Archive | March, 2017

Gift bags soothe sting of patients’ procedures

Gift bags soothe sting of patients’ procedures

Posted on 24 March 2017 by admin

Social media helps thankful woman find thoughtful child

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

The idea that “it’s the thought that counts” couldn’t be more understated than in the expression of a thought that counts 5,354 times — and still is counting! ARI BLUMBERG - BAGS
In just over three weeks Kim Hamilton Hunter’s Facebook post to find and say thank you to 13-year-old Ari Blumberg has been counted — and, at press time liked, loved, or otherwise shared by 2,662 people, and with more than 627 comments — his original mitzvah propelled around the globe.
“I’m going to make this post public in hopes that Mr. Ari (Blumberg) age 13 from the Dallas, Texas area will see this post or someone I know can tell him thank you for me. I want him to know that I appreciated the gift bag during my treatment today! What a kind gesture!,” posted Kim, who, for a gift bag she received, created the thank-you note, and a search for her own local hero, now gone viral.
It was when Kim walked into Texas Oncology-Presbyterian Cancer Center Dallas that her heart first swelled due to the kindness of a stranger. Kim, who is battling metastatic breast cancer which spread to her bones before diagnosis five years ago, makes a monthly, four-hour and 250-mile-plus trek from her home in San Angelo for what she calls “liquid gold,” treatments. She presumed her regular seat was occupied by another patient when she saw a bag on her chair.
There were bags on the next seat and the next so she returned to her chair for treatment, receiving the gift from an unknown heart.
That heart belonged to Ari who wanted to contribute to others — like his Saba (Hebrew for grandfather) Mike Degani — who were receiving chemotherapy treatments. Knowing his grandfather’s trials, Ari wanted to do anything possible to let patients know someone was thinking about them. Ari hand-delivered almost 30 of the 120 bags made to patients, while leaving the rest for later appointments. He received a number of personal thank-yous from recipients.ARI BLUMBERG - kim and family
“I wanted to try to take away some of what makes cancer so terrible,” said Ari. He collected both items and monetary donations to put his gifts together, and with the help of friends and family filled the bags with socks, a notepad and pen, lotion, lollipops, granola bars, a bottle of water, tissues and chapstick. “I wanted them to be comfortable, I wanted to take away the bad taste that chemo can leave in the patient’s mouth and the dryness of their skin. Some of it was just because it would be nice to have.”
“Feb. 23 was a particularly hard day as I didn’t know if my treatments were working. I had been in remission, with ‘no evidence of disease,’ and then I was in terrible pain in my hip. That day I didn’t know where I was with the disease and I was scared,” said Kim. The wife of Matt and mother of 8-year-old Hodge and 5-year-old Holt Allie, she was diagnosed with the disease while nursing her then-10-month old daughter. “I’d had an MRI, and then went to my chair and these bright, beautiful, smiles of bags were everywhere. In my mind, I wasn’t creating a ‘viral moment.’ I was thinking I’d want my kids to do something wonderful like this, and I’d love to say ‘thank you.’”
It took less than 24 hours — and shares and comments from throughout the United States, Israel and beyond — for Kim to connect with Ari, a seventh-grade student at Akiba Academy, the son of Sharon and Marc Blumberg, and brother of Sam and Ayla.
In her Facebook response to Kim’s plea, Sharon explained how she and Ari had delivered the bags the day before while her father was having treatment, also including in her post a photo of Ari and his grandfather.
“Ari is incredibly humble. We’re shocked by the attention because this is just the right thing to do. Ari has learned Jewish, really human, values from school, his synagogue, and his family and he is always about doing the next good thing, taking the energy and building on it, and wanting to help people,” said Sharon, who had many friends from around the globe “sharing” the post to her Facebook page. “Ari’s school is on board about creating a project for the students to help patients at a children’s hospital and there are comments by others who are creating their own projects. Ari’s goodness is the impetus for others to do more on a bigger scale. Any time you can inspire someone to do good, that’s great and if you are doing that at 13, as his parents, we couldn’t ask for more.”
Ari, amazed by the Internet attention brought to his mitzvah project, says he was “just doing what we’re supposed to; it’s now my responsibility as a Jewish adult to live a life of giving to others and perform mitzvot.” Maybe so, but this new teen is taking to heart, and following the lessons of his parents — whose footwear and apparel company Chooze provides training, support, education, and loans to women to start their own businesses — and his brother, whose Paint 4 Peace turned Valley View Mall into a canvas raising money supporting families of victims of terror attacks in Israel. “It’s just what I’ve learned and what I know, but it’s nice to know that it was appreciated and I’m glad other people want to do something good too.”ARI BLUMBERG and Saba
Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky was honored that it was he bestowing blessings over Ari’s bar mitzvah, proud of the young man who spent a year studying to read all of the Torah readings during his service, and proud of the young man who clearly understands the concept of the responsibilities now set before him.
“A mitzvah isn’t a good deed, as it is often defined, but rather a commandment. We are commanded to perform acts of kindness and to sanctify God’s name,” said Rabbi Rackovsky. “Ari’s actions, without his knowing what would come forth, have given so many great feelings. In this time where anti-Semitism is so pronounced, what has happened through his efforts, and literally the sharing of his goodness, is a Kiddush Hashem. He most definitely has sanctified God’s name, and that that is why we are here.”
It may be Ari’s original thought that counts, but it is through his new friend Kim’s push that others know his goodness, and her affinity for him and the Jewish people as a whole keeps getting the counts over and over again. With all the likes and shares, Ari’s story was also shared by JewInTheCity.com and HumansOfJudaism.com.
“I’m not Jewish but I learn Bible and the Old Testament with a friend and I spoke with our pastor’s wife for direction. I’d recently spoken with someone who was raised Jewish who had been talking about how to support Israel and stand with the Jewish community,” Kim said.
That “strength and healing” will soon be something Ari can give through a hug and his in-person charming and genuine smile.ARI BLUMBERG fb post

