Archive | October, 2013

Around the Town

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Next summer’s Maccabi Games open to Tarrant County teens

If your teen loves to play sports and would like to meet other Jewish teens from around the country and world, then the Maccabi Games is just the ticket. Tarrant County teens ages 13-16 as of July 31, 2014 are invited to join the Orlando JCC for the 2014 Maccabi Games to be held in Boca Raton, Fla., Aug. 10-15.

A recruiting meeting will be held for parents and teens at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17 at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, 4050 South Hulen St.

The Maccabi Games features a variety of sports. As of today, teens have expressed an interest in girls’ volleyball, girls’ soccer, swimming, golf and boys’ baseball.

Congregation Ahavath Sholom is taking the lead to launch Fort Worth and Tarrant County into this worldwide program. Teens from all over the world will be participating in the games, which began in 1982. Since there is no JCC in Tarrant County, teens have not been connected to the games. Because of an invitation to participate with the Orlando JCC delegation, local teens will have the opportunity of a lifetime. A former Maccabi athlete who won a silver medal will be at the meeting to talk about his experience. Interest information sheets will be available. A Q-and-A will help explain how the program works.

For further information, contact Robby Etzkin at RobbyE@orlandojcc.org or locally, call Naomi Rosenfield at 817-246-3908.

I’ve mentioned before that my family served as a host family in 2006 and our son participated as an athlete in Philly two years ago. It was truly a rewarding experience all around, and I encourage you to check it out.

Federation open house

Don’t forget, from 2-4 p.m., this Sunday, Nov. 3, the Federation will hold an open house at its offices at 4049 Kingsridge Road. This is a great opportunity to meet new Federation director Bob Goldberg and his family. I’m told there will be refreshments, good conversation and a few surprises. Feel free to call 817-569-0892 and ask for Cindy if you have any questions.

Marc Veasey appearance rescheduled for December

Beth-El Congregation, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, the Jewish Federation and AIPAC will host a Fort Worth community event featuring Congressman Marc Veasey at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Congressman Veasey travelled to Israel in early August with AIPAC’s sister foundation, AIEF. He plans to share his experiences.

Veasey represents Texas District 33 in the U.S. House of Representatives. He comes to Congress with over a decade of public service experience and has established himself as a strong and effective advocate who finds fair-minded and balanced solutions to problems.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Veasey serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. With over 15 major military installations in Texas, defense and scientific research and development are key industries in the 33rd District. Veasey is committed to creating jobs, encouraging economic growth, improving public education, promoting immigration reform and ensuring access to quality healthcare.

Prior to serving in the Texas House of Representatives, Veasey worked as a congressional staffer in North Texas. In both Southeast Fort Worth and Dallas, he worked on important issues dealing with transportation, economic development and higher education that benefitted the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Veasey was born and raised in Fort Worth. He and his wife Tonya live in the Metroplex area and have a 7-year-old son, Adam. He earned a B.A. from Texas Wesleyan University, where he majored in mass communication.

We love to hear from our readers. Send your news to me at sharonw@texasjewishpost.com or 7920 Belt Line Road, Ste. 680 Dallas, 75254.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

It’s that time of year … when parents begin making decisions about where their kids are going to attend school the following year, if it’s time to make a change.

We are fortunate in the Dallas-area to have three stellar Jewish day schools (Akiba Academy, Ann and Nate Levine Academy and Torah Day School) and three Jewish high schools (Mesorah High School, Texas Torah Institute and Yavneh Academy) from which to choose.

Not to mention the many good quality Jewish preschools: Anshai Torah, Beth Torah, Chabad, JCC and Temple Emanu-El in addition to the day schools above, which have early childhood programs as well.

So what’s a parent to do? Take a visit. …

Akiba and Levine academies recently shared their open house/preview schedules with us.

Akiba will hold an open house for kindergartners from 7-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, in the Lower School atrium. To RSVP, contact Andi Bonner at abonner@akibaacademy.org or 214-295-3410.

Levine will hold three previews for the Beck Lower School and Middle School (K-8th grade) at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

Open houses for Levine’s Weinreb Family Early Education Center (3 mos-Pre-K) will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 27, Thursday, Jan. 30 and Friday, Jan. 31. To RSVP or to arrange for a private tour, please contact Michelle Feinberg, admissions manager at mfeinberg@levineacademy.org or 972-248-3032, ext. 151.

Yavneh’s Varsity Basketball team is in Memphis this week to play in the Cooper Invitational. You can follow the games live at www.cooperinvitational.com. | Photo: Deb Silverthorn

Yavneh’s Varsity Basketball team is in Memphis this week to play in the Cooper Invitational. You can follow the games live at www.cooperinvitational.com. | Photo: Deb Silverthorn

Bulldog basketball hits the road for tournament

Tune in this week to cheer on the Yavneh Varsity Bulldog basketball team as they participate in the 2013 Cooper Yeshiva High School National Invitational Tournament in Memphis, Tenn. The games will be broadcast live over the Internet at http://www.cooperinvitational.com.

