Archive | September, 2017

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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Thoughts on sounding, hearing shofar

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
What should I be thinking about when I hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah? It seems like there should be more focus than just how well of a job the blower did this year!
Wishing you a happy Rosh Hashanah,
— Jill K.
Dear Jill,
I don’t want to toot my horn, but I blow the shofar in our shul and also hope that people are thinking about more than just how I did (or if I deserve to have my shofar’s license renewed, all puns intended).
The sages have pointed out many hidden reasons for blowing the shofar; we will try to enumerate a few of them in the space we have available.
Maimonides in his Code offers the most popular understanding; his words are quoted in many machzorim/High Holiday prayer books: “Even though the real reason we blow shofar is a Heavenly decree and its reason is not revealed, we find a hint for it in the verse ‘wake up the slumbering from your sleep’ — wake up and repent! This is referring to the people who are ‘asleep’ in the vanities of the time.” According to Maimonides the shofar is a spiritual, annual alarm clock which awakens us from our reveries and makes us become focused upon our purpose in the world and begin the process of teshuvah: self-improvement and growth.
Another important focus is that shofars and trumpets were blown upon the coronation of a king. Rosh Hashanah is the day we “coronate the Heavenly King” and declare him as our King and us as his subjects. At the moment of hearing the shofar we resolve to live our lives as loyal subjects of our beloved King and to heed His decrees, the mitzvos, and live lives which bring only the most honor to His Kingdom as dedicated members of Klal Yisrael.
A further hint mentioned is that the Talmud declares the ram’s horn to be reminiscent of the ram offered by Abraham in place of his son Isaac. This further teaches us the lesson of complete dedication and subjection to the Divine Will, regardless of the difficulty involved or the level of sacrifice required. This thought deepens the level of our fealty to the Kingdom of Heaven.
One thought which I always feel connected to is the notion that our shofar reflects the shofar blast sounded by the Al-mighty at Mount Sinai. With this, one accepts upon themselves, at the moment of hearing the shofar, to become more dedicated in the coming year to the study of Torah, thereby becoming more deeply connected to Sinai and all it represents.
One final thought I’ll mention is that our shofar is a precursor of the “shofar hagadol,” the great shofar that will be sounded throughout the world with the arrival of Moshiach, the Messiah, ushering in the next period of history, the “time we’re all waiting for”! This is not just allegorical; rather, through our teshuvah at the time of our shofar blowing, we actually bring the world a step closer to that final shofar.
Personally, I usually shift my thoughts during the blowing to all of the above at different moments, as well as other thoughts, some of them personal. Each person should think about what connects them most to the moment.
All this is in addition to the most important thought of all: to have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah of shofar! (Make sure not to blow that one!)
This year we’ve all had a “shofar blast” of sorts leading up to Rosh Hashanah with the devastation wreaked in our backyards in Houston and Florida. It’s certainly created much food for thought for introspection; our belief is that whatever happens in the world has something to do with Klal Yisrael. It gives us that much more to contemplate during the Shofar Service this coming Rosh Hashanah!
Best wishes for a very meaningful Rosh Hashanah. May all y’all and our people everywhere be blessed with a sweet, joyous New Year filled with peace, good health and much blessing!

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Historic church visit enjoyable, valuable decision

