Archive | February, 2017

Morally outraged? Public shame last resort

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Jan. 28 was a typical day at Joe’s Coffee Shop in East Atlanta, Georgia. The smells of distinct Intelligentsia Coffee were wafting through the air, and the usual mix of coffee patrons were busy mulling about the roomy space and sitting at tables.
Asma Elhuni, a Georgia State University graduate student and hijab-wearing Muslim, was sitting at a table by herself, working on her computer, when she first noticed Rob and his camera pointed right at her. Asma claims to have tried to ignore him at first, but soon engaged Rob in a conversation that she would videotape herself on her phone.
“You like taking pictures of Muslim women?” Asma asked Rob. Rob initially laughed off her question, claiming that he wasn’t taking a picture of her but of something in the shop’s background, but soon became defensive and abrasive. Seating himself at Asma’s table, Rob leaned in and called her a dirty name only to follow that up by asking Asma if she had a green card (Asma is an American citizen). Rob was in for a surprise if he imagined that this would be the last that he heard of this short encounter. Asma posted her video to her Facebook page with the caption, “Fight back with your cameras y’all,” and encouraged everyone to “spread widely.”
Within only two days Asma’s video went viral, having been viewed by 1.6 million people and shared 17,500 times.
This, in fact, is how this story came to my attention. A Facebook friend of mine had heeded Asma’s charge and shared the video with all of her friends. She was morally outraged and wanted the social media stratosphere to know it. Writing in the style of the Dick and Jane children’s books of the 1930s she added her thoughts on the matter:
“See Rob!
Rob is a bully!
Shame Robert K. … (last name withheld by the author)!
Rob is Islamaphobic!!!!
Shame Robert K. … (last name withheld by the author)!”
The interesting thing is that both Asma and my Facebook friend posted the video to share the kind of discrimination that Muslim women encounter in America, and I’m sure they imagined that by doing so they were helping to further their moral cause. But what of the fact that in this very process a man, however nasty he may have been in that coffee shop, was publicly tarred and feathered?
It wasn’t long before Rob’s identity and Facebook page were discovered and he was soon inundated with death threats and nasty comments. Rob was clearly concerned that this new notoriety could impact his livelihood as well and posted an apology to all of his business partners for his less than stellar behavior.
As a student of Jewish law, the irony of this story is glaring. To maliciously hurt someone’s feelings with mean words in private is no doubt an egregious sin of onaas devarim (“words that hurt”) and one of the negative commandments of the Torah (Vayikra 25:17), but to publicly shame someone is far more egregious!
The Talmud famously notes, “He who publicly shames his neighbor is as though he shed blood (Bava Matzia 58b).” It hurts to be insulted and demeaned in private, but to suffer the fate of public shaming is something else entirely. Unfortunately in our day and age we hear too often of teenagers ending their lives rather than having to face another day of public humiliation due to leaked pictures or videos that had been spread online by their peers.
The Talmud’s words are all too poignant. And although it is true that there are cases in Jewish law when public shaming is allowed, and even meritorious, this device of destruction is kept under strict lock and key, only to be utilized in cases when all other methods of rebuke toward a sinner have been attempted and fallen flat. Public shaming is not meant for your everyday conflict, however painful that conflict might be.
Recently a congregant of mine shared with me that she had come to the conclusion that she had no interest in being ritually observant and would be satisfied by just being a good person. “Well,” I told her to her utter surprise, “you’ve got to learn a lot of Torah to accomplish that!”
You see, as much as our tradition shines its light on the kosher status of different food items, and the permissibility or lack thereof of different actions performed on Shabbos, it equally teaches us how to behave toward others, how to act ethically in the workplace and how to engage with social media. Had Asma or my Facebook friend asked my advice on the matter I would have encouraged them to post the video online, encourage everyone to share the video, but first and foremost to hire a video editor to blur out Rob’s face. The message of the video would come out just as clearly but with the moral clarity to know that no one has to suffer public shaming on the crucible of moral advancement.

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Human uncertainty simply 1 of God’s tools