The Bulldogs began their travels Wednesday, Oct. 30, and will continue through Sunday, Nov. 3, to play 16 teams from nine states. Athletic Director and Head Coach David Zimmerman and Assistant Coaches Zack Pollack and Dr. Max Ribald will accompany the Bulldogs.

Comprising the team this year are Jason Epstein ’14, Lee Gelsky ’15, Itai Guttman ’14, Ori Guttman, Adam Karnett ’14, Sam Kleinman ’14, Steve Levine ’16, Jonathan Ochstein ’16, Grant Prengler ’15, David Rudomin ’14, Adam Schor ’14, Zak Schultz ’15, Adam Steinbrecher ’14, David Steinbrecher ’16 and Noah Weiss ’15.

The Bulldogs and the JV Bulldogs will open their home season, on Nov. 7 on Yavneh’s Schultz Rosenberg Campus, with the varsity squad also supported by managers Ethan Fisher ’16 and Jonathan Kravitz ’15 as well as Assistant Coach Bryant Nash.

Yavneh’s Lady Bulldogs will play their first game at home, on Nov. 14. Visit yavnehdallas.org/athletics for schedules and information.

10th annual Truck Time not to be missed this weekend

Ride, honk, play and slide at the 10th annual Truck Time. Children of all ages can have the opportunity to touch and explore trucks, vintage cars and motorcycles.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Congregation Shearith Israel 9401 Douglas Ave, Dallas. Other activities include bounce houses, musical instruments and entertainment provided my Rabbi Shira Wallach and Rabbi Adam Roffman.

Shearith partnered with Medical City for this year’s event as well and will hand out stuffed lions to the first 100 children who attend. Cost is $5 per person and children 2 and under are free. Kosher food is available for purchase too and all proceeds earned benefit the Shearith Israel Family Center.

Co-chairs are Gretchen and Avi Edwards, Stephanie and Barry Grosssman, Ellen and Mark Grishman and Jorge Goldsmit and Sharon Kowalsky.

For more information, contact Katie Copeland at 214-361-6606, or kcopeland@shearith.org.

Spend a day of learning at Temple Shalom’s Synaplex

Synaplex is a day of cultural, educational, spiritual and social events focused on a particular subject. Temple Shalom’s fourth annual Synaplex on Saturday, Nov. 9 will highlight “Why Israel Matters.”

The day of learning will occur from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes a Shabbat service, teen games, Torah study, crafts and discussions about film and culture, Birthright and the Christian/Israel relationship.

Those in attendance can also meet Jeff Kuhnreich, deputy director of AIPAC, who will talk about the relationship between Israel and the United States. Gil Elan of the Southwest Jewish Congress will be on-hand to share the latest news about Israeli security.

The event is free and open to the entire community. Lunch is provided for the first 200 people who register.

For more information, to see a detailed schedule of events and to register, visit www.http://templeshalomdallas.org/learning/lifelong-learning-overview/synaplex.

Art exhibition based on the life of Ruth

A new art exhibition of photography by Kenneth Berg is now open at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas. Berg has produced Biblically-based television programs and movies over the past 30 years. Each of the photographs in the exhibition were taken on location in Israel. The story of this heroine from the Bible comes alive through a pictorial journey.

The photographs have been the centerpiece to the book by the same title as the exhibition written by Berg and Brenda Duff, published this year by New Leaf Press. Museum Curator Scott Peck said: “Ken Berg has an incredible eye as a photographer. The viewer feels like an eyewitness to the events in the life of Ruth, as recorded in the Bible. You will feel as if you were there in the Holy Land, 3,000 years ago.”

“I Am Ruth” is a timeless story of loss, love and redemption. The photographs tell the tale of one of the greatest love stories ever written taken from the Bible, recounting the lives of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.

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Discover the miracle inside yourself, says author

Discover the miracle inside yourself, says author

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebDo you believe in miracles? Did you ever?

I think all of us did when we were kids in Sunday school, learning the great stories of our early traditions. But most of us have come to the conclusion that the age of miracles ended with the Bible, and these days we have to settle for the little miracles that light up all of our lives — at least once in a while.

Not so for Paul Tobolowsky. He never really settled into disbelief. As a child, he fell in love with the story of the Burning Bush, and all his life was hoping for such a Moses-like miracle to happen to him.

