Archive | December, 2013

Amazing women

Amazing women

Posted on 12 December 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebMaybe there was something in the water that American Jewish women were drinking back in the 1920s. What other reason might there be for so much organizational formation?

Could it have been the shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 in New York City, which killed so many young garment workers that galvanized them? Or perhaps the pioneering social work of Jane Addams, who highlighted the needs of so many needy American newcomers?

I was wondering as I lit my old chanukiah a week ago, on the last night of Chanukah, in the company of many, many other women. Together, we were ending our 2013 celebration of National Council of Jewish Women Greater Dallas Section’s centennial with “One Hundred Menorahs for One Hundred Years.” Believe me, it was a sight to behold!

Organizations come and go. Some, founded for a single purpose, lose their reasons for existence after accomplishing their initial objectives. But others, like NCJW, keep refreshing themselves. Change, it appears, is necessary for longevity.

A single strong woman may be the startup impetus. NCJW grew from the volunteer work of Hannah G. Solomon, who first galvanized her little group into collective action back in 1893 in Chicago. Our local women became part of her growing organization 20 years later, only looking backward to honor Hannah annually while moving forward with an array of social action projects to meet the changing needs of this community.

Hadassah was also inspired by one forceful woman. Henrietta Szold galvanized her group in New York in 1912 to promote Judaism in Palestine. Her organizational model was actually NCJW — local groups under a single national center, all focused on humanitarian service. Health care in Israel has long been Hadassah’s primary beneficiary, but its varied array of educational and social programs, as well as service projects keeps the local membership actively involved.

Another group celebrating 1913 as its centennial year is Women of Reform Judaism, formerly the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods. The name change reflects a modern role far beyond the one-time relegation of women to the kitchens of organized Judaism. WRJ is now officially dedicated to “educating leaders, strengthening Jewish life and repairing the world.”

My own college sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, was founded in 1913, and its longevity has also been powered by change, reflecting the growing equality in organizational life on campuses across the country. Today, Phi Sig points with pride to its open membership policy. There is no longer the pressing need for exclusively Jewish fraternal groups, which were, of course, first created because Jews were routinely excluded from the ones already in existence.

I remember my grandmother, raising her large family at the time these national groups were being formed and probably not even knowing they existed. She was always very busy doing volunteer work in her own very Jewish neighborhood: feeding the hungry, providing Passover matzoh to the poor, visiting the sick, burying the dead. And I think back to my own mother, who spent her term as sisterhood president showing her rabbi that the women of their congregation could do more than bake hamantaschen for Purim and have rummage sales to benefit the synagogue. In every generation, our women have been called to serve, and have answered that call.

In their memory, I pay tribute here to two fine women who made their final exits from our community in the very recent past. Jean Sturman, both a Dallasite and a Fort Worthian, devoted to Hadassah, helped countless others with her work at Jewish Family Service, and was the first (and so far the only) female president of traditional Congregation Tiferet Israel. Carmen Michael, psychologist and educator, devoted to NCJW, founded CHAI with its promise of perpetual care for adults with cognitive challenges, and served as president of Temple Emanu-El.

May the legacy of these good women inspire our strong and capable Jewish women’s organizations for at least another 100 years!

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 12 December 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

We hope that you stayed warm and safe last weekend as we were hit with the first (and hopefully last) ice storm of the season. We prepared in advance in TJPland, with everyone able to connect to office servers and get their work done so we could put this week’s paper to bed. One luxury for me, was the ability to bake some homemade challah for Shabbat, since I was home to “mind the dough.” A couple of years ago, I attempted to bake my first challah on erev Rosh Hashanah morning. I just needed to run in the office for a “few minutes,” and felt sure I’d be home in time to punch the dough back down. Needless to say a few minutes turned into a couple of hours, and I arrived home to a giant mess in my oven of Lucy and Ethel proportions. I realized then why my mom, of blessed memory, didn’t bake her own challah…. She never had time to mind the dough since she was always working so hard at the office. We did have some delicious challah from Heinrich’s and Carshon’s.

The new Beth Shalom board of trustees was elected at their annual meeting Dec. 2. Pictured from left,  first row Yael Sasley, Jay Feinberg, Lynda Friedensohn, Dr. Ken Licker, and Angela Markson. Back row, from left,  Stephanie Posner, Paul Solomon, Pam Sudbury, Shirley Sassoon, Ben Weiger, Debra Kaplan and Lee Schulman. Not pictured, Stuart Snow. | Photo: Phil Kabakoff, CBS historian

The new Beth Shalom board of trustees was elected at their annual meeting Dec. 2. Pictured from left, first row Yael Sasley, Jay Feinberg, Lynda Friedensohn, Dr. Ken Licker, and Angela Markson. Back row, from left, Stephanie Posner, Paul Solomon, Pam Sudbury, Shirley Sassoon, Ben Weiger, Debra Kaplan and Lee Schulman. Not pictured, Stuart Snow. | Photo: Phil Kabakoff, CBS historian

CBS holds annual meeting

The staff of Congregation Beth Shalom (CBS) was kind enough to share a summary of its recent annual meeting held Dec. 2.

