Archive | July, 2017

Today’s rabbi spends time with people, books

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

Our world has changed so drastically in the last 100 years and the state of the rabbinate, an institution better known for its constancy than its elasticity, has followed suit. The community rav, that learned individual principally appointed to answer the community’s questions on issues of kashrus and business disputes, has been replaced by the modern jack-of-all-trades rabbi, whose list of expected duties extends to domains previously reserved for others.
The rabbi of the 21st century is both marriage counselor and child-rearing educator, personal adviser and Talmud teacher, and yes, he’ll need to answer the occasional halachic query as well!
I have learned that which others before me already knew — the rabbi of today’s day and age spends more time with people than with his holy books.
As such, engaging in the holy work that is the modern rabbinate has given me an intimate, firsthand look into the lives of those around me, acquainting me with their concerns and their hopes as well as their personal worldviews and outlooks. And it is with these many personal encounters in mind that I have come to believe that it is the hugely significant, yet often overlooked, art of perspective that most centrally gives rise to a life of happiness and satisfaction. This singular capacity to see the bigger picture, and the forest for the trees, informs our daily dealings with co-workers, children and spouses, and gives us the strength to persevere, even thrive, in the face of formidable life challenges. How sad it is that even the most blessed of lives are reduced, sometimes destroyed, by the inability of a family member to more richly interpret the life and events around them.
Caleb (name changed to protect identity) is such a tragic individual. A single man in his early 30s, he plays the perpetual victim to life’s circumstances. The words, “I don’t deserve for this to be happening to me,” are common refrains on his lips, the product of his general perception that the problems in his life are the result of others’ misdeeds, never his own. It’s no surprise, then, that his past is fraught with burnt bridges and severed relationships. He wants a better life for himself but cannot reckon with the reality that he is the biggest impediment to his own happiness and well-being.
Caleb recently asked to meet with me, this time to discuss a grievance he had with a longtime friend of his. I came to learn that this friend, having gifted Caleb a number of homegoods to help furnish his new apartment, had requested one of the items back. His friend had forgotten that he had already promised one particular item to someone else and asked Caleb to please return the item.
Caleb was incensed with his friend, calling him an “Indian giver” and wanted to know whether he was halachically bound to return the item he felt was rightfully his — ramifications to his friendship be damned.
I was shocked by the entire exchange. There was no attempt to judge his friend favorably, to view the entire incident as an honest mistake (something I anyway considered the most likely reality considering the fact that this was the same friend who had generously gifted him all the items in the first place). Caleb could not see past his friend’s “deplorable” request to return a gift — something he was told by his mother never to do.
“It doesn’t matter to me what the halacha has to say in this situation,” I told Caleb. “Whether or not you are obligated to return this item or not, giving it back is the right thing to do!”
Caleb couldn’t believe his ears. This was clearly not the response he was expecting from me.
“But what about the fact that he did something wrong by asking for it back!?” Caleb retorted.
“Whether it was right or wrong doesn’t matter at this point,” I said to him, looking him dead in the eyes. “Right now you have to do what’s right at this moment and that means returning the item!”
Nothing I said was getting through to him, so I decided to take a different approach.
“Caleb, what’s the most important thing to you?” I asked.
He thought about it for a few moments and answered, “Keeping the peace.”
Silence.
Even Caleb had to admit the irony in his words as well as the obvious ramifications it had on what he needed to do with the item in question and the friendship which was currently up in the air.
Like Caleb, we often find ourselves so blinded by the enormity of the moment, and the short-lived emotions that lie in that moment’s wake, that we lose something much more valuable in the process — our perspective (and with it, our ability to right our own ship).
It’s not only the Calebs of the world who suffer from lapses in proper perspective. Even the greatest of our sages are not, and were not immune to such miscalculations of the mind. It is during this period of the Three Weeks, leading up to Tisha B’Av, the national day of mourning over the destroyed Temples, that we are reminded of such an episode.
We are told that Rabbi Akiva and his sagely friends walked up to Jerusalem, ultimately reaching the Temple Mount and the Temple ruins. Upon seeing a fox emerging from the place of the Holy of Holies the others started weeping; Rabbi Akiva laughed.
Akiva’s friends, bewildered as to the source of his seemingly irreverent laughter, demanded an explanation. Rabbi Akiva didn’t let them down. “Now that I see that Uriah’s prophecy (predicting the destruction of the Second Temple) has been fulfilled, it is certain that Zachariah’s prophecy (predicting the building of a future Temple) will be fulfilled!”
From the response of Rabbi Akiva’s friends it is clear that this fresh perspective tempered their anguish and instilled hope where there was only hopelessness. As the Talmud records, “With these words they replied to him: ‘Akiva, you have consoled us! Akiva, you have consoled us!’” (Talmud Makkot 24b)
In that spirit, I pray that we too be soon consoled. May the Almighty fill this world once again with His Holy presence, drawing the redemption near, and with it the elevation of all of our perspectives!
To contact Rabbi Yogi Robkin, email him at yrobkin@dataofplano.org.

