Archive | October, 2016

Sukkah construction, use changes our relationships

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
Could you please explain what is accomplished by sitting and eating in a sukkah? We understand it is a mitzvah to do so and the kids love it, but, truth be told, it is sometimes quite a schlep, both building it, taking the food in and out, and sitting in the sometimes not ideal weather.
Could you provide some insight which would perhaps add some meaning?
— Bart & Kimberly W.
Dear Bart and Kimberly,
The holiday of Succos, which begins this Sunday night, is referred to as “our time of joy.” Although there is a mitzvah of joy on every holiday, as the Torah says “vesamachta bechagecha,” be joyous on Succos. Succos has something unique about it as a time of joy which transcends that of any other time in the Jewish year.
Let’s consider for a moment what brings us happiness. Most people would say that they feel happy and comfortable in their homes, where they have their nice furniture, creature comforts and familiar surroundings. If that was truly the source of joy, that joy is quite vulnerable and transient. What if one suddenly lost their home, as happened with so many in the New Orleans flood just a few years ago? What if someone lost their job and had to foreclose on their home? As tragic and unsettling as that would be, from a Jewish perspective one would still need to find a way to be joyous in life. In order to do so, we must find a deeper source of joy than our physical trappings. We have been “wandering Jews” for thousands of years, uprooted from homes and communities with barely the clothes on our backs, but have somehow never lost our joy for life.
The true source of joy is our timeless connection to a higher Essence. Our connection to the Al-mighty has no relationship to time and place. Before being exiled, we had a special connection with the holy Temple, but even when we lost it and were exiled we retained our connection to God through Torah and mitzvos. For millennia we have shown that our joy does not depend upon time, place or physical surroundings, which is a big part of us being an Eternal People.
We bring that relationship alive on Succos. On Rosh Hashanah we “coronated” the King and entered His palace. On Yom Kippur we purify ourselves, transcending food and drink and forge a new, deep connection. This bond is not of a transient nature, rather it becomes part of our very existence. Succos is the time we celebrate that eternal bond. By the very nature of the celebration it’s not sufficient to simply celebrate, rather we need to “live” that bond. Hence the mitzvah of Succos is to build a spiritual place to live, to live our lives outside of our usual physical surroundings. In that way we can focus on our real, grounded existence, our loving connection to God. This brings us to unique joy, as we know that this is the one thing that no foreclosure or flood can ever take away from us.
We are that connection!
After solidifying that relationship with joy for an entire week, we can then transition back to our regular homes where we continue that unique relationship throughout the year. Although we return to our familiar places after Succos, somehow something seems different. What’s changed is that it’s not all about the house anymore — we’ve learned that our joy is linked to something much larger and higher. We can then utilize our homes and everything in them as vehicles to take us even higher. We repeat this every year; this cycle spirals us upward higher and higher every year!
A very joyous Succos holiday to you and all the readers!

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Dallas Doings: Bnai Zion, Legacy

Dallas Doings: Bnai Zion, Legacy

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Pastor John Hagee greet one another in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Pastor John Hagee greet one another in Jerusalem.

From left, Nonie Schwartz and Susan Preston get ready to deliver honey cakes to Legacy at Home clients.

From left, Nonie Schwartz and Susan Preston get ready to deliver honey cakes to Legacy at Home clients.

Tashlich at the Legacy Willow Bend

Tashlich at the Legacy Willow Bend

Dr. Tim And Virginia Shepherd, CUFI members, Bnai Zion Foundation Texas Region board members were instrumental in coordinating Pastor John Hagee’s keynote at next month’s annual gala.

Dr. Tim And Virginia Shepherd, CUFI members, Bnai Zion Foundation Texas Region board members were instrumental in coordinating Pastor John Hagee’s keynote at next month’s annual gala.

Submitted photo Diane Benjamin (center) thanks Pastors Liz and Terry Hutch for their phenomenal $250,000 donation benefiting the Bnai Zion Medical Center in Israel at the Sunday, Oct. 9, Celebration of Israel at DFW New Beginning’s Church.

Submitted photo
Diane Benjamin (center) thanks Pastors Tiz and Larry Huch for their phenomenal $250,000 donation benefiting the Bnai Zion Medical Center in Israel at the Sunday, Oct. 9, Celebration of Israel at DFW New Beginning’s Church.

 

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Bnai Zion Texas starts 5777 with big news

Bnai Zion had a series of exciting events unfold in the past week. On Sunday, Oct. 9, DFW New Beginning’s Church, the congregation of Pastors Tiz and Larry Huch, presented a check to Bnai Zion Foundation for its Israel medical center for $250,000. The donation was a highlight of the church’s Celebration of Israel featuring Pat Boone.
Earlier in the week, Bnai Zion officials learned that Pastor John Hagee would keynote its annual gala next month. Pastor Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of the 22,000 member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio as well as the  founder and chairman of the 3 million member Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization.
The annual gala will be held 6 p.m. Sunday Nov. 13, 2016 at The Westin Galleria Dallas. Award recipients are honored for their support of Israel and its right to exist and play key parts in our local community.  They serve as an inspiration to others.
The 2016 honorees are:

  • Laura and the Honorable Tom Leppert who will receive the Community Service Award.
  • Brenda and Dr. Peter Marcus who will receive the Distinguished Humanitarian Award.
  • Ann Stacy will receive the America-Israel Friendship Award.