The meeting was preceded by a wonderful Thanksgivukkah meal.

Cantor Sheri Allen, in collaboration with children in attendance, lit the candles, and led the Congregation in reciting the Chanukah blessings. Allen also gave her recommendations for potential congregational activities in the coming year.

Lynda Friedensohn, acting president, congratulated the house committee chair/members and associated subcommittee personnel for their outstanding efforts this past year planning and upgrading the existing temple facility.

Friedensohn provided her vision for the congregation as she takes on the role of the president beginning in January 2014. Her vision includes goals for marketing, membership, social action and fundraising.

The membership goal is recruiting one new family unit membership per month using best practice marketing, outreach and programming strategies. The congregation will conduct more social action activities, such as volunteering in retirement homes and conducting charity events for children. She also stated that the proceeds from fundraising activities will provide supplemental income for future phases of the temple upgrade.

Stephanie Posner, CBS education director, reported on religious school activities. Religious school children and their families raised more than $100 for a tzedekah project to help the family of the young man who was struck by lightning at a URJ’s Camp Goldman Union last summer. The donation will defray some of his family’s medical costs. Fundraising will begin again in January and send a second check at the end of the year. Congratulations to the children and their families for their generosity.

Barry Goldfarb provided the ritual committee report for Stuart Snow. Policy changes recommended by the committee and approved by the board were shared. New ritual committee programming activities already introduced include Havdallah in the Home, less structured and more Reform Friday night/Saturday morning Shabbat services scheduled during particular weekends and Trope/Gabbaim classes.

Youth Director Richard Posner summarized the Arlington Federation of Temple Youth activities. ARFTY made sandwiches for the Arlington Life Shelter, as well as all the planning/volunteer work associated with Camp Impact, the one-week camp for underprivileged children in the mid-Cities area.

Ken Licker, CBS controller, recapped the synagogue budget, MUM dues and potential member donations to assist with the bimah upgrade. He also congratulated Allen for all that she has done for the congregation and the community.

Pam Sudbury, CBS house committee chair, followed with an update on the temple facility upgrade. The first b’nai mitzvah in the upgraded facility occurred Dec. 7.

Secretary Angela Markson announced the slate for the CBS officers and board of trustees. A motion was made to approve the slate and it was approved. After the meeting adjourned, Phil Kabakoff, CBS historian, took a picture of the CBS officers/board.

News from the Korenmans

Etta Korenman and her crew were in Fort Worth for the holiday. Etta sent me the following update.

“So glad that I managed to make it stateside for Thanksgiving, leaving Israel only 10 days after an emergency appendectomy.

“As so many, we had the house packed with family for the holidays. Joey, Amy, Layla and Emeline came in from Sarasota, Fla. Sarah and Jay were already here in Fort Worth, and Adam came in from L.A.  What added to this historic Thanksgivukkah celebration, was that Adam had just published his first book!  Adam, a commander in the Army National Guard, has been working on this book for 10 years, and we are thrilled to finally see, “When The Stars Fade — The Gray Wars Volume I” in print!  Adam was a student at the Fort Worth Hebrew Day School, Akiba Academy, Paschal H.S., and graduated from Boston University.”

For those interested, his book is available in hard copy and Kindle at

Thanks Etta! We always love hearing your news.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 12 December 2013 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

Shearith Israel invites community to be a mensch program Sunday

Discover the magical feelings of becoming a mensch while you munch (because no Jewish event can be successful without food!) At the Weitzman Family Religious School of Congregation Shearith Israel, learning involves doing, experiencing, sharing and appreciating what our tradition has passed down to us. As students reach the middle of the school year, they decided to pause from their regular classroom sessions and engage in activities that reflect some important Jewish values, and together with the community experience and celebrate the act of giving to others. Different values were selected such as: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, respecting their elders, caring for and preserving the environment, caring for animals, loving one’s neighbor as themselves and forging a connection with the people and land of Israel.

Each grade level was given the opportunity to explore one Jewish value and prepare a short “commercial” presentation to the school about the value and about an organization assigned to them that acts to sustain that value.

The Weitzman Family Religious School has extended an invitation to the Dallas community to join them and to experience this program Dec. 15 between 9:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The day will begin with an assembly and a short presentation by children and a short magic show. Participants will then receive a mensch card and will be able to go to the various stations and DO things that will be donated to the various organizations. Among the organizations and causes are Jewish Family Service, Children’s Medical Center, cancer research, a senior residential community, Jewish National Fund, Operation Kindness, My Friend’s House, The Austin Street Shelter as well as low income neighborhood recreation centers in Israel. While the children are DOING, parents can enjoy Starbucks coffee. While munching, learning how to perform magic, create silver foil sculptures they will choose their special balloon shape. After visiting all stations and completing all tasks the mensch card will be displayed on the mensch board for the official mensch recognition.

This fun fair is very different from many popular “Mitzvah Malls” by giving families that opportunity to learn and to DO at the same time. Families are invited to bring canned goods, gently-loved children’s’ clothes in great shape, as well as dog and cat food. Students will be raffling two sets of tickets to a Mavericks game. All are welcome to participate.

