Archive | October, 2015

Planning for end of life tough, necessary topic

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

By Ben Tinsley
bent@tjpnews.com

FORT WORTH — It’s easily the most important conversation that no one wants to have.
Planning for death isn’t the cheeriest of topics. But preparing folks for it — pre-planning, time of death, mourning rituals and post-death family support — is one of the most sacred tasks of the clergy.
And it is for exactly that reason that the Advance Care Planning Committee of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has put together a symposium: “A Time To Talk: A Jewish Community Conversation about Advance Care Planning” for Nov. 15 at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road.
“This is a first for our community,” explained Cantor Sheri Allen of Arlington Congregation Beth Shalom. “It’s a groundbreaking effort because this is a subject people aren’t anxious to talk about. … We would do anything for our loved ones, and this is literally one of the most important things we could ever do for or discuss with them.”
People die unexpectedly all the time, and their passing catches loved ones off guard, both emotionally and financially, the cantor said.
“Sitting down and discussing what has to be done is not necessarily a gloom-and-doom conversation,” Cantor Allen said. “It’s something we need to reflect on.”
The planning committee for this event comprises members of four Tarrant County Synagogues: Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El, Beth Shalom and Beth Israel, she said.
Cantor Allen said the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has also played a major part in this planning, and has bequeathed a very generous grant to the process. (This event leads the Federation’s online list of suggested early registrations.)
“In addition, we currently have 10 sponsors, all from organizations who cover many aspects of elder care and advance care planning,” Cantor Allen said.
The symposium will host various guest speakers who specialize in issues relating to advance care planning — together with a clergy panel:

  • Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Congregation Ahavath Sholom;
  • Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger and Assistant Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein of Beth-El Congregation;
  • Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel; and
  • Cantor Allen.

Rabbi Mecklenburger said the symposium is designed to help a great many people with a very difficult subject.
“The Tarrant County Jewish community should be grateful to Cantor Sheri Allen, the Jewish Federation and the Advance Care Planning Committee,” Rabbi Mecklenburger wrote in an email. “Too many of us wait until the last minute to make end-of-life plans for our loved ones and ourselves. But Judaism and the synagogue world are always there to be supportive, and a little learning can alleviate a lot of stress.”
Members of the panel will be present to discuss and instruct on writing advance directives, making medical decisions within a Jewish framework, financial and estate planning, patient and caregiver support, and how Jewish ritual can help navigate this journey, Cantor Allen said.
“This is a sacred conversation about quality of life and what we can do to maintain it under any circumstances,” she said. “Advance care planning is about making important health care decisions for ourselves and our loved ones now, so we are prepared for the future.”
Further questions about the symposium can be directed to Cantor Allen at 817-229-5140 at cantorsheri@gmail.com.
The Sunday, Nov. 15 event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at Beth-El Congregation. The cost is $18 per person — $25 after Nov. 9.
The fee also includes a light breakfast, a boxed lunch, a workbook and a resource guide.

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Children’s questions can spark lively talks

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

By Rabbi Dan Lewin

My eight-year-old stayed home from school last Friday, claiming he was sick. So later that day, I brought him with me to run errands. As we pulled up to my bank’s ATM, our first conversation began with his question:
“Wow! How come the bank always gives you money for free?”
“It’s not for free. It’s my money.” I explained. “I just give it to the bank to hold.”
“Oh OK,” he said. “I didn’t know that … How did that idea (banking) start?”
“Ask your grandfather.” (My father’s an economics professor.)
A few minutes later, a new question floated in, and caught me off guard:
“How did God create himself?” he asked.
“Well, God is not a human being, a creation, like us.” I began.
“Yeah, I know,” he interjected, “but I mean it’s impossible to always exist …”
“Great question! Keep thinking about that idea…” (I.e., to be continued.)
Getting home-schooled in introduction to economics and Judaism is not such a bad substitute for school while playing hooky.

Fundamentals

There are some questions that children ask that reflect a keen mind, a curiosity to discover the surrounding world. Other more existential questions — like the one mentioned — follow us into adulthood and last a lifetime. Even if such topics are impossible to fully fathom, or confined to belief, they are important enough to be asked, re-asked, and explored.
What does a creator of the universe imply? Was this creator always there? Twenty people can claim to have faith in a higher power, while all meaning something different. The first of the Ten Commandments, according to Maimonides, is to address and clarify belief, a distinctly Jewish value. Indeed the Hebrew word for faith, emunah, shares a common root with “to exercise/train.” Like a craftsman who trains his hands, faith must be cultivated and clarified through ongoing critical analysis.
For this reason, daily declarations of Shema Yisrael serve as short reflections, reminders that the Jewish notion of a creator transcends time and nature yet is intimately involved within the details. As the mind probes the limits of our understanding, one is aroused with wonder, awe and appreciation.