Pastor Hagee has built a ministry on straightforward Bible teaching and preaching, as well as unwavering support for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. In addition to founding the global media ministry, Hagee is the author of 39 major books, seven of which were New York Times best-sellers.
Hagee has met personally with every Israeli prime minister since Menachem Begin. Most recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was present to celebrate Hagee’s 50 years of ministry celebration and lit up the Tower of David Wall with special words honoring Hagee’s service to Israel.
Hagee is the founder of  “A Night to Honor Israel” which is celebrated annually at Cornerstone Church over national and international television. “A Night to Honor Israel” is a non-conversionary tribute to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people of the world. Its purpose is to promote esteem and understanding between Christians and Jews and to emphasize that the beliefs we hold in common are far greater than the differences we have allowed to separate us. “A Night to Honor Israel” has been replicated at hundreds of churches around the country and in Europe and Africa.
Dr. Tim and Virginia Shepherd, CUFI members and Bnai Zion board members were instrumental in securing Pastor Hagee as the featured speaker. They recently participated on the CUFI trip to Israel. Virginia Shepherd said, “We are honored to have Pastor Hagee come and share with us his heart for Israel. As one who has spent his life building bridges between the Christian and Jewish communities, we know that this will be a special evening to come together and support the vital work of Bnai Zion Medical Center and Ahava Village.”
Hagee has been presented with the ZOA Israel Award and the B’nai B’rith Council’s Humanitarian of the Year Award for his unwavering support of Israel.
Hagee’s ministry has given $92 million to bring the Jewish exiles of the world home to Israel, support health, education and general welfare as well. The ministry has provided comfort and consolation to the Jewish people through the building of orphanage facilities, absorption centers and hospitals.
In February 2006, Pastor John Hagee, founded and became National Chairman of Christians United for Israel, to create a national grass roots movement focused on the support of Israel. Over 400 Christian leaders each representing a denomination, mega-church, media ministry, publishing company or Christian university joined.
You can purchase tickets for $200/person or $2,000/table of 10 by contacting Bnai Zion Executive Director, Avrille Harris at avrille.harris-cohen@bnaizion.org or 972 918 9200.

Legacy at Home, Legacy Willow Bend commemorate Rosh Hashanah

Residents, their families and staff members at The Legacy Willow Bend life care community in Plano recently gathered together in observance of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
In addition, The Legacy at Home delivered traditional honey cakes to all of its clients to wish them a sweet new year. The Legacy Senior Communities is the not-for-profit parent company of both organizations. While this is a time of celebration, the purpose is to begin reflecting on the previous year and pray for self-improvement in the new year ahead. This holiday occurs on the first and second days of Tishri as the period of introspection, which continues for the 10 days commonly known as the Days of Awe.
“Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity to spend time together with family and friends celebrating the start of a new year,” said Michael Ellentuck, president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities. “There is an immense sense of joy when I see the residents and their families come together at The Legacy Willow Bend. This year, as we also commemorated the holiday with families served by The Legacy at Home. By sharing this experience with one another, we lay the foundation for a sweet new year.”
The Legacy Willow Bend hosted an Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner and service for residents and their family members led by Bruce Feldman, who led services for independent living, and Eli Davidsohn, who led services for assisted living and memory care residents and their loved ones. Residents and guests enjoyed apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet year ahead. The following morning, residents participated in Tashlich services, which included the sounding of shofar – the ram’s horn – as the call to repentance. Participants tossed breadcrumbs into the outdoor water fountain, symbolizing a release from their sins of the past.
As part of celebrating the holiday, volunteers helped The Legacy at Home deliver sweetness to its clients. Volunteers assembled honey cake baskets and then delivered them to clients right in their own homes. For The Legacy at Home volunteer Marilyn Schwartz, being able to share the spirit of the new year with those who are unable to go out and celebrate the High Holidays was incredibly meaningful.
“It was very satisfying to bring joy to others during this special time of year,” said Schwartz. “We were able to show people who are recovering from surgery, going through rehabilitation or dealing with another health condition that they have not been forgotten by the Jewish community.
“I hope that by delivering the honey cakes, we provided them with a connection to our community and a way to enjoy the holidays.”

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Dallas Holocaust Museum honors Levine

Dallas Holocaust Museum honors Levine

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

Submitted photo Nate Levine with his wife Ann. Nate has a longstanding history with the Dallas Holocaust Museum and serves on their board of directors.

