Archive | May, 2013

Songs in the key of Croll

Songs in the key of Croll

Posted on 23 May 2013 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Photo: Courtesy Temple Shalom Pretending to be the Swedish supergroup ABBA during a past Temple Shalom Purim show were, from left, Temple Shalom Rabbi Andrew Paley, former Associate Rabbi Jeremy Schneider and Cantor Don Croll, who will sing his last service as full-time cantor May 31. | Photo: Courtesy Temple Shalom

Pretending to be the Swedish supergroup ABBA during a past Temple Shalom Purim show were, from left, Temple Shalom Rabbi Andrew Paley, former Associate Rabbi Jeremy Schneider and Cantor Don Croll, who will sing his last service as full-time cantor May 31. | Photo: Courtesy Temple Shalom

Cantor Don Croll has considered Temple Shalom his second home for the past 17 years, a place where he has fostered his love for singing and built relationships to last a lifetime. He will sing his final note as a full-time cantor next week as he embarks on retirement after 34 years in the field.

Temple Shalom will honor Croll during a Shabbat service at 7 p.m. Friday, May 31 at the synagogue, 6930 Alpha Road in Dallas. The event, called “Shalom Shabbat Shalom,” is open to the community, and various people who have been close to Croll over the years will speak. A dessert oneg will follow.

Croll is looking forward to seeing what retirement will bring, he said. Although he will no longer walk through the doors of the synagogue every morning, he and his partner, Jan Gartenberg, are staying in Dallas and are excited to continue being part of the community.

“There are so many possibilities for me now, and I’ve heard people say that they do more in retirement than when they worked,” he said, laughing. “A cantor is not a 9 to 5 job, and the idea of being able to wake up on a Sunday and read The New York Times is great. Although I don’t know what’s next, music will always be a part of my life and I’m excited for the future.”

Croll will officially become Temple Shalom’s cantor emeritus and hopes he can still use his skills to teach, be a substitute cantor or even serve as a cantor-in-residence. The synagogue has not yet found anyone to replace him.

Since arriving at Temple Shalom in 1996, Croll has spent countless hours training bar/bat mitzvah students, performed in numerous concerts and made the synagogue more musical, which he said have been some of his biggest accomplishments over the years. He has also worked with adult b’nai mitzvah and confirmation students, taught classes and participated in the synagogue’s many Purim Shpiels.

“We are a singing congregation and that was important to me. When I arrived, people were singing, but you couldn’t hear them in the main sanctuary and now you can,” he said. “I will remember that fondly, and it feels good knowing that I brought more of that to the congregation. Working with students has also been one of the best parts of my job, and I have always tried to make each one shine as bright as they can for their bar or bat mitzvah.”

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Croll majored in theater at Ithaca College. He always had an interest in music, something for which he developed a love after seeing his mom participate in the choir at his home synagogue.

He graduated from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Sacred School of music in 1978. He then became a full-time cantor at Temple Beth Torah in Upper Nyack, N.Y., for 10 years, followed by stints in Los Angeles and Albuquerque before coming to Dallas.

Croll also has a rich history in acting, which he said has helped in his cantorial work. He began his career on Broadway in 1971 in the revival of Leonard Bernstein’s “On The Town,” starred in the off-Broadway musical “The Golden Land,” toured in several productions of “Man of La Mancha” with Howard Keel and John Raitt, and danced in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

His love for Broadway music has influenced his role as a cantor, Croll said. Broadway songs were the highlight of one of the many Metroplex Cantorial Concerts he participated in, and he has performed various other hits throughout his time here.

“Music engages people, is spiritual and helps us connect to our tradition, and my musical theater background has allowed me to do even more as a cantor; that’s been wonderful,” he said. “I’ve also met the late Debbie Friedman and Josh Nelson and have also worked with other noted cantors over the years. That has been very gratifying.”

Working with other area cantors and clergy has been rewarding too, he said, and his colleagues feel the same way.

Temple Shalom Rabbi Emeritus Ken Roseman, who serves at Congregation Beth Israel in Corpus Christi, was at the synagogue until 2002 and said it was a pleasure working with Croll. He has made a tremendous impact on Temple Shalom, Roseman said.

“It was wonderful working with Don, and he is able to sing everything from Broadway songs to the most complicated cantorial music,” he said. “It was great to have at resource like that. He always worked hard and has a marvelous sense of humor, which goes a long way. There is no question he made the congregation better and I believe everyone would say that.”

Added Temple Shalom Rabbi Andrew Paley: “He is kind, caring and absolutely beloved here, and it’s been wonderful working with him. There is always something to laugh about with him and always something to appreciate. He has been at life-cycle events and important moments in the congregation, so he has been a guiding light in many ways. With his presence, we have been able to provide the right programs and he has been an invaluable part of the congregation.”

It’s these moments, Croll said, that he will miss the most.

“I will miss the people — from young families, to adults, to members of the brotherhood, sisterhood and Shalom Silver — and everyone else who has been so good to me over the years,” he said. “On June 1, after I sleep in, I’ll be able to take a big breath and say ‘what do I want to do next?’ I don’t know what that is, but the possibilities are endless.”

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 16 May 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Barbara Rubin, who most of you know diligently coordinates the Daytimers program, supplied us with a wonderful update on the recent trip to the Chagall exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. You can find some great photos and a synopsis on Page 16 of this week’s issue.