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Around the Town: Nover visit, JWVA

Around the Town: Nover visit, JWVA

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

Heather and Matthew Nover, along with 11-month-old Jane Sarah, visited his family to celebrate his new position. He will add director of Hebrew High School at Congregation Neve Shalom in New Jersey to his current position as principal of religious school at Temple HaTikvah, also in New Jersey.

Heather and Matthew Nover, along with 11-month-old Jane Sarah, visited his family to celebrate his new position. He will add director of Hebrew High School at Congregation Neve Shalom in New Jersey to his current position as principal of religious school at Temple HaTikvah, also in New Jersey.

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

A visit from Matthew Nover

Matthew Nover, grandson of Earl and Shirley Givant, visited his family in Fort Worth with his wife Heather and 11-month-old daughter Jane Sarah.
Matthew has recently been appointed director of the Hebrew High School at Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen, New Jersey. He is also the principal of the religious school at Temple HaTikvah in Flanders, New Jersey. Additionally, he will serve as the rabbinic intern at Rutgers University Hillel while attending his second-to-last year of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York this year. Matt has already completed two master’s degrees from JTS, one in Bible and one in Jewish education.
Matt has always had a love for Judaism which started with his family and continued through his attending Lil Goldman Preschool and Fort Worth Academy, his bar mitzvah at Ahavath Shalom in Fort Worth, attending Fort Worth Country Day School and living in Israel for a year with USY’s Nativ program. He moved on to Rutgers University, where he graduated with dual majors in both Jewish studies and physics. Matthew’s family is incredibly proud of him for his many accomplishments.

Jewish War Vets Auxiliary, Beth Shalom members serve meal at Ronald McDonald House

The Dolores Schneider JWVA Memorial Post 755, along with members of Congregation Beth Shalom and their families, prepared and served lunch to the residents at the Ronald McDonald House in Fort Worth, Sunday, June 16. Families from other towns (or states or countries) that have a child who is a patient at Cook Children’s Hospital can stay at Ronald McDonald House for minimal cost.
Post members Jayne Michel, Dr. Julian and Marian Haber, Ted and Rita Hoffman, Joyce Atkens, Cookie and Phil Kabakoff, and Elaine Bumpus, were accompanied by Mark and Danielle Snailer, Debbie Goldsmith, Stephanie and Hailie Posner, Lauren Atkens, Alyssa, Brent and Shelbie Dingman and Lisa Rein. Grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, chips, salad, and ice cream sundaes and beverages were enjoyed by about 100 residents.
A special thank-you goes out to grill chefs extraordinaire Dr. Julian Haber, Ted Hoffman and Phil Kabakoff. It was a memorable and rewarding experience to see the smiling faces of the patients’ and their families. JWVA looks forward to doing this again in the future.

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JCC overhauls youth sports program