Submitted photo
Nate Levine with his wife Ann. Nate has a longstanding history with the Dallas Holocaust Museum and serves on their board of directors.

By Judy Tashbook-Safern
Special to the TJP

The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance will honor Nate Levine, an advocate for education and advancing human rights, at its annual Hope for Humanity Dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas.
“Nate’s outstanding commitment to education and philanthropy make him incredibly deserving of this award,” said Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, who promises that an important announcement about the Museum will be shared the evening of Levine’s honor.
Levine, philanthropist, volunteer and businessperson, has a longstanding history with the Museum and currently serves on its board of directors. For nearly 45 years, he and his wife Ann have shared their time, talent and spirit with the city of Dallas.
A few highlights of their commitment to community causes include their deep involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; an endowed chair for Jewish studies at Southern Methodist University; and providing major funding for the Ann and Nate Levine Academy, Congregation Shearith Israel and the creation of the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
“Nate Levine has worked his entire life reducing hate through his support of education and his acts of loving kindness,” said Hope for Humanity Dinner Co-Chair Mark Kreditor. “Nate came from very modest beginnings and is truly a self made man who perfectly represents the Hope for Humanity.”
“The history of the Jewish people is an amazing story of survival and triumph,” Levine said. “Nothing other than the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem compares to the devastation we experienced 70 years ago during the Holocaust. Yet our existence as a flourishing community here in Dallas, as well as in communities worldwide and in the state of Israel, testifies to the endurance of faith and to the power of humanity to overcome tragedy.
“This museum tells that story to more than 100,000 visitors a year, a large percentage of whom are school children and tourists visiting from small towns across Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, many who have never met Jewish people.”
“It moves me that we can do this here in Dallas,” adds Levine. “This museum is a great storytelling facility in an iconic building and it is an active testament to the contributions of the Jewish people. I want the world to know how much the Jews have contributed to civilization and how our values of education and tolerance have furthered the cause of human rights worldwide.”
Levine said he and Ann are passionate about the Dallas Holocaust Museum because education is the tool through which hope for humanity will be achieved.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am truly honored to have my name, my finances, and my resources associated with the Dallas Holocaust Museum.”
Dinner Co-chair A. J. Rosmarin said: “While his parents were not Holocaust survivors, Nate’s family has its roots in Poland, a country devastated by the Nazis. Many of Nate’s friends have family members who perished during that terrible time in world history, so his work with the Dallas Holocaust Museum is a particularly poignant way to honor their collective memory. Attending this dinner in Nate’s honor is a small way to thank him for his family’s commitment, leadership and passion.”
The Hope for Humanity Dinner is the primary annual fundraising event of the Museum.
Proceeds from the dinner fund the Museum’s exhibits, student programs, educator conferences and other community services events.
Former recipients of the Hope for Humanity Award include: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings; former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach; Frank Risch, former vice president and treasurer of Exxon Mobil Corp.; Stanley Rabin, former chairman of Commercial Metals Company; and Don Glendenning, co-chair of Locke Lord’s Corporate and Transactional Department.
Donors include Loren and Steven Levine, Jolie and Michael Newman, Abbe Sue and Daniel Witheiler, Barbara and Stan Rabin, Lisa and Neil Goldberg/Sherry and Kenny Goldberg Families, Ann and Nate Levine, Janet and Jeffrey Beck, Joe and Marshall Funk Families, IMA | Waldman, Rosalyn G. Rosenthal, Schultz and Romaner Families, Alice and Jim Skinner and Southern Glazer’s.
The evening begins with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Complimentary valet is available upon arrival.
For tickets, please call
469-399-5202 or email Events@DallasHolocaustMuseum.org.

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Family discussion topics during each night of Sukkot

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
Being Jewish means enjoying great holidays and most of them have great “stuff.”
At the J Early Childhood Center, we have been blowing the shofar with abandon but now we get the best fun — building a sukkah! Children love forts and the sukkah is such a special one to share with family and guests. The important Jewish value of “Hachnasat Orchin — Welcoming Guests” is practiced at Sukkot in a very special way. The tradition of “ushpizin” began in the 16th century involves inviting a different Biblical guest each night of Sukkot using special words of welcome to honor the “ushpizin” (guest).
According to the Midrash, the shelter of the sukkah was available to the Israelites during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness solely as a result of Abraham’s offer of hospitality to the three strangers who appeared to tell Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child. That is a great explanation but the real message is that we should always show kindness and proper hospitality to others.
Here are the Biblical ushpizin for each night and a topic for family discussion:
Abraham was told by God to take his long-awaited son Isaac, and bind him to a sacrificial altar. Have you ever been asked to “sacrifice” something that was very dear to you?
Isaac had to choose between two sons for his inheritance. Have you ever had something that couldn’t be shared and you had to choose from among your friends?
Jacob wrestled with God’s angel and in the morning changed his name to Yisrael. What new name would you call yourself if you could?
Joseph received a beautiful coat from his father that made his brothers very jealous. Have you ever been jealous of something a friend had? Has some one ever been jealous of you?
Moses was convinced of God’s presence by the Burning Bush. Did something unusual ever happen to convince you of something you weren’t sure of before?
Aaron was the brother of Moses, the Jewish people’s greatest leader. Do you ever feel you live in your brother’s or sister’s shadow?
David was chased by King Saul who thought that David was after his throne. Have you ever been bothered by someone who thought you wanted something they had?
Now that you know the Biblical guests to invite, think of others you would like to invite into your sukkah and the questions you might ask them.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady,
Laura Seymour, Director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family JCC.

