Archive | July, 2016

Parents’ values, both good, bad, transfer to kids

Posted on 21 July 2016 by admin

I’ve been thinking for weeks about the Orlando massacre.
On the morning after, like so many of us, I was in synagogue to say Yizkor for my parents. But this time, while remembering them for giving me life, I also offered special prayers of thanksgiving for the values they gave me by which to live that life. I realized that values can be transmitted passively as well as actively, in silence as well as with words.
The recent carnage taught me to offer my mother and father new thanks for honoring me with the greatest gift of all: After modeling their own values to live by, they let me learn by myself whether or not to apply them in my own adult life. Their gift was trust.
All of us absorb our parents’ values, good or not, and at least in our childhoods, we live by them. But I learned from my parents that as I approached adulthood, I could be trusted to learn much on my own. So I gained sad understanding of the Orlando murderer when I read what his father had said after the fact. Certainly, the man was apologetic; he had never expected his son to do such a thing, he said. But then, he added this telling core value of his own: Gays and lesbians would be judged by God, after their deaths. This made me think less about the evils of ISIS per se than that singular evil of parents which has enabled the evils of ISIS to exist today: the passing on of prejudgments about people who are “different” from themselves. We Jews know by the terrorist actions of Muslims in Israel that such learning can kill. This father did not encourage his son to make important decisions on his own. He did not trust his son to learn more about life, and people, by himself. So I wonder now if he really feels his son has earned “sainthood” for hastening God’s judgment.
When I was 16, some older friends took me, with no prior preparation, to a show featuring female impersonators. My parents knew what I was going to see, and that what I saw would be new to me, but they did not explain anything beforehand. They trusted me to look, discover, and process by myself what I learned. I never needed to discuss this experience with them afterward.
And a recent article in the Dallas Morning News in which some prominent gays and lesbians told about their first visits to bars and nightclubs such as Orlando’s Pulse also took me back many years. When I was 20, I married a New Yorker, several years older and far more worldly than I. On my first visit with him to his home city, he took me — without preparation or explanation — to Greenwich Village, where I met his many gay and lesbian friends at Mona’s, the gathering place for the closeted in those olden days of silence. This was another experience that taught me much; it was also another one I never felt it necessary to share with my parents.
I consider that Orlando’s armed madman had fully absorbed his father’s attitude toward homosexuals, and may actually have picked these particular targets in order to hurry their way toward the celestial judgment that he was taught from a young age was awaiting them. And he did that for 49 at once. But I wonder: What might this young man have done differently in his own life if he had been given a different parental “gift,” one of trust in himself, to have his own experiences and then make his own decisions about what to do with them?
My prayers of thanks to my parents, on that morning after, were more fervent than they’d ever been in the many years since both had exited life themselves, as I blessed them for trusting me to think for myself.

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Lone soldier from Lone Star State

Lone soldier from Lone Star State

Posted on 21 July 2016 by admin

Reuben Bar Yadin, Ze’ev Bar Yadin’s father, describes the soldiers in the Golani Brigade — of which his son is a part — as a “band of brothers.” Submitted photo

By Ben Tinsley
news@tjpnews.com

This month marks the second anniversary of the death of IDF Staff Sgt. Sean “Nissim” Carmeli, a Texan and lone soldier killed on July 20, 2014 during Operation Protective Edge.
Carmeli was a friend and mentor to fellow Texan and fellow lone soldier Ze’ev Bar Yadin, who immigrated to Israel at age 15.
Reflecting on his late friend and his life after recently turning 21, Ze’ev Bar Yadin noted in a recent interview that life has always been about Israel — as far as he is concerned.
As early as age 8, Ze’ev Bar Yadin was known to keep the flag of Israel in his room. He also posted the flag on the back of his electric go-cart when traveling around his neighborhood cul-de-sac in San Antonio, his father, Reuben Bar Yadin, recalls.
Longtime family friend Scott Kammerman, executive director for the Texas Region of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, said Ze’ev Bar Yadin’s loyalty to Israel can be attributed to his strong Zionist upbringing.
“He made the decision at a young age that he was going to move to Israel,” Kammerman said. “He attended the Eleanor Kolitz Academy and Camp Young Judaea, which had profound impacts on his life. He studied for his bar mitzvah with Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg. … I attended Ze’ev’s bar mitzvah in 2008 at Congregation Rodfei Sholom in San Antonio.”
Scott Kammerman has known and been friends with Ze’ev Bar Yadin’s family for 16 years — since Ze’ev was 5.
Ze’ev Bar Yadin told the TJP he originally planned to join the Israel Defense Forces after finishing school in America.
But when he was 15 and living in San Antonio, his itch for independence became impossible to resist.
He made up his mind to move to Israel, complete his high school education there, and join the IDF.
“I decided at that moment it was time to go,” he said. “I had to go while I was still in high school so I could immerse myself in the culture and language before I joined the army.”
So that’s exactly what he did — starting the path that would lead to him becoming a Texas lone soldier.
In the IDF, a lone soldier is a serviceman or servicewoman without immediate family in Israel.
Lone soldiers serve in regular units and receive various forms of support from the IDF, Israeli government ministries and other organizations.
Ze’ev Bar Yadin eventually served as a sergeant and a sniper in Orev Golani.
His father, Reuben Bar Yadin — whose homeland is Israel — said it was hard to let his son go. But he felt he needed to let him go because Ze’ev felt he truly belonged there.
Bar Yadin got the ball rolling on his new life by applying to Naale Elite Academy in Israel to finish high school.
The Naale Program, sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Education, allows Jewish teenagers to study and earn a high school diploma in Israel.
Ze’ev was accepted. And his Israel journey began.
“Once I got in, they took it from there,” he said. “They helped with schooling and housing, and when I finished school they helped with the process of joining the army.”
The school provided him with health care and he made aliyah without his parents.
“The school is in charge of you and responsible for you,” he explained. “The hard part was going from someplace where you know a little Hebrew to learning in an Israeli school where all classes, everything, is all in Hebrew.”
Because he wasn’t that fluent his first year of schooling in Israel, his initial school days were almost entirely composed of Hebrew classes.
Bar Yadin said learning Hebrew took him a while because he was both shy and nervous.
But by his senior year, he said, his fluency level was excellent.
Which is a good thing. Because Hebrew is all anyone speaks in the IDF, Ze’ev Bar Yadin said.
“Once you get in the army that’s IT,” he said.
Speaking of Camp Young Judaea, Reuben Bar Yadin said his son attended it in Wimberley for a total of eight summers. It had a very strong influence on him.
“He wanted to serve in the IDF and join — not as an American but as an Israeli,” his father said. “At the age of 15 he came out with a 10-year plan for his life and as far as I can tell he has stuck with it.”
Kammerman said independence isn’t Ze’ev Bar Yadin’s only strong trait. He also is one of the most kind-hearted and caring young men Kammerman has ever met.
“He made the decision many years ago to serve a higher calling — something beyond himself,” he said.

