Archive | June, 2017

Dallas Doings: Singers anniversary; concert

Dallas Doings: Singers anniversary; concert

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
Have a Dallas Doings item you want to see in the paper? Email sharon@tjpnews.com.

60 years together: Singers celebrate diamond anniversary

Mazal tov to Edie and Paul Singer, who will celebrate their 60th anniversary June 30. Their love story began with a phone call to Paul from a friend who said she had a cousin moving to town from Chicago. The friend asked Paul if he would call her cousin and take her out. Paul asked several questions including — “Was she nice-looking? Fat or thin? Blonde or brunette? Can she dance?” Finally, Paul’s friend said “Paul, I’m not asking you to marry the girl.”  Paul called Edie and is happy that he did.  She was much more than he was hoping for.

Submitted photos Edie and Paul Singer will celebrate their 60th anniversary June 30. They were married in 1957.

Submitted photos
Edie and Paul Singer will celebrate their 60th anniversary June 30. They were married in 1957.

Paul and Edie dated for almost a year when Paul decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Luckily Edie felt the same way. Paul and Edie were married June 30, 1957.
Celebrating the simcha and beaming with pride are the couple’s three married children and their granddaughters: Kathy and Mitch Singer, Julie and Jim Guida and daughters Jackie and Jenny and Lisa and Monte Westall and daughter Sammi.

Submitted photos Edie and Paul Singer will celebrate their 60th anniversary June 30. They were married in 1957.

Submitted photos
Edie and Paul Singer will celebrate their 60th anniversary June 30. They were married in 1957.

They have been lifelong members of Shearith Israel and are active in Temple Emanu-El Couples Club, holding numerous positions.
After 60 years together Paul and Edie feel that they have truly been blessed. The couple will celebrate their simcha with a romantic evening of dinner and dancing.

Free concert features Klezmer music

Jewish music enthusiasts will have a unique opportunity to hear the Juilliard-trained ensemble Trio Kavanah at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 7, in the Wynne Chapel at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, 3821 University Blvd. in Dallas.
In addition to Klezmer music, the performance will include classical selections from Mozart, Stravinsky, Milhaud and Schoenfeld. Danny Goldman, who plays the clarinet, explained how he and Dr. Trevor Hale (piano) and Grace Wollett (violin) came up with the trio’s name. “The word Kavanah in Hebrew represents the intention of the heart and sincerity of meaning, specifically when praying, and we are applying that to our approach to music.” The concert is free and no tickets are required.

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Around the Town: Downtown library WWI exhibit has extensive Jewish content

Around the Town: Downtown library WWI exhibit has extensive Jewish content

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

Submitted report

A World War I centennial exhibit at Fort Worth’s downtown public library has a Jewish component — four panels about local Jewish participation in the Great War. The exhibit, “From Cowboy to Doughboy: North Texas in WWI,” runs from July 9 until Oct. 19, at the library’s central branch, 500 West Third St.1. WWI Panel. Honor Roll Jewish Soldiers 2. WWI Panwl.Pilot Buried AhSh Cemetery 3. WWI Panel.Soldiers Path to Citizenship 4. WWI Panel. Ours to Fight For
The Jewish panels focus on a World War I honor roll etched in stone that lists 81 local Jewish soldiers; a Russian-immigrant infantryman, Pvt. Sam Sheinberg, who became a U.S. citizen; and an aviator from New York who died in a training crash and is buried in Fort Worth’s Ahavath Sholom Hebrew Cemetery. The Fort Worth Jewish Archives is among the partners who put together the exhibit, which includes 59 colorfully illustrated panels on the history of the war and exhibit cases with wartime artifacts.
The Jewish-themed display case has such items as a doughboy’s siddur distributed by the Jewish Welfare Board, Yiddish recruitment posters, and a Purple Heart awarded a Jewish soldier.
— Hollace Weiner

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Miracles all around us

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
What is a miracle?
When we read the Bible, the miracle stories go way back to Moses and the Red Sea among other quite miraculous happenings. People often have wondered if miracles happen today. We all look for signs of God in our lives. The question goes back to “What is a miracle?” How do we define the wondrous in our lives?
Camp at the J is in full swing. It is very early the morning of the overnight and the children are still asleep. It is not a miracle that we made it through the night — but the miracle is in the growth of the children from experiencing a night away from their families. The miracle is also that parents who were nervous also survived the night, hopefully trusting us and not worrying too much. It is growth for parents as well. This song reminds us that miracles are all around us and we need to stop and look.

