Archive | May, 2017

Concepts of justice, fairness tough for children to learn

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
Each year as we prepare for camp, we think about the many issues that children face and how to guide them in the right direction. One of the things that we hear from children is, “It’s not fair.”
They spend a lot of time learning to understand the concept of fairness and justice. We want to guide them with our heroes from the past and present.
Tzedek is the mitzvah of doing justice. The words tzedek and tzedakah appear almost 300 times in the Torah. Jewish tradition teaches that justice and compassion are two of the most important qualities for people to survive and live together.
Leviticus 19, also called the Holiness Code, says that being holy is being just. Elie Wiesel told this story: A man who saw injustice in his city protested against it every day. One day someone asked why he continued to protest since no one was paying attention. The man answered, “In the beginning I thought I would change people, but now I continue so people will not change me.”
There is much talk in the news about the Supreme Court Justices. There have been many famous Jewish Justices, and we can learn from their examples. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated with honors from Columbia Law School, not one law firm in New York would hire her because she was a woman. She became a pioneer in the fight for women’s legal rights, and she argued six landmark cases on behalf of women before the Supreme Court. In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court. Upon accepting the nomination, she spoke of her background. “I am very sensitized to discrimination. I grew up at the time of World War II in a Jewish family. I have memories as a child…seeing a sign in front of a restaurant: ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’ I have a last thank-you to my mother. I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve, and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the most recent Jewish Justices and the first Jewish woman Justice; however, many great American Jews have served the United States as lawyers and judges. Louis Brandeis was the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice from 1916-1939.
He was nicknamed “The People’s Attorney” because he was an advocate of social and economic reforms. He was also a leading Zionist, and Brandeis University is named after him. Benjamin Cardozo served on the Supreme Court from 1932 to 1938. The school of law at Yeshiva University is named after him. Felix Frankfurter served from 1939 to 1962 and he helped create the American Civil Liberties Union.
Arthur Goldberg and Abe Fortas served in the 1960s and Stephen Breyer was named to the Court in 1994.

Conversation starters

  • 1. Sometimes children say that something isn’t fair — something a parent, teacher or coach decides. What does it mean to be fair? Think of some examples and then think of a way to decide what is fair. For example, when sharing a piece of cake, one person gets to cut and the other gets to choose first.
  • 2. Why is it so hard to be a judge? What does it mean to be “impartial”? What would make it difficult to judge someone? Can we judge ourselves? Why or why not?
  • 3. Making sure there is justice in the world is not the same as making sure there are judges. What is justice all about? Some people say that life isn’t always fair — is that fair?

Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Trump has ‘new reasons for hope’ after whirlwind Middle East visit

Trump has ‘new reasons for hope’ after whirlwind Middle East visit

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

President heralds ‘rare opportunity’ to bring peace, stability to Israel

JTA

JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump arrived in Israel for a whirlwind 28-hour visit, saying his trip to the region has given him “new reasons for hope.”

US President Donald Trump with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as he arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on May 22, 2017, for his first official visit to Israel since becoming US president. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO *** Local Caption *** ארצות הברית ארהב  ארה

US President Donald Trump with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as he arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on May 22, 2017, for his first official visit to Israel since becoming US president. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO *** Local Caption *** ארצות הברית
ארהב
ארה”ב
דונלד טראמפ
נשיא
אמריקה
ראובן ריבלין
משמר הכבוד

Air Force One touched down on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion International Airport shortly after 12:30 p.m.Monday. The landing represented the first direct flight ever between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the first stop of Trump’s first international trip as president.
“I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the State of Israel,” Trump said in remarks at the welcome ceremony after he reviewed the honor guard and was welcomed by Israel’s leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.NetanyahusTrumps
Trump called Israel a “strong, resilient, determined and prosperous nation” and alluded to the Holocaust, saying the United States “will not allow the horror and atrocities of the last century to be repeated.”
He called his visit to the region a “rare opportunity” to bring peace and stability. “But we can only get there working together. There is no other way,” he said.
Netanyahu called the visit historic in that it is the first time that a U.S. president’s first trip abroad includes Israel.
“Thank you for this powerful expression of your friendship to Israel,” the prime minister said.
In another first, Trump visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to go to the holy site.
Netanyahu alluded to Trump’s speech to Muslim and Arab leaders in Riyadh the previous day.
“Mr. President, yesterday in Saudi Arabia you delivered a forceful speech on terrorism and extremism, called on forces of civilization to confront the forces of barbarism,” he said.wall2
Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to peace, pointing out that Israel has already made peace with Egypt and Jordan, adding that “Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians. The peace we seek is a genuine one in which the Jewish state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands and the conflict ends once and for all.”
Speaking before Netanyahu, Rivlin said the Middle East and Israel need a strong United States, and the United States “needs a strong Israel.” He reminded Trump that Israel this week marks the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.wall1
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner landed in a second plane and sat with the American diplomatic delegation during the welcome ceremony.
During a live video feed of Trump’s visit to Israel, the White House caused a bit of a stir by identifying the location of the president as “Jerusalem, Israel” — a departure from the standard listing of the city as simply Jerusalem.
The caption appeared on the video feed of Monday’s news conference at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence. It came as Trump administration officials continue to differ over whether to describe the contested city as being part of Israel, and as Israeli officials urge the White House to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Obama administration at least twice — in 2011 and then again last year — corrected photo captions and datelines that had read “Jerusalem, Israel” to “Jerusalem,” reflecting longstanding executive branch policy that the city should not be described as being in any country until there is a final status agreement. (Congress recognized the city as Israel’s capital in 1995.)
The George W. Bush administration also routinely captioned photos and listed the city on schedules and in news releases as simply “Jerusalem.”