Of course, it never did. But also of course, it already had! Dr. Tobolowsky, a retired physician, found the miracle inside himself — inside all of us — right where it had been since the start of time. The discovery came when he was in his 40s and happened upon a magazine article about the 18th-century French scientist Antoine Lavoisier.

Lavoisier discovered the process of respiration “which takes place in the cells of our body. The same process as the combustion that burns the wood in our fireplaces or creates a candle flame,” Tobolowsky writes. The intake of oxygen and food nutrients, plus the output of carbon dioxide, keeps our bodies perpetually “burning” at a near-normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

But Tobolowsky continues: “While the wood and the candle are consumed, we are not. This fire of life is transmitted from generation to generation, just as one candle can light another.… From the first time the spark of life entered the world, this flame has been transmitted to us.”

His conclusion? “Incredibly, I had found my Burning Bush, and it was me!”

“Think about the amazing truth,” he says, “that everything that ever happened in the history of the world resulted in your own life at this moment! Nothing is more miraculous than the true story of your life!”

Such forthright statements of revelation fill his newly published book, “Stardust Dancing: A Seeker’s Guide to the Miraculous.” Its intriguing cover mirrors the message inside: a faceless couple, dancing under a crescent moon on a surface that might be a bit of Planet Earth, and in the foreground what we’ve all come in recent years to recognize as the spiraling symbol of DNA.

What we call “ordinary life” is really the miraculous in disguise, Tobolowsky now believes. This realization transformed his life, fulfilling decades of waiting for a miracle of his very own. It also transformed his professional approach, as he shared this new insight with the many people he touched through his practice of internal medicine.

Now 66 and no longer in active medical practice, he has come to the same conclusions as those put forth by contemporary astrophysicist Brian Cox and BBC science writer Andrew Cohen, whom he references in his book: although each of us is granted only the briefest peek at our universe, for our lives are lived out in only a fraction of the universe’s existence, Tobolowsky writes, “The most astonishing wonder isn’t a star or a planet or a galaxy, it isn’t a thing at all — it’s a moment in time. And that time is now.”

Go even further back than Lavoisier to Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century philosopher who believed that, “Every human thought, like every speck of nature, is connected to all other things. … Human thought resembles the structure of the natural world.” Bruno made the same mental leap with ideas as the scientist Lavoisier did, two centuries later, with cells. Paul Tobolowsky has brought both concepts together, modernized, in his own very readable prose.

But even better than reading this book is to see him speak about it, earnestly and enthusiastically gesturing to put across his most important point: the Bush burns outside us, and inside us, and it is never consumed. We are each a part of that eternal miracle.

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How should Jewish parents handle Halloween festivities?

How should Jewish parents handle Halloween festivities?

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Parents and Children,

seymourforweb2The first few months of the school year are filled with so many wonderful beginnings. In a Jewish school, the holidays come one after the other with hardly a minute to spare. We have been so busy! And now, the holidays have ended … ALMOST.

Each year, I make sure to comment on a very special “American” holiday. Halloween, Oct. 31, is a holiday that we do not celebrate at most Jewish schools. It’s not a Jewish holiday, although the religious aspects of the day have been long forgotten in society.

Historically, the eve of All Saints’ Day was also called All Hallows Eve. All Saints’ Day had its origins in 837 C.E., when Pope Gregory IV ordered the church to celebrate a day in honor of all saints. Over time, the holiday became focused on witches, death, skeletons, etc., but today, Halloween has been diluted to the point that it’s very much a part of the American experience for most of us. And yet, while the roots in All Saints’ Day have long been lost, the debate among Jews continues.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis, in his wonderful book “Becoming a Jewish Parent” (which I highly recommend), raises a number of thoughts about Halloween but says: “In the final analysis, what we do about Halloween may not be important. How we think about it, how we talk about it, and what our kids’ reactions to the issue tell us about their identities — those are the crucial issues about which we ought to think and speak very carefully.”

Rabbi Gordis asks: “If not participating is going to make our kids resent being Jewish, are we doing enough to fill their lives with positive Jewish moments, with a deep sense of identification, with supportive and loving Jewish community?” In other words, if we want our children to have a positive Jewish identity, then we — the adults in their lives — need to think and plan for wonderful Jewish moments that create memories and reasons to be proudly Jewish.

How you choose to handle this holiday is a family decision, but let me offer my yearly recommendation. On Nov. 1, RUSH to every store that sells costumes and get great ones for dress-up and especially for Purim — our time to dress up! The post-Halloween sales are fantastic.

Shalom … from The Shabbat Lady.

Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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God, or our own logic?

God, or our own logic?

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

In a previous letter you cited the presence of absolute morals in the world as a proof of God’s existence. How else could we all know and agree that Hitler’s murder of millions of innocents was absolutely wrong, when he believed he was doing something for the betterment of mankind?