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Mitzvah made viral

Mitzvah made viral

Posted on 24 March 2017 by admin

Boy’s actions lead to heart-warming moment

BLUMBERG - followup - akibakids

By Deb Silverthorn

It’s almost impossible to describe what the meeting between core souls is like. BLUMBERG followup - families

Those souls, belong to a 13-year-old Jewish boy, and a grown Christian woman, were strangers a month ago. On Thursday morning, March 23, the duo shared a moment at Akiba Academy as seventh-grader Ari Blumberg brought the spirit of a bar mitzvah project to life, and Kim Hunter, one of the recipients of his mitzvah, came to say “thank you.”

As the two first came together, with a brief hug, the assembly of students and faculty on Thursday, March 23,became anything but ordinary. Hunter spoke about her medical experience and how Blumberg’s project caught her at the right moment, in a manner he never could’ve planned.

“I just had an MRI and I didn’t know if maybe the cancer had spread, and I was scared. I walked in for my treatment and went to my chair, and there was this beautiful bag. At first I figured it belonged to someone else but there were bags on all the chairs,” said Hunter, whose husband Matt, children Holt, Allie and Hodge, sister Stacy Sparagna and niece Skotlynn joined her at Akiba. “The first words on the card jumped at me; ‘You are not alone.’ I can’t explain how immediately it went from a terrible day, to an incredible one.”

Hunter, first diagnosed in December 2012, finished the round of treatment and couldn’t stop thinking about the gift during her return home to San Angelo. Her monthly treatments require a five-hour trip, with additional treatments sometimes in Dallas, and others closer-to-home in Abilene. BLUMBERG followup - meeting

“I kept thinking ‘I want to thank this kid.’ I got home, snapped a photo, made my Facebook post public and went to sleep. I woke up to messages from Israel and around the United States and a friend of mine made the connection in less than 24 hours,” she said, never expecting almost 2,700 shares and over 5,300 likes, “loves” and more.

“I’ve had a lot of people praying for me in the last four years and to know now that people in Israel are praying for me? I knew there was something more to it — that a 13-year-old boy in Dallas took the time to care about me is something I couldn’t ever have imagined. When you are selecting mitzvahs, pray about it and see what’s in your heart because you never know who you might impact and the ripple effect.”

Hunter had never heard of the phrase “mitzvah project,” let alone experienced the benefit. Blumberg, whose grandfather Mike Degani is undergoing treatments at the same Texas Oncology-Presbyterian Cancer Center Dallas, was, in the spirit of his March 4 bar mitzvah, inspired by his grandfather to create a mitzvah project to help other patients.

“I saw how hard it was for my Saba and Safta (Hebrew for grandma and grandpa). He had brought home a smaller bag someone had left for him,” said Blumberg, the son of Sharon and Marc and brother of Ayla and Sam. “I wanted something bigger and fuller and I really just wanted to make it easier for patients and for them to know I was thinking about them. I’m glad Mrs. Hunter appreciated it, and it’s nice that people are learning about doing mitzvah projects, but it’s really just what I do, what we are supposed to do.”