This event is co-sponsored by the Weitzman Family Religious School tzedakah collection and Congregation Shearith Israel SISterhood.

DHFLA announces speaker for Dec. 15 annual meeting

The Dallas Hebrew Free Loan’s 2013 annual meeting will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at Prestonwood Country Club. Noted sports attorney, Chairman and Founder of the Greenberg Sports Group will be the featured speaker. A seated breakfast will be held, with dietary laws observed. The event is free to members and $15 for non-members. There will be no solicitation of funds. For reservations or additional information, contact Deborah Dana at 214-696-8008. Since 1935, the DHFLA‘s motto has been “A Hand Up, Not a Handout.”

Makom, Singer awarded 2013 Natan/NEXT Grants

Good wishes to Rabbi David Singer, of Shearith Israel’s Makom, who was one of the four recipients of the 2013 Natan/NEXT Grants for Social Entrepreneurs, designed to support ongoing cultural, educational, service and community-building projects run by young Jewish adults for their peers. The grants will total $25,000 to four recipients to further realize their vision of Jewish life in their communities.

“These entrepreneurial young adults are driven by a passion to inspire their peers,” said Morlie Levin, CEO of NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation. “Their unique projects are indicative of the kind of authentic experiences the Birthright Israel generation creates for their friends — ones which we must support in order for them to find themselves in our Jewish community.”

Jackie Fishman, program officer of the Natan Fund, said, “The 2013 grant recipients are visionary leaders shaping their communities and making an impact on the Jewish future. From theater, to spirituality, to technology, these four projects show that young adults express their Jewish identity in many different ways and we hope our support will help these projects achieve even greater outcomes.”

Makom, an innovative spiritual community in Dallas, is a hub for experimentation and imagination. Makom takes the synagogue out of the synagogue, empowering Jews to build traditional, dynamic Jewish life on their own terms. Singer, one of Shearith’s associate rabbis, is the founder of Makom, and was named by The Jewish Daily Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis.

Izzie and Eli Haymann congratulate their sister Kaya, center, on her Level 5 Texas State Gymnastics Championship gold and silver medals.

Izzie and Eli Haymann congratulate their sister Kaya, center, on her Level 5 Texas State Gymnastics Championship gold and silver medals.

Kaya Haymann wins Level 5 Texas State Gymnastics Championships last month

On Sunday, Nov. 24 Kaya Haymann, a fourth grader at Ann and Nate Levine Academy, won the Level 5 Texas State Gymnastics Championships. She took the gold on vault with a 9.55, gold on bars with a 9.675, gold on floor with a 9.475 and silver on beam with a 9.55. She won the all-around competition with a total score of 38.25, a personal best.

Kaya began training as a competitive gymnast at the age of 5 at World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) in Plano. This is the same gym Carly Patterson and Nastia Luikin trained, both All Around Olympic Gold Medalists. When asked, Kaya said “My dream is to go to the Olympics in 2020 and represent the Jewish people as Aly Raisman did in 2012. Also, my goal is to get a scholarship to the University of Michigan.”

Kaya trains at WOGA six days a week and has been making sacrifices for many years. When asked what keeps her motivated she said “my coaches, my parents and the excitement of learning new skills — I just love the sport of gymnastics. As soon as I get into the gym I forget about everything else going on in the world.”

Kaya is back in the gym working on new routines and plans to compete level 7 starting in January. She said the only goal she didn’t accomplish this year is meeting her hero, Aly Raisman. “It’s all I asked for during Chanukah,” said Kaya.

Kaya is the daughter of Gary and Julie Haymann. She also has a brother, Eli, who is a competitive gymnast at WOGA and a twin sister, Izzie, who plays tennis.

Plano’s Adat Chaverim to receive URJ award

Communicate is the online resource bank of more than 2,600 programs and ideas that have been created exclusively for URJ congregations and their members. Every two years, summaries in several categories are selected to receive an Epstein Award recognizing those congregations’ outstanding programming. Award recipients receive a $1,000 programming grant, presented at the URJ North American Biennial Convention, taking place this year in San Diego, Dec. 11-15.

Adat Chaverim of Plano will receive an Epstein Communicate Award for its B’nai Torah program in the category of Teen Engagement Program, small congregation. B’nai Torah is an integrated program that was built on “Al Sh’loshah D’varim,” and focuses on the three principles, Torah, avodah and g’milut chasadim. Students participate in various activities and opportunities for scholarship, accruing the 18 credits needed to be part of the Bagrut (graduation) ceremony, which, innovatively, occurs in 12th grade and coincides with the students’ graduation from secular high school.