Introducing the first Jew

This week’s Torah reading centers on an individual who began with elementary questions, then pushed his mind to clarify the notion of a first cause, a singular supreme being who sustains all of creation. Abraham is commonly referred to as the first Jew. As he grew up in a pagan world, his conclusions stood in opposition to all those around him.
It was a lonely task, met with hostility and trials from the onset. He is described as the Ivri (Hebrew), which the commentaries explain to means “to be on the other side” — to stand alone against the world.
His claim to the title of original Jew is often taken for granted. Upon closer examination, however, it is not so simple: Biblical figures before Abraham — such as Noah, and Shem, and Adam — also acknowledged and had a relationship with this creator. What then distinguishes Abraham?

Kindness and expansion

One of the most basic answers is that he was the first to discern God by virtue of his own intellect. His philosophical investigation preceded any revelation. And after his vision, he chose not to be an insular scholar and prophet. While Noah stood by his ark and nurtured his family, Abraham was a leader who took his message to the world.
He and his wife Sarah spread their knowledge, attracting followers who took the journey with them. They cared for humanity and attempted to change the world for the better, a pioneer in tikkun olam. Abraham was the king of hospitality, constantly looking to host people in his tent, to serve them food and perform kindness.
Even more notable was his compassion and concern for civilization, finding full expression this week in the famous dialogue where he pleads with God not to destroy the city of Sodom. He sees as his task, as his descendants the Jewish people have seen as their task, the need to help even the wicked. It is these character traits, perhaps, that define him as the first Jew.

Merits versus promises

Other commentators take a radically different approach, moving in the opposite direction. It was not his merit, they argue, that made him unique, but the fact that he was the person to whom God made promises.
However noble one’s spiritual quest, however profound one’s intellectual discoveries, the parameters of the mind are limited; one will always get stuck when trying to grasp the complete infinite nature of a creator. What set Abraham apart — the real connection to the creator — was not his initiative or discovery (or even the self-sacrifice to publicize his beliefs, or help others). His spiritual closeness took place when the process was initiated by the creator and fulfilled through the deed.
For this reason the Torah’s tale of Abraham begins without description of his virtues; it begins with the communication — “And God spoke to Abraham: ‘Go from your land … and I will make you into a great nation …’” It continues with the command of circumcision, and culminates in complete obedience, against all logic, seen in the binding of Isaac.

Thought, speech and action

By the end of his life, all Abraham’s faculties — from faith, intellect, emotions and actions had become attentive to the divine purpose, as a horse follows the direction of its rider. This ultimate accomplishment, termed “a chariot,” set him apart.
It is interesting to note that our inheritance comes with a change in sequence: Abraham first recognized his Creator (thought); then he spoke to people about it (speech); and finally circumcision (deed).
From the time of Sinai, we work backward: For example, a baby enters into the covenant of circumcision, begins to inquire and discuss (speech), and eventually develops more sophisticated understanding (thoughts). Either way, the lesson involves a “holistic” soul search, where no question is left untouched and all faculties of a person are engaged in the mitzvah.

Rabbi Dan Lewin is the director of the non-profit Maayan Chai Foundation. He hosts the Sinai Cafe, a series of weekly Torah study at the Aaron Family JCC and in the community. For more information visit www.maayanchai.org.

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‘Angel of Ethiopia’ raising funds in Dallas

‘Angel of Ethiopia’ raising funds in Dallas

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

Photo: Rick Hodes Dr. Rick Hodes helps Ethiopian children find surgery and post-operation care, which can cost as much as $18,000.