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In digital world, have we done enough to atone?

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

Alan Lew gave us the adult version in his not-too-long book with a very long title, This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared:  The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, when he wrote that “Yom Kippur is the day we all get to read our own obituary. It’s a dress rehearsal for our death. That’s why we wear a kittel, a shroud-like garment … why we refrain from life-affirming activities such as eating, drinking and procreating. We are rehearsing the day of our death, because death, like Yom Kippur, atones.”
Harsh, yes? But here’s a children’s version of those 10 important days that Lew sees as a prelude to or  rehearsal for to death: a little song that was popular some decades ago in the lower grades of many Jewish Sunday schools: “Let’s be friends, make amends — Now’s the time to say ‘I’m sorry.’ Let’s be friends, make amends — Say that you forgive me. On the 10 days of Teshuvah, time to worship, time to pray — Take my hand and I’ll take yours, let’s be friends for always.”
Lew used basic words in his straightforward look at the year’s holiest day, but the way he put it is frightening. On the other had, while little children had to be coached a bit with “amends” and “Teshuvah,”and maybe even “forgive,” they loved the idea of holding hands with their friends and singing about it.
I wrote this a week before the Day of Atonement; you’re reading it a day after. We’ve all, already, been sealed in that big Book of Life (or Death). Maybe we’ve fulfilled those old requirements for the Ten Days of Awe that I was taught as a child:  Teshuvah, Tefilah, Tzedakah “avert the severe decree.” Penitence, prayer, charity were harder lessons to learn than holding hands with friends, but they’ve lasted me for a lifetime.
Recently, in one of its excellent daily “Ten Minutes of Torah,” the Union for Reform Judaism presented dueling views of modern-day Teshuvah: May one, or may one not, use social media to fulfill the requirement of atonement?  Is an apology — either blanket or individually personal — delivered on Facebook or by Twitter, actually sufficient to fulfill that part of the required penitential trio?  It was a lively debate, with pros and cons taking into account the fact that so much contact has become so very impersonal these days, both justifying and denying the possibility that apologies given in the same media where things occurred to merit them can suffice in our time for the face-to-face contact (or even the telephone call!) required in the past. (I’m not a social media user myself, but I have to wonder: Where might an email apology fit?)
Tefilah seems easy enough:  we all go to services of one sort or another and say the required prayers of preparation during Rosh Hashanah. But when we come together again at Yom Kippur, the praying is different; we’re now speaking to God in the plural, the assumption being that we’ve taken care of our separate obligations and are now entitled to do our prayerful duty as a community. Our souls should be cleansed before we attempt this. But have we earned the right to be doing so with our smartphones and computers?
Tzedakah should also be easy. Yes, almost everyone gives something, some time, to someone(s). But is the act itself enough to cleanse the soul for final judgment?  How many live up to Maimonides’ highest order of giving — anonymity, in which givers don’t know who receives their gifts, and recipients don’t know from whom the gifts came?   A few cans to a food bank — is that “gift” sufficient?
In today’s complex society, I sometimes wish we could all just hold hands and pledge friendship forever, like those once happy children who are now all texting adults. But barring that, I hope we’ve all merited inscription in the Book of Life for 5777!

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Around The Town: Building Sukkah, Person of Year

Around The Town: Building Sukkah, Person of Year

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

The Fort Worth Jewish community has taken unprecedented step. It has announced its Person of the Year awardee before the annual dinner.
Always a closely guarded secret, the selection committee elected to announce the winner so no one would miss out on honoring the beloved recipient, Harry Kahn. Rich Hollander extolled a few of Harry’s virtues, “Besides being president of Ahavath Sholom twice in his life Harry has also been president of B’nai B’rith for much of the past 10 years.  He is the reason we have one of the top 10 most active chapters in the U.S.
Gruff on the outside with a heart of gold, Harry Kahn has fed nearly all of us at least once and our senior community hundreds of times. Besides being active in Jewish community, Harry has also been the heart and soul of our Christmas Day work at Beautiful Feet.

TJP file photo Harry Kahn whips up potatoes for the senior Thanksgiving celebration in November 2011.

