Archive | January, 2015

A seat at the Dallas Dinner Table

A seat at the Dallas Dinner Table

Posted on 29 January 2015 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebYears ago, my very first class in graduate school ended with an unusual special event. The professors — a husband-and-wife team visiting for a semester from another university — decided to update the old Greek “symposium.”

The word first referred to a social event hallmarked by lots of conversation and exchange of ideas, accompanied by much heavy-duty drinking! Our profs called theirs a “souposium,” and since that wouldn’t have worked in our classroom setting (neither, by the way, would the drinking thing!), our last meeting was in a private home. Mine. I made the soup, a hearty vegetarian brew. The recipe was courtesy of my daughter-in-law, whose maternal grandmother had once been a food writer for a Jewish weekly. Accompanied by good bread, our meal was a success, as so was our final conversation and idea exchange.

All that came back to me with a special glow of remembrance as I took part in the Dallas Dinner Table, a Martin Luther King Day event that brings together small groups of people, pre-mixed to represent a variety of ages, backgrounds, races, religions and sexual orientations, to exchange ideas on one of the most pressing issues of our time — intergroup relations.

Somewhere, there’s a committee that sets all this up. I don’t know who those people are, but I sure wouldn’t want to have their task: I understand there were almost 70 Dallas Dinner Table sites on MLK Day this year, with some volunteer hosts feeding more than one literal table. Each of them had a pre-assigned, balanced contingent of diners as described above, and a facilitator for the important discussion, which had written rules, including “Suspend Judgment and Focus on Learning.”

My “souposium” memory surfaced because the group I attended met in an office building housing a very non-traditional Christian church, and the buffet spread was salad, bread and lots of soup. I could tell the church members were young, idealistic and “green” simply by the menu: The half-dozen crockpots included standard vegetable, Thai, lentil, potato, etc., some marked “vegan,” one marked “gluten-free,” all the rest plain old vegetarian. And there was also a sense of humor in the house; a pot with a dish of white meat slices in front of it had another label: “With chicken — NOT vegetarian!”

But the soup (with or without chicken) was not the meat of the evening. An icebreaker preceded taking our plates to our places (seven participants at each of three tables); everyone got a sheet with an open-ended sentence, and we all went about asking people to fill in the blanks in their own various ways. These “questions” included such current hot topics as recent police headlines, and such enduring old chestnuts as having friends of different backgrounds and reactions to interracial marriages.

The time was 6 to 9:30 p.m., and it flew by before any of us realized. We never introduced ourselves formally, only by the first-name badges we wore, but we all knew each other very well when the soup had been consumed and the evening was over. There was a Chinese girl on my right, a young attorney who mentioned an Irish background to my left, a black woman across from me whose appearance wouldn’t cause anyone to look twice, and a black fellow next to her with lots of corn-rowed hair that would be an attention-getter anywhere. Our facilitator was one of the oldest people at our table; she told about her experiences when, as a young African-American from a tiny Texas town, she started college at SMU.

Dallas Dinner Table began a long time ago, took a break for a while, then resumed again last year in this somewhat more structured form. If you’d like to share your thoughts and learn about those of others, be sure to sign up next year. (Don’t wait if you want the recipe for Boubby Flora’s Vegetable Soup — pareve, unless you add chicken. Just let me know!)

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 29 January 2015 by admin

By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn

Marc Stanley and family host Alan Gross and Bonnie and Harold Rubinstein for brunch at The Legacy

Marc Stanley and family hosted recently released hostage from Cuba, Alan Gross, and his sister and brother-in-law, Bonnie and Harold Rubenstein, for brunch at The Legacy Willow Bend last Sunday.

Family and friends were also in attendance.

While there, Gross was presented with the last pieces of art work that his late mother, Evelyn Gross, a former Legacy WB resident, created in the Legacy workshops that she participated in prior to her death.

Harold Rubinstein, Alan Gross and Bonnie Gross Rubinstein with Evelyn Gross’ art

Harold Rubinstein, Alan Gross and Bonnie Gross Rubinstein with Evelyn Gross’ art

Marc Stanley, Wendy Stanley, Alan Gross, Harold Rubinstein, Jack Hillebrand, Bonnie Gross Rubinstein and Cindy Stanley

Marc Stanley, Wendy Stanley, Alan Gross, Harold Rubinstein, Jack Hillebrand, Bonnie Gross Rubinstein and Cindy Stanley

Jody Dean to speak at the World Wide Wrap Sunday, Feb. 1

The men’s clubs of Dallas’ three Conservative synagogues will join together at Congregation Beth Torah Sunday, Feb. 1, for the World Wide Wrap.

The annual event, founded by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs and celebrated around the world, helps perpetuate the Jewish tradition of putting on tefillin for morning prayers. Members bring their children to minyan to teach them about the mitzvah of tefillin and demonstrate their importance in morning prayers.

In Dallas, the World Wide Wrap rotates among Anshai Torah, Shearith Israel and Beth Torah, which is this year’s host.

Services begin at 9 a.m. and will be followed by breakfast and an inspirational talk by Jody Dean, the longtime journalist and broadcaster who currently hosts the morning show on KLUV.