נשיא המדינה ראובן ריבלין ורעייתו נחמה מקבלים את נשיא ארה

נשיא המדינה ראובן ריבלין ורעייתו נחמה מקבלים את נשיא ארה”ב דולנד טראמפ ורעייתו מלינה
צילום: חיים צח / לע”מ
photo by Haim Zach / GPO

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Manchester’s Jews saddened, not surprised after concert bombing killed at least 22

Manchester’s Jews saddened, not surprised after concert bombing killed at least 22

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Emergency services arrive  close to the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England.  There have been reports of explosions at Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had performed this evening.  Greater Manchester Police have confirmed there are fatalities and warned people to stay away from the area. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 23: Emergency services arrive close to the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. There have been reports of explosions at Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had performed this evening. Greater Manchester Police have confirmed there are fatalities and warned people to stay away from the area. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

Residents have been preparing for, expecting attack for years

By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA

Britain’s bloodiest terrorist attack in over a decade occurred Monday just two miles from Rabbi Yisroel Cohen’s synagogue.
Yet one day after the deadly bombing in Manchester, Cohen told JTA he has no intention of changing security arrangements at his congregation.
In fact Cohen, a Chabad emissary who works in a Jewish enclave in the northern part of the city surrounded by a heavily Muslim area, said there is little room for improving security across his tight-knit community.
After all, the Jewish community in Manchester — one of the U.K.’s fastest-growing spots thanks to an influx of immigrants and young couples seeking alternatives to pricey London — has been on its highest alert since long before the explosion that killed at least 22 people and wounded 50 at an Ariana Grande concert. On Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the act.
“Well, the radio equipment is working, the residents have been briefed, police are patrolling, security professionals from the Jewish community have been in place since the attacks in Belgium” last year, Cohen said when asked about security. “There is only so much you can do — except pray.”
On Kings Road, a busy street of the heavily Jewish borough of Prestwich, residents keep an eye out for strangers. Any abnormal behavior — particularly photography or the gathering of information — quickly invites polite but firm inquiries by both passers-by as well as shopkeepers who cater to the local population of haredi and modern Orthodox Jews.
The vigilance in Jewish Manchester owes much of its preparation and training to the local police, the Community Security Trust organization and other groups. But it is also born of circumstance: Manchester’s approximately 30,000 Jews are concentrated in a relatively small area. This makes them an easy target, but it also means that the community’s institutions are easier to protect and vigilance is easier to instill.
While there are also concentrations of Jews in North London, in Manchester — a city of 2.5 million, where 15.8 percent of the population is Muslim — there is added tension because the Jewish and Muslim communities live in close proximity. Kings Road, for example, is sandwiched between the Judaica World bookstore on its western end and the Masjid Bilal mosque on its eastern one.
This juxtaposition in recent years has generated some friction, including in the harassment of Jews on the street and the occasional violent incident.
A history of violence
At least one more premeditated plan to attack Manchester Jews was uncovered and foiled five years ago. In 2012, a British judge imprisoned a Muslim couple, Mohammed Sajid and Shasta Khan, for seven years for gathering intelligence on Manchester Jews for an attack.
“That incident came at a time of reassessment about the threat to Jews in Manchester, and it was one of the reasons that led to a complete overhaul,” Cohen said.
“So today, we in the Jewish community are perhaps less surprised than others at what happened,” the rabbi added, though he also said that Mancunian Jews are “shocked at the horror” witnessed at the concert.
Paul Harris, editor of the city’s Jewish Telegraph weekly, told JTA he generally agrees that Manchester’s Jewish community is well prepared to deal with any emergency or fallout thereof, but he also flagged one weak point: On evenings and afternoons, observant Jews in the city congregate outside synagogue — a habit that makes them an easy target and which, for that reason, has largely been abandoned in at-risk communities in France and beyond.
“Maybe that will change now,” Harris said.
Called a terrorist attack
In a statement Tuesday following a suspect’s arrest, Prime Minister Theresa May said the bombing was a “callous terrorist attack” that targeted “defenseless young people.” Police believe a homemade explosive vest was detonated by a suicide bomber who may or may not have been working alone.
The explosion ripped through the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena at 10:30 p.m. after Grande, a 23-year-old pop singer from the United States, had already left the stage. At least 12 of the 22 killed in the attack were children younger than 16. News of the explosion sent worried parents to the arena, where children, teenagers and young adults streamed out of the main exit in a state of panic.
Cohen said that Chabad was not aware of Jewish fatalities in the attack.
The attack happened a little over two weeks before the June 8 general election in which hardliner Theresa May from the Conservative Party is running against Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party. The attack may further increase May’s lead in the polls on Corbyn, a left-leaning promoter of outreach to Muslims who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his friends.
Last year Corbyn — amid intense criticism in the media and from members of his own party for his perceived failures in curbing expressions of anti-Semitism within Labour’s ranks — said he regretted expressing affection to the two Islamist terror groups. Following the attack Monday, all parties agreed to suspend campaigning for three days.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference Tuesday in Jerusalem with President Donald Trump, who was visiting Israel, referenced the attack in criticizing incitement to terrorism by the Palestinian Authority under its president, Mahmoud Abbas.
“President Abbas condemned the horrific attack in Manchester,” Netanyahu said while standing next to Trump. “Well, I hope this heralds a real change, because if the attacker had been Palestinian and the victims had been Israeli children, the suicide bomber’s family would have received a stipend from the Palestinian Authority. That’s Palestinian law. That law must be changed.”
Speaking in Bethlehem, Trump joined other world leaders who condemned the attack.
“I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. I will call them losers,” he said.
Back in Manchester, Rabbi Shneur Cohen of the Chabad Manchester Center City organized a food and drinks distribution to police officers who were stationed outside the arena where the attack took place.
“We are Manchester, we stand together,” Cohen told reporters at the scene.
But Harris, the Jewish Telegraph editor, said that despite such gestures, “there is definitely a silence, a shocked silence” in the city following the attack.