TJP file photo
Harry Kahn whips up potatoes for the senior Thanksgiving celebration in November 2011.

Tickets for the 2016 Jewish Person of the Year Dinner which will be held on Oct. 30 at Beth-El Congregation  are $25. Tables of eight are $200. The evening will be catered by Riscky’s BBQ. There will be kosher dinners available for those that reserve in advance. For ticket information, contact Rich Hollander at rich.d.hollander@gmail.com 817-909-4354, Alex Nason at alexnason@charter.net or Marvin Beleck at marvinbeleck@aol.com.

 

 

*****

 

 

Building their Sukkah

cbssukkahbuildersMembers of the Congregation Beth Shalom Brotherhood built their Sukkah on Sunday, Oct. 9 in preparation for Sukkot.
Pictured are Sukkah builders extraordinaire (from left) Steven Cabrero, Phil Kabakoff, Ryan Silverberg (kneeling down), Barry Goldfarb, Jeff Rothschild, Mark Lewis, Stuart Snow and Nana and Joy Atkens.

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Dallas man recovering after losing both legs

Dallas man recovering after losing both legs

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

Submitted photo Friends and family stand with Ariel Berkowitz, who was hit by a train and had both his legs amputated. Berkowitz is uninsured, so he’s fundraising to pay his medical bills.

Submitted photo
Friends and family stand with Ariel Berkowitz, who was hit by a train and had both his legs amputated. Berkowitz is uninsured, so he’s fundraising to pay his medical bills.

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

In the late evening of Wednesday, Sept. 28, Ariel Berkowitz of Dallas was on the tracks of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Green Line when the train hit him, dragging him almost 200 yards before stopping. Berkowitz was conscious but his legs were severely wounded.
He was rushed to Baylor Medical Center, where doctors were left no choice but to amputate his legs.
“It is a miracle he is even alive,” said Rena Levy, Berkowitz’s grandmother.
Even more miraculous, Levy noted, is that he suffered no brain damage.in-the-car-leaving-hospital
Berkowitz was released Friday, Oct. 7. Some people struggle following surgeries, much less an ampu

 

tation. But doctors and nurses told his family they were delighted at his progress. Within a few days at Baylor, he was rolling around in his wheelchair outside of his room. He was even lifting out of the wheelchair too.
Berkowitz was resilient. He was determined to get on with life. That’s just the kind of guy Berkowitz is, according to Levy.
“He’s a good, clean-cut Jewish boy. He is a special kid,” Levy said. “He doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him.”
The 19 year old was in his first semester at Brookhaven Community College when the train hit him.
Berkowitz could not be reached following his hospital exit as of press time.
School, including his dream to study meteorology at Texas Tech University, may be on hold.

Ariel Berkowitz with his sisters

Ariel Berkowitz with his sisters

That’s because his family’s main priority is recovery, rehabilitation and adapting to living without his legs.
But that requires money, and a lot of it.
Because Berkowitz is uninsured, the family is raising funds on the website GoFundMe, which allows people to fundraise for projects via the Internet. They’ve set a $100,000 goal to cover medical expenses, including the hospital stay, mental and physical rehabilitation, as well as prosthetics. As of press time, they have raised $13,158 toward that goal.
Prosthetic legs are a key part of Berkowitz’ rehabilitation.
“His life is sports,” Levy said of Berkowitz.
Berkowitz is a diehard fan of the Dallas Mavericks, where he and his friends were regular and rowdy fixtures at games. In fact, the Dallas Morning News cited a photo of a blue-and-white Berkowitz and his friends, Sammy and Ryan Drei, as among their favorite photos of Mavericks fans.
He’s a devoted fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, too.
Recently the Eagles sent Berkowitz a care package featuring team swag, including a jersey and autographed photo of Eagles’ wide receiver Jordan Matthews. In a note, the team wished him well.
“The entire Philadelphia Eagles organization is thinking of you and wishing you the best during this time,” reads the letter. “We can’t wait to have you feeling better and cheering us on again!”
Such support doesn’t surprise Levy.
“He has never met a stranger, Levy said.
Nor does it surprise Jordan Lewis. That’s because Berkowitz puts himself before others.
Jordan Lewis agreed. Lewis has known Berkowitz since high school. Berkowitz, in fact, was one of Lewis’ first friends in high school after he transferred to public school.
“(He) is an extremely outgoing and kind person. He has always had a positive outlook on life and always looks for the best in people.”
Lewis has been heavily promoting the fundraiser because Berkowitz has always been selfless.
“Ariel is always there for someone in their time of need, now it’s (time for) people to be there for him,” Lewis wrote.
To donate to the fundraiser visit Gofundme.com/helparielberkowitz.

