Archive | November, 2017

No difference between sport fishing, hunting

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
You recently responded to Kyle that Judaism is opposed to hunting for sport. How do you reconcile that with kosher slaughter, which is also for the benefit of man? You mentioned you would speak about fishing for sport; is that any different?
— Marla T.
Dear Marla,
The Torah’s allowance of utilizing animals for consumption and other needs, such as the leather for shoes, etc., is not a contradiction to what we have explained about hunting for sport. By God allowing these uses, He is revealing how domesticated animals are part of the bigger scheme of creation. Part of their purpose is to serve the needs of man.
With regard to consumption, when an animal is prepared in a kosher way, properly slaughtered, salted and cooked, and is consumed with the proper blessing recited (and especially in honor of the Shabbos or holidays), that animal is elevated from the mundane to the sublime. If its leather is used to produce parchment for a mezuzah, tefillin or a Torah scroll, the animal becomes part of the eternal destiny of the Jewish people.
Man, endowed with a supernal soul which is a spark of the Al-mighty, is not merely a member of the animal kingdom. Part of our task and destiny as Jews is to utilize our soul to elevate the physical world and connect it to eternity. This applies to animals as well, which, although they are living and have a type of soul, do not possess an eternal soul and have no connection to eternity in their own right.
All of the above applies to utilizing animals for man’s needs; it is not an allowance to kill them out of play or sport. Besides being a misuse of the animal, which has a life of its own, it also can breed a level of callousness into the soul of the hunter, a trait which is antithetical to the Jewish trait of kindness. That trait was reinforced, as we mentioned, by our matriarchs and patriarchs all serving as shepherds, the ultimate classroom for compassion. Those great leaders injected that trait into our Jewish genes. Although the world of hunters may have an element of compassion in their killing by culling herds that, not kept in check, would self-destruct by the lack of habitat and the like, we can leave that task to the Gentile world, and a Jew concerned with the fate of the animals can help by creating awareness and raising funds for their benefit.
With regards to fishing, I recommend you look up an article titled Hooked on a Cruel Sport by Orthodox Jewish writer Jeff Jacoby (of the Boston Globe). Therein he cites research that fish experience pain on numerous levels, and there should be no difference between the pain of hooking a fish and inflicting pain upon other animals, despite their silence.
Imagine how we would react if we would find out that some people put a kennel of dogs in a room and, standing above on a balcony, cast a line with a bone hiding a hook, and they catch the dogs on the hook and reel them in to the balcony, only to throw them back down into the pit and to repeat the act for “sport.” We would cry bloody murder! Imagine someone hooking birds in a similar way, only to let them loose for enjoyment. Not a news outlet would omit the travesty, and the offenders would surely be put behind bars!
I, like Jeff Jacoby, see no difference with fish, although they slip silently and invisibly back into the water when cut loose, never uttering an audible protest. Catching them for food is another story, as we explained, but sport? I know this may not make me very popular with many, but what can I do … I have to speak my heart and speak the truth!

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DJCF to award 50 scholarships

DJCF to award 50 scholarships

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

DJCF2017Scholars

Submitted photo Last year’s Dallas Jewish Community Foundation award recipients

By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP

When Dallas resident Seth Kaufman attended law school at Southern Methodist University, he found himself paying what he called “full freight” in year one. Then he learned about student scholarships offered through the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF), and applied.
Kaufman received an award from the Martin Samuelsohn Scholarship Fund, which specifically targeted Jewish students who enrolled in SMU’s law program.
“That scholarship was very helpful,” Kaufman said.
The Samuelsohn scholarship is only one of many being offered by the DJCF for the 2018-2019 school year. The 50 available scholarships are awarded based on everything from academic merit to financial need to community service. Financial awards also target former Camp Chai counselors, Jewish studies majors and yeshiva students.
And, in some cases, the student doesn’t have to be Jewish to be eligible for a scholarship.
“Our fund holders believe in helping the community at large,” said Mona Allen, the DJCF’s director of scholarships and programs. “Those who created funds or scholarships have different reasons for caring and wanting to make a difference.”
The DJCF offered its first scholarships in 1982, and each year offers more funds and awards. The average award is approximately $2,600, with scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. Allen said many of the phone calls the DJCF receives are from students, who are grateful that at least part of the financial burden of college is lifted from their shoulders.
“Students these days aren’t worried about exams or tests,” Allen said. “They’re worried about continuing their education.” Though needs-based loans and scholarships abound, “not every student is eligible for a student loan,” Allen commented. And even if a student can take out a loan, huge debt becomes a problem upon graduation, she added.
Scholarship awards are determined by a leadership committee and an objective decision-making process. Allen said that, by the time committee members receive submissions for review, the applications are scrubbed of all personal information including name, age and gender.
“The committee doesn’t know who the applicants are, other than what they bring to the table, such as grades, accomplishments and the content of their essays,” Allen said. As a result, some interesting stories come out of the process. Allen said the committee  presented awards to a mother and daughter in the past. The committee didn’t even realize it until after the reception.
Essay content as well as accomplishments are important when it comes to who might receive an award and who might not. And, one important issue on which to focus is the award’s purpose.
“Don’t just say ‘I need the money,’” Allen said. “Elaborate. Let us know why. We want to help, but we need as many details as you can provide.”
The leadership committee consists of fund holders, donors, community members and former scholarship recipients, who take everything they receive from applicants very seriously. Kaufman, in fact, who received the Samuelsohn award, is on the leadership committee; he was inspired to do so through a relationship forged with the late Martin Samuelsohn, an SMU law school graduate and businessman.
“He never practiced law in a firm or at a company, but always said the education from the law school served him well,” said Kaufman, who is a tax attorney at AT&T. He went on to say that the relationship with Samuelsohn got him interested in working with the committee. “I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s one way I can give back to the organization that gave to me.”
The fund’s donors, along with the leadership committee, are dedicated to changing people’s lives, as well as serving an entire community, no matter the religion or age, Allen said.
“Education is so very important,” she added. “We’re blessed to have donors who care about the future from that standpoint.”
Scholarship applications are due by noon (CST), Jan. 5, 2018. For more information, go to www.djcf.org/collegescholarships or call 214-615-5268.