Lone soldier

Being classified as a lone soldier allows Ze’ev Bar Yadin greater pay, more time off and educational help.
Some 6,700 lone soldiers serve in the Israel Defense Forces today — hailing from more than 60 countries around the world, according to information provided by the Friends of the IDF.
An estimated 800 lone soldiers from the U.S. enlist in the IDF every year.
Service for Israelis is compulsory but lone soldiers freely leave their respective countries to serve.
It is important to note that Ze’ev Bar Yadin left all the wonderful comforts of home to become an elite soldier and sniper in Orev Golani, both Reuben Bar Yadin and Kammerman said.
“They’re part of a tough group, a band of brothers,” his father said.
Ze’ev Bar Yadin graduated first in his sniper class, Kammerman said.
“He just received the outstanding soldier award in the entire Golani Brigade,” Kammerman said. “In other words, he was held up as a model of excellence to the soldiers of Israel. The fact that he is a lone soldier from the U.S. — from Texas — makes his service and performance even that much more revered by his commanders and all of the IDF.”

Life, death of Carmeli

One of the most influential friendships of Ze’ev Bar Yadin’s life was with Carmeli of South Padre Island — a fellow Texan, fellow lone soldier, and fellow IDF soldier.
Carmeli, 21, was killed July 20, 2014 in Shejaia, Gaza City, after his vehicle was struck by an anti-tank weapon during Operation Protective Edge.
Carmeli was among 13 soldiers from the elite Golani Brigade who were killed during that battle with Hamas.
Carmeli was killed when his armored personnel carrier was fired on by Hamas militants shooting an anti-tank weapon, Reuben Bar Yadin clarified.
“Sean was one of the 13 Golani soldiers who died that night,” Reuben Bar Yadin said. “Sean was the gunner of the armored vehicle. They went into Gaza and the gun jammed. You can man the gun from the inside. Sean went up and fixed it again and going back into the vehicle he was halfway when an Arab shot him in the head.”
On the Sunday morning Carmeli was killed, Kammerman said he heard the news while speaking at First Baptist Church in Katy. He was raising money for immediate on-the-ground welfare and well-being needs for the soldiers.
“I received a phone call … while I was there that a lone soldier from Texas serving in the Golani Brigade had been killed,” Kammerman said. “Off the top of my head, I knew that there were three soldiers serving — two of whom I knew well (Ze’ev and another soldier). I only knew Sean by name, but when I left the church, I immediately called Reuben to inquire as to what he knew and held my breath.”
Ze’ev’s father told Kammerman that Ze’ev was OK.
“He told me that he had heard from Ze’ev, but that he was obviously overcome with extreme grief,” Kammerman said. “His dear friend, a big brother to him, had been killed. Ze’ev was given 24 hours’ leave from service to be one of the 25,000-plus people who attended Sean’s funeral.”
Reuben Bar Yadin called his son but Ze’ev Bar Yadin was still in shock.
“When he picked up the phone I asked ‘How are you?’ and Ze’ev yelled into the phone ‘Sean’s dead!’ ”
Ze’ev kept yelling into the telephone over and over.
“He kept repeating ‘He’s dead!’ and he said, ‘I was just with him.’ He was in shock. He calmed down after a while and we talked for a little bit but he had to go and couldn’t stay on the phone.”
As Kammerman said, Ze’ev was allowed to go to Carmeli’s funeral. But the very next morning he had to come back.
“But he was in bad shape,” Ze’ev’s father said. “His commander let him have leave for four or five days to go to sit shiva with Sean’s family. I think it did him some good to spend time with Sean’s family. To this day he is still very close to them.”
Ze’ev Bar Yadin said sitting shiva with Carmeli’s family was the right thing to do.
“I felt I owed it to his family — I wanted to be here with them,” he said.
Afterward, Ze’ev Bar Yadin said it took him a long time to get past his friend’s death.
“It was a couple of months before I came back to being myself,” he said. “I think I got past it and dealt with my emotions. On National Independence day I went to his family’s house to be with them.”
One thing for sure: Ze’ev Bar Yadin never wants to feel that way again.
“Never,” he said. “Never. I can’t even imagine how I would deal with it again. If it were to happen again I still don’t know the answer. What to do to make it better.”