Initially, I found this to be a phenomenal proof. However, what bothers me is, why can’t morals simply be the self-understood laws of the land? For civilization to exist, basic understandings need to be in place. We know that if we allowed rampant murder, we would essentially be inviting death to all of the human race; therefore, we know that what Hitler did was wrong, because it was a form of self-destruction to society. (Hitler himself rationalized it due to an affliction of madness in his own brain, but society as a whole abhors such behavior.)

Here’s a question: If someone broke into your home, could he argue that he was morally correct? What if he told you that he was hungry and he knew you had money, so he took some to keep from starving? Would you press charges? And how is he different from Hitler, who also felt he was doing the ultimate good? On the other hand, if anyone and everyone can invent their own morals, those morals can no longer hold anyone down and will lose their whole purpose! Morals, by their very definition, must be logical (“what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours”), with no exception. So where do morals come from?

Additionally, from a Torah perspective, if morals are logical, then how can we explain a chok (i.e., a mitzvah we do without understanding its rationale)?

Thank you,
Moshe G., New Jersey

Dear Moshe,

friedforweb2Maimonides, in his “Commentary to the Mishnah,” expounds on a concept which will shed light upon your question (Shemonah Perakim, chapter 6). The Talmudic sages have stated that one should not say, “I’m disgusted by non-kosher food,” or any other prohibition in the Torah. Rather one should say, “I would love to eat that. It looks delicious, but what can I do? My Father in Heaven has decreed upon me to refrain from it.” If we refrain only because we have developed a disgust for such a food or other prohibition, then we are not refraining because of God’s command and we will receive no reward for not consuming it.

This concept, explains Maimonides, applies only to those mitzvot which are under the category of chok: those mitzvot that people in the world at large do not fulfill because they do not understand the rationale. There are, however, a number of mitzvot under the category of mitzvot sichlis, rational mitzvot that are widely accepted and understood in all of society — such as refraining from theft, from murder, from dishonoring parents and the like. One should not say, “I wish I could murder, but what can I do? My Father in Heaven decreed not to!” A person should abhor the violation of any mitzvah sichlis because that would clearly run against the grain of normalcy and society.

My understanding of Maimonides is that God, in His desire that a functioning society should be the normal state of mankind, programmed certain mitzvot into the psyche of man as part of his creation. Just as He programmed the heart to beat and the mind to think and understand basic rules for living, He hard-wired mankind to abhor murder and theft. This does not pre-empt the possibility for a person to intentionally warp their mind and justify those very things, just as there are people who willingly inflict harm upon themselves or perform acts which will clearly jeopardize their health, safety and well-being. All of this is in the realm of free choice. But the healthy, uncluttered and functioning mind refrains from foods or activities that can endanger the person, and likewise such a mind adheres to mitzvot sichlis. That is the source of underlying morals of society which span the generations and are considered common sense, despite religion or the lack thereof.

This does not mean the morals are illogical. God created man’s logic around these common-sense mitzvot. What remains in the category of chok are all the mitzvot that society’s common sense is not molded around, such as kosher and the like. Hitler and all those of his kind, despite their warped sense of what is good for humanity, are obviously and clearly in violation of the common sense that is hard-wired into our minds for all time.

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 yfried@sbcglobal.net.

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Aggies make history with Israel branch campus

Aggies make history with Israel branch campus

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Cover

Texas A&M to open branch in Israel

On Oct. 23, Gov. Rick Perry and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, announced plans for the opening of the branch of Texas A&M University at Nazareth – Peace Campus. It is the first comprehensive international university of the first class to open in the state of Israel.

The announcement was made at the residence of the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, along with the Israel Minister of Education, Shay Piron, Perry and Sharp. The signing ceremony also included other key education and administration officials who were key to making this vision a reality.

“This is a proud accomplishment that has been years in the making” said Sharp. “We are absolutely dedicated to making this one of the finest international universities in the world and open to all.”

The university will be constructed in Nazareth and funding for the construction will be provided entirely from private donations secured throughout the world. The student population of the university will be a combination of Arab, Jewish and international students. Similarly, the faculty will be drawn from Arab, Jewish, and international populations. The peaceful co-existence for the sake of education will be a hallmark of this university. In time, the school will offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs in a wide-range of academic disciplines.

“Texas A&M and Israel make a good fit, as communities built upon the values of family, commitment and tradition,” Perry said. “That’s reflected in the goals we’ve established for this university. We want to see the Nazareth branch as a means to preserving peace and building understanding between cultures. We want to see students and instructors from a diverse array of nationalities, faiths and backgrounds within its classrooms, each student learning more about the world and what bright possibilities lie ahead for all of us.”