Thanks, Barbara, for all your hard work and keeping everyone in the loop on the Daytimers’ activities. It looks like the day at the museum via the TRE and DART was quite an adventure.

JWV’s upcoming slate

The Martin Hochster Memorial Post 775 of the Jewish War Veterans has two important events lined up in the coming weeks.

Memorial Day will be observed at 10 a.m., Monday, May 27 at the Kornbleet Chapel at Ahavath Sholom Cemetery. Brigadier Gen. Brian Newby will speak. Post chaplain Rabbi Sidney Zimelman will give the D’var Torah and lead memorial prayers. The names of our veterans who have passed away will be read, as will those who have died in recent conflicts. All veterans and their families are encouraged to attend.

The post will have a breakfast installation and raffle at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 2 in the Great Hall of Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road in Fort Worth. The annual Morton Herman Service to Veterans Award will be presented to former Secretary of the Army Pete Geren.

During his tenure, Geren helped correct many problems at Walter Reed Medical Center, stating that wounded soldiers deserved better treatment and facilities than they were getting. He also pushed an initiative for the army to pursue a more family friendly attitude toward those serving their country and their dependents.

The drawing at the event will include many restaurant gifts cards, tickets to athletic and entertainment events, a stay at a luxury condo, gift baskets, jewelry and more. Funds from the drawing will benefit the many veterans services provided by JWV 755. These include items donated to Liberty House, a reintegration facility for homeless veterans, The Fort Worth VA Clinic, packages to troops overseas, Sew Much Comfort (adaptive clothing for wounded vets and amputees), ROTC Scholarships, military honor services for deceased veterans and their families, flags at veterans gravesites and free copies of “They Were Soldiers in Peace and War” for bar and bat mitzvahs, among other things.

New officers will be Ron Sivernell, commander; Peter Levy, senior vice commander; Arnie Abrams, junior vice commander; and Will Cutler, judge advocate. Barry Schneider, district JWV commander, will be the installing officer.

For information on either event, contact past commander Julian Haber at or 817-346-1902; or commander Richard Morris at or 817-581-9679.

Incidentally, this is the fourth year the veterans have given a service award but the first to be called the Morton Herman Service to Veterans Award. JWV Post 755 renamed the award in February to acknowledge the tremendous amount of pro-bono work Morty Herman has done for the JWV and veteran community.

Previous winners of the award were: Year 1, state Sen. Wendy Davis; Year 2, Judge Brent Carr; and Year 3, Stevie Hansen and Nikki Hatley of MHMR Visions, who were instrumental in getting together Liberty House and VETCO-Veterans Council of Tarrant County.

Holly Clegg’s newest cookbook

I’d like to consider myself a decent home-cook and can attribute some of my success to Holly Clegg’s “Trim & Terrific” series. Many of you know Holly, the daughter of Ruth and Jerry Berkowitz, was way ahead of the curve when it came to fast healthy cooking.

CleggBookThe newest installment in Holly’s series is “Eating Well To Fight Arthritis: 200 Easy Recipes and Practical Tips to Help Reduce Inflammation and Ease Symptoms.” The book is designed to aid the estimated 46 million adults in the United States living with a form of arthritis. With more than 100 types of arthritis and no known cure, physical therapy, medication and lifestyle changes, such as healthier eating and recipe preparation modification, are the best defenses to a condition that plagues many.

As soon as I received the book Holly sent me in the mail, I could tell it was a winner and immediately ordered a copy for a friend of mine with rheumatoid arthritis.

Holly’s user-friendly, illustrated cookbook features 200 delicious, everyday, time-friendly recipes, as well as the basic tools and tips needed to create a healthier kitchen. As the second most frequently reported chronic condition in the United States, arthritis can strike at any age. Clegg worked closely with the Arthritis Association of Louisiana to research and learn the correlation between food and arthritis. The family-friendly recipes throughout the book are made of ingredients that work to alleviate arthritic symptoms, such as joint inflammation, fatigue and nausea. The book’s chapters are organized by the symptoms they combat, including:

  • No Fuss Foods: Easy-to-prepare foods that are light on the joints
  • Bone Building: Recipes high in calcium and vitamin D, which combat osteoporosis
  • Fight Fatigue: Foods that boost energy when tired
  • Spice Up Your Life: Recipes heavy on spices that have anti-inflammatory properties

For easy reference, the nutritional and dietary exchange information is included for each recipe, and symbols highlighting Freezer-friendly, vegetarian, gluten-free and diabetic-friendly recipes are included throughout the book. Additional helpful features include “Terrific Tips” that provide quick recipe references and shortcuts, and “Nutrition Nuggets,” which give important information about the nutrient-rich ingredients in each recipe.

With more than one million cookbooks sold, Clegg has become an expert on easy, healthy recipes through her best-selling cookbooks, including more targeted, health-focused cookbooks “Diabetic Cooking” with the American Diabetes Association and “Eating Well Through Cancer.” Holly has appeared on “Fox & Friends,” “NBC Weekend Today,” QVC, “The 700 Club,” USA Today, WebMD and The Huffington Post. For information, visit or

News and notes

  • Whitney Bond, left, and mom Lynell Moses Bond-Norman went on a Caribbean cruise recently in advance of Whitney’s 30th birthday. | Photo: Courtesy Lynell Moses Bond-Norman

    Whitney Bond, left, and mom Lynell Moses Bond-Norman went on a Caribbean cruise recently in advance of Whitney’s 30th birthday. | Photo: Courtesy Lynell Moses Bond-Norman

    Lynell Moses Bond-Norman shared that she and daughter Whitney Bond enjoyed a Caribbean cruise last month as a pre-celebration of Whitney’s 30th birthday, which is July 22. “We both had a wonderful time, me relaxing and sightseeing, and she doing more adventurous things like zip-lining and snorkeling,” wrote Lynell.