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

By Rick Press
Special to the TJP

Anyone who watched Dallas golfer Jordan Spieth win the British Open on Sunday knows that sports is about more than who can hit a ball the farthest, run the fastest or jump the highest.
Spieth started the final round with a comfortable three-stroke lead, but by the 13th hole it had vanished and his drive on that hole was so far offline his chances of winning seemed buried — much like his golf ball.
But somehow, the 23-year-old gathered himself, and mounted one of the gutsiest comebacks in sports history, playing the final five holes in 5-under par.
Spieth’s triumph took perseverance, problem-solving and mental toughness — exactly the kind of life skills the organizers of the Dallas JCC’s new J-Social Youth Sports Program hope to teach their aspiring young athletes.
“That was amazing what Jordan did today,” sad Artie Allen, CEO of the Dallas JCC. “He showed how to get up when you’re knocked down, and that winning and losing are all a part of life. We’re going to teach those life skills at the JCC.”
On Sunday, Spieth had caddie Michael Greller to help him navigate the ups and downs at Royal Birkdale.
The JCC is turning to Joshua Goldstein, a former high school and college basketball coach, who energized the youth sports programs at the Columbus, Ohio, JCC before joining the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas two months ago.
“I wanted to create a program that helps our kids develop as athletes,” said Goldstein, “but we’re also going to build their character, one fundamental at a time.”
Goldstein said his focus will be on youth basketball and soccer at first. Participation for tennis, gymnastics and swimming is already very strong, he said. Registration for the revamped J-Social Sports programs begins July 30.
So what can parents of young athletes expect?
“Each year will build off itself,” Goldstein said. “Our kindergarten and pre-K kids will learn to play as a team, play by the rules, give their best efforts, and develop listening skills.”
Then they will transition to working on perseverance, patience and goal-setting, he said — and playing with honesty and integrity.
Along the way, they will also learn to run multiple offenses and defenses, and hone their individual skills.
“We will be developing an educated athlete,” Goldstein said, “Because most of the athletes who come through our program are probably not going to play pro sports, but some might become the top sports medicine doctors in the game, or the top sports reporters. And they will have found a love for the game at the JCC.”
Allen said the social aspect of sports will also be a hallmark of the JCC’s new programs.
“We had that approach to our youth sports years ago,” he said. “We want to try to bring that relationship-building back. We want to create a league they can be proud of, and where they can meet other Jewish kids.
“But if it’s not a great league, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Goldstein said finding the crossroads between competition and what’s best for the kids is the key.
“We’re shaping our future through these kids and these programs,” he said. “It’s about more than just sports. But we don’t hit you over the head with that.”
So even if your kid doesn’t become the next Jordan Spieth or Steph Curry or Tom Brady, there’s plenty they can learn from just getting in the game.

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That distressing but unavoidable conversation

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

I recently sat in a small circle of people in someone’s living room, learning how to have The Conversation. Capitalized, because it’s such an important conversation, one most of us don’t even want to think about it, let alone have. It’s the advance talk about what we, and our loved ones, want for the very last of our lives.
Yes, it’s open talk about dying. But the emphasis is on making life’s end — the inevitable for all of us — the way we choose. So first, we must be honest about accepting that inevitability, and then we can go about having The Conversation.
Some people are unlucky enough not to have any end-of-life choices. They’re killed in a random drive-by shooting. They’re hit on the head by something heavy falling from the top of a tall building when they just happen to be passing by. Or they’re marched away by a Hitler henchman, as so many of our people were in a past time we don’t dare forget. But for us who are living, and thinking about living but aging family members, having The Conversation should be at the top of the to-do list.
In the quiet room where I so recently sat, Laurie Miller led us through The Conversation’s steps. She knows how to do it, because for over a decade she’s been caring for the sick and the elderly in our community, and now she’s working with the Senior Source, the Dallas Area Gerontology Society, and other service groups to get the word — and the words needed! — out to many others.
Everybody is going to die, regardless of anything else. It’s interesting, I think, that it’s Jews who are leading this effort to make personal choices for end-of-life living: This project was the brainstorm of Pulitzer Prize-winning Ellen Goodman, the Boston columnist who first articulated the need for The Conversation as her own parents aged. And Laurie Miller proudly announces her local temple membership along with the work of her company, Apple Care and Companion.
We didn’t have The Conversation itself in our little group; we spent a couple of hours of learning when and how to broach the subject, and what should be talked about. Everybody got a Conversation Starter Kit outlining a Ready-Set-Go method of approaching those we should be talking with, a gentle path from thinking about matters that nobody really wants to talk about to acknowledging the reality that we must confront them. Because if we don’t, our final decisions are likely to be made by dispassionate strangers.
The Conversation itself will include such simple things as a preference for where to die: at home, or in a hospital or other care facility? Personal comfort: sheets tucked around the feet or not? Pain: ask for medication, or let others make that decision? Company: someone to hold your hand? (And who should that someone be? Or would you rather be left alone?)
Music? Words being read aloud? (It’s widely believed that the sense of hearing persists almost to the very end of life, so what — if anything —would you like to hear?) Would you or your loved ones choose to have a rabbi or other clergy person — remember, this is a non-religious project, open to all — pray with you? These decisions should all be made in advance of need, in addition to estate plans and wills for taking care of post-death financial matters.
The Conversation Project also puts emphasis on the people who will make our end-of-life medical decisions when we can’t do so for ourselves. In addition to the Starter Kit, it provides an invaluable second booklet on both choosing a health care proxy and on being one ourselves.
In our little group, some people cried. Many asked questions. Everyone said thank you at the end, and meant it. I’m hoping many more will soon prepare to have The Conversation. The Conversation Project, now a recognized nonprofit, is ready to help.

