Archive | August, 2014

Film fest rolls

Film fest rolls

Posted on 21 August 2014 by admin

Movies focus on Arab-Jewish relations, Holocaust and more

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Family relationships and dynamics play a role in each of the nine films featured in the annual Jewish film festival this year. The Holocaust and Jewish-Arab relations is also a major theme as the films give people a taste of different aspects of Jewish life.

The event, presented by the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center and the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, runs from Sept. 4-21. The movies will be shown throughout four locations — the JCC’s Zale Auditorium, two Studio Movie Grill’s and the Angelika Film Center in Plano.

Co-chairs Brenda and Peter Marcus, along with their committee, screened 135 movies and believe they chose the nine best. The goal is to always pick ones that people wouldn’t be able to otherwise see.

“These are really the cream of the crop,” Peter Marcus said. “We learn so much each year that we never expect. The Holocaust and Arab-Jewish relations are perennial topics that aren’t going to go away. All of the films are multifaceted, in different languages and from different cultures, but all have a Jewish theme. They are very enriching.”

There are some new things happening with the festival this year. The J has community partners for the films and six of them feature talkbacks with guest speakers, which is geared to enhance the viewing experience. In addition, each one is the Dallas premiere and folks can also view the film clips on the J’s website.

It is also rare to show three comedies and three Holocaust movies, according to Brenda Marcus, but each are different and have their own flavor, she said.

Brenda Marcus hopes each one elicits thoughtful discussions and affects people so they continue thinking about them.

“Every year has its own personality,” she said. “We have never opened with a Holocaust movie before, but this one [“Run Boy Run”] is so powerful and fabulous. We love to sit in the audience during each film and watch the reaction. When people tell us they enjoyed the film, that’s great. The main aim is to entertain people, allow them to have a good time and bring everyone together. If people are discussing the film afterward, that’s a success.”

Rachelle Weiss Crane, the J’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish learning, is running the festival for the first time and said this has been a wonderful experience.

She is looking forward to engage many demographics and introducing them to the wonderful films.

“I want people to know that they have had exposure to a Jewish experience or multiple Jewish experiences that they would not have had if they had not attended the festival,” she said. “We are taking them around the world.”

The cost for each movie is $11 in advance or $13 at the door. A series pass can also be purchased for $95.

To learn more about the movies and to register, visit For more information, contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at 214-239-7128 or


The 2014 JCC film festival


Run_Boy_RunOpening night: “Run Boy Run”
7 p.m.
Studio Movie Grill (Spring Valley)
13933 N. Central Expressway, Dallas

“Run Boy Run” tells the true story of a Polish boy who seeks the kindness of others in his solitary struggle to outlast the Nazi occupation and keep his Jewish faith alive. Escaping the Warsaw ghetto at the behest of his father, 9-year-old Srulik flees to the woods. There, he learns to hide from SS patrols and scour for food, until loneliness and the harsh onset of winter drive him back to civilization. Taken in by a kindhearted farmer’s wife, he is given shelter and a new identity. Passing himself off as Jurek, a Christian war orphan, the intrepid boy traverses the countryside from village to village, working as a farmhand under an ever-present threat of persecution.

Talk back with Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsvath, Leah and Paul Lewis Chair of Holocaust Studies and director of the Holocaust Studies Program at UT Dallas, and Dr. David Patterson, Hillel Feinberg Chair of Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas.

Community Partners: 3 Stars Jewish Cinema and The Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas.


It_Happened_in_Saint_Tropez“It Happened in Saint Tropez”
9 p.m.
Angelika Film Center
7205 Bishop Road, Plano

This French film follows brothers Zef and Roni, who are polar opposites. Roni is a successful, fun-loving, irreligious diamond merchant while Zef is a serious, religiously-observant classical musician. They have nothing in common but their love for their aging father, and their respective daughters Melita and Noga, who adore each other. Family conflicts reach new heights when, on the eve of Melita’s wedding, Zef’s wife dies in a bizarre accident involving the purchase of a pastrami sandwich. To further complicate matters, Noga unknowingly falls in love with her cousin’s groom. In this unashamedly romantic comedy, misunderstandings, betrayals and revelations all throw the family into total disarray.

Community Partners: Adat Chaverim, Congregation Beth Torah’s Chai Lights, Men’s Club and Sisterhood


7 p.m.
Studio Movie Grill (Spring Valley)
13933 N. Central Expressway, Dallas

One of the most controversial Polish films ever made, this is a harrowing mystery-thriller based on the real-life cover-up of a Jewish massacre at the hands of Catholic Poles. After decades living abroad in Chicago, Franek is prompted to return to his ancestral family farm by news that his estranged younger brother Józef has come into conflict with fellow villagers. Upon his arrival, Franek is greeted by seething hostility and escalating harassment from the local peasants. The brothers literally uncover half-buried secrets of the past and disturbing historical clues that ultimately lead to an appalling revelation.

Talk back with Dr. Nils Roemer, Barbara and Stan Rabin Professor of Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas.


7 p.m.
Studio Movie Grill (spring Valley)
13933 N. Central Expressway, Dallas

This musical comedy celebrates life, love and loyalty. A group of friends in a Tel Aviv suburb get together to watch “Universong,” an international song contest. When heart-broken Anat tells her friends that her husband has unexpectedly left her, the group spontaneously composes a song to cheer her up. As a lark, Ofer enters the cellphone video of their performance without telling his friends. To their utter amazement, their impromptu composition becomes Israel’s entry for the coming year’s competition. Reluctantly, they agree to embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent their country and embark on this quest to win the competition.

Talk back with David Taffet, former president of Congregation Beth El Binah, staff writer for Dallas Voice and host of KNON’s Lambda Weekly.