  • Cantor Shoshana Abrams of Congregation Ahavath Sholom will be among the delegates when the Cantors Assembly convenes its 66th annual convention May 19-23 at the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel and Conference Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

The theme of this year’s convention is “L’eila: Raising Cantors Higher.” Its emphasis is to equip cantors with the skills needed by today’s synagogues. Sessions offered will include: chaplaincy, homiletics, song leading skills, spirituality, social media and technology.

That’s a 30 for this week. I love to hear from our readers. Send your news to me at or 7920 Belt Line Road, Ste. 680 Dallas, TX 75254.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 16 May 2013 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

The National Academy of Sciences recently announced the election to membership of Dr. Beth Levine, professor of internal medicine and microbiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Beth Levine

Beth Levine

This represents one of the highest honors attainable by an American scientist, according to a UT Southwestern statement. With Levine’s election, UT Southwestern has 20 members of this society among its faculty.

“I am thrilled to be acknowledged by my fellow researchers with such a prestigious honor,” Levine said. “I am extremely appreciative to those who have supported me along the way and for all those who have helped contribute to the scientific discoveries in our lab.”

Levine directs the Center for Autophagy Research in Internal Medicine and holds the Charles Cameron Sprague Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science.

“Most of all, I appreciate the freedom I have enjoyed throughout my career to pursue new scientific ideas — as this freedom has been at the root of our discoveries,” she said. “We hope to use our discoveries to improve the prevention and treatment of human disease.”

Levine’s research explores a cellular process called autophagy, in which cells devour their own damaged or unneeded components. Her laboratory identified the first known gene in mammals that is responsible for autophagy. Her research has since shown that defects in the expression or function of this specific gene, called beclin 1, may contribute to cancer, aging, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and infectious diseases.

Conversely, beclin 1 activity and the autophagy pathway appear to be important for protection against breast, lung, ovarian, and perhaps other cancers, as well as for fighting off viral and bacterial infections, and protecting individuals from neurodegenerative diseases and aging.

Levine’s current research focuses on the role of autophagy in normal development and control of lifespan, the mechanisms by which autophagy genes suppress tumors, the biochemical mechanisms that regulate beclin 1 function, and the role of autophagy as a defense mechanism against certain viruses and bacteria.

“Levine’s groundbreaking work has identified fundamental biological pathways with broad importance for understanding the pathogenesis of many of the most significant disease challenges of our time,” said UT Southwestern president Dr. Daniel Podolsky. “This award is a well-deserved acknowledgement of her accomplishments and another shining example of the strength of UT Southwestern’s research community.”

Levine received her medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. She completed her residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was a faculty member at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons before joining the UT Southwestern faculty in July 2004. A recipient of the American Cancer Society TIAA-CREF Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research, Levine was elected to membership in the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 2000 and the Association of American Physicians in 2006.

“This is terrific news. Beth is an extraordinary physician scientist, and her work in autophagy has defined an entirely new area that has fundamental importance across medicine and biology. This election is so well deserved, and I think the best is yet to come,” said Dr. J. Gregory Fitz, executive vice president for academic affairs, provost and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School.

In 2008, Levine received one of four Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. The annual award honors researchers in science, medicine, engineering and technology innovation whose work seems destined for international prominence at the highest level.

“Beth is justly deserving of this latest honor based on her remarkable scientific achievements. She is such an amazing mentor and a superb role model for our young physician-scientists. We are incredibly proud to have her as a colleague in medicine,” said Dr. David Johnson, chairman of internal medicine.

In all, the NAS announced the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates. One other new member is from a Texas institution, which makes for a total of 31 NAS members at Texas academic medical centers, almost two-thirds of them at UT Southwestern. The election of new NAS members was announced during the 150th annual meeting of the academy in Washington. The NAS is a private, nonprofit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research.

Other UT Southwestern faculty who are members of the NAS and the years they were appointed are:

Dr. Ronald Estabrook, 1979; Dr. Michael Brown, 1980; Dr. Joseph Goldstein, 1980; Dr. Jean Wilson, 1983; Dr. Jonathan Uhr, 1984; Dr. Alfred Gilman, 1985; Dr. Roger Unger, 1986; Dr. Steven McKnight, 1992; Dr. Ellen Vitetta, 1994; Dr. Johann Deisenhofer, 1997; Dr. Eric Olson, 2000; Dr. Joseph Takahashi, 2003; Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa, 2003; Dr. Melanie Cobb, 2006; Dr. David Russell, 2006; Dr. Helen Hobbs, 2007; Dr. Bruce Beutler, 2008; Dr. David Mangelsdorf, 2008; and Dr. Luis Parada, 2011.

Connecting and reconnecting

Mazel tov to David H. Hoffman, who will graduate with honors from Albert Einstein Medical College May 29 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York.

David is a 1999 graduate of Akiba Academy and a 2003 graduate of Yavneh Academy. He also graduated from Yeshevat LevHatorah in 2009 and Yeshiva University in 2009. David will begin his residency in general surgery at NYU in June.