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Paying forward lesson easily glossed over

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

She’s the only friend still left from my elementary school days.
Patricia (she was Patty then) now lives in Denver, but we keep in good touch, often reminiscing about our shared, early hometown experiences.
Malcolm Cowley, a distinguished American writer, was also a Pittsburgher, and during the time I was studying at the city’s university, he returned to his hometown to teach some literature courses. Sad but true: His classes were not required, so I took none of them.
Patricia attended another college but enrolled in one of Cowley’s courses as a grad student. So she asked me recently — since we’ve both exceeded that “certain age” — if I’d read his book The View from 80. She had, and wasn’t much impressed. I hadn’t, but easily found a used copy online. Its less-than-75 pages made for one fast, easy read.
Cowley (born 1898, died 1989, just before his 91st birthday) wasn’t Jewish. Patricia isn’t, either. But I found something distinctively so in this little book, because the author paraphrases the “parable” that you, I, and probably every other Jew knows: about the man who, planting a tree he’ll never live long enough to see bear fruit, explains to a questioner that his descendants will. That’s what his planting was all about: Someone long-gone left fruit trees for him, so he was paying it forward.
Here’s what Cowley has to say: “Very often an old person’s project has to do with things that live on and are renewed … He plants trees to profit another age. Cicero quotes an earlier author as saying this, and himself continues, ‘If you ask a farmer, however old, for whom he is planting, he will reply without hesitation, “For the immortal gods, who intended that I should not only receive these things from my ancestors, but also transmit them to my descendants.” ’ ”
Cicero’s “immortal gods” came much earlier than Cowley’s singular one; he’s such an Orthodox Christian, he describes himself as one who shrives: that means seeking forgiveness for sins, then doing penance and finally receiving absolution. But I just wondered: Who might that anonymous pre-Cicero author have been?
I found that our Pirke Avot is not the source; It’s from the Mishnah, a product of the Common Era’s third century; Cicero died almost 50 years before CE even started. I’m sure Malcolm Cowley had read extensively, but I suspect not much in Jewish texts. Of course he read Cicero — surely in the original; for scholarly men of his time, Latin and Greek were regular educational givens. He may even have read some Hebrew. So I’m guessing now: If one of those texts was Ethics of the Fathers, might he have assumed that it predated Cicero?
Whatever. I’m recommending Cowley’s little book to everyone who’s growing older (and who isn’t?) because I’d already come to believe, even before reading it, what he preaches: Everyone has a story to tell, made up of many individual stories remembered from the course of a lifetime. He recommends “telling” your story by writing down memories from childhood to the present.
Now, here’s my truth: Without our stories, we will virtually cease to exist. Therefore, I’m devoted to our Dallas Jewish Historical Society’s oral history project, which gives us all the opportunity to tell our life stories that someone else will write down, for access in perpetuity. (How many of us have come to adulthood full of regret that we never asked our parents or grandparents to sit down with us and tell us their life stories? This sorrow isn’t something we want to pass on to our own descendants!)
I suspect that friend Patricia, not knowing Pirke Avot, glossed over the tree-planting tale very quickly, and I’m at least reasonably sure that she has no idea of how it reinforces, if not echoes, Judaism’s own story. As I send her my “review” of Malcolm Cowley’s little book, I’ll be sure to mention this!