Akiba faculty member Sarah Rosen spoke the words of many in the room telling Hunter that it was she who inspired those present that she wasn’t just receiving the goodness and education of what had transpired, but that she was teaching as well. “These children,” she said, “as they move forward in their mitzvah projects for bnai mitzvah, and beyond as they perform mitzvot all of their lives, they will have in mind the meaning and respect that is felt and appreciated and I’m sure you’re example of appreciation will forever be remembered.” BLUMBERG followup - kim name

Akiba’s principal, Rabbi Avi Spodek, presented Hunter with a tzedakah box like those gifted to students on the occasion of their bar or bat mitzvah. He explained the word tzedakah comes from the word tzedek meaning righteous or justice and that fulfilling commandments is for justice, the right thing to do.

One of Blumberg’s classmates, Noa Terenyo, asked Hunter for her mother’s name, explaining that the students pray daily for those who are ill. “We want to keep you in our prayers and hope you’ll be better soon,” she said. To that, with tears welling, Hunter added her name and that of Gayle Hamilton, to the whiteboard.

“I’ve always been taught to stand with the Jewish people and I know that I was put here to be a voice. I promise to keep learning, talking, and teaching others about how amazing the Jewish people are,” Hunter said. “I know God put me where He did.”

There were tears, they were joyful, and in the middle of the Beit Knesset, there was Blumberg’s mom Sharon, at Hunter’s side — the two women a month ago unknown to one another – now support, now friends, now really a new world of family.

“We struggled with what Ari was going to do for a mitzvah project, wanting something that was meaningful and would deeply speak to him,” Sharon said. “Once my father was diagnosed it became emotional and there was a reason for what to do. We became inspired and Ari ran with it.”

“Kim’s presentation inspired all who listened to her message of faith and understanding. Through the story of her medical treatments and living with metastatic cancer, she conveyed her unwavering belief that everything happens for a reason and all is in God’s hands,” said Akiba Head of School Tammie Rapps. “When we teach how our actions matter, and about our Jewish responsibility to be a light unto the nations, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine what those lessons look like. After our meeting, those lessons looked like a blonde 41-year-old mom who has assumed the mantle of spreading goodness and kindness because she’s been on the receiving end of thoughtfulness and compassion.”

Touring the Schultz Rosenberg campus, Hunter was in awe of all the meaning put into the construction and creation by “spiritual architect,” artist David Moss and others involved in the purposeful design.  “This is a special place and I love that from the youngest of the babies, the influence of good, and beauty and kindness, is here,” she said.  “I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to go to Israel but walking down the corridor, someone explained to me that we were on target with the longitude and latitude to keep walking straight into Jerusalem. I believe in the power of prayer and in the power of healing and I thank you.” BLUMBERG followup - kim & ari

Hunter spoke to the importance allowing others to help when facing a challenge. She had always been on the giving end, helping those in need. When she became ill, she had to learn to receive, to let others in.

Hunter believes wholeheartedly that this experience is not just about an incredible mitzvah project, but the chance for her to take it one step further, and that she vows to educate Christians about the Jewish community. “I absolutely will spread the amazing things you do and how we must stand by you.  I want to stay in touch with you and learn more,” she said, after her talk hugging students and faculty members, many of whom offered baby-sitting and playgroups for her children whenever the family is in town. “I’m really overwhelmed and know that we will forever be entwined. This can’t be explained but I know it is God speaking to me and letting me know I’m not alone on this journey.”

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Jewish teen from Israel charged with making JCC bomb threats

Jewish teen from Israel charged with making JCC bomb threats

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

By Sean Savage
JNS.org

A Jewish teenager with dual Israeli and American citizenship living in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon was arrested Thursday in connection to the wave of more than 100 bomb threats against JCCs and other Jewish institutions across North America since the beginning of 2017.

The suspect, 19, was arrested by Israel’s Lahav 433 police unit in the wake of a months-long investigation by Israeli authorities, who worked alongside the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. Authorities did not release the suspect’s name Thursday. Additionally, police detained the suspect’s father on suspicion that he knew of his son’s activities.

Jewish leaders meet March 3 with FBI Director James Comey and other federal officials to discuss the ongoing wave of anti-Semitic threats and attacks in the U.S. Credit: Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Jewish leaders meet March 3 with FBI Director James Comey and other federal officials to discuss the ongoing wave of anti-Semitic threats and attacks in the U.S. Credit: Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Authorities believe the suspect was also behind a bomb threat against two Delta Airlines flights between New York and Tel Aviv in January 2015, the Times of Israel reported.

The JCC Association of North America said Thursday that it is “gratified by the progress in this investigation” and praised law enforcement agencies’ “commitment and leadership.” But the umbrella organization for the community centers added that it is “troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats…is reportedly Jewish.”