Building on a vision expressed by the Governor, Israeli President and Minister of Education, Sharp — supported by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents and Perry communicated a desire to pursue establishing a first class University in Nazareth dedicated to enhancing education access in a common learning environment. The Council for Higher Education and the Texas A&M System reached an agreement in principle Oct. 11, 2013 and signed an agreement to begin pursuing this opportunity on Oct. 23, 2013.

“Today is a day of celebration; it is the day on which we are establishing a branch campus of Texas A&M University, one of the world’s leading universities, here in Israel,” said Piron. “Education in a setting that accepts everyone equally is an essential tool for internal and regional peace. I am certain that this splendid institution will have the power to enhance the vision of peace and equality, and the founding of this institution is a giant step in that direction. I wish to congratulate all of our partners, especially our partners from Texas A&M, for taking part in this important vision.”

The signing statement regarding the establishment of Texas A&M University at Nazareth – Peace Campus can be found here: http://news.tamus.edu/2013/10/22/tamuatnazareth. Film from the announcement ceremony in Israel will be provided by the Texas A&M University System Office of Marketing & Communications.

Rick Perry in Israel puts presidential talk aside, focuses on economic development

During Perry’s meetings with Israeli leaders, including Prime Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, “never once did anyone ask him what his plans were for 2016, nor did he bring it up,” said Fred Zeidman, a Houston businessman and Republican activist who accompanied Perry on his trip.

“I will tell you, through every meeting we sat through, it was 100 percent about promoting business for the state of Texas and the state of Israel,” Zeidman told JNS.org.

“A lot of this trip was geared for Rick to explore ways in which Texas could be helpful to developing the energy industry in Israel,” he said.

Perry attended a water technology conference and spoke about the mutual challenges Texas and Israel face in water management. He was also in Israel to announce the planned opening of Texas A&M University’s “Peace Campus” campus in Nazareth, which will serve the Israeli city’s Muslim, Christian, and Jewish populations.

Zeidman said Perry’s love for Israel is illustrated by the fact that in the 1990s, when he was the agriculture commissioner of Texas, he took money out of his own budget to ensure the survival of the Texas-Israel Exchange Program — which supports technology to be used in agriculture — when funding from the state was phased out.

Texas A&M, meanwhile, will be the first American university with a campus branch in Israel, an ideal situation for the Jewish state given the school’s excellence in the fields of engineering and computer science, Zeidman said.

“To have that campus in Israel, I think it’s going to be an incredible success, and I couldn’t be prouder of A&M for doing it, and I couldn’t be prouder of the governor for having supported it,” he said.

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Torah Study is one answer

Torah Study is one answer

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

The Jewish world seems to be in quite a raucous state of shock over the recently released Pew Study on the state of American Jewry. The results are quite alarming, and I wonder if you have any insights to share on the matter.

— Mark L.

Dear Mark,

friedforweb2Many of the results of the study you mention are, indeed, very alarming and unsettling. One of the most sobering findings is that one fifth of American Jews don’t identify themselves as Jewish by religion. The trend rises to one in three among younger Jews. This has catastrophic effects on American Jewry, as these “Jews of no religion” are very unlikely to marry other Jews, raise their children as Jews, donate to Jewish causes, have any connection to Israel, or see their Jewish identity as something important in their lives.

As one writer summed it up, “In short, most Jews of no religion have both feet out of the Jewish community — or at least are on their way to the exit sign.” Over 70 percent of all Jewish marriages are intermarriages (when you factor the Orthodox community out of the equation), and only 20 percent of the children of those intermarriages are being raised exclusively Jewish. And the dire statistics go on.

I am alarmed and have been for many years. That’s what brought me to Dallas to start DATA more than 20 years ago, to try to do my part to turn back the tide. Struggling with the decision to leave my beloved home in Israel and come to Dallas, I discussed it with one of my mentors, the renowned sage R’ Shlomo Wolbe, ob’m. He quoted to me an article written by Rabbi Shimon Schwab in which he proclaimed that American Jewry was in a state of spiritual holocaust. (This, uttered by a survivor of the Holocaust.) R’ Wolbe told me that we must not sit complacent during a time when our people are, spiritually, going up in flames. He ended: “You are going to Texas. That’s what needs to be done!”

I don’t want to oversimplify a very complicated issue or claim to have “the answer” of what to do, or that there even is an answer. If there is, it is certainly multi-faceted and with manifold, interlocking plans of action. The underlying theme, however, is clear. Education, education, education!

I don’t believe most Jews who are “on their way to the exit sign” are doing so maliciously or out of a conscious desire to escape Judaism. Rather, it is out of apathy, borne of complete ignorance of the richness, depth and beauty of our belief system.