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Film review: ‘The Wedding Plan’ romantic comedy with an Orthodox twist

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

For those who remember Rama Burshtein’s first film, Fill the Void, you’ll want to grab your hat and coat (it’s cold in theaters these days — haven’t you noticed?) and head for a screening of her new film, The Wedding Plan.
Again, Burshtein pulls back the curtain on the Orthodox community and a wedding is the main event, but the similarities end there.
Michal, a charming 32-year-old Orthodox woman, is left at the altar (or more literally at the food tasting for the wedding). What’s a girl to do? She already has the dress. She’s paid for the venue. And moves into a new apartment. If you have faith, like Michal, you continue checking off your list leading up to the wedding, but add one item — a groom. Oy!
We join Michal (a terrific Noa Koler) on a bittersweet journey to find her true love. The only hitch is, the wedding is 30 days away, on the eighth day of Hanukkah. The audience joins her on her pilgrimage to matrimony where you’ll meet some real characters along the way. See if you can figure out who becomes Mr. Right.
And hope for a Hanukkah miracle.
Normally, one doesn’t think romantic comedy when you think of the Orthodox community. But Burshtein skillfully merges comedy with the concept of faith.
I was fortunate to speak with the writer and director of The Wedding Plan, Rama Burshtein, last week.
An excerpt from our conversation follows:
Susan Kandell Wilkofsky: I just have to tell you that I am thrilled to speak with you today. Your last film, Fill the Void, was one of those rare films that displayed such a delicate balance between drama and comedy. From the opening scene in the supermarket — I was hooked! And the same with the The Wedding Plan, a charming film that deftly contrasts drama and comedy. I’m not giving anything away when I say, “Wow.”
(Go see the film and you’ll appreciate that word reference.)
Rama Burshtein:    (with a laugh)    Thank you so much, thank you.
SKW: I want to talk a little about the stories that you tell, basically about women who are strong but are also observant. Does this pose a problem when storytelling?
RB: It’s interesting that you say it as if it’s an opposite thing.
As if “you’re observant and strong” doesn’t mix together. But for me, being observant is (a form of) strength and power.
SKW: Am I correct in saying that just like the main character, Michal, you were both raised as secular Jews and not in an ultra-Orthodox home? And by the way, Noa Koler was just terrific! So real! Any other similarities between the main character of The Wedding Plan and you?
RB: First of all, thank you again for all the beautiful things you say! The film is more of my world in terms of becoming religious. I’m 50 years old now and I became religious at the age of 27, so I have lived more years as a secular person than as an observant (one), so, everything I am, basically comes before I became religious. So we (Michal and I) dress a bit different, we’re not so traditional because we have both worlds living inside us. But the story is not autobiographical.
SKW: I enjoyed sneaking a peek behind the curtain. The Orthodox world is not a place that I would often have access, except perhaps in film. I am also the program director of a Jewish film festival in Dallas, and one of my observations is that the Orthodox rarely attend our films, even if it highlights their community.
RB: That’s right. My films are not for the Orthodox community at all. I actually don’t recommend that they go and see them. My films are for secular Jews and even non-Jews — I’m trying to be that little window and the Orthodox world doesn’t really need that window in terms of getting to know their world. So, they won’t go and see films and they won’t sit in a theater where men and women sit together.
SKW: In researching this film, I learned that it was shown in other countries with a translation of its Hebrew title, Through the Wall, but here in the United States it’s known as The Wedding Plan. Why the change?
RB: After hosting some screenings, Roadside Attractions (the distributors) decided that the word “wall” in an Israeli film sounded very political. And this film was not. And for me, it was OK that they made the change; I totally trust them.
SKW: Just as a side note here — there is a pivotal scene that takes place next to a wall (but not The Wall). Having the word “wall” in the title would then lead the audience to believe that the film heads into a very different direction.
RB: (a little laugh). Ah, I can see how you thought that. Interesting!
SKW: I love how you seamlessly integrated the music into the storyline (again, you’ll have to see it to understand my meaning). This is obviously an important element to you.
RB: Yes, actually the musician, Roy Edri, did both the score and the songs. His music goes very fast to the heart! You kind of listen to it and (right from the beginning), you can almost sing with it. I think he’s extremely talented.
SKW: In this country, Jewish singles use JDate to find suitable matches; does the Hasidic community still rely on matchmakers?
RB: Yes, that’s our JDate! (We both laugh.) It’s actually the same! The JDate is the matchmaker. Absolutely the same, except the big difference is, on JDate, it’s not necessarily for marriage — unless they declare they’re looking for something serious — but for us it won’t be anything but marriage. That’s mainly the difference.
SKW: For those who haven’t seen the film yet, there is a character — Shimi’s mother — who performs certain rituals. What was her title? What is she? Is there a name for what she does?
RB: (little snicker) I don’t think there’s a name, but in Judaism, we do believe in the evil eye. Sometimes you feel you kind of need something spiritual that will help you. If you’re stuck, you go to someone. You have it in the Orthodox world. You have it in the secular world. You go to a coach, you go to people who can help you overcome an obstacle. And she’s the type, when it comes to marriage, girls come to her and she brings them to a very genuine, honest place that starts something new.
SKW: Now I learned something new! What is your next project? What are you working on?
RB: It’s in the very, very early stages, but I think the next project involves television: to do a show, to go into the deeper level of a story. To (tell the story) in 10 hours and not two hours.
SKW: So many Israeli TV programs have been adapted for American audiences: Homeland, In Treatment. I am looking forward to that! Thank you for speaking so candidly with me today. Please keep sharing your stories with us.
RB: It was a pleasure!