During a raid on the suspect’s home, authorities found an advanced computer lab with sophisticated equipment, including voice-altering technology, encryption methods and a large antenna that he likely used to phone and email bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

According to Haaretz, authorities confiscated five computers, including the large antennas, which police believe allowed the suspect to use other people’s networks to commit the alleged crimes and throw off investigators. But eventually, police were able to create a profile of the suspect and determine the method to find him.

It is believed the suspect has lived in Israel for several years, and that the IDF refused to draft him “on personal grounds after funding him unfit for service,” Haaretz reported.

The suspect was scheduled to be brought before a Magistrate’s Court in the Israeli city of Rishon LeZion Thursday.

Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said this arrest was part of a coordinated international operation to try to find to find suspects behind the bomb threats.

“This specific investigation was complex in terms of the suspect and its nature, and there was a significant breakthrough in the investigation which led us to make the arrest of the suspect, who lives in southern Israel,” Rosenfeld told the Jerusalem Post.

Rosenfeld added that “he was the main suspect behind the numerous amount of threats which were made to different Jewish communities and organizations around the world.” Investigators, he said, will to continue to “see if and how he was connected to the different Jewish communities in the U.S. That directs the investigation to the American connection. We are looking to see if there was an incident which triggered him to carry out threatening those communities.”

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan congratulated police on the arrest and expressed his hope that it would bring an end to the threats against Jewish institutions.

“We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government,” said Erdan.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, said the Department of Justice “is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs. I commend the FBI and Israeli National Police for their outstanding work on this case.”

Earlier this month, U.S. authorities arrested Juan Thompson, a 31-year-old former news reporter from St. Louis, in connection with eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions. At the time, law enforcement officials said Thompson was not believed to be the main suspect behind the threats, an assertion that is purportedly confirmed by the latest arrest.

Following Thursday’s arrest in Israel, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that even though “it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern.”

“No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations [that have occurred in early 2017] or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers,” he said. “JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”

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Around the Town: Reading mentorship, scholarships

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

CAS to participate in reading mentorship program

At press time, Rabbi Andrew Bloom announced that Congregation Ahavath Sholom would participate in a reading mentorship program with Westcliff Elementary School. Rabbi Bloom wrote in an email:
“The Fort Worth Literacy Partnership recently reported that ‘just three out of 10 Fort Worth ISD third-graders read on grade level.’ This is both shocking and sad, and how wonderful would it be for us to help raise this statistic so that more of our children succeed in providing a good future for themselves and their future families.
“It is in this light that I am proud to announce that through Compassionate Fort Worth, TarrantNet and the ‘Read to Win’ project that CAS has been chosen as a mentoring congregation in helping the reading and general language performance of first-graders at Westcliff Elementary School.
“Two weeks ago I was able to meet with the director and the coordinator of community outreach from TarrantNet and the principal of Westcliff Elementary School to finalize our adopting of the school. I am proud to say that we are the first synagogue to participate in this important program.
“We need volunteers to give of their time and talents once a week for an hour of your choosing to come and work with two individual first-graders for 30 minutes each. The lesson plans, teaching areas and training will all be provided by Westcliff Elementary School. Westcliff Elementary has been deemed a school in need of partnership and I have no doubt that this relationship will last for many years to come. We are blessed to be partnering with them.
“We will begin this project during the first week of April with training occurring in the next 10 days. In order to participate you must first fill out this FWISD background check form https://volunteer.fwisd.org/ as well as letting me know what days and times you are available. School starts at 8 a.m. Children over the age of 12 can volunteer with the participation of an adult.
“In Judaism we believe in ‘L’Dor V’Dor,’ from ‘generation to generation.’ This value reinforces the importance of our children and our responsibility toward them and their futures.
“I look forward to all of us making a difference in a child’s life and am excited that we are now part of this fantastic program. Let us all ‘Read to Win!’ For by doing this, all of us and the children of Westcliff Elementary will be winners.”
If you are interested, please contact Rabbi Bloom with any questions and let him know what time you can volunteer and when you have filled out the background checks. He can be reached at rabbi.bloom@ahavathsholom.org or 817-731-4721.

Applications open for annual youth scholarships

The Isadore Garsek B’nai B’rith Lodge No. 269 will offer two $1,000 college scholarships. Applicants must be high school seniors graduating between December 2016 and June 2017. Parents or guardians must be members of the Isadore Garsek Lodge and/or members of an established Jewish congregation in Tarrant County. The parent or guardian must be a member in good standing for a period of 12 months before submission of the application. Children of deceased parents are also eligible if the parent died while a member for at least 12 consecutive months.
Awards will be presented at a date and time determined. Recipients will be notified in mid-June 2017.
The Academic Grant is a competitive and will be awarded based on overall academic achievement, GPA, Standardized Admission Test (SAT or ACT) and extracurricular activities. The BBYO Participation Grant is based on BBYO activities, leadership roles and active participation in local, regional and national events. The deadline for applying for either or both scholarships is May 31, 2017.
For more information or to request an application contact your rabbi, youth advisor, education director or Dr. Barry Schneider at dr_ barrys@ yahoo.com.