The event is free and the public is welcome. Beth Torah is located at 720 W. Lookout Dr. in Richardson, near the crossroads of Bush Turnpike and Central Expressway. For more information, call the synagogue at 972-234-1542.

Congregation Tiferet Israel to hold Tu B’Shevat Seder and Shabbat dinner

Tiferet Israel Congregation will hold a Tu B’Shevat Seder and Shabbat Dinner at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 6 immediately following Kabbalat Shabbat services, which begin at 5:30 p.m. In addition to a traditional Tu B’Shevat program, a representative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee will give a special presentation.

This event is open to the public at a cost of $18 per person over the age of 13, $5 for children ages 3 through 12, and children under 3 are free. RSVPs are required. Please contact the Tiferet Israel office at 214-691-3611 to make reservations or with any further questions.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. JDC works in more than 70 countries, including Israel, to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters. For more information, visit www.JDC.org.

Jennifer (Jen) Berman is delighted to be representing the JDC at Tiferet’s Tu B’Shevat Seder. She works for JDC Entwine, the young adult division of JDC, where she supports JDC Entwine Learning Networks for young adults in NYC, DC, Boston, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and London. Additionally, Jen has staffed a number of JDC Entwine global immersive experiences for college students to communities throughout Europe and Israel.

Temple Shalom Brotherhood fetes Mary Pat Higgins with Shalom Award

The Temple Shalom Brotherhood is showing its appreciation to Mary Pat Higgins for making a difference. The Dallas Holocaust Museum will be honored in addition to its president and CEO, Higgins, who has taken the Museum to new heights in its mission to teach crucial lessons of humanity. The event will take place on Feb. 8 at the Intercontinental Hotel, Dallas. For additional information, please contact Temple Shalom.

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A complicated Saudi succession

A complicated Saudi succession

Posted on 29 January 2015 by admin

By Gil Elan

elanforwebAs of this writing (Jan. 27) President Obama is leading a delegation of some 30 politicians, advisors, business leaders, etc. on a short condolence visit to Saudi Arabia to honor the late King Abdullah and meet the new King Salman. Should be simple, dignified and straightforward, right? I’m sure that that’s the way this highly choreographed event will look on TV. But…

The problem is that in the discordant and conflicted House of Saud, where the real battle of succession and influence has only started, the traditional declaration, “The king is dead, long live the king” is somewhat inaccurate.

According to many Middle East experts with ties to the Royal Family, King Salman is suffering from advanced stages of dementia. That is why King Abdullah, shortly before he died, appointed his younger half-brother Prince Mukrin to the position of “Deputy Crown Prince.” When Salman became king the “deputy” was dropped from Mukrin’s title.

But according to the latest reports — King Salman (obviously being handled by family members close to him) has already started the process of removing Mukrin and other Abdullah appointees in favor of his own sons and grandsons. This is understandable, sort of, since it brings the royal bloodline back to the “full” Sudeiri faction of the family, which was cut off when Abdullah became king. Neither he nor Mukrin are sons of Hassa al-Sudairi (hence the “half-brother” moniker). Hassa was the favorite of the 22 legal wives of the Kingdom’s founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, and the mother of six of the last 7 kings. Salman is the last of the “Sudairi Seven.”

King Abdulaziz had 36 sons that survived to adulthood and numerous daughters (though the exact number was never logged…). The fact that the “Sudairi Seven,” thanks to their powerful mother and her family, held on to the centers of power (and extreme wealth) never sat well with the other princes and their clans. Infighting has always been an issue. According to observers, the calm surface of national mourning is hiding a bubbling undercurrent of factional and clan regrouping, deals, threats and agreements that will continue for some time.

Israel will be monitoring these developments. It is no longer a secret that for some years now Israel and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed an excellent relationship based on common regional interests (peace process) and threats (Iran). The feeling in Israel is that regardless of which clan or faction eventually takes over or retains the reins of power, there is no reason to believe that these mutually beneficial ties will change any time in the near future.

As for relations with the U.S., which are very strained right now, that would depend on three issues:

1. The U.S. standing by its “red line” commitment to stop Iran’s nukes.

2. The U.S. supporting the Asisi regime in Egypt.

3. Which faction or clan actually ends up in power, since various family factions have been developing independent relations with Russia, China, and even extreme Islamist groups, particularly al-Qaida, Taliban, Hamas and ISIS.

We will certainly be watching, and analyzing exactly who was in the room when President Obama met with Salman Tuesday, Jan. 27, in what order they were introduced and who actually spoke.

Remember, in the Arab tradition, symbolism and gestures can speak louder than words.

Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.

Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: gil@swjc.org. Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org. DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 29 January 2015 by admin

Many thanks to Laurie James, who penned this week’s column while I was in Israel.

Looking to make an Impact this summer?

For 19 summers, Camp Impact (housed at Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington) has provided underprivileged children in Arlington and surrounding areas with a meaningful, fun summer camp experience. Camp Impact’s counselors are youth from the NFTY and BBYO programs from Arlington, Fort Worth and Houston. Last weekend, CBS held a Shabbaton, where youth interested in being prospective counselors got together for fun, worship and a little planning.

