Archive | November, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

The Beatles atop your Chanukah playlist

By Binyamin Kagedan

For your Chanukah party this year, impress and surprise your guests with songs that aren’t explicitly about the Festival of Lights, but relate to the holiday in an imaginative way. takes care of your playlist for the most wonderful time of the Jewish year.

The Beatles, pictured here waving to fans after arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in February 1964, makes the Chanukah playlist with “Eight Days A Week.” | Photo: Library of Congress

The Beatles, pictured here waving to fans after arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in February 1964, makes the Chanukah playlist with “Eight Days A Week.” | Photo: Library of Congress

Eight Days A Week (The Beatles)

If you’ve ever wondered why Chanukah lasts eight days, it’s not because the menorah has eight branches; in fact, the original menorah only had seven. Only two holidays on the Jewish calendar run for eight days — can you guess the other one? It’s actually Sukkot, and the correspondence is no accident. Having taken back the temple, Judah and the Maccabees wanted to hold a grand reopening festival worthy of the dwelling place of the divine. For inspiration, they looked to the biblical holiday of Sukkot, which, among other things, marked the dedication of the original tabernacle and lasted for eight days (seven days, plus Shemini Atzeret). No wonder Lennon and McCartney chose the eight-day week to symbolize love that goes above and beyond.

Light My Candle (from the show ‘Rent’)

An obvious choice for its title, even if the lyrics aren’t the most PG. For those who don’t know the story, this number is about the power of bringing a little light into someone’s dark times, acting with kindness toward a stranger in need. The image of light is perhaps the oldest symbol of goodness, purity and hope in human imagination. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, in “Seasons of our Joy,” points out that Chanukah is scheduled close in time to the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, and so may have been truly a “festival of light” for ancient Israelites.

Seize the Day (from the show ‘Newsies’)

Chanukah celebrates the improbable victory of the Jewish people in their struggle for political and religious independence from the Seleucid-Greek empire. Any musical based on the Maccabees story would need to include a song like this one, all about stepping up and facing down a fearsome enemy in the name of freedom. “Nothing can break us/no one can make us/give our rights away/arise and seize the day!”

You Spin Me Round (Dead or Alive)

Though games of chance are not generally looked upon favorably in rabbinic literature, spinning the dreidel has become an indispensable Chanukah pastime. Not only that, but “Dreidel, Dreidel Dreidel, I made it out of clay,” has without a doubt become the most widely recognized Jewish holiday tune on the North American continent. For a twist (couldn’t help myself) this year, let the children twirl themselves dizzy to one of the quintessential sounds of the ’80s.

Wannabe (Spice Girls)

Finding the perfect Chanukah present is a complicated affair. Since we don’t (yet) ask children to open Chanukah gift registries, gift buying can easily become an exercise in thankless guesswork. Perhaps we could all save ourselves some aggravation by adopting the frank attitude of this girl-group classic’s opening dialogue: “So tell me what you want, what you really, really want!” “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want!” “So tell me what you want, what you really, really want!” “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want!”
Binyamin Kagedan has an M.A. in Jewish Thought from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.


Pass the cranberry latkes: When holidays collide

By Edmon J. Rodman

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — If the Pilgrims are lighting menorahs and the Maccabees are chasing turkeys, it must be Thanksgivukkah, as some have come to call the confluence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah that will happen this year on Nov. 28.

It’s a rare event, one that won’t occur again until 2070 and then in 2165. Beyond that, because the Jewish lunisolar (lunar with solar adjustments) calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, the Chanukah-Thanksgiving confluence won’t happen again by one calculation until the year 79,811 — when turkeys presumably will be smart enough to read calendars and vacation in space that month.

How do we celebrate this rare holiday alignment? Do we stick candles in the turkey and stuff the horns of plenty with gelt? Put payes on the Pilgrims? What about starting by wishing each other “gobble tov” and then changing the words to a favorite Chanukah melody:

“I cooked a little turkey,

Just like I’m Bobby Flay,

And when it’s sliced and ready,

I’ll fress the day away.”

The holiday mash-up has its limits. We know the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will not end with a float carrying a Maccabee. But it has created opportunities as well: Raise your hand if you plan to wait until the post-Thanksgiving Day sales for your Chanukah shopping.

Ritually, just as we’ve figured out that we add candles to our menorahs from right to left and light them from left to right, a new question looms this year: Should we slice the turkey before or after?

For our household, the dreidel-wishbone overlap means that our son at college who always comes home for Thanksgiving will be home to light the family hanukkiyah, too.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Dr. Ron Wolfson, whose book “Relational Judaism” (Jewish Lights Publishing) speaks to how our communal relationships — how we listen and welcome — can make our Jewish communities more meaningful. “This year is about bringing friends and family together.”

Wolfson, also the author of “The Hanukkah Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration,” said in a recent interview that this year’s calendrical collision was a way to enhance “Thanksgiving beyond football and a big meal.”

In our land of commercial plenty, the confluence certainly has served up a feast of merchandise. There are T-shirts saying “8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes” and a coffee mug picturing a turkey with nine burning tail feathers. And then there’s the ceramic menorah in the shape of a turkey — a Menurkey, created by 9-year-old Asher Weintraub of New York.

With the cornukiyah, Edmon J. Rodman tries his hand at creating a centerpiece suitable for a Thanksgivukkah table. | Photo: Edmon J. Rodman

With the cornukiyah, Edmon J. Rodman tries his hand at creating a centerpiece suitable for a Thanksgivukkah table. | Photo: Edmon J. Rodman

But being more of a do-it-yourselfer, I recycled an old sukkah decoration to create my own Thankgivukkah centerpiece — the cornukiyah.

For the holiday cook trying to blend the two holidays’ flavors, there’s a recipe that calls for turkeys brined in Manischewitz, and I found another for cranberry latkes. But what about a replacement for the now infamous Frankenstein of Thanksgiving cuisine, the turducken? How about a “turchitke,” a latke inside of a chicken inside of a turkey?

For Wolfson, who has largely ignored the merch and wordplay, this year simply is an opportunity to change the script. At his Thanksgiving dinner, he is going combine Chanukah ritual with holiday elements found on, a website that uses American holidays to pass on “stories, values and behaviors.”