A young South African Jew, known by his friends as “the skeptic” due to his rejection of anything Jewish, once attended our DATA weekend retreat after much arm-twisting by his friends. After a weekend packed with positive, engaging Jewish learning, during the time the participants shared their experiences with the group, the skeptic spoke. He said he agreed to come, certain that he would actually teach the rabbis a few things, as he already knew it all. But the opposite happened, and he found a weekend of immersion in real, authentic Jewish wisdom. For the first time, he felt proud to be part of this people and this amazing wisdom, and no longer wanted to opt out of the Jewish tradition. He ended by saying that he wasn’t yet ready to give up shrimp, but that from then on he wanted to date only Jewish girls and he believed his home should be a Jewish one.

That is a success. The proof is in the pudding. If every person reading these lines takes it upon himself or herself to introduce an unaffiliated Jew to an opportunity of authentic Jewish learning, we will make a difference!

A rabbi once visited pre-perestroika Soviet Russia as “a tourist.” The customs agents emptied out his suitcase at the airport, taking out numerous pairs of tefillin, tzitzit, shofars, mezuzot and books of Torah study. They looked at him and said, “Tourist, huh?!” They proceeded to return all the mitzvah artifacts to his suitcase, but left out the books. The agents said, “These you can’t have. … These are the enemies of the people!” They understood that if anything were to foster a Jewish feeling in the people the rabbi met, it would not be simply the mitzvot that he did; only Torah study could ignite the spark of their Jewish souls.

Let us understand what the Bolsheviks knew. Let’s find ways to communicate pure, unadulterated Torah, to ignite as many Jewish souls as possible. The resulting fire of Sinai could transform the Jewish people again into a proud and committed nation that will keep their feet inside the door!

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 yfried@sbcglobal.net.

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A d’var Torah ‘how to’

A d’var Torah ‘how to’

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2Often I am asked to help someone with a d’var Torah, a bar mitzvah speech or any address that needs some Jewish content. The words “d’var Torah” mean “word of Torah,” and that really opens up a wide range of possible topics.

You may choose the Torah portion of the week or you can look for words that teach a lesson you want to focus on. Those are just some of the first steps to giving the perfect d’var Torah, so that people walk away saying, “Wow, I learned something!”

This week I came across an article that suggests many ways of understanding the text as well as how to share those understandings with other people. Here are the techniques that originally appeared in “New Traditions,” published by the National Havurah Committee, and were then posted on the website, MyJewishLearning.com:

The Microscope

Take a close-up look at very small fragments of the text, maybe even just a word or two.

The Airplane

Observe the text from a distance, and as you come down, make observations on the trip.

The Diving Board

Begin with an idea from the text. Then take a big jump and go into another area that seems connected.

The Snuffbox

In past times, a visiting rabbi would stand up to speak and “accidentally” drop his snuffbox. In looking for it, he would say, “That reminds me of a thought about. … ” He could then go off in any direction he wanted!

The Biblical Personality

Analyze a character in the Bible and the events in his or her life and relate it to our lives today.

The Puzzle

Present discrepancies in facts or texts, and then explain how the pieces really do fit together.

The Historian

Offer some historical insight (what was happening when … ).

These are all possible directions to take. The most important thing to remember, though, is that each of us can read the Torah and find meaning for ourselves that we wish to share with others.

One last thought. Being told that you must do a “d’var Torah” is often scary. And yet, I prefer to call it a JEM: “Jewish Educational Moment.” It’s just a moment to teach both others and yourself!

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.

Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Saving small Jewish communities

Saving small Jewish communities

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebWhen my father, of blessed memory, gave up his medical practice, he received an invitation from someone representing a small Upper Michigan town that hoped to attract a full-time physician. The caller offered a number of attractive perks and said the need was especially great during the summer, when lots of non-locals arrived with their rifles for the hunting season.

“What do they shoot?” Dad asked.

“Mostly each other,” the caller replied. “That’s why we need a doctor!”

We did not relocate to the Iron Mountain area, but I thought about this when I read a recent article in our Dallas daily about a small southern town that uses similar methods to recruit new residents. The need in Dothan, Ala., is also specialized, but very different: Its Jewish population is seeking Jews from other places to move there and live among them.

Larry Blumberg, a successful businessman in Dothan, has pledged $1 million to pay all moving expenses for Jewish families who will come. It’s a personal matter to him. Attrition is wiping out his synagogue, and he doesn’t want to see it die.

Besides my father’s story, this brings to mind a couple of other friends and their experiences. One is Sherry Zander, who for years has been traveling the country, taking pictures and gathering the histories of former synagogues. These houses of worship once nurtured Jews who first made their livings as itinerant peddlers, then built stores in small towns and finally moved off to larger population centers. “I brake for synagogues,” Sherry has said. Many of these once-sacred buildings still stand, now serving other, mainly secular, purposes; Jefferson, Texas, for example, has turned its Hebrew Sinai Temple into a community theater.