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

As I write what you read now, it is last Sunday afternoon, after Kever Avot, our annual pre-Rosh Hashanah cemetery visit to recall and honor those we love who have predeceased us.
I visited many family graves during a recent stay in my hometown, but I remembered everyone again as I placed a stone on the local grave of my husband. And this was certainly a far different Sunday experience for me than the one I had just a week before …
On Sept. 10, I was in a small group of National Federation of Press Women members who stayed on after the conclusion of the group’s annual conference (this year in Birmingham) for a four-day tour of the homes, and other places of importance, in the lives of Alabama’s most honored writers. Our first stop — and its picture graces the front of the state’s official Civil Rights Tour brochure — was Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the first pulpit of Martin Luther King before he became a figure of history. Its name has long since been expanded to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, and it is a current candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This was an auspicious Sunday for our group of 30-plus to visit: It was the church’s Women’s Leadership Day Celebration, with all elements of the service introduced and/or led by women, some of whom are ordained ministers; current Pastor Cromwell A. Handy, latest in the line of MLK’s successors, had only a minor role.
The enthusiasm with which Black worship is so often portrayed on TV and movie screens was somewhat in evidence — but only somewhat. Decorum ruled. Parishioners arrived wearing what I would call “Sunday best,” their young children in suits and party dresses. The nearby parsonage which was once MLK’s home is now a museum; although it is closed on Sundays and no tours of it or the church are given on those days, there is a sign welcoming all to worship. And indeed, our group was warmly welcomed by the large congregation already in attendance as we entered and took seats on several of the old wooden pews toward the back of the second-floor sanctuary.
A period of quiet meditation with an organ music background preceded the Call to Worship: “…we are God’s handiwork, created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth…”
After several readings and musical selections, by percussion ensemble and choir, came the formal recognition of visitors. As we entered, we had been given press-on cards to fill out with our names and addresses. Then, when the offertory was taken — called the “celebration of giving” and involving the ritual passing of collection plates — we were asked to remove those badges from our clothing and drop them into the plates, so the church would have a record of its visitors. (Of course, all of us also contributed something more tangible to the collection…)
But what was most interesting, and most touching — quite literally: As money flowed and music played, everyone rose, and many parishioners left their rows to walk where we visitors were standing, to give us handshakes and hugs, and to say, “God loves you, and we love you.” There was no reason to doubt their sincerity.
In our visiting group, only three of us were Jewish, and afterward, we talked a bit about the service, which we found paradoxical — very informal in a very structured way — but a most enjoyable and valuable learning experience. I didn’t hear anything from the Catholics among us, but the Protestants, almost to a woman, said they’d be much happier if their own church services were more like the one we’d just attended and participated in.
And that — the participation of loving and giving — was my takeaway from this very special interfaith Sunday.

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Event raises awareness of ovarian cancer

Event raises awareness of ovarian cancer

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

Group will introduce Friends of Be The Difference Foundation

BTFD FRIENDS gallery ownersBy Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

You can never have too many friends, and friends wanting to make a difference are the best kind. From 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, the Craighead Green Gallery is hosting an evening with special guest Alexa Conomos to celebrate Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Alexa Conomos