His wife, Yaffa, and daughter, Talia, are sharing the excitement as they begin the next chapter in their lives. David is the son of Kathleen Hoffman and Jeffrey and Jaine Hoffman. Proud grandparents are Sydelle “Cookie” Hoffman of Wellington, Fla., and Jean Rooke Carter of Austin, Dilford and Sigrid Carter of College Station and the late Frank Hoffman of Wellington, Fla.

Joining David, Yaffa and Talia for the festivities will be David’s parents; Yaffa’s parents, Steven and Sarah Karp of Elizabeth, N.J.; and Bernie Laderman of Wellington. The Hoffman and Karp families will celebrate David’s graduation with a special dinner in his honor.

Is there a doctor in the house?

Paul Fenyves and Ilana Bragin and their 19-month old daughter, Michelle Lior, of New York recently spent a week with Paul’s parents, Steve and Sheila Fenyves. Paul and Ilana, who are board-certified internists, each have private practices on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Ilana is a former contributing writer to the TJP.

While in Dallas, Paul, Ilana and Michelle enjoyed visiting with Paul’s sisters and their families — Kari Fenyves Bernstein and children, Shauna and Ryan; and Lauren and Seth Margolies and their children, Ethan and Sari. Ilana is the daughter of Bella and Alex Bragin of Westchester, N.Y. Proud great-grandparents are Edith and Julius Fenyves of Toronto.

Calling all mah jongg players

Kathryn Kaplan of Anshai Torah Sisterhood dropped us a note saying that the sisterhood is now accepting registration for its annual mah jongg tournament, which will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 9 at the Plano synagogue, 5501 W. Parker Road. Play begins promptly at 1 p.m.

The tournament uses the National Mah Jongg League rules, and players should be able to complete four games per hour to qualify. Prizes will be awarded to the top seven to 10 winners, round winners and the last-place finisher. Among the top prizes are hotel stays, restaurant gift certificates, artwork, jewelry and spa services.

For information, contact Lisa Olschwanger at

Tributes for graduation

The Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association can help simplify graduation gift dilemmas. DHFLA executive director Deborah Dana said a contribution to the organization is an outstanding way to honor a graduate. It is a gift that keeps on giving, as DHFLA has interest-free loans that help students pursue their studies.

When the loans are repaid, the funds are loaned to another student. There are many ways to send tributes. For information, contact

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Keruv helps bring many families closer

Keruv helps bring many families closer

Posted on 16 May 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebThe Hebrew word keruv means “bring close.” That’s what some branches of Orthodoxy have been doing for a long time — working actively to bring those who are already Jews closer to their Judaism.

More recently, the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs launched its own keruv outreach with a broader focus: to help Conservative movement synagogues create the most welcoming environment possible for families in which not everyone is a born Jew.

This effort spoke directly to Liz Cox, 44. She’s Jewish, her husband is not, and together, they’re raising their son in his mother’s faith. Liz is a 12-year member of Congregation Beth Torah, which she said “has always been open and welcoming. But I wanted to make it official, to shout it from the rooftops.” So a few years ago, she accepted the task of putting together a local keruv plan.

“It took about a year to figure out what I wanted to do,” Liz said. Barry Newberg, a Beth Torah member with a family makeup similar to hers, signed on as co-chair. What evolved was a program incorporating three elements: the educational, the conversational and the social.

Participants enjoyed wine-tastings and other informal gatherings, planned and took part in interfaith Shabbat services and attended a variety of professionally facilitated discussion groups covering vital topics such as how to celebrate holidays with family members — particularly children’s grandparents — of other religions.

Beth Torah even brought Rabbi Charles Simon, founder of the Conservative keruv movement, to Richardson for one of its annual congregational scholar-in-residence weekends.

Liz is quick to note that these keruv activities are not exclusively for Beth Torah members, nor are they intended as “feeders” for conversion to Judaism — although they may open a pathway for those who find themselves interested.

“How you and your spouse make a marriage work applies to everyone,” she says. Programs like these can help couples navigate some difficult situations that often arise, specifically within an intermarriage.

Conservative keruv “consultants” — people like Liz who bring this initiative into their own communities — get together for an annual retreat, which presents opportunities to grow personally through sharing the diversity of attitudes among their peers and the synagogues they represent. Liz’s own focus and goals have changed quite a bit over these past few years.

“I want to cast a wider net now,” she said. “My belief is that keruv should not be just interfaith, but for other ‘non-traditionals.’ They could be LGBTs, minorities, anyone seeking a welcoming spiritual home. People are looking for a community where they will be accepted, and they will find a community somewhere. I think we are doing the right thing by providing this as an option.

“I think this era is the best we Jews have ever had,” she continues, honing in on “people who cast their lot with us” as her own non-Jewish husband has. “I am committed to Torah as a tool for learning lessons. It’s history, and a moral compass. I give our son all the information about what I believe, and his father brings in science and what other people believe. Together, we — and families like ours — educate. We teach our children to be proud of who they are, and to be spokespeople for their heritage.”

Of her own synagogue, she said, “Beth Torah has almost always been ahead of the curve as a comfortable place for people to migrate to. But now I see that a welcoming environment can have many points of entry. If people become more engaged and involved [with the keruv effort], they become more welcoming. To be welcoming, to ‘bring in,’ is a product of involvement. On the ‘Barometer of Acceptance,’ there’s no such thing as just continuing the job. We can all do better.”