Many of the campers participating in the program are homeless, and would not have the opportunity for campership. Our youth are the camp’s counselors, and their families and donors provide all the transportation, activities and meals for a week’s worth of camp.

Lance Friedensohn, the camp director, says that Camp Impact is really interested in attracting more counselors from the Dallas area. Although the campers are bussed in daily, the counselors stay at the camp site in Duncanville. Camp Impact will run the second week of June, just before Jewish camping season starts! For more information, or to donate, contact Lance at or 214-676-3636 or Friedensohn@gmail.com.

LEFT: The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo donated enough food to make 5000 sack lunches. Social Action Chair Laurie James is pictured with some of the items. RIGHT: The youngest Day of Service participant was 3-year-old Eli Krochmal.

LEFT: The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo donated enough food to make 5000 sack lunches. Social Action Chair Laurie James is pictured with some of the items.
RIGHT: The youngest Day of Service participant was 3-year-old Eli Krochmal.

Beth-El Social Action Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

In partnership with Tarrant Churches Together, Beth-El Congregation’s Social Action committee held the first-ever Sackapalooza for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Tarrant Churches Together has held an annual countywide event for the last five years. Last Monday, over 150 community and congregational volunteers gathered in Beth-El’s Great Hall to assemble sack lunches for the day workers who staff the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. Jews, Presbyterians, Mormons, Baptists and Methodists worked together for about two hours. For many of our visitors, it was clearly the first time they had been in a synagogue. Dr. Michael Ross led a tour of the sanctuary and the chapel after the work was done. The oldest volunteers were in their 80s. The youngest was 3. Anyone can make a difference!

LEFT: Sandy Hollander, Beth-El Congregation Board President Eddie Feld RIGHT: Donor Brunch Chair Anna Caplan, Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein and Julie Lazarus

LEFT: Sandy Hollander, Beth-El Congregation Board President Eddie Feld
RIGHT: Donor Brunch Chair Anna Caplan, Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein and Julie Lazarus

WRJ Donor Brunch features a food lover’s paradise

The annual Women of Reform Judaism Donor Brunch at Beth-El Congregation was a great success, thanks to Anna Caplan and her team! This year’s theme: Eat, Drink and Be Generous. Attendees were treated to lunch catered by Louise Lamensdorf (formerly of Bistro Louise). Anna rounded up several local restaurateurs, who provided tasting stations. WRJ’s brunch helps raise $10,000 for camperships and other local causes.

The Federation’s highly successful Kornbleet Scholar event last week at Congregation Ahavath Sholom featured Dr. Ariel Feldman, the Rosalyn and Manny Rosenthal Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Jewish Studies Program at Brite Divinity School. Pictured from left to right are Dr. Feldman, Federation Event Chair Dan Sturman, Congregation Ahavath Sholom Rabbi Andrew Bloom, Federation Executive Director Bob Goldberg and Beth-El Congregation Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger.

The Federation’s highly successful Kornbleet Scholar event last week at Congregation Ahavath Sholom featured Dr. Ariel Feldman, the Rosalyn and Manny Rosenthal Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Jewish Studies Program at Brite Divinity School. Pictured from left to right are Dr. Feldman, Federation Event Chair Dan Sturman, Congregation Ahavath Sholom Rabbi Andrew Bloom, Federation Executive Director Bob Goldberg and Beth-El Congregation Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger.

News from the Federation

The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has a lot going on, according to Executive Director Bob Goldberg.

First, the Federation’s Tu B’Shevat event Feb. 3 celebrates the Jewish New Year of the Trees. This community program, held at Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington, will feature a spiritual seder led by Stephanie Zavala and Israeli dancing led by Ben “Astaire” Weiger. This community event is supported by the DDJCC/FWHDS Supporting Foundation.

Second, summer camp scholarships are available! Jewish summer camp is a special experience for our youth, and the Federation allocates funds from the Annual Campaign to each of the Fort Worth congregations for summer camp scholarships. If you are interested in taking advantage of this Jewish experience scholarship for your children this summer, contact your congregation for more information.

Third, Federation Foundation has made available 10 scholarships worth $750 each for Tarrant County Jewish athletes who qualify for the Dallas Maccabi Games set to take place in August. For tryout dates and time and other information please go to www.dallasmaccabi.org.

Finally, the Federation’s 2015 Annual Campaign kicks off next Sunday. Watch your mailboxes and inboxes for more information to come in the weeks ahead from Vice President, Campaign Chair Lon T. Werner. This year’s goal is to raise $950,000, to support these and other good works!

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Remembering Bess

Remembering Bess

Posted on 29 January 2015 by admin

By Ben Tinsley
TJP Staff Reporter

DALLAS — The first and only Jewish Miss America. Civil rights advocate. A 1950s-1960s television personality. Politician. Consumer advocate.

The late Bess Myerson, who received the Miss America crown in 1945, forever changed the cultural landscape.

She was the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants who was raised in the Sholem Aleichem Houses in the Bronx. Myerson would grow up by virtue of the Miss America crown to inspire generations of Jewish people and women of all backgrounds, said Marvin Blum, member of the board of directors of the Miss America Organization.