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As Americans, we will always have Israel’s back

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
What is your opinion of the decision by Netanyahu to scrap the plans to make the Wall a place that all Jews can pray as they like and the threats by many American Jewish leaders to cut their support to Israel if they don’t ratify the decision to make it a place for all branches of Judaism?
— Marcella K.
Dear Marcella,
As I am a rabbi and not a politician, I stay away from addressing political issues in this column. I will say, however, that the kinds of statements which I have seen over these past weeks from non-Orthodox rabbinical leadership as well as from the heads of many Jewish organizations and Federations has caused me profound sadness and disillusion with their leadership.
The Israeli cabinet’s decision not to upend the generations-old status quo of the Kotel was met with howls of outrage by many leaders of non-Orthodox institutions, including threats to break ties with Israel and its support. I could not be more horrified and outraged by such threats, which, to me, expose a very thin or superficial connection to Israel to begin with. During a time when Israel is surrounded by existential threats from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinians, when Israeli families are risking their lives to live in Israel and sadly losing them, such as last week’s brutal murder of a family in their home Friday night, Israel needs and demands unconditional support from it Diaspora brethren.
Furthermore, we sadly see so many young Jews on campuses supporting Palestinian causes far more than the cause of Israel and they are often at the forefront of the BDS movement, exposing a tremendous breach in the younger generation’s commitment to Israel and Klal Yisrael. This disconnect was already shown clearly by the most recent Pew report, exposing a broad apathy by younger American Jews toward Israel’s very existence.
It is clear to me that when statements of protest and outrage by Jewish leaders are peppered with threats of severing ties, these leaders are feeding the fires of disengagement by the younger generation, fires which are already burning brightly. It’s one thing to protest and express their opinion. It’s quite another thing to threaten that it’s their way or the highway. Without question their threats have crossed a dangerous red line, and the public way they have been expressing this lack of support is playing neatly into the hands of Israel’s enemies, we can be sure.
I say this without addressing the actual issue: what is or should be the status of the Kotel with regards to being considered an Orthodox synagogue or a public square. I will, perhaps, address this in next week’s column, God willing. For now, I am only addressing my personal sadness and outrage at the willingness of today’s Jewish leadership to throw Israel under the bus if they don’t get their way about the way this decision, or any decision, is made by the Israeli government.
We are presently observing the three-week mourning period over the destruction of the very Temple which was located beyond the Wall; its holiness is what imbues the remaining Western Wall of the Temple courtyard with its holiness. It is that holiness which has attracted, and continues to attract, millions of Jews throughout the generations to that spot, bringing them together as one.
The mission of Jewish leadership is to send a message to the generation that even when things are not exactly the way we want them to be in Israel, we will always have Israel’s back. Our support, moral and financial, is non-wavering. That is the true message of the Temple, the Wall and the Jewish people.

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New organization provides infertility support

New organization provides infertility support

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

It’s been anything but a laid-back summer for Nikki and Rabbi Mike Friedman as they’ve launched their new organization, Mekimi.
Mekimi, a word found in the Book of Psalms and translated as “raise me up,” is at the core of the couple’s goals to support the community. At its upcoming Aug. 2 (8 p.m.) WOMBS gathering and Aug. 6 (7:30 p.m.) stereo typology class and concert, the community is certain to be raised.
WOMBS: Women Of Mind, Body and Spirit, is a monthly gathering led by Nikki Friedman and Beth Broodo, MS, LPC, RYT. A community of women giving, and getting, strength and support will explore Jewish texts that discuss infertility among the biblical personalities and their strength in the face of challenge. Through discussion and exercises related to the texts they’ll navigate the trials of infertility and miscarriage, with topics including emotional turmoil, financial implications, primary and secondary infertility and maintaining marital harmony and connection while trying to conceive.

Photo: Friedman Family Last March, Rabbi Mike and Nikki Friedman, founders of Mekimi, celebrated Purim fun as the Cat in the Hat and friends with their children (left to right) Azarya, Shalev and Akiva.