Alexa Conomos

The event will introduce the Friends of the Be The Difference Foundation. The event is free and open to the public.
Event hosts Lisa Hurst, Missy Quintana and Sheryl Yonack are leading the newly formed Friends of Be The Difference Foundation, with a mission to continue to raise awareness and knowledge of ovarian cancer as well as the incredible work the Be The Difference Foundation (BTDF) supports.
Quintana, whose mother Brenda is an 18-year survivor of ovarian cancer, joined the board earlier this year to help the organization reach beyond the cycling and cancer communities who already know of Be The Difference Foundation’s work. “In creating this social event, that is open to the public, we hope to expand the conversation, and drop the stigma and make ‘gynecological cancer’ not a bad set of words that people are scared to talk about,” she said. “Even with my own mother’s history I really didn’t know the risks because people don’t talk. But we need to talk, to learn, and for people to know the symptoms, the issues, and how they can help us help those in the fight.”
“In creating the offshoot ‘Friends’ of our organization, we have the best friends ever and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Julie Shrell, who co-founded BTDF with Jill Bach, the late Helen Gardner and Lynn Lentscher. “Our Wheel to Survive events, which began with one Dallas ride in 2013, have expanded and have allowed us to fund $2 million in donations toward programs dedicated to research toward the cure of ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancerous deaths.”
Upcoming Wheel to Survive rides this year are in Houston (Oct. 29) and the San Francisco Bay Area (Nov. 12), and in 2018 in Dallas (Feb. 18) and Denver (April 8), with dates to be named later for Austin, Houston, San Francisco and South Florida.
The Sept. 28 event is free, but Teal ($1,000), Gold ($500), and Silver ($250) sponsors also receive membership to Friends of Be The Difference Foundation in addition to recognition in the event invitation and program. Individual membership rights are available with a $100 donation.
Kenneth Craighead is honored to host the first Friends of BTFD event at the gallery which he and Steve Green co-founded in 1992, and in which Helen Gardner expressed her passion for art as a co-owner for five years. “It was such a pleasure and such an amazing journey working at the gallery with Helen,” said Craighead. The gallery, which represents over 40 artists of all mediums, focuses on contemporary paintings, archival pigment prints and sculpture in a myriad of media and styles. Ten percent of any sales during the evening will be donated to the Friends of BTDF. “To have this opportunity to give something back to her, while keeping her mission alive and real, is something amazing and unexpected. We both feel honored and humbled to be a part of this evening.”
Conomos, morning news anchor for WFAA’s News 8 Daybreak, comes to the event with her heart all-in.
Ovarian cancer took the life of her Aunt Anastasia in 2005, and another, her Aunt Shirley, is currently in remission of the disease. Still mourning the recent loss of her father Tasso John Conomos, of pancreatic cancer, she knows firsthand the pain that patients and their families endure.
“The numbers are staggering and this awful disease comes like a thief in the night and takes those we love. As a woman, as one with aunts affected on both sides of my family, it is at the top of my mind,” said Conomos. “What the ladies of the Be The Difference Foundation have done to create opportunities for sharing, caring, learning and teaching is motivating at its greatest. It takes a village and this village is so blessed with the strength behind this organization. For me, becoming a ‘friend’ is an absolute honor and I invite the community to join my new circle of friends.”
The Craighead Green Gallery is located at 1011 Dragon St. in Dallas. For more information about joining the Friends of the Be The Difference Foundation, or the event, emailmquintana@bethedifference.org or visit bethedifferencefoundation.org/friends. For Wheel to Survive or other BTFD information, visit bethedifferencefoundation.org.

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Around the Town: Gifts, Sukkah

Around the Town: Gifts, Sukkah

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

I may be dating myself. I remember when I was a little girl and sitting in the chairs (we never got there early enough to sit up front, and if you knew my parents of blessed memory, you know why) on the High Holidays at Ahavath Sholom on Eighth Avenue. I loved going to shul — still do. I was fascinated by the rituals, particularly many of the machers who busied themselves making sure that the service ran like clockwork. Of course I was mesmerized by Rabbi Garsek’s distinct delivery of, well… everything. I enjoyed Abela’s (Friedling, the shul’s shamos) candies that he passed out to me and my friends — a tradition later carried on by Herbie Berkowitz, of blessed memory, and enjoyed by my own children. I shared these thoughts not too long ago with Karen Kaplan; her father Sidney Raimey was one of those giants of a man etched so distinctly in my memory, especially his shofar blowing. She mentioned that she had a portrait of her dad, which she shared with me and now I share it with you.
“Wisching” you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year! May you be inscribed.

Beth-El Congregation honored with gift from Richard Baratz

Caricaturist and multimedia artist Richard Baratz has presented Congregation Beth-El with a pen-and-ink portrait of Elie Wiesel, renowned writer, professor, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor.

Photo: Karen Kapan A portrait of Sidney Raimey

Photo: Karen Kapan
A portrait of Sidney Raimey

“He brings energy, humor and insight into the subjects and places he chooses,” said Rabbi Brian Zimmerman. “This is best seen in the wonderful sketch of Elie Wiesel that he presented to our congregation. The human essence of the teacher, writer and thinker, who was a giant of the last century, can be seen clearly in the details of the work,” he added.
“Baratz creates caricatures that bring the personalities of people and the energy of buildings and cities to life. The essence of each subject bursts forth from the page,” said Rabbi Zimmerman.
Beth-El has featured an exhibit of Baratz’ diverse artistic creations, “Capturing the Famous and the Familiar,” which can be viewed through the end of September.
— Submitted by Arlene Reynolds