Sound interesting? For further information, for a schedule of programs or to find out how you might bring yourself into this effort “to bring in,” email Liz at

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Accreditation criteria like list of mitzvot

Accreditation criteria like list of mitzvot

Posted on 16 May 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

seymourforweb2Camp is approaching, and for me this year, as director of camping services for the Aaron Family JCC, it means American Camp Association reaccreditation. The J’s Ken and Sherry Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center went through National Association for the Education of Young Children reaccreditation this year and passed with flying colors.

So what makes this Jewish? ACA and NAEYC have their own 613 commandments, and we have chosen to take them on. As we work through the criteria, a fleeting thought occurs: Is this one really important? And, sometimes, we see all the work, effort, thinking, striving and believing, and question if it is worth it. That fleeting thought passes because we believe the criteria, even the ones we “don’t get,” make us better and help us provide a better experience for our children and, ultimately, for our staff and ourselves.

This is the way it is with the mitzvot — how many must we really keep? The categories are many: positive, negative, between man and God, between man and man, obvious ones, not so obvious.

However you group them, the questions remain — how many do I need to do and what happens if I don’t do them? Leviticus is the book with the most mitzvot and the words “you shall be holy” are repeated often. The keeping of mitzvot should make us holy (yes, we must ask what does it mean to be holy?)

So many questions. My students constantly ask for “the answer” as if there is only one answer or one right way in Judaism and in life. The answers are personal, yet tied to tradition. A simple example: If every time I put something in my mouth I check to see if it is kosher, hopefully I am thinking what God wants me to do with my life, and then eating suddenly becomes more than that simple act — it becomes a way of life.

At the JCC camp and preschool, we will continue meeting every criteria that NAEYC and ACA give us the best we can, and we will strive to also follow the Torah commandments that, in the end, are all there to make us better people.

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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Joy begins on the inside

Joy begins on the inside

Posted on 16 May 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have recently been bombarded by a number of downturns in my personal life; trouble with my teenage kids, health issues with my husband and myself, and, of course, issues with the bank. I am grasping to find a way to find joy in life despite all this. I know you’ll say just trust in God, but right now that’s not enough. Do you have something I can grab onto to perhaps have some simcha in my life?

— Marcy L.

Dear Marcy,

friedforweb2Allow me to relate a story I heard from my recently passed dear rebbe, R’ Yosef Tzeinvirt of Jerusalem.

Reb Yosel, as he was fondly known to his students, often would tell the story of a group of downtrodden, troubled Jews who traveled a long distance to visit 18th century Polish Chasidic master, Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk. They appeared before the holy rabbi, and each member of the group presented his package of problems: sickness, poverty, etc.

They wanted his advice on how to deal with their situations. The rebbe advised them that if they want an answer of how to deal with their myriad problems, they should go to the nearby study hall and present their issues and problems to his brother, Reb Zushya of Anipoli. The group heeded the rebbe and entered the study hall, asking for Reb Zushya. The man who met them at the door pointed him out; he’s the one over there with the torn suit that, due to his abject poverty, he cannot afford to fix or replace. In addition, his wife and children are home sick, with a leaking roof over their dilapidated, one-room house. You’re welcome to approach him.

The group approached Reb Zushya, saying they had come to Reb Elimelech to receive his advice how to deal with the problems, issues and lacking in their lives. Reb Zushya, taken by surprise, apologized that they must have mistakenly been sent to him.

“I’m sorry I’m not able to give you any advice; I don’t have any problems in my life, baruch Hashem. I have all I need and have exactly what is intended for me, so I can’t really relate to your problems and issues because I have never had any myself. Perhaps you should go back to my brother and revisit your problems with him.”

Needless to say, the men got their answer.

Reb Yosel was actually, inadvertently, describing himself. He lived most of his life with a life-threatening heart disease that prevented him from giving the lectures he so desired to deliver, and lived in poverty in the most simple of homes.

Despite this, none of us ever witnessed anyone whose joy and ecstasy in every moment of life even approached the simcha R’ Yosel expressed every day, in each discussion, every mitzvah he performed or Torah he learned and discussed with us.

Joy, we learned from Reb Yosel, is not something that comes from outside in, depending upon circumstances. It is, rather, a human condition that flows from inside out, with no bearing or relation to the actual situation one is found in.

Consider a poverty-stricken woman who just won $1 million in the lottery standing next to a woman who had $2 million and just lost a million on a deal that went south. They presently both are in the exact same financial condition, but will they have the same mood? Is their mood reflective merely of the situation, or of their interpretation of their circumstances?

Attempt to focus on the blessings of your life and look at them as challenges to overcome in the game of life; unique challenges endowed to you by Divine wisdom. The inner joy of that connection can overcome any external situation from putting a damper on the innate joy of your soul.

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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This is your voice

This is your voice

Posted on 16 May 2013 by admin

By Dave Sorter

If you’re a member of a synagogue, work out at the Aaron Family JCC, have a child at a Jewish day school, donate to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas — or have any connection at all with some Jewish organization in the Dallas area — you’ll likely be invited to participate in the federation’s Community Scan.

And even those who aren’t invited can participate.

The scan, which goes live at on Tuesday, May 28 and will be up for about three weeks, will feature questions on demographics, interests, wants and needs of Jewish community members in Dallas, Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties and other parts of the region not served by another federation.

This is the first time such a project has been undertaken in Dallas since 1986, according to Susan Bates and Krista Weinstein, the co-chairs of the scan’s Phase II, the data-collection stage. The data will not only provide a demographic picture of the local Jewish community in 2013, but it will also help the federation and other agencies determine programming priorities for the future.

