see that light in our present state.

The Kabbalists teach that when one performs the mitzvah, he is enveloped by that spiritual light, it becoming deeply connected to the performer. When finished, that light brought out by the mitzvah is transferred to that person’s “bank account” in the spiritual world, and becomes another spiritual brick in that person’s own personal world to come — a world that person is building himself through his or her own actions.

Olam Haba is not simply a generic place one either gets a “ticket” to get in or not. Rather it’s everyone’s own individual connection to God. That connection to God, that illumination, which is the greatest possible enjoyment, is that person’s Olam Haba. It is there that one experiences the overwhelming joy of fulfillment in the realization of his or her potential, the deepest pleasure of closeness to God, the source of all that is good.

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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Always soup for you

Always soup for you

Posted on 17 January 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebI’m writing this on a TJP loaner laptop from my bed at The Legacy at Preston Hollow-Dallas Home for the Jewish Aged. Left leg elevated on two pillows. A flat wooden board, kindly furnished by physical therapy, lies across my middle to stabilize the computer. Not at all the way I’m used to working at home.

But I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be in this place, where I can keep up with my commitments after mangling my left leg from hip to ankle in a fall (caused by my own speed and stupidity) Dec. 2. Now, after two surgeries and a virtually “lost weekend” of 12 hospital days, I’m making great strides toward recovery.

I elected to rehab here because it’s the Jewish facility closest to my home. I was brought in late on a Thursday with no interest in anything much, certainly not food. But the next evening, my supper tray featured three small slices of challah, a glass of Shabbat wine, and a bowl of chicken broth floating a huge matzo ball. Then I knew I had chosen correctly, because soup is my manna from culinary heaven.

My mother wasn’t much of a main-dish cook; no particularly memorable entrees in her repertoire. But, oh, her soups. We had one almost every day. In the dead of winter, supper always started with a bowlful of something thick and hearty: maybe split pea, or bean, or barley and mushroom.

In the heat of summer, there would be cold beet borscht (my father had a curious habit that I adopted and honor to this day: slicing a hard-boiled egg into the red liquid, and enjoying its strange new “pinkness”), or the green spinach brew called schav, or maybe some vegetable concoction, a year-round staple given a bit of extra kick with a few drops of Tabasco, the cook’s favorite. Try it.

No chicken soup, though. On Fridays, we went to my Boubby the Philosopher, whose huge pot featured all kinds of “spare parts,” even the feet of the fowl and the little eggs that had once hidden inside it, which we kids fought over with gusto. Great memories of former edibles today’s kosher butcher isn’t able to carry any more.

Boubby had every one of her big brood of Shabbat eaters pick up a bowl in the kitchen and, before ladling away, choose from one, two, or all three of the augmenting fillers she always provided: lokshen, rice or just plain lima beans. (What kind of choice was that? Who needs rice or beans when homemade noodles are on the menu? But the leftovers always found their way into other soups soon afterward … )

Here, both lunch and dinner trays are always graced by delicious soups. Some smart chef down in the kitchen must follow the old French peasants’ technique: keeping a pot on the back of the stove, simmering slowly, ready to receive at all times whatever good leftovers might be lying around, then yielding up a fragrant ladleful whenever one was desired.

I know I saw those peas and carrots and potatoes in different, fresher forms the day before, but they taste even better now, gussied up with lots of celery and parsley and spices, and floating in delicious liquids.

Speaking of lying around: Life in a rehab facility presents an unprecedented opportunity to watch virtually unlimited TV. So I‘ve finally caught up with all my missed “Seinfeld” episodes, including the Soup Nazi one. And when I saw Elaine waving the food-spattered papers she’d found at the dictator behind the counter and shouting triumphantly, “I have your recipes.” I just knew his treasured secret had to be Tabasco. (Or maybe applesauce. If my mother had a bit left over, into her vegetable soup it would go. Try that, too.)

