Archive | September, 2017

Meaning behind fast

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have fasted on Yom Kippur as long as I can remember and am nostalgic about the bagels and smoked fish break fasts with my late parents and aunts and uncles. Truth be told, I’ve never been uplifted by the fast. I’ve never felt inspired by causing self-inflicted pain and starving myself. I fail to see what it accomplishes or how it makes me a better person. I still have my health, thank God, and plan to fast this year, but would appreciate some inspiration to make it more meaningful.
— Beatrice W.
Dear Beatrice,
I’m glad you still have your health! May you continue to enjoy good health this year and many more to come!
If the fast was indeed to cause pain and starve ourselves, I wouldn’t be very inspired to do so either. Furthermore, if the point is to feel pain, why do Jews traditionally wish others to “have an easy fast?” It should rather be “have a miserable fast”! I think we need to reframe the entire concept of the fast on Yom Kippur, which will enable us to view it in a different light.
The source for fasting is in the Torah, which states “But on the 10th day of this (the seventh) month is the Day of Atonement… and you should afflict your souls…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:27). “Afflicting” is interpreted by our sages in the Talmud to mean we should fast, hence the mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur. This, however, needs explanation. The Torah does not say to afflict our bodies, rather our nefashos or souls, through the fasting. This seems strange, as a fast would seem to afflict the body, not the soul. How can we understand this?
The answer is that the affliction is not the fasting itself. The fasting, which enables us to rest for a while from our physical pursuits, merely provides the backdrop to enable us to focus on our souls, which is the real point of the day. When we focus on our souls and how far we may have strayed from the right path, then the soul is afflicted with that realization. Maimonides points out that the mitzvah on Yom Kippur is not “to fast” as with other fast days, rather to “refrain from eating.” When we are on a higher, more spiritual plane, we have the opportunity, indeed the mitzvah, of getting in sync with our souls and seeing how we can better ourselves.
The mitzvah to “rest” from food and drink also includes desisting from bathing, from wearing leather shoes and from marital relations. All this elevates us to a higher, spiritual world where we can view the world and ourselves from a different vantage point.
My mentor, the late Rabbi S. Wolbe ob”m, once gave us a powerful illustration by which to understand the day of Yom Kippur and its laws. Maimonides, in discussing the final world of reward, says the following: “The World to Come has no eating nor drinking, rather the righteous sitting with their crowns upon their heads, and basking in the glow of the Shechinah (Divine Presence).” This is the feeling one has on Yom Kippur. This holy day is a bit of the next world transposed to this world. On Yom Kippur, by refraining from the mundane pursuits of this world, we are transformed into an angelic state whereby we don’t need to eat, much like the angels above are above eating and derive their sustenance from the glow of the Shechinah. With the closeness we enjoy we can intensely feel any distance from the Shechinah we have caused, and fulfill the mitzvah of teshuvah, or return to God and our true selves.
May you and all the readers have an easy, meaningful fast and be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet, happy New Year.

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Fort Worth woman seeks kidney transplant

Fort Worth woman seeks kidney transplant

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

Rosen’s organs barely functioning as she searches for replacement

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

If anyone has a spare kidney, Paula Rosen wants it.
The Fort Worth resident is one of 600,000 Americans living with polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, a genetic disorder that over time shuts down the kidneys as a result of cysts overtaking them.
Her kidneys are currently functioning at 13 percent. But just one kidney will do, preferably from a live donor.
Rosen was 19 when she learned she had the disease. She inherited it from her father, the late Buddy Rosen, who prolonged his life by 17 years through dialysis. For six hours a day and three times a week, a 500-pound mechanical kidney removed waste from the body, kept his blood pressure stable and pumped vital nutrients like potassium into his body.
“The other two days he had to take it apart and clean it. It was hard on the family,” Rosen said of her father, who died in 1984.

Paula Rosen inherited polycystic kidney disease from her father. Her kidneys are struggling to perform, and she is hoping for a transplant. Submitted photo

Paula Rosen inherited polycystic kidney disease from her father. Her kidneys are struggling to perform, and she is hoping for a transplant.
Submitted photo