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Obama’s eulogy for Peres

Posted on 06 October 2016 by admin

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Zvia, Yoni, Chemi and generations of the Peres family; President Rivlin; Prime Minister Netanyahu; members of the Israeli government and the Knesset; heads of state and the government and guests from around the world, including President Abbas, whose presence here is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace; to the people of Israel:  I could not be more honored to be in Jerusalem to say farewell to my friend Shimon Peres, who showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea.

A free life, in a homeland regained.  A secure life, in a nation that can defend itself, by itself.  A full life, in friendship with nations who can be counted on as allies, always.  A bountiful life, driven by simple pleasures of family and by big dreams.  This was Shimon Peres’s life.  This is the State of Israel.  This is the story of the Jewish people over the last century, and it was made possible by a founding generation that counts Shimon as one of its own.

Shimon once said, “The message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.”  For Shimon, that moral vision was rooted in an honest reckoning of the world as it is.  Born in the shtetl, he said he felt, “surrounded by a sea of thick and threatening forests.”  When his family got the chance to go to Palestine, his beloved grandfather’s parting words were simple:  “Shimon, stay a Jew.”  Propelled with that faith, he found his home.  He found his purpose.  He found his life’s work.  But he was still a teenager when his grandfather was burned alive by the Nazis in the town where Shimon was born.  The synagogue in which he prayed became an inferno.  The railroad tracks that had carried him toward the Promised Land also delivered so many of his people to death camps.

And so from an early age, Shimon bore witness to the cruelty that human beings could inflict on each other, the ways that one group of people could dehumanize another; the particular madness of anti-Semitism, which has run like a stain through history.  That understanding of man’s ever-present sinfulness would steel him against hardship and make him vigilant against threats to Jewry around the world.

But that understanding would never harden his heart.  It would never extinguish his faith.  Instead, it broadened his moral imagination, and gave him the capacity to see all people as deserving of dignity and respect.  It helped him see not just the world as it is, but the world as it should be.

What Shimon did to shape the story of Israel is well-chronicled.  Starting on the kibbutz he founded with his love Sonya, he began the work of building a model community.  Ben Gurion called him to serve the Haganah at headquarters to make sure that the Jewish people had the armaments and the organization to secure their freedom.  After independence, surrounded by enemies who denied Israel’s existence and sought to drive it into the sea, the child who had wanted to be a “poet of stars” became a man who built Israel’s defense industry, who laid the foundation for the formidable armed forces that won Israel’s wars.  His skill secured Israel’s strategic position. His boldness sent Israeli commandos to Entebbe, and rescued Jews from Ethiopia.  His statesmanship built an unbreakable bond with the United States of America and so many other countries.

His contributions didn’t end there.  Shimon also showed what people can do when they harness reason and science to a common cause.  He understood that a country without many natural resources could more than make up for it with the talents of its people.  He made hard choices to roll back inflation and climb up from a terrible economic crisis.  He championed the promise of science and technology to make the desert bloom, and turned this tiny country into a central hub of the digital age, making life better not just for people here, but for people around the world.

Indeed, Shimon’s contribution to this nation is so fundamental, so pervasive, that perhaps sometimes they can be overlooked.  For a younger generation, Shimon was probably remembered more for a peace process that never reached its endpoint.  They would listen to critics on the left who might argue that Shimon did not fully acknowledge the failings of his nation, or perhaps more numerous critics on the right who argued that he refused to see the true wickedness of the world, and called him naïve.

But whatever he shared with his family or his closest friends, to the world he brushed off the critics.  And I know from my conversations with him that his pursuit of peace was never naïve.  Every Yom HaShoah, he read the names of the family that he lost.  As a young man, he had fed his village by working in the fields during the day, but then defending it by carrying a rifle at night.  He understood, in this war-torn region, where too often Arab youth are taught to hate Israel from an early age — he understood just how hard peace would be.  I’m sure he was alternatively angry and bemused to hear the same critics, who called him hopelessly naïve, depend on the defense architecture that he himself had helped to build.

I don’t believe he was naïve.  But he understood from hard-earned experience that true security comes through making peace with your neighbors.  “We won them all,” he said of Israel’s wars.  “But we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to: release from the need to win victories.”

And just as he understood the practical necessity of peace, Shimon believed that Israel’s exceptionalism was rooted not only in fidelity to the Jewish people, but to the moral and ethical vision, the precepts of his Jewish faith.  “The Jewish people weren’t born to rule another people,” he would say.  “From the very first day we are against slaves and masters.”

Out of the hardships of the diaspora, he found room in his heart for others who suffered.  He came to hate prejudice with the passion of one who knows how it feels to be its target.  Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews, and must therefore be equal in self-determination.  Because of his sense of justice, his analysis of Israel’s security, his understanding of Israel’s meaning, he believed that the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians, too, had a state of their own.