Two Texans meet in Israel

Back when Ze’ev Bar Yadin first met Sean Carmeli, their relationship was all about inspiration and dedication.
Ze’ev Bar Yadin had been in Israel about a year. He was still a high school student and Carmeli already a soldier. But even then Carmeli was encouraging Bar Yadin to stay the course and not quit.
Carmeli and Ze’ev Bar Yadin shared American roots, Texas roots, which helped cement their friendship, Ze’ev’s father said.
“They met when Ze’ev was in high school and Sean, two years older, was already in the army,” Ze’ev’s father said. “They became good friends and Sean Carmeli really was a big brother to Ze’ev.”
Bar Yadin said Carmeli became a role model to him almost immediately. He was a huge help in helping Bar Yadin overcome his doubts and fears.
“Once I got into Golani, he would caution me about how hard my training was,” Bar Yadin said. “He would tell me ‘You’ll get through it. Just don’t quit.’ … He probably was of the reasons I finished my training and graduated into the special forces unit I am in.”
Altogether Bar Yadin trained with the IDF about 15 months. He then became a sniper and eventually a sergeant in the Golani Brigade.
Deborah Bar Yadin, Reuben’s wife and Ze’ev’s mother, deferred discussion about her son’s service to her husband.
Ze’ev Bar Yadin said there is no avoiding the danger on the job with the IDF. For instance, in his capacity as a sniper during another mission, he was forced to shoot someone in the kneecap to stop him during a mission.
Ze’ev Bar Yadin’s service to Israel will end soon. He is getting out of the army and he wants eventually to go into business and do what his father does.
Reuben Bar Yadin is a Houston commercial real estate agent. His family moved to Houston from San Antonio in recent years.
Ze’ev Bar Yadin thinks he could follow his father’s example and one day practice commercial real estate — either in Israel or America.
“I have about four and a half months left on my three-year commitment to the army,” Ze’ev Bar Yadin said. “I was offered the chance to stay in, to be in charge of snipering in the company, but I wasn’t wanting to do that. I would rather get out of the army, travel and visit America. I want to start college in Israel though I’m not sure which one.”
Ze’ev Bar Yadin has participated in short tours to help promote and explain the role of the Friends of the IDF organization and how FIDF helps provide social and financial support to soldiers who don’t have families in Israel.
During a recent jaunt that included Dallas on Dec. 6, 2015, Bar Yadin was there for 15 events over about six days. The mini tour was of schools, synagogues, churches and private homes in Houston and Dallas.

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Won’t be lacking for content while in Israel

Posted on 14 July 2016 by admin

DALLAS — Notice the dateline on this update? A ‘dateline” tells the reader when and where the article was written.
As most of you already know, I’m moving back to Israel in a few weeks. Therefore, this will be my last update datelined “Dallas.” Future articles and updates will be datelined as appropriate.
And I’ll certainly have a lot to report. While in the past few months here in the U.S. we’ve been preoccupied with politics, ongoing violence (including the tragic attack on Dallas and DART police officers), the economy, Brexit (British exit from the European Union), more politics, criminal investigations, terrorism threats, immigration and even more politics … the rest of the world, and especially the Middle East, has generated events and news stories that will have major impacts on the U.S. and Israel.
Here is a taste:

Israel: Netanyahu’s busy week

Affirming the ongoing relations with Cairo, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Israel this week for a series of meetings. This is the first official visit by a high-ranking Egyptian official in nine years. It’s hoped that this visit may lead to a possibility of restarting the peace process based on a new initiative of President Sisi, together with a more open thawing of Israeli relations with other Sunni Arab countries.
Last week Netanyahu, as prime minister and acting foreign minister ,visited several African countries including Uganda, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Israeli raid on Entebbe (where his brother, Yoni, was killed); Kenya; Rwanda; and Ethiopia.
Israel also signed a new friendship treaty with Turkey that restored relations to the way they were before the Mavi Marmara incident.
Oh … and Israeli media reported that the attorney general was investigating Netanyahu on suspicion of some serious money laundering.

Iran: Complete failure of ‘deal’

One year after the much-heralded, and still unsigned, so-called “Iran Nuclear Deal” (JCPOA — Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action), the U.N. watchdog IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the intelligence agencies of the P5+1 countries still admit that they have no clue as to what nuclear weapons development Iran did in the past, nor what it still has and what it’s working on today.
Despite getting almost full sanctions relief, Iran has violated the JCPOA (and U.N. Security Council resolutions) several times. Its leaders still demonize the West, vow to destroy Israel within the year and are building and testing long-range nuclear bomb delivery systems with impunity.
Meanwhile the U.S., the “guarantor” of Iranian compliance to the JCPOA, is seen by the Sunni gulf states and many Israelis as being either afraid to confront Iran (which would expose the bluff of the “deal”), or worse, being in bed with the Iranians from the outset.

Syria: Fighting continues — after 5 years, over 400,000 dead

Assad’s Alawite (Shiite) regime is still strongly supported by Russia and Iran.
Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, seeking to counter the influence of its rival Iran, has been a major provider of military and financial assistance to the rebels, including those with extreme Islamist ideologies.
Turkey, another staunch supporter of the rebels, wants to end U.S. support for Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in northern Syria, accusing them of being part of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The U.S., which says President Assad is responsible for widespread atrocities and must step down, has provided only limited military assistance to “moderate” rebels, in addition to limited airstrikes.