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Spiritual experience no matter the age

Spiritual experience no matter the age

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

Temple Emanu-El members meet for special service during Shavuot

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

Temple Emanu-El welcomes a host of adults who are celebrating their own coming of age in the Jewish community.
At 7 p.m. May 30 in the Tycher Gathering Space, class members will chant the commandments received by the children of Israel at Mount Sinai during Shavuot morning services.
The class includes a set of sisters, two women who have been friends since their children were young, some who are married, several Jews by choice, and a number of lifelong members of the congregation — each with their own soul-fulfilling cause to participate.

(Left to right) Elise Mikus, Evelyn Fox, Brett Ritter, Gayle Johansen, May Sebel, Helen Risch, Jeanette Herzmark, Rabbi Debra Robbins, Michael Kallinick, Sue Weiner, Chelsie Kastriner, Risa Kesselman, Jean Maza and

(Left to right) Elise Mikus, Evelyn Fox, Brett Ritter, Gayle Johansen, May Sebel, Helen Risch, Jeanette Herzmark, Rabbi Debra Robbins, Michael Kallinick, Sue Weiner, Chelsie Kastriner, Risa Kesselman, Jean Maza and

The roster consists of Leslie Bell, Evelyn Fox, Jeanette Herzmark, Gayle Johansen, Michael Kallinick, Chelsie Kastriner, Risa Kesselman, Jean Maza, Elise Mikus, Sue Pickens Owens, Helen Risch, Brett Ritter, May Sebel and Sue Weiner.
“This class has been a meaningful and spiritual experience for all of us who have been involved and it will have a lasting impact on the leadership of Temple Emanu-El,” said Temple’s Adult B’nai Mitzvah Clergy Liaison and Lead Teacher Rabbi Debra Robbins. She worked with Adult B’nai Mitzvah Program Director Becky Slakman, Adult B’nai Mitzvah Program Assistants Rachel Gross and Diana Hall and the congregation’s clergy to create and carry through a meaningful learning, growing, and sharing program.
“What makes our program really significant and unique is that it is integrated into the life of the congregation. Our program is so unique because the students attend the regular Shabbat service, each of them becoming a leader in our community, reading from the Torah on a Shabbat morning, also delivering a D’var Torah that they each wrote about the weekly portion,” said Rabbi Robbins. “With the direction of teacher Robin Kosberg, who taught a class open to the congregation, each of our b’nai mitzvah students found a way to bring the classical sources of our tradition together with the Torah text and the text of their life experiences.”

“We’ve always been very involved in our Jewish community,” said Helen Risch (center), who celebrated her bat mitzvah on May 13 with her family surrounding her. “I felt it was my time to focus on my own Jewish learning.” (From left) Alisha, Jonathan, Jolene, Maddie, Frank, Aaron, Jeremy, Eli, Jake and Rebecca.

“We’ve always been very involved in our Jewish community,” said Helen Risch (center), who celebrated her bat mitzvah on May 13 with her family surrounding her. “I felt it was my time to focus on my own Jewish learning.” (From left) Alisha, Jonathan, Jolene, Maddie, Frank, Aaron, Jeremy, Eli, Jake and Rebecca.