Searching the site, I found a “Thanksgiving Service for Interfaith Gatherings” by Rabbi Jack Moline that includes a reading that also could work for Chanukah— a holiday of religious freedom — as it celebrates many of the occupations that “we can do when we are free,” including activists, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, even journalists.

For our own celebrations Wolfson, a Fingerhut professor of education at American Jewish University, wants us to consider the similarities of the stories at the heart of each holiday.

“The Pilgrims were escaping religious persecution in Europe. They did not want to be assimilated,” Wolfson said, adding that “the Maccabees were fighting against Hellenization,” another form of assimilation.

Counter to the usual “December Dilemma” for the intermarried — whose numbers have increased to 58 percent since 2005, according to the recent Pew study — Wolfson noted the “opportunities and challenges” presented this year by Chanukah and Christmas not coinciding.

“We usually feel the tension between the two holidays,” he said. “This year we can feel the compatibility of the two.”

The early Chanukah will help people to appreciate its “cultural integrity,” said Wolfson, adding that he “would not be surprised by a spike in candle lighting this year.”

But for others in the Jewish community, the pushing together of the Festival of Lights with Turkey Day has forced other changes, some unwanted.

Rabbi Steven Silver of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach, Calif., is canceling his temple’s traditional Friday night Chanukah dinner.

“That holiday weekend will be vacation time, people will be out visiting family and friends,” he said. “The rabbis won’t have anyone in front of them that weekend, and that’s a problem.”

Yet Silver also has found the confluence has presented an opportunity.

The day before Chanukah, his congregation is planning to attend an interfaith Thanksgiving service at a Catholic church.

“There will between 800 and 900 in attendance, from Buddhists to Sikhs, and three Jewish congregations” Silver said. “We are planning to bring a 6-foot-high wooden menorah and symbolically light it.”

The holidays overlapping, he said, “are giving us an opportunity to show the miracle.”

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at


At Thanksgivukkah, celebrate uniqueness of each holiday

By Dasee Berkowitz

NEW YORK (JTA) — Some folks are taking the rare confluence this year of Thanksgiving and Chanukah to heart, renaming it Thanksgivukkah, redesigning their menus for the occasion (latkes topped with cranberry relish anyone?) and refashioning ritual objects (a turkey-shaped hanukkiyah called the Menurkey is gaining traction on Kickstarter).

Others are taking it one step deeper, celebrating how the combined holidays enable us to fully appreciate being both Jewish and American. It’s a perfect symbiosis: As we freely celebrate Chanukah this year, we recognize that we directly benefit from the freedoms that were at the core of what brought the Puritans and Pilgrims to settle a new land.

But Jewish tradition doesn’t love conflating holidays. In fact, there’s a concept — ein mearvin simcha b’simcha — that we shouldn’t mix one happy occasion with another. No weddings during Sukkot or Passover, or any Jewish holiday, for that matter.

At first glance it seems like a downer. Shouldn’t doubling up on our celebration just enhance our enjoyment and be a net gain?

For those of us with birthdays on Rosh Hashanah or New Year’s Day, we know that conflating celebrations doesn’t really work — one celebration usually gets lost into the other. Keeping celebrations separate enables us to be fully present for each.

So instead of conflating Chanukah and Thanksgiving, let’s look at it another way: How can the unique aspects of each holiday help us more fully celebrate the other?

Thanksgiving teaches us to give thanks for the harvest and for all we have without the need to acquire more. How can that concept inform our celebration of Chanukah, a holiday that has become overrun with gift giving that verges on the excessive?

Instead of being thankful for the plenty that so many of us experience — we mostly take the most basic things for granted, like waking up in a dry, warm bed each morning — we want more, and on Chanukah we watch children tear through gifts wondering what else awaits them each night of the Festival of Lights.

Parents can help children appreciate that mom and dad’s presence in their lives can be present enough by giving the gift of time to their kids at Hanukkah. So often we are distracted by everything we must do in life — I have been shamed by my son asking me to stand “still as a statue” as he tries to get my attention or by my daughter saying “Ima, just listen to me.”

Pick a night of Chanukah and give your child a period of your undivided attention. Friends and significant others can also give each other the gift of an evening unplugged. Go out with your friends or spouses unmediated by a screen of any kind.

For your children, help them cultivate a sense of gratitude and the plenty in their own lives. On one night of Chanukah, ask your kids to recycle some of their own toys and gift them to others. On another night, they can give some money or time to charity.

We don’t need more things, we need to appreciate the people who fill our lives with meaning and the power we have to help others.

What lessons can Chanukah provide in our celebration of Thanksgiving?

For starters, it can teach us not to shy away from ritual. Significant Jewish occasions are ritualized, from lighting the hanukkiyah to recounting the Exodus story on Passover, to a Shabbat meal replete with blessings over candles, grape juice and wine. The rituals help to connect us to Jewish time and to the drama of Jewish history. They transport us from the realm of the ordinary into the realm of the sacred. They enable us to slow down and pay attention to the experiences that are unfolding before us.

While each family may have its own rituals on Thanksgiving — the football game or carving of the turkey — many of us feel self-conscious about rituals that enter the sphere of the sacred, like inviting guests to share what they are grateful for or chanting a blessing to thank God for the food we are about to eat. It amazes me how much time, effort and money is put into preparing a lavish Thanksgiving meal, and the invited guests just dig in and then complain about overeating.

Invite everyone to pause before eating and say one thing for which they are grateful — from the food, the chef or the One who makes it all possible. Connect your feelings of gratitude to the company that surrounds you or for what it means for you to be an American today. Make this sharing circle or some other activity you create as a group a ritualized part of what you do each Thanksgiving.

Chanukah can also teach Thanksgiving a thing or two about being different. Whereas Thanksgiving sends us a powerful message about intergroup relations and the coming together of the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians for a fall harvest feast, Hanukkah celebrates what sets us apart and makes us different.

Hanukkah honors the Maccabean revolt to safeguard practices unique to Jewish people (like Shabbat, holiday celebration and circumcision). The strong impulse to develop our unique and particular identities is an important first stage to pass through before coming together with others and celebrate multiculturalism. We need to know who we are first before we can share that with others. And while I love Thanksgiving because it is a holiday celebrated by so many Americans, with common foods and customs, let’s celebrate what makes our families different and unique.