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I’ve been following your treatment of the parallel universe theory in physics as it relates to Judaism. What I see as a real problem with relation to Judaism, or any religion that believes that God created the universe, is the uncertainty principle in physics; how could there be uncertainty on the part of God?
Rick B.
Dear Rick,
Your question is an excellent one, and was first raised by none other than Albert Einstein, as I will explain.
For the readers, Rick is referring to a principle first elucidated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927. It states, based on the mathematics of quantum mechanics which govern subatomic particles, that we cannot know both the position and the velocity of a subatomic particle. If you know its exact position, you will not know its exact direction or speed.
This principle is based in mathematics and is not to be confused with another principle of quantum mechanics, known as the observer effect, which notes that the very measurement of a system affects the system. This effect is worthy of discussion in its own right. It is, however very different from what Heisenberg, and after him Niels Bohr, stated, that even if we could develop a mode of measurement which would somehow not affect the system, it is a deeply-rooted fact of our universe that there is uncertainty in the knowledge of a particle because every particle acts in an uncertain way. All we can know is the likelihood of a certain number of particles to act in a certain way; we can never know exactly how any given particle is acting by its very nature.
Einstein’s famous reaction to Heisenberg was, “God doesn’t play dice!” Einstein, although not an observant man, was a believer in God, and could not accept that there is inherent uncertainty in His creation. It must be that God created the world with certainty and we are simply missing the appropriate equations, just as there is certainty in the macro level as elucidated by his own theories of relativity. Einstein, over the course of years, attempted to disprove uncertainty with a series of thought experiments, but, alas, experimentation proved him wrong and uncertainty triumphed. Uncertainty remains (in various forms) a pillar of quantum mechanics with tremendous ramifications on a practical level besides in its understanding of the universe.
Your question, Rick, which was the question inherent in Einstein’s “dice,” remains for us a profound theological question. How do we, in fact, reconcile uncertainty with a universe created by God?
I think the answer is precisely the opposite of what was bothering Einstein. God created the world with inherent uncertainty to relate to us humans the profound message that we are not in charge and ultimately only He is in charge! Uncertainty for us doesn’t spell uncertainty for Him, it just limits our control.
There are scientists who have further theorized that uncertainty is the scientific source of the concept of free choice, which is a core Jewish belief. Absolute determinism would present a challenge to free will; uncertainty could be its foundation.
This relates to another area of science which we have discussed in past columns, that of the determination of weather. Many scholarly articles have been written on our inherent inability to predict rain with true accuracy. We explained this with the Talmudic statement that rain is one of the areas for which God didn’t “hand over the keys” to man. The intrinsic nondeterministic nature of rain is actually a God-given quality. This is explained in the deeper sources of Judaism that rain is the physical example of how all of life receives its sustenance, physical and spiritual, from Above. That is why, in Hebrew, the entire physical world is referred to as the olam hagashmi, or the “world of rain.” In order to keep the message alive and well that the existence of the universe depends upon the will of God, He created rain and the entire weather system to be innately nondeterministic.
So too, as mankind forges forward boldly in the understanding of the inner workings of the universe with the massive intellectual achievements of quantum mechanics, we may have come to the point that we would truly feel we are the ultimate controllers of the cosmos and life itself. So at the point that we are nearly there, God winks at us through the equations of Heisenberg, letting us know that Someone else is in charge!

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Yavneh transformed into international stage

Yavneh transformed into international stage

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

BBYO IC participants flood school with diversity of nations

By Jori Epstein
Special to the TJP

Photo: Becky Nurko Yavneh Sophomore Sammy Nurko (second from left) and his brother Yavneh Senior Jonathan Nurko (not pictured) hosted three teens from Uruguay for five days prior to IC.

Photo: Becky Nurko
Yavneh Sophomore Sammy Nurko (second from left) and his brother Yavneh Senior Jonathan Nurko (not pictured) hosted three teens from Uruguay for five days prior to IC.

They all cradled the same coffee cups, debated the same sports teams and music groups, the boys even donning the same kippot.
But as 179 Jewish teens from 29 countries outside the U.S. flocked to Yavneh Academy of Dallas Feb. 14, the day was anything but typical. A teen from Berlin led a traditional Shacharit service in one hall. Students packed a classroom in meditation upstairs. Still more circled in the library for a musical service that fittingly ended with a rendition of Matisyahu’s One Day lyrics.
All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for, for the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
They’ll be no more wars
And our children will play
The international teens came from France and Uruguay, Switzerland and Moldova, Georgia (the country) and Latvia. All were in town for the 93rd annual BBYO International Convention, where thousands joined at the Hyatt Regency from Thursday through Monday.image IMG_4736-1
First, the international attendees joined Yavneh.
“This idea kind of morphed from a conversation this summer to follow up,” said Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum, Yavneh’s principal of Judaic studies who works for BBYO in the summers. “I realized it’d be great to bridge them.”
The day’s programming spanned activities nearly as diverse as its audience, from sports to TED talks, cooking to music.
One Yavneh classroom transformed from its usual home for Exodus analysis and Julius Caesar readings to a theater stage. Its actors hailed from Austria, Israel, Serbia, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
Yavneh’s math classroom shifted from filling whiteboards with calculus problems to penning slam poetry pieces to paper. Poems ranged from Spanish to English, Hebrew to French. In some cases, Google Translate bridged linguistic gaps. Other times, students encouraged peers to perform in their native languages.
“It’s in French,” one boy said, hesitant to share his reading.
“Perfect,” another student told him.
“Just express yourself,” a third chimed in.
He did, reading verses of how he feels “a little richer when I say I’m Jewish/I have a lot of things on my heart, do Yom Kippur with hunger.”
The experiences expressed were common among the otherwise diverse teens — a unity in diversity paradox that became the theme of the day.
Yusuf Gurkan, one of nine teens visiting from Turkey, said he wanted to come to Dallas for international convention (IC) after attending a BBYO summer camp. The trip so far hadn’t disappointed.
“In Turkey we don’t have so many Jews our age so it’s really good to see more people here,” said Gurkan, 16. “I’ve never seen this much Jews together in my life.”
Sixteen-year-old Erika Kleiman, in town from Buenos Aires, Argentina, agreed. She’d been to the U.S. before, visiting Disney World in Orlando with her family. But even the self-described happiest place on Earth didn’t compare to what this trip meant to her.
“IC is like a dream for everyone,” Kleiman said. “I really love it, like I can meet everyone and see the different cultures and communities.”
It’s those interchanges, Tannenbaum said, that the school aimed for when planning the exchange day.
“The mission at Yavneh is for our kids to feel Judaism come alive to them,” Tannenbaum said. “To feel it be more than just text study, more than just history. Having them experience this with 170 Jews who are strong enough to identify as Jews even in their countries that aren’t necessarily so hospitable to Jews…is such a great opportunity.”
As the teens mingled, sang along to Matisyahu lyrics and prayed together, they were part of something bigger.
“Listening to someone lead services from Berlin — yeah, he has a German accent but it’s the same words and the same tunes,” Tannenbaum said. “We’re the same even though we’re different and I think that’s the greater message today: You’re not alone. Wherever you are there are Jews and you really have much more in common than you have different.”
David Schapiro, who led that same morning service he usually leads at school in Berlin, agreed.
“This is what Judaism’s about,” Schapiro said. “You can go anywhere and you feel at home because the people are like you there.
“It’s so cool.”
In Polish and Turkish, Italian and Romanian, Spanish and Hebrew, the message was the same.