Photo: Friedman Family
Last March, Rabbi Mike and Nikki Friedman, founders of Mekimi, celebrated Purim fun as the Cat in the Hat and friends with their children (left to right) Azarya, Shalev and Akiva.

Stereo typology, scheduled on the Hebrew calendar’s 15th of Av, one of the holiest days of the year, will explore music from David’s Harp to David Cassidy and from Bach to Carlebach. Rabbi Friedman will lead a class and concert that explores the nature, role and impact of music.
Mekimi’s schedule also includes Bagels No More: the challenges of healthful eating in Jewish culture; Unplugged: Serenity in a Digital Age — an ancient Jewish form of meditation and prayer; Just Paint: a women’s opportunity to connect by painting a common Jewish-themed piece; as well as workshops for parents of children with anxiety and depression, post-conversion support and more.
“Mekimi integrates Jewish and holistic principles of emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual wellness that provide tools to overcome everyday challenges and infuse joy and meaning into our participants’ lives,” said Rabbi Friedman.
The organization has already held events. On June 4, Nikki shared the couple’s “Tale of Infertility” (which had a happy ending). There was an Unplugged series event about the benefits of using essential oils, and the July 23 Smart Eats program with Rabbi Yaakov Marks, who provided information about the Jewish approach to food as spiritual nourishment. All were well-received.
“It’s awesome that they’re trying to get more involvement from the Jewish community and I couldn’t think of a better couple to be at the forefront,” said Ethan Fisher, who attended the Unplugged class with his parents Laurel and Mark. Unplugged was directed by Rabbi Friedman and Brooks Alkek, a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Ethan Fisher, who recruited friends to attend, added, “The amount of energy and joy the Friedmans put into their work is contagious. The meditation classes that I went to gave me a break from my normal routine and they were very calming.”
Laurel Fisher, who says spirituality and meditation have always been a part of her Jewish experience, loved watching Rabbi Friedman connect with the young people as well as the adults. For Mark, who previously played basketball and talked about prayer with Rabbi Friedman, connecting spiritually through conventional prayers didn’t always work.
“Rabbi shared a book about connecting through gratitude, opening a new prayer experience for me, and his ‘Unplugged’ class, an entry to meditation, was a previously foreign concept to me,” Mark said. “The path to spiritual growth is personal and unique for each individual. Mekimi provides a way to learn about many opportunities within Judaism to connect as our Jewish sages and scholars recognized not all paths are common or systematic.”
The multi-talented Nikki, a Chicago native, attended a Conservative Jewish day school, a pluralistic Jewish summer camp and a public high school. She is an artist of paintings and hand-beaded stainless steel pieces and teaches math at Yavneh Academy.
“I’ve always had a strong connection to the Land of Israel and a passion for uniting the Jewish people,” she said. “As a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I’ve been deeply infused with the message that life is short and we must be grateful for all life has to offer. My own struggle with infertility has become one of my greatest blessings, leading me on a road of personal development and growth as well as newfound health awareness.”
“Nikki’s an incredible person and teacher,” said participant Sarah Diamond. “She’s deeply spiritual and inspires me to be my best self. Attending an evening organized by Nikki leaves everyone imbued with the awareness of God around us and of life and possibilities and love and unity among all Jews and the world.”
For Rabbi Friedman, a clinician at Jewish Family Service and seventh generation rabbi, the road to Dallas, via Washington, D.C. and then Jerusalem, has been based on the mission to spread Jewish teachings and spiritual principles that illuminate the human condition.
“I love the part about being a rabbi that connects to people and I love the part of being a counselor that is helpful. Through Mekimi, I can join that love,” said the talented musician, a former congregational assistant rabbi. He is also the Dallas chapter coordinator of Yachad–The National Jewish Council for Disabilities and a Judaic studies teacher at Akiba and Yavneh academies.
Educated at a nondenominational Jewish day school, with family members of all Jewish affiliations, Rabbi Friedman says being raised with diversity encouraged him to respect and love all Jews. For him, the connectedness of the Jewish people is stronger than the separation and he’s guided by the idea that labeling is disabling.
“Dallas has made a wonderful home for us over the last seven years,” said Rabbi Friedman, whose family with Nikki includes sons Akiva, Azarya and Shalev. “We want to give back by reaching the intellect, body, and soul of those in our community,” he added.
For the WOMBS meeting location, email wombs@mekimiwellness.org. For stereo typology location, or more about Mekimi, visit mekimiwellness.org, email info@mekimiwellness.org or call 972-896-0519.