Iraq: Military pushes ISIS

The Shiite-led, Iran-affiliated government forces have, with considerable U.S. military assistance (what’s wrong with this picture?), succeeded in retaking the city of Fallujah from ISIS, and are now preparing to try to retake Mosul … but probably not anytime soon.
ISIS: Not “degraded,” not “destroyed.”
Lost territory in Syria and Iraq but remains a formidable and well-equipped fighting force with demonstrated worldwide terrorism capabilities, and a growing esteem among young, alienated Sunnis around the globe.
And I haven’t even touched on the continued growth of al-Qaida, with this week’s threat of revenge against the U.S. by Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza, who declared: “We will continue striking you and targeting you in your country and abroad in response to your oppression of the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and the rest of the Muslim lands that did not survive your oppression.”
With all that, plus other Middle East developments and, of course, the U.S. elections, there will be plenty to write about, talk about, Skype about and podcast about from Dateline: Israel.
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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Useful questions to ponder during this summer break

Posted on 14 July 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
Each week at summer camp at the J, we follow the tradition of our sages and study the Talmudic Tractate known as Pirke Avot, Chapters of the Sages.
Pirke Avot is comprised of six chapters and over 150 mishnayot or teachings. Each mishnah has many lessons for us to learn how to live an ethical life. It would be wonderful if we could just read the “saying” and then would know just what to do. However, it takes a little more work and study, but each of us can do it — even our youngest campers. The “Mishnah of the Week” has been chosen because it provides lessons for each of us as part of our community. Camp is filled with experiences of learning and living together and we can learn more by studying together and so our lives are filled with the same.
Spend time each Shabbat talking about the mishnah using the questions as guidelines. Begin by reading the words, then breaking down the parts and trust in the fact that even young children can add their thoughts to the discussion. Listening to one another is the beginning of learning.
The first mishnah tells how the tradition was passed from Moses on down the line — the very same teaching Moses received at Mt. Sinai. Why begin with this? What are the lessons we learn from how the tradition was passed down? How can we continue to add our chapters to the teachings?
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. (Pirke Avot 1:1)
Remember that after we have begun to understand the mishnah, we must then work to understand how to apply the learning to our lives. This is the true gift of our sages — the lessons continue to today to guide us in how to live. The next step is to write our own chapters and continue to pass on the lessons.
Shalom….from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Sober reminder of reality amid equality Shabbat

Posted on 14 July 2016 by admin

Seven policemen stood in the parking lot of Northaven United Methodist Church on a recent Friday evening, a precaution because Beth El Binah, the Dallas congregation founded years ago by gay and lesbian Jews, was having a special Shabbat service there.
This truly welcoming church has become home to BEB, which outgrew its former space in the Oak Lawn LGBT community center. Its members now include many “straights” as well, and for this Pride Week observance, attendance crowded even this large second-floor room that the host church has dedicated to its guest temple.
The service involved seven clergy, men and women of different faith communities. Officiating was Rabbi Steve Fisch, BEB’s spiritual leader since early 2011. In addition to the traditional Erev Shabbat prayers and personal words from all those participating, there was this: Two members of this congregation, long formally affiliated with the Reform movement, read publicly from the Torah for the first time since their recent conversion to Judaism.
Don Croll, cantor emeritus of Temple Shalom, and Cantor Sheri Allen of Arlington’s Congregation Beth Shalom, led the singing. Rabbis Debra Robbins of Temple Emanu-El and Jordan Parr, now with Temple Beth El in Odessa while teaching and counseling throughout North Texas, took part. The Rev. Eric Folkerth, Northaven’s senior pastor for 15 years, welcomed everyone, following Josh Manes, current president of Beth El Binah. Also bringing greetings and prayers from other Protestant branches were the Rev. Dr. Neil Cazeres-Thomas, senior pastor of Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope, America’s largest LGBTQ congregation, and Baptist minister Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, theology professor at TCU’s Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.
As so often happens, the joyous mood of even such prideful worship was undercut by loss and tragedy. Victims of the recent Orlando massacre were solemnly remembered and, with the saying of Kaddish, there was a sorrowful goodbye to Jack Evans, who had passed away just the day before at age 86. He and George Harris, his life partner for more than a half-century, were the first same-sex couple to marry in Dallas County after such unions were legally recognized; they would have celebrated their first wedding anniversary on the Sunday following this special Shabbat.
The service began with a responsive reading that featured these words: “We welcome the Sabbath into our midst…We celebrate the uniqueness of our creation by the Holy Divine One, just as the Sabbath day celebrates the seventh day of creation…We remember that all peoples on this earth have, at one time, been victims of marginalization … Discrimination of ‘the other’ is nothing new in humanity’s history, yet it is the venomous enemy that continues to rise from the darkness … On this Sabbath, may we, as one community, force the ignorance, the intolerance, the fear, down into the abyss, never to return again.”
And after the singing of Hinei Ma Tov, the evening’s entire congregation of gays and straights said this together: “How good it is to gather in the house of a God who loves each of us as we are created, without limit and forever. How sweet it is to gather together in the house of a God who transcends human limits and categories. How pleasant it is to gather together in a house of a God who hears the prayers of all people. How fine it is to gather people with firm beliefs, along with people who have questions in their hearts, all in the house of a God who values deeds of caring and justice.”
And yet, as we all stood before the small Ark that holds this small congregation’s two Sefer Torahs, there were seven policemen standing outside in the host church’s parking lot, a mute testimony to how cautious two of our country’s most often marginalized communities, Jews and LGBTs, must continue to be. Such a sad and somber, but abiding and necessary, note on this night of joy among members of this “House of an Understanding God.”

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Dallas Jewish community mourns officers

Dallas Jewish community mourns officers

Posted on 14 July 2016 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Yaakov Rosenblatt The Guttman and Rosenblatt families visited the North Central substation at McCallum and Hillcrest to show their support for the Dallas Police Department and its fallen officers.