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Interfaith Inquiry

Interfaith Inquiry

Posted on 12 December 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

You have addressed the now famous, or infamous, Pew report in your columns maintaining that the most important solution to the shrinking numbers of Jews is Jewish education, which would strengthen the resolve of present Jews in their Judaism, keeping them in the fold. Why have you not considered another option? What I’m referring to is a recent piece in The New York Times by Susan Katz Miller entitled “Being Partly Jewish.” Her response to the Pew report is that interfaith families are not lost to Judaism, and that her family, (a 3/4 Christian and 1/4 Jewish interfaith family) celebrates all the Jewish and Christian holidays equally and joyfully. It would be hard to say children in such a family are lost to Judaism, although they may equally embrace another co-faith. Since, as the Pew report reveals, the number of interfaith families is so high, perhaps our efforts need to be to encourage the richness of the interfaith unit by providing more interfaith education, rather than just Jewish education. This would allow both spouses and the children to be more committed to their Judaism (as well as their other religion), since they are not forced to choose one faith or the other; and, we retain more Jews. Who said one can’t be a “dual citizen,” like a resident of America and Israel can legally be?

— Marci C.

Dear Marci,

friedforweb2Thanks for pointing me to the article you refer to, as well as the many comments attached, (interestingly, at the time I read it there were 613 comments!)

Firstly, I want to say that I agree with you that we need to embrace interfaith couples who show any desire or willingness to learn about and embrace Judaism. The rejection expressed to them in previous generations, with the hopes that would discourage their union or others, simply is not an option in this generation. We need to face the reported fact of the more than 70 percent of intermarriage straight in the eyes and realize that this is the state of a large portion of the Jewish people. This does not mean to encourage those unions, but to deal with the situation in the most positive way possible given the dual considerations of halachah, the approach of Jewish law, and the facts on the ground. (For this reason we have had, and continue to have, many intermarried couples at our classes and programs at DATA. They are encouraged to study and immerse themselves in Jewish teachings).

What you are suggesting, however, as suggested by Ms. Katz Miller, in the world view of Judaism and even that of Christianity, is an oxymoron. One cannot embrace two ideas or faiths, which are not only mutually exclusive of each other, but are diametrically opposed! Judaism absolutely and utterly rejects Jesus as any form of deity whatsoever — the very foundation of Christianity. Most forms of Christianity utterly reject Judaism, which has no acceptance of their Lord, as a viable option. That’s in a nutshell; the differences run deep and are many.

I found the same sentiments expressed by a devout Christian in the comments attached to the above article: “You speak of faith and religion as if it’s nothing more than a cultural identity, with songs and prayers to make us feel good. I believe the Christian faith is real…Judaism denies that Christ is the savior. For a Christian to be “interfaith” would be to reject Jesus Christ. A Jewish person blending their religion with Christianity would similarly not make sense. What Miss Miller is proposing here is heresy.”

The only way such an idea can be suggested is to reduce both Judaism and Christianity to some kind of cultural celebration of nice holidays with no real belief systems or convictions. Sadly, Miller and all those who espouse her ideology are coming from a place that lacks understanding of either religion. To attempt to truly teach both simultaneously is to create a schizophrenic hybrid which, besides making no sense, would only bring about complete confusion to the children, or adults, it attempts to placate.

The role of the Jewish people is not to educate about all religions. Our people receive plenty of that from their surroundings. (Just ask the average Jew if they can tell you the name of Jesus’ mother; then ask them to name Moses’ mother. See how many can sing “Ma’oz Tzur” for Chanukah like they can sing “Deck the Halls” or “Jingle Bells”). Our role is to disseminate our own teachings, in a positive, refreshing, non-threatening and non-judgmental way to any and all Jews open and willing to partake of them. Then stand back and let those teachings do their own magic!

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 05 December 2013 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. This week, at the TJP, our art director, Becky Bierig is on her honeymoon. Pinch-hitting for Becky is a very capable UNT student, James Rambin. James is speedy, but afternoon classes and a 6:30 p.m. math test led us to a split schedule at press time. I was lamenting what I would fill this space with. We covered the “Daytimers” extensively last week (Remember next Wednesday, Dec. 11, Dr. Barry Lachman will keynote a program on genealogy). I was longing for some news, thinking back to the Around the Town columns of old when Rene worked the phones for hours and developed lively pieces that would be more than Facebook worthy today.

I picked up the phone and called Ann Bogart, aka Aunt Ann, to say “Howdy.” Jackpot!

Visiting Ann last weekend were her grandson, Derek “Bruce” Bogart, his wife Elizabeth and their trio, Sara, 21, Sasha, 17 and Louis, 5.

Ann, as I’m sure many of you know, is a spry 93. Still sewing and turning out beautiful garments, Ann said that she had other company as well. Her nephew, Ziggy Ferber, was in town for a visit. Ziggy, is Louis’ sister Helen’s son. He works in real estate in Cold Springs, New Jersey.

Before her visitors, Ann said she had a wonderful Thanksgiving at daughter and son-in-law Ruth and Ed Currie’s home. Grandson Michael was also there.