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Around The Town: JFS, hamantaschen, baseball

Around The Town: JFS, hamantaschen, baseball

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Jewish Family Services starts a transportation program

Jewish Family Services of Fort Worth and Tarrant County is delighted to be able to pilot a new transportation program.
The program will provide rides to and from some medical appointments for community members who are unable to provide their own transportation. The service may be available to individuals using a motorized wheelchair.
Rides must be requested at least 48 hours in advance once you are registered for this service. Please contact Lynell Bond at 817-823-0476 to discuss eligibility.

It’s hamantaschen time at Ahavath Sholom

I remember being about 17, and Miriam Labovitz, of blessed memory, teaching me how to make hamantaschen in the shul kitchen.
Indeed, the Ladies Auxiliary of Congregation Ahavath Sholom is known for its hamantaschen, which are kosher, made from scratch in the synagogue kitchen and sold every year as a fundraiser. Over the years, they have expanded from the basic flavors, and now offer apricot, prune, poppy seed, raspberry and chocolate.
In the last couple of years, they have also expanded their offerings to include gluten-free hamantaschen and this year to include sugar-free. They wanted to make sure that everyone could enjoy the holiday regardless of dietary restrictions. All hamantaschen are $12 for a baker’s dozen.
Gluten-free hamantaschen and sugar-free hamantaschen must be pre-ordered by March 3 to ensure time to prepare and distribute. Please call the shul office at 817-731-4721 to place your order, or email Liz Chesser at ejschesser@yahoo.com with orders or questions. If possible, they will offer limited delivery for a small charge to help distribute outside Fort Worth; please email Liz if you will need delivery.

Brotherhoods visit baseball exhibit

A large crowd of Brotherhood members from Beth Shalom, Arlington, Beth Israel Colleyville, Beth-El Fort Worth, plus individuals from Dallas and Men’s Club members from Ahavath Sholom, came to the Chasing Dreams exhibit about Jews and baseball for a Sunday morning “Baseball and Bagels” brunch, Feb. 12. They enjoyed hearing former Rangers GM Tom Schieffer talk baseball. The exhibit continues at Congregation Ahavath Sholom through March 5. The TJP is the promotional sponsor for this unique exhibit.

Schieffer

Schieffer

Photo: Jim Stanton Visitors enjoy the Chasing Dreams Baseball exhibit at Ahavath Sholom.

Photo: Jim Stanton
Visitors enjoy the Chasing Dreams Baseball exhibit at Ahavath Sholom.

 

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Submitted photo JFS Senior Valentine’s Day Party The JFS Senior Program had a special late Valentine’s Day party and luncheon Thursday, Feb. 16. A special guest, Paul Demer, from Texas Winds Musical Outreach, performed and led a campfire sing-along for the JFS Senior Program. Pictured are Galina Stewart, Izakil Goldin and Bronislava Shafir thanking Paul Demer for his performance.

Submitted photo
JFS Senior Valentine’s Day Party
The JFS Senior Program had a special late Valentine’s Day party and luncheon Thursday, Feb. 16. A special guest, Paul Demer, from Texas Winds Musical Outreach, performed and led a campfire sing-along for the JFS Senior Program. Pictured are Galina Stewart, Izakil Goldin and Bronislava Shafir thanking Paul Demer for his performance.

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Tu B’Shevat Congregation Ahavath Sholom Religious School students planted in Gan Ahavath Sholom in honor of Tu B’Shevat Sunday, Feb. 12.  Ethan Bailey

Tu B’Shevat
Congregation Ahavath Sholom Religious School students planted in Gan Ahavath Sholom in honor of Tu B’Shevat Sunday, Feb. 12.
Ethan Bailey

Tu B’Shevat Congregation Ahavath Sholom Religious School students planted in Gan Ahavath Sholom in honor of Tu B’Shevat Sunday, Feb. 12.  Sima Galaganov (left), Lia Bloom, Samantha Ratner

Tu B’Shevat
Congregation Ahavath Sholom Religious School students planted in Gan Ahavath Sholom in honor of Tu B’Shevat Sunday, Feb. 12.
Sima Galaganov (left), Lia Bloom, Samantha Ratner

 

 

Tu B’Shevat Congregation Ahavath Sholom Religious School students planted in Gan Ahavath Sholom in honor of Tu B’Shevat Sunday, Feb. 12.  Nadav Ninio

Tu B’Shevat
Congregation Ahavath Sholom Religious School students planted in Gan Ahavath Sholom in honor of Tu B’Shevat Sunday, Feb. 12.
Nadav Ninio

 

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Special Needs Partnership to fête Kreisler, Seymour

Special Needs Partnership to fête Kreisler, Seymour

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

The Special Needs Partnership (SNP) at Jewish Family Service will honor Eileen Kreisler and Laura Seymour at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Congregation Shearith Israel. The SNP honors celebration will include a dessert reception with whiskey and Israeli wine tasting.

Submitted photo Eileen Kreisler will be honored at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Congregation Shearith Israel.

Submitted photo
Eileen Kreisler will be honored at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Congregation Shearith Israel.

Submitted photo Laura Seymour will be honored at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Congregation Shearith Israel.