She does not remember much of what her father went through to maintain quality of life because she was young. But she knows dialysis is not an option.
“Dialysis is hard on you. With me being self-employed and single it would be difficult to do dialysis. I don’t have a company behind me to cover the lost time and wages,” she said.
Thankfully the process is not the only option anymore. She qualifies for a live donor match. Live donors, who remain anonymous, are required to go through a rigorous application process, which many people do not pass. If they do, they then have to undergo a rigorous testing process to see if they could even match someone in need of a transplant. Matches have to meet a variety of criteria, including blood type, good health and no history of debilitating disease.
Oftentimes the best donors are family members. But Rosen’s family members do not qualify, as she ticked off the other living relatives who also have PKD, including her aunt and cousins. Her sister has it but was lucky to receive a transplant from her fiancé, who was a perfect match.
Even becoming a recipient is tough. Rosen underwent her own rigorous process. But after what felt like years, she got on a live donor list at Fort Worth’s Baylor Scott and White hospital.
It’s disappointing when she learns another donor is not a match.
“The only way I can look at it is God’s plan. He has another plan for me,” she said.
God speaks in different ways, however.
In the March 2013 edition of Moment magazine, rabbis from a variety of Jewish traditions concluded organ donation, while once forbidden out of concern for violating the sanctity of the dead, is now seen as an imperative. (In fact, the majority of religious groups believe people have a moral imperative to donate organs.)
“You are asking for someone to save your life. From a Jewish perspective, your best mitzvah is saving a life. Even if you are posting it,” on social media as he did, “you are enabling someone to do the greatest thing you could do, a mitzvah,” said Rabbi Bill Gershon, former senior rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas.
He received his kidney from a live donor April 8, 2014.
Shai Robkin of Atlanta agreed. He donated his kidney last year to Glorious, a 70-year-old African-American mother of three in Carrollton, Georgia. His son Rabbi Yogi Robkin of Plano wrote about the process for the TJP last year.
The elder Robkin has become an advocate for kidney donations in particular after his experience.
Most people are not aware they are able to donate a kidney. But as someone grows older, the likelihood a possible donor is accepted dwindles, especially after someone reaches an age between 65 and 70, Robkin suggested.
“It would be a shame, I think, to go to your grave with two kidneys. The value of a kidney from a living donor means more medically than one from a dead donor. Recipients live much longer,” Robkin said.
He went through an intensive decision-making process with his wife, Judy.
Potential donors need to know about the emotional, physical and time commitment for donating. Potential donors should make sure they have a social support network, and the ability to take off is crucial.
“Be prepared to take time off. I would not have done it without Netflix and a good social support system,” Robkin said.
“The process is physical and psychological. I may have donated the kidney but we still did it together,” Robkin added. There was one drawback, however.
“I had to end my professional football and boxing careers,” Robkin joked.
To learn more about the Living Donor Evaluation Process, visit the National Kidney Foundation at Kidney.org/livingdonation.

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Harvey floods don’t stop these Houston synagogues

Harvey floods don’t stop these Houston synagogues

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

A room in United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, stripped of its furniture and floors Photo: United Orthodox Synagogues

A room in United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, stripped of its furniture and floors
Photo: United Orthodox Synagogues