Community Partner: Congregation Beth El Binah

SAT., SEPT. 13

Hannas_Journey“Hanna’s Journey”
9 p.m.
Angelika Film Center
7205 Bishop Road, Plano

Ambitious German business major, Hanna, has ulterior motives for spending several months in Israel volunteering to work with mentally disabled youth as well as elderly Holocaust survivors. Being a sharp-eyed careerist, Hanna figures that this charity work will make her resumé sparkle when she returns to Berlin. What she doesn’t count on is Italy — the brusque but charming social worker she meets on her first day abroad. He teases her with off-color jokes about the Holocaust and for being German, all of which she considers ancient history having nothing to do with her at all. In time, she becomes less offended and more interested in both German and her own family history, not to mention the man who set her onto this path of self-discovery. This film examines the after-effects of the Holocaust on third-generation Germans and Israelis.

Community Partners: Bnai Zion, Congregation Anshai Torah and the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

SUN., SEPT. 14

Disobedience_The_Sousa_Mendes_Story“Disobedience: The Sousa Mendes Story”
7 p.m.
Studio Movie Grill (Spring Valley)
13933 N. Central Expressway, Dallas

In May 1940, when Nazi troops invaded France, Portuguese President Salazar ordered all his diplomats to deny visas to any Holocaust refugees seeking to escape Europe. Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux, deliberately chose to disregard this order, knowing that his actions could have severe consequences for him and his family. Altogether, Mendes issued visas to some 30,000 refugees, about a third of whom were Jewish.

Talk back with Harry Oesterreicher, son and grandson of Sousa Mendes visa recipients and treasurer of the Sousa Mendes Foundation.

Community Partner: Naxon Fund of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society

MON., SEPT. 15

The_Green_Prince“The Green Prince”
7 p.m.
Aaron Family JCC
7900 Northaven Road, Dallas

Based on the book “Son of Hamas,” this documentary is a gripping account of terror, betrayal and political intrigue. Mosab Hassan Yousef is the older son of one of the founders of the terrorist organization, Hamas, and was groomed from an early age to follow in his father’s footsteps. Arrested for gun smuggling at age 17, he was sent to prison. There he encountered Gonen Ben Yitzhak, a wily member of the Shin Bet, who eventually succeeded in convincing Mosab to become one of the Shin Bet’s most valued and well-connected spies with code name: “The Green Prince.” As Mosab became increasingly stressed by his double life, a fascinating, complex bond between informant and handler developed.

Talk Back with Dr. Kenneth P. Price, clinical psychologist.

Community Partner: “The Big One,” the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Community Mission to Israel


Peace_After_Marriage“Peace After Marriage”
7 p.m.
Studio Movie Grill (Royal Lane)
11170 N. Central Expressway, Dallas

“Peace After Marriage” is a romantic comedy, bursting with directorial chutzpah, about a Jewish, Israeli girl, Michaela, who marries a lonely Palestinian-Muslim-American man, Arafat, for a green card. Jewish and Arab/Muslim stereotypes are mercilessly lampooned in this film, which has sold out every festival screening it has played, at events as diverse as the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the 15th Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival.

Community partner: Temple Shalom

SUN., SEPT. 21

Under_the_Same_Sun“Under the Same Sun”
7 p.m.
Studio Movie Grill (Spring Valley)
13933 N. Central Expressway, Dallas

A joint effort between Israel and Arab filmmakers, “Under the Same Sun” is a contemporary parable set in the Middle East that puts forth the notion that people who have historically seen one another as enemies can work together peacefully and productively for the common good. The film chronicles the unusual partnership between two businessmen — one Israeli, Shaul and the other Palestinian, Nizar. Together they try to launch a green energy company aimed at providing solar energy for the West Bank. Their venture evokes forceful political and social opposition, and threatens to destroy the very fabric of their family lives. Ultimately, both men, desperate to succeed, turn to Facebook to rev up support for their project in their respective communities.

Talk back with Lt. Col. (res.) Gil Elan, CEO of Southwest Jewish Congress.

Community Partner: Café Israel of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas

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Blessing for a teacher

Blessing for a teacher

Posted on 21 August 2014 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2Camp has ended (and all good things must end and endings lead to new experiences and I could go on and on with thoughts on why camp being over is OK. …) and school begins.

Years for children have a rhythm and for teachers the rhythm is the same.

For me, I sadly take off my camp director hat (but don’t put it too far away) and get my teaching hat ready.

In many ways, the two are the same. And in many ways, we are all teachers even if we don’t admit it or even realize it.

As I go back into the classroom to the children and the adults, this prayer, sent to me anonymously, is one I say each time I enter to teach.

Blessing For A Teacher

May my love for teaching continually inspire me to enrich and develop my skills.

May I be patient and steadfast as I apply myself to my profession.

May I have the strength of heart, the purpose of mind and the gentleness of soul to educate, nurture and guide those in my care.

May the daily challenges I face become opportunities for personal growth.

As I share my knowledge and experience,

May I remain open to continually learn from my students.

Blessings are one way to focus our thoughts on the gifts we have been given. The rabbis have told us to say 100 blessings each day in order to raise our level of thankfulness.

Every one of us is in the teaching profession in one way or another so this blessing is for all. Perhaps the most important line is the last and it is a thought taught by Maimonides centuries ago: I have learned a great deal from my teachers, more from other teachers, but most of all from my students.

As teachers, parents, bosses, co-workers or any of our many hats we wear, we must remember that we can learn the most from those we are trying to teach.

Be a lifelong learner and always be willing to learn from others!

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.