Catch a ride to the doctor with JFS’ transportation program

Jewish Family Services of Fort Worth and Tarrant County began a transportation program for medical appointments last year. The program has been successful in helping community members go to physical therapy appointments, doctor appointments and surgery centers. “We want everyone in our community to know about this program so they can participate if needed,” said JFS’ Lynell Bond. The service is available for persons without need for a special mobility device as well as those who use mobility devices such as a walker or a motorized wheelchair. If you would like to register to participate, please contact Lynell Bond, case manager, at 817-823-0476. Once enrolled in the program, you will need to schedule appointments at least 48 hours in advance.
— Submitted by Lynell Bond

Mitzvahs in the Sukkah

Tarrant County religious schools and PJ Library are coming together to do Mitzvahs in the Sukkah. Learn all about sukkot while reading, creating, making edible sukkahs, and singing with Eli Davidsohn. The program is for all children ages 3 to third grade. If your child is in religious school, they’ll be attending with their classes. Need a ride? Free bus transportation is available from Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and Chabad of Arlington and Mid-Cities n Arlington. Please visit tarrantfederation.org for details.
There will be a Parents’ Nosh at 9:30 a.m., where parents can enjoy a bagel and schmear and get to know other parents before the Mitzvahs in the Sukkah program!
Mitzvahs in the Sukkah is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El Congregation, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Beth Shalom, Chabad of Fort Worth and Chabad of Arlington and Mid-Cities with financial support from the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation.
— Submitted by Angie Kitzman

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Dallas Doings: Farm-to-city at JCC

Dallas Doings: Farm-to-city at JCC

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Farm-to-City series at the J

City living can be downright stressful, so the Jewish Community Center of Dallas (The J) is bringing the tranquility of farm life to the bustling North Texas metropolis with a Farm-to-City series including Goat Yoga, Pedals & Puppies (canine friendly spin class), Puppy Yoga, hayrides and an Autumn Sukkot Celebration. The series 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.
The Farm-to-City series begins from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, with Goat Yoga Harmony led by Woni on The J’s campus in the relaxing, shaded woods. Participants will enjoy an exhilarating yoga class interacting with baby Pygmy goats eager to join in the poses (the goats only weigh between 10 and 12 pounds, making them the perfect weight for providing a mini-massage). Cost is $15 non-members/$10 members and space is limited.

Photo: JCC Goat Yoga will be back at the JCC on Sept. 24

Photo: JCC
Goat Yoga will be back at the JCC on Sept. 24

On Thursday, Sept. 28 its Pedals & Puppies spin class from 5 to 5:55 p.m. and Puppy Yoga from 6 to 7 p.m. A complimentary “Let’s Get Social” Happy Hour will also be held from 5 to 7 p.m. During Pedals & Puppies, participants are invited to get their blood flowing on a Spinner Chrono Power cycling bike. Adoptable puppies provided by the SPCA will ride along in a few bike baskets ready to give puppy kisses of encouragement to riders in need. Puppy Yoga will take place outside after the ride with another batch of adoptable SPCA cuties ready to practice downward dog along with participants. Both classes are free to attend, but RSVP is required due to space limitations.
Goat Yoga Harmony led by Woni returns from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Sunday, October 1. Cost is $15 non-members/$10 members and space is limited. Reservations can be made at http://bit.ly/2uEh8nn. The Farm-to-City series concludes on Tuesday, Oct. 10 with an Autumn Sukkot Celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. Among the evening’s activities will be Sukkot Goat Yoga led by Woni from 5 to 6 p.m. ($15 non-members/$10 members) meditation in the sukkah, a temporary hut used for Sukkot, from 6:15 to 6:30 p.m. (no cost); as well as complimentary “get away” hay rides from 6 to 7 p.m. and a post-class wine and cheese happy hour until 7 p.m.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer this unique series of opportunities for the community to reset fall spirits and embrace their inner harmony,” said Terri Arends, The J’s group fitness director. “It’s been proven that animals deliver positive wellness, and we hope attendees can breathe in the charm of farm life and find bliss in every breath while connecting with others in the spirit of Sukkot.”
All Farm-to-City series events will be held on The J’s campus at 7900 Northaven Road in Dallas. Space is limited for each class. Reservations are mandatory and can be made at http://bit.ly/2uEh8nn. More information is available http://www.jccdallas.org/main/let-s-get-social/ or by contacting Terri Arends at tarends@jccdallas.org.