Submitted photo
Laura Seymour will be honored at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Congregation Shearith Israel.

Kreisler, creator and leader of special needs programs in Dallas preschools, day schools and religious schools, and Seymour, who will soon lead her 40th summer as director of Camp and Youth Services at the Aaron Family JCC, began the forge for education, social, religious and other programs on behalf of those with special needs long before there were donors, letterhead and formality.
“Eileen and Laura have been at the forefront of supporting those living with special needs since few identified the challenges and they’ve advocated on behalf of the issues and individuals tirelessly,” said Michael Fleisher, CEO of Jewish Family Service. “It’s on the building blocks of their service and commitment that there’s much in place to broaden the sensitivity for us all.”
The efforts of Kreisler and Seymour led to much of the advocacy which begat the Special Needs Initiative, and now the Special Needs Partnership.
“The dreams of what these ladies knew we needed have blossomed and we now have a centralized entity to help all of the organizations in an effort of inclusivity,” said Fleisher, who first formed the Special Needs Initiative with Judy Kogutt, Jaynie Schultz and Louis Zweig. “JFS’ special needs resource team provides our inclusion experience, bringing organizations together, creating a synergy on behalf of programming and education, providing education, awareness, and services on individual and group levels.”
The SNP team operates under the board of directors of JFS and includes school mental-health counselors, school and family liaisons, diagnosticians, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, play therapists, consulting psychiatrists, counselors and case managers.
Collaborating organizations of the SNP include Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, Adat Chaverim, Center for Jewish Education, Community Homes for Adults, Inc. (CHAI), Congregation Anshai Torah, Congregation Beth Torah, Congregation Shaare Tefilla, Congregation Shearith Israel, Congregation Tiferet Israel, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Shalom, Akiba Academy, Ann and Nate Levine Academy, Torah Day School of Dallas, Yachad and Yavneh Academy of Dallas.  Major funding partners include Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Fruhman Foundation, Gladys Golman/Faye Dallen Education Fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Women International and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
The Golman/Dallen fund has, since founding, been led by Robin and Louis Zweig and helped by many others. The fund is a recipient of support of the Annual Back-to-School Bash with mini-golfing and bowling events and has shared $600,000 throughout the community.
“The SNP Honors, co-chaired by Barbi Cohen and Amy Harberg and Honorary Chairs Martin and Susan Golman and Stan and Barbara Levenson, is our new annual event. We’ll honor community stakeholders as we’d be hard-pressed to find any organization that hasn’t been touched by the Special Needs Partnership,” said Zweig, SNP chair.
Kreisler, the daughter of Bob, of blessed memory, and Dallasite Dorothy Rogoff, and sister of Eve Hoffman, was born in New York but moved to Dallas as a young teen. She has fond memories of participating in Ginny Schepps BBYO and her years at Hillcrest High School. She received a degree in special education with a focus in dyslexia at UTD and her M.Ed. at Texas Woman’s University in special education. She’s also academic language therapy certified.
“Providing programs and services is a huge part of who I am. I appreciate the honor but what’s important is the expansion of our work over the years and the honor is that,” said Kreisler.
Kreisler and husband Aaron are the parents of Stephen (Eva), Amy (Joe) Harberg, Barbi (Scott) Cohen, and Hilary (Josh) Stern and they are the grandparents of 12: Isaac and Leah Kreisler, Max, Samantha and Jeffrey Harberg, Kacey, Ella and Olivia Cohen and Noah, Aidan, Benjamin and Sarah Stern.
The Rogoff-Kreisler family tree has been at Congregation Shearith Israel since 1954. It’s where Eileen was confirmed and married; she served on the board; the Kreisler children hosted their own b’nai mitzvah; the daughters were married; and many of the next generation have celebrated their b’nai mitzvah.
“Our entire lives we’ve watched our parents model how to be involved in our community as they humbly contribute time and money,” said Hilary Kreisler Stern, outgoing SNP chair. “Our mother’s passion for education and devotion to inclusion and ensuring that all children, regardless of their needs, can learn and be connected to the Jewish community is an inspiration.”
Recently “retired,” but still consulting, from 22 years at Temple Emanu-El, where the Kreislers are associate members, she’s also worked at Highland Academy and the Winston School.
Kreisler has long been a student herself — involved in a Torah study group, a book club and investment club member — and for 20-plus years she’s participated in the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. She’s been active with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and National Council of Jewish Women, and she was president of the Chai B’nai B’rith Women.
As a California native, Seymour’s love for summer camp is likely inherent as she met her own husband Jeff when they were 12-year-old campers. They have three children: Rachel (Andy), Peter (Liz), and Ted, and grandchildren Sarah and Leo Korczynski and Naomi and Eve Seymour.
“I believe and live the Jewish value of b’tzelem Elokim — that we’re all created in God’s image; everyone I touch, and me too,” Seymour said.
A graduate of California State University Northridge, Seymour and her husband lived in North Carolina before making Dallas their home in 1976. Seymour met then-Director Bob Weiss when bringing her daughter to the J’s preschool, and he mentioned he was looking for a camp director.
“Here I am,” she said, and she’s held the post ever since.
“So much can happen in a summer in terms of life skills, social interaction and the learning of problem-solving and how to get along. Now those tools are called ‘21st-century skills’ but we’ve been using them all along,” said Seymour, a longtime member of Congregation Tiferet Israel.
It’s her work at the JCC that Seymour says she represents — programs like those within camp, shadows for those in need, Habima Theatre productions, and the incorporation of those living with special needs into the J’s sports, senior and other areas that “should be a given,” she says. “It’s between 20 and 30 different needs that we identify among those whose needs require our concern and attention. This isn’t a ‘Laura Seymour’ honor, but I’m the ‘face’ of many in the trenches who touch our guests every day. We’ve always stood behind them and always will.”
“Ours is a community that supports and lifts one another up,” says Zweig. “These women are highly deserving of our gratitude for making Dallas a more inclusive city and for their efforts that impact so many.”
To learn more about the Special Needs Partnership or RSVP for the March 2 event, call 972-437-9950 or visit jfssnphonors.org.