A Way to Say Ah (Beth Shafer)

Ah, mmm, oh. A miracle happened to day.
Was I aware? Did I even care?
A miracle happened to day. And did I pause enough to find
A way to say “ah,” a way to say “mmm”
A way to say “oh, Thank God I’ve arrived.”
A way to say “ah,” a way to say “mmm”
A way to say “Oh, Thank God I’ve arrived.”

A way to sanctify the time to remember
that on our journey we are not alone.
A way to not allow my senses to be dulled
to the wonders I will be shown.
 
We start each day with blessing and before we even get out of bed, we thank God for bringing us to a new day. I am certainly glad to wake up today — although I might be even more thankful when I hit the bed tonight.

Modeh Ani (traditional)

Modeh Ani L’fanecha Melech Chai V’kayam
She-he-che-zartah b’nish-matee b’chemlah (2)
rabah emunatecha.

Shalom from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.

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Outreach powerful force within our faith

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

It was one of the more uplifting articles I had read this year. The TJP/Jewish News Service story (The ultimate Jewish wedding gift: a kidney and a life, May 25, 2017) reported on the inspiring story of Rabbi Ari Sytner, who had donated a kidney to a stranger living in Israel back in 2012 when he was still a pulpit rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina. The recipient of the rabbi’s healthy organ was a secular woman named Ronit Havivi from Petah Tikva, who had been suffering from polycystic kidney disease, which had sapped her strength and increasingly tied her to dialysis machines.
The article chronicled both the process Rabbi Sytner went through in researching and ultimately deciding to donate a kidney as well as the beautiful relationship that these two very different individuals had developed with each other following the surgery. Reading of Havivi’s new lease on life as well as the wedding of her daughter in 2017 that she might not have lived to see if not for the life-saving donation was only sweetened when I read that Rabbi Sytner was right there by her side for this important family occasion. As Rabbi Sytner records, “I told her, ‘I’m a man and you’re a woman. I’m American and you’re Israeli. I identify as Orthodox and you don’t. I’m Ashkenazi and you’re Sephardic. But none of that matters. We’re family.’ ”
Had the column culminated there, I would have remembered the piece strictly for its inspirational content. There was, however, one quotation in this otherwise chicken-soup-for-the-soul-like story that left me with a bittersweet feeling in my gut. Gabriel Kovac, Havivi’s boyfriend, was interviewed for the JNS article as well and he praised Rabbi Sytner with words which rang in my ears long after I had finished the article: “We had dinner with Ari last night and the guy just radiates goodness. I was raised religious and after talking with him a while, it crossed my mind that, had he been a rabbi when I was younger, I would probably still be religious.”
I don’t know Gabriel Kovac personally, but his story is not a unique one. Another child raised in a faithful Jewish home who either had a negative experience in his Jewish upbringing that lead him to leave his old life behind; or perhaps Gabriel, like so many others, simply lacked exposure to the beauty of what a committed Jewish life could offer him on his journey into adulthood. To put it simply, he didn’t have a Rabbi Sytner in his life when it would have mattered the most!
Jewish life is many wonderful things, but it is also expensive, brimming with obligations and responsibilities and often counter-culture. If the religious among us are at risk of leaving their heritage behind, how much more so are the more secular among us at risk of being lost from our people forever!
Much talk has been made recently about what to do to curb this growing rise in assimilation and intermarriage, ultimately leading some modern Jewish thinkers to suggest that we lower the barriers between Judaism and the outside world to make Judaism more accessible and accepting. But, as Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton Synagogue most eloquently addressed in his most recent column:
Aside from representing gross distortions of halacha, mesorah (“tradition”) and the will of the Almighty, these suggestions don’t actually address the core issues. They simply attempt to put a Band-Aid over a deeply infected wound that is gushing blood.
So, what is the answer to this greatest threat facing modern Jewry? Rabbi Goldberg suggests the following, with which I wholeheartedly agree:
A difference will only be made when every Torah shul, institution and individual sees as part of their core identity and personal mission to not only hold on to the sturdy tree of Torah (eitz chaim hi la’machazikim bah) to prevent being swept down the river, but to reach out and extend a hand to those floating by.
In other words, we need more Rabbi Sytners, Rebbetzin Sytners, Mr. Sytners and Mrs. Sytners to reach out to the Gabriels of the world. If only the younger generation might know of the soul-refining, life-enhancing dynamism of Judaism at first, perhaps they might not choose to abandon it down the road.
Unfortunately, even those who extol Jewish outreach tend to believe that as long as they financially support the Chabads and DATAs of the world, this great assimilation war will be won. Unfortunately that is hardly the case. Outreach organizations don’t have near the manpower needed to make a significant enough dent in the great assimilation machine (of course, that doesn’t stop them from doing all they can do).
The time has come for all who care deeply in their hearts about Jewish continuity as well as their fellow Jews to take upon themselves the mantle of kiruv rechokim (outreach to the assimilated) and kiruv kerovim (outreach to those within our ranks). You need not be a rabbi or rebbetzin to do the job. You need not know the answers to every question you imagine will be thrown your way. A caring heart and a willing disposition is truly all it takes!
I hope, then, that you feel like I do, that we can all have a Rabbi Sytner-like impact on our Jewish brethren. If so, there may still be time for the younger Gabriels of the world.
To contact Rabbi Yogi Robkin, email him at yrobkin@dataofplano.org.