Bess Myerson was the first and only Jewish Miss America. | Photo: KVIE.org (Public Television)

Bess Myerson was the first and only Jewish Miss America. | Photo: KVIE.org (Public Television)

“She was a modern-day Queen Esther,” Blum said. “They referred to her as ‘Beauty With Brains.’ She clearly was one of the most beautiful of all Miss Americas in history. She just happened to be Jewish, too. I have done a lot of research on her over the years and am so fascinated by her.”

Blum said Myerson worked hard to make her accomplishments.

“She lived a roller-coaster life,” he said. “It wasn’t always smooth for her and how could it be? To not have problems? Someone who came from where she came from? There clearly was turmoil because there were people who went after her. But she was a superstar. A rock star in my book.”

Sarah Seltzer, New York journalist, said she grew up constantly hearing Bess Myerson’s name from her progressive Jewish family.

“She was a source of pride not just as the only Jewish Miss America, but as an advocate against discrimination who refused to change her name, and had both brains and beauty,” Seltzer said. “Her story was complex and it’s been fascinating to learn more about her very American, very Jewish life in the wake of her death.”

Laura Miller, a former Dallas mayor, journalist and Bess Myerson fan, said Myerson changed the world forever.

“Bess Myerson is someone whose unprecedented accomplishments really inspired other women to want to become leaders,” Miller said. “Anytime we have a first anything, for instance a first black president, many hundreds of thousands of words are written about the impact, encouraging future generations of Jewish people to run for office.”

Blum said Myerson’s memory means quite a bit to the Miss America program and the Jewish people.

“Roll your mind back 70 years,” Blum said. “World War II was just ending; we were seeing evidence of concentration camps, and skeletons and corpses and juxtaposed against that … here comes this raving beauty. She was 5-foot-10. Gorgeous. Raised in the Sholem Aleichem houses. She came from nothing. Her father was a house painter. And her sister secretly entered her in the Miss New York City competition. She wins and goes to Atlantic City to compete further and (her star power) is clear to everybody.”

Both Blum and Miller consider a chief Myerson defining moment to be, as Seltzer said, when she refused the request of beauty queen officials to change her name to something “non-Jewish.”

Instead, Myerson resisted the pressure, lifted her chin and stood tall, they said.

“Here is this 21-year-old woman who essentially came from poverty but she has the strength of character to resist the pressure and say ‘I’m keeping my name because if I win, the people at Sholem Aleichem must know it’s me,’” Blum said. “She understood that winning was not for her but for the Jewish people struggling for a symbol of hope — saying ‘We survived.’”

Myerson was as intelligent and savvy as she was beautiful, people said. There’s an anecdote about Myerson having trouble fitting into the bathing suits pageant officials provided her with. One was too large and the other too small.

“So her sister, who was bigger than her, slept in the smaller suit to stretch it and it ended up fitting her perfectly,” Blum said. “She won the swimsuit category with that competition.”

Blum said as Miss America, Myerson was very outspoken. Her stance as a proud Jew essentially changed the stature of the office she held. She made use of this change when she embarked on a national speaking tour — during which she spoke on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League as a champion for equality.

Miller said Myerson’s message of hope for the Jewish community at the time was wonderful and inspiring.

“I think it was a very important message to send after the war and the Holocaust,” Miller said. “I think it helped to ease the anti-Semitism in the country to see a beautiful Jewish woman who was multitalented and cerebral win a national award like that. Between her pictures and what was revealed about the death camps, those two things had more to do with our country becoming more tolerant of different people.”

Miller said even after Myerson won the Miss America title, she still had to suffer the effects of prejudice: She was banned from certain hotels because of existing anti-Semitism while on her tour.

LEFT: Bess Myerson as Miss America | Photo: LATimes.com CENTER: As a consumer advocate | Photo: Life Magazine, 1971 RIGHT: In her later years | Photo: USAToday.com

LEFT: Bess Myerson as Miss America | Photo: LATimes.com
CENTER: As a consumer advocate | Photo: Life Magazine, 1971
RIGHT: In her later years | Photo: USAToday.com

But she kept moving forward.

“She was very involved in the Anti-Defamation League, she was proud of being Jewish and she was not tolerant of those who were not tolerant of her and her community,” Miller said. “She had that kind of character that really resonated with a Jewish woman like myself who so many years later competed in the political arena.”

In essence, Marvin Blum said, Bess Myerson was the “first activist Miss America.”

“Really, she transformed the image,” Blum said. “She continued to pursue a career in public life after her year as Miss America.”

However, before she did that, the Hunter College graduate used her Miss America scholarship to continue her education and complete her graduate studies in music at The Juilliard School and Columbia University, Blum said.

“She used her Miss America scholarship to pay because she had no money to finish her education and then embarked on her remarkable career,” he said.

As Miss America she toured the country, standing against anti-Semitism and racial bigotry. The year after her term as Miss America expired, she continued to speak out for the Anti-Defamation League in conjunction with the NAACP and the Urban League.

Because of her beauty and intelligence she became a popular television personality. In 1951, she was mistress of ceremonies for “The Big Payola,” was a panelist on “I’ve Got A Secret” and appeared in multiple episodes of Allen Funt’s “Candid Camera.”