“Hopefully, we see ways to work together,” Weinstein said. “We want to come together as one community.”

Added Bates: “In this climate where’s there’s all sorts of challenges, this is the time for the community to come together. I can’t imagine any agency trying to go it alone.”

If you’re wondering where in the world the people behind the scan got your name and email address, the answer is simple: The Jewish organization(s) with which you’re affiliated provided that information — all confidentially.

“We invited every single organization in the community — synagogues, schools, organizations — to an informational meeting about the scan with our consultants,” Bates said. Those meetings took place in February. “More than 50 agencies and community partners agreed to participate.”

The participating organizations submitted their databases to Measuring Success, a Washington-based consulting firm specializing in assisting non-profits. That company was chosen during Phase I of the scan process, chaired by Lindsay Feldman and Seth Kaplan.

“We had a very open process with a lot of input,” Kaplan said. “We were looking for someone to think outside the box who can look through the lens of non-profits and look at needs that are not met.”

Once the Phase I committee chose Measuring Success from among three candidates, Bates, Weinstein and their Phase II committee of about 20 people got to work to ensure the data-gathering phase goes smoothly.

Part of that, they said, is protecting the data. No federation staff member or lay volunteer will be privy to any personal information submitted by the participating organizations, nor will any of those organizations see any other organization’s database. Only Measuring Success holds the information and is bound to keep it confidential.

Also, people who participate in the scan will do so anonymously, though they will be able to ask a question of an agency and give their name if they wish. They will also have the option to post the fact they took the scan to their Facebook page.

With just a couple of weeks before the live scan begins, Bates, Weinstein and federation officials are focusing on getting the word out.

“It’s important at this stage that the organizations help market the survey; to encourage their people to take the scan,” Bates said.

In fact, the email invitations will likely come from organization leaders they are familiar with. For example, Bates, a member of Temple Emanu-El, expects to get an email signed by Senior Rabbi David Stern. The invitee then clicks on a link provided and begins to answer questions.

Though there will be hundreds of questions, no one person will answer more than 20 to 30. Demographic questions will come first; then technology takes over so that, for example, a senior citizen isn’t asked about preschool needs. For a fee, an organization can devise questions geared specifically to it.

The scan will be live for about three weeks — “according to the consultants, there’s a big fall-off in getting answers after that,” Bates said — after which Measuring Success analysts will begin crunching numbers.

“That’s when the project really begins,” Weinstein said.

Preliminary statistics should be available by mid-August, with more detailed numbers ready later that month. Each participating organization will receive an overall report and a report tailored from that group’s own database.

That’s Phase III, the chairs of which have yet to be named. “Krista and I will be officially off the clock,” Bates said.

Jewish community members who aren’t invited can take part in the scan by linking from a friend’s Facebook page or by visiting Those who aren’t computer literate can call the federation and take an over-the-phone version, according to federation chief operating officer Bradley Laye.

Then, the federation and other organizations can gear programming to interest and need.

“I believe that this process will help us prepare for the next 25-30 years of growing community and, too, secure philanthropic development for the entire Jewish community,” Feldman said. “It was very powerful to hear firsthand how our community’s agencies and dedicated volunteers value the opportunity to sit down together for common cause. I encourage you to take the survey and take an active part in offering feedback on what you want from your community and to speak out about what you feel is missing.”

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Meanings of God’s names

Meanings of God’s names

Posted on 09 May 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Thanks for your answer about the various names of God. That makes it easier to focus, knowing they’re all referring to various character traits of the same God. I would appreciate if you could elaborate on what those traits are we are referring to when we mention those names.

— Harvey L.

Dear Harvey,

friedforweb2We can try to touch on the very basic meaning of some of the more commonly mentioned names.

  • Adonai, this is the most commonly used Name of God. This name means “master of all,” or as some will translate it, “master of the universe.”
  • Yahweh, meaning “He was, He is and He will always be, the master of the universe Who brought everything into existence and keeps it going.”

This is a name we don’t ever actually pronounce; we say “Adonai” when it is written with the letters yud-hey-vov-hey. Only during the Temple worship was this name actually pronounced, by the Cohanim/priests. This is due to the name’s profound holiness.

In our times, it is never pronounced, and the Talmud says this will be the case until Messianic times. There are different opinions among the Kabbalistic masters whether one should have in mind the name one is pronouncing or the one we are referring to. Sephardic custom is to have in mind both, reflected in their Siddur, where the two names are actually writing with both intermingled together. I would suggest doing what you feel most comfortable.

This is the name most associated with God performing acts of loving kindness and compassion in the world.

  • Elohim, meaning “master of all the powers of the universe.” This name teaches us that our belief is very different than that of many religions that believe various powers, such as the power of evil, run contrary or are at war with their god(s). Our belief is that God created all powers that exist for reasons of tikkun and free choice, and that He controls all such powers.

He will also destroy the powers of evil from the world, at the time He sees fit when they have run their course and finished their purpose. Since we, for the purpose of effecting a tikkun, have been empowered by God to control the universe with our actions, we were created in the “image of Elohim.”

This is the name used most in conjunction with God utilizing the trait of strict judgment and, when necessary, carrying out retribution in the world.