By Ben Tinsley
bent@tjpnews.com, @bentinsley

DALLAS — Renowned physician Dr. Rick Hodes, an Orthodox Jew, has easily saved thousands of lives during his many years in Ethiopia.
Dr. Hodes was in Dallas last week to raise money for the surgery necessary to prevent his Ethiopian patients from suffering further curvature, chest compression and even early death from cases of severe scoliosis or kyphosis (extreme rounding of the back) due to tuberculosis or birth defects.
But such surgery doesn’t come cheap. Each one costs as much as $18,000 — including transportation, the surgery and post-operation care.
Dr. Rick Hodes, originally from Syosset, Long Island, is the medical director of Ethiopia for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and has been a physician protecting the health of the 70,000 Ethiopians immigrating to Israel over the years.
“That’s 1 percent of Israel,” Dr. Hodes said.
Hodes was a guest of John and Kathy Ward while in Dallas. He started his local fundraising effort at the Rotary Club of Dallas Wednesday, Oct. 21 and the DFW World Affairs Council on Oct. 22.
“I have a whole history with Dallas,” the physician explained during a Friday, Oct. 23 phone interview. “I came here with my son Dejene, who graduated from Yavneh Academy. He’s an abandoned orphan I adopted in Ethiopia. He’s with me here with two spine patients who are going to be operated on at the Medical Center of Plano next week.”
Hodes’ legendary medical accomplishments have been cited in the TJP, in other news reports, in books and on film.
Michael Geller, director of Communications & Media Relations for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), made a point of heralding Dr. Hodes’ visit.
“His work is supported by numerous Jewish philanthropists and JDC board members in Dallas,” Geller said in an email.
After the doctor finished his Dallas visit and departed for New York, his son reported the local fundraising efforts had thus far been met with great enthusiasm.
“They always love to hear him speak,” Dejene Hodes said. “I don’t know how much money has been raised right now but I know events went well.”
Dejene acknowledged his father has been described as an “angel” by many grateful patients.
Some rabbis have even gone as far as to describe Dr. Hodes as one of the Lamed-Vavniks or the Tzadikim Nistarim, his son said.
Mystical Hassidic Judaism, as well as other segments of Judaism, holds that at all times in history there are 36 righteous people who wander the earth unknown to everyone else, including one another.
“A few rabbis came to me and said, ‘You know your dad is one of the 36.’ The world kind of enlivens and functions because of them,” Dejene Hodes said.
These 36 are said to be critical to the existence of humanity, because the anger of Almighty God is held back from the earth as long as they exist.
Dejene said he can understand why the rabbis think so highly of his father: What he has accomplished is nothing short of dazzling.
“The stuff he does is just amazing – there is no other way to say it,” Dejene said.
The 21-year-old Dejene owes quite a bit to his father. He suffered from tuberculosis of the spine when younger and his father arranged for him to have corrective surgery at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in 2002. He was 8 at the time.
After Dejene graduated from Yavneh, he went to Israel for a year to take advantage of a gap year program. He then returned to the States for a year of engineering at a small school in Boston but elected to pursue business in Ethiopia.
“At the end of the day I want my home to be in Ethiopia,” he said. “But I work for my father when he needs me to do something. His work is more important than any business.”
Dr. Hodes currently is senior consultant at a Catholic mission helping those who are sick and destitute. He treats those with cancer as well as spine disease — both TB and scoliosis — and heart disease — both rheumatic and congenital. He has also worked with refugees in Zaire, Rwanda, Somalia, Albania and Tanzania.
“I’m an observant Jew and we are helping some of the poorest, most vulnerable people on the planet,” Dr. Hodes said. We are helping them get good health care and turning their lives around. That is a wonderful thing.”
Dr. Hodes has overseen the medical care for tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews, also for cases of cancer, heart disease, and spinal conditions.
Michael Geller said as part of JDC’s nonsectarian work in Ethiopia, Hodes is an attending physician at Mother Teresa’s Mission.
Because Dr. Hodes works with those suffering from heart disease, diseases of the spine, and cancer, “he manages programs which ensure Ethiopians receive vital heart and spine surgeries in Ghana and India,” Geller said.
He is a graduate of Middlebury College and University of Rochester Medical School, and was trained in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins.
Hodes first went to Ethiopia as a relief worker during the 1984 famine. He returned there on a Fulbright Fellowship to teach internal medicine, and in 1990 was hired by the JDC.
In 1991, Dr. Hodes actively contributed to Operation Solomon — which helped the Ethiopian Jews being airlifted to Israel.
In 2001 Hodes adopted two Ethiopian children, one of them Dejene Hodes. He put both on his insurance plan so they could be treated for spinal tuberculosis in the United States. Dr. Hodes has adopted five children from Ethiopia.
He has been awarded “Mastership,” and the Rosenthal Award for “creative practice of medicine” by the American College of Physicians.
There have been movies and books documenting his work:

  • The HBO documentary, Making the Crooked Straight
  • The Marilyn Berger book, This Is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes
  • Bewoket: By the Will of God, the story of a courageous young boy finding Dr. Rick Hodes and getting a second chance at life

In 2007, he became a finalist for CNN Heroes, a program that highlights ordinary people for their extraordinary achievements.
Dr. Hodes, who is in internal medicine, is not a surgeon — but he works with surgeons. He said the best spine surgeons in the world are in Ghana, so that’s where he sends his patients.
“When our spine program started in 2006 we had 20 new spine patents,” he said. “By 2014 we had 400 new spine patients. Today, I have 360. That’s a lot of patients.”

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Selfish interpretations can ruin agreements

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

In his classic 1950 movie Rashomon, legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Korosawa tells a story about witnesses and participants in a murder and rape that give alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same crime.
I was reminded of that movie after the announcement of the details of the P5+1 Iranian nuclear “agreements” by the various negotiators. Based on statements and subsequent actions by all the interlocutors, it’s clear that the 109-page text of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) has undergone major changes in favor of Iran, as demanded by Iran’s supreme leader, especially in the areas of sanction relief, inspection, verification and military development and acquisition.
With Europe, Russia and China already fully open for business with Iran, contrary to the agreement, it seems like everyone has a different version of what was actually agreed on.
This brings me to the freshly minted Temple Mount Understanding, which is supposed to help stop the current wave of violence in Israel.
It won’t.
Background: The current violence started with the incitement of Palestinian president Abu Mazen and several Muslim preachers who falsely claimed that Israel was planning to change the 1967 “Status Quo” arrangement regarding the Temple Mount. The Status Quo states clearly that:

  • 1. Custodianship of the whole upper level Herodian compound, including the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, is in the hands of the Jordanian Waqf — The Islamic Holy Trust committee under the authority and administration of the King of Jordan.
  • 2. Israel is responsible for security and order, in coordination with the Waqf.
  • 3. Jews and Christians are strictly forbidden from praying anywhere on the compound, though they can visit during open hours.