It was nice to reminisce with Aunt Ann, who filled me in on a little history. The Bogart family arrived in Fort Worth on Jan. 30, 1950, which happened to be son Sanford’s fourth birthday. Ann said that she met my parents about a week later when they interviewed her and Louis for the TJP. At that time, Ann said she lived in an apartment provided by the Federation on Saint Louis Avenue. “We went to the Temple because we could walk there, said Ann. “We didn’t have a car.” Later, they moved to a duplex on Jennings Avenue, where Ann began doing alterations. Within about three years, the Bogarts were able to open a small factory with eight employees. They strived to save money for a down payment on a house, and soon moved to Harwen Terrace not far from the Westcliff shopping center. With the arrival of Herb and Ruthie, they outgrew the home and built their current home on Hildring Court where Ann has resided since about 1960. I so enjoy the walks down memory lane with beloved friends.

Place your maaj card orders now

Barbara Weinberg will be taking orders again this year for 2014 Mah Jongg cards, to benefit Hadassah.

The price has increased a smidge with a standard card running $8 and large print, $9.

Please send orders to Barbara Weinberg, 4600 Westlake Dr., Fort Worth, TX 76132.

Please send to Barbara by mail or bring to her at home before Dec. 13 or after Jan. 4. Deadline to receive orders is Jan. 17, 2014. Please make checks payable Barbara Weinberg and she will send a check for the entire order. Thanks Barbara, for keeping the maaj mavens up to date while benefiting a worthy cause.

New Judaica store in Haltom City

Hillel Judaica opened Nov. 27 and is now open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.

The shop is located inside Hillel Academy of Tarrant County at 5808 Denton Highway, Haltom City, TX 76148.

For more information or directions, please call 817-253-2445.

Save the Date: Jan. 11 CBI Speak Easy Casino

Congregation Beth Israel’s Brotherhood will present an elegant, adults-only cocktail party featuring traditional casino gaming, a live auction, raffle prizes, and added surprises to benefit CBI and Jewish Family Services of Tarrant County, 6:30-11 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14.

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Keeping Chanukah’s flame alive

Keeping Chanukah’s flame alive

Posted on 05 December 2013 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Two questions: how do we preserve the message of Chanukah throughout the year?

Secondly, I was studying last week’s Torah portion, and was bothered by a question. The Torah says, when relating the story of Joseph and his brothers that they threw him into a pit, “…the pit was empty, no water was in it” (Genesis Ch. 37 verse 24). I have always been taught that the Torah doesn’t use extra words. If the pit was empty, obviously there’s no water in it. Isn’t this statement redundant?

— Joseph P.

Dear Joseph,

friedforweb2Congratulations! You have asked the precise question asked by the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 22a). The Talmud answers the redundancy that the Torah is hinting that water was not in it, but snakes and scorpions were in it!

Besides the obviously elusive comment of the Talmud to explain the verse, there’s a further question: This discussion in the Talmud falls right smack in the middle of the discussion of the laws of lighting the Chanukah candles. The rabbis of the Talmud depart their Chanukah discussion for a moment, discuss this verse, then resume their discussion. Very strange! Furthermore, this verse appears in the Torah portion always read the Shabbat of the week Chanukah falls. Does this seem to be a hidden link to Chanukah?

The explanation is the very crux of the Chanukah holiday. Many years ago I heard the explanation of the above verse from my mentor, the late Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik ob’m. There’s a concept in physics, “nature abhors a vacuum.” No space in the physical world really remains empty. This is true in the spiritual realm as well. One cannot be bereft of spirituality and remain wholesome. If one does not fill himself with positive spiritual energy, the opposite will take its place.

This is the meaning of the cryptic statement of the rabbis, inferred by the verse: “water was not there, but snakes and scorpions were there.” Water refers to the Torah, which is the water we drink, quenches our thirst and slakes our tired souls. If we do not fill “the pit” with the “water,” then other, negative influences will creep in, the “snakes and scorpions” of foreign cultures.

The battle fought by the Maccabees was a spiritual one. The Greeks were attempting, successfully, to inculcate Greek culture, values and wisdom into the Jewish people. One of their most vehemently enforced decrees was the complete cessation of Torah study. They realized that as long as the Jews were filled with the wellsprings of Torah, there was no room to force in their “snakes and scorpions.” The Maccabees fought valiantly to preserve the holiness of the Torah and the Jewish minds and souls.

The Maccabees were rewarded by finding one remaining flask of pure oil amongst the many flasks contaminated by the Greeks. That pure oil lit the menorah, whose light signifies the light of the Torah which illuminates the Jewish people. That was the greatest miracle of all that despite the decrees of the world’s mightiest power, the Jews were able to preserve the holiness of the Torah, its teachings and messages intact.

This is the hint of the verse you mentioned. This lesson was taught in the Talmud in the middle of the laws of Chanukah, to teach the message of those laws. It is in the portion read before Chanukah to get the Jewish people ready for what Chanukah represents throughout the generations, the preservation of the teachings of Torah in the face of foreign, often hostile, cultures.

As Chanukah ebbs, we capture its spirit throughout the rest of the year by intensifying our commitment of what it stands for: the study of Torah! Just like the candles ascend daily in the number we light, we all need to add more study and learning to whatever we have done in the past to ensure the message of Chanukah is a lasting one!