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Breaking ground in Midtown

Breaking ground in Midtown

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

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First phase underway for new 430-acre Dallas Midtown, which includes demolition of Valley View Mall

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

The much-anticipated Dallas Midtown development broke ground Friday, June 23, at a press event attended by its most enthusiastic backers.
The 430-acre development at the corner of Preston Road includes the site of the shuttered Valley View Mall. It has been in the making since 2009, when then-City Councilwoman Linda Koop brought together various stakeholders to create an urban village linked via existing roads, trails and a trolley system.
Koop is now a Republican state representative whose district no longer is confined solely to Dallas. She was among the enthusiastic officials at the event.
“This development will create a city within a city. With restaurants, shopping, housing and office space, Dallas Midtown will completely redefine this part of Dallas,” Koop said.
Those entertainment destinations include a 183,000-square-foot Life Time Fitness facility featuring residence, working spaces, large aquatic and workout studios. The residential component, called Life Time Living, is a new concept for the health and wellness company. When completed, the Life Time facility will be the brand’s largest in the country. The other anchor is a 10-screen Cinépolis movie theater. The chain is known for its high-quality reclining chairs, full-service bar and gourmet snacks.
Also announced were plans for more than 1,000 apartments, 400,000 square feet of retail, 500,000 square feet of office space and an 18-story luxury hotel. The hotel brand will be announced soon.
The development will ultimately surround Midtown Commons, a previously announced 20-acre park backers call the centerpiece of the development.
“Over 20 acres are being dedicated to create a place for the tens of thousands of people who will be living here as well as our broader community. The Commons will be a place to gather, play, dream, exercise, and learn,” said Jaynie Schultz, a member of the city’s planning commission. “Midtown Commons will be the place for residents north and south to easily and joyfully celebrate the blessing of living in Dallas.”

 Jaynie Schultz spoke at the Midtown groundbreaking. “If we pull together and our corporations and foundations rise to the moment, our children and grandchildren will see Midtown Commons as a second home,” she said.

Jaynie Schultz spoke at the Midtown groundbreaking. “If we pull together and our corporations and foundations rise to the moment, our children and grandchildren will see Midtown Commons as a second home,” she said.