News and notes

  • On Sunday, April 2, The Federation’s Partnership2Gether committee will present a special public presentation from the Galilee Medical Center featuring Dr. Tal Marshak and Dr. Yoav Hoffman, who will speak on how Israel is helping Syria’s injured. The program is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Beth-El Congregation. This event is free to attend and open to the public.
  • The Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith Annual Community Senior Seder will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 5, at Beth-El. To join the festivities, call Lesly at the JFS office at 817-569-0898.
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Kosher Chili Cook-Off names new winner

Kosher Chili Cook-Off names new winner

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

After several runner-up finishes, Litoff finally wins Kosher Chili Cook-Off

Henry Litoff won his first Kosher Chili Cook-Off

Henry Litoff won his first Kosher Chili Cook-Off

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

Henry Litoff finally got his chili championship; now he’s going to need a new sign.
Litoff went into the 24th Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off with a string of second-place finishes dating back to 2014. He had always come close, but hadn’t gotten to hoist and celebrate a title until the judges deemed his as the best beef chili Sunday from a group of 44 entered in the category.
Determined in a blind tasting by the judges, Litoff’s chili edged out the entry from second-place Congregation Shaare Tefilla and the third-place winner from Moishe House.
“It’s exciting,” Litoff said, pausing after having a sip of Champagne and celebrating with the trophy. “I make the chili that I want to eat.
“I know I’m going to have 10, 15 pounds left and I got to give some to my teammates, and they are taking it home to enjoy it,” Litoff added. “I basically cook to my tastes, my teammates. There is no secret; my secret is no gimmicks.”
Litoff said it was a similar recipe to the ones that took second in the past, but this year he really took the simple chili philosophy to heart.
“This year was the most pared-down, simple recipe that I’ve made,” Litoff said. “I tried the least amount of gimmicky stuff. I tried to pare it down to what is the most delicious part, and that’s what I did. No gimmicks.”
While Litoff won the beef competition, the team from Whole Foods Market won the veggie chili title, while Jewish Family Services took second. Five teams were entered into the veggie chili category.
Congregation Shaare Tefilla was crowned the people’s choice for the second straight year. Each visitor at the event was given one gold coin and could vote for their favorite chili.
Organizers now turn their attention to the 2018 Cook-off. That will be the 25th annual event, and the 24th more than lived up to expectations.
In addition to the food, the Mazik Brothers performed a mix of ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s music covers while local vendors had stands set up. The kids were also well entertained with inflatable attractions and a woodworking station.
“It was a beautiful day,” Ed Jerome said. “We host this for the Dallas Jewish community. It’s just great for us to be able to host everybody. We had close to 50 Jewish organizations between the teams and vendors. It’s really a great day for the community.”
The 25th Cook-off already has a date, March 18, 2018 — mark your calendar now — and Jerome said that event will be a big celebration and honor the history of the Cook-off.
Of course, Litoff will be back to try and defend his title.
“As a local Dallas Jew, I was born here (in Dallas) and I’ve been coming here every single year since I think the inception of the Chili Cook-off,” Litoff said. “It’s just a great honor to participate in one of the largest, most inclusive community events that we have.”

 

 

Photos: Sharon Wisch-Ray

Chili cook-off winners

Beef winner: Henry Litoff
Veggie winner: Whole Foods
Beef, second place and people’s choice: Shaare Tefilla
Veggie runner-up: Jewish Family Services
Beef, third place: Moishe House

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DHM offers 1st look at Wiesenthal

DHM offers 1st look at Wiesenthal

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Museum sponsors opening night viewing of one-man show

By Aaron Greenberg
Special

the TJP

DALLAS — On April 5, Wiesenthal, the award-winning one-man show about famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, will open at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
It’s the latest offering in a partnership between the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and the performing arts center. The museum is sponsoring the four-show run at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, part of the Off Broadway on Flora Street Series, but opening night will be a full event.
“We have exclusive access to the theater and play that night, so it will be a wonderful community experience,” said Mary Pat Higgins, the museum’s CEO.
Opening night festivities include pre-show cocktails for ticket holders and sponsors, and a post-show reception with playwright and star Tom Dugan for sponsors. Single tickets for opening night start at $125 and sponsorships start at $1,000.