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Studying part of duty as People of the Book

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,
During the summer as a camp director, my time for reading is limited; however, we must learn every day even if it is just a “little” study. The Jewish people have been called “The People of the Book” because of our dedication and commitment to studying the Torah. We should really be called “The People of the Books!” Jews have studied many, many books and learning has always been an important part of every Jewish home. As a confirmed biblioholic (one addicted to buying and reading books), I will give many suggestions on books every Jewish home must have, especially if they have young children in the home. A very special book edited by Joel Lurie Grishaver is titled I Have Some Questions About God. The many questions are answered by a number of different rabbis including former Dallasite Rabbi Ed Feinstein. If you haven’t started your Jewish bookshelf, start today!
Now, children have lots of questions about God, and we adults often struggle to give the answers because we are still searching for them ourselves. The most important thing to remember about questions is that we do not always need to have an answer. In fact, Jews have always been accused of answering every question with another question. As a teacher and a parent, I know that works! So when your children ask the tough questions about God and life, turn to them and ask, “What do you think?” It helps to know what they are thinking. There is a stage when we wish our children would stop asking us questions — instead cheer the questions and find the answers together.
So when are you supposed to have these heavy-duty study sessions with your children? This answer is easy because we have read and recited the answer from memory: You shall teach these words to your children and speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. It is simple — do not wait for a serious study session but rather talk about God, Torah and all of life every day in every way.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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New play pays tribute to DHM co-founder

New play pays tribute to DHM co-founder

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP

While growing up, lawyer-turned-playwright-turned-journalist-turned-college-instructor Mark Donald learned bits and pieces about his father’s early life. Donald knew that his dad, Martin Donald, was a Holocaust survivor who also spent time in Canada and Britain during World War II. Donald also knew his father had spent time with British Intelligence, and was in France within days of D-Day, June 6, 1944. And, of course, Mark Donald knew that Martin Donald, who died in 2007, was an important part of the Dallas Jewish community and one of the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s founders.

Mark Donald

Mark Donald

But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the son acquired the complete story about his father. Donald eventually consolidated his father’s notes and wrote a fictional play that is very loosely based on and inspired by Martin Donald’s life. That play, Magnum’s Opus, will premiere as a staged reading on Aug. 7-8 at the Dallas Holocaust Museum.
In the play, main character Magnum Guttmann reaches out to his estranged family by revealing complete details of his early life, which includes coming of age in Adolf Hitler’s Berlin, then ending up as a British soldier and Nazi hunter.
Though Guttmann and Martin Donald are not the same person, there are similarities. Both came of age in Hitler’s Berlin. Both were members of the British forces. Both lost family in the concentration camps. And, both rounded up Nazis after the end of World War II. Martin Donald, in fact, was part of the British military group that arrested German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1945.
But the comparisons end there. Martin Donald ultimately gave up his career in the military, came to Dallas, and raised a family with his wife Ann, also a Holocaust survivor. Magnum Guttmann remains a Nazi hunter for much of his life, pushing away his family in the process. As such, “I used my father’s story as inspiration for the play,” Donald explained. “But, the play is highly fictionalized.”

Martin Donald

Martin Donald

Interestingly enough, Donald himself is no slouch in the “colorful story” department. Raised in Dallas with sister Florence (former Texas Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano who is the current Dallas Holocaust Museum board chair), Donald received his law degree from Southern Methodist University. While working as a criminal defense attorney, Donald took acting lessons at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC). “Even though I was with a small firm, with a lot of work, the most I could get was four or five trials a year,” he said. “It took a while to feel comfortable in the courtroom, so I thought I’d take acting classes to help with presentation.”