Then there is Elaine Fantle Shimberg. Her 2011 memoir, “Growing Up Jewish in Small Town America,” hasn’t won any prizes as a piece of writing, but it provides invaluable documentation of a lifestyle that used to be much more common than it is today. Elaine’s birth in 1937 increased the Jewish population to 16 in Yankton, S.D. The Fantles moved three years later to Fort Dodge, Iowa, raising the number of Jewish families there to 32 among the town’s 27,000 residents.

This is the same kind of population “balance” that has today’s small-town Jewish synagogues, particularly those in America’s South, fighting for their lives. But businessman Blumberg’s affection for his hometown’s Temple Emanu-El — plus his ability and desire to express his love with a hefty financial investment — have made Dothan the poster child for what might be done to stop or, perhaps, even reverse the trend.

So far, according to the Associated Press report, six young families have taken up Blumberg’s offer of moving assistance, boosting the Jewish population in Dothan to 18. Their arrival has sparked new life in the congregation and, quite literally, rejuvenated its religious school. And more families, seeing what’s happening there, are applying for assistance so they can become part of the exciting growth.

Blumberg says, “The injection of this new blood has really been helpful and refreshing. I think the program has created a lot of buzz both in our local community and throughout the Jewish community at large.”

That “buzz” is affirmed by Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith, spiritual leader of Dothan’s temple, who thinks its success may allay the fears of big city Jews facing job transfers to the South. Now, Rabbi Goldsmith noted, they’ll be able to say, “Hey, you know they’ve got this vibrant community in Dothan, and I guess maybe Mississippi can’t be so bad.”

Other small-town congregations could surely follow their lead. But Stuart Rockoff, with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss., has seen a number of synagogues losing the battle for survival. At least two, both in Alabama, have already succumbed to the fate that Dothan’s temple is avoiding. “Dothan is bucking that trend,” Rockoff says in the article.

But how will those similarly shrinking synagogues each acquire a million dollars to do the same?

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray and Rachel Gross Weinstein

Michael Ellentuck will speak at LeadingAge conference

Not many people can say they’ve spent 40 years in one industry. Michael Ellentuck, president of The Legacy Senior Communities, can make that claim. As an expert on senior housing and services, Ellentuck has immersed himself in the fast-paced changing environment of senior living to determine how to serve the ever-changing senior.

“My goal is to enhance the quality of life as people go through the aging process,” said Ellentuck. “I try to think of what challenges and opportunities I will face and the services I will desire. I think of myself when I look at older adults. They’re just like me, except I’m not yet at that point in my life.”

Ellentuck is spending his time researching and thinking about how he can accommodate the growing number of seniors. He will share ideas with others in the industry when The Legacy Willow Bend hosts the first meeting of the prestigious 2014 LeadingAge Leadership Academy class. He will also speak at a breakfast during LeadingAge’s highly respected national conference in Dallas next week, Oct. 27-30.

“Our industry is about to go through a dramatic change. I think we will see more changes over the next 10 years then I have seen since our industry began almost 50 years ago,” he said. “The next generation of seniors won’t accept aging in the way the current or prior generations accepted the idea of growing old.”

While Ellentuck contemplates how to position his organization to meet the changing demands of seniors, he is currently analyzing the current gaps in services that will need to be provided.

“Since the number of Texans with Alzheimer’s is more than 340,000 and that number is rapidly increasing, there is a strong need for memory care,” said Ellentuck. “We have also noticed a demand for a rental model on the independent living side. We are hoping to address those needs in the near future. We are also looking at how our organization can expand our services, be more community based and use technology to help people age in place. The way we care for seniors 30 or 50 years from now will be completely different than what we provide today.”

Dottie Garment (far right) and her daughter Shelley Byers (left) were on hand when Chase Bank presented “mortgage free” keys to a home for this worthy veteran family.

Dottie Garment (far right) and her daughter Shelley Byers (left) were on hand when Chase Bank presented “mortgage free” keys to a home for this worthy veteran family.

JWVA helps out veteran and his family

LuAnn Bergman wrote to us recently, “The ladies of the JWVA are always looking to make wishes come true for our veterans and their families.

“Our auxiliary member, Dottie Garment, was recently contacted by a social worker at the VA Hospital requesting that we assist a veteran and his family. The disabled veteran was chosen to receive a mortgage free house by Chase Bank. We were asked to assist the family with furnishings for their new home. This veteran is attending school to become a respiratory therapist. His wife is working while he attends school and will complete her education when he graduates.