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DHFLA offers interest relief for student loans

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP

Imagine this scenario.
You have just graduated from college, and were fortunate enough to land a good job. A few months go by; you’re earning money at a pretty good clip. Then the bill for your first student loan payment arrives. You see the total amount owed, and your heart sinks. Here you are, at the beginning of your career, and you already owe thousands for an education you absolutely needed to get that job.
Or maybe you’re not the student at all. Perhaps you’re the parent of a son or daughter who has just graduated from college, and is turning to you for help in paying off that loan. You shake your head, remembering your own college days, during which the debt with which you graduated wasn’t anywhere near what your offspring will be required to pay back.
The ray of light in this scenario comes courtesy of the Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association (DHFLA) and its Higher Education Consolidation Loan. If the student is Jewish, and lives in Dallas, he or she could be eligible for up to $25,000 of interest-free money to help pay off that loan.

Riddled with debt

The history of student loans stretches back to 1840, when money was provided to students at Harvard University. At the end of the 20th century, the Higher Education Amendments led to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which puts students and their families in touch with all kinds of low-interest subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans. By the early 21st century, student loan debt rates began to soar.
According to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, a college student graduating in 2016 owed anywhere from $20,000 to $36,360, depending on the school and geography. A newly minted 2016 undergraduate from a Texas college or university ended up owing $26,292, on average, a 43.4 percent jump from the $18,334 average of a decade ago.
“Student loan debt is outrageous,” said Harrison Goldman, DHFLA president. “The statements begin coming in six months after graduation, and that is definitely a dose of reality for the student.” The end result, he went on to say, can often be loan default, which makes the situation even worse for a student who is trying to build a credit record.

Founding the program

The DHFLA’s Higher Education Consolidation Loan program — different from the organization’s Education Loan program, which provides funding while the student is in college — was the brainchild of one of the DHFLA’s younger members. “She said we weren’t appealing to that portion of the Dallas market that was in dire need, the segment that comes out of school with all of the debt,” Goldman said. The result was the Higher Education Consolidation Loan program, which officially launched Jan. 1, 2016. These days, the program makes up approximately 33 percent of the organization’s loan portfolio, thanks to a bequest received a handful of years ago.
“Typically, the loan is issued when the student gets the final degree, but if his or her loans are being amortized now, through the lender, that student can apply now,” Goldman said. “But the student can only receive tuition reimbursement once.” Meanwhile, a huge benefit is that the loan is interest-free. If an applicant is approved, the DHFLA pays the money directly to the lender, and the student can have up to six years to pay back the DHFLA.
But, before you knock on the DHFLA door to request money to consolidate, there are a few restrictions with the program. First, you have to be Jewish, and you have to have lived in the Dallas area for at least six months. People in Fort Worth and Tarrant County are excluded, as they are covered by Tarrant County Hebrew Free Loan Association.
It is not mandated, however, that you must have attended a Dallas-area school.
“Someone could attend Brown University (in Providence, Rhode Island), for example, graduate, move back to Dallas, find a job here, live here for six months, then avail themselves of the loan,” Goldman said.
Additionally, if you are already paying off a DHFLA loan, you aren’t eligible to participate in the program. The program won’t pay off credit cards used for tuition, only bank loans. You’ll need at least two credit-worthy guarantors to co-sign for your loan, which can include your parents. If you’re married, the guarantor count is increased to three, as your spouse will be included. Finally, you aren’t eligible