  • El, a very common name that refers to God’s sustaining the world with His kindness, providing food for us and the animal kingdom. It also is the name that, according to the Kabbalists, starts off the 13 attributes of kindness that were revealed at the time the Jews repented over the sin of the golden calf. Those 13 traits form the foundation of our Yom Kippur services.

There is more to explain and there are more names as well, but I hope this helps you for the majority of the service.

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 09 May 2013 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

The Dallas-Fort Worth area chapter of the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation will host its annual Walkabout and Autoimmune Disease Health Fair Saturday, May 11 at Grapevine Mills Mall, 3000 Grapevine Mills Pkwy.

Participants are advised to use entrance No. 5, near the AMC Theatre. The health fair and opening festivities will commence at 10 a.m. The walk steps off at 11 a.m., and the health fair will close at noon.

The 2013 honorary Walkabout chairperson is Shannon Boxx, a Sjögren’s patient and a member of the gold-medalist U.S. national women’s soccer team. Tennis champion Venus Williams is the foundation’s awareness ambassador.

This event is much more than a “walk.” It is a national awareness and fundraising event for the SSF. The non-competitive, family fun event focuses on awareness of Sjögren’s Syndrome while helping to raise money to support the SSF’s research and education programs.

My personal journey with autoimmune disease began in 1986 with a different primary diagnosis. Visits to a multitude of specialists, including vascular surgeons, ophthalmologists, internists, cornea specialists, dentists, periodontists, endodontists as well as several rheumatologists ultimately helped me connect the dots and secure the diagnosis of secondary Sjögren’s.

I had never had a cavity or corneal erosion. I noticed that my vision seemed to change frequently, and that I would get fatigued with additional muscular and joint pains. Sjögren’s is a “dry” disease, and even though mucus membranes of the body are extremely dry, my sense of humor became slightly drier.

Along with dryness, Sjögren’s can affect any body organ or system, and affects approximately 4 million Americans. Nine out of 10 Sjögren’s patients are women. The disease can spread throughout the body, causing major organ failure and other serious complications. It is important to seek the counsel of a good, board-certified rheumatologist to decide on an individualized treatment plan.

My good friend, Dr. Scott J. Zashin, is a board-certified rheumatologist who practices at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Zashin, a native of New Jersey, graduated from Dartmouth College and is a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H. He completed residencies in both Internal Medicine and Rheumatology at UTSW.

Zashin graciously accepted my invitation to share his expertise regarding Sjögren’s in this week’s issue:

“Sjögren’s (pronounced show-grens) syndrome is an autoimmune condition. The body’s immune system turns against itself, subsequently destroying the exocrine glands that produce tears, saliva and mucus. The Swedish physician Henrik Sjögren first described the condition in 1933. He reported women whose arthritis was associated with dryness of their eyes and mouth.

“When these symptoms occur without any other rheumatologic condition, it is described as ‘primary’ Sjögren’s syndrome. When it occurs with another rheumatologic condition such as lupus, RA or scleroderma, it is called ‘secondary’ Sjögren’s syndrome.

“The cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is unknown, although scientists believe that genetically predisposed patients may come in contact with a virus or certain bacteria that triggers the immune response. This response inactivates tear and saliva glands. The result is uncomfortably dry eyes and dry mouth.

“People with Sjögren’s often describe eye irritation and grittiness, as if there is sand in their eye. A burning sensation in the mouth or throat is also common, as is a hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing because food sticks to the dry tissue. Enlarged or infected glands that cause pain are also common, as is vaginal dryness among women. Many patients also complain of aching and fatigue.

“Sjögren’s syndrome affects approximately 1 in 2,500 people, but the condition is frequently overlooked. A blood test can help to diagnosis the condition. Most people with Sjögren’s syndrome have at least one antibody in their blood that is a specific marker for the disease. The markers that may be present in Sjögren’s syndrome include:

  • “Antibodies to the rheumatoid factor (RF), which are found in RA and Sjögren’s syndrome.
  • “Those to the anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), which are found in RA, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus and scleroderma.
  • “Those to anti-Sjögren’s syndrome A (anti-SSA or ‘Ro’), which are found in RA, Sjögren’s syndrome and lupus.
  • “Those to anti-Sjögren’s syndrome B (anti-SSB or ‘La’), which is diagnostic for primary Sjögren’s syndrome.

“Definitive diagnosis is based on a thorough history and physical examination, as well as the results of the laboratory tests to detect the presence of the antibodies that are characteristic of Sjögren’s syndrome. A biopsy of the minor salivary gland found in the lips may also be performed.

“There is no treatment that is capable of producing normal glandular conditions, so treatment focuses on treating symptoms of dry eyes and mouth. Lubricants, as well as medications that decrease inflammation, stimulate moisture and helps patients feel better.”

Go to the head of the class

High school prom season is almost behind us, and we’ve heard from several folks who are kvelling (with great reason) at their children’s accomplishments.

  • Good wishes to Sam Libby, son of Carla and Kevin Libby, who will attend Dartmouth College this fall. Sam is a senior at St. Mark’s School of Texas.

At St. Mark’s, he has been a straight-A student, a National Merit Scholarship finalist, member of the Cum Laude Society, (grades 11-12), an AP Scholar (grade 11) and a member of the National Spanish Honor Society, (grades 10-12).

In addition to the above, Sam was all-state Texas Private School Music Educators Association orchestra violinist in 2012 and 2013, co-captain of the St. Mark’s crew team and state champion in men’s varsity doubles. He is the author of “J-Squad: Emergence,” a 400-page young adult science-fiction novel written during his freshman year.