She was commissioner of Consumer Affairs for New York City from 1969 to 1973, and was named as the architect for the consumer protection legislation. On the July 16, 1971 cover of Life Magazine, she was titled “A Consumer’s Best Friend.”

But that wasn’t quite the end of it. Myerson’s commitment to public service continued when former New York Mayor Ed Koch appointed her commissioner of Cultural Affairs.

Then came “the Bess Mess.” In the late 1980s she was part of a bitter divorce when she was swept into a federal conflict-of-interest investigation with two others and indicted on charges including bribery, conspiracy and obstruction.

While waiting for her trial, Myerson was arrested for shoplifting in a Pennsylvania department store. She pleaded guilty and was fined.

She and the other two were later acquitted, but the entire investigation damaged her reputation, effectively ending her time in the public eye. She spent the rest of her life in seclusion.

Her accomplishments also include being founder of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York and establishing the Bess Myerson Film and Video Collection. She supported the Guild for the Blind, the Hebrew University for Cancer Research and SHARE, as well as the Ovarian Cancer Program. In honor of her good deeds, she received many distinguished presidential appointments from former United States Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

It should be noted that Bess Myerson survived ovarian cancer in the 1970s. She also made a full recovery from a mild stroke she suffered in 1981.

She died Dec. 14 at her home in Santa Monica at age 90. Myerson’s death was not publicly announced until January.

Myerson was married three times, two of which ended in divorce, and is survived by daughter Barra Carol Grant Reilly.

Blum said he has always held Myerson on a pedestal because of her incredible accomplishments.

“You know, she not only elevated the Miss America organization, she elevated women — all women and all Jews,” he said. “She shattered stereotypes. We at ‘Miss America’ are so very proud of her.”

Blum said Myerson became an overnight celebrity because she was Miss America and this gave her the springboard to become a woman who could make an incredible difference in the world.

“The Miss America organization was forever changed,” Blum said. “Miss America is now a champion for issues of importance like AIDS, bullying and sexual abuse. Miss America now stands for important issues. She is the National Goodwill Ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network. All this traces back to Bess Myerson and the impact she had when she was crowned.”

Veteran journalist Ben Tinsley is the staff reporter for the Texas Jewish Post. He can be contacted by email at bent@texasjewishpost.com or by cellphone at (702) 524-3773. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BenTinsley, Google at http://plus.google.com/+BenTinsley or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.

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Can our prayers change God’s will?

Can our prayers change God’s will?

Posted on 29 January 2015 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

I’m trying to understand to what extent one has the ability to affect the desire of God through their prayers. The follow-up questions are, naturally, “How?” and “How much?”

I find myself thinking about how Leah apparently cried herself to a point of becoming visually impaired because she didn’t want to marry Esav, and lo and behold! She got to marry Yaakov.

Is this entire question chutzpadik? Am I meant to have enough belief and trust that the desire of God is perfect and only wonderful for me anyway, so accept it?

Thanks,
Hadassah

Dear Hadassah,

friedforweb2Allow me to rephrase your question, as I believe it is a very deep one, fit for us to focus our thoughts upon. We, as Jews, believe that whatever God does to us and for us is for the good — not only for the good but it’s the absolute best thing for us, whether we perceive it to be so or not (which is usually the case). Our puny, myopic perspective of the trees doesn’t come close to the Al-mighty’s towering perspective of the forest, the big picture, in which many things which seem to be the greatest calamities are in truth, from the perspective of eternity, literally the best thing that could happen to us. In this world we may never understand how this is so, especially with regard to specific tragedies or even non-ideal situations. Only in the next world will we be shown the entire reel of the video of history and will it become apparent to us how all that transpired, nationally and individually, was part of a bigger picture, the Master Plan of the Al-mighty.

This being our belief, how do we reconcile the mitzvah of prayer, through which we beseech God’s will to change the present situation? Why would we even want to change God’s will, if He allows us to do so through prayer, if we believe His will is the ultimate good?

I think the answer is that we don’t change God’s will through our prayers; rather, we change ourselves to connect with His will in a different way, and then our judgment changes because we have become someone else. That’s one reason the Hebrew word for prayer, tefillah, comes from the word v’yefallel, which means to judge; we can judge ourselves and our relationship to God through our prayers and, with a new level of connection, change our judgment. It is true that we have complete faith that what is happening to us is for the best. But if what’s happening doesn’t feel very good, the precept of prayer teaches us that we truly do have a way to change things and what’s best for us can become something very different.

Leah understood prophetically that she was meant, as the elder sister, to be wed to Esau, who was the elder of the two brothers. When she became aware of what Esau represented and how he conducted himself, she could not accept that her future held a life with such a personality. Leah poured her heart out in prayer to such an extent that even physically she became a different person, and her soul was elevated to new plateaus, thereby changing her destiny to merit to wed Jacob.

How is it that a person changes through prayer? On the surface it certainly seems that we are the same person before and after we pray with and additional mitzvah added to our spiritual profile; in what way are we different?

Judaism defines life in terms of our connection to God. One can go through life exercising all the biological functions of life and be considered spiritually dead if their existence is purely physical. It’s quite difficult to be that far gone, but it can happen. There are infinite levels between that and the prophet who is living an open and obvious connection to the Al-mighty.