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

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Around the Town

Posted on 14 August 2014 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Belk store manager and assistant manager save my day

Greetings from the sunny Boca Raton Resort & Club, where I’m here watching #2 son Sam compete in the Maccabi Games and tweeting and Facebooking as much real time information as I can about Team Dallas (and Fort Worthians Jared Imber and Hannah Simon). I am on a steep learning curve when it comes to social media, but I’m getting the hang of it.

I almost didn’t make the trip, and how I got here is a great story.

It all began last Saturday night, when I was picking up a few things at the mall in advance of our Sunday morning departure. I wandered into the new Belk store, which is right next to Nordstrom at the Galleria. Belk is known for their modern, Southern style.

Surprise, I found a few things. Even better the deals were fabulous. To top it off, I could open a Belk charge account and save an additional 20 percent. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. After all, I am my mother’s daughter.

With my booty in tow, I headed home near 9 p.m. and proceeded to pack and get all the boys ready. Sam’s plane was at 10:10 a.m. with a 7 a.m. arrival at DFW airport, since he was traveling with the 91-member Team Dallas delegation. Jimmy, Ben and I would depart at noon.

Things seemed to be going really smoothly, Benjamin, heading back home from Aggieland and a must-attend fraternity rush party, arrived safely around 1 a.m. First hurdle crossed. I knew I didn’t have to stress about him sauntering in at “go” time.

Sam’s gear was packed and by the front door. I could grab a few hours sleep.

At 5:30 a.m., I awoke to finish up some details. Sam and I were readying to leave for the airport and I remembered he’d need some spending money.

I opened my wallet.

Huh. … That’s strange… my driver’s license was missing. I searched my mind, retracing my steps. … I had it last night… at Belk… when I opened that charge account.

“Crap,” I thought, “I must have left it there.”

I checked my cell phone and noticed a missed call, at about 8:45 p.m. I’m sure they would have left a message if my voicemail hadn’t been full. I’m sure I would have heard the phone ring if I hadn’t turned it to silent. I dialed the number and got the Belk recording.

Six-thirty was approaching and Sam and I headed out the door. I was freaking out, but tried to remain calm so as not to concern Sam.

I delivered Sam to the airport at precisely 7 and immediately called my sister Susan, waking her.

“Help, I did something so stupid, I left my driver’s license at Belk and I have to be at the airport before they open. Alex is going to kill me.”

We brainstormed a bit as I headed out of the airport back toward Dallas. Susan agreed to call Galleria mall security and see if they could get in touch with the Belk manager.

I drove and thought hard about what to do next.

I followed up with mall security as well. They said they had tried to reach the Belk manager to no avail. I was skeptical and told them I’d call them back in an hour.

In the meantime, Susan had Googled the name of the store manager, Salem Boohaker.

I was headed to the office to wrap up a few details at my desk and decided it was best to try and reach Salem myself.

By 7:30, I was at my TJP desk trying to decide my next steps. I left a message for Salem Boohaker on his Belk voice mail, but it was Sunday and I was doubtful he would pick it up in time. By 8 a.m. Belk customer service was open. Unfortunately, they were unable to help, mainly order takers. The lady was, however, empathic.

I decided email was the way to go and I did some more Belk research online.

I found the email address for Jessica Graham, vice president of communications/community relations for Belk. Based on her email, I decided to email Salem Boohaker and Tim Belk Jr. as well. I had nothing to lose. I figured I was screwed anyway. The clock was ticking. It was 7:52 a.m.

I wrote,

“Hello, I am the Publisher of the Texas Jewish Post in Dallas. Last night, I opened a Belk charge account and neglected to retrieve my driver’s license. Ordinarily this would not be a crisis for me, but I am scheduled to fly out on vacation to Florida this morning. If there is anyway to contact the store manager or someone that is at the store this morning, I sure would appreciate it and so would my family.

Many Thanks, Sharon Wisch-Ray”

In the meantime, I called the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to find out my options. Yes, I could fly if I had another official document, something with my picture on it, and two credit cards with my name on them exactly how I was ticketed. Marriage License, check; Sams card, check; Mastercard and American Express cards, check, check. OK, the tightness in my chest was easing. I’d make it to Boca with the boys, I just wouldn’t be able to rent a car that day.

I checked my email again. It was 8:32 a.m. when the email popped up from Salem Boohaker my knight in shining armor.

“Sharon- We have your license. Please call me on my cell so we can get this in your hands.”

The rest as they say his history. Salem had already been in touch with his assistant manager Laurie Kilharski, who was in the store already. The associate did exactly what she was supposed to do and left my license exactly where Laurie would find it.

I called Laurie on her cell phone.

“Hi, I’m so glad you called. I have your license,” she said. She told me to come to the store and she would bring it out to me.

I arrived at Belk, greeted by Laurie who not only had my driver’s license, but a travel goody bag for me.

I was home with my license in my wallet by 9:30. Everyone else in the house still fast asleep.

Thanks to the gracious, responsive customer service from Belk management, I made it to Boca as scheduled.

Many thanks to Salem Boohaker and Laurie Kilharski. In addition the flagship store at the Galleria Dallas, Belk has locations in Fort Worth at 9488 North Freeway as well as in Weatherford, 205 Adams Drive.

In addition to their modern Southern style, I can’t think of a better reason to shop there, can you?

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 14 August 2014 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

Gladys Golman/Faye Dallen Special Needs Fund Awards $77,000 in grants to advance programs and services

The Gladys Golman/Faye Dallen Special Needs Fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation recently announced $77,000 in grants, which were awarded to seven deserving institutions in the Dallas area.

Louis Zweig, with his wife Robin, founded the GGFD Special Needs Fund in honor of their son, David, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. The organization raised $77,000 this year and has benefitted many children throughout the DFW community.

Louis Zweig, with his wife Robin, founded the GGFD Special Needs Fund in honor of their son, David, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. The organization raised $77,000 this year and has benefitted many children throughout the DFW community.