From staff and wire reports

After the scope of last Thursday’s Dallas shootings was fully realized, the Dallas Jewish community quickly came together to voice their anguish over the violence in Dallas that claimed the lives of five police officers.
On the evening of July 7, thousands marched in a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, voicing concerns over the recent officer-involved shootings that led to deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana. Just as the rally ended, Micah Xavier Johnson, a 25-year-old Army reservist who served in Afghanistan and lived in Mesquite, shot 14 people, 12 of them policemen.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, which is located within two blocks of El Centro College, where the shootings occurred, had to close Friday as the investigation continued and pathways were cordoned off. The museum’s spokespeople expressed sorrow for the deaths of the police officers and the two African-Americans killed earlier in the week.
“We deplore acts of violence and hatred in all forms and urge our community to come together to embrace civil discourse. We value every life,” a museum release read. “We also feel great sorrow for the two shooting victims for whom the peaceful protest was being held and those protesters who were wounded.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings requested various religious leaders to hold an interfaith service, and the Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice responded by planning the event in a number of hours. Hundreds arrived to share their grief and listen to speeches from several faith leaders.
Rabbi David Stern, of Temple Emanu-El, spoke at the Thanks-Giving Square gathering.
“The prayers this day do not come forth from this podium; the prayer is right here. The prayer is in each and every one of you; the prayer is in this tapestry of diversity that gathers in this place. … There is no peace in this city unless we help make peace in this city.”
Many in the crowd were somewhat on edge at the Thanks-Giving Square gathering, highlighted by a police helicopter circling above and between the skyscrapers during the speeches.
But they stayed to hear the healing, encouraging words of the city and state leaders.
Temple Shalom Senior Rabbi Andrew Paley was part of that planning committee. He did not speak at the gathering, but later Friday, Paley’s Shabbat sermon echoed the heartache around the Metroplex.
“It is one thing to read about a tragedy in some far-off land. Bombings in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia — all are horrific, no doubt. The mass shootings in the U.S. — Orlando; San Bernardino; Aurora, Colorado; Blacksburg, Virginia — all are awful, painful and outrageous and yet, all are far away. Even when tragedy struck Texas — Killeen in 1991, and Fort Hood in 2009 — that too seemed distant.
“Now tragedy has struck Dallas — again — in 2016. It is on our doorstep. The issues are upon us — here and now. We cannot turn a blind eye, nor believe that we are somehow immune to the problems out there. The problems are here.”
President Barack Obama, along with former President George W. Bush, spoke Tuesday at the Meyerson Symphony Center.
“These men and their families shared a commitment to something larger than themselves,” Obama said. “I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds. … I’m here to insist we are not as divided as we might seem.”
Obama also complimented Dallas’ retraining of officers, which he said is well known around the nation. He said Dallas had lower murder rates and fewer complaints of police conduct than the rest of the nation.
“The Dallas Police Department has been doing it the right way. … We ask so much of the police and not enough of ourselves.”
Obama also met with the families of the fallen officers.
Bush, who lives in Dallas, also praised the work of the officers, but asked everyone to judge themselves by the same standard they judge others.
“Those of us who love Dallas and call it home have had five deaths in the family. … (The officers’) courage is our protection and shield,” he said. … “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, but judge ourselves by our best intentions.”
Representing the Jewish community, Paley also delivered a message, preceding Dallas Police Chief David Brown.
The Anti-Defamation League condemned the killing of the five police officers “in strongest terms.”
“We have reached out to the Dallas Police Department to convey our condolences and offer support,” Roberta Clark, director of ADL’s Dallas region, said in a statement. “At this early point in the investigation, the motive for this odious attack is unknown and it would be irresponsible to jump to conclusions or cast blame. We must let the investigation run its course.”
“In the aftermath of this attack on law enforcement and the recent police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, we appeal to the public to remain calm during this challenging and difficult time,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO. “Violence should never beget violence. Solutions will be found only when we work together peacefully and engage in constructive dialogue.”
Many rabbis, pastors, priests and imams spent their services discussing the shootings, and many more people found ways to help. Two police cruisers at the Dallas police headquarters were blanketed in flowers, cards, candles and other memorial items by Saturday morning. Several houses of worship asked congregants to “back the blue” and wear blue to services, while others remembered the fallen in their own way.
Across the nation, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs condemned “in no uncertain terms” the killings of the five police officers.
But its president, David Bernstein, also responded to the Dallas incident with a direct call to transform the “adversarial” relationship between communities and law enforcement nationwide.
“Far too many African-Americans, particularly young men, have fallen victim to police violence, leaving an indelible mark on communities and families,” Bernstein said. “The spate of horrific police shootings shows that many police departments must undergo serious culture change, and see themselves as not only enforcers of the law but members of the community as well. We have a long way to go as a country.”
The Reform movement provided condolences for all of the week’s victims via the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, calling the continued bloodshed a “plague” related to gun violence.
“The tragic events of this week remind us that individual, structural and institutional racism persists in our country, with severe consequences. If one death is a tragedy, so many deaths is a plague,” an RAC statement read.
“As we are stunned by a week of shocking violence, our challenge is to find new ways to relate to each other across lines of difference, and to rebuild the damaged trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve. For our society to be one of peace, justice, wholeness and compassion, this pattern of violence must end.”

 

 