By Ben Sales
JTA

A few weeks ago, Holly Davies was getting ready to homeschool her kids and preparing the family for the High Holidays. When Hurricane Harvey hit, she helped evacuate 150 people from her neighborhood by airboat and shelter nearly 100 people in a local church.
Then came the hard part.
For the past four weeks, Davies has been leading a force of up to 300 volunteers who have mobilized to repair homes and synagogues in and around the heavily Jewish housing development of Willow Meadows. Davies has spent September coordinating teams who are clearing Sheetrock, stripping floors, preventing mold and distributing aid.
Her volunteer operation is headquartered in Beit Rambam, a Sephardic synagogue that was spared flooding, and has helped rehabilitate the homes of about 100 families. But Davies also helped lead the effort to make sure those families had a place to pray when Rosh Hashanah began last Wednesday.
“It’s very important for the community to have their central worship place, to not feel fragmented, not only in their homes but in their community,” she said. “A lot of people are staying with friends or other people in the community.”
As the entire Houston area recovers from Harvey, synagogues face the added difficulty of drying out their buildings days before the holiest and busiest days of the year. Three large synagogues sustained substantial damage from the flood, forcing them to improvise, relocate or make do with whatever floors, books and ritual objects remained intact.
“There was not any part of the synagogue that was immune to the flooding,” said Rabbi Brian Strauss of Beth Yeshurun, a Conservative congregation. “There was water covering the first seven rows of the sanctuary. You couldn’t even see the seats.”
Strauss said his synagogue sustained about $3 million worth of damage. Along with cutting out floors, cabinets and Sheetrock, and disinfecting the building — the basics of flood recovery — the synagogue will have to bury nearly 1,000 holy books that were ruined in the flood. The synagogue will set up a Harvey memorial at the burial space.
United Orthodox Synagogues, another Houston congregation, had up to six feet of flooding in some places and also lost most of its prayer books. Congregation Beth Israel had damage in its sanctuary, mechanical room and offices. No Torah scrolls were damaged at any of the congregations, as they were in high places when the flooding began.
United Orthodox isn’t sure if the building can ever be completely repaired, while Strauss is shooting for his building to be back to normal for the High Holidays — in 2018. In the meantime, the synagogues have found makeshift solutions. United Orthodox’s 300-some families have been praying, meeting and eating in a large social hall that avoided the worst of the water. The synagogue has also had hundreds of new prayer books donated from publishing companies and synagogues outside Houston, including 400 machzors, or High Holidays prayer books.
Beth Yeshurun has been holding bar and bat mitzvah services in a nearby high school auditorium, and otherwise has joined with Brith Shalom, a nearby Conservative synagogue that was not flooded. For the High Holidays, Beth Yeshurun spent Rosh HaShanah and will spend Yom Kippur at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, a Houston megachurch that’s donating its space and support staff. To give the building a Jewish feel, Beth Yeshurun will project photos of its artwork on the church’s walls.
The rabbis have handled their synagogues’ recovery while also dealing with personal crises. Both Gelman and Strauss had flooding in their houses. Gelman, along with a few dozen Jewish families, has moved to an apartment complex near the synagogue that he now calls a “kibbutz.” Other religious families are hosting displaced neighbors who want to stay within walking distance of their synagogues.
“There’s a lot of expenses, there’s the physical upheaval, the emotional upheaval,” Gelman said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, stress. The human cost of this is really unimaginable and ongoing.”
Houston’s Jewish community has also been buoyed by outside donations. Aside from approximately $9 million raised by federations across North America, Israel pledged $1 million in aid, and the Orthodox Union and Chabad also sent money and volunteers.
Through coordination of Dallas Kosher and financial support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, kosher caterers from Dallas — Taste of the World, Simcha Kosher Catering and Texas Kosher BBQ — drove down and took turns making up to 1,000 meals a day. Seasons, a kosher supermarket chain, and Chasdei Lev, a charitable organization in New York, sent trucks of kosher perishable items and dry goods, including clothes.
“Food is getting semi-back to normal,” said Tzivia Weiss, executive director of the Houston Kashruth Association.
Weiss said that while donations are plentiful, people are hesitant to take them because they “want to feel like people that can go to stores and buy their own clothes.”
The flood has also affected what usually troubles rabbis the most ahead of the High Holidays — their sermons. Strauss, who was going to talk about pressures affecting teens and young adults, instead discussed his family’s personal experience during Harvey and how to avoid fixating on material possessions. Gelman talked about the connection between homelessness and repentance, as well as how to respond to the flood while thinking of the future.
Gelman described his Rosh Hashanah sermon on the second day. “Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the birthday of the world. We see this as an opportunity for our own rebirth.”

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Think before we eat, act

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
So many wonderful holidays and so many things to eat! Even on Yom Kippur, we think about what to eat before Kol Nidre and then plan for a delicious “Break the Fast.” Judaism is filled with holidays and specific things to eat or days when we don’t eat.
Eating is a Jewish thing although I tell many that I am certainly not a “Gastronomic Jew” (I don’t define my Jewishness by what I eat). However, as a Jew we don’t just eat — we must think about what we are eating (kosher or not) and say a blessing before we eat (being thankful for what we have).
In the many offerings from myjewishlearning.com before Rosh Hashanah, here is a list of food and related meanings from the Talmud:

  • After eating leek or cabbage, say “May it be Your will that our enemies be cut off.”
  • After eating beets, say “May it be Your will that our adversaries be removed.”
  • After eating dates, say ”May it be Your will that our enemies be finished.”
  • After eating pomegranate, say “May it be Your will that our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate.”
  • After eating the head of a sheep or fish, say “May it be Your will that we be as the head and not as the tail.”

The writer then went on to suggest that we make up our own “May it be Your will…” and gave as an example to eat a raisin and celery and ask God for a “raise in salary.” All joking aside, stopping and thinking before we eat has much value both for our physical health and our spiritual health. Saying blessings before eating, makes you stop and think which of the many blessings is appropriate and then recognize how lucky we are, not only to have something to eat, but to have choices. Gratitude is healthy!
Keeping kosher also makes you stop and think even if you think, “My grandmother would be rolling over in her grave if she knew what I was eating.”
As we begin this New Year, let us think before we eat and more importantly, think before we act. We ask for forgiveness before Yom Kippur and if I have written anything that has upset or offended you, please forgive me. And, if I have written anything that has made you stop and think or question or struggle, I hope I can continue in the year to come.