At the groundbreaking was developer Scott Beck, CEO of Beck Ventures, who has been involved since 2012, when his company acquired the Valley View Mall site.
Like others in attendance, Beck noted the project is not just another north Dallas infill site. Dallas Midtown will compete with the city’s northern suburbs, like Frisco and Plano, which are increasingly attracting more corporate relocations.
“We will now have our answer to stop the flight from corporate America to the far outreaches of our northern and western suburbs,” Beck said during the ceremony. “For far too long, city politics have created an environment where instead of encouraging and demanding policy for strong northern and southern sectors of our city, we have enabled and allowed neighboring cities to take away valuable corporate clients from the tax base in Dallas.”
The development also benefits the southern part of the city too. Dallas Midtown is a designated tax-increment financing district, or TIF, a commonly used method for public financing community-improvement developments. The TIF funds a “desperately needed” redevelopment of Southwest Center Mall in South Dallas.
Beck previously told the TJP Midtown would bring billions of dollars of revenue to the region in the next 30 years. Of that, a significant portion will go toward redeveloping Southwest Center.
“Dallas Midtown will become a major economic driver for the city of Dallas. It will strengthen our tax base and help our city lure and retain corporate headquarters. This is an extremely desirable site and this is the perfect way to develop it,” said City Councilman Tennell Atkins, who represents Southwest Center.
The overall impact will not just be the 430-acre development. The entire region will benefit, too. That’s what makes it historic.
“Our family and the Beck Ventures family of companies are honored to be the stewards of Dallas’ most crucial transformational project this century,” Beck said in a statement.

 

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Remarkable spirit of writer Weiss

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

I pulled in last Sunday’s paper from my wet porch, silently thanking the delivery guy who bagged it in plastic, opened it up, got rid of that mountain of unwanted advertisements, and finally encountered …
… Jeffrey Weiss. On the first page of the Arts and Life section. Which has a bit of weird humor in itself: Jeff is an artful writer, and here he’s writing the story of his own life.
It’s not often that someone embodies this rare combination of circumstances: a terrible cancer history…a “way with words” to describe what it’s like to be walking in such uncomfortable metaphoric shoes…and the outlet to put those words before a huge reading public. But Jeff has all these things — in spades.
A longtime reporter for the Dallas Morning News, he’s had to cut back greatly in the last few years. But here’s a good thing: This paper doesn’t desert those faithfuls who cannot be full-time faithful any more. Jeff is the second such person I’ve known; No. 1 stayed on payroll until he passed away. Reality says this is what No. 2 is looking at now. But something else is different: Jeff’s able to write about what’s trying to kill him. He’s reporting on himself, in infrequent but long, thorough installments. The latest was in last Sunday’s paper.
Going Out Like Fireworks is what Jeff has named this detailed, honest series. His current disease — yes, he’s had other cancers before this — is glioblastoma. It has already subjected him to surgery in which as much of a tumor that could be safely gotten was removed from his head. Of course his head was shaved at that time. Now, several months later, it must be shaved all the time, to accommodate the newest treatment. Called Optune, it involves electrodes and a close-fitting cap. What will this be able to do for him? The most modern of medical knowledge can’t yet answer that question.
You may think it’s remarkable that this man can tell about himself and all the personal difficulties that are the continuing parts of his disease. But if so, you don’t know Jeffrey Weiss. He’s a veteran reporter, used to collecting and analyzing facts, then shaping them into stories that educate. And this is his current story. He wouldn’t treat it differently from any other — with thorough honesty. And, in this case, without making any bids for pity. News is what it is. This is his news, to write about at this time.
There’s something else you might find remarkable if you don’t know Jeff: He tells his story with an edge of humor. An aging Trekkie, he’s now taking his own trek through what he calls “The Final Frontier.” For him, it’s brain cancer.
The show, he writes, had seven seasons of airtime life. “Seven years of survival would make me a winner,” Jeff says, because the life of someone diagnosed with glioblastoma is about 15 months. He is already several months past the time of his diagnosis.
Jeff is grateful to his oncologist for the good efforts that provide him with the best chances possible. He’s grateful for his wife, who has the training, the will, and the love to care for him at home. In one of several pictures that accompanied Sunday’s story, you can see her shaving his head in preparation for yet another placement of that potentially healing cap.
Now, let’s let him also be grateful to us. Please, every one of you, send your prayers. Put Jeffrey Weiss on the mishaberach lists of all your congregations. Remember the words the late Debbie Friedman penned for her musical version of that abiding prayer: “…for renewal of body, for renewal of spirit…” Jeffrey’s body isn’t in our hands, but knowing we hope that the Force is with him will surely be good for his already remarkable spirit.
And if you haven’t yet read his whole story, everything is available online at dallasnews.com/jeffweiss.