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Memories made on Yachad road trip

Memories made on Yachad road trip

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

YACHAD chili cookoff

Talor Milstein, far right, at the Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff with, from left, Terri Rohan, Ross Rubin, and Shauna Milstein, had the honor of an aliyah at the 2017 Houston/Dallas Yachad Shabbaton. “I liked it a lot and I remembered it from my bar mitzvah,” he said.

From left, Ellen Reichenthal, Deborah Brown, Eliana Abraham, Tamar Rosenwald, Rebecca Herschberg and Zach Katzenelenbogen at the 2017 Houston/Dallas Yachad Shabbaton, this year held in Houston. Eliana and Rebecca are Yavneh Academy students and Dallas Yachad participants.

From left, Ellen Reichenthal, Deborah Brown, Eliana Abraham, Tamar Rosenwald, Rebecca Herschberg and Zach Katzenelenbogen at the 2017 Houston/Dallas Yachad Shabbaton, this year held in Houston. Eliana and Rebecca are Yavneh Academy students and Dallas Yachad participants.

YACHAD sukkot

Ari Geller (left) and Asher Kogutt shared the shaking of the lulav at a Yachad Sukkot event. For many years Yachad has held events around the Jewish holidays.

It was a road trip to remember for Dallas’ Yachad chapter, a convoy of advisers, leaders, volunteers, teens and Yachad members who hit Interstate 45 to share Shabbat in Houston at United Orthodox Synagogue.
“Yachad is a social setting for Jewish people of all ages, from preschool to seniors, with group programming for those with all cognitive and physical abilities,” said Terri Rohan, coordinator of the Dallas Yachad chapter. “We take turns hosting an annual Shabbaton. And, to come together with the Houston group — in their city — made for some memories that will last everyone for a lifetime and we definitely look forward to getting together again. We’ve already set the invitation to host for 2018 and we can’t wait.”
For Dallas Yachad member Talor Milstein, among the memories was his honor to have an aliyah during the Torah service. “I remembered it from my bar mitzvah and I did it for my grandfather Allan Zidell, who died last year.”
Dallas’ Yachad chapter gives individuals with special needs the chance to develop vital social skills with their typically developing peers, while becoming confident members of the community. Through Yachad, members learn about their Jewish heritage and participate in the mainstream of Jewish life. All members of the community are invited to share in the inclusive programming.
“Yachad is amazing — it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever participated in,” member Shani Epstein said. “The program focuses around everyone feeling the same, being concerned with everyone’s ideas being supported, and I love that it’s for all ages. The connections I’ve made with people I really wouldn’t ever have met before are really very special and each time I come back to another event, people are warm and almost always somebody new remembers me and sees me as a ‘friend’ they didn’t know before.”
Yachad programs provide opportunities for building self-esteem and enhancing social skills. In the last few months, the group hosted a pizza party and drum circle in the sukkah, and a booth at the Preston Hollow Fall Festival at Congregation Shearith Israel, and Yachad members Eliana Abraham, Rebecca Herschberg, Asher Kogutt, Leib Malina, Simcha Malina, Talor Milstein and young adult volunteer David Rachman attended a high school leadership Shabbaton in Stamford, Connecticut. Upcoming events include a challah bake with CHAI residents, participation in the 2017 Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off, an end-of-year brunch and more.
With chapters in Canada, Israel and 13 cities in the United States, Yachad is dedicated to enhancing the life opportunities of individuals with disabilities of all ages, ensuring their participation in the full spectrum of Jewish life. A part of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, Yachad promotes inclusion for children and adults with disabilities in the broader Jewish community, internationally supporting 1,000 participants in its summer programs. Eight hundred individuals with disabilities have attended its job fairs — meeting with employers who support disability employment — and 400 Shabbatons and weekly programs are planned in communities across North America each year.
“We have done Hanukkah parties at Equest therapeutic riding center, we go to the zoo, bowling — really, there’s no limit to the activities as long as we’re having a great time together and we always have a great time,” said Rohan, who works with Assistant Coordinator Sarah Lipinsky. Rohan noted that Yachad member Ben Ackerman taught Tae Kwon Do skills on the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ 2016 Good Deeds Day. “We are always looking for ideas for activities, tickets to events, and people to join us in our spirited fun. This isn’t a volunteer opportunity but a chance for everyone, on equal footing, to have a great time with us and we really encourage everyone to come out, to make some friends, and some wonderful memories.”
For more information or details about future Yachad programming, email RohanT@ou.org or visit yachad.org/dallas.

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‘Really, really fun:’ BBYO IC brings energy, international flair to Dallas

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

By Jacob Kamaras
JNS.org

DALLAS — My interview with Aaron Mantell and Danielle Wadler, two teens from New York’s Long Island region, is drowned out by a parade of chanting students passing us by.
Welcome to the BBYO International Convention.