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To all an easy fast, promise of good year

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

At sundown tomorrow, we will enter the longest day of our Jewish year.
Yom Kippur is an odd one, a singular one as our holidays and holy days go. Many of those help us remember historic events, while others mark seasonal milestones. But this one, alone, depends on us for existence. It is, indeed, US.
By the time we rise together for the traditional Kol Nidre, we (at least should) have made our personal peace with everyone we may have offended during the past year. We should be fully cleansed of our own personal sins by the miracle of forgiveness through our own participation; we are now ready to stand as a people and pray to God as one for the divine forgiveness of us all.
I always look around my shul at this instant, wondering which of those I see will not be granted another year of life, to rise with us next year. I don’t believe those who must answer the final call are selected for that last journey because they are sinners; their attempts at personal repentance have surely been as good as mine or better, and I don’t discount the possibility that I myself may be among 5779’s missing. But I sense a kind of beyond-our-understanding randomness as I also see in memory those who were standing along with me last year but are no longer present. Those now gone were an amalgam of behaviors; they encompassed all.
Then those heavy words sing out, first in beautiful solo, and then again with all of us contributing our varied voices. If I were not awe-struck at this moment, I would never be. Three times, the Kol Nidre, and as the last sound fades away, I am already missing it. Will I be one of those granted another year in which I can stand and hear its glory once more? Every year, I listen more closely and carefully, and sing with more fervor, hoping this will not be my last time, but putting my heart and soul into it as though it might be…
Let’s be honest: The day drags. (Remember? It is indeed the longest day of the Jewish year!) It is next to impossible to remain totally spiritual with a growling stomach and an increasingly dry throat or tongue. From childhood until I graduated from college, I attended a synagogue that put heavy wooden blocks over all the fountains and sinks in the building, in the event of any cases of congregational deprivation desperation. I never heard of anyone trying to sneak a sip; I never heard of anyone fainting, either. Because any shul that goes to such an extent in honoring this law was also certain — as mine was — to recognize medical needs and those of specific ages and life conditions: No small child, pregnant or nursing woman, or anyone of any age with a condition that ruled against the total fast would have been applauded — but would rather have been remonstrated against — for trying to carry it out. After all, the law is the law, always of fairness and compassion.
Memories from one of those days: I had a college boyfriend whose mother invited me to break the fast at their family home. But I refused her request to leave early — not before I heard that last great shofar blast. My relationship with her son dissolved soon afterward. That same Yom Kippur, exiting later with the crowd, I heard one young man hustle up another: “Hey, bub — holiday’s over. Gimme a cigarette.” There are all kinds of Jews among us…
These days, my shul’s bimah is crowded with past presidents as the Kol Nidre is sung to begin the last long day, and the whole congregation joins in a welcome break-the-fast meal as it ends. A “dayenu” time! I wish all of you such a time, after an easy fast, with the much-hoped-for promise of a good year to come.

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Don’t forget stories of Evian Conference, Sosua

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

A historic event known as the Evian Conference of 1938 is rarely if ever mentioned in American history textbooks, nor is its anniversary imprinted on calendars … for good reason.
It was originally publicized as an attempt by the United States President Franklin Roosevelt to save displaced German and Austrian Jews who were seeking refuge from the Nazis. An international conference of 32 nations was held July 6-15 at the resort town of Evian-les-Bains, France.
Months before, Nazi Germany had marched into Austria, extending its policy of confiscation of Jewish money and property. These penniless Jews were still allowed to leave Nazi control if they could find a nation that would accept them.
America’s immigration quota system, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, anti-Semitism and the increasing cost of fighting the Depression, all worked to prevent allowing penniless refugees into the United States.
Many humanitarian organizations, mostly Jewish, were present as observers at the conference, including Golda Meir, but were not allowed to participate.
German Nazis were present as well, even though they had not been invited. No doubt the anti-immigrant comments made by the British who were blocking European Jews from entering Palestine, as well as the general lack of immigration support by the conference, pleased Hitler.
The failure of the Evian Conference, the unwillingness of nations to save the Jews, was probably Hitler’s “green light” to advance his plans for the Holocaust.
Only one small nation, the Dominican Republic, represented by President Rafael Trujillo, offered to allow up to 100,000 Jewish men and/or married couples to settle in his country, under certain conditions.
Why Trujillo, well-known as a ruthless dictator, would make such an offer, is explained by historians this way: It was well-known that Trujillo was obsessed with favoring white-skinned people. He was known to powder and lighten his own dark skin daily.
By opening his country to 100,000 Jewish refugees, he would be countering previous bad publicity about his cruelty to his black-skinned Haitian neighbors.
The land in the north central Sosua area needed to be cultivated and what better way than to have white-skinned Europeans farm the land, marry Dominican women, and thereby expand the white population.
Because of the expanding war and bureaucratic red tape, it was becoming more difficult after the conference to fulfill the original promise of 100,000.
Of 5,000 visas originally issued by the Dominican Republic, only 600 European Jews had taken advantage of the offer. An additional 100 Jews arrived in Sosua by war’s end from Shanghai, China.
The American Joint Distribution Committee assisted in working out an agreement between the new Jewish settlers and the government of the Dominican Republic.
Many former city dwellers who had never been on a farm, found themselves behind a plow and building new homes.
A collective at first, much like an Israeli kibbutz, the land was worked by little more than half the Jewish population, with the remainder instead choosing commercial and financial enterprises.
As the (Jewish) village of Sosua evolved, enterprising residents developed commercial ventures and public services such as a school, a library, water works, a medical clinic and, of course, a synagogue.
The original farming venture eventually developed into a more successful dairy, meat and cheese production company, known today as Productos Sosua, well-known for its meat and cheese products, including ham.
Jewish life has diminished greatly in Sosua over the years as children are often sent off to the United States for higher education, Jewish men have intermarried with Dominican women, and others have left for business and job opportunities in larger cities.
Like most island bays, Sosua has become a resort community, a favorite with many European tourists.
Only six or seven of the original settlers have family members still remaining in their haven of Sosua. There is a small Jewish museum and a synagogue which is maintained, whose presence memorializes the original founders who escaped the Holocaust, a relative few survivors when there could have been so many more.
We must never forget the Evian Conference of 1938 and the relatively few Jews who escaped the Holocaust.