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Spiritual side of our entanglement theory

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

Dear Steven,
Last week we addressed your question concerning simulation theory, and this week we shall touch upon your fascinating thoughts about quantum entanglement.
In part, you asked:
“… However, my views have evolved a lot lately … quantum physics and ideas like entanglement — that two particles in two different places can be entangled and cooperate at a quantum level — that go so completely against what we can observe about our universe. For example, I’ve long wanted to understand more about the mechanics of how mitzvot and prayer affect the world, and science now has the language — courtesy of quantum entanglement — to describe how doing one thing in one place might instantly affect something else in another place, without any passage of or through time and space.
“In other words, perhaps the mechanics of quantum entanglement are identical to the mechanics of how a mitzvah or tefilla here might affect an outcome somewhere else.”
I must say that you have, with your connection between entanglement and the effects of mitzvot and prayer upon the universe, touched upon one of the deepest Kabbalistic principles regarding the effect of our actions upon the universe.
Let us first mention that, as it is well-known, entanglement embodies one of the most baffling conundrums of quantum physics. Two sub-atomic particles which are essentially “entangled,” for example which emanate from an atom in a way which necessitates them to hold opposite spin patterns, will retain those opposite characteristics, hence remain entangled, no matter how far apart they may be. Even if they travel light-years apart they remain entangled, and if the spin of one particle is changed, that will have an immediate effect of the spin of its entangled particle. This effect will transpire instantaneously, as if they’re still attached, light-years away! This seems to defy Einstein’s principle in special relativity that nothing can ever travel faster than the speed of light!
Physicists have struggled to explain that this, indeed, does not contradict relativity, because nothing “travels” between the two particles; rather they are in some way “attached at the hip” no matter how distant they are from each other in space.
This is profoundly similar to our understanding of how the actions of a human being affect even the far-flung reaches of the universe instantaneously. This is predicated on the understanding of the soul. We usually think of the soul as a spark of Godliness which the Creator has imbued us with. This is true, but it goes far beyond that. In fact, the deeper sources of Jewish thought, the Kabbalistic works, teach us that the part of the soul within our bodies is merely the sparks of the lowest level of the soul. It compares our bodies to a “shoe”; although our bodies stand in our shoes, it’s only the lowliest part of one’s body held within the shoe. The main part of one’s body towers far above the reaches of the shoe. Also the main parts of our souls tower light-years above our physical structures. The root of the soul reaches above all the 10 levels of Sefiros, or celestial worlds  from which emanate different aspects of Godliness; hence every thought, matter of speech and action a person does instantaneously affects all of those heavenly worlds. Hence the actions, speech and thoughts immediately affect the entire universe, as the celestial worlds are the core and spiritual foundation for the entire physical universe. This is the spiritual side of our “entanglement” with the higher spheres of the spiritual, and hence physical, universe.
When one contemplates this concept, there’s truly no room for a condition which plagues our generation, the lack of self-esteem. Rather than feeling puny and inconsequential in face of the billions of galaxies we know to exist, one should feel proud to embody a soul so high and powerful that it can affect all of those galaxies! This is the true meaning of our creation in the image of God!

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Guest column: Kayak company learns hard way that ‘Jew’ is not a verb

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

By Rick Press

The first time I heard the word Jew used as a verb, I was about 12, and I remember a chill rushing through me — like The Ghost of Oppressions Past had just grabbed my wrist and forced me to watch a flashback of all the hatred and prejudice Jews had endured through the years.
Ever since, I wished I had said something to that kid.
Silence in the face of bigotry only feeds the beast. I know that now.
Nearly 40 years later, I was surprised to see the toxic phrase surface again in a controversy surrounding a Fort Worth kayaking company.
Angered by customer complaints about a recent increase in rental prices, Fort Worth Kayak Adventures took to Facebook, for all the world to see, and wrote: “To all you broke-(expletive) hateful know-it-all white women and Facebook trolls that think they are going to Jew us down … (You know who you are)… The (rental) price is set in stone so stop wasting your time. This is NOT Mexico.”
But this time, before I could say a word, social media sprang into action. Legions of Facebook followers quickly heaped shame and scorn on these misguided souls.
A few days later, the city of Fort Worth issued a statement saying the city was cutting ties with Fort Worth Kayak Adventures. It would no longer be allowed to rent kayaks at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge — or any city-owned facility, for that matter.
Bravo, Cowtown.
The owner of Fort Worth Kayak Adventures told NBC5 recently that she was sorry for the comments. “We don’t mean any harm. We’re not racist. We’re not prejudiced in any way,” said Lori Tenery, who runs the company with her husband and daughter. “We hope that you will find it in your hearts to forgive us.”
She also told NBC5 that her husband is Jewish, hoping that might buy them a bit of slack for the anti-Semitic rant.
It didn’t.
The word “Jew” is not a verb. When it is used that way, it summons up years of ignorant stereotypes.
I wish I had said that all those years ago. But at least now when I say it, I know there will be many more people in Fort Worth saying it right along with me.