*****

Congregations remember fallen officers

Staff, contributed report

Around the Metroplex, many congregations found ways to remember the fallen officers.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) lost one officer, Brent Thompson, while four Dallas Police Department members died: officers Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa, Sgt. Michael Smith and Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens.
Smith was employed at the North Dallas police station, which is located across Hillcrest Road from Ohev Shalom. That congregation is holding a fundraiser for the fallen officer’s family.
Marcela Abadi Rhoads, who is spearheading the fund drive, said she and the congregation didn’t know Smith directly, but the precinct has done an excellent job helping Ohev Shalom.
“So, we were devastated when we found out it was one of them,” she wrote in an email.
Rhoads wrote that, as of Tuesday, more than $2,000 had been raised. Ohev Shalom hopes to present the check to the police department next week.
At Congregation Beth Torah, about 300 people gathered at Sunday afternoon for an interfaith prayer service to promote unity and understanding in the wake of the past week’s tragedies.
Beth Torah Rabbi Elana Zelony arranged and hosted the service, which brought together civic leaders, police officials and religious leaders from various faiths offering prayers of reconciliation and hope after the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, and black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
“As neighbors were are one,” said the Rev. Debra Hobbs Mason of First United Methodist Church of Richardson, and chair of the Richardson Interfaith Alliance. “Your pain is my pain. Your heartache is my heartache. And your joy is my joy.”
Rev. Charles Reese, founder of the Collin County Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said the killings have “called human judgment into question and subpoenaed us to appear in the court of human reflection.”
But love, hope and prayer will overcome grief and conquer hate, he said.
“No human has ever won a war against God,” Rev. Reese said. “God has the amazing ability to write straight with crooked lines. After every storm is a rainbow.”
Emrah Aktepe, a Turkish Muslim who heads the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, said that despite the sadness and tension, “We manage to pray together, we manage to act together. Let’s get to know one another.”
Rev. Kris Totzke, pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Richardson, concurred, calling for people to speak out and to act to counter violence and hatred.
“May our voices of hope drown out the voices of hate,” she said.
Other speakers included Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker, Allen Police Deputy Chief Ken Myers, Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Anita Zusman Eddy, Nancy Sperandeo of the area Baha’i Community and Shyam Kanagala of the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple.
— Michael Precker contributed to this story.

 

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Mixing of defined roles expressly forbidden

Posted on 14 July 2016 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I understand your comments about the holiness of the body, but I don’t understand how that relates to the question of transsexual surgery; would the body not continue to be holy even after such a transformative surgery?
— Elaine W.
Dear Elaine,
The question of transsexual surgery touches upon a number of areas of Jewish law and mitzvos of the Torah. In this column we shall attempt to focus on the first of these points. (Please keep in mind that we, in this column, are presenting the traditional outlook based upon the traditional Jewish sources.) It bears repetition that which we stated in the first column of this series: We are discussing the halachic issues, not the people who have subjected themselves to transsexual surgery.
Regardless of the traditional Jewish attitude toward these procedures, those who have done so still deserve our love and compassion as Jews, and are not to be rejected from the Jewish people or shunned from the community. That said, there will be obvious challenges in the way they will mesh into a very gender-conscious religious society, as we see the debate rages even in secular society today.
One of the issues involved is the prohibition of cross-dressing. The Torah says, “Male garb should not be on a woman and a man shall not wear a woman’s garment …” (Deuteronomy 22:5) The Torah goes on to use strong words for one who does so. The simple understanding of this verse is to prevent excessive commingling of the sexes; if a man dresses as a woman in order to gain entry into the company of women for the sake of lewdness it won’t lead to great things.
The Talmud explains the verse in this context, and outlines some further examples that this includes, such as a man shaving or plucking body hairs in a way that makes him appear feminine, or in ways which are customary for women, and not men, to do. (Talmud Nazir 59a and Shabbat 94b) This includes conducting oneself in other modes of dress, dyeing hair and the like in ways which mimic members of the opposite sex.
To understand this prohibition more deeply, we can refer back to the context we have been building over the past columns. Unlike what is accepted in many Western circles today which look at man and woman as basically the same with perhaps minor differences, the Kabbalah teaches us that the dissimilarities between the male and female bodies reflect on profound spiritual differences. The deeper reason the Torah uses such strong language for cross-dressing is because by attempting to cross over to the other gender one is wreaking havoc with the spiritual worlds.
An example of this is the prohibition in the Torah of cooking meat and milk together, although each of them are completely kosher when separate. The deeper Jewish sources explain that meat, and the color red, represent the Divine trait of judgment. Milk, and the color white, represent the Divine trait of loving kindness. Although the Al-mighty Himself may at times exercise both traits simultaneously, the Kabbalah teaches that for us to mix those two traits together causes mayhem in the spiritual worlds.
We find a similar Kabbalistic explanation for the Torah’s prohibition of mixing linen and wool in our garments, as each one of these materials represents different aspects of the spiritual worlds and God’s connection to our world. (Perhaps we will explain this fascinating concept in greater detail sometime in the future.) To blend them together in our garments causes disharmony in the spiritual worlds.
Although both man and woman share some traits of one another, their physical differences constitute profoundly polar differences in the spiritual realms. When the two of them join together in love and become as one unit, their dissimilarities complement each other and bring the spiritual worlds to a profound level of harmony and completion. When, however, we attempt to bring both into the same physique, like milk and meat, we wreak havoc in the spiritual worlds.
It goes without saying that if the Torah proscribes even dressing like the opposite sex even though there is no permanence to dress, all the more so to make permanent changes to that effect. Indeed, the authorities of traditional Jewish law concur that this issue presents a problem with regard to this procedure.
We are not at all attempting to address how to deal with the enormous emotional challenges taking place in the life of a man or woman contemplating such a transformation, and, as we mentioned, they deserve our compassion and empathy. (Many studies have shown that this way of dealing with the issue very often doesn’t solve the problem; the emotional challenges that brought about the decision often don’t necessarily go away after this change.)
This is an area for psychologists, which I am not. I am just making you aware that, although the body indeed remains holy even after undergoing such a transformation, to do so is tampering with spiritual worlds which are far beyond our comprehension.
May all those who are suffering from these challenges be blessed by the Al-mighty to find peace, serenity and joy in their lives.