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Around the Town: Archives, Daytimers

Around the Town: Archives, Daytimers

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

B’nai B’rith Person of the Year

I started writing up a brief about this year’s Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith Person of the Year and got to thinkin’: I wonder if I could search the TJP archives and pull some historical data on past Person of the Year recipients. I jumped to UNT’s Portal to Texas History, which houses the TJP archives dating back to the early years, and did a simple search: Texas Jewish Post: “Man of the Year.”ManoftheYearPart1 ManoftheYearPart2
I found several. One fun one was from the Jan. 7, 1954, edition on the front page. It’s included here. Incidentally, the winner that year was Sol Brachman, as reported in the TJP on Jan. 14, 1954. To search back issues of the TJP, visit https://texashistory.unt.edu. Don’t forget to put quotation marks around your search term for best results.
Who will be the Person of the Year? Your guess is as good as mine.
Robert Chicotsky tells me that plans are furiously underway for Fort Worth’s best-kept secret: Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith’s The Jewish Person of the Year. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road. Unfortunately, Craig Goldman, who was scheduled to speak at the evening, won’t be able to attend. However, Riscky’s BBQ will cater the dinner with their superb barbecue; kosher plates are available with advance reservation.
Tickets for the evening are $25 per person; wine and beer will be available for purchase. For more information, contact Rich Hollander at rich.d.hollander@gmail.com 817-909-4354, Alex Nason at alexnason@charter.cnet or Marvin Beleck, marvinbeleck@aol.com.
The lodge is currently taking nominations for the Jewish Person of the Year. Mail them to Isadore Garsek Lodge, 4420 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Rabbi Mecklenburger will speak at October Daytimers

When the Daytimers convene at noon Wednesday, Oct. 18, at Beth-El, Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger, emeritus rabbi of Beth-El Congregation, will be the featured speaker. Rabbi Mecklenburger, who came to Beth-El in 1984, is well-known for his research and writing on religious brains. In fact, his book Our Religious Brains: What Cognitive Science Reveals about Belief, Morality, Community and Our Relationship with God received many accolades. However, on Oct. 18, Rabbi Mecklenburger will address a less “heady” topic: “Behind the Scenes of Being a Rabbi on a Cruise Ship.”

Ralph Mecklenburger

Ralph Mecklenburger

Rabbi Mecklenburger will tell all, secrets and anecdotes, about his experiences as a cruise ship rabbi. It was news to this writer to learn that most cruise ships have a rabbi on board. It’s sure to be an engaging afternoon of fun.
Lunch will be catered by Ming Wok and costs $6. Choices are Chicken Lo Mein, Beef Chop Suey or Vegetables with Bean Curd. Call Larry Steckler at 817-927-2736 with your order.
Daytimers is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

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Dallas Doings: National convention, new youth adviser, Yom Kippur, more

Dallas Doings: National convention, new youth adviser, Yom Kippur, more

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Cantors shine at JWV&LA national convention

Double Congratulations to Sandra and Allan Cantor. Allan was appointed National Officer of the Day at the Jewish War Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary National Convention in San Antonio (Aug. 27-31). Meanwhile, Sandra Cantor was elected junior vice president of the Auxiliary.
The Department of TALO (Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma) hosted the national convention and showed their Southern hospitality to the largest group of delegates in a very long time. It was not sure the event would even occur due to the forecast of “Harvey”; however, the convention went on and there was one couple from Houston in attendance, National Officers pledged to help JWV members affected by the floods. Next year’s convention will be held in Tampa, Florida.