When one realizes their situation needs Heavenly intervention and turns their heart Heavenwards, that heart and soul become connected on a deeper level; in essence that new connection reveals a new, deeper and more spiritual person, who has transcended the need to be in that previous situation and can now enjoy the fruits of a very different judgment.

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

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 22 January 2015 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Bagels at your bowl party

The Ladies Auxiliary of Congregation Ahavath Sholom has cooked up an innovative fundraiser for Super Bowl Sunday: Big Game Bagel Boxes. For $18 per box ($20 if delivered) the shul will put together half a dozen freshly baked plain bagels, plain and salmon cream cheese and a small babka. Orders must be received and paid for by Jan. 25 for pickup at the shul between 11:30-1 p.m. Feb. 1. ZIP codes for delivery are 76109, 76133 and 76132 only. To order, send your cash or check payment, name, number of boxes, phone number, address (if delivery) to CAS, 4050 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth, TX 76109. Don’t forget, orders and payments must be received by Jan. 25.

Enjoying the House of Shmooze are, from left, Doris Smith, Mark Abramowitz, and Kathy Oliver.

Enjoying the House of Shmooze are, from left, Doris Smith, Mark Abramowitz, and Kathy Oliver.

Chattin’ it up at House of Shmooze

Thank you to Larry Steckler who provides us with this report from House of Shmooze.

It may have bitter cold and there may have been icy roads outside, but in Ahavath Sholom’s House of Shmooze in Fort Worth, it was warm, cozy and filled with the music of Barry McDaniel and his guitar.

Once a month the entertainment hall at Ahavath Sholom transforms into a newly born nightclub, the House of Shmooze opens its doors with music, coffee, snacks and fun.

On Saturday evening Jan. 10, Barry McDaniel, guitar in tow, entertained as congregants sat and listened enthusiastically to his music and songs.

A $5 contribution brought about 30 folks in to enjoy the musical evening while sipping on hot coffee and snacking on popcorn, pretzels, cookies and other treats.

This was the third affair at House of Shmooze, and followed a one-woman musical play about an adopted woman looking for her birth mother (November 2014), and a performance by the Gold Tone Choir last October.

On Feb. 21, the House of Shmooze will become a disco with music for dancing the night away. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the music will start promptly at 7 p.m.

The entire town is invited to join in for an evening of music, dancing and schmooze.

A $5 contribution gets you in the door. Coffee, cold drinks and snacks are $1 each.

Call Larry Steckler at 817-927-2736 and make your reservation today or email him at lartronics@aol.com.

Daytimers enjoy a piano duet by Sandra Doan of the left and Jacques Marquis.

Daytimers enjoy a piano duet by Sandra Doan of the left and Jacques Marquis.

Cliburn team well received by Daytimers

The Cliburn came to visit with and entertain the Beth-El Daytimers in Fort Worth. The Cliburn group was led by their president and CEO Jacques Marquis along with Sandra Doan, director of Artistic Planning and Kay Howell. After lunch, they presented an exciting and entertaining presentation about the Cliburn and its competitions, including video clips and photographs. They also shared details of many of their other programs and insight to the newly announced junior competition.

After tackling and responding to the many questions that were posed by the Daytimers who attended, everyone moved from the Grand Hall to the Chapel where they listened to a duet as Marquis and Doan sat down at the keyboard and kept their rapt audience entranced.

On Feb. 11, the Daytimers will meet in the Grand Hall for lunch catered by Subway and then car pool to the Fort Worth Science Museum. There, they will tour the exhibits, sit in on an Omni film and perhaps enjoy a showing at the planetarium. Reservations are a must as a minimum group is required. Call Larry Steckler at 817-927-2736 for full details or leave your email and he will send you a flyer about the event.

Total cost will be $21 for lunch, museum admittance, Omni and Planetarium. If you wish to skip lunch — $15 each.

Larry tells me there must be a minimum of 15 reservations by Feb. 4, so please make your reservation as soon as possible.

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Unintended Consequences

Unintended Consequences

Posted on 22 January 2015 by admin

By Gil Elan

elanforwebOn Sunday a small convoy of unmarked civilian vehicles traveling near the Israeli border on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights was destroyed by air-to-ground missiles.

According to eyewitnesses two drones were seen crossing from the Israeli side before the attack and returning afterward. Other reports claimed an Israeli attack helicopter fired two missiles at two vehicles, killing several Hezbollah and Iranian military personnel, including commanders. Here is what has been now been confirmed.

According to Hezbollah, the vehicles were attacked by missiles from Israeli aircraft and several Hezbollah senior commanders and fighters were killed, including 25-year-old Jihad Mughniyeh — son of Imad Mughniyeh, the legendary former Hezbollah chief of operations who was killed in Damascus in 2008, when the headrest in his car exploded. Hezbollah has always blamed Israel for the murder.

His  son Jihad was being groomed by the Iranians and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nassralla to follow in his father’s footsteps. Just a few months ago Jihad was appointed commander of the Hezbollah forces on the Golan, and was preparing attacks against Israel.