What is particular about your family that you would like your kids to learn about this Thanksgiving? Stories of resilience or bravery? Others? This Thanksgiving, encourage those gathered around the table to share the particular legacy they would like to leave to their children and grandchildren.

Ein mearvin simcha b’simcha suggests that we shouldn’t mix our celebrations. But when the calendar leaves us no other choice, let’s do so with integrity. Let each holiday’s central values — being thankful for what we already have, celebrating ritual that connects us to that which is sacred and rejoicing in our differences — inform how we experience both festivals this fall.

Dasee Berkowitz is a contributing writer to JTA.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I was not quite sure what to expect when I was granted one of the eight press seats at the Fort Worth Chamber’s sold-out commemorative breakfast of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Fort Worth, where he gave his final speech at a Fort Worth Chamber breakfast before leaving for Dallas.

I had also been granted press credentials to the Dealy Plaza commemoration, but Fort Worth seemed like the right place to be. I knew I had to be there, given that my folks TJP Publishers and Editors Rene and Jimmy Wisch had attended the breakfast 50 years earlier.

Hopefully you had a chance to read Jimmy’s firsthand account of the goings on in Fort Worth that fateful day. The ballroom was packed, much like I imagined it was 50 years ago.

Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright, who will be 91 next month, was honored with the Chamber’s High Impact Legacy Award. A longtime friend of the Jewish community and Israel, Wright was also in the presidential entourage in November 1963. Though somewhat slowed in step, Wright’s wit and keen mind were as sharp as ever.

Clint Hill, the lone surviving Secret Service agent from the Kennedy detail, spoke about the five days leading up to and after JFK’s assassination. His first-hand account was chilling and emotional with a number of “back stories.”

For example, attendees learned that the reason “John John” was able to salute at his father’s funeral, was because the Secret Service team had been working with him throughout October and early November in preparation for his visit with the president to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Memorial Cemetery Nov. 11, 1963.

I’m certain that Mr. Hill’s book “Five Days in November,” which was released last week, is a fascinating read.

George Sepp, Julian Haber and Ken Sherwin with photos of some of their military service. | Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Rubin

George Sepp, Julian Haber and Ken Sherwin with photos of some of their military service. | Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Rubin

Veterans in their own words

War stories were bouncing around fast and furious at the “Daytimers” luncheon featuring veterans in their own words, and the words were flowing.

Bullets dodging around Ken Sherwin’s head during Vietnam.

George Sepp shepherding a B58 during the height of the Cold War.

And Marc Neerman’s stories of top secret interception of terrorists, even Israel’s destruction of the Syrian Nuclear facility.

Several guests commented that they would have liked to continue the program past the closing time.

These and many more exciting stories were introduced by Dr. Julian Haber, author of “They Were Soldiers in Peace and War,” who served as master of ceremonies for the panel.

All the veterans attending were recognized, with special recognition of the three World War II vets in attendance, Earl Givant, Dr. Irvin Robinson and Arnold Schectman.

Many of the veterans brought photos and memorabilia from their time in the service including flight suits, helmets and photographs.

Rosanne Margolis and Ethel Schectman greeted the guests at the door, Fanette Sonkin and Louis Schultz made sure everyone got the right lunch. Mary Frances Antweil did a great job as master of ceremonies, and former paratrooper Larry Steckler introduced the panel.

Trace your Jewish geneaology

The next event for the “Daytimers” will be a program on Jewish genealogy at noon, Wednesday, Dec. 11, at Beth-El Congregation. The program will feature Dr. Barry Lachman, medical director, Parkland Community Health Plan, who has done extensive research on his own family from Lithuania and Ukraine.

He will be able to identify many sources for us to look up our own families. If you Google “Barry Lachman genealogy” you will find the genealogy forum for the Lachman family.

Dr. Lachman graduated from Franklin and Marshall College and holds a medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine and a M.Ph. degree from the University of Washington. He serves as chairman of the Medical Management Committee of the Texas Asthma Coalition and has a faculty appointment at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

Lunch will be catered by one of the group’s favorites, Boopa’s Bagel Deli, and guests have a choice of lox and cream cheese on an everything bagel, turkey and hummus on a sesame bagel or cream cheese and assorted veggies on a pumpernickel bagel. Cost is $9, or $5 for program only.

For information and reservations, call with your credit card to Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, Larry Steckler, 520-990-3155, or Hugh Lamensdorf, 817-738-1428 or reserve for yourself at The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation

News and Notes

• B’nai B’rith is in the process of updating information for the new community directory, which is scheduled to be out in early 2014. If you have moved or changed your phone number or email address, please send a message to Alex Nason at with the updated correct information.

• PJ Library is “Lighting Up the Library” at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 1. at the Fort Worth Central Library, 500 W. Third St. in the Chappell Room for Chanukah songs, crafts and stories. RSVPs are not required, but are appreciated. Let the Federation know you’re coming by calling 817-569-0892.

• The Meditation Garden at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville needs some TLC.

Warm weather will return later in the week and Paul Kelly will lead the crew at 10 a.m., Sunday, Dec. 1. Bring your gardening tools and lend a hand to beautify and ready the garden for winter.

• The Ahavath Sholom Youth Choir will perform at “Connect with the Community” Dec. 5. at Casa Manana. This is a program of Mayor Betsy Price and the Mayor’s Faith Leaders Cabinet. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and the program will follow at 6:30 p.m.

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Jewish traditions for Thanksgiving

Jewish traditions for Thanksgiving

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Parents and Children,

seymourforweb2The holidays of Thanksgiving and Chanukah are upon us and the messages of both of these days are numerous. The importance of being thankful and the value of expressing those thanks are crucial lessons for our children to learn. Here are a few thoughts to make your Thanksgiving and Chanukah both Jewish and American. Don’t forget to say the Shehechiyanu!

Make Kiddush and HaMotzi

I am honored to quote my favorite Jewish educator, Joel Lurie Grishaver, from his book  “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People.”