Temple Shalom welcomes new youth adviser

Hallie Weiner has joined Temple Shalom as youth adviser. She loves working with kids and has been teaching for all of her adult life. Originally from Los Angeles and the daughter of a cantor, Hallie grew up steeped in Judaism feeling that the synagogue was her second home. That is the feeling she hopes to transmit to the Temple Shalom youth. In addition to youth director at Temple Shalom, Hallie is a preschool teacher and cantorial student.

Shalowitz will daven Yom Kippur services

Tiferet Israel welcomes back Cantor Howard Shalowitz to sing and daven at their High Holy Day services. Cantor Shalowitz first led services at Tiferet in 2016. The congregation found that his music enhanced the service and invited him back for a second year.
Cantor Shalowitz has led services and lectured on Jewish music throughout the United States, and served as High Holy Day chazzan at synagogues in New York City, in Florida and on kosher cruises. He serves on the Cantors Assembly’s (CA) Executive Council and as the chairman of the CA’s Ambassador Program Committee. He is the past president of the St. Louis Circle of Jewish Music and is a frequent guest lecturer on Jewish music. He has written, narrated, and produced television programs for the Jewish holidays. He won a national Telly Award as co-host of the weekly television show See/Hear.

Cantor Howard Shalowitz (left) and Rabbi Shawn Zell

Cantor Howard Shalowitz (left) and Rabbi Shawn Zell

Chazzan Shalowitz began singing at the age of 10 as a boy soloist in various High Holy Day choirs in Chicago. He also made recordings on radio and television. He attended Tulane University, where he sang lead roles in operettas and sang with the New Orleans Symphony. He also served as chazzan at Tikvat Shalom Congregation. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree plus his Master of Arts at the University of Pennsylvania and attended the Jewish Theological Seminary of America Cantorial School.
In addition to his accomplishments in music, he is well-known in the St. Louis area as a successful attorney. He has served as president of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis and the St. Louis Bar Foundation and has served on the Board of Governors of the Missouri Bar. He has hosted the weekly television show, Legally Speaking in St. Louis. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.
If you would like to attend services at Tiferet Israel for Kol Nidre (Friday evening, Sept. 29) and Yom Kippur (Saturday, Sept. 30) please call 214-691-3611 or email Jennifer@TiferetIsrael.org.
For more information, contact Ed Jerome at 214-696-1111.

JFS kicks off annual diaper drive

National Diaper Awareness Week is Sept. 25-Oct. 1. Throughout October, JFS will hold its annual Diaper Shower.
Stock the JFS Food Pantry with infant to adult diapers, pull-ups and wipes for community families in need and help reach the goal of 100,000 diapers again! Drop-off is from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, at the JFS Food Pantry, 5402 Arapaho Road, Dallas. You can also drop items off at the following locations throughout the month:

  • Akiba Academy of Dallas Early Childhood School, 12324 Merit Drive, Dallas
  • Congregation Anshai Torah, 5501 W. Parker Road, Plano
  • Ann & Nate Levine Academy Early Childhood Center, 18011 Hillcrest Road, Dallas
  • The Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center at the J, 7900 Northaven Road, Dallas
  • and Speech TX; for details call 214-336-9342. Donations can also be made using Amazon Smile and selecting JFS Diaper Shower as the beneficiary.

The 2017 Diaper Show co-chairs are Cathy Glick, Julie Liberman and Beverly Rossel.
— Submitted by Jamie Denison

Farm-to-City Sukkot Celebration

The Jewish Community Center of Dallas (The J) will host a Farm-to-City Autumn Sukkot Celebration from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 on its campus at 7900 Northaven Road in Dallas. This communitywide celebration will include an interfaith twist recognizing autumn’s transition from summer to winter. It is part of The J’s “Let’s Get Social” initiative, which brings together the community in a variety of new and different ways to help people connect and interact beyond social media.
Farm-to-City Autumn Sukkot Celebration activities will include Goat Yoga led by Woni from 5 to 6 p.m. ($10 members/$15 non-members and online registration is required) and FREE Hayrides from 5 to 7 p.m. Other no-cost activities include arts and crafts in the J On Wheels trailer, miniature candy sukkah building, a live DJ and country line dancing, and displays by local vendors. Seasonal foods will be available for purchase and attendees will enjoy refreshments such as wine and seasonal treats.
More information is available at jccdallas.org or by contacting Terri Arends at tarends@jccdallas.org.