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DHM junior board finds draw to service

Posted on 14 July 2016 by admin

By Ben Tinsley
news@tjpnews.com

DALLAS — June 20 marked the second year anniversary of the death of Pam Barnes — a former program coordinator and director of programming credited with creating the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance’s junior board of directors.
The junior board, which consists of Dallas-area high school students from a variety of public and private schools, is under the guidance and direction of Dr. Charlotte Decoster, the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s assistant director of education.
Dr. Decoster said students who are admitted to the board believe very strongly in the mission of the museum and that the public should be thoroughly educated about the Holocaust.
“That drive is what makes them great on the board,” Dr. Decoster said.
The junior board maintains a vigorous presence in the community. In May, for instance, junior board members provided Hidden Child Testimony and lit remembrance torches for three Holocaust survivors at a local Yom HaShoah observance.
As members of the museum’s junior board, they dedicate themselves to volunteerism and community service.
Henry Ainsworth, outgoing vice president of the junior board, said it is an honor to serve.
“For me … this is a call for social justice and tolerance,” he said.
When organizing the junior board, Barnes recruited Sarah Terrace as one of the volunteer adult supervisors.
Terrace explained Barnes had the vision for the board, “but was trying to work out the details including applications, meetings, and goals.”
Barnes also brought Danielle Laniewski aboard as a volunteer adult supervisor.
After the concept of a junior board was formulated, it was presented to the Dallas Holocaust Museum board and CEO.
“It was approved and we had our first meeting — after going through the applications — in January of 2014,” Laniewski said. “The concept was simple: Give high schoolers a way to give back to the museum and community through service projects, volunteering and helping to raise awareness of the mission of the museum.”
Outgoing Junior Board President Kas Tebbetts said she was a high school sophomore when she received the email from her school community service director about new opportunities in the community such as the junior board.
“I had been fascinated with World War II history since sixth grade — and still vividly remembered my school field trip to the museum in seventh grade,” Tebbetts said. “I had worked with history museums out of town, and was ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with history in Dallas.”
Tebbetts quickly found the leadership training she was seeking; she became vice president of the board her junior year and president the next.
“I’ve never been afraid to speak to a crowd, but I think one of the best things I learned on the junior board was how to communicate with individuals,” Tebbetts said. “The museum introduced me to a diverse community of survivors, their relatives, museum staff, my fellow board members, and members of the Jewish community. The amazing people I met, and had the privilege of speaking to, made me a better leader.”

Survivor Prom

When working to create the junior board, Pam Barnes focused on a unique idea: holding a special prom for Holocaust survivors.
This prom was inspired by the many Holocaust survivors who experienced abrupt, unusual childhoods because of persecution that forced many them to leave home and not finish school.
“These survivors lack a traditional high school experience,” explained Kate Fundis, 16, junior board member and incoming junior at the Hockaday School. “When one thinks of high school, prom or a senior dance often comes to mind. The survivors never had a chance to experience that. So we decided that a prom was the best way to give them a fun high school experience they never had.”
The idea for the Survivor Prom originated in the junior board’s very first meeting, Terrace said.
“Discussions continued through several meetings,” Terrace said. “We even considered making the prom an afternoon tea!”
But all these plans were stalled when Pam Barnes became deathly ill.