This year’s grant recipients include Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas, Congregation Shearith Israel, Ann and Nate Levine Academy, Mesorah High School, The Aaron Family Jewish Community Center Sherry and Ken Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, Congregation Anshai Torah Preschool and Akiba Academy.

The 2014 gifts will help advance teaching capabilities, promote inclusion in the schools, provide educational seminars and training days and purchase enabling technology to further contribute to classroom success for aspiring students with learning differences. These differences include Autism/Asperger’s syndrome, ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia and other learning challenges as well as other neurological disorders.

“2014 has been our most successful fundraising year to date,” said Golman-Dallen Co-Founder, Louis Zweig. “However, requests for funding have far exceeded our expectations, which is indicative of the growing awareness and accommodations among educational and religious schools for financial support in the area of Special Needs. We are most appreciative of all the contributions received this year, which enabled us to broaden programs and create new opportunities throughout a number of deserving institutions.”

A large portion of this year’s grants were funded in the spring when more than 200 bowlers participated enthusiastically in the annual Zweig Family End of School Year Bash event, hosted at BowlMor Lanes in Addison.

Currently in its eighth year, the Golman/Dallen mission is “to provide financial and educational resources to support Dallas area preschools, day schools, and religious schools and their teaching staff so that both teachers and their students with learning differences can fulfill Jewish educational goals.” The fund, is a 501(c)(3) organization housed within the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation.

For additional information or queries regarding the support of the Gladys Golman/Faye Dallen Special Needs Fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, contact Louis Zweig at

LEFT: Jack Mirensky, Roni Levkovich and Niv Bouskila RIGHT: Meghan Lederman, Fraidy Rosenblum and Sophie Schochet

LEFT: Jack Mirensky, Roni Levkovich and Niv Bouskila
RIGHT: Meghan Lederman, Fraidy Rosenblum and Sophie Schochet

It’s A Wrap — Camp Gan Israel wraps 2014 season

Camp Gan Israel, located in the heart of Plano, recently finished the 2014 summer season with a spectacular six-week program. We’ve heard that camp was a great success with over 200 children attending from across the entire spectrum of our Jewish community.

Nineteen staff members flew in from around the country to serve as junior counselors.

Campers enjoyed crafts, sports, Jewish stories and learning, swimming and amazing field trips throughout the Metroplex. The older division enjoyed ‘IShops,’ which enabled them to choose from a variety of specialty activities such as calligraphy, chess, martial arts, cupcake wars, pottery and woodworking.

Great camp leadership and staff, exciting trips and great activities imbued with a love for Judaism, provided the campers with summer memories that will last a long time.

Outstanding Partnership Award presented to JFS Career and Employment Services

On July 17, the Network of Community Ministries in Richardson (NETWORK) presented the Outstanding Partnership Award to Jewish Family Service Career and Employment Services.

JFS offers limited employment counseling, networking and job placement services.

Alice Mae Britt, CEO of NETWORK, remarked that, “from among the many partnerships established, Jewish Family Service has been outstanding in helping the people NETWORK serves learn to take greater responsibility in their job searches and obtain self-sufficiency through the new NETWORK Job Counseling program.”

Additionally, JFS Career and Employment Services also offers career and employment services throughout the community through collaborations such as Vogel Alcove, Metrocrest Social Services, Vickery Meadow Food Pantry, Planned Living Assistance of North Texas (PLAN) and Shared Housing Center.

Israel at the Crossroads hosted by Shearith Israel and AIPAC

Congregation Shearith Israel and AIPAC will host an interesting event, which is open to the entire community. “Israel at the Crossroads” is scheduled at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the synagogue, 9401 Douglas Ave., in Dallas. This analysis will be presented by one of the world’s leading journalists, David Horovitz. Dessert will follow.

Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel, the Jerusalem-based current affairs website that launched in 2012. The Times of Israel, which provides independent news coverage of Israel, the region and the Jewish world, is drawing a rapidly growing readership and has been welcomed for its engaging, fair-minded journalism, innovative blend of content, and elegant web-design.

Horovitz was previously the editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s English-language daily, as well as editor and publisher of The Jerusalem Report. He has written from Israel for many newspapers around the world and is a frequent interviewee on CNN, the BBC, NPR and many other TV and radio stations.

For registration information contact Jennie Loev at

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Sports values — Jewish values

Sports values — Jewish values

Posted on 14 August 2014 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2This past week, our JCC Maccabi athletes have been competing in Boca Raton, Florida with over 1,000 others. In addition, other JCC Maccabi Games are happening across the country. Next summer, in 2015, our community will be hosting the games and we are gearing up. The Games and all athletic events are wonderful times to practice important Jewish values. Here are a few with a “sports” twist to think about:

Kavod — Respect

This is one of the most important Jewish values for us to remember. In sports, there are many different people to show respect to: respect for our teammates, our coaches, our referees, our “fans” in the bleachers and for ourselves. What does “kavod” look like for each of these groups? What are the ways to show respect? Is good sportsmanship a sign of kavod? Why or why not? Showing respect and honoring those we play with makes the game a positive learning experience for all. In Pirkei Avot it says,“Who is honored and respected? One who honors and respects others.”

Shmirat Lashon — Guarding Your Tongue

This is a very important value in life and certainly in sports. The rabbis teach us so many lessons on the importance of watching our words — both the ones we say and the ones we listen to. In the heat of a game (or in the heat of anger), we often say things that we wish we could take back, but once the words are out, the damage has been done. We all know this, but it is so hard to control. Today in professional sports, there are many examples of athletes saying inappropriate things on the court or in the media. What does that say about the person who says things without thinking? Why is it so hard to control our words? Let us practice the skill of “guarding our tongue” as well as the skill of “guarding the ball.”