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Congregations, JCC team up for seminar

Congregations, JCC team up for seminar

Posted on 20 September 2017 by admin

Three locations to host curriculum on Jewish values, Israeli conflict

By Aaron Greenberg
Special to the TJP

Six local congregations and the Aaron Family JCC are teaming up to present a 12-week seminar called Engaging Israel: Jewish Values and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Three locations will host the course, designed by the Shalom Hartman Institute, a renowned Israeli educational center.

Kushnick

Kushnick

“This curriculum is not a solutions-based curriculum,” said Rabbi Michael Kushnick. “It does not matter if you are an expert on Israeli history or political dynamics in the state of Israel. This curriculum is going to force us as Jews to think about what values should and do guide the state of Israel and why.”
As such, people with greatly differing views might get a better understanding of each other and engage in civil debate.
“You can ask people of different views to sit together because we’re not trying to solve issues,” he said.

Paley

Paley

“It’s a slower, more frustrating process, but what it uncovers is really powerful,” said Rabbi Andrew Paley. “If people are willing to suspend their desire to fix and spend a little time exploring their own reactions, I think it will be hugely successful.”
Kushnick and Rabbi Elana Zelony will teach at Congregation Anshai Torah on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. beginning Oct. 10, while Rabbis Nancy Kasten and Adam Roffman teach at Temple Emanu-El on Thursdays at 7 p.m. starting Oct. 19. Paley will lead the program at Temple Shalom on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. starting Oct. 22. Each session lasts 90 minutes.
Adat Chaverim, Congregation Beth Torah and Congregation Shearith Israel are also participating, and members of the six congregations and the JCC will pay $36 in tuition, with other participants paying $150. The deadline to enroll is Sept. 26.
The collaboration came about after Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Hartman Institute, came to speak at Temple Emanu-El. He then met with the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas. Rachelle Weiss Crane, the director of Israel Engagement and Jewish Learning at the JCC, saw an opportunity for a communitywide effort.
“For some time, I have experienced conversations with students about frustration over the polarization among different members of our community,” Weiss Crane said.
The rabbis embraced the idea of using the Hartman program to open civil conversations. The JCC is helping to coordinate as well as handling applications.
“To do it in conjunction with the rabbis of a number of different synagogues as a consortium was very intriguing,” Weiss Crane said.

Rabbi Kushnick

Rabbi Kushnick

Kushnick also noted the importance of learning across boundaries, especially on major anniversaries of the Balfour Declaration, founding of Israel and Six-Day War.
The curriculum comes from the iEngage series, designed by Hartman as a response to “disenchantment and disinterest toward Israel,” according to its website.
Unit topics explore Jewish narratives of peace, attitudes toward the land from both within and without Israel, justice, self-preservation, compromise and more.
In addition to the texts that will be studied, there are videos featuring Rabbi Hartman and author Yossi Klein Halevi. Students will also have materials to delve into at home.
Scholars from the Hartman Institute are expected to visit at least once this year in conjunction with the seminar.
Some of the rabbis spoke of the difficulties congregants have in reconciling what they hear or see about Israel with their Jewish values.
“As liberal Jews who love Israel and have a relationship with Israel, it’s very worrisome to look at even the demographics of where Israel is going right now and to wonder what the future is for a really pluralistic Jewish homeland where we, if we should decide, or our children decide to live out their Zionist dream,” Rabbi Kasten said.
She believes the course can help Dallas-area Jews to “deepen their connection to Israel and understand how they can support Israel in a way that reflects their Jewish and Zionist values.”
Others talked about the way Jews relate to each other, and how it is often strained when the topic of Israel comes up.
“When it’s a third rail, it’s really hard to maintain the importance of Israel and connection to Israel,” Rabbi Zelony said.
She cited the reaction some groups had to word of J Street’s informational table at the Israel Today symposium held at Temple Shalom.
“That concerns me because these are things we should discuss and not shut out. These are conversations we should be having, and I think disagreement is healthy,” Zelony said.
“I’m a passionate Zionist, and there’s so much tension about Israel that if we can’t talk about it, how can we maintain Zionism?”