Linda Leonard

Linda Leonard

In addition to acting classes, the DTC offered playwriting classes with a couple of professors from Trinity University. “I liked them, I loved the place, and before I knew it, I was halfway to a degree,” Donald said. He ended up with a master’s degree in fine arts at the DTC through Trinity University, during which time he wrote several plays. Donald eventually moved from law to freelance journalism, winding up as editor-in-chief with the Dallas Observer, until 2011. These days, Donald teaches mass communications, law and ethics, news reporting and feature writing at the University of North Texas.
Even as Donald obtained another college degree, changed careers and raised his own family with his wife Esther, father Martin remained mostly silent about his own past. “There are two kinds of Holocaust survivors,” Donald explained. “There are those who tell their children all about their Holocaust stories. Then there are those who are more reserved.”
Donald’s father would tell him intriguing bits and pieces about his background. Finally, Donald decided he wanted to expand on those bits and pieces, “because I wanted his grandchildren to know the story.” To that end, Donald used family summers spent in Sarasota, Florida to delve into his father’s background, and to tape-record it. “Five or six years before he died, I interviewed him, as a journalist would,” Donald said. “I didn’t want the surface answers. We went deep.” After three summers of intense interviews, Donald had his father’s entire story.
When Martin Donald died in 2007 at age 86, Donald reviewed the tapes, typed them up, and gave the written transcriptions to Martin’s grandchildren. That was the end of it. Or, so Donald thought. “The story still haunted me,” he said. “It wouldn’t let go.”
Busy with his stints at the Observer, then as a UNT professor, Donald had to put his father’s story aside for a time. Then, over a three-year period, he crafted the play. Donald said he chose to fictionalize the story on a historical framework, rather than focusing on blow-by-blow historical facts. “Fiction enables you to explore various types of issues with a lot of depth and emotion,” he explained. “It explores what it’s like growing up as a Jewish boy in Nazi Berlin, what it’s like to go from refugee, to vanquished, to victor.”
Donald hosted an initial reading of the play in January 2017, then moved on to the idea of a staged reading. He thought that, because Martin was one of the founders of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, “If I was going to have a staged reading, that would be the best place to have it,” he said.
Donald, who remains plugged into the Dallas theater community, asked veteran Dallas actor/director Linda Leonard to direct Magnum’s Opus. A casting call took place over Memorial Day weekend, and rehearsals are now underway. “The work is in the pioneering stages, and it’s exciting to see it come to life,” Donald said, adding that he’s grateful to the Holocaust Museum for hosting the event. “I’m humbled that Linda is directing it, that the actors in it are taking the time to work with it,” he continued.
Donald, veteran journalist, playwright and writer, acknowledged that Magnum’s Opus is as close to basing a fictional piece on real-life events as anything else he’s created. “Magnum has been fighting the good fight; it was his way of righting the wrongs inflicted on his parents,” he said. “My father had the same attitude.” So, while Magnum’s Opus isn’t Martin Donald’s exact story, “his spirit is strong within the play,” his son said.
Magnum’s Opus takes place Monday-Tuesday, Aug. 7-8 at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 N. Record St., Dallas. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede each night’s reading, with a question-and-answer session following the event. The reading is free, but reservations are required. For more information, contact 214-402-6518 or search Magnum’s Opus Staged Reading on Facebook.

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All Jewish kids deserve camp experience