Now, a bit of local history. Our own Dallas Section, National Council of Jewish Women, which is observing its 100th birthday this year, began a major volunteer project in 1914, soon after its founding: the Penny Lunch. To provide nourishing, affordable food for 300 school kids in one of the city’s poorest areas every day, some 50 members prepared — you guessed it — soup. (At least one husband, recruited for delivery duty, said his vehicle always smelled like chicken soup.) Mothers in other areas soon joined this effort and, in 1918, the Board of Education took it over, making public school lunches available to every child in Dallas.

That’s the power of a good idea, an organized group of Jewish women and — of course — soup.

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Talking baseball

Talking baseball

Posted on 17 January 2013 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Jon Daniels grew up in Queens, N.Y., attended Hebrew school, Jewish summer camp, had his bar mitzvah and was confirmed. So, when he succeeded John Hart as general manager of the Texas Rangers in 2005 at age 28, he brought all of his past Jewish experiences and values to the table.

Today, eight years later, he thinks of the organization as a family and runs it with his Jewish upbringing in the back of his mind.

“Judaism is an important part of my life, and for me, it has always been about family, togetherness and that community element,” he said. “A lot of what we do now, how we have structured the organization and the types of people we bring in have a lot of parallels of Judaism that are so special to me. It’s not just a business, but I share my values with everyone involved and they are like a family.”

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, right, talked about the upcoming baseball season on Jan. 9 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ business breakfast series, of which Matt Prescott, left, is co-chair. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, right, talked about the upcoming baseball season on Jan. 9 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ business breakfast series, of which Matt Prescott, left, is co-chair. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Daniels spoke at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ business breakfast Jan. 9, which attracted about 150 people. A different speaker comes each month as a way for members of the community to network with one another and learn something. The series is sponsored by Prescott Pailet Benefits.

Daniels began his career in baseball in 2001 when he landed an internship with the Colorado Rockies. He joined the Rangers’ organization in 2002 as an assistant in baseball operations. He was promoted to director of baseball operations in 2003 before becoming general manager.

The Rangers weren’t in contention for much of the 2000s — after winning three American League West Division titles in the 1990s — and Daniels decided changes needed to be made, he said.

“I looked at what we needed to do differently and have now built a culture of having everyone work together and giving everyone a voice,” he said. “The Rangers had been run where everything was separate, where player development was in one area, operations was in another and scouting was in another. We weren’t a family, and there was no discussion with all of the parts. I changed that, and now it’s like a dinner table with a Jewish family — we sit and argue, and everyone has a voice.”

This is what, Daniels believes, has led the Rangers to the playoffs for the past three years. They made it to the World Series in 2010 and 2011, but lost to the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Texas lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the wild card game last year after losing the AL West crown to Oakland on the last day of the regular season.

Getting to the postseason is nice, but winning is always the No. 1 goal, Daniels said. Although Daniels has received some criticism for moves this offseason — Josh Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels, Michael Young was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and the Rangers missed out on free-agent pitcher Zach Greinke, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers — the team did acquire first baseman/designated hitter Lance Berkman and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

The Rangers have a core group of young players and are still actively pursuing other free agents, Daniels said, but he wouldn’t go into detail except to say he would like to acquire another starting pitcher.

Daniels made one thing clear, though — he is happy with the team right now and believes the Rangers will have another good season.

“I can’t tell you on any given year that this is the year we are going to win the World Series, but we want to commit to our fans that every year going forward, we are going to be in contention and you can count on that,” he said. “We are never going to worry about fans coming to the ballpark and we will be out of it. We are going to be aggressive, have an exciting young players and are going to stay fresh all of the time. We feel we have a great window the next 10 to 15 years, and we don’t want to do anything to slam that on our fingers.

“I like our club going forward.”

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Yahrzeit, bris show cycle of life

Yahrzeit, bris show cycle of life

Posted on 10 January 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

friedforweb2It’s not often that I make use of this column to express personal feelings, but today I feel I must share with you some very powerful emotions I felt this past week in Israel. It began with a state of confusion, attempting to sort out contradictory feelings, and ended with a uniquely Jewish experience.

I was in Israel on the whirlwind of a last-minute decision, to join my daughter, son-in-law and the rest of my kids living and studying in Israel for the bris of our first grandson. One could not imagine greater joy and nachas than to participate in a simcha such as that.