Rabbi Adam Roffman

Rabbi Adam Roffman

Rabbi Roffman said most Jews support Israel, “but when we talk about what that support looks like, we disagree.
“When I disagree with someone about what Israel should do, or we’re thinking about how we might come to an end in this conflict, I find always the difference between me and someone else is reflected in our stories. And that’s so important. If you don’t understand the other person’s story, you don’t understand their position. Not just about Israel, but about everything.”
Roffman, who is a rabbi at Conservative Congregation Shearith Israel, will teach with Kasten, who is Reform.
“I love the fact that over the course of the class Nancy and I will disagree,” he said. “And I love that people will see that disagreement and have theirs in a respectful way. That will be an essential part of our experience. I really think that’s going to be wonderful.”
Rabbi Paley has taught Hartman iEngage curricula for the past two years with his congregation, including the Israeli-Palestinian course last year.
“It was an amazing curriculum and discussion we had over several months of learning together,” Paley said. “Having a values-based conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was really interesting and powerful.”
The rabbis expressed hope that there will be future sessions or collaboration on other iEngage programs.
“Ultimately, I think the greater goal is when it comes to issues of concern in the Jewish community, we come together and figure it out,” Paley said.
For those who have not received copies of the application, contact Weiss Crane at rweisscrane@jccdallas.org or Adina Weinberg at aweinberg@jccdallas.org.

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Letters to editor: Extreme views, Harvey response

Posted on 14 September 2017 by admin

Have a letter you want to write to the editor? Email Sharon Wisch-Ray at sharon@tjpnews.com.

Extreme religious views should not be part of TJP’s coverage

I’m writing concerning Rabbi Fried’s column in the Aug. 31 issue of the TJP. In this column, he is asked about the Hebrew alphabet.
Instead of enlightening readers by citing well-known facts that the original Hebrew script was developed in Canaan during the first millennium BCE, a fact that is well-documented by modern scholars and supported by multiple archeological evidence (especially the Zait Stone), he claims that Hebrew is fundamentally different from other languages because both Hebrew letters and words were created by God.
I recognize the fact that there are various streams of Orthodoxy which believe in the supernatural origin of Hebrew. But Rabbi Fried represents the most extreme wing, which does not allow even the slightest acknowledgment of scientific facts.
As a great God-believing scientist once said: “All truth is God’s truth, and therefore God can hardly be threatened by scientific discoveries.” Obviously Rabbi Fried represents the most extreme position.
The most terrifying part of this story is that apart from his dismissal of modern science, he is poisoning curious minds by imposing his medieval philosophy.
The role of the Texas Jewish Post is to inform about events in the Dallas/Fort Worth Jewish Community and not to represent the narrow views of an extreme minority.
— Julian Borejdo, Dallas

Harvey brought out best in our community

The tragedy of Hurricane Harvey specifically targeted our Jewish neighbors and neighborhoods in Houston. Almost overnight, our Dallas community responded with the most amazing love, support and of course with food. We perhaps now hold some type of “world record for kosher Meals on Wheels during a hurricane.”
With the help of our local kosher caterers, synagogues and with funds provided from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, our community delivered thousands (that’s a lot of chicken) of kosher meals in time for Shabbos just days after the hurricane nearly destroyed a community.
Kosher meals provided continued well after Shabbat as it took many days for families to be able to return to their homes. In addition, leaders from the community drove not one but two large trucks full of nearly 16,000 needed items into the Jewish Community Center of Houston, where their tennis courts quickly became a staging ground for distribution.
In this time of crisis I was so proud of our Dallas Jewish community.
From strength to strength.
— Mark Kreditor, Board Chair Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas

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Dallas Doings: Selichot, new Legacy leader, pinball

Dallas Doings: Selichot, new Legacy leader, pinball

Posted on 14 September 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Selichot services at Beth Torah