The Western Wall, like all the supporting walls Herod built around the Temple Mount, is not part of the Status Quo.
So what is the Temple Mount Understanding?
After a marathon series of phone calls, John Kerry flew to Jordan last Saturday for meetings with King Abdullah ll and Abu Mazen. After consultation with Netanyahu, Kerry said that Israel had accepted a proposal by Jordan’s monarch, custodian of the Al-Aqsa compound, for round-the-clock monitoring by cameras.
According to Reuters, Kerry said that such surveillance “could really be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity” of the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa site. There was no immediate comment from Abbas, though Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Abbas had told Kerry “that he should look into the roots of the problem — and that is the continued occupation.”
Speaking to his cabinet Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel “has an interest in cameras being deployed everywhere on the Temple Mount” to refute claims that it is changing the status quo.
“The Temple Mount will be managed as it has been until now. The visits by Jews to the Temple Mount will be maintained, there will be no change to the status quo,” Netanyahu stressed.
According to The Associated Press, Netanyahu said such surveillance on the plaza — where stone-throwing protests against Jewish visits often break out — would also “show where the provocations are really coming from” and thwart them from the outset.
Saeb Erekat, ignoring the fact that the Jordanians will be installing the cameras and the Waqf will be monitoring them said: “He (Netanyahu) wants to install cameras in order to monitor and arrest our people; he is lying and lying.”
Azzam Khatib, director of the Jordanian Waqf, the religious body that runs the site, said the footage would be streamed on the Internet “so the world would see what is going on inside Al-Aqsa.”
A U.S. official said Israeli and Jordanian technical officials would discuss who would conduct the video monitoring. No date for consultations was announced.
But just monitoring what happens 24/7 on Temple Mount, especially with Jerusalem’s cold and windy winter setting in, will do very little to stop the everyday lone-wolf terrorist attacks, incited and provoked by religious and secular leaders and social media, that continued this week unabated throughout Israel and the territories, far from the Temple Mount.
Just hours after Kerry’s announcement, the yet unsigned Temple Mount–Al-Aqsa “Understandings” were already being “understood” differently by the different sides, just like the JCPOA.
I hope I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the “Rashomon Syndrome” is becoming a deliberate strategy tool of U.S. foreign policy, replacing “red lines” and “unbreakable” commitments.
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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Dallas Doings: Book, DJCF, Levine alumni award, veterans

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Over the summer, Dr. Brian Cohen sent me his recent book, By Her Side: Standing by Your Partner Through Breast Cancer Therapy. When I received the book, I set it aside with the promise of coverage in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I’ve finally picked it up, and I believe it’s an important read for anyone who is facing or has faced breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter.
Cohen has lived in Dallas over 30 years and has a thriving medical practice in obstetrics, gynecology and infertility.
When his wife, Rose, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Cohen was faced with the realities all spouses face when they are hit with such news. In By Her Side, Dr. Cohen shares his emotions, thoughts and reactions related to dealing with the diagnosis, treatment and recovery. He charts the couple’s journey, because as he went through the process, he learned that many couples don’t survive a breast cancer diagnosis intact and there are few resources out there for husbands.
“I am well aware than many relationships are broken up within a year of their diagnosis and feel strongly that this book may assist others in their commitment and strength to be solidly and unconditionally beside their partners through each of the many difficult treatment hurdles. Hopefully, at the end of the days, your partners, with your help, will have the most complete and successful treatment,” he writes in the preface.
In addition to sharing the emotional side of his experience, Dr. Cohen doles out many tips to assist patients and their families with recovery from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Through the eye of a physician, these nuggets are aimed at the best quality of life for the loved one going through treatment.
The book is a good resource for those going through a breast cancer — or any cancer for that matter — medical crisis.
Dr. Cohen writes, “The last thing a woman needs during treatment is a wavering, unsure, scared and strained mate. It is difficult to stand by someone you love at this time. But perhaps one’s behavior, solid care, and support can help her muster the energy and confidence for whatever next insult or injury is inherent in the new therapy that must be implemented to beat the disease.”
By Her Side is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online book retailers.