Temple Shalom religious students head back to school

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On Sunday, Sept. 10, the halls of Temple Shalom were filled with learning and laughter.
Children in kindergarten through seventh grade joined together for the first day of religious school.
“Temple Shalom Religious School is off to a great start! We have added several exciting new programs for students and families, a brand-new Judaica curriculum and, perhaps most exciting for our students, a Gaga Pit,” said Director of Lifelong Learning Rabbi Ariel Boxman.
Some new programs include: a monthly playgroup for moms and babies (ages 0-2) called Temple Shalom Mamas, a Junior Youth Group, a Tribe Program to promote bonding among students in school and a Temple Shalom BBYO Chapter for eighth- to 12th-grade students.
New programs are mixed in with old favorites: monthly spirit days, blessing of the pets, munchkins minyan and of course fun-filled Jewish holiday celebrations.
— Submitted by Lisa RothbergIMG_9997

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Confessions of a meaning-aholic

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

I admit it. I am a “meaning-aholic.”
I know that no such word currently exists in Webster’s Dictionary, but I think it’s high time that this word, or a word like it, found its way into the holy grail of English parlance. Ever since I was a child, thoughts concerning the meaning of life and its expression in this world have never been far from my mind. Is there a G-d? What does He want from us? What is my unique mission in life? The search for answers to these age-old questions has consumed many of my waking hours and forms the primary colors on my palate of meaning. It was this search, no doubt, that spurred my religious awakening in the midst of my teenage years, and with it my adoption of greater spiritual commitments and Jewish practice. My career choice to become a rabbi, and an outreach rabbi in particular, seemed a natural extension.
At the tender age of 26, having dedicated the last eight years of my life to Torah studies in some of the finest study halls that Israel and America had to offer, I was finally ready to share my knowledge with others. I was recruited by DATA (Dallas Area Torah Association), a Dallas-based kollel (an advanced institution of higher Jewish learning for married men) and Jewish outreach organization, straight out of Ner Israel Rabbinical College, and was ready to hit the ground running.
What I didn’t realize back then was how much my “meaning-aholism” would impact my many encounters with Jewish individuals over the years. I was and am always on the lookout for others like me who have meaning on the mind and am quick to discern — to the best of my ability — those individuals around me for whom meaning seems to comprise less than a starring, or sometimes even supporting, role in their lives. Over 10 years after arriving in Dallas, and thousands of conversations and meetings later, I am certain of one thing that would have surprised my younger self: Most people are not meaning-aholics.
So, where do most people stand? As it relates to the pursuit of meaning and purpose I have discovered four distinct groups of individuals.

Group 1: ‘Leave-Me-Alone-ers’

These are individuals for whom the call to purpose and meaning does not seem to acutely resonate.
If there lies in man an inborn drive to seek out life’s meaning, there also lies in man an opposing impulse to do away with or shut one’s eyes to anything that might hinder one’s freedoms and autonomy. For as much as meaning offers its actor, it is rarely acquired without a healthy dose of newfound personal responsibility. Meaning isn’t cheap and its truth demands action. For those to whom the burden of responsibility looms heavier than whatever joys meaning might bring their way, the pull to escape meaning’s grasp will be an ever-present one.
“Leave-Me-Alone-ers” may couch their distaste for meaning mechanisms like religion and the like in calculated intellectual dialectics, but by the end of the many conversations I have had with “Leave-Me-Alone-ers,” a rooted self-interest in personal autonomy and freedom is always uncovered as a present and prominent feature of their personalities. As I have written about before, it is virtually impossible for human beings to separate their emotional and intellectual lives from one another. If your emotions find religious or meaning-oriented duties distasteful, your intellect will quickly develop the logical arguments to support that position. (As an aside, the opposite is true as well. A religiously motivated individual will similarly discover the intellectual rationale to support his practice. The question for the truth-seeker is, then, not whether or not there are logical arguments to be made on both sides, but as to which argument is stronger, and therefore worthy of making demands upon our lives.)

Group 2: ‘Busy Bodies’

These individuals are so busy with daily life and all its details that they find no time to consider the larger issues of life.
A recent lunch and learn with a group of 30-somethings illustrates the dynamic of this group perfectly.
I asked the participants of this group if they had yet identified what they were living for, what the purpose of their lives was. Each participant, blank-faced, turned their gaze toward the others, hoping that one of them might break the growing silence that was slowly filling the room. One of them finally piped up, “I guess we’re at a point in our lives where we’re mostly focused on developing our careers and haven’t given much thought to those kinds of questions.”
What the above group may not have realized is that if they were not dedicating the time to ask and answer the important questions of life now, there would be little reason to assume that they would suddenly wake up one day in the future with newfound focus and interest. In the world of meaning, there is no time like the present!
In my experience, the 30-something population is only slightly more likely to fall into the “Busy Body” population than older populations. It seems that either the bigger questions of life matter to you or they don’t, the aging process adding but limited motivation to an otherwise disinterested soul.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (1707-1746), the illustrious Italian kabbalist and philosopher, writes of the plague of “busyness” on the purpose-driven life in Chapter 2 of his magnum opus The Path of the Just:
One who walks along in his world without contemplating whether his ways are good or evil is similar to a blind man walking on the bank of a river. His danger is certainly very great and his calamity is more likely than his escape…
In truth, this is one of the cunning strategies of the evil inclination, to constantly burden people’s hearts with his service so as to leave them no room to look and consider which road they are taking.
For he knows that if they were to put their ways to heart even the slightest bit, certainly they would immediately begin to feel regret for their deeds. The remorse would go and intensify within them until they would abandon the sin completely.
This is similar to the wicked Pharaoh’s advice saying “intensify the men’s labor…” (Exodus 5:9). His intention was to leave them no time whatsoever to oppose him or plot against him. He strove to confound their hearts of all reflection by means of the constant, incessant labor.