At the same time, auspiciously, the day of the bris fell on the same day of my dear father’s yahrzeit. Although that felt very special, it also contained within it a vast dichotomy of feelings. The yahrzeit is always a special time for me, remembering the life of my father, a Holocaust survivor and builder of a Jewish family. It is a day that I finish a tractate of Talmud in my father’s memory, leading services and reciting Kaddish, receiving an aliyah the Shabbat before, sponsoring a l’chayim in shul that morning.

How would all that happen in Israel in a shul not mine? And how would all that fit in with the bris preparations and goings-on? Which emotions should I focus on that day?

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried with his first grandson, Eliyahu Gross, during his bris in Israel. | Photo: Courtesy Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried with his first grandson, Eliyahu Gross, during his bris in Israel. | Photo: Courtesy Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried

My son-in-law, Rabbi Noam Gross, pulled it all together for me during his speech at the bris. After delivering an intricate talk on one of the laws of bris, he described his own dichotomy of emotions; the baby was born on the eve of his own mother’s yahrzeit, a very special woman who was tragically taken at a young age. He described dealing with the birth, leading services for his mother’s memory, back to the hospital, back to shul … much of what I was dealing with.

Noam explained that it’s really not a contradiction at all; this is the true cycle of life; it’s life itself. This is precisely the Jewish experience; we deal with tragedy as we deal with joy. We accept it all as God’s will and all sides of the spectrum pull together to create the full and rich experience of life.

This theme was reflected by the name given to our grandson: Eliyahu. My daughter and son-in-law chose that name because he was born on the fast of the 10th of Tevet, which marks the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem that eventually led to the destruction of the Temple and exile of the Jews.

They decided to name him after Elijah the prophet, who, tradition teaches, will be the one to eventually inform us of the coming of Messiah. They wanted him to be a living tikkun to what transpired on the day of his birth, joy and Torah vs. exile and destruction.

May he and all of us live to see that day.

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

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Javert wouldn’t understand Rashi

Javert wouldn’t understand Rashi

Posted on 10 January 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

seymourforweb2Often I am asked where I get my ideas, and it is no secret that I am a confirmed bibliophile. However, I also love the movies and the lessons we find in them.

Over the winter break, “Les Miserables” hit the big screen and I was excited to find a “commentary” on it from Rabbi Benjamin Blech is a wonderful writer, and so I will quote his article here.

Blech found that Victor Hugo originally intended “Les Miz” to be a religious book revolving around how best to resolve the conflict between mercy and justice. Inspector Javert is the defender of law and order, and wants blind justice without the possibility of repentance. Hugo delivers a story that Jewish theologians would be expressed in the two biblical names of God. One name carries the attribute of justice (midat ha din) and the other name the attribute of mercy (midat ha rachamim). This duality helps us in the struggle to find the balance. Blech gives us Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 1:1.

“It does not say ‘of the Lord’s creation of,’ for in the beginning it was His intention to create it with the Divine Standard of Justice, but he perceived that the world would not endure; so He preceded it with the Divine Standard of Mercy, allying it with the Divine Standard of Justice, and that is the reason it is written in chapter 2:4, ‘on the day the Lord God made earth and heaven.’”

Javert struggles with his commitment to strict justice. The dilemma occurs when Jean Valjean saves Javert’s life — how can he solve conflict and be moral, not lawful? He can’t decide, and his life ends.

“Les Miserables” comes to same conclusion as Rashi — in the words of Rabbi Blech: “The world cannot exist solely with justice without mercy, and those who attempt it will lose even their will to survive.”

My children would often get frustrated with my “finding God (or at least Judaism)” in everything. But the Torah and the rabbis who worked to find meaning for their day cover all of our lives’ stories and struggles. What makes “Les Miz” so great (besides the music) is this ethical dilemma we all face at times in our lives.

The movie is not for young children but definitely take your teens — see it together and make sure you have time for discussion after.

Rabbi Blech reminds us, “Jewish law is a system that mightily strives to merge these two divine traits. It asks much of us, but it also offers the means to repentance and pardon. Sin has consequences; crime has punishment. But penitence is always possible. Forgiveness is to be granted to those who have overcome their failings.”

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

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