DJCF’s innovative fund helps veterans

The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation has become known for creating specialty funds based on based on individual interests. One fund was created by the Foundation’s Professional Advisory Committee to help ease the transition for returning veterans back into civilian life. The Protect the Protectors Veterans Fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation shows our country’s veterans that their sacrifice was appreciated and will never be forgotten.
At the recent 20th annual Professional Advisors Seminar, the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation presented its first award of this fund to Camp C.O.P.E., which helps children from military families. Camp C.O.P.E., which stands for Courage-Optimism-Patience-Encouragement, provides weekend camps across the country free of charge to families of military personnel, teaching them how to cope with their changed world due to deployment, injury, or loss of a family member as a result of their service in our country’s military.
The DJCF takes pride in their diversity of funds that helps all different populations and causes; funds that help families affected by cancer to assisting Ethiopian students in Israel are yet two more examples. For more information, visit djcf.org or call 214-615-9351.

Levine Alumni Achievement Award

In celebration of its 36th Anniversary year, Levine Academy is introducing the Alumni Achievement Award. This prestigious honor will recognize exceptional achievement by a Solomon Schechter/Levine Academy alum in any field, vocational or voluntary.
To nominate an alum of Solomon Schechter/Levine Academy, please complete the online form which can be found in the alumni section of the Levine Academy website at levineacademy.org.
The recipient will be announced later this school year and will be presented with this award at the 36th Anniversary Gala honoring Rabbi Ed Feinstein, to be held on Sunday, April 3, 2016.
For further information, please contact Melissa Gendason, director of Advancement at Levine Academy, at 972-248-3032 x114.

Anshai Torah to honor Veterans

Congregation Anshai Torah will honor, recognize and thank veterans at a special program from 7 to 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 8 at the synagogue, 5501 West Parker Road in Plano. Beginning with a Color Guard Ceremony by JWV Harvey J. Bloom Post 256, this event will recognize all veterans, followed by a musical tribute by the 20-piece Dallas Upswing Band.
Light refreshments will be included for $5 per person. Please RSVP at hazakcat@gmail.com or mail check to Hazak c/o Congregation Anshai Torah, 5501 W. Parker Road, Plano TX 75093.
Please RSVP by Monday, Nov. 2. For more information, please contact Allen Kufert at adkufert@gmail.com.
Hazak, Anshai Torah’s program for members 55 and over, sponsors the program.

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Forgiveness isn’t an easy chore

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

During a recent meeting of a synagogue study group, the discussion turned to apologies and forgiveness.
This aftermath-of-Yom-Kippur question was: How can God forgive us our sins against others if they have refused to accept our apologies? Even after three tries, that burden still hasn’t been lifted from us. I listened quietly, thinking back to a recent Rotary Club meeting at which one of our members, a Baptist minister, enlightened us with the attitudes he presents to his congregation about both matters at hand.
Forgiveness is not, he told us, the same as a pardon. And it is not a decision about who was right and who was wrong in the situation being addressed. The person being asked to forgive doesn’t need to excuse his petitioner for any wrong committed, and need not promise forgetting. (I remember visiting the site of Japan’s infamous Changi Prison in Singapore, now a museum testifying to horrors of World War II other than our own Holocaust, where this line penned by a surviving woman is prominently displayed: “I will forgive,” she wrote, “but I cannot forget.”)
When the wronged person says “I forgive you,” she or he makes these promises: not to dwell on the incident or talk to others about it; not to bring it up again to be used against the petitioner, and — probably hardest of all — not to let it get in the way of a future interpersonal relationship.
In order to earn forgiveness, the petitioner must offer an apology containing these elements:

  • acknowledging that the person she is asking has been hurt in some way
  • telling what she is asking forgiveness for, which means specifying both her attitudes and actions concerning the matter
  • accepting its consequences
  • and, finally, promising a future change of behavior in similar situations.

Only then should the petitioner actually ask for forgiveness. But she must be aware that there is always the possibility that one of the consequences to be accepted is a refusal by the person being asked to forgive.
My minister friend spelled the process out on a simple chart that looks like this:
On (insert date, time, place as appropriate), I (here, specifically name the offense).
I know, and I acknowledge, that I (hurt you, caused you pain, or whatever expression is most honest).
I realize that I will have to accept the consequences of my actions.
In the future, I will (specify how she or he will alter his/her behavior) in order to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
And only then, ask: Will you please forgive me?
Completeness, he says, is crucial: “Be sure to confess your entire contribution to the incident. Remember: Even if you are responsible for only 10 percent of the conflict situation you’re trying to resolve, you are 100 percent responsible for your 10 percent!” And he adds that a “transactional” forgiveness must actively involve both the offender and the offended; there is always the unfulfilling possibility that the offended will actually forgive in his/her heart, but the offender will not even know about it.
My minister friend concluded his “homily” to Rotary with this reminder: “Every conflict, no matter how hard or painful it is, offers an opportunity to be a peacemaker, and to strengthen relationships by asking for and granting forgiveness.”
It seems to me that if no forgiveness is sought, no apology offered, the person charged at our High Holy Days to set things right with his/her fellows is not doing as the season demands; such avoidance is an ineffective strategy of escape.
But the person asking forgiveness always faces the possibility that the answer received may be “No.”
So we’re advised to try three times, after which, I sincerely believe, God acknowledges the effort by shifting the burden of the hurtful commission from the one asking to the one refusing. My Baptist friend has helped me find this Jewish answer to the sincere question raised in our study group!