He is the founder of St. Mark’s Political Forum, a club that discusses political issues. Sam was also a member of the math team all four years, a member of the academic varsity team in grades 10-12. With his schedule full, Sam is a routine Torah reader at Congregation Shearith Israel.

He is the grandson of Betty Stone and the late Morris Stone and the late Frances and Irving Libby.

  • Congratulations are due to Adam Genecov, son of Lisa and Jeff Genecov, who will graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University June 16 with a Bachelor of Science in biomechanical engineering.

Adam received the Stanford University Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholarship Award on April 13. This award is given to the top 5 percent of the graduating seniors in the School of Engineering. He plans to pursue his Master of Science in engineering at Stanford.

He is the grandson of Sally Genecov and the late Dr. Ed Genecov of Dallas and Rita and Morris Atlas of McAllen.

Calling all Congregation Shearith Israel bakers

A recent note from Janice Leventhal at Congregation Shearith Israel informed us that this year’s Tikkun Leil Shavout will feature a “Cheesecake Chowdown Contest.” Members are invited to share their “cheesecake know-how.”

Those interested in obtaining more information may contact Janice Leventhal at 2140939-7342 or

Herzl Hadassah happenings

Rose Biderman dropped us a note to let us know that Herzl Hadassah will welcome Charlotte Decoster, education and public engagement coordinator of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, at 10 a.m. Monday, May 13 in the Aaron Family JCC conference room.

Decoster will present an overview of the museum and its docent-training program. All Hadassah members and guests are invited to this event and future activities. Hadassah greeting cards will be available for purchase.

Wilkens to speak at Holocaust museum May 16

I had a wonderful conversation with Mary Pat Higgins, president/CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

Mary Pat shared that Carl Wilkens, former American missionary in Rwanda who was in that country with his family during its genocide will speak at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at the museum, 211 N. Record St. in Dallas.

Wilkens remained in Rwanda at his family home during the atrocities. He not only was an eyewitness to the Rwandan genocide, but also, as the only American, he managed to save hundreds of lives. This is certain to be an interesting evening.

JWVA #256 membership brunch coming up

The ladies of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary will have its annual membership drive and brunch Sunday, June 2 at Town Village North, which is sponsoring the brunch.

Featured entertainment will be pianists Terry Teitlebaum (before brunch) and Mimi Guten. A raffle is planned with many great prizes. The membership brunch is by invitation only.

The JWV Auxiliary is a service-oriented group that provides assistance to many throughout our city.

For additional information regarding the organization and an invitation to the brunch, call Lynn Teitlebaum at 972-233-8937. The organization is interested in expanding its membership.

A bundle of boy and joy

Eli Kasten with his stuffed toy.

Eli Kasten with his stuffed toy.

I was particularly thrilled to reconnect with former neighbors and TJP friends, Deanna and Jerry Kasten, who shared this picture of their adorable 21-month-old grandson, Eli Kasten, son of Andrew and Reyna Kasten of Plano. Eli is shown holding a stuffed Israeli soldier (doll) sold by ourtown’s Diane Benjamin two years ago.

Eli’s dad, Andrew, has myriad talents, being not only an attorney, but also an actor. Andrew’s most recent appearance was in the Water Tower Theatre’s production of “The Grapes of Wrath.”

We love to hear from our readers. Please share your simchas, events or organizational news with us. Contact me at

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Justice is a key tenet of Judaism

Justice is a key tenet of Judaism

Posted on 09 May 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

seymourforweb2Especially as we prepare for summer camp, we think about the serious issue of bullying. It is in everything that is sent to parents, educators and, yes, camp directors by the Aaron Family JCC’s various camps.

Rather than focus on bullying, which is a specific problem, we have chosen to be part of the ADL’s program “No Place for Hate” this summer and last summer. The big question is how to teach our children about justice, fairness and how to eliminate hatred and prejudice and base this on the teachings of Judaism. It’s a pretty tall order.

How do we teach our children, through our texts and by our example? Fairness is a word that is really about mishnat (justice). Judaism has the message of justice deeply implanted in the spirit of Jewish life. The Torah is filled with laws and examples of how to make a fair judgment and the importance of being fair and just.

“You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus)

“Only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah)

Rabbi Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” This is a very easy way to understand how to treat others. However, being fair isn’t always easy or simple. Fair doesn’t always mean exactly the same.

Try these conversation starters with your children:

  • Have you ever been treated unfairly? How did it make you feel?
  • Do you think it is fair that older children get to stay up later and do more things than younger children? Why or why not?
  • Do you think it is fair that boys get to do things that girls don’t get to do? Why or why not?
  • Some families have a rule that if there is a piece of cake to share, one person gets to cut it and the other gets to choose the first piece. How is this a fair way to divide the cake? Can this system be used in other areas?

Stories work well for discussions, too: A young boy came to a woman’s house and asked if she would like to buy some of the berries he had picked from his father’s fields. The woman said, “Yes, I would and I’ll just take your basket inside to measure out two quarts.”

The boy sat down on the porch and the woman asked, “Don’t you want to watch me. How do you know that I won’t cheat you and take more than 2 quarts?” The young boy said, “I am not afraid, for you would get the worst of the deal.” “How could that be?” she asked.

The boy answered, “If you take more than 2 quarts that you are paying me for, I would only lose the berries. You would make yourself a liar and a thief.”

Talk about the meaning of this story with your family.

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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