Dan L’chaf Zechut — Give the Benefit of the Doubt

This important Jewish value has to do with how we treat others in all areas of our lives. Today we would say it means “giving someone a break.” Instead of jumping to conclusions about why someone acted in a particular way, stop and look for the good within them. Even in sports, we are quick to judge other players (even on our own team), the refs and sometimes our coaches. Stop, think and try to look from a different view —“give someone a break.” What are some examples of this value in sports? What does it mean to judge people? Do we judge people by their clothes and other exterior things? Why?

Rodef Shalom — Seeking Peace

When involved in competition, we sometimes forget the spirit of the game. This value reminds us that even in competition we must keep the value of peace in our minds. In Hebrew, “shalom” is understood to be not the lack of conflict but the presence of a sense of well-being and fulfillment. Sometimes people feel that in sports, your opponent must be your enemy. Is that true? Why or why not? What does it mean to compromise? Can you play a game without keeping score? Why or why not? Can you compete peacefully? Sometimes when we compete, we feel upset or let down when the game is over. Let us play with the desire to seek fulfillment!

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

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This and that

This and that

Posted on 14 August 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebIt’s 100-plus degrees outside, but I’m thinking fall. In just about two weeks, the preparatory month-of-Elul shofar-sounding ritual will begin, so this is also a good time for me to start preparing for the coming New Year by clearing out my files and sharing some saved tidbits with you.

As always, so much of what I collect bears on the Shoah, which must never fade from our collective Jewish memory any more than we would excise the Exodus from our history.

Did you know that Munich, Germany, the city that Hitler dubbed the capital of his Nazi movement, is now offering Holocaust-related tours? If you ever want to go there (I don’t, but if I should do so, it will be for educational purposes only), Munich Walk can take you on its Third Reich Tour, from Feldherrenhalle, the site of Hitler’s 1923 attempted government overthrow, to Konigsplatz, where he later held his huge rallies. But maybe tourists should wait until next spring, when a new Center for the History of National Socialism will open.

A tour of nearby Dachau is already highly popular, and might actually be the most useful, since Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson recently weighed in with sobering new information about today’s ignorance of the Holocaust. Two-thirds of those questioned in ADL’s global survey responded that they’d never even heard of it, or that its history is greatly exaggerated. Gerson stresses how those who deny this history altogether strive for academic validation, and find it in classrooms like that of a California junior high whose eighth-graders were assigned this essay topic: “Do you believe the Holocaust was an actual historic event, or merely a political scheme?”

On a different note, with a startling kind of simplicity, comes a controversial book by Phil Chernofsky: “And Every Single One Was Someone.” Gefen Publishing of Jerusalem has issued this polar opposite of Yad Vashem’s towering “Book of Names”; its 1,250 pages contain only one word, repeated in small print six million times: Jew.

“These are not individuals,” says Chernofsky. “That’s how the Nazis viewed their victims. But pick any ‘Jew.’ That ‘Jew’ could be you…”

A coffee-table curiosity, perhaps? You can own one for $60 — a mere $10 per million murdered — and judge for yourself.

The examples above are not the happiest of ways to remember the Shoah, but here is one that rates a standing ovation: a modern-day orchestra created by the grandson of a man who long ago played in its Polish prototype.

Avner Yonai, who was born in Israel, found that his grandfather David Rybak was one of 11 musicians in the Ger Mandolin Orchestra of Gora Kalwaria, a small town just 20 miles southeast of Warsaw. The others died in Treblinka, but Rybak had already left this little community for Palestine in 1935. It had 7,000 residents before World War II, about half of them Jewish; when Yonai, 42, visited, he found 12,000 people with only two Jews among them. To his utter amazement, one of them was a man in his 90s who actually remembered both the Rybak family and the orchestra!

That discovery was enough to set Yonai on a search for mandolin players and old sheet music for them to play. The new orchestra gave its first concert at the Berkley Jewish Music Festival and its second in Gora Kalwaria’s old synagogue, and is now booked for an appearance at Warsaw’s new Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

This tuneful creation is providing David Rybak’s old home town with new connections to its Jewish past: Gora Kalwaria’s mayor has already gone to Israel to visit Yad Vashem, and will soon be taking local school children to learn about Treblinka.

Yonai says, “I think my grandfather would be happy we commemorate his life and Jewish community by playing the music they loved.” I say his achievement is worth its own shofar blast. What do you think?

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Back to School

Back to School

Posted on 14 August 2014 by admin

Tom Elieff becomes new head of school at Ann and Nate Levine Academy

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Returning to Dallas has been a homecoming for Tom Elieff. As the former head of the upper school at the St. Marks School, he is happy to be at Ann and Nate Levine Academy and back in the city that has meant so much to him.

Tom Elieff became the new head of school at Ann and Nate Levine Academy in July. Among his other roles have been jobs at St. Marks School in Dallas and Beth Yeshurun Day School in Houston. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Tom Elieff became the new head of school at Ann and Nate Levine Academy in July. Among his other roles have been jobs at St. Marks School in Dallas and Beth Yeshurun Day School in Houston. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Elieff, the new head of school at Levine, officially began last month. He took over for Mark Stolovitsky, who made aliyah to Israel with is wife Gail last month.

School begins Aug. 18 for the Early Childhood Center and Aug. 20 for kindergarten through eighth grade. Although Elieff said the job has already been exhilarating, he is excited for the students to come.

“To be able to see the students in action and observe things up front is amazing,” he said. “I am really desirous to see the teaching. My slogan is ‘hit the ground learning.’ I always knew about Levine when I was at St. Marks. Levine had always been in the back of my mind, but I never had the opportunity to be part of it before. I feel honored and humbled to be part of it.”