“Dottie Garment and her daughter Shelley Byers, who is also a member of JWVA, met the family, shopped and purchased a bedroom set for their son. The ladies also made a contact with an individual who graciously donated a dining room set and a desk and chair to the family. Dottie and Shelley were invited to attend the presentation of the keys to the house by Chase Bank.

“The family of five was so thrilled to have a new home and a table large enough to have a big Thanksgiving dinner together this year.

“This is a beautiful family who is on the road to a good life. We are happy to be a part of this great mitzvah.

“This is just another example of what our auxiliary does for our veterans and their families.”

If you would like to be a part of this wonderful organization, please contact membership chairperson Lynn Teitelbaum at 972-233-8937.

Book Fest starts on a high note

The Aaron Family JCC’s Book Fest kicked off on Oct. 16 with author Marcia Clark, who spoke about her new book, “Killer Ambition.” In the novel, Los Angeles Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and detective Bailey Keller find themselves at the epicenter of a combustible, high-profile court case when the daughter of a billionaire Hollywood director is found murdered.

Clark has much knowledge of this topic — she became a prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in 1981 and spent 10 years in the special trials unit, where she handled many high-profile cases like the O.J. Simpson trial and the prosecution of stalker/murderer Robert Bardo. Clark still practices law today as an appellate attorney.

“Killer Ambition” is fiction, but Clark said some of the characters are loosely based on people she knows. A lot of the places mentioned in the book are also real sites in LA. The novel is the third in a series and Clark is currently working on another one.

Joy Tipping of the Dallas Morning News led the discussion and asked Clark various questions about the story and her characters, and the Simpson trial. That was followed by a question-and-answer session with Clark, and a book signing.

Book Fest continued on Oct. 22 with Naomi Ragen, who discussed her book, “The Sisters Weiss.” The rest of the schedule is as follows:

  • Mon., Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.- “Dan Gets a Minivan” with author Dan Zevin
  • Tues., Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.- “A Guide for the Perplexed” with author Dara Horn. This event is also the annual Community Read, hosted by the Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
  • Sun., Nov. 10 at 10 a.m.- “Polly’s Pipers” with author Helen Waldman
  • Sun., Nov. 10 at 10:30 a.m.- “Like Dreamers” with author Yossi Klein Halevi
  • Tues., Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.- “Jacob’s Oath” with author Martin Fletcher
  • Wed., Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.- “The Power of Citizenship” with author Scott Reich
  • Thurs., Nov. 21 at 6:45 p.m.- “Art and Sole” with author Jane Weitzman. This event will take place at Neiman Marcus at Northpark Mall and all proceeds from the tickets and book sales will benefit breast cancer support services at Jewish Family Service.
  • Sun., March 2 at 11 a.m.- “The Wanting” with author Michael Lavigne. This event is also the annual Spring Read, hosted by the Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

Tickets and RSVP are required at each event. Cost is $10, but the “Polly’s Pipers” event, the Community Read and the Spring Read are free. Tickets for the evening with Jane Weitzman are $36, or the ticket and book can be purchased together for $54.

For more information about Book Fest and to RSVP, contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at 214-239- 7128 or rweisscrane@jccdallas.org, or visit www.jccdallas.org.

The artwork of Lynn Baskind (left) and Helene Blumenau is on display at the Renner Frankford Library through Nov. 5. | Photo: Submitted by Diane Hovav

The artwork of Lynn Baskind (left) and Helene Blumenau is on display at the Renner Frankford Library through Nov. 5. | Photo: Submitted by Diane Hovav

Press Notes

  • Lynn Baskind and Helene Blumenau are art buddies. They paint across the studio table at J’s Art. Their colorful but very different artworks are now showing in the exhibit room at Renner Frankford Library in Far North Dallas. Lynn’s dramatic African totems and platters contrast with Helene’s vivid collages in an engaging and colorful display. This inviting exhibition is up until Nov. 5.
  • Area Chabad Centers will present “Life in the Balance: Jewish Perspectives on Everyday Medical Dilemmas.” Modern medicine has brought us near miracles. It’s also brought us some of the most difficult decisions we’ll ever have to face. Are we obliged to prolong life even at the cost of terrible suffering? Should we legalize the sale of organs, such as kidneys, to save the lives of transplant patients? May a woman with a multiple-fetus pregnancy opt for fetal reduction, thus forfeiting the lives of some to possibly save others? When it seems that every available option is morally questionable, how do we decide? There are a number of options for the six-week course: Sundays (starting Oct. 27) from 9:30-11 a.m. or Tuesday evenings (starting Oct. 29) from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Lang Chabad Center in Plano; and Thursday evenings (starting Oct. 31) from 7:30-9 p.m. at Chabad of Dallas. There are also classes at the Chabads of Fort Worth and Arlington. For more information or to register, visit myjli.com.
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