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Fort Worth kayak company’s anti-Semitic comment on Facebook sinks contract with city

Posted on 22 June 2017 by admin

By Rick Press
Special to TJP

A Fort Worth kayak company is up a creek without a paddle after posting anti-Semitic and racially inflammatory comments on its Facebook page.

“To all you broke-a** hateful know-it-all white women and Facebook trolls that think they are going to Jew us down … (You know who you are)… The (rental) price is set in stone so stop wasting your time. This is NOT Mexico.”

The Facebook post, which was an apparent response to complaints about a sizable fee increase, touched off a social media firestorm over the weekend. And on Wednesday the city of Fort Worth decided to terminate its contract with the company, which provided kayak rentals at the city-owned Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge.

“Thank you! These folks can take their bigotry and hate elsewhere,” said one of the many commenters praising the decision on the City Hall Facebook page. “Good. They are horribly unprofessional,” said another.

Lori Tenery, one of the owners of Fort Worth Kayak Adventures, apologized for the comments in an interview with NBC5. “We don’t mean any harm. We’re not racist. We’re not prejudiced in any way,” said Tenery, who runs the company with her husband and daughter. “We hope that you will find it in your hearts to forgive us.”

Tenery also told NBC5 that her husband is Jewish.

Fort Worth Kayak Adventures has since deleted its Facebook post, but a screenshot of it posted online shows the company attempted to explain why it had recently doubled its kayak rental fee at the Nature Center from $20 to $40. It cited new permits and a contract required by the Center, along with a $2 million dollar liability insurance policy on the kayaks and their Suburban used for the business.

In a statement last week, Fort Worth officials said Fort Worth Kayak Adventures did not work directly for the city but was allowed to provide rentals at the Nature Center in exchange for a percentage of revenues. On Wednesday, the city announced it was terminating its agreement with the company and provided the required 30-day written notice that its last day renting kayaks at any city-owned facility would be July 19.

Still, the controversy hasn’t completely died down. A post on a Fort Worth Kayak Adventures page late Wednesday defended the company’s owner: “The guy that had the kayaks for rent was not racist, but he did like being a smart a**, and most people don’t consider the phrase Jewed down as being racist. We only knew it as a phrase people used to explain getting stuff cheaper.”

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Preserving small-town history

Preserving small-town history

Posted on 22 June 2017 by admin

Corsicana synagogue receives $25,000 grant to maintain 117-year-old structure, p.5

Corsicana spends $30,000 each year to maintain the building.

Corsicana spends $30,000 each year to maintain the building.

By Hollace Ava Weiner
Special to the TJP

The Texas Jewish Historical Society is donating $25,000 to Corsicana’s century-old, onion- domed synagogue, an architectural gem that needs $403,000 to replace rotting wood, upgrade HVAC equipment and install a fire-sprinkler system.

 

Photo: Fort Worth Jewish Archives Corsicana was a thriving city during the first half of the 20th century before urban development soon phased out the town. In its heyday, Corsicana was home to more than 500 Jews, some of whom were familiar with the stained-glass windows.

Photo: Fort Worth Jewish Archives
Corsicana was a thriving city during the first half of the 20th century before urban development soon phased out the town. In its heyday, Corsicana was home to more than 500 Jews, some of whom were familiar with the stained-glass windows.