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How to handle Halloween

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,
The beginning of the school year is filled with so many wonderful beginnings. For a Jewish school, we add all the holidays that come one upon the other without a minute to spare. We have been so busy! And now, the holidays have ended, ALMOST…
Each year, I make sure to comment on a very special “American” holiday. Oct. 31 is a holiday that we do not celebrate at most Jewish schools. Halloween is not a Jewish holiday and although the religious aspects of the day have been long forgotten. Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day, which also was called All Hallows’ Eve.
All Saints’ Day had its origins in 837 C.E. when Pope Gregory IV ordered the Church to celebrate a day in honor of all saints. Over time, the holiday focused on witches, death, skeletons, etc. Today, however, the day is very much an American experience for most of us. The roots of the day have long been lost yet the debate among Jews continues.
Rabbi Daniel Gordis, in his wonderful book Becoming a Jewish Parent (which I highly recommend), raises a number of issues but says: “In the final analysis, what we do about Halloween may not be important. How we think about it, how we talk about it, and what our kids’ reactions to the issue tell us about their identities — those are the crucial issues about which we ought to think and speak very carefully.” Rabbi Gordis questions: “If not participating is going to make our kids resent being Jewish, are we doing enough to fill their lives with positive Jewish moments, with a deep sense of identification, with supportive and loving Jewish community?” We want our children to have a positive Jewish identity and we, the adults in their lives, need to think and plan for wonderful Jewish moments to create memories and reasons to be proudly Jewish.
How you choose to handle this holiday is a family decision but I do have my yearly recommendation. On Nov. 1, RUSH to every store that sells costumes and get great ones for dress-up and especially for Purim — our time to dress up!! The sales are fantastic!
Shalom…from The Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family JCC.

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Daytimers, Baum speaks

Daytimers, Baum speaks

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

Photo: Daytimers Five happy Daytimers chatting before lunch. From left to right: Sylvia Coffey, Barbara Schuster, Rita Hoffman, Cathy Olivier (standing), and Ceil Canter

By Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Photo: Daytimers Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger (left) and Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis (right) enjoying their lunch

Noa Baum will be the featured speaker at the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Community Thank You event at 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 8 at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, 4050 South Hulen St.
Baum is an award-winning storyteller who performs internationally. She works with diverse audiences ranging from The World Bank and prestigious universities to inner city schools and detention centers.
Born and raised in Israel, she was an actress at Jerusalem Khan Theater, studied with Uta Hagen in New York City and holds an M.A. from New York University. Baum offers a unique combination of performance art and practical workshops that focus on the power of narrative to heal across the divides of identity. In a world where peace is a challenge in the schoolyard and beyond, her work builds bridges of understanding and compassion.
Baum performs and teaches internationally, highlights include:

  • The World Bank
  • The Mayo Clinic
  • U.S. Defense Department
  • The Kennedy Center
  • Hebrew University in Jerusalem
  • AARP
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Fabula Festival, Sweden
  • Limmud UK
  • Jewish Theological Seminary, New York City
  • George Washington University Law School
  • Brandeis and Stanford universities.

She is a winner of a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award and a Storytelling World Award and recipient of numerous Individual Artist Awards from Maryland State Arts Council and Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County.
Baum has lived in the United States since 1990.
For more information, contact Angie Friedman, 817-569-0892.

Daytimers enjoy Rabbi Geoff Dennis’ presentation

Thank you to Larry Steckler, who filed the following report on behalf of the Daytimers, a program of Beth-El Congregation with support from the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis filled the Great Hall at Congregation Beth-El in Fort Worth, as more than 30 Sylvia Wolens Daytimers gathered to hear his illustrated presentation titled “Vampires, Witches and Commandos, Oy Vey!”
Many of the early comic book superheroes, starting in the 1930s and continuing into the 1960s, are the bearers of Jewish tropes, mostly of a sociological nature, but also religious. There are multiple “Jewish subtexts” that have been identified in association with these characters and their stories.
Not needing a microphone, Rabbi Dennis enthralled his audience with a very different illustrated presentation that followed the path of Lilith, the first wife of Adam, through the stories and illustrations used over the years in the comic book world.
After reading Rabbi Dennis’ article in the Spring 2014 edition of Shofar, an interdisciplinary journal of Jewish Studies, the Daytimers committee asked Rabbi Dennis to be its Halloween speaker.
He was a hit, evoking laughter, surprise and applause as he made his program a huge success.
On Nov. 11, Daytimers will gather to hear Professor Jim Riddlesperger. He will analyze the Nov. 3 election results. He will also present his thoughts about the 2016 elections that are creating so much news as the two major parties continue their debates.
Without making predictions, he will, in his knowledgeable fashion, share what he thinks is going on and what he thinks might happen between now and November of next year.
Reservations for the event Wednesday, Nov. 11, can be made by calling Larry Steckler at 817-927-2736.
Lunch will be catered by Subway and a choice of Roast Beef, Tuna, Turkey Breast or a Cold-Cut Combo (all turkey-based meats) will be available.
Hot coffee, iced tea, cookies and snacks will also be served. Cost is $9 per person. If you do not care to have lunch the fee is $5 for the program. Those wanting to attend can also make their reservation on the Congregation Beth-El website. Just go to www.bethelfw.org/donations.