The legacy of Pam Barnes

Under Pam Barnes, the Survivor Prom was the junior board’s big goal. But because she took ill and died before it could come to fruition, everything fell into limbo.
“All plans were put on hold when Pam became sick,” Terrace said.
Barnes succumbed to triple negative breast cancer on Friday, June 20, 2014.
A celebration of her life was held at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on Sunday, June 29, 2014. She was lauded for her passion for history at the celebration.
It was shortly after this point that Dr. Decoster was asked to take Barnes’ place leading the junior board. She agreed and picked up the work from there.
It took some time and redirection, but the board continued to organize and slowly and painstakingly put together the prom idea that Barnes worked so hard to help create.
Kas Tebbetts said it took a really long time to realize the Survivor Prom.
“Initially, it was intended to be held in 2014,” Tebbetts explained. “I remember making countless calls to a 1940s swing band begging them to lower their prices to match our budget that year. Sadly, the junior board wasn’t quite ready to put together a whole event that first year.”
But by spring 2015, junior board members had divided and conquered all the duties of the event: venue, kosher food and drinks, entertainment, invitations, and decorations.
“Jesuit High School was kind enough to give us a venue for free, and we loved welcoming the survivors into a casual party where they could experience the simple joy and slight awkwardness of a high school prom,” Tebbetts said. “I know it can’t make up for the epic 1940s swing dance-filled American proms that the war took from the survivors, but I hope it gave them a bit of their youth back.”
Eventually, on Sunday, March 22, 2015, the Survivor Prom took place at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. The prom lasted from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. that day.
About 25 survivors attended the prom, but that number was bolstered to 75 by their families, their caretakers, and Holocaust museum employees and volunteers, Kate Fundis said.
As Kas Tebbetts said, there was much organization necessary to make the event a reality: Junior board members gathered donations from local businesses, schools, nonprofits, and the Holocaust Museum itself to sponsor the event.
Group members sent out invitations, had the prom catered, organized live music, provided boutonnieres, and decorated the event space and tables.
Local Holocaust survivor Max Glauben provided junior board members with his collection of European music from the time frame of the adolescence of survivors.
Glauben is an active volunteer in the Dallas Jewish community and for the Dallas Holocaust Museum. He lectures on the Holocaust in schools, churches, and colleges and various organizations and institutions.
Glauben — who can be seen front and center in many of the photos taken at the prom — said he had a lot of fun.
Those who could dance did so, and those who couldn’t could still listen to the wonderful music, he said.
“It was a really wonderful idea,” Glauben said last month. “The Holocaust survivors who were able to attend had a very nice time. It was a really nice gathering for everybody.”
Danielle Laniewski agreed that the prom provided fine moments for all involved.
“I was so proud of the board for this,” Laniewski said. “They came up with the concept because they wanted to do something fun for the survivors that was a little different. They figured that since they didn’t have a prom growing up, that this would be a great event for them. And it was!”
Laniewski said the fact that the live music was tailored to the tastes of the Holocaust survivors truly complemented the decorations, flowers, and food.
“It was just a couple of hours but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves,” Laniewski said.
As volunteer adult leader to the junior board, Laniewski is charged with helping advise the students and working with them to achieve their goals.
Henry Ainsworth said he strongly believed in the importance of inviting all Holocaust survivors in the area for a fun “night out.”
“We played some music from their childhood, had a photo booth, and talked with them all night,” Ainsworth said. “It was really special.”
Kate Fundis said it was obvious the survivors were having a great time.
“Those who could stood up to dance, and everyone clapped their hands to the music and enjoyed the lively atmosphere,” Fundis said.
Sarah Terrace said the interaction between the generations at the dance was amazing.
“When one of the young men from the junior board held out his arm to escort one of our ladies, you could see the transformation in her face with a twinkle in her eye,” Terrace said. “Elements of modern proms such as a photo booth were incorporated. Watching folks dress up for their photos was a hoot.”
Terrance said each table at the prom had a centerpiece prepared by students from area high schools including several organizations at Thomas Jefferson High School, Townview High School, South Grand Prairie High School, and McLean Middle School.
At the end of the prom, junior board members encouraged the survivors to choose a centerpiece to take home.
“It was so much fun to watch everyone choose — like kids in a candy shop,” Terrace said.
Dr. Decoster commended members for the time, effort and fundraising it took to put on the prom. She gave special thanks to Rich Perry, director of community service and social justice at Jesuit Dallas.
“It was a huge endeavor,” Decoster said. “He provided the venue at no charge.”
In an email, Perry responded that the prom was very worthwhile.
“It was an amazing program last school year,” Perry said.
Recruiting new members
And now, the board is ready to open its ranks to new members.
There were as many as 13 junior board members at the time of the prom. But after a series of graduations and departures, there are roughly eight members right now, Kate Fundis said.
Dr. Decoster said the board, in its third year, has lost leaders Kas Tebbetts and Henry Ainsworth to high school graduation.
So it is hoped there will be new and enthusiastic applicants to take their place.
“All the requirements of the junior board are, we meet monthly online and try to meet twice a year in person,” Dr. Decoster said. “We have to have six volunteer projects. Junior members get to attend the regular board members and meet with the (Holocaust Museum) board of directors.”
Members do not have to be Jewish. Henry Ainsworth, for instance, is not. The 18-year old just graduated Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.
Ainsworth said he intends to stay busy in the Holocaust museum community in New York next year. He will attend NYU Tisch school of the Arts to study drama.
Kas Tebbetts, 18, also is not Jewish. She just graduated from Greenhill School in Addison and will attend Yale University in the fall. She said she hopes to focus her education on history and urban studies.
Attending Yale will place her at a great distance from Dallas, but Kas Tebbetts said she still plans to check in constantly with her fellow board members as an alum.
“I can’t wait to see how the board progresses and grows,” she said. “More kids in DFW need to know about this amazing chance to work with great history and kind people.”
So far, the board has been fortunate enough to have solid, dedicated members. And Dr. Decoster hopes that will continue.
“All of our members are highly motivated in everything they do,” Dr. Decoster said. “We try and meet at least once a month while school is in session.”
Students who wish to apply to join the board can fill out an online application, which they must submit with a school transcript. The junior board will convene, review the application, and then take a formal vote on whether to admit the applicant.
Kate Fundis said she became involved with the board thanks to a family friend who docents at the museum.
“She suggested I apply, and I thought the board would be a great way to get involved with the museum and Holocaust survivors,” Fundis said. “I joined the board shortly after it completed its first year.”
Fundis said it has been a pleasure to watch the board evolve into its current role as more members joined and brought ideas.
Members must demonstrate poise and initiative, and — perhaps most importantly — move beyond shyness.
“The junior board has given each member a sense of purpose greater than their own desires,” Sarah Terrace said. “At the end of their senior year, we hope that this service continues in the next phase of their life.”
Any high school aged student who wishes to apply to the junior board can do so online at: https://dallasholocaustmuseum.formstack.com/forms/junior_board_application
Max Glauben said he hopes the accomplishments of the late Pam Barnes will always be honored and remembered by the junior board. Glauben said Barnes was a good friend who accomplished quite a bit for the Dallas Holocaust museum.
“She was an unbelievable person,” Glauben said. “She went far above the call of duty for what she was doing.”

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Interfaith prayer vigil

Posted on 08 July 2016 by admin

Congregation Beth Torah will hold an interfaith prayer vigil in the wake of this past week’s events at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 10.

Join Beth Torah for an interfaith prayer service to help bring some healing to the community as we deal with the shootings of the past week. Among the attending will be several faith leaders of different denominations: Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker, Richardson City Manager Dan Johnson, Richardson Chief of Police Jimmy Spivey, Allen Deputy Chief of Police Kenneth Myers and representatives from the Jewish Community Resource Council, American Jewish Committee and the Collin County office of the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition.  The event is hosted by Congregation Beth Torah and organized by the Richardson Interfaith Alliance.

For more information, contact Rabbi Elana Zelony, 310-409-6532.

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Around The Town: WWI tribute

Around The Town: WWI tribute

Posted on 07 July 2016 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Treasured Traditions

Their etched names are faded, as are the once vivid Stars and Stripes. However, the three marble slabs located on the outside wall of Congregation Ahavath Sholom continue to pay tribute to “our boys” who served during World War I, 1914-1918.
The slabs are dated Nov. 11, 1920 to honor 81 of our local Jewish soldiers many of whom were ancestors of current members of our community. The slabs were originally one slab. It hung in the lobby of the Hebrew Institute, a downtown building that served as the Jewish Community Center until 1950. The Fort Worth Jewish Archives is commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I by researching each soldier listed on the tablets. If you have photos, information or stories about any of these soldiers, please contact Hollace Weiner at 817-731-3685 or hollacew@att.net.
— Submitted by Naomi Rosenfield

 

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