As has been the custom for many years, the Dallas-area’s three Conservative synagogues — Plano Congregation Anshai Torah, Richardson Congregation Beth Torah and Dallas Congregation Shearith Israel — will observe Selichot services together at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. Congregation Beth Torah, 720 Lookout Drive, will host this year’s program, which features Rabbi Bradley “Brad” Shavit Artson.
Rabbi Artson has been a scholar-in-residence many times throughout the North Texas community and each time his messages are meaningful and inspiring. His topic for Selichot services, which are free and open to the community, is “Teshuvah.” Havdallah will start the evening, followed by the program, Selichot services and dessert.
Rabbi Artson is the Abner and Roslyn Goldstine Dean’s Chair of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, California, where he is vice-president. He supervises the Louis and Judith Miller Introduction to Judaism Program and provides educational and religious oversight for Camp Ramah of California. He is dean of the Zecharias Frankel College at the University of Potsdam in Germany, ordaining Conservative/Masorti rabbis for the European Union.
Rabbi Artson will speak at Beth Torah four additional tines throughout the weekend and all programming is open to the community. However, there are fees associated with some programming. To register and for pricing, visit https://congregationbethtorah.org/selichot-weekend/.

Meet new head of The Legacy Senior Communities

When Bob Weinfeld convenes the latest installment of his “Get to Know Your…” series at the Legacy at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, Melissa Orth will be the guest. Orth is the new president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities, Inc. Before joining the Legacy Aug. 21, Orth has served as the chief operating officer/chief financial officer of Greenhill School for the past 17 years. Weinfeld is thrilled to have Orth join him in the Legacy’s sanctuary for the Q&A style presentation.

Melissa Orth

Melissa Orth

“She is spectacular and it’s going to be a great afternoon,” he told the TJP.

Sabo joins Tiferet Israel as director of Family Programs

Rabbi Meir Sabo, well-known and beloved Akiba Academy teacher, was recently named director of Tiferet Israel’s Young Family Programs to develop and lead services and events for families with children. For Rosh Hashanah Day 1 (Sept. 21) and Day 2 (Sept. 22), Rabbi Sabo will lead a young family service starting at 11 a.m. The service is designed for families who want to daven together with their children and will be similar to Rabbi Sabo’s popular high-energy monthly Shabbat Kulanu service at Tiferet.

Rabbi Meir Sabo (left) and Rabbi Shawn Zell

Rabbi Meir Sabo (left) and Rabbi Shawn Zell

Each service will last about 90 minutes. Younger children who might find that too long who would qualify for this special offer are encouraged to attend with their families for the first 30 minutes, when Rabbi Sabo will focus on child-friendly themes. Then, children are welcome to join Tiferet’s High Holy Day Children’s Program for snacks and crafts. This is a special opportunity for young children to learn and make new friends.
Tiferet Israel is located at 10909 Hillcrest Road, just north of Royal Lane.
For more information about the Family Rosh Hashanah service or the monthly Kulanu service, please call Jennifer at 214-691-3611 or email jennifer@tiferetisrael.org.

Calling all pinball wizards

Louis Marx and his family will host the 5th Annual Alan Marx Memorial IFPA Pinball Fundraiser beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 at the Marx home, 5229 Alec Drive, Garland. Proceeds from the event will benefit Bnai Zion Foundation and Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association.
The highlight of the event will be two IFPA-sanctioned pinball tournaments. The buy-in for the tournament is $30 and a $300 cash prize is guaranteed to the winner. All skill levels are welcome. There is also a casual pinball league event open to everyone at no charge.
At the end of the event a Harlem Globetrotters pinball machine valued at $1500 will be raffled. Raffle tickets are $25 each or $60 for three tickets. You must be present at the time of the raffle to win the machine. The Marx family has an extensive collection of pinball machines at their home. More than 25 pinball and arcade machines will be onsite and set for free play for those who want to just play pinball and not compete. Marx tells the TJP that 100 percent of the event’s proceeds will go to Bnai Zion and DHFLA. Last year $3,900 was raised.

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