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‘Belief in own mission’ drives Israeli general

‘Belief in own mission’ drives Israeli general

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

Attendees heard Brigadier Gen. Gila Klifi-Amir speak at the Friends of Israel Defense Forces luncheon. Photo: Ben Tinsley

By Ben Tinsley
bent@tjpnews.com, @bentinsley

 

DALLAS — How do you hold on to hope?
That was the question posed to reserve Brigadier Gen. Gila Klifi-Amir on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
At the time, the general was addressing an audience of more than 50 at a special “Friends of the Israel Defense Forces” luncheon.
Audience member Manuel Rajunov asked the question in response to footage that was posted on social media and quoted in news reports: A little girl was shown brandishing a knife — saying to the camera that she wants to “stab a Jew.”
“It saddens me because we’ve lost another generation, because an Israeli is somebody who lives in that reality every day,” Rajunov said.
The general was taken aback by the intensity of his question.
“Wow,” she said.
Klifi-Amir, incidentally, is a 30-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces. She supervised all matters in relation to women’s service in the Israeli military while serving as the chief of the general staff’s advisor on women’s affairs.
Her answer came in an illustration of the current relationship between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.
“Palestinians may assert ‘I don’t recognize your existence as an Israeli, as a Jew in his country,’” she said. “So how can you start to negotiate? … We say, ‘OK, let’s create two states’ but they ignore us. … But I believe we have an opportunity because we have the same interests.”
The opportunity is that Israelis and Palestinians are basically in the same boat, Klifi-Amir said. Both face the same challenges with the terror group ISIS and the uncertainty of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Especially the Iran nuclear agreement.
“It has changed the balance,” she said. “They (Palestinians) say it’s Israel’s problem but its not. They are more frightened than we are. The Iranians will use nuclear weapons and it’s a problem for the whole world.”
Ultimately, hope comes with the conviction that Israelis are strong and can protect themselves, she said.
“I hope we can change things,” she said.
Klifi-Amir is married to retired Maj. Gen. Meir Klifi-Amir, the national executive director and CEO of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). They are the only married-couple generals in the entire Israeli military.
They have three children — a 28-year-old daughter who is a combat solider and paratrooper, a 23-year-old son who is a business school student, and a 20-year-old daughter who is a psychology major.