Posted on 20 July 2017 by admin

Bradley Laye, the Dallas Federation’s CEO, recently wrote to our community praising the beneficial effects of Jewish summer camp on children’s future lives. I’m seconding his motion, because my love for Judaism, and all my involvements in it, are rooted in that experience.
My camp began at the turn of the 20th century as a needed getaway for overworked immigrant women and their small children living in a teeming, smoke-filled city. A wealthy family first endowed a settlement house to help with Americanization, naming it after a daughter, Irene Kaufmann. The camp came next, named for Emma. Because the site was a quiet place in the farming area 30 miles outside Pittsburgh, Emma Kaufmann Camp quickly became known as Emmafarm!
My childhood home was Jewish in name only. Mother, a social type, served as president of her Sisterhood but attended synagogue only on the High Holidays. Father didn’t even do that; remembering his unhappy childhood in cheder (and when I read Philip Roth’s amazing story, The Conversion of the Jews, I know what he went through), he would never again walk into a institution headed by a rabbi! But as a doctor who was a declared, although never devout, Jew, he volunteered annually to do all required pre-camp physicals for kids going to Emmafarm at no charge.
The summer I would turn 9, he asked if I’d like to go to camp, too. I said yes. And the time I spent there 74 years ago shaped my Jewish future!
It wasn’t the physical place that did it; Emmafarm was practical and undistinguished. Far away from any lake front, it had only a pool. The flat main campus, like a rectangular college quad, had four large buildings running down each of its two longer sides — on one, the boys’ units; opposite on the other, the girls’. All were named for birds: Girls began as wrens and eventually grew up into woodpeckers; boys progressed as they aged from robins to eagles.
But at the head of the quad was the dining hall, and that’s where Jewish magic took place every Friday evening. We would file quietly into that huge, echoing room, which was full of chaos three times a day every other day as kids reached and grabbed across tables for whatever bowls and platters they wanted, hardly deterred by their exhausted counselors. Yet with Shabbat approaching, without anyone having to say a word, the mood shifted into something totally different. Something quietly wonderful…
First of all, the tables were clothed in white. And so were we. Everyone, all white, from head to toe. And as we entered, we sang that old, old hymn: “Come, O Sabbath day and bring … Peace and healing on thy wing … Thou shalt rest. Thou shalt rest …”
I recently read a piece, written by a minister, suggesting that Christians should look again into their hymnals and bring back the singing of some very old songs. I think we Jews should do the same. I don’t know how many of my fellow campers (and many of us, including me, continued on as Emmafarm counselors) still remember that song. But I sing it to myself, in my head, every Friday evening as I walk into synagogue. That one hymn alone was enough to make me Jewish for a lifetime!
I don’t know, either, how many others those Shabbat evenings similarly affected, but I do know that Emmafarm “graduated” an astounding number of adult Jewish professionals — teachers, social workers, camp directors and — yes — rabbis! Among them: the distinguished Earl Grollman, who served a Massachusetts congregation for 36 years while establishing an international reputation for his counseling and writings on bereavement. (And, btw: He met his wife at Emmafarm!)
So: Thank you, Bradley, for reminding our entire community that every Jewish child deserves a Jewish summer camp experience. Truly, its positive effects will last forever!

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Maccabiah Games results

Posted on 20 July 2017 by admin

Staff report

The 2017 Maccabiah Games ran July 4-16. Here is a list of results and updates since last week’s issue:

Open (College-young adult)

  • Chayse Bauer (soccer), of Frisco, and the women’s team fell to Israel, 2-1, in the final, but won every other game.
  • Hayley Isenberg (basketball), of Dallas, scored 2 points in a 72-36 win over Australia, 2 points in a 77-63 semifinal win over Russia and helped defeat Israel, 71-61, to win gold.
  • Samuel Rabb (rugby), of Dallas, is a member of the rugby delegation. The Sevens squad claimed fifth place with a 35-0 win over France, while the Fifteens team won gold with wins over Australia, Israel, Argentina and South Africa, with the latter coming in the finals.
  • Sarah Weisberg (gymnastics), of Plano, is the daughter of Jonathan and Grace Weisberg. The gymnasts  competed in beam, floor, uneven bars, vaults and all-around events.

Juniors (Youth)

  • Omer Dannenberg-Lerner (gymnastics), of Plano, won gold in beam with 12.100 score  — .400 above silver. She tied for bronze in floor exercise with Lihi Raz of Israel at 11.650. She and Haymann (see below) earned silver in the team competition.
  • Kaya Haymann (gymnastics), of Dallas, also competed in the beam, floor, vaults and uneven bars. She and Dannenberg-Lerner (see above) earned silver in the team competition.
  • Ashley Isenberg (basketball), of Dallas, scored 2 points in 63-31 pool-play win over Canada, list to Israel, 97-41. The team defeated Australia, 66-49, but came up short against Israel in the final, 83-43.
  • Griffin Levine (basketball), of Dallas, scored 8 points in pool-play, 94-55 win over Canada and added another 15 in 121-26 win over Mexico. He also scored four points in a 118-35 win over Australia. Levine scored 12 points and the team defeated Israel, 92-80, to win gold.
  • Hannah Mandel (soccer), of Frisco, helped defeat Australia, 11-0, in pool play. The team defeated Canada, 4-0, in the semifinal and beat Israel, 2-0, to win gold.

Masters (Adults)

  • Linda Leftin (tennis), of Dallas, won bronze.
  • Michael Rubenstein (basketball), of Houston, is the son-in-law of Janine and Charles Pulman of Dallas. He scored 2 points in 73-57 win over Australia and 7 points in 68-67 loss to Russia. He reached double digits with 11 points in a 98-56 win over Chile. He scored 3 points in a 94-81 loss to Israel, but scored 8 points to claim bronze with a 79-68 win over Argentina.In addition, Brianne Lawton, of Denton, is an athletic trainer for Team USA.
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