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 05 December 2013 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

Is it my imagination, or do the holidays seem to be coming closer and closer together? I know that this year is an exception, with the first day of Chanukah falling on Thanksgiving Day. This significance of this “happening” or miracle was covered on all the major news networks, and it will not be duplicated for 79,000 years. I hope that the day was special for each of you. I don’t want to be maudlin, but it is doubtful that any of us will experience it again in our lifetimes. We may become the dinosaurs of long ago.

Natalie Ring to speak at DHM/CET Thursday, Dec. 5

Dr. Natalie Ring, associate professor in history at UTD, will speak on “The Presence of the Ku Klux Klan” at 6:30 p.m. at the Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance located at 211 N. Record Street in Dallas. Although the presence of the Klan has declined greatly in Dallas, Texas is the second largest state in the union in terms of the presence of “hate groups,” with California being the first. This is certain to be an interesting and informative lecture. To ensure seating, please, RSVP to

Meteorologist Pete Delkus to visit Beth Torah Sunday

Pete Delkus, chief meteorologist for WFAA news and one of the most popular media personalities in Dallas, will be the guest speaker at Congregation Beth Torah Men’s Club breakfast Sunday, Dec. 8.

Pete Delkus

Pete Delkus

Everyone is welcome at the monthly lox-and-bagel breakfast, which begins at 9 a.m. The cost is $10 and $5 for students. Beth Torah is located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson.

DATA rabbi to speak at Herzl Hadassah meeting Dec. 9

It is always a pleasure to hear from Rose Biderman, who keeps us posted on what’s happening with The Herzl Group of Dallas Hadassah. DATA Rabbi Nasanya Zakon will speak at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 9 in the conference room at the Aaron Family JCC. He will discuss “Mastering the Art of Criticism.” In continuance of Herzl’s tradition of bringing gifts to the young children at the Vogel Alcove, members and guests are asked to bring gifts of shoes or socks this year. This meeting is open to all Hadassah members and guests.

Congregation Ohr HaTorah to host third annual Women’s Art and Talent Expo Dec. 15

The third annual Congregation Ohr Hatorah’s Women’s Art and Talent Expo will be held on Sunday, Dec. 15. The event is a by women, for women production featuring several genres of the performing arts, ranging from classical piano to kung fu. Some of the performers will represent Classical Arts & Dance of Dallas as well as Lee’s White Leopard Kung-Fu(sic). Other performers are enthusiastic amateurs who will enjoy the opportunity to share their talents. Local vendors will also be on hand, including Kiddy So Pretty, Upscale Party Disposables, NikNaks, Bravadas Wigs and Holistic Environmental Design. The doors open at 1 p.m., with the show beginning at 1:45. Admission is $5 per person. Congregation Ohr Hatorah is located at 6324 Churchill Way. For any inquires or information, contact Malkie Ozeri at

The Blum House on display at Dallas Heritage Village

One of the historic homes — the Blum House — will figure prominently in Dallas Heritage Village’s annual “Candlelight Celebration.” At the Blum home, Chanukah will be interpreted. Grace Enda, one of the junior historians at Dallas Heritage Village, who along with her mom, Gail, and dad, Steve, will be in the home, making latkes and playing dreidel. Grace attends the Talented and Gifted Magnet School and the Endas belong to Temple Shalom. Steve Enda is on the Dallas Heritage Village board.

The Blum House at Dallas Heritage Village | Photo: Courtesy of Dallas Heritage Village

The Blum House at Dallas Heritage Village | Photo: Courtesy of Dallas Heritage Village

Along with the Blum house will be other replicas of Texas’ earliest residents and how holiday traditions were celebrated in the late 1800s. It will take place from 3-9 p.m., Dec. 14 and 15 at Dallas Heritage Village, 1515 South Harwood, sponsored by Baylor Health Care System.

“Get Wrapped Up in Candlelight” is this year’s theme, celebrating the beauty of holidays past with seasonal décor and traditional celebrations featured throughout the village. Take a stroll and experience gleeful carolers, holiday storytelling, hand-weaving, blacksmithing, interpreters in traditional costume and many other festive activities such as the American Flyer model train exhibit in the depot, operated by the Lone Star Flyer Model Train Club.

“There are few places that get people in the holiday spirit like Candlelight, which sets a beautiful landscape for the season, honoring and creating memories,” said Melissa Prycer, interim executive director at Dallas Heritage Village. “Candlelight is a magical event that has been a holiday tradition in Dallas for 42 years, and we welcome visitors from across the globe.”

Local musicians, dancers and storytellers entertain at the Renner School (circa 1888), on the Main Street (circa 1900) stage, in the Pilot Grove Church (circa 1890), on porches of Victorian homes and along the candlelit pathways of the village. Holiday tales will be recounted and seasonal songs sung by strolling carolers throughout the village. Local entertainment groups include dance companies, musicians, bands, choirs and many others. Performers to date include the Allegro Guitar Society, Lakewood Varsity Chorus and Shufflin’ Shoe. For a complete list of performers and performance times, visit

All proceeds from the event, Dallas Heritage Village’s biggest annual public fundraiser, benefit the museum’s programs. General admission to “Candlelight” at the door is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 65+ and $8 for children ages 4-12. Children 3 and under and museum members are free. Tickets purchased online at by Dec. 6 are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 65+ and $6 for children. Visit for more details or call 214-421-5141. Farmers Market, one block north of Dallas Heritage Village on Harwood Street, offers limited free public parking. Self-parking at the village is available for $5 and valet parking for $10 per vehicle. Guests with valid handicapped tags will be able to valet park for $5.