‘Social barriers’ for women

Also during the meeting, Klifi-Amir discussed the issue of women trying to break the career “glass ceiling” in the military.
“As a woman there are society barriers, but as a woman you have your own personal barriers because of your condition,” she said. “You are a wife, you are a mother, you have to do your job. … It is a personal challenge you do those things because you want to and you believe in your own mission.”
Sylvia Stark of Livingston, New Jersey — whose husband Arthur is chairman of the board emeritus of FIDF — also spoke during the luncheon.
At times in tears, Stark read from an open letter her husband had written. It was titled “Words From A Father.”
The letter addressed their son Adam Stark, who developed a passion for Israel and the IDF at an early age, inspired by the soldiers of the IDF.
It was no surprise to anyone when Adam joined the IDF.
But Sylvia Stark found herself growing increasingly concerned for Adam’s safety as time went on. And in his letter, Arthur Stark wondered aloud if Adam’s exposure to the IDF at such an impressionable age influenced his decision to join.
“‘He (Adam) is more (articulate) in his actions than in his words but he accepts the dangers and demonstrates … the commitment to a larger purpose,’ ” Arthur Stark stated in the letter his wife read aloud.
“‘I realize he has made his own choice but I have felt responsible for that choice by exposing him in this way and surrounding him and our family for the past 15 years with members of the IDF who share a passion for Israel …’”
Sylvia Stark said Adam, who is now back home, was part of a very elite unit of paratroopers.
“To this day he doesn’t talk about what he did, what his missions were, what he needed to accomplish, what he suffered and what he had to endure,” Sylvia Stark said. “He finished college and is at work. But it’s a struggle getting back to society. He is . . . behind his friends, who moved on with their lives. But he has to play catch-up.”
Sylvia Stark said her fears grew even more pronounced after her son Jordan decided to follow the same path as Adam and join the IDF.
“I would never have dreamed he’d do it,” she said. “He saw how much I suffered — waiting for Adam to come home.”
But the shoe dropped in the middle of a counseling session Sylvia Stark attended during Jordan’s senior year.
When discussing future schooling, Jordan’s counselor pointed out that all of it would have to be “pushed aside until after your military service.”
This was the first Sylvia Stark had heard of her youngest child joining the IDF.
“Thank God I was siting down,” she said.
Jordan went on to become a paratrooper and now wants to extend his service, Stark said.
“I can’t take it much longer,” she said. “I need him to come home. But there are 6,000 volunteers who also left the comfort of their friends and family … There is something that tells them they must do this.”
Scott Kammerman, the executive director of FIDF’s Texas Chapter, introduced both Gila Klifi-Amir and Sylvia Stark at the beginning of the ceremony, pointing out that this was both women’s first trip to Texas.
In response, someone in the audience exclaimed “HOWDY!”
Laughter erupted.
After the luncheon, Kammerman said Gila Klifi-Amir and Sylvia Stark soon will return home — Klifi-Amir to New York and Sylvia Stark to New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Kammerman said Texas — particularly Dallas — will see more FIDF events in the near future.
“We are going to look to partner with other organizations along the way, to form mutually beneficial relationships,” he said.
“In early December I’m going to be bringing to Texas a lone soldier who was best friends with Sean Carmeli from Padre Island, who was killed last year. This soldier grew up in San Antonio and joined the IDF at 18 and now, two years later, he is a sergeant and a sniper … I’m also bringing in with him an active-duty Israeli air force pilot. … Both will be in uniform.”
Requests for IDF
During his luncheon comments, Kammerman said there are many things the organization can do the help the IDF. One current request is for FIDF to provide 180,000 mezuzahs.
The luncheon took place at the Sawmill Road home of Kim Kaliser — who partnered with Linda Leftin to sponsor the event.
During the program, Kaliser emphasized that supporting IDF is important because its members are on the front lines fighting terrorism on the scale of 9/11.
“They are fighting the evil we pray we will never see again,” she said. “The young men and women of the IDF are fighting for humanity, civilized societies and religious freedoms. We owe it to them to help however we can.”

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Competition heats up at inaugural Dallas kosher barbecue cook-off

Competition heats up at inaugural Dallas kosher barbecue cook-off

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

Contributed report

Rud CNB Bar-B-Q Texas, a local team of barbecue enthusiasts, won the top award at Sunday’s (Oct. 25) inaugural Dallas Kosher Barbecue Championship.
In blind judging conducted by expert palates of the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), CNB’s overall score from the four meat categories — chicken, brisket, beef ribs and turkey — topped the runner-up, RaBBi-Q.
It was a mild upset. RaBBi-Q is headed by Rabbi Mendel Segal of Kansas City, who runs a kosher catering business, has his own line of kosher barbecue sauces and rubs, and runs the Kansas City kosher barbecue contest.
Congregation Beth Torah’s Men’s Club organized and hosted the all-day festival, which drew nearly 1,000 people to Sunnyland Furniture’s store and parking lot. Host Simon Majumdar praised all nine competitors but said the judges were particularly impressed by the quality of the beef ribs, which are not part of most barbecue contests.
“There was a lot of great cooking out here,” said Majumdar, who has written three books on food and hosts several chef-centered shows on the Food Network.
The absence of pork is just one difference in a kosher barbecue contest. The teams convened at Beth Torah on Thursday night to prepare their meats under the supervision of Dallas Kosher mashgiachs. The food was then sealed in a refrigerated truck until Saturday night.
Then the competitors fired up the grills and smokers for an all-night, tailgate party-style marathon in pursuit of Sunday’s trophies. Some overnight drizzle, the last remnants of fierce weekend storms, didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, and by the time the gates opened to the public Sunday morning, the rain was gone.
Puns are common for team names — a barbecue tradition. The Dallas contestants included Chop Quey, Texas Jew Step, and Uncle Mordy and the MEATzvah Girls. The youngest team came from Hillel of North Texas, which, despite their novice status, took home a fourth-place ribbon for turkey from the KCBS judges and a first-place trophy for brisket in the special celebrity judges category.
The grand champions, CNB Bar-B-Q Texas, comprised Michele Mandell, Clifford Schein, Ben Schepps and Melanie Schein.
Sandy Dorf, co-chair of the championship, said the day’s success was worth the year of work that the Beth Torah Men’s Club put in.
“We had a great first time out, and we expect bigger and better things next year,” he said. “Kosher barbecue is making its mark all over the country, and we’re proud to put Dallas on that map.”

 

 

Photos by David Duchin/DSPN Photos

 

 

DSC_6965 DSC_6958 DSC_6955 DSC_6927 DSC_6875 DSC_6833 DSC_6831 DSC_6829 DSC_6790 DSC_6777 DSC_6744 DSC_6693 DSC_6594 DSC_6591 DSC_6535 DSC_6451 DSC_6430


Submitted by Michael Precker on behalf of Congregation Beth Torah.

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