Over the last month, Elieff has focused on reaching out to different constituents, meeting with staff and even holding a team building retreat. Already being familiar with Dallas and the Jewish community here has made the transition even easier for him too, he said.

Elieff has many aspirations for Levine. His immediate objectives are to calibrate the school’s professionalism and best practices approaches; regulate the curriculum to be a model day school on both the regional and national level; and to take on a strategic plan process beginning in the fall.

“Collaboration is a big mantra of mine too,” he said. “I want to inculcate a growth mindset, which also means a professional and flexible mindset. The metaphor I like to use in schools is that we need to be the school that looks out the window and practices rather than looking in the mirror and being complacent. I really feel that schools begin to slide quickly when complacency, cynicism and entrenchment fester without an effort to challenge them.”

Elieff has been an educator since 1985 and worked at Jewish day schools for almost 10 years. After attending Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, he moved to Chicago and received his master’s in English from Northwestern University. That’s when he began taking on different teaching roles.

He taught high school English at the Lake Forest Academy outside of Chicago and also served in administrative roles there, including interim headmaster. He then moved to Dallas to take on the role at St. Marks.

In 2005, Elieff became the head of school at the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle. This was his entry point to Jewish education and he hasn’t looked back since. For the past six years, he served as head of school at Beth Yeshurun Day School in Houston.

Elieff knew Levine would be a great match for him and said he is looking forward to making an impact at another day school.

“I picked up from Levine that it has a fantastic entrepreneurial spirit and they make a big deal of multi-generational commitment,” he said. “Those are great core factors in being able to move a school forward; I care about helping schools evolve. As a head coming in, you look for investment, one much more than in dollars, but in time, talent, heart and hands. There seems to be a lot of care at Levine and that’s what’s great to be part of.”

His passion for education and fun loving attitude is what makes Elieff’s job so gratifying.

To influence a school like Levine, which has students from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, is what’s most important for him.

“My style is to be in classrooms everyday and I’m always bopping down the hallway and hanging out with kids,” he added. “I’ll always do fun things like sneak an A+ on their papers when they are in the middle of a test as a joke. Education is a fascinating field to be in and is very rewarding.”


Tammie Rapps will lead Akiba as first female head of school

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Tammie Rapps has spent most of her career working in day schools—first as a teacher, then in administration. Becoming the new head of school at Akiba Academy is the natural next step for her.

Pictured from left are Akiba’s Director of Advancement Lacey Young with new Head of School Tammie Rapps, who began last month. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Pictured from left are Akiba’s Director of Advancement Lacey Young with new Head of School Tammie Rapps, who began last month. | Photo: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Rapps assumed her new position July l. She succeeds Rabbi Zev Silver, who moved to Baltimore this summer.

As a collaborative and creative leader, Rapps said she is eager to have an impact at a school like Akiba that has such a rich history in Dallas. She has been humbled by the warm welcome she and her family have received so far from the community.

“It has been so nice for everyone to be so warm and welcoming,” she said. “Work has already been fabulous and this is a tremendous growth opportunity for me. This is a chance to make a difference in a school with a 50-year plus history that is looking toward the future and long term longevity, sustainability and growth.”

Rapps had never been to Texas before interviewing for this job and is excited to learn the culture and community. This is going to be a family affair for Rapps as well — her two younger children will attend Akiba, while her older daughter will go to Yavneh Academy where her husband, Josh, plans to teach math.

Learning is always an important part of the first year of a new job, but there is also a lot Rapps would like to accomplish from the start. She wants to strengthen Akiba’s ties with the greater Dallas Jewish community; create a sense of communal belonging on campus; engage parents in learning, while also having Akiba be a center for learning in the community; and instill in the students a love of being Jewish.

Her other goals are to enhance the science, technology, engineering and mathematics offerings; refocus a dedication to the arts; and to move Akiba into the 21st century.

“I want to learn what makes Akiba special to stakeholders,” she said. “Parents have been forthcoming with rave reviews about what they love about the school, and also where we can grow. I hope to use all of that to move forward strategically and plan for the future.”

One of the reasons Rapps is so passionate about Jewish education is because she is a product of Jewish day school. Growing up in the Los Angeles area, she attended day school and after high school, lived on a Modern Orthodox Kibbutz in Central Israel.

After getting her degree in English from Princeton University, she wanted to be a Jewish educator. She went on to study at Columbia University, finally getting her master’s in secondary English education.

Her first job was as an English teacher at Yeshiva University’s High School for Girls in New York. For the past 20 years, Rapps and her family lived in Silver Spring, Maryland and she was most recently the lower school assistant principal at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville. She also had a short stint at the magazine called Babaganewz as the teacher’s guide editor.

Rapps said she knew she wanted to be in a community that strives for excellence and has a vision for the future.

“What I love about Akiba is that the teaching here is authentic and this is what Judaism looks and feels like,” she said. “When we talk about teaching about Jewish unity, this is it, right here, under one roof learning authentic Judaism and it’s amazing.”

When school begins Aug. 18, Rapps will be found meeting all of the children, going into classrooms and taking note of the transformative power of Jewish education.

“In my brief interactions at school so far, seeing the way the children here treat and respect each other and everyone on campus is a huge sign of success,” she said. “It shows that they are carrying over the lessons they are learning in their classes to their everyday lives. I am passionate about education in general, and particularly for Jewish kiddos. With Jewish continuity and Jewish survival, education is the foundation of all of that, and that’s why the Jewish piece is so important.”

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A tribute to Ginger and the late Mike Jacobs

A tribute to Ginger and the late Mike Jacobs

Posted on 07 August 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebMendel Jakubowicz was 14 years old when Jewish life in his hometown of Konin, Poland, came to an end. He lost his parents and four of his five siblings to the gas; the last one died as a resistance fighter.

These days, so many people claim to have “triumphed over tragedy” that the words seem almost a cliche. However, when Mike Jacobs — nee Mendel Jakubowicz — used those same words as the subtitle of his book, “Holocaust Survivor,” they were filled with real meaning. He came here to Dallas and built a new life full of family and purpose. How many thousands has he educated, and inspired, by speaking out honestly about his own experiences!

Mike didn’t know much English when he arrived at the local JCC to pass on what he did know best: sports, especially soccer. But he did know enough of his new language to say, when he first saw physical education teacher Ginger Chesnick, “That’s my girl!” And so she was. Then she became more than that: His wife. His life partner. The mother of his children. Together, they grew into grandparenthood, and even became great-grandparents.

Ginger had written her own book first, about the early years of the Old South Dallas Jewish community. His came later, and no one but Mrs. Mike Jacobs could have done the job of editing the true tale of a tortured early life that turned here, in our community, into one of outstanding accomplishment. Then she organized the details of his growing career in public speaking, traveling widely with him in many U.S. states and a few other countries.

Both of the Jacobs have been Jewish Dallas builders. Ginger had her “Aha!” moment when she watched the demolition of Temple Emanu-El’s original South Dallas structure and realized it was her history being torn down. She did more than write a book to preserve it; she was a founder of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, and has been one of its most powerful voices for community preservation ever since. And Mike was one of the most outspoken leaders among the local survivors who gathered years ago to decide how the Holocaust should be remembered locally. The result was the memorial center that outgrew its early home in the JCC’s basement to become a current, much-visited museum and educational institution in downtown Dallas.

For some good reading, pick up Ginger’s book, “The Levin Years: A Golden Era 1929-1951,” at the Historical Society’s office in the JCC. And find “Holocaust Survivor: Mike Jacobs’ Triumph Over Tragedy” on the bookshelf of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance on Record Street.

Mike also triumphed by bringing to Dallas an authentic European boxcar — one that may have carried hundreds and thousands of Jews, including many more of his extended family, to their deaths. It formed the entryway to the original Holocaust Center’s site at the JCC; passing through it was an incredible experience in reality for visitors. But there was another door for the many survivors who could never bring themselves to enter such a train car again. Today, a narrated film mesmerizes those who view that same boxcar inside the Record Street site. Mike Jacobs is the one who made sure we will never forget.

In his last few years, Mike spoke less and listened more — perhaps to the voices of the Jakubowiczes of Konin, Poland, playing in his head. Surely, they were all standing together at the gates of heaven, waiting to welcome him when he passed away July 28 after a life well-lived for 89 years.

It seems especially fitting, somehow that between Mike Jacobs’ funeral service and his first memorial shiva, our entire Jewish community rallied in downtown Dallas to show its support for Israel. Jews here speaking out for Jews there; Jews here remembering Jews there who need us to stand up for them. Mendel Jakubowicz would have appreciated that.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 07 August 2014 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

The Fine Family came to the United States via Russia in the late 19th century. They settled in New York.

My grandmother was the youngest of the family, and I would revel in some of the stories that she told me of her siblings — Aunt Jenny was the oldest, there were several other sisters, and several brothers, but I have memories of Ike and Jack. Many of the siblings passed away prior to my birth. However, I do remember visiting Aunt Jenny in New York.

My grandmother had a host of nieces and nephews — who came to visit her in Texas over the years. The stories continued, and my grandmother was exceptionally proud of all of them — and she was known as their favorite aunt.

I remember the visits of cousins, although they were closer to my parents’ age. Some might have been a bit younger. I was thrilled to have more cousins — and their stories were rich with laughter and camaraderie.

Last year I was thrilled to meet cousins from Pompano Beach, Florida, Judy Fine Dobin and her husband, Danny. We are close in age and both have an interest in connecting the dots of the family history. Judy is the granddaughter of my grandmother’s late brother, Ike.

Judy and Danny are active in multiple causes of good will — they are enormous supporters of American Friends of Magen David Adom. Danny serves as its national vice chair and the couple makes multiple trips to Israel to visit cousins that I remember my grandmother talking about in her stories. Judy and Danny are remarkable and “just fine.”

Last week I sent Judy an email, to inquire about our cousins’ safety. The following is a response from Sara Fine Meltzer, the daughter-in-law of my late cousin, Saul Fine and his late son, Peter’s widow.

What follows is the unedited email from Sara Fine:

Subject: The latest war

“Dearest Family and Friends,

“First of all, thank you to everyone who has written or called to express your concern. It means a lot.

“…And now for a recap from my perspective only.

“I have to back up to the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenaged boys and one Arab teenaged boy. Sandy, you used the word “abhorrent.” Not only do I agree, but if there were something stronger, I would agree with that as well. They were horrendous crimes and no amount of political spin will ever change that reality.

“Having said that, we now have to look at what happened as a result of the horror. The perpetrators of the kidnapping have not yet been found. The perps of the Arab atrocity were picked up within two days during which time, the Palestinians staged major riots, rock-throwing and shootings (thank G-d, mostly in the air) throughout the country, culminating in the daily rocket barrages from Gaza. While the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, give proof through the night (and morning and afternoon) that Hamas is still there, the newest aspect is, of course, the tunnels through which have passed thousands of rockets, missiles and heavy artillery and ending near or underneath the houses of all the areas bordering Gaza. This, the world has discovered, is what the Gazans have been doing for the last nine years since Israel left the area. All of the money that was supposed to have gone for education, economic development, and infrastructure has indeed gone into infrastructure, but hardly the kind that most of the investors, save the Iranians and the Qataris, envisaged.

“My heart goes out to the people of Gaza who have been terrorized by their own leaders. An example: when Israel pulled out of Gaza and forced all the Israelis living in Gush Katif to leave their homes, they also left the most modern and up-to-date greenhouses which provided a lot of the income for those residents. Instead of using them, Hamas saw to it that they were destroyed.

“It has also been reported in the news — at long last — that Hamas has been using its Mosques, hospitals, and schools to warehouse their rockets. Prior to Israel’s retaliation in Gaza, the place was blanketed with flyers (literally) telling the inhabitants to leave their homes and to get out of harm’s way. Hamas told them to stay put. You have to wonder what goes through their heads.

“After about 12 days of the sirens and my grandchildren being locked up in their houses (we have between 15 seconds and a minute to find shelter), Jonny called and begged us to get them out of the neighborhood as the children were going nuts. Same for Batie’s children. (sic) Since Jonny has six children and a little car, Aviv and I had to be part of the plan. So we found a place up north and took them away for four days, enough time to calm them down and get some uninterrupted sleep. A real favorite for air-raid sirens is two in the morning, or thereabouts.

“Two days after the rockets started down here, the Hezbollar party (sic)up north and Asher was called up for reserve duty.Because the army didn’t have time to process his papers, he did not go in as a doctor but was told to report to his combat unit. Now, all of this uniforms, boots, etc. were down here in Beer Sheva, but they told him they’d find stuff for him. So he takes off in sandals, shorts and a tee-shirt. “Stuff” turned out to be a gun. When he called and I expressed worry that he didn’t even have a helmet and that could prove dangerous, my ever-funny son said that the only danger he faced was getting a sunburn!

“He has now been released to go back to the hospital where he is interning.

“How can I answer the question about ‘life going on as usual’? Life does go on, but surely not as usual. Batie and I have been ushered to safe areas in the mall; we’ve been caught at stop lights when one is required to get out of the car, lock it and make for the nearest building. On one occasion, Aviv, Batie and I couldn’t get to a building, so we did as instructed: lie down on your stomach with hands over your head. And, of course, getting to my computer and being able to sit long enough to write to everyone has been far beyond possible.

“As of the last news, Israel is committed to blowing up all of the tunnels and working on some kind of political solution guaranteeing that Hamas will not show up in someone’s living room with a plan to massacre the family. Good luck on that one to all involved.

“The true tragedy is of how little consequence Gaza is to all of its Arab brethren. The Egyptians never wanted anything to do with them; the non-Hamas Palestinians would be delighted to have them disappear. Their supporters are the fanatics in the Arab world and, of course, the always delightful, Vladimir Putin who can be counted on to support all the ‘good’ guys in the world.

“So here we are, again, trying to protect this tiny piece of land we call Israel and the people who live in it. I know of no Israeli who does not want the Gazans to have a life, but by the same token, we do not want it to be only at our expense.

“There’s something weird with my computer, I notice, so I can’t correct the sentence above in situ, so here goes: Two days after the rockets started down here, the Hezbollah joined the party…The rest is OK.

“I’m sure that most of you heard about the American boy who came to live here on his own and was killed last week. Thirty-thousand people, probably 99 percent of whom didn’t know him, came to his funeral only to show respect and to demonstrate that no soldier who dies for this country was really ‘on his own.’ This, too, is our nation despite all the bad press.

“I will hope for some quiet for all of us in this region and hope, too that the leaders of Hamas, all of whom have been far, far away and out of the country almost since this thing started, will finally begin to care about their people and not annihilating ours.

‘With love to all.


We have all watched the news coverage on many stations. In my mind, I am proud of Israel and the strength and fortitude of our people. Enemies have fought unfairly to rid the planet of our people since biblical times. It is my wish that the flame of hope and the sounds of our prayers — that our enemies will cease and desist and although it may sound like a fairytale that everything with our support and additional prayers will someday be “just fine.”

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Fostering compassion

Fostering compassion

Posted on 07 August 2014 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2One of the most important Jewish values is “empathy — rachamim” and one of the best ways to teach it is by modeling.

Rachamim, the Hebrew word, is usually translated as compassion. As we acknowledge other people’s feelings, thoughts and experiences, we feel compassion for them — we identify with them and want to help them, which is also called empathy.

Psychologists tell us that compassion and empathy begin to develop in the first years of life. In fact, scientists assume that we are biologically wired for these feelings. Yet, we must also teach our children to be empathetic and compassionate.

Rabbi Wayne Dosick in “Golden Rules” says:

“You can teach your children that a good decent, ethical person has a big, loving heart when they feel you feeling another’s pain, when they know that you are committed to alleviating human suffering.

“You can teach your children that a good, decent, ethical person has big, open hands when they watch you give of your resources — generously and often — and when they watch you give of the work of your hands — willingly and joyfully.

“You can teach your children that a good, decent, ethical person can fulfill the sacred task of celebrating the spark of the Divine in each human being and the preciousness of each human being when you teach them to imitate G-d who is “gracious, compassionate and abundant in kindness; who forgives mistakes, and promises everlasting love.”

Family Talk Time

  • What does it mean to be kind to a friend? What does it mean to be kind to an animal?
  • Think of a time when someone hurt you. How did it feel?
  • Try to “put yourself in someone’s shoes.” What does that mean? How does it help us to understand others?
  • Tell about Rabbi Tanchum of whom it is said, “When he needed only one portion of meat for himself, he would buy two; one bunch of vegetables, he would buy two — one for himself and one for the poor.” How could you do this in your family? Make a promise to think of others when grocery shopping — buy a second portion of something for the food bank.

Today as we read and hear sad stories from around the world, we question how much to share with our children and that is an individual family matter. We also must look inside ourselves to not only feel empathy toward those who are suffering and struggling but to decide how we can act to help others.

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

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