Among the Iranian officers killed was Revolutionary Guard Corps General Mohammed Ali Allah Dadi. He was a senior expert on missile deployment and was sent by Iran to mentor Mughniyeh and work with him on building an Iranian missile infrastructure on the Golan Heights against Israel.

Both Iran and Hezbollah blame Israel for the attacks and promise dire retribution: “These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts,” Revolutionary Guards’ chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted Jan. 20 as saying by Fars news agency. This, Mohammad Ali Jafari said, will be “a new beginning point for the imminent collapse of the Zionist Regime.”

“The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime. We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics.”

While Israel has officially neither confirmed nor denied that it was responsible, in an interview this week with Reuters, a “senior Israeli security source” left little doubt. The Israeli source confirmed that Israel carried out the strike. Asked if Israel expected Iranian or Hezbollah retaliation, the source said: “They are almost certain to respond. We are anticipating that.”

“We did not expect the outcome in terms of the stature of those killed — certainly not the Iranian general,” the source went on to say. “We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence.” “We got the alert, we spotted the vehicle, identified it was an enemy vehicle and took the shot. We saw this as a limited tactical operation.”

Troops and civilians in northern Israel are on heightened alert. Roads near the border have been closed as convoys of artillery and tank units can be seen heading north. Iron Dome rocket interceptor units have been moved from the center and deployed near the Syrian border.

But will this evolve into a full-scale “Third Lebanon War”? I doubt it. Iran and Hezbollah have too much to lose and nothing to gain. The estimated 150,000 medium and long range heavy missiles that Iran today controls in Lebanon and that can certainly do serious, if not catastrophic damage to Israel are the only insurance policy it has left against an Israeli attack on its nuclear weapons program.

Israel has made it clear that they will be immediately destroyed during the first hours of the next war.

Yes — Iran and Hezbollah will without a doubt try to avenge Sunday’s attack, but it will probably be against Israeli and Jewish targets overseas, preferably in the U.S. were they get the added bonus of humiliating the “Great Satan.”

Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.

Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: gil@swjc.org. Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org. DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.

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Circle Theatre consults with Jewish community on production of ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’

Posted on 22 January 2015 by admin

By Ben Tinsley
TJP Staff Reporter

FORT WORTH — Representatives of Circle Theatre are working closely with members of the local Jewish community to perfect the details and nuances of “My Name is Asher Lev,” the Aaron Posner adaptation of Chaim Potok’s 1972 novel about a boy whose passion to become a painter comes into direct conflict with his Hasidic upbringing.

The play, which runs Jan. 29 through March 7, is exclusive to Fort Worth’s Circle Theatre, 230 W. 4th Street. It is directed by Dr. Harry B. Parker, chairman of the theatre department at Texas Christian University, and stars Sam Swanson as Asher, David Coffee as The Men and Lisa Fairchild as The Women.

Rose Pearson, Circle Theatre’s executive director, said Rabbi Sidney Zimelman has agreed to coach the cast to ensure members stay faithful to the culture, and the spirit of both the play and the original book.

“It’s good to have someone who can check our research and make sure we have all the right information going in,” Pearson said.

Pearson said Maddie Lesnick, president of the Circle Theatre Board and a former president of Beth-El Congregation, recommended approaching Zimelman, whose background is very similar to Asher Lev author Chaim Potok.

Pearson added that members of Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth have bought out the theatre the evening of Feb. 28 for temple members. Remaining seats will be available to other members of the Jewish community. Those interested in purchasing tickets for the evening should contact the Beth-El office at 817-332-7141.

Running 90 minutes with no intermission, the play follows (in the words of Circle Theatre) “the journey of a young Jewish painter who is torn between his Hassidic upbringing and his desperate need to fulfill his artistic promise.

“When his talent threatens to destroy his relationship with his parents, young Asher realizes he must make a difficult choice between art and faith. This stirring adaptation of a modern classic presents a heartbreaking and triumphant vision of what it means to be an artist.”

According to Dr. Parker, the production is a memory play, meaning the audience will experience the past as recalled by the narrator, which presents certain challenges for the performing cast.

“A memory play is not specifically realistic,” he said. “The character is about 30 but is playing scenes in which he is 6, 7, 12 and 15-years-old. He is bouncing around in time and in his memory. So we want a specific cultural setting that presents what is happening in an artistically truthful way.”

Dr. Parker said in this regard, accurate pronunciations of Hebrew phrases and Yiddish words become very important.

“We want to suggest the appropriate culture,” he said. “We want how they react to be realistic.”

Zimelman, meanwhile, spoke to the cast and did a Skype interview with playwright Aaron Posner early last week. As Zimelman explained to them, he was a budding young artist himself and completely understands the struggle that character Asher Lev goes through.

“Rabbi Zimelman is very accomplished and was told when he went into yeshiva ‘no more art,’’’ Lesnick said. “It’s difficult when anyone with a special commitment and talent doesn’t have the support of his family and his community.”

Zimelman agreed wholeheartedly. Like Asher Lev, he said, he at one point wanted to be an artist and spent much time working on his art.

This didn’t sit well with his father, who had sent him away to study Torah. His father forbade him to continue.