Group 3: ‘On-My-Terms-ers’

This group of people seek out meaning and recognize its importance, but only adopt those elements of meaning that conform or coexist with their preconceived ideas of what their life should look like. They want meaning, but on their terms. They want the life-sustaining gifts that meaning offers without the sacrifice and commitment that meaning demands.
In a sense this group is similar to the “Leave Me Alone-ers” in that personal autonomy remains a prized possession. The difference between the two lies primarily in the “On-My-Terms-ers” recognition that meaning, too, is a highly valued commodity. “On-My-Terms-ers” seek a “happy medium,” adopting those elements of meaning that feel comfortable in their lives and discarding those elements of meaning that require a trip outside of their comfort zone. “On-My-Term-ers” reap the gifts of meaning and spirituality to the same degree that they adopt meaningful practices. Pragmatism, unlike truth, seems to be the principal determining factor in their lives, and meaning must bend itself to their will, not the opposite.

Group 4: ‘Meaning-aholics’

This small group of people is consumed with discovering the meaning in this world and is willing to turn their lives around in order for their lives to be in consonance with the dictates of meaning, no matter the cost.
My general rule of thumb is that people change their lives when the pain of not changing is greater than the inevitable pain of changing. For “Meaning-aholics” the knowledge that their lives are not being lived meaningfully and to the fullest extent is much more painful than the pain caused by leaving their comfort zones.
As we enter the High Holiday season and the meaning of life lies keenly on the mind it is worth asking ourselves the difficult question as to which group we most prominently align. For some of us it might be clear, but for others it might be more difficult to isolate. Some of us don’t fit so neatly into just one group, and for some of us it might depend on the day, or the mood we are in.
For most of us, we can identify on some level with all four groups. We’ve sensed the pull and desire for personal autonomy, we can identify with how busy life can get and how little time we feel we can dedicate to our spiritual lives, we’ve felt the internal tug-of-war between our values and our desires and yes, we’ve experienced those blissful moments of clarity when all there was in the world was God and His will.
The question we must ask ourselves: Which group will we commit to be a part of for the year to come?

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

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Empathy, action go hand in hand during disasters

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
One of the most important Jewish Values is “empathy — rachamim” and one of the best ways to teach it is by modeling. Rachamim, the Hebrew word, is usually translated as compassion. As we acknowledge other people’s feelings, thoughts and experiences, we feel compassion for them — we identify with them and want to help them, which is also called empathy. Psychologists tell us that compassion and empathy begin to develop in the first years of life. In fact, scientists assume that we are biologically wired for these feelings. Yet, we must also teach our children to be empathetic and compassionate. Rabbi Wayne Dosick in Golden Rules says:
You can teach your children that a good, decent, ethical person has a big, loving heart when they feel you feeling another’s pain, when they know that you are committed to alleviating human suffering.
You can teach your children that a good, decent, ethical person has big, open hands when they watch you give of your resources — generously and often — and when they watch you give of the work of your hands — willingly and joyfully.
You can teach your children that a good, decent, ethical person can fulfill the sacred task of celebrating the spark of the Divine in each human being and the preciousness of each human being when you teach them to imitate G-d, who is “gracious, compassionate and abundant in kindness; who forgives mistakes, and promises everlasting love.”

Family talk time

  • What does it mean to be kind to a friend? What does it mean to be kind to an animal?
  • Think of a time when someone hurt you. How did it feel?
  • Try to “put yourself in someone’s shoes.” What does that mean? How does it help us to understand others?
  • Tell about Rabbi Tanchum of whom it is said, “When he needed only one portion of meat for himself, he would buy two; one bunch of vegetables, he would buy two — one for himself and one for the poor.” How could you do this in your family? Make a promise to think of others when grocery shopping — buy a second portion of something for the food bank.

Today as we read, hear and watch the sad and frightening stories of hurricanes, we question how much to share with our children and that is an individual family matter. Yet, we must look inside ourselves not only to feel empathy toward those who are suffering and struggling but to decide how we can act to help others. This is part of the healing for those in need and for growing for each of us as we reach out to help.

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