Until this point, my experience at the Jewish pluralistic teen movement’s convention in Dallas largely consists of navigating a venue whose every inch is lined with teens, and giving up on any notion of using the hotel elevators. But now I understand and feel the true nature of this gathering of 5,000 people — including 2,500 Jewish teens — from 48 U.S. states and 30 countries.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but it always ends up being really, really fun. Like you get past the overwhelming, and you get used to a thousand people screaming at you all day,” says Wadler, 17.
“It’s really impressive. It’s always mind-blowing. These people fly around the world to get here and have the most energy I’ve ever seen in teenagers,” says Mantell, 16, assessing his peers.
The enthused BBYO delegates who interrupt my talk with Wadler and Mantell, en route to the convention’s opening ceremony Feb. 16, are just the tip of the iceberg. The festivities are nothing short of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games. The numerous American and international delegations outfitted with hats, capes and athletic jerseys, while they chant fight songs. Pop music blasting from the loudspeakers. Students dancing and singing. Picture a rock concert, summer camp color war and high school football game, all put together and multiplied by 10. It’s hardly my first major Jewish conference, but the energy is incomparable.
“I have not been in a room in my entire life with so many teens, so much energy and so much hope. Thank you for the hope! We need this gathering!” Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen says at the opening ceremony, apparently agreeing with my sentiment.
But the BBYO convention is about more than energy and hope — it’s about vision and resolve. For five days, the student-led youth organization and its delegates come to hear prominent speakers at plenary sessions and hold smaller breakout discussions, sharpening their leadership skills and grappling with hot-button issues facing both the Jewish community and society at-large. The ultimate goal, according to this year’s convention tagline, is “Changing the Game.”
“The theme of the conference comes from our desire to put teens in control of their own destiny, to let them know that not only can they shape the Jewish community, but they can shape the world,” Matt Grossman, BBYO’s CEO, tells JNS.org. “In so many teen settings, they’re listening to adults tell them what they can do and what they can’t do, and they’re bound by different rules. Here, we put them in charge, we tell them that the future is theirs, and they respond in very powerful ways.”

Global expansion

In an increasingly borderless world, one of the hallmarks of both the 2017 BBYO convention and the organization’s growth trajectory in general is international expansion. This year’s gathering saw delegates from Austria and Poland for the first time.
“The power of the BBYO movement comes from the connectivity that exists between the teens, and a lot of that connectivity starts (at the convention),” says Grossman.
Fittingly, the youth movement’s top leaders — “International N’siah” Ellie Bodker of the BBG women’s order, and “Grand Aleph Godol” Aaron Cooper of the AZA men’s order — have spent their gap year between high school and college visiting BBYO communities in North America and around the world in order to strategize on growth and inspire the local chapters.
Cooper, 18, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is particularly moved by seeing BBYO’s operations in Hungary, whose estimated Jewish community of 100,000 is down from 800,000 before the Holocaust, but is thriving.
“Seeing our program there, and seeing that it’s been so successful, and it’s only been there for a year…I think is super-beautiful and amazing and something we take pride in,” Cooper tells JNS.org. “It’s amazing to see us be a part of vibrant Jewish communities…but also the ones that still have the remnants of awful tragedy lurking in the back of their heads.”

An Israeli perspective

The need for Jewish connectivity can also exist in places where one might not think such connection is lacking. Daniel Segal, 18, a youth leader for Maccabi Tzair, an Israel-based sister organization to BBYO, explains that the 25-30 different youth movements all cater to specific populations — except Maccabi Tzair, whose pluralistic nature mirrors BBYO.
Segal reflects that starting in third grade, Maccabi Tzair taught him “how to manage working with people,” and by eighth grade, he was “not only part of a team, but the head of teams, and that position gave me skills for life.” Today, he oversees the efforts of 60 youth coordinators and 200 Maccabi Tzair program participants from third to 12th grades.
“The fact that you have many Jews (in Israel) doesn’t mean it’s not necessary for them to get informal education after school,” Segal says.
“We help them meet Judaism in a way that is proper to their life, where they can relate to it in a non-religious way,” echoes Noga Vieman, a Maccabi Tzair staff member.
Before their international leadership tenures are complete, Bodker and Grand Aleph Godol Cooper — who will attend Brown University with the intent of later pursuing a law degree — hope to help BBYO meet its goal of surpassing 20,000 members around the world.
“It’s a special moment in Jewish history that 2,500 young people from across the globe can come together (at the convention) and celebrate what it means to be Jewish,” says CEO Grossman. “This is a place where they can be hopeful, they can be bold and they can be community-builders.”

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Got it? Reading toward sisterly connection