“It is important to treat Thanksgiving as a Jewish ritual meal and thereby blend Jewish and American values into a single expression. Thanksgiving has always had its own rituals … we had never thought to make it Jewish — we had never thought to remember that when the pilgrims were gathering that first fall harvest in their new land, they went back to the Bible and found their own way of bringing the Sukkot ritual alive. Thanksgiving is nothing more than a pilgrim version of a creative Sukkot celebration — add the popcorn and cranberries, take out the lulav and etrog, and you get the picture. The moment I figured out that Thanksgiving wasn’t just an American holiday, my world changed. I was no longer involved in a thousand discussions about Jewish American or American Jew. There was no question of priorities — the answer was simple. From then on, I’ve made Kiddush before eating turkey. Kiddush adds another dynamic — it shows not only a melding of food, but of spirit.”

‘Molly’s Pilgrim’

Now that you’ve heard the “adult thinking part,” add the story of Molly’s pilgrim to your traditions. The book was written by Barbara Cohn in 1983 (yet could certainly be written today in our community) and tells the story of Molly who has moved from Russia, and the children make fun of her for her differences. The school assignment is given to make a pilgrim doll for a display.  Molly tells her mother that Pilgrims came to this country to worship God as they pleased.  Molly’s mother makes Molly’s pilgrim dressed as a Russian woman. Not surprising, the children make fun until their teacher understands, “Listen to me, all of you.  Molly’s mother is a Pilgrim.  She’s a modern Pilgrim.  She came here, just like the Pilgrims long ago, so she could worship God in her own way, in peace and freedom. I’m going to put this beautiful doll on my desk where everyone can see it all the time. It will remind us all the Pilgrims are still coming to America.”   (There is also a video available!) Thanksgiving has many lessons to share!

Laura Seymour is the director of camping and youth services at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Pressing ‘Issues’

Pressing ‘Issues’

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebOn this Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for all my “usuals”: loving family, dear friends, the beauty all around me and the eyes to see it with and my welcome opportunities to share thoughts and ideas — on paper and in person — with many others.

But as Thanksgiving collides with Chanukah this year, I offer very special thanks just for being Jewish. I am thankful our faith does not insist it is the one and only path to heaven ,that we would not murder those of different religions in the name of our own and that we do not make conversion of any others a prime aim of our belief system. I am especially thankful for my undiluted Judaism on this double holiday since I am once again being courted by those who call themselves Messianic Jews. Somehow, after a year or so without it, I’m back on the mailing list of “Issues,” a slim, slick publication whose purpose is to infuse with Jesus everything we Jews believe in.

Please know that I know about Jesus. I’ve read his stories in several different versions of the Christian scriptures. I respect him, from this 2,000-plus year perspective, as the charismatic teacher, the social reformer, the believing Jew he was. But please also note I stress that I “know about” Jesus — I do not “know” Jesus as the Messianics wish — as humankind’s or my personal savior.

“Issues” current issue makes some humorously broad connections between Chanukah and Thanksgiving: Both the Pilgrims and the Maccabees refused assimilation, suffered hardships as a result, then found religious freedom. But it also offers outrageous comparisons such as this: Judah Maccabee gained a great victory over religious oppression, but Jesus offers a greater victory — over sin and death — for those who believe in him.

We can laugh at the lack of logic above, but we should not be laughing at the intent of “Issues.” Its intent is the same as that of the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, the Dallas-based organization which you surely know had former President George W. Bush as keynote speaker during its recent major fundraiser at the Irving Convention Center (see related story on p. 4). And what were those funds raised for?  To further the organization’s mission, which is, at its base, to educate Christians about how to “save” Jews by bringing them to belief in Jesus. There was plenty of publicity on the matter, with debate raging over whether or not this was an appropriate venue for a major Bush appearance.

All Jews know that a Jew cannot accept Jesus as the Messiah and still be Jewish — Christ is the Greek word for Messiah, so those who place their faith in and build their religion around the man they call “the Christ” are Christians. This is not just a matter of linguistics — it is a fact.  Of course, Bush is free to speak wherever he wishes.  But should he have wished this?  Jewish institutions and leaders across the country sent out a resounding “no.”  The message of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas was brief and to the point: The former President’s “support of this group is a direct affront to the mutual respect that all mainstream religious groups afford each other to practice the principles of their respective beliefs.” I think the simplest and best local remark on the matter came from Temple Shalom’s Rabbi Andrew Paley, who said he hoped that at least Bush’s message would be one of ecumenism rather than evangelism.

So on this day of gratitude, I will light my candles, say the traditional blessings and add a few words of thanks that we are a people welcoming of Jews by choice, but never putting pressure on anyone to convert. My bywords on this subject are, as always, “respect” (for the beliefs of all others) and “restraint” (to refrain from making others the targets of offensive religious outreach).

Now let’s eat turkey and latkes! Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Chanukah!

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Importance of advanced Jewish education

Importance of advanced Jewish education

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

In a recent column you suggested that the solution to the dire predictions of the recently publicized Pew report is “education, education, education.” The fact is that there have been many offerings of education in the Jewish community including myriad lectures for young adults and adults. These offerings typically draw very few participants, and the results remain as sadly stated in that report. How do you suggest that education should make a difference?

— Lori B.

Dear Lori,

friedforweb2I tried to make it clear, but perhaps not clear enough that I am far from offering “the solution” to the Pew report. The factors that have contributed to the present situation are many, are complicated and are intertwined. Hence “the solution,” if there is one, needs to be the same. We need a presentation of Judaism in a positive, relevant and meaningful light, starting with the youngest children and extending into all stages of adulthood.

What I was suggesting is that the foundation of all the above needs to be education. As is clear from that report, deep and meaningful Jewish education is the single greatest factor for a Jew to remain Jewish and committed.

In that light, if the Jewish community really takes the Pew results seriously, this generation of Jewish leaders and philanthropists should make all outlets of Jewish education their main priority: Front and center! Institutions of Jewish education should not need to be holding out their hands pleading for support. Rather, institutions distributing Jewish wealth should realize that education is literally our life-line. They should be seeking out opportunities to ensure that those offering meaningful Jewish education are well funded to enable them to do the best possible job they can! As I wrote in the above mentioned column, we need to learn from the Bolsheviks who proclaimed that the Jewish books they confiscated were “the enemies of the people.” Those books would ensure the Jewish commitment of their readers!