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‘The J Gives’

‘The J Gives’

Posted on 05 December 2013 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

The Aaron Family JCC’s mission is simple — to bring the community together by providing state-of-the-art facilities and exceptional programs in an inclusive environment defined by Jewish values and culture. That’s just what the agency is doing through its new “The J Gives” initiative.

“The J Gives” is a social action program designed to broaden the J’s visibility in the Dallas community at large, while conveying the Jewish values of inclusiveness and communal responsibility. It is also a way to show that the J supports various community causes.

Throughout the next couple of months, community members can participate in mitzvah projects, each based on a Jewish value, helping others in different ways.

“We came up with this after seeing the way the Jewish community was responding to Thanksgiving and Chanukah happening at the same time this year and wanted to take this opportunity to reflect and give back to the community,” said Abbii Cook, the J’s youth director who is coordinating the program with Carol Agronin, Ashley Bundis, Rachelle Weiss Crane and Laura Seymour. “This program reflects our mission statement that we’ve made it a priority to teach Jewish values, and to bring together the Dallas community because we care about Dallas as a whole.”

“The J Gives” initiative allows the people to volunteer and give back over a series of mitzvah projects that benefit those throughout the community. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

“The J Gives” initiative allows the people to volunteer and give back over a series of mitzvah projects that benefit those throughout the community. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

The program kicked off with a canned food drive, held from Nov. 12-25, which benefited the North Texas Food Bank and the Jewish Family Service Food Pantry. The J, BBYO and other organizations hosted a premiere of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Nov. 20 where guests donated canned goods for those places as well.

December projects include collecting gifts that will be donated to Vogel Alcove, Genesis Women’s Shelter, Community Partners and Winwood Shelter; Spin it to Win It, membership appreciation days where members will win various prizes; 500 goodie bags will be distributed for families to celebrate Shabbat together; and the J will host a bone marrow drive.

“The J Gives” will continue in January and February with a sandwich drive and fitness day for residents of Winwood Shelter. The J is also participating in a communitywide Habitat for Humanity build in the spring.

Seymour said the J gets a wonderful response every year from those who come to exercise, meet others and donate gifts, so taking on an initiative of this scale is a natural progression.

“Giving the community a central place to do a mitzvah is our goal,” she said. “Come to the J to swab for bone marrow donation, be part of Habitat for Humanity and more. We all want to give, and doing it together makes it a special time for everyone.”

Cook said this is something the J hopes will be ongoing and carry through to summer and camp. The aim is to make tikkun olam, community service and giving back part of day-to-day life at the J.

These projects are also a way for families to have conversations about the importance of mitzvot, while also educating the community about different organizations, Cook said.

The collaboration aspect of this makes it even more significant, said J Chairman Scott Cohen. Both the board and the staff are very excited for this project.

“It meets our mission statement of serving the community and being as inclusive as possible,” he said. “We are bringing the community together and giving back.”

J President Artie Allen added that the agency is built on Jewish values and this is an opportunity to support those values in a specific, meaningful way.

“It is important for our staff and volunteers to engage in meaningful projects that will help those in need,” he said. “In a small way it will allow the J to impact the lives of many that will never have the chance to enter our facility. It allows us to give back to the community as the community has given us as individuals, families and as an agency so much to be thankful for.”

For more information, visit

Mitzvah projects for ‘The J Gives’

  • 360 gifts, 4 charities, smiles all-around, Nov. 12-Dec. 30: gifts for the poor, matanot l’evyonim. Children’s gifts are being collected around the J building and will be donated to four local charities in North Texas. Charities receiving gifts are Vogel Alcove, Genesis Women’s Shelter, Community Partners and Winwood Shelter.
  • Habitat for Humanity, Nov. 24- Spring 2014: Habitat for Humanity, Shelter of Peace, sukkat shlomecha. The J is participating in a communitywide home build that will occur in the spring.
  • Spin it to Win It, Dec. 1-8 (prize box) for new members; Dec. 16-20 for current members: optimism, gamzu le tobah. Membership appreciation days where a dreidel will be spun every afternoon and someone will win prizes like free swim lessons, a free personal training session, tickets to the spring theater production, a free tennis clinic and one free winter break camp day.
  • Shabbat-in-a-Bag, Friday, Dec. 13: Remembering and Keeping Shabbat, shamor vzachor Shabbat. 500 goodie bags will be distributed for families to celebrate together.
  • Delete Blood Cancer bone marrow drive, Sunday, Dec. 15: Saving a Life, pikuah nefesh. The J will host swab stations for guests to be tested for a bone marrow match, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Build a Sandwich, Feed the Hungry, Monday, Jan. 20: ha’akhalat re’evimn. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, staff and members will gather to make 300 sandwiches that will be donated to Austin Street Shelter the following day.
  • Fitness Day at the J, Monday, Feb. 17: Taking Care of One’s Body, shemirat haguf. The J will host a fitness fun day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Presidents Day for residents of Winwood Shelter.