Submitted photo Wiesenthal is a one-man show depicting famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

Submitted photo
Wiesenthal is a one-man show depicting famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

“We were looking to do something interesting and relevant to what the museum is about as a fundraising enterprise,” said Mike Richman, executive vice president of revenue for the AT&T center.
“The subject matter, being about the most visible and famous Nazi hunter ever, ties directly into the message and mission of the Dallas Holocaust Museum.”
The one-act show is directed by Jenny Sullivan and runs about 75 minutes. It takes place on the day Wiesenthal retires after nearly 60 years in pursuit of Nazis.
“The concept of the show is that he is with one last group of visitors to his office on the day he is packing away his memorabilia,” Richman said. “It is so poignant, so interesting to see inside the mind of someone who is so single-mindedly motivated to bring these murderers to justice.”
Wiesenthal searched the world for people involved in Nazi war crimes, and tracked down more than 1,000 individuals so that they could be brought to justice. Most famously, he was involved in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust. Wiesenthal retired in 2003, and died in 2005.
“It is a story of seeking justice not just to avenge, really, the tragedy of Jewish lives lost, but so in the future perpetrators would know there would be people who would pursue justice, as a deterrent for future genocides,” Higgins said.
The two organizations teamed up for a fundraiser a few years ago, a chance for the museum to branch out with the arts community. In 2015, a one-woman show by Mona Golabek about her mother’s experience on the Kindertransport was held at the Wyly. Higgins said it was a wonderful experience, and last year the opening night of Cabaret — set when the Nazis were rising to power — was used as a fundraiser for the museum.
“When we found out they had to opportunity to host Wiesenthal, we were very excited,” Higgins said. “We have exclusive access to the theater and play that night, so it will be a wonderful community experience.”
On opening night, cocktails start at 6 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m. Because the theater will be dedicated to the show that night, Higgins sees it as a chance to learn, mingle and support the museum. For the April 6-8 performances, the show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $39. There will be an information booth for the museum at those performances, too.
Dugan, the son of a concentration camp liberator, has performed in numerous plays, movies and television shows. He has written one-man plays about Robert E. Lee and Frederick Douglass as well.
“The play itself has had a long history,” Richman said. “It debuted a few years ago at Playwrights Horizons in New York, a showcase for smaller theatrical works.
“We are constantly scouting shows to bring to the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
“One of our board members saw it previously and recommended we put it on our calendar. I saw it in New York and loved it.”
Similarly, Florence Shapiro, the museum’s board chair, saw the show last year in Richardson. She praised it to fellow board members, and when they heard it might be coming to town, the museum’s leadership reached out to Richman.
It’s seen as an opportunity not only to help the museum with fundraising, but in its mission of broadening knowledge about the Holocaust. Dugan will spend time doing educational outreach while in town, including a full hour on KERA.
There’s also a study guide available online for educators to use.
“It’s a good opportunity to get the message that always emanates from discussion of the Holocaust about tolerance and kindness toward fellow men,” Richman said.
Higgins advises anyone going to the show to visit the museum, whether they are new to studying the Holocaust or not.
“Come to the museum, take two hours and really go through and process and think about it,” Higgins said. “After that experience, there will be things that everyone learns. I have been through this museum with people who have read countless books, and there’s always some new information they glean. For those who haven’t really studied it, they will come away with a very solid, basic understanding. And hopefully they will find what really interested them or compelled them and learn on their own.”
“It just makes sense, if someone comes as a theater fan or is not fully aware of the atrocities of the Holocaust, the museum can help spark further interest and engage with the subject,” Richman said. “That’s a big win for us all.”
In addition to the Holocaust, there’s the broader message the museum focuses on, of tolerance and standing up to bigotry.
“We talk about being an Upstander rather than a bystander, not to turn a blind eye when things are happening to others, and to stand up for yourself,” Higgins said. “Simon Wiesenthal is an amazing example of those who stood up for others, seeking justice after the Holocaust. But he’s also remarkable in that he founded the Wiesenthal Center in 1977, and that center has a mission of Holocaust remembrance, but also fighting bigotry and anti-Semitism, and helping people understand the bigotry and prejudice in contemporary events. That’s our mission as well.”
The theater is at 2400 Flora St., in the downtown arts district. The event’s co-chairs are Jolene Risch, Jen Goldstein and Yana Mintskovsky. For more information on the show, to buy tickets or download the study guide, visit www.attpac.org/on-sale/2017/wiesenthal.

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Intellectual pursuit important in Judaism

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
Over the past year, I read all the books I could on the topic of Judaism versus other religions. It did not take long to decide Christianity is illogical. I don’t find it bothers me that it is the largest religion because they “just believe.” They are no different from the vast majority of my Jewish friends in yeshiva who “just believe” what they hear without putting much thought into it. Do you feel there’s any difference?
— Aryeh
Dear Aryeh,
We need to draw a vital distinction between the fact that Christians “just believe” and that many of your friends in yeshiva “just believe.” It is true that, when you compare people to people, the masses that accept things at face value without putting thought into it and do things by rote, you may not find much difference. They are oftentimes buying into different belief systems by rote. If many of them would have happened to have been switched and brought up by the families of the opposite beliefs, many would probably fall right in line with whatever is being taught to them. That does not show a similarity in the belief systems, rather a similarity in some of the people following them.
When it comes to the actual systems of belief, however, they could not be more diametrically opposed in their outlooks, especially with regard to taking their beliefs for granted! Often in certain branches of Christianity, to “just believe” is meritorious. Numerous times former Christians have approached me to discuss conversion to Judaism because they were not allowed to ask questions! When they would approach their religious leaders with difficulties about their religion, contradictions in teachings and the like, they were dealt with like heretics or told they need to “just believe” and not ask questions.
For some reason, otherwise inquisitive people, even people of science who are rigorous in their criticisms of scientific theories and in their peer reviews of the ideas and postulates of their colleagues, see fit to have a double standard about religion. They have been brought up since their youth that, with regard to religion, you are required to “just believe.” With regards to much of Christianity, to “just believe” is not a lack of effort by the masses; it goes to the heart of the belief system.
The Torah and Judaism, however, could not be more diametrically opposed to that outlook. The first thing a child is taught, at the Pesach Seder, is to ask questions! We have an entire, vast Talmud which consists largely of rigorous challenges to anything and everything stated, whether in verses, Mishnah, rabbinical statements, even acts of the Al-mighty! Our greatest teacher of all time, Moshe, strongly challenged God on some of His actions, and God accepted his challenges — not only without rebuke, but He changed many of His decrees due to Moshe’s challenges! We also point out the mistakes and misdeeds of our greatest leaders, those of Abraham, Moshe and others.
With regards to our essential belief system, the monumental work Daas Tevunos by the esteemed sage R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Italy 1700s) writes that we have an obligation to not take our beliefs at face value, rather to delve deeply into them, challenge them and come to a deep understanding — an understanding that sits well in our hearts and satisfies the inquisitive, intellectual part of our souls.
Most people, many of the friends you mention, may not be so intellectually inclined and they’re satisfied, perhaps, with what we call emunah peshuta, or simple belief. I’m not out to judge them, but that’s the people, not the religion. As a religion, certainly anyone who has an intellectual side to them needs to work on achieving a profound understanding of everything Jewish.

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The trials of golden calf syndrome

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

My experience with rabbinic smicha testing is certainly one to which any rabbi can relate.
Months of intense study followed by weeks of intense preparation culminated in a fateful, exhilarating day when an elderly Jewish sage, sitting at arm’s length, posed query after detailed query in the minutiae of Jewish law to a then-young yeshiva student shaking nervously in his chair.
I remember the anticipation I felt waiting to hear my results, and the wave of euphoria and feelings of accomplishment that washed over me upon hearing that I had passed the examination with distinction. And then, almost as quickly as that blissful day came to a close, a new emotion crept in to fill euphoria’s place. It was the “comedown” that often follows the “high.”
Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, past executive vice president of the Orthodox Union and a practicing psychotherapist, describes this phenomenon beautifully in his recently published collection of essays, The Person in the Parasha (see essay on Ki Tisa).
“It is as if, now that the goal with which one had been long preoccupied has been reached, life has become meaningless. There is nothing further to do, no ongoing purpose. A pervasive sense of emptiness ensues.”
And as to our response to this new emotional reality, R’ Weinreb adds, “The struggle to fill that emptiness is fraught with danger. In my own case, the emptiness thankfully passed in relatively short order, with no harm done and no unusual ‘acting out’ on my part. But others in similar predicaments frequently attempt to fill that emptiness in ways that result in great, and sometimes tragic, difficulties.”
It is the keen understanding of this psychological mechanism that Rabbi Weinreb utilizes to explain the seemingly incomprehensible sin that is the golden calf.
After all, how does a people who had just received the Torah and heard the voice of the Almighty at Sinai amid thunder, lightning and fire reduce themselves to the worship of a golden heifer mere weeks later? Can it be that a nation steeped in the rarefied air of authentic holiness and standing on the summit of spirituality can so quickly descend into the depths of idolatry?
Rabbi Weinreb argues that as inconceivable as it may sound, this follows the patterns of normal human phenomena:
“People are capable of attaining greatness, but they are not capable of sustaining greatness. They can achieve ‘highs’ of all kinds, but they cannot maintain those ‘highs.’ There is an inevitable ‘comedown.’”
So, what is the solution to this natural human dilemma? Is there a way to ward off the “comedown” that follows the “high”?
R’ Weinreb seems to take comfort in the knowledge that these changes are normal, noting that “almost all human experiences are transitory and are followed by feelings of hollowness.” He encourages us to “humbly accept our descent, our frustrating failures and limitations, and persist in climbing the mountain.”
I must admit, though, that as much as I found Rabbi Weinreb’s approach to the sin of the golden calf revelatory and insightful, I couldn’t help but feel let down by this “surrender” to fate. Might there be a way to escape this maddening cycle of inevitable “lows” that supplant our ambitious “highs”? Is acceptance of the natural roller-coaster-like nature of life the best we can hope for?
Beyond that, how are we to make sense of those extraordinary individuals who seem impervious to the “lows” that plague most of us? Examine the many great rabbis and sages who, having already accomplished many lifetimes’ worth of scholarly understanding and accomplishment, persisted without pause, toiling in the study hall all of the days of their lives.
Consider the Kobe Bryants of the athletic world who win championship after championship and remain as hungry and motivated as they were at the beginning of their careers.
And what of the giants of the business world who remain insatiable in their hunger for “new” and “improved,” never gratified by their past accomplishments or tired of the race?
If we are to trust our eyes it would seem that these exceptional figures had discovered some magical elixir, some immunization against the “lows” that plague common man. What, then, do they have that we do not, and how can we too share in their life-altering secret?
I believe the answer to this question lies in the unique way these individuals perceive goals. Instead of considering each realized goal as an endpoint in its own right, a “high” attached to an inevitable “low,” they valued each accomplishment as a large step toward a more significant goal, one of virtual perfection that they would likely never realize. Each accomplishment was worthy of celebration, but with so much left to be done, the feelings of emptiness or aimlessness were kept permanently at bay.
We need to approach our achievements less like winning the battle and more like taking the yellow jersey in a stage of the Tour De France. We are certainly justified in celebrating the day’s victory, but unless we keep our eye on the prize ahead of us and muster the strength to ride with a similar sense of urgency the very next day, we cannot hope to take home the ultimate crown.
With an approach like this our “highs” remain “high,” but our emotional pendulum holds steady.

To contact Rabbi Yogi email him at yrobkin@dataofplano.org.

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Purim Punims

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Purim Punims
Jews around the Dallas area celebrated Purim earlier this month. Here is a sampling of celebration from area congregations that submitted photos.

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Moses’ dream lives on, even in American Seders

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
Studies have proven it time and time again that sitting down to dinner together is one of the best things you can do for your kids and your family. And what better family dinner is there than the Passover Seder? (Of course, you need to eat dinner together more often than yearly for it to make a difference in your family!)
The Seder is designed to open conversation and create an enjoyable learning (and remembering) session. This is how we pass on our traditions — through study, conversation, story and food! It is not too early to begin planning your Passover conversation — the story is really more important than the food.
So as you perhaps peruse a new Haggadah or plan to create your own, I have a book recommendation: America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story by Bruce Feiler.
The book jacket alone grabs your attention: The Pilgrims quoted his story. Franklin and Jefferson proposed he appear on the U.S. seal. Washington and Lincoln were called his incarnations. The Statue of Liberty and Superman were molded in his image. Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked him the night before he died. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cited him as inspiration.
For four hundred years, one figure inspired more Americans than any other. His name is Moses. This is our story — the one we tell every year — yet it is a story that inspires all. Read the book and add this to your table discussion. The story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt is a story about freedom, a story about an imperfect leader rising to the occasion, a story with lessons on remembering so that you don’t repeat the same bad ways — and it is a story about us.
Read this book and you may add a mini-Statue of Liberty or Liberty Bell to your Seder table — that would definitely start conversation!
Feiler concludes: I will tell my daughters that this is the meaning of the Moses story and why it has reverberated through the American story. America, it has been said, is a synonym for human possibility. I dream for you, girls, the privilege of that possibility. Imagine your own Promised Land, perform your own liberation, plunge into the waters, persevere through the dryness, and don’t be surprised — or saddened — if you’re stopped just short of your dream.
Because the ultimate lesson of Moses’ life is that the dream does not die with the dreamer, the journey does not end on the mountaintop, and the true destination in a narrative of hope is not this year at all. But next.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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