On that theme, I suggest you look up a short but excellent article in “Commentary” (Evelyn Gordon, 11-12-2013 issue), titled, “To Fight Assimilation, Stop Dumbing Down Judaism.” This non-orthodox writer laments the dearth of rigorous, university-level, intense Jewish studies in the non-Orthodox Jewish community. These types of studies are a given in the Orthodox community, and even those men and women going on to a secular career generally spend at least a year post-high school, if not more, in advanced seminaries and yeshivas. There they receive an education no less rigorous than their university studies, showing them the real depth and breadth of our tradition. This is responsible for the vast majority of these students sticking with it for life. Offering boring or watered-down versions of Jewish studies will simply not challenge or attract critically thinking, intelligent young Jews who are indeed challenged by the secular world.

At DATA in Dallas, and in our sister organizations known as the “Kollel” movement throughout the country, there are dozens of options for in-depth study, from rigorous Talmud study to the critical study of many other Jewish texts. Multiple levels of Jewish philosophy, Hebrew comprehension, Jewish law and Kabbalistic teachings are all offered. All these offerings are available for young professionals and adults of all ages. One need not go off to a seminary or yeshiva to taste the beauty, depth and joy of our tradition. To drink of the fountains of real, unadulterated Jewish wisdom, to feel the excitement of delving into the same text one’s great-great-great grandparents learned from, this is what fosters pride in our tradition. This is what brings hundreds to our classes weekly, as to all our sister organizations. Anyone who partakes of this will not so quickly walk away from their roots and their heritage.

This model needs to be greatly expanded. It will have a ripple effect across the entire community and, hopefully, make a serious dent in those results. Let’s first expand on what is already working!

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 28 November 2013 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

Ladino celebration planned for Dec. 5 in Dallas

The First International Day of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), a “celebration of a living historical Jewish language,” will be marked in Dallas with a special program from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman Life Sciences building, Room 131.

The event is sponsored by the Nate and Ann Levine Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies of Southern Methodist University, and was organized by native Ladino speakers Rachel Amado Bortnick, founder of Ladinokomunita (the online forum in Ladino) and Dina Eliezer, educational director of Congregation Shearith Israel. According to Bortnick, the “multi-media, bilingual, interactive, informative and fun” program will also honor the most senior of the Ladino speakers in Dallas: Edith Baker, born in Bulgaria and Alegra Tevet, born in Greece.
This year the last day of Chanukah was designated in Israel as the date for the International Day of Ladino, which will take place yearly on the same date around the world. The decision came from a committee in the government-supported National Authority for Ladino and Its Culture, whose president is Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president of the State of Israel and a native Ladino speaker.

The largest celebration of the International Day of Ladino will be in Israel, at Bar-Ilan University’s 800-seat auditorium. In addition to Dallas, Jewish communities around the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, will hold special programs to promote knowledge of Ladino and Sephardic culture.

A festival to light pp the darkness at CSI

Over a series of Shabbatot, Dec. 7, 14 and 21, beginning at 9:30 a.m., members and guests of Congregation Shearith Israel will explore together what it means to fulfill the precept Ivdu et Hashem b’Simcha, to “Serve God with Joy: Finding Light in the Darkness.” Through song, study and meditative and musical prayer, attendees will consider the ways in which we might spark a renewed relationship with G-d within ourselves, through expressions of joy. Opportunities for special learning and prayer will be available for every age group, followed each week by a delicious Shabbat lunch. This very special Shabbat series is open to the entire community. For additional information, please visit Shearith Israel’s website at

David Taffet receives Raymond Kuchling Humanitarian Award

On Nov. 2, David Taffet, a past president and officer of Congregation Beth El Binah, was awarded the Raymond Kuchling Humanitarian Award by The Black Tie Dinner. The Kuchling Award is presented each year to someone “who has made extraordinary gifts of time and talents on behalf of the LGBT community.”

Beth El Binah was founded in 1989 as an outreach to the Jewish LGBT community and joined the Union for Reform Judaism in 1992. Today, Beth El Binah has a diverse membership reflecting the evolution of our community.

Since its inception in 1982, The Black Tie Dinner has been the largest fundraising dinner for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the nation. Each year, the dinner selects up to 20 North Texas beneficiaries (including Beth El Binah) as well as the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the dinner’s national beneficiary, to receive proceeds from the event. To date, The Black Tie Dinner has raised more than $15 million.

Taffet served on the regional board of the Union for Reform Judaism for 10 years and worked on the host committee for the 1997 URJ biennial held in Dallas. At that meeting, the organization voted to recognize same-sex marriage. Taffet also writes for Dallas Voice and hosts a weekly talk show, “Lambda Weekly”, that has aired for more than 30 years on 89.3 KNON-FM. Taffet’s show is the longest-running LGBT show on the air anywhere in the U.S.

For more than a decade, David served on the board of “The Resource Center,” a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and HIV/AIDS service organization in North Texas. The Center includes the AIDS Food Pantry, Nelson Tebedo Clinic and Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Among the services that were added while he served on the board was the dental clinic at the Tebedo clinic. Today, The Resource Center programs and services serve more than 50,000 people a year.

He served as vice president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the early 90s to help educate voters and political leaders on issues that affect the LGBT community. The city’s first nondiscrimination ordinance for city employees passed during his tenure.

Taffet also served on the board of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now known as Equality Texas). While serving on that board, the organization worked for more than a decade tracking prosecution of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community and pressing for passage of hate crime legislation.

In 2010, Westboro Baptist Church, a “hate group,” came to Dallas to picket the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, Congregation Beth El Binah and several other organizations including The Texas Jewish Post.

At that time, Taffet organized counter protests to divert media attention away from the Wichita-based hate group. More than 300 counter protesters stood in front of the Holocaust Museum and toured it after Westboro left.

Taffet turned the protest in front of the synagogue into a fundraiser that collected $11,500 during Westboro’s one-hour demonstration. That money was used to buy equipment for a hot meals program and provide other services for people living with HIV.

Other awards presented at The Black Tie Dinner went to Zach Wahls who founded Scouts for Equality, actress Fran Drescher and her former husband Peter Marc Jacobson.

Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of the film “Milk,” was the keynote speaker. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis also addressed the gathering. Singers Patti LaBelle and Cheyenne Jackson entertained.