Of course, we gather here in the knowledge that Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled.  The region is going through a chaotic time.  Threats are ever present.  And yet, he did not stop dreaming, and he did not stop working.  By the time that I came to work with Shimon, he was in the twilight of his years — although he might not admit it.  I would be the 10th U.S. President since John F. Kennedy to sit down with Shimon; the 10th to fall prey to his charms.  I think of him sitting in the Oval Office, this final member of Israel’s founding generation, under the portrait of George Washington, telling me stories from the past, but more often talking with enthusiasm of the present — his most recent lecture, his next project, his plans for the future, the wonders of his grandchildren.

In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I’ve had the honor to meet — men like Nelson Mandela; women like Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth — leaders who have seen so much, whose lives span such momentous epochs, that they find no need to posture or traffic in what’s popular in the moment; people who speak with depth and knowledge, not in sound bites.  They find no interest in polls or fads.

And like these leaders, Shimon could be true to his convictions even if they cut against the grain of current opinion.  He knew, better than the cynic, that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear but with hope.  I’m sure that’s why he was so excited about technology — because for him, it symbolized the march of human progress.  And it’s why he loved so much to talk about young people — because he saw young people unburdened by the prejudices of the past.  It’s why he believed in miracles — because in Israel, he saw a miracle come true.

As Americans and Israelis, we often talk about the unbreakable bonds between our nations.  And, yes, these bonds encompass common interests — vital cooperation that makes both our nations more secure.  But today we are reminded that the bonds which matter most run deeper.  Anchored in a Judeo-Christian tradition, we believe in the irreducible value of every human being.  Our nations were built on that idea.  They were built in large part by stubborn idealists and striving immigrants, including those who had fled war and fled oppression.  Both our nations have flaws that we have not always fixed, corners of our history which date back to our founding that we do not always squarely address.  But because our founders planted not just flags in the eternal soil, but also planted the seeds of democracy, we have the ability to always pursue a better world.  We have the capacity to do what is right.

As an American, as a Christian, a person partly of African descent, born in Hawaii — a place that could not be further than where Shimon spent his youth — I took great pleasure in my friendship with this older, wiser man.  We shared a love of words and books and history.  And perhaps, like most politicians, we shared too great a joy in hearing ourselves talk.  But beyond that, I think our friendship was rooted in the fact that I could somehow see myself in his story, and maybe he could see himself in mine.  Because for all of our differences, both of us had lived such unlikely lives.  It was so surprising to see the two of us where we had started, talking together in the White House, meeting here in Israel.  And I think both of us understood that we were here only because in some way we reflected the magnificent story of our nations.

Shimon’s story, the story of Israel, the experience of the Jewish people, I believe it is universal.  It’s the story of a people who, over so many centuries in the wilderness, never gave up on that basic human longing to return home.  It’s the story of a people who suffered the boot of oppression and the shutting of the gas chamber’s door, and yet never gave up on a belief in goodness.  And it’s the story of a man who was counted on, and then often counted out, again and again, and who never lost hope.

Shimon Peres reminds us that the State of Israel, like the United States of America, was not built by cynics.  We exist because people before us refused to be constrained by the past or the difficulties of the present.  And Shimon Peres was never cynical.  It is that faith, that optimism, that belief — even when all the evidence is to the contrary — that tomorrow can be better, that makes us not just honor Shimon Peres, but love him.

The last of the founding generation is now gone.  Shimon accomplished enough things in his life for a thousand men.  But he understood that it is better to live to the very end of his time on Earth with a longing not for the past but for the dreams that have not yet come true — an Israel that is secure in a just and lasting peace with its neighbors.  And so now this work is in the hand of Israel’s next generation, in the hands of Israel’s next generation and its friends.

Like Joshua, we feel the weight of responsibility that Shimon seemed to wear so lightly.  But we draw strength from his example and the fact that he believed in us — even when we doubted ourselves.

Scripture tells us that before his death, Moses said, “I call upon heaven and earth to bear witness this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.”

Uvacharta Bachayim.  Choose life.  For Shimon, let us choose life, as he always did.  Let us make his work our own. May God bless his memory.  And may God bless this country, and this world, that he loved so dearly.

Shimon: Todah Rabah Chaver Yakar.

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Illinois campus offers wonderful Jewish experience