The city, which has owned and maintained the Moorish revival Temple Beth-El since 1987, is optimistic that the TJHS grant will attract funds from Jewish foundations and individuals, which in the past have contributed little for the landmark’s preservation.
Babbette Samuels, 89, the oldest surviving member of Corsicana’s once-thriving Jewish community, said it was a “miracle” that the TJHS approved the $25,000 grant. “The temple is a monument to Judaism and to this small town,” the octogenarian said, following an emotional discussion and vote at a TJHS board meeting June 11 in Austin. “The city of Corsicana has been taking care of the synagogue all these years and will continue to do so. It just wants financial help.”
The 117-year-old Temple Beth-El is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a Texas Historical Marker. Although repurposed as a city community center, the worship area —with its stained-glass windows, vintage menorahs and wooden pews — hosts Shabbat services once a month, drawing up to 20 people from miles around.
Dallas attorney Bud Silverberg, who grew up in Corsicana, told the TJHS board, “Temple Beth-El is not just a structure. It represents a part of our Jewish heritage and the lives of Jews living in small towns in Texas and across our great country.”
Since 1980, when Temple Beth-El’s congregation disbanded and its exotic building faced demolition, the local Christian community has rallied to preserve the religious landmark. Initially, a Save-the-Temple Committee staged potluck suppers, applied for grants, and hired a preservation architect to restore the building and reopen it as a community center available for weddings, parties and meetings.
The synagogue, located on 15th Street, is within sight of the Collin Street Bakery, known internationally for its fruitcake. Both landmarks draw tourists from around the world, most recently two Israelis representing the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. The website www.Synagogues360.org describes the building as “a fine example of Eastern European wood and Gothic masonry motifs modified for American frontier construction.”
Corsicana (population 25,000), a rural county seat 55 miles southwest of Dallas, budgets $30,000 annually for the temple’s upkeep. Seven years ago it restored the building’s twin onion-domed towers and three stained-glass windows — which some authorities say were crafted by Tiffany.
British-born Judith Steely, a non-Jew and president of the recently formed Corsicana Preservation Foundation, said local residents often wonder why Jews haven’t contributed toward maintaining this landmark. Last year she convened a meeting of Dallas residents with ancestral ties to Corsicana’s Jewish community. The idea to approach the TJHS for funds came from that meeting. The ad hoc committee plans to draft a formal fundraising plan to tap Jewish institutions and individuals.

he city restored three stained-glass windows seven years ago.

The city restored three stained-glass windows seven years ago.

The city preservation society has also received a $25,000 restoration grant from the Navarro Community Foundation and $1,500 from the Church in the Park, a local Southern Baptist congregation. The Parks and Recreation Department has published a handsome brochure promoting the temple as a unique venue for weddings and receptions.
The distinctive synagogue, with its octagonal towers and keyhole windows, has seating for 150. The main sanctuary has a rose window with a Star of David and two other stained-glass windows depicting matching tablets of the Ten Commandments.
During the first half of the 20th century, Corsicana was a thriving oil, industrial, mercantile and agricultural center. It became home to more than 500 Jews and both a Reform and Orthodox synagogue. During the late-1960s, the younger generation began gravitating to urban areas. Faced with dwindling membership, the Reform Temple Beth-El, unable to afford the upkeep of its landmark building, disbanded in 1980. The Orthodox congregation, Agudas Achim, dissolved in 1999. Its building became a senior citizens center.
Temple Beth-El is the only onion-domed house of worship in the Southwest, and one of a handful across the country. The others include Temple Aaron in Trinidad, Colorado; Congregation B’nai Israel in Butte, Montana; and the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati. The onion dome harks back to the Golden Age of Spain in Jewish history. Its use in Moorish revival architecture reflected optimism that the American Jewish experience would lead to another Golden Age.
Writing in 1990 about Corsicana’s distinctive synagogue, Texas historian Jane Manaster described it as a two-story wooden structure “fronted by a gabled roof and squat twin towers, each exotically topped by an onion-shaped cupola or dome.” Her article in the East Texas Historical Journal deemed the house of worship “a remarkable ecclesiastical heirloom.”
Renovations on Temple Beth-El have already begun, utilizing funds donated to date. According to Charla Allen, director of Parks and Recreation, restoration work is divided into four phases:

  • Remove existing siding and substrate, install new plywood, weather barrier, and wood siding with trim to match original;
  • Seal dissimilar material junctions with urethane sealant; paint new siding and trim with two coats of acrylic latex paint;
  • Refurbish 24 windows and two doors;
  • Install fire-sprinkler system and up-to-date heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.

For further information or to make individual donations, contact the City of Corsicana Parks and Recreation Department, 903-654-4874 or www.cityofcorsicana.com.

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