ADL awarded Dallas attorney Rob Velevis the Daniel Ginsberg Leadership Award Nov. 1 at its annual meeting in New York City. Shown from left are, Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL national chair; Karen Ginsberg-Greenwald; Rob Velevis; Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. | Photo: Courtesy of Roberta Clark

ADL awarded Dallas attorney Rob Velevis the Daniel Ginsberg Leadership Award Nov. 1 at its annual meeting in New York City. Shown from left are, Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL national chair; Karen Ginsberg-Greenwald; Rob Velevis; Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. | Photo: Courtesy of Roberta Clark

Velevis recipient of 2013 Daniel R. Ginsberg Leadership Award from ADL

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) regional board member Rob Velevis was one of five national recipients of the 2013 Daniel R. Ginsberg Leadership Award, recognizing outstanding young professionals for their leadership in the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of prejudice. The annual award presentation was held Nov. 1 at the ADL’s 2013 annual meeting in New York City.

“Rob’s growing commitment to ADL as part of his civic and philanthropic leadership inspires both veteran and younger board members” said Jeffrey S. Levinger, regional board chair. “It is with great pride that we see the national ADL office acknowledge his efforts and thank him for his commitment of time and energy, which greatly contribute to the success of the League’s mission of fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice in all forms.”

Rob Velevis is an attorney with the Dallas office of Sidley Austin LLP, and previously with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. He is a graduate of the ADL Glass Leadership Institute and is a member of the regional board for the ADL North Texas/Oklahoma Region since 2010. Rob was recognized as a “Rising Star” for Business Litigation in Texas Super Lawyers/Texas Monthly. He regularly handles pro bono matters, including a significant class action against the State of Texas concerning the treatment and institutionalization of people with disabilities. He is a graduate of University of Texas at Austin and Harvard Law School.

ADL has conferred the Daniel Ginsberg Leadership Award to outstanding candidates from around the country who demonstrate knowledge of, and working commitment to the policies and activities of the ADL, as well as those who have the ability to add to the League’s deliberations at the national level since 1995. The award, named in honor of the late Daniel R. Ginsberg, a former New York Regional Board Chairman and ADL National Commissioner, is generously endowed by his friends and family.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

To our readers — do you have a favorite Chanukah or Thanksgiving memory that you would enjoy sharing? Feel free to email me at Happy Holidays.

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Deep South visit stirs thoughts on social change

Deep South visit stirs thoughts on social change

Posted on 21 November 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebI was immediately comfortable with the look and feel of Birmingham, Ala. Like my home city, Pittsburgh, it’s seen the iron and steel industries vanish, to be replaced by burgeoning medical facilities and innovations that create a new, solvent center for care and cure.

I was less comfortable with Birmingham’s old history. Growing up in the North, I accepted (who knew any better, then?) quotas for Jews and blacks, and neighborhoods that were segregated (both voluntarily and involuntarily), as a matter of course. But I did not grow up with water fountains and restrooms and doorways and bus seating labeled by race. And I never saw that “strange fruit” of the South: a newly lynched African-American, hanging from a tree for approving white crowds to view and cheer.

But I saw all these things — in a retrospective sense — while spending a recent weekend in Birmingham for the Southern Jewish Historical Society’s annual conference.

This year, the conference centered on local events of 1963, which the host city now proudly proclaims as “the year that changed America.” It was in Birmingham that, before the Kennedy assassination, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor ordered dogs and fire hoses to quell protests, and a bomb killed four little girls who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: their own church.

In the course of the weekend, we visited that 16th Street Baptist Church, now a shrine of sorts, and the Civil Rights Institute directly across the street — a museum that walks its visitors through Southern black history, from the arrival of slave ships and the public auctions of their “cargo” in port cities to the efforts for full racial equality that continue to this day.

Conference sessions focused on the involvement of Jews in a number of cities during the civil rights movement. Rosalind Benjet and I were presenters for the Dallas segment, pointing out both the moral idealism of Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Levi Olin, who marched proudly with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the commercial realism of Stanley Marcus, who integrated Neiman’s based on his doctrine of “economic determinism.” (What we brought to the conference is now available to you at the Dallas Jewish Historical Society.)

Judaism was as much a part of our weekend as civil rights history. A bus tour took us to a commercial street still called “The Avenue of the Jews” — years after all of its Jewish merchants have departed for other venues — and to the vintage cemetery where Birmingham’s most prominent Jews have long been buried. Among them: Cynthia Ann Culpeper, a Jew-by-choice who became Alabama’s first female rabbi, serving a Conservative pulpit in Montgomery. Nursing was her previous career; when she learned she had AIDS — contracted while caring for patients — she came to Birmingham for treatment and, for the 10 years remaining before her death in 2005, taught in its Jewish day school and wrote extensively on both Jewish and AIDS-related topics. In a lighter vein, we also had a drive-by look at Momma Goldberg’s Deli!

Shabbat services at Birmingham’s venerable Temple Emanu-El, founded in the 1880s, provided the weekend’s high point for many of us. That was followed by a dinner with featured speaker Julian Bond, now 73, founder of the civil rights movement’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I asked him about current youth culture, and his answer, paraphrased in part below, is his challenge for today:

Every generation of young people upsets its elders in their language and dress: Recall the “flappers” of the ‘20s, the long-haired, braless “hippies” of the ‘60s, today’s heavily black-eyelinered “goths.” Remember “23 skidoo” and “Make love, not war.” All these behaviors were condemned by adults of their times as signs of young people’s degradation. Similar upsetting behaviors of today are not particular to young people of color; they are really about class. To see these behaviors changed, I believe one task to face would be elevating the economic conditions of those classes.

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Love others through actions, not just words

Love others through actions, not just words

Posted on 21 November 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Some of us have been discussing the meaning of love, which, it seems, is a pretty elusive concept. Could you give us a Jewish definition of love?

— Megan and Mark

Dear Megan and Mark,

friedforweb2Our culture, Hollywood and the media have so twisted the meaning of love to the point that — from a Jewish perspective — it’s hardly recognizable.

The renowned Rabbi Elya Lopian used to cite a parable to elucidate the meaning of love. A man sits at the dinner table, eager to enjoy his wife’s delicious cooking. She brings in the steaming, tantalizing fish and places a nice piece on his plate. Smiling, he exclaims, “Fish! I LOVE fish!” as he sinks his fork and knife into his portion. The rabbi asked, what does the man mean when he says he loves fish? If he really loved fish, he would throw the catch back into the water! What he really means is, he loves himself and fish is enjoyable, so he loves himself through the fish.