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New Year’s revelations

New Year’s revelations

Posted on 05 December 2013 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebWell, we’ve lit the last Chanukah candle. Even though our holiday came so early on this year’s secular calendar, leaving us with almost a full month of 2013, my thoughts as always turn after our collective rededication to the coming New Year. It’s a personal challenge: What will I do with it? My friends have come through with some suggestions and good wishes.

One in California sent this inspiring true story. The great violinist Itzhak Perlman once made his way laboriously onto New York’s Lincoln Center stage, with crutches assisting his polio-stunted legs, and began soloing in a concerto. Almost immediately, one of the strings on his instrument snapped. The conductor stopped the orchestra and waited to see what the master musician wanted to do: Would he request a new string and make the repair himself?  Or would he ask for someone to bring him another violin?  Perlman sat quietly for a few moments with his eyes closed, and then — most surprisingly — signaled the conductor to begin again.

He resumed playing as if nothing had happened, flawlessly executing the entire concerto on his violin’s three remaining strings, transposing and reconfiguring the music as he went along.

When the piece ended, there was an awesome silence in the hall before the audience collectively rose to its feet, applauding and cheering. Perlman just smiled, raised his bow to quiet the crowd, and softly said, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

So few of us are artists of any kind, certainly not like Itzhak Perlman, but his words ring true for everyone. Each year, we are a year older. As we age, our powers — the ones we take for granted, like seeing and hearing, plus any special physical and mental talents we may be lucky enough to have — will diminish.  Then all of us have to figure out how much we can still make with whatever we have left.

My father, an old-fashioned doctor who passed away long before his own powers diminished, had always lived his too-short life by a personal credo similar to Perlman’s: “None of us knows what we’re going to get,” he used to say. “We get what we get. And the longer we live, the more we get. All we can do is take whatever life hands us and make the most we can of it.” As I age myself, and life hands me more and more that I could happily do without, I think often of these words. After all, what else is there to do? And so, I’ve come to live by them myself.

In the same spirit, an Arkansas friend sends this wisdom from Edgar W. Howe, a small-town newspaper editor who died back in 1937: “Life is like a game of cards. Reliability is the ace, industry the king, politeness the queen, thrift the jack. Common sense is playing to best advantage the cards you draw, and every day, as the game proceeds, you will find the Ace, King, Queen and Jack in your hand — and the opportunity to use them.”

A friend in Ohio quotes an unverified source: “There comes a time in your life to walk away from all the drama and the people who create it, and to surround yourself with those who make you laugh. In the year coming, forget the bad and focus on the good.  Love those who treat you right, pray for those who don’t, and always remember that falling down may be a part of life, but getting back up is truly living.”

So I pass on to all of you that advice, and these final good wishes from a Georgia friend: “I hope the Chanukah lights shone brightly at your Thanksgiving table, and may everyone be blessed with loving family and friends, good health and happiness, now and in 2014.”

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Different Decembers

Different Decembers

Posted on 05 December 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2Every year the J and the synagogues offer programs on “The December Dilemma.” Every year we worry about our children asking about trees, lights, presents and Santa. Every year we Jews struggle with Christmas! Is it different this year because Chanukah has come and gone? Before we look for answers to this “dilemma,” we must truly understand what our dilemma is. Ask yourself: Do I want a Christmas tree? Do I feel bad not giving my children presents? Do I have trouble saying “no” to sitting on Santa’s lap? Do I want to feel the spirit by decorating my house with lights, etc.? Do I feel uncomfortable when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas?” Once you’ve made peace with Christmas, the dilemma disappears.

There are many thoughts on the subject. Once again I quote Joel Lurie Grishaver from “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People.” He tells of a story of a daughter coming home from college and telling her mother this: “Mom, I actually figured out that Chanukah was one of the major reasons I never got involved with drugs or excessive drinking, and that I’m not involved in the promiscuous sex that is all around me. From having to celebrate Chanukah when everyone else was doing Christmas, I learned that I could be different — and that was OK.” We are different and that is OK. Jewish identity is not a December issue — we cannot make Chanukah a substitute for Christmas but we can help our children form strong Jewish identities by creating strong Jewish homes and involvement with Jewish life. If a child (or an adult) has a strong sense of their “Jewishness,” Christmas is not a threat!

Personally, I love singing the carols and we have always taken a family drive to look at the lights, which leads to the next thought on the subject. We can “visit” Christmas. We tell our children, “When we go to our friend’s home to play, we can enjoy their toys but we don’t take them home.  Their toys do not belong to us.” Well, we can visit our friends and even help decorate the tree, but we don’t take Christmas home. It doesn’t belong to us (then invite your friends for Chanukah or even better, for Shabbat or to eat in the sukkah!)

So, my friends, enjoy the “holiday season” knowing that we can focus on other things — our holiday is over!

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.

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

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