While the group took to the bimah one or two at a time spread out over many months, they spent a lot of time with each other sharing Shabbat lunches and dinners, Sunday lunches and an afternoon with Kerry Silver in her glass studio, where each person made a yad to use when reading from the Torah.
Engaging program
The goals of Temple’s Adult B’nai Mitzvah Program are to have participants engage in developing relationships with other members of the congregation by studying Hebrew in preparation to read from the Torah, exploring how to interpret Torah with classical texts and through life experiences, learning about prayer and spiritual practices in synagogue services and in daily life, working with others on social justice projects and celebrating a personal commitment to Jewish living in our community.
Objectives include students being able to master basic Hebrew decoding skills to read or chant three verses of Torah, being confident and competent reciting the Torah blessings for an aliyah, and feeling comfortable to participate and pray in the Shabbat morning service.
Students completing the program can expect to explore possibilities for cultivating meaningful and prayerful practices in synagogue services and in daily life, reflect on the meaning of various prayers and rituals related to Shabbat, understand the structure and flow of the Shabbat morning service, discover how Torah can be a gift in the lives of Jews, develop skills and tools to understand and interpret passages of Torah, write a personal reflection on the meaning of Torah verses or specific prayers, and discover how trope provides a way to express the meaning of Torah.
“Perhaps the image that is most powerful for me in reflecting on the 18-month experience is contrasting the image of the class at Shavuot last year when they held the Torah for our regular Torah readers to chant the 10 commandments,” said Rabbi Robbins. “On May 31, their teachers and other adult learning leaders will hold the Torah as each student chants one of the commandments and our congregation will have opportunity to celebrate together with this new cadre of leaders and teachers. I can’t wait to be with them!”
Encouragement in the wings
Helen Risch, a former certified school psychologist with a master’s degree in counseling and psychology from Penn State (where she first met her husband-to-be at a bagel breakfast), was called to the Torah on May 13, celebrating the moment with her dear friend Gayle Johansen. Glad to have her friend Gayle alongside for this journey, she said “it was a lot of help to have someone encouraging me along the way, and I liked having someone to encourage in return. This has been a very special time for us.”
Risch, the daughter of European immigrants Rachel and Sam Winnick, of blessed memory, reflected on her own “entrance into Jewish adulthood,” at Congregation Beth Israel, the Orthodox congregation of just 70 families in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, where she was raised. She and two other girls simply led a few prayers during Sukkot. Just six months ago, while researching family history, someone came upon an article of that occasion, calling it a bat mitzvah.
“In those days girls weren’t called to the Torah so we did what we did and it was still a special day,” said Risch, the wife of Frank, mother of Jolene and Jonathan (Alisha) and grandmother of Aaron, Eli, Jake, Jeremy, Maddie, and Rebecca.
“When my grandson Aaron became a bar mitzvah at Anshai Torah, he wanted his grandmothers to chant and Rabbi Weinberg gave us a Shehechiyanu. We’ve always been very involved in our Jewish community and our grandchildren all attend Jewish day schools here in Dallas and Houston but when this class was announced two years ago, I felt it was my time to focus on my own Jewish learning.”
Roz Katz, who tutored some of this year’s adult students, was a member of the adult program in 1997, and has tutored almost 400 children and adults since 2004.
“As adults, we consciously and conscientiously choose to step on the path to becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, and as a result, the service is imbued with commitment and joy. Being a part of the move through this process and their own service is so special, a truly delicious experience.
“Witnessing their growing interest in Judaism, their appreciation for this ancient language and their wholehearted embrace of preparations for their service continues to be sweetly profound,” Katz said.
When the commandments were given to the “children” of Israel, there were no age prerequisites. Thirteen, 25, or 80-plus … all the children of Israel. All earning, and receiving, blessings galore.

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Why Shavuot holiday isn’t explicitly addressed in Torah

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have done a search and am shocked to have found that the holiday of Shavuot is not mentioned in the Torah! How could something as important as Shavuot being the day the Jews received the Torah at Sinai not be mentioned in connection to that holiday?
Brian S.
Dear Brian,
The Torah states, “and you should count … from the day after the Shabbos (i.e., the 1st day of Pesach) …  seven complete weeks… you should count 50 days and offer a new mincha offering to Hashem.” (Levitcus 23: 15-16) All the Torah mentions at the end of the counting of 49 days, which culminates in the holiday of Shavuot, is to bring a “new mincha” (bread offering). What about the fact that it’s Shavuot, the day we received the Torah?! That’s not even mentioned, as you pointed out. Furthermore, why is the bread offering called a “new mincha”? What is more “new” about that offering than any other?
The classical commentator Keli Yakar (Rabbi S. E. Luntschitz, early 17th-century Prague), comments that the “new mincha” is a hint to the holiday of Shavuot, the day of receiving the Torah. This is because the Torah needs to always be “new” for each person. Every day he or she should feel like it was given to them that very day from Sinai!
This is why the Torah did not explicitly single out a specific day as the day of receiving the Torah from Sinai. Although historically it was given on the day of Shavuot, to write explicitly that Shavuot is the day of receiving the Torah would minimize the Sinai experience to only that day, whereas the Torah wants us to feel that every day it is being given anew to those who toil in its study. Every moment that we delve deeply into Torah we bring out new subtle nuances and understandings that are hidden within its infinite wisdom and waiting to be discovered.
With this recognition, the study of Torah never “gets old,” one never gets bored from its toil. On the contrary, it’s always exciting and new! That’s why it’s hinted to by the bringing of a mincha chadasha, a “new” mincha. Every offering brought is technically new, but here the Torah actually calls it such, to stress that everything about this day is fresh and new.
The Keli Yakar proceeds to reveal a profound point. Nearly all the wheat offerings were brought from matzah, as the Torah doesn’t allow offerings of chametz (leavening). The two breads which are the special mincha offering for Shavuot must be brought from breads which are chametz. Generally, chametz is forbidden in the Temple because it represents the “evil inclination” (yetzer hara). On Shavuot, however, the day of the giving of Torah, where there is Torah the yetzer hara has no power to control us. This is what we learn from the Talmud, which states, “I created the yetzer hara, and I created the Torah as its antidote.” (Kiddushin 30b)
Furthermore, if not for the yetzer hara needing its antidote, the Torah never would have been brought down from its lofty place in Heaven to rest among mortal men in the physical world. This is the answer utilized by Moses to the angels when he ascended Sinai to receive the Torah. When the angels protested to the Al-mighty for His taking his most precious possession and defiling it by presenting it to mortal men, Moses retorted by asking them, “Do you have a yetzer hara for which you need this Torah?!” (Talmud, Shabbos 88b-89a) The essence of Torah is as an antidote to the yetzer hara; consequently the Torah requires, specifically on Shavuot, to bring an offering of chametz to show the yetzer hara is powerless against the Torah.
Although Keli Yakar does not explain how the Torah is the antidote to the yetzer hara, I think the answer is implicit in his words. Chametz comes about in merely 18 minutes by the wet dough sitting idle. If, however, you are constantly kneading and working it, it doesn’t become chametz in even 18 hours! Newness ceases the chametz process!
The toil of Torah in a way which makes one renew himself constantly doesn’t allow the “chametz process” to take hold of himself. That is truly the antidote to the yetzer hara, and is precisely why Shavuot is not explicitly written in the Torah as the day of receiving the Torah. Every day we make the Torah as new, as we find in the opening lines of Shema where we recite that “these words should be ‘today’ upon your heart,” to which Rashi comments, “Every day they should be fresh and new as if they were given that day.”
On this Shavuot let us all re-accept the Torah with all its vigor, in a way that we will continue to keep it fresh and new throughout the year. Best wishes for a joyous Shavuot to all the readers!