The rabbi went on to say that, in far too many cases, the same meaning rings true for the “love” one has for their spouse. Often a man really loves only himself and fulfills that self-love through the enjoyment he gets from his spouse. That isn’t love at all; it’s just using the other person for his own self-indulgence. Eventually, all that remains is resentment, and worse.

Sadly, this is often the case even with regard to the “love” of a parent for their child. How often have we seen small children wearing expensive designer clothes to be shown off in front of the parents’ friends — something merely for show that brings “oohs” and “ahs” of honor and prestige to the parents? This sadly continues through the years, breeding resentment when children grow up and see right through their parents’ true motives.

True love comes from focusing on the special qualities of the other individual and bonding with their uniqueness.

More deeply, the word “love” in Hebrew is ahava. We learn two lessons from this Hebrew word. Firstly, it comes from the root hav, which means “to give.” Rabbi Dessler, the great Jewish philosopher, said this means that through the giving of yourself to someone, you attain love for him or her. The more you give of yourself to the other, the more of “you” is in them — hence, you love your neighbor “as yourself.”

Further, the numerical value of ahava is 13, the same as the numerical value of echad, or “one.” Through the love of another, the two become as one. Hence, God tells the first man that he and Eve will become “as one flesh,” the paradigm for every marriage. Also, in relation to our connection to God, we learn the same message from the Shema. We say that God is echad (one). The next word is v’ahavta, “and you should love (God). … ” The Oneness goes together with love, which ties us up into His Oneness in the most profound love relationship.

Unlike the western notion of “falling in love”—which seems to happen as spontaneously as falling into a pit — Jewishly, one does not “fall” in love. Rather, one “builds” love by focusing on the other person’s uniqueness as well as their deepest needs. The love of a spouse, child or friend is nurtured day by day with the “little things,” giving of oneself to meet the needs of the other (focusing on what they need, not what the giver feels the need to give them).

In this way love is an eternal state, continually growing and flourishing. Go and love, the Jewish way!

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

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Around the Town

Posted on 21 November 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

The Kennedy assassination is not my “I remember where I was when moment.” I vaguely remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon; clearly remember where I was when President Reagan was shot; and when the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia exploded. And of course, I will never forget the trauma of 9-11. For the assassination of JFK, like many of you, I’ve had to rely on firsthand accounts from family and friends,  and what I’ve read and seen and the phenomenal Sixth Floor Museum, which I visited for the first time two years ago with my son’s fifth grade class. My folks, the late Rene and Jimmy Wisch, TJP editors and publishers, covered the Kennedys’ visit both in advance and after that fateful November day. One can get a good flavor of what was happening in the Metroplex Jewish communities by reading the pages of the TJPs at that time. You can find some of that reportage on pages 17-21 of this week’s issue. What follows here is a walk down memory lane, courtesy of Around the Town with Rene, Nov. 21, 1963.

“NEWS FROM NICE: This week’s mail brought an airmail letter, bedecked with pretty French postage, from the Riviera. That’s where two of ourtown’s longtime residents, Rose and Jake Luskey, are sojourning on another leg of their fabulous trip that will take them to Israel following their tour of Italy.

“ ‘The Luskeys have had a fabulous trip as sketches from the following will indicate as penned to your ART scribe:

“ ‘I met the president and ex-president of B’nai B’rith in Nice on the Riviera and I had a long talk with both of them and their wives.

“ ‘The ex-president only talks French, but the new president and his wife talk a good Yiddish. We had dinner at the hotel at our invitation. I asked a lot of questions.

“ ‘The city is just beautiful. It would take too long to describe the beauty and climate. It’s a wonder city 300,000 population and 15,000 Jews. And only a B’nai B’rith membership of 75 and 2 shuls.

“ ‘I asked why just 75 members of 5,000 Jews, he told me they only take the best and selected. In order for a man to become a Ben Brith he must be tops and do an awful lot of work.

“ ‘In Nice to become a Ben Brith is very hard and the greatest privilege and honor.

“ ‘For the Jewish holidays the 2 shuls are too small so they rent 3 more halls. Toward late they had a large influx of Jews from Morocco.

“ ‘They have a lot of intermarriage in France. They need more Jewish schools and more Jewish teachers for the children. The president’s name of B’nai B’rith is Jacques Vatine. He is head of Lodge Cote Dazur No. 1625.

“ ‘Give regards to both Rabbis, their wives and children.

“ ‘Please tell everybody ‘hello’ for us because we don’t want to miss anybody.’

“From Nice the Luskeys head for Italy and then to Israel.

“NEWS AND NOTES: One of ourtown’s top bridge enthusiasts, Dr. Charles Robinson, has received one of bridgedom’s highest awards, being made a Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League. Ruby (Mrs. Jerry) Kantor is spending several weeks with family in New Orleans. Just back from Las Vegas are Miriam and Shooky Labovitz and Shirley and Larry Goodwin. Rae Goldstein a recent visitor to Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind. where her son, Jack, is a senior student. Mrs. Isadore Garsek and daughter, Barbie, plan to meet sons, Eddie, and Ellie (both students at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill.) in Des Moines, Iowa, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“Larry Steinberger, son of the Dr. Eugene Steinbergers, has been made a member of Texas Cowboys, men’s honorary service organization at the University of Texas. Mr. and Mrs. Ben Schwartz, formerly of Hartford, Conn., spent several weeks here with son, Paul and Margot Schwartz and family, before leaving for permanent residency in Israel. The Dr. Philip Sheinbergs with brother and sister-in-law, Israel and Betty Sue Sheinberg of Dallas attended the TCU-Texas Game in Austin last weekend. Hattie and Jack Landman and youngsters are residing on Bellaire Drive while awaiting the completion of their new Overton Park home. Florine (Mrs. Harry Klein) of Springfield, Mo. guested here with her mother, Mrs. Emma Gudinsky and brother and family, Shirley and Larry Goodwin. Betty and Henry Weltman are holding open duplicate bridge games at their South Hills home. Margaret and Irv Leva of Omaha, Neb., recent visitors to our town and Big D.