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

My sister called from New York with an imperative: “Read this book — Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart.”
She said she was confused at first, but after persevering, she figured she had “got it.” And she wanted to know what my conclusion would be.
So I found the book at the JCC’s Tycher Library and began to read. I must admit, I haven’t finished it yet. I haven’t even gotten very far — just about 100 pages out of a whopping 350. But I already understand what she meant by “getting it.”
Little Failure is a rough Russian translation of what two concerned parents called their puny, asthmatic baby soon after they brought him home. His first six years were a constant battle between childish desires for a normal childhood and adult worries about health. And then, at seven, this “little failure” was transplanted, with those parents, to America, one family among the many “rescued” Soviets we all worked so hard to bring here and resettle some 40 years ago.
Currently, my “pleasure” reading has been almost entirely Philip Roth. I’m trying to understand how one man could write in one lifetime some 30 books, every one of prize-winning quality. Where does all that productivity come from? Now, I think Roth is a useful tool to help me figure out Shteyngart. And vice versa.
No writer of fiction makes things up out of whole cloth. Writers write what they know, what they’ve gleaned from their own experiences. Roth’s most honored novels have grown out of his own life experiences. Shteyngart has already written a trio of novels, none of which I’ve read (yet), but all of which hint to me by their very titles that they must have his sharp wit and cutting-edge irony, most of the latter directed at himself. I can’t imagine otherwise about The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, or Absurdistan, or Super Sad Love Story. These came relatively early, but were after he’d honed his English skills to the same sharp points he jabs the reader with in Little Failure. This autobiographic memoir was written in 2014, many years after he landed here in the United States.
I don’t think I’m stretching — at least not too far — to read a kinship into the works of these two talented but very different writers. Both are born Jews, but disaffected in their different ways. Both were adored sons of overprotective mothers, and grew up to kick over the traces that are still so much shining through their writings. Roth, who created a fictional “hero” who grew up to marry Miss New Jersey, writes a biting tale of one of his own wives; Shteyngart has chosen a Korean woman as his life partner. Both draw themes from and about their childhoods — even when their characters are adults: the old neighborhoods, current events of their growing-up days (for Roth, Hebrew school and polio, among others; for Shteyngart, the overpowering figure of Lenin coupled with food shortages and primitive medicine). I wonder if they have ever met. I think they should…
It’s as dangerous to judge a book one hasn’t finished reading as it is to do what the old saw says not to: judge it by its cover. But I’ll try. The covers of Roth’s books, for the most part, give only the merest pictorial hint of what’s within. But Shteyngart’s memoir is quite different; here is a little boy “driving” a little car, but he’s not looking at whatever road is ahead — he’s staring sideways, at the reader, with dark eyes set into a face that might be either serious or sad, depending on the viewer’s interpretation.
My sister is an astute reader. I want to ask her what she thinks of that cover photo (one of many childhood photos of Shteyngart scattered throughout this book). But I’ll wait until I’ve finished Little Failure and can tell her — I hope — that I also “got it.”

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Teaching justice, fairness no easy task for parents

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
A challenge with children and even for us as adults is understanding and practicing justice and fairness.
From these challenging concepts we move to how to eliminate hatred and prejudice based on the teachings of Judaism. A pretty tall order!
How do we teach our children? Through our texts and by our example. Fairness is a word that is really about justice or mishpat. Judaism has the message of justice deeply implanted in the spirit of Jewish life. The Torah is filled with laws and examples of how to make a fair judgment and the importance of being fair and just.
You shall not render an unfair decision: Do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus)
Only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah)
Rabbi Hillel said “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” This is a very easy way to understand how to treat others. However, being fair isn’t always easy or simple. Fair doesn’t always mean the same!
Try these conversation starters with your children:

  • Have you ever been treated unfairly? How did it make you feel?
  • Do you think it is fair that older children get to stay up later and do more things than younger children? Why or why not? Do you think it is fair that boys get to do things that girls don’t get to do? Why or why not?
  • Some families have a rule that if there is a piece of cake to share, one person gets to cut it and the other gets to choose the first piece. How is this a fair way to divide the cake? Can this system be used in other areas?

Stories work well for discussions, too: A young boy came to a woman’s house and asked if she would like to buy some of the berries he had picked from his father’s fields. The woman said, “Yes, I would, and I’ll just take your basket inside to measure out 2 quarts.” The boy sat down on the porch and the woman asked, “Don’t you want to watch me? How do you know that I won’t cheat you and take more than 2 quarts?” The young boy said, “I am not afraid, for you would get the worst of the deal.”
“How could that be?” she asked. The boy answered, “If you take more than 2 quarts that you are paying me for, I would only lose the berries. You would make yourself a liar and a thief.” Talk about the meaning of this story with your family.

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Dallas Doings: Akiba victories, SIR, top producers and AJC programs

Dallas Doings: Akiba victories, SIR, top producers and AJC programs

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Akiba hoopsters taking playoffs by storm

Last week, the Akiba Academy seventh/eighth grade girls’ basketball team clinched the TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) 3-3A district championship.
The fifth/sixth grade girls’ and boys’ teams headed into second-round playoffs Tuesday, Feb. 21. Winners will head to the championships.

Submitted photo Congregation Anshai Torah’s 2017 Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence organizers, title sponsors and CAT board president welcomed Dr. Deborah Lipstadt. (Left to right) Barrett Stern, Cindy Moskowitz, Jacob Ratner, Marcy Kahn, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Rabbi Michael Kushnick, Janice Sweet Weinberg, Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, Cathy Brook and Warren Harmel

Submitted photo
Congregation Anshai Torah’s 2017 Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence organizers, title sponsors and CAT board president welcomed Dr. Deborah Lipstadt. (Left to right) Barrett Stern, Cindy Moskowitz, Jacob Ratner, Marcy Kahn, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Rabbi Michael Kushnick, Janice Sweet Weinberg, Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, Cathy Brook and Warren Harmel

The seventh/eighth grade girls’ basketball team: (back) Liel Guttman, Jessie Doty, Madison Winton, Ilana Hirsch, Ayala Terenyo, Kerry Lax, Noa Terenyo, Michal Reva, Avigayil Tannenbaum and (front) Coach Dewanda Hurd

The seventh/eighth grade girls’ basketball team: (back) Liel Guttman, Jessie Doty, Madison Winton, Ilana Hirsch, Ayala Terenyo, Kerry Lax, Noa Terenyo, Michal Reva, Avigayil Tannenbaum and (front) Coach Dewanda Hurd

The fifth/sixth grade girls’ basketball team: (back) Coach Lisa McCain (second row) Ella Fartook, Ruby Goldstein, Lilly Yalovsky, Dalia Lampert, Joey Davidsohn, Ilanit Reva; (front) Lily Feinstein, Ally Oster, Gabby Ido, Micah Sacher