Zimelman complied. But deep down, he said, he always wanted to become a rabbi.

Also, Zimelman said he personally knew Potok, who died in 2002 at age 73.

“He was a member of my congregation in Flatbush [Brooklyn] in 1965,” the Zimelman said. “I went to school with his brother and we had similar interests.”

The director said he and members of the cast have read the novel and have extracted nuances from the core work they are working into the play.

“I read the book and am currently reading the sequel, ‘The Gift of Asher Lev,’ ” Dr. Parker said. “It is a treasure trove of background information. The novel itself is longer and more complete than this 90-minute stage version and there are times when something happens in the novel the adapter didn’t have time to work into the stage version. But it helps the way we approach a scene or cultural moment. Rabbi Zimelman helps us with that by sharing the experiences of his personal life — those parallels with Asher Lev.”

Ultimately, Pearson said the cast is working off an incredible script for this opportunity. They are the only theater in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex allowed to use the script.

“We feel very fortunate we were selected to do it because I know a lot of theaters wanted it,” she said.

To inquire about the play, visit http://circletheatre.com/shows/asher_lev.

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Making sense of a painful loss

Making sense of a painful loss

Posted on 22 January 2015 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

We have been in tremendous pain the past few weeks over a miscarriage we suffered in the sixth month. It’s hard to describe the sense of loss, and we can’t help but feeling it was so senseless; why would God put us through all that anticipation and both physical and emotional suffering for nothing? We’re hoping you can offer some comfort.

— Sandy and Larry

Dear Sandy and Larry,

friedforweb2I can empathize with you from experience what that feels like, for the woman even more than us men, but it’s sufficiently difficult for us as well. The best I can do for you would be to share a very beautiful letter written to a mother who went through a similar loss by a leading rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Wolfson:

(from “Service of the Heart” by Rabbi Moshe Wolfson ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

“I would like to express a number of thoughts which I hope will, to a certain degree, ease your situation. It is possible that my words will offer you nothing new, but my feelings of sympathy impel me to try…

In heaven there is a Heichal HaNeshamos, a Sanctuary of Souls, the source from which all the souls come. The Final Redemption will not come until all souls have left this Sanctuary and descended to this world (see Yevamos 62A).

“Each soul has its own unique mission to fulfill in this world, and is allotted the life-span necessary to fulfill that mission. Some souls belong to a very exalted class. They are of such a sublime nature, so holy, sparkling and brilliant that they simply cannot bear to exist in this world for even a short time. However, they too must leave the Sanctuary of Souls so that it will be emptied, and for other reasons known only to Hashem.

“And so Hashem chooses a particular couple that will draw such a soul down to this world. It departs its place near the Throne of Glory and is immediately placed in an environment in which it is at home– an environment which is Divine in nature. A woman who is with child carries within herself not only a child, but an entire Garden of Eden as well. A flame from the hidden light of Creation shines above the child’s head, and by that light the child sees from one end of the world to the other. A heavenly angel learns the entire Torah with the child. All this occurs with every Jewish child.

“However, those special souls of which we have spoken cannot bear to separate themselves from their sublime existence by living in this earthly world. And so they are spared this discomfort and are returned to their Father in Heaven, having fulfilled their mission by leaving the Sanctuary of Souls, and residing within their mother, thus bringing the world one step closer to the Final Redemption.

And what of the mother, who had endured, hoped, and in the end was so terribly disappointed? She is of flesh and blood, and her feelings are understandable.

“However, in loftier moments, in moments when her intellect can overcome her emotions, the mother can free herself of her earthly thoughts and share in the elation enjoyed by her soul. Then she will become infused by a feeling of true joy — the joy of a wealthy person who takes reckoning of all his business endeavors and sees that his profits far outweigh his losses.

“She has merited to have had as her guest a pure, holy soul accompanied by a Divine light, a heavenly angel, and a heavenly Torah. The Master of the Universe had created a beis medrash, a study hall, for this soul within her. And when this soul left her, some of the holiness that had entered her remained, and will not leave her for the rest of her life. She has merited to bring Moshiach’s arrival closer by offering a sacrifice for this purpose. She is not left with a mother’s usual compensation; all that she has endured has been for the sake of Hashem and His people, not for her personal joy and satisfaction. She has served not as a worker who awaits immediate payment, but as a loyal soldier, who is ready to suffer wounds in battle, if necessary, solely for the glory of the King…

“One should realize that the term “miscarriage” is not found in the believing Jew’s dictionary. The term implies that one’s efforts have ended in failure that all has been in vain. This is incorrect, for when a Jewish woman becomes pregnant, it is never in vain. Moreover, a child will merit techiyas hameisim, resurrection of the dead, even if its time with its mother was short-lived (see Igros Mosh, Yoreh De’ah III, 138).

“May the Master of the Universe grant you nachas and good health. May you merit to bring into this world and raise healthy children and grandchildren who will toil in Torah study and mitzvos. May you and your husband derive much joy and satisfaction from your family and together escort your children to the chuppah with joy and feelings of gratitude to the One Above.

May you, along with all of the Jewish people, merit to greet Moshiach — whose arrival you have brought closer.”

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

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