Paschal High seniors who are members of the National Honor Society include Roger Kaye, Bonnie Korman, Diane Mehl and Harold Zenick. Added to our list of Life Members honored at Hadassah’s luncheon earlier this week is Sondra (Mrs. Gilbert) Friedson. Attending the New Orleans Medical Convention in New Orleans this week are Dr. and Mrs. Frank Cohen, Dr. and Mrs. Louis Levy and Dr. and Mrs. Irwin Robinson. Among those we’ve heard of tripping abroad on the Sealy trip to Spain are Peggy and Ike Haas, Shirley and Al Haas and the Louis Haases. Becky (Mrs. Fred) Carter and children, Mike and Ann, recent Galveston visitors. Laurie Barnett, daughter of Madlyn and Lou Barnett, pretty as a picture in her volunteer uniform at the Fort Worth Children’s Hospital. Mr. and Mrs. A. Pozez of Topeka caring for young granddaughters, Nan and Laura, while mother Marcia (Mrs. Larry) Kornbleet recuperates at Harris Hospital.

Hadassah’s Gift Wrapping Service holds promise of a huge success according to the vibrant interest and enthusiasm displayed thus far by Hadassah members. Volunteers are still needed. Florence Stern, chairman, tells me to man the gift wrapping shop which will be held in the First Baptist Church Building, Fourth and Throckmorton (across from J.C. Penney Co.). Business will start on Friday, November 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, through the Holiday Season. Added details can be had from Mrs. Stern at WA 4-2333 or her co-chairman, Freida Gachman at WA 4-1357. Assisting are Frieda Jaffee, Bessie Berman, Judy Breitman, Arlene Antweil, Elaine Rubin, Dottie Kaplan, Karen Kaplan and Pauline Levine.

Just a reminder that this Saturday morning at Ahavath Sholom, Steven Paul, son of Blanche and Herb Paul will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah. The Pauls will honor their son at a reception following in the Synagogue Center to which all friends are invited.

A few housekeeping items

In last week’s issue, I inadvertenetly left out Bernie Appel’s name in the photo of past Person of the Year awardees. Apologies.

The “Daytimers” Veteran’s Day program was well-attended. I’ll have a full-report in next week’s AT column.

Debby Rice tells me that after the success of the summer’s film series at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, the shul has planned a winter series beginning Dec. 1.

The entire community is invited to the 2013-14 Film Series from December 1 through July 13. Nine films will be shown on Sundays starting at 6:30 pm (after the evening minyan) with the exception of Christmas Day when the film will be shown at 3:30 p.m. As a reminder, Dec. 25 is a Wednesday.

The films have been carefully chosen to interest everyone and moderators will lead the discussions after each film. There is no cost, the films are a gift to the community and the popcorn and cold drinks are complimentary A special “Thank You” to the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for supporting our CAS 2013-14 Showtimes Film Series; without their help, we would not be able to proceed.

The series will open with “The Attack,” a troubling film about the tense Israeli-Palestinian relationship. The discussion will be moderated by Rabbi Andrew Bloom who served in the IDF while living in Israel. This movie should generate an interesting discussion and hope many of you will attend this opening film.

On Christmas Day, “Keeping the Faith,” a feel-good family film starring Edward Norton, Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft and Eli Wallach will screen.

More to come in future columns when the series resumes Jan. 19.

Be sure to thank committee members Liz Chesser, Elizabeth Cohen, Kate Cohen, Foster Owen, Dr. Jane Pawgan, Debby Rice, Reggie Rog, Jayna Sosland, Jim Stansbury and Riki Zide when you see them at the movies.

For more information please call Congregation Ahavath Sholom at 817-731-4721.

We would like to hear from our readers. Send your news to or 7920 Belt Line Rd. #680, Dallas 75254.

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100 blessings: Get creative with your prayers every day

100 blessings: Get creative with your prayers every day

Posted on 21 November 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2The wonderful Jewish educator Joel Lurie Grishaver says: “I learned to make brachot at the dining room table. I learned to pray on the ball field.” The Talmud tells us: “A person should say 100 blessings every day.” There are rules for everything in Jewish life, but what kind of law tells you to say 100 blessings every day … and why?

When you really think about it, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have 100 things every day that we were thankful for? Maybe the law is suggesting that we look at life and find things — even everyday, common things — to be thankful for, and then we will be truly blessed. As we prepare for Thanksgiving and Chanukah, this is the perfect time to think about blessings. We are indeed fortunate!

How to say 100 blessings? Let’s start with blessings for food. Just think, we have lots of times each day to remember we are Jewish. However, there is another blessing that would add to the count each day: the blessing we say after using the bathroom. Children of different ages may respond differently to this one — some with giggles, some with embarrassment — but do think about it! “Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe, who fashioned man with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory that if but one of them were to be ruptured or but one of them were to be blocked, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You. Blessed are You, our G-d, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”

Blessings are easy to learn and say, but prayer is another story. For many of us adults, prayer comes naturally, but many others struggle with questions. “Why pray? Are prayers answered?” and so on. Judaism has many rules for fixed prayer, and prayer books are filled with specific prayers. People often wonder why we need to say formal prayers, especially in a language that we may not understand (even the translation is unclear for many readers). But remember that praying is not just about asking G-d for something; it is first and foremost about building a relationship with G-d, which we do through communication, just as we build any relationship.

In “The Book of Jewish Values” by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, there is a chapter titled “Pray for Someone Else Today.” It tells of a talmudic text that praises Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, because he offered a prayer blessing G-d for delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians. Moses also offered a prayer, but his was not praised. Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter explains that Moses thanked G-d for what was done for him and his people, while Jethro thanked G-d for what He did for others.

At this time and for all times, let’s give our children (and ourselves) a way to express our caring for others through prayer. Prayers can be simple words spoken spontaneously from the heart, or you can sit down with your children and write special prayers for certain occasions or certain people. What do we say when a child’s inevitable concern arises: “But G-d didn’t do what I asked for?” In my work with children, parents and staff, I always tell them that God’s response was: “I hear you. I cannot always guarantee that I understand or that I can do what is requested, but I can guarantee that I hear and that I am listening.”

I believe G-d hears us even when we do not receive an answer.

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.

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

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