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Make this Memorial Day more meaningful

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

With Memorial Day weekend just ahead, here are some suggestions to make these three days an opportunity for each of us to perform a mitzvah.
Whether or not you are Jewish, attend your house of worship, paying homage to the sacred memory of those men and women who gave their lives defending our country.
On Sunday morning and early afternoon, members of the Jewish War Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary will be collecting your contribution, handing you a poppy, as they shout, “Please help the hospitalized veterans.”
Combined with funds collected again on Veterans Day in November, the total will help the VA Medical Center in Dallas to purchase one or more needed items which our Congress has not funded.
Past “poppy drives” have helped pay for acupuncture treatment equipment, waiting room furniture, television sets, recreational equipment, an ice machine, an ice cream maker, a miniature golf course, and other items selected from the Dallas VA’s “wish list.”
Then Monday, Memorial Day, take a friend, the family and especially yourself, and attend the very meaningful programs at Restland Cemetery in Richardson or especially at the DFW National Cemetery in Grand Prairie. It will be a learning experience, especially for children, one which they cannot get in the classroom.
While you are at one of these locations, members of The Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 of the Jewish War Veterans will be placing American flags at grave sites of deceased JWV members at all of the Dallas Jewish cemeteries, to be repeated on Veterans Day in November.
Unlike a number of other veterans groups who often spend time drinking, smoking, playing cards and telling “war stories,” JWV Post 256 and its Auxiliary truly devote their energies to performing mitzvot for our hospitalized veterans.

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Author: Connection to spirituality has many observable advantages

Author: Connection to spirituality has many observable advantages

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

Miller talks book, research at Akiba

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

Parents and teachers were the students on April 20 when scientist, professor and psychologist Dr. Lisa Miller, author of The Spiritual Child: The New Science of Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving, was hosted by Akiba Academy as part of the Harold and Leah Pollman Lecture Series.
“Akiba is a school founded on a pillar of the value inherent in both Torah and general education. The message of Dr. Miller, a scientist who teaches about the intersection between science and spirituality, captivated our audience and resonated with us,” said Tammie Rapps, head of school at Akiba Academy, who introduced Miller.