The fifth/sixth grade girls’ basketball team: (back) Coach Lisa McCain (second row) Ella Fartook, Ruby Goldstein, Lilly Yalovsky, Dalia Lampert, Joey Davidsohn, Ilanit Reva; (front) Lily Feinstein, Ally Oster, Gabby Ido, Micah Sacher

— Submitted by Sara Mancuso

No denying record-breaking SIR

The 2017 Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence session with Dr. Deborah Lipstadt is in the books.
Congregation Anshai Torah’s 2017 Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence weekend welcomed hundreds from throughout the community to Plano for a weekend with Dr. Deborah Lipstadt.
“Dr. Lipstadt brought personal insight to the story of her trial and the making of the film Denial, also giving a brilliant review of the roots of anti-Semitism, and its expression in the modern world,” said SIR Event Chair Warren Harmel. Vice-Chair Barrett Stern, Jacob Ratner, and SIR committee members Faina Aronowitz, Beth Berk, Stuart Blaugrund, Andy and Ferne Farkas, Athene Harmel, Alisa Makler, Mitch Moskowitz, Manuel Rajunov, Karen Reid and Janice Weinberg, together with the Anshai Torah staff, joined Harmel in coordinating a magnificent set of events.
Dr. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. Her book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, which was brought to the big screen in the 2016 feature film Denial, tells the story of the 1996 suit brought by David Irving against Lipstadt, and her publisher Penguin Books, who he charged libeled him in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.
The SIR included record numbers attending a Friday Lunch and Learn at which Dr. Lipstadt discussed Contemporary Anti-Semitism: A Clear and Present Danger, more than 350 attending the Friday night services, dinner and keynote address regarding Dr. Lipstadt’s trial; and at least 220 at Saturday morning services and Kiddush which featured her addressing the subject of Jewish Life on College Campuses and the subject of BDS and anti-Israel attitudes and a question and answer session. At Saturday night’s sponsor dessert reception, 65 guests gathered at the home of Alisa and Jason Makler. The Scholar-in-Residence weekend, presented by Janice and Art Weinberg, Cindy and Mitch Moskowitz, Cathy and Joel Brook, Debbie and Manuel Rajunov as Etz Hayim sponsors, and other supporters, is an annual tribute to the late Arnie Sweet.
—Submitted by Deb Silverthorn

Haymann and Savariego: Virgina Cook top producers

Julie Haymann and Lauren Savariego, residential realtors who teamed up 10 years ago to create Your “KEY” Team, received top honors at Virginia Cook Realtors, placing them amongst the top producers for 2016.
This is just one example of some of the incredible accomplishments they have received over the course of their careers in real estate including top producers in 2014 as well.
What makes Your “KEY” Team so unique and successful?
“Well, for starters, right from the start, you get two agents for the price of one. No matter how much business is going on, there is always someone available to provide timely responses. Our system makes it effortless for our clients to get what they need, and in today’s fast-paced market, clients want answers quickly and we make sure that happens,” said Haymann.
Julie and Lauren go the extra mile for their clients and use a very hands-on approach to getting their listings market ready.
“We’ll do just about anything to help our sellers. You often find us packing boxes, organizing closets and cleaning the house to make it just right before a listing goes on the market,” said Savariego. “We’re not afraid of rolling up our sleeves and assisting our clients to make sure the job is done just right!”
Julie and Lauren feel very blessed to work together.
“We started off as acquaintances, grew into partners and now we are a family,” said Haymann.
— Submitted by Julie Haymann

Upcoming AJC programs

AJC has three exciting programs slated for the next couple of weeks.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, AJC will present Michael Singh, who will speak on, Has the Two-State Solution Escaped our Grasp?
Singh was senior director of Middle East affairs under George W. Bush and served as Middle East adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. He currently serves as managing director and Lane-Swig Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute. He has addressed the AJC Dallas board on numerous occasions and is a perennial favorite at the AJC Global Forum and Southwest Diplomatic Marathon.
This free program will take place in Tobian Auditorium at Temple Emanu-El, 8500 Hillcrest Road. It will begin at 7:15 p.m., with a pre-reception for AJC Marshall Society members (donors of $1,250 or more) beginning at 6:30. RSVP to www.ajcdallas.org/michaelsingh or to dallas@ajc.org.
On Friday, March 3, AJC and the World Affairs Council will present the second installment in the 2017 International Perspectives Series. Stephen Biddle will address US Military Sales: Are We Getting Our Money’s Worth?
This annual tradition brings some of the great minds of our country to Dallas to discuss important issues in foreign affairs.
Biddle is adjunct senior fellow on defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.
Tickets ($45 for AJC and WAC members, $60 for nonmembers) can be purchased at http://bit.ly/2lJ8Ox9. These programs usually sell out, so don’t delay! This is a noon lunch program at the Crescent Hotel.
On Thursday, March 9, there will be a panel discussion featuring Rabbi David Stern and Rabbi Elana Zelony, moderated by Dr. Shira Lander, Why Americans Should Care About Religious Pluralism in Israel.
A look inside why religious pluralism in Israel is important not just to Israelis; not just to Jews; but to all Americans. This event is sponsored by AJC Dallas, SMU Jewish Studies, and the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition (JREC).
JREC is a broad-based initiative advocating for religious freedom and equality in Israel, notably with respect to issues of personal status, as a means of strengthening Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state that assures its ties with global Jewry.
This free program will be held at SMU, in McCord Auditorium on the third floor of Dallas Hall.

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