Posted on 06 October 2016 by admin

On my mother’s recent 32nd yahrzeit date, I was visiting my daughter in central Illinois.
Where to go to say Kaddish? We decided on the University of Illinois Hillel, which is very near her home. And, as so often happens, much learning accompanied our performance of religious duty (this one, of course, being a mitzvah of pleasant memory far beyond obligation…).
First thing I learned:  The U of I is where the entire Hillel movement began! This first Hillel in the world was established here, on this Champaign-Urbana campus, in 1923, and has been thriving ever since. Quite rightly, it’s proud of itself; I now have my own Illini orange-and-blue Hillel T-shirt as testimony!
Second thing I learned: This Hillel is far more than “just” that — it is truly a community center for all area Jews. Since 2007, it has been housed in the beautiful Margie K. and Louis N. Cohen Center for Jewish Life, an impressive multi-purpose complex that embodies and celebrates everything good and important in Judaism. After our Shabbat visit, my daughter and I returned a few days later for two back-to-back events attended by many others who are not students. But first…
When we reported in at the center at 5:30 p.m. on our yahrzeit Friday, we were warmly welcomed and offered a tour of the facility. Our student guide told us she’s a Catholic, volunteering here so that no Jewish student has to work on Shabbat! With her, we saw the extensive facilities for gathering, study, play, cooking, eating and worshiping.
For the latter, we had an erev-Shabbat choice: After a mass candle-lighting and blessing in the lobby just before 6 p.m., three simultaneous services were offered in three separate venues within the Center: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, all student-led, all one-hour long. We chose Conservative; my only “complaint” was that our young “rabbi” officiated at the speed of light to make absolutely sure we’d be on time for the Shabbat meal following.
Every Jewish student on campus must have been there for that dinner — it’s apparently the social event of the week (although kosher meals are always available here). The main dish on this evening was Israeli-style chicken schwarma, but of course there was also a vegetarian option. We all said the motzi together first; then enjoyed cafeteria-style service, with random seating at large, round tables. Most affecting: We noticed how easily and comfortably these many young people included and assisted the few special-needs students scattered among them.
Also special: We returned to Hillel several evenings later for a community “double-header.” The first event, attended by families as well as students, was a pre-holiday display and taste-testing of challahs, honey and honey cakes, offered by area vendors; simultaneously, those browsing and placing advance Rosh Hashanah orders could enjoy a light supper of grilled salmon on skewers and mini-latkes (choice of white or sweet potato) made in the Center’s own kosher kitchen. Afterward, there was an adult showing of the newest Ken Burns documentary, Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War.
More learning: I found out about this screening through extensive coverage in Champaign’s daily newspaper, which included a lengthy interview — accompanied by many new and old photos — of area resident Peter Braunfeld, 86, a retired U of I professor. A native of Vienna, he was brought to the United States by his parents when he was 8 years old, one of the many families rescued through the covert World War II era actions of Unitarian minister Waitstill Sharp and his activist wife Martha. Sadly, Braunfeld’s health kept him from attending this local Federation-sponsored “watch party” in person, but that evening, I found out that of the 26,010 Righteous Among the Nations currently honored at Israel’s Yad Vashem, only five are Americans — and the Sharps are two of them!
My simple family visit turned into an incredible pre-holiday learning experience I’m so happy to share here. Shana Tova, all!

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Around The Town: Stopping BDS

Posted on 06 October 2016 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Hadassah to present program on BDS

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, also known as BDS is on the mind of many Jews these days.
Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah will sponsor “What Is BDS  and What Can We Do About It?” at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3 at Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth.
Keynote speaker Rabbi David Komerofsky of San Antonio’s Temple Chai and the former UT Austin Hillel Director, is well versed on BDS. The BDS movement aims to place economic and political pressure on states in order to influence their behavior. By using these tactics, individuals and organizations aim to isolate Israel politically, economically and culturally. Its overall objective is to challenge Israel’s right to exist. A number of Texas legislators are planning to promote anti-BDS legislation when the Texas Congress convenes in January.
Rabbi David Komerofsky is Temple Chai’s spiritual leader.  He was ordained by the Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion in 1999, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1993.  In addition to his leadership of Temple Chai, he works closely with college campuses through his involvement with Hillel International, and was executive director of Texas Hillel at UT-Austin prior to moving to San Antonio.  Rabbi Komerofsky began his career as an administrator at his alma mater seminary, serving in a variety of roles including dean of students and director of the rabbinical school.
He is married to Ronit Sherwin, CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio. Their blended family includes two sets of boy-girl twins, ages 16 and 6.
Joining Hadassah in bringing the program to fruition are its community partners the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El Congregation, Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington, the Southwest Jewish Congress, the Lil Goldman Early Learning Center (formerly the Jewish Education Agency of Fort Worth and Tarrant County), TCU Hillel and the University of North Texas Hillel at Denton.
The evening is free to the public, bring your friends — everyone is welcome!
For more information, contact Debby Rice at 817-706-5158 or rice.debby@gmail.com.

*****

Fighting back against BDS

The bill being proposed by Texas State Representative for the 61st District Phil King said the language of the bill essentially says “the State of Texas will not do business with any company that is boycotting Israel.”
Because Texas has such a strong attitude toward free markets, King explained it will be a tough bill to pass, but it already has bipartisan support as well as the support Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
What you can do?
Rep. King explained that the best thing you can do between now and January is contact your state representative and state senator and have your friends do the same and let them know it’s important to you.
“When I get 10 or 15 contacts saying ‘Hey, this issue is important to me,’ it’s on my radar and I’m monitoring it and having my staff monitor it all the way through.” King said.

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