Lisa Miller

Lisa Miller

Miller, a professor of psychology and education and director of clinical psychology, is also director of the Spirituality & Mind Body Institute at Columbia University. She is the wife of Philip, mother of Lila, Leah and Isaiah, daughter of Margo and Sid Friedman, and sister to Mark, and is still connected, literally and at heart, to synagogues in Des Moines, St. Louis and Boston, where she was raised. Miller touched on her roots in realizing her career.
“My children were young when I started this book and now they’re in high school. There’s plenty of ‘research’ from my own Jewish home filled with faith, tradition and science,” said Miller.
In The Spiritual Child, Miller explains the scientific link between spirituality and health. She shows that children who have a positive, active relationship to spirituality are 40 percent less likely to use and abuse substances, 60 percent less likely to be depressed as teenagers, and 80 percent less likely to have dangerous or unprotected sex, and they have significantly more positive markers for thriving, including an increased sense of meaning and purpose as well as high levels of academic success.
“Twenty years ago there were no articles about religion and science and the portrait of health and wellness. In these two decades, a strong body of peer review has been built. We see those who move through the tunnel of darkness and depression, do so entirely differently if they do so with Hashem, with faith in God, than those without,” said Miller. Her father, a theater director, viewed art as a “window into life, a road to spirituality,” and her mother lit candles, prayed expressively, and guided her with light in her heart. “I could feel the sacred orchestra of my mother, but my classmates didn’t share this. My life’s work is to bring this to the human discussion.”
Miller says spirituality is an inner sense of relationship to a higher power that is loving and guiding. The word we give to this higher power might be God, nature, spirit, the universe, the creator, or other words that represent a divine presence. The important point is that spirituality encompasses our relationship and dialogue with this higher presence.
“To my mother, every neighbor, store clerk, the mailman — everyone we met — was a dear, precious person to be respected and it was her behavior that taught us to find the goodness in each person. That was my growing up. My research is just the same, that parenting translates into the support of a spirited life for our children. It’s game-changing.”
Her first and most frequent points made to the Dallas audience emphasized the need for parents to live not only by example with regard to religious practice and traditions, but to live those examples side-by-side with their children: Do as I do — as we do together — not only do as I say. Light the Shabbat candles together, prepare meals together, go to synagogue and celebrate traditions together.
“Through the clear, precise language of scientific research, we see the enormous benefits of a spiritual life. Dr. Miller delineated the protective powers we as parents and educators can cast on our children,” said Rapps. “This is exactly the relationship that Akiba strives to cultivate with our students and hopes to facilitate between our parents and their children.”
Miller posts a chart (page 246 of her book) addressing our development, meaning, purpose, calling and connection from occurrences in life. Examples include “work” as the developmental task, and for those “with spiritual core” it is “calling and contribution” that is assessed, while it is “acquiring success” for those without. For those tasked with determining their “place in the world,” those with a spiritual core are “always connected,” and those without are “ultimately alone.” For those dealing with “bad events,” those with the spiritual core found “opportunities and learning,” while those without grappled with the result as “random and failure.” The positive versus the negative, based on the presence of a spirited belief.
“With biological puberty comes a surge in our spiritual capacity and a hunger for more. Counselors tell us the number of young adults asking ‘what is the meaning,’ ‘what is my purpose,’ increases manyfold,” said Miller. She has been elected a fellow by the American Psychological Association and received the Virginia Sexton Mentoring Award for graduate students whose works have previously been published in prestigious research journals. “With spirituality, identity grows from ideas of meaning and purpose; without it, identity can be dependent on acquiring ‘success.’”
Miller noted that when taking her children to see a musical, what affected her daughter the most was not the excitement and planning for the occasion, not the travel into the city, not the show itself. “The exquisite intensity with which our teens care, with which they’re looking for truth, comes from their core,” she shared. The moment that captured her daughter was the sight of a homeless person sitting on the floor outside the theater — the cold, hunger and loss so apparent.
Miller said that those who are more devout of faith, regardless of what the religion might be, are more likely to be resilient, have greater optimism and lives with greater degree of strength.
“As parents, we pave the way for our children in their first 20 years and there is no one more important as a spiritual ambassador than the parent. We do lots as parents; we schlep, we coach their sports teams, we help with their SAT prep, we have tea parties and we do lots. Nothing we do will ever be as important as the role we fill as the spiritual ambassador,” said Miller, who has shared her expertise in print and online media as well as in appearances on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC’s Today Show.
To purchase Miller’s book, to watch her TED Talk “Depression and Spiritual Awakening: Two Sides of One Door,” or for more information about her research, visit www.lisamillerphd.com.

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Don’t ignore Shavuot’s value to individuals

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
Let’s talk about counting — specifically about counting the Omer. Some people don’t know what I’m talking about, some think it is meaningless today, and some, like me, have an app on their phone. It reminds me, gives me the blessing and even gives me some things to think about each night. At this reading, we are getting to the end of this period — Shavuot is coming.
So what is it? The special period between Passover and Shavuot is called sefirah, meaning “counting,” from the practice of counting the Omer, which is observed from the night of the second Seder of Passover until the eve of Shavuot. The counting of seven weeks on which the omer offering of the new barley crop was brought to the Temple, until Shavuot, serves to connect the anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt with the festival that commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Tradition has it that it was announced to the Israelites in Egypt that the Torah would be given to them 50 days after the Exodus. As soon as they were liberated, they were so eager for the arrival of the promised day that they began to count the days, saying each time, “Now we have one day less to wait for the giving of the Torah.”
Does it matter today? The Omer continued even after the development of a standard calendar eliminated its initial necessity: to let the people know exactly when to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It remained an opportunity to help us move out of enslaving patterns of thought and behavior. For the ancient Israelites, each day was a step away from the defilement of Egypt and a step toward spiritual purity. Like the Israelites who began to get ready for their encounter at Mount Sinai as soon as they crossed the Reed (or Red) Sea, we use the seven weeks beginning on Passover to similarly prepare ourselves for the arrival of Shavuot. During this time, we are supposed to evaluate our behavior and work to improve ourselves.
We all count days leading to something special — maybe good (can’t wait for my vacation), maybe bad (10 days until I have jury duty). But I count something that each of you should be counting. As many of you know, I’m a camp director and I’m counting how many days until camp. I’m also counting how many young lives we will impact at camp. Camp changes lives and through your commitment to camp scholarships, you are part of those lives touched. How many can we count? Here is the story I remind my staff (who are the leaders of tomorrow that we are also impacting each summer): The story is of a little boy on the beach with hundreds of starfish on the sand.
Starfish cannot live outside the water so the little boy was picking up one at a time and throwing it back in the ocean.
A man comes by and sees what the boy is doing. He says, “There are too many. You can’t make a difference.” The little boy picks up one and throws it back — “Made a difference to that one.” That’s what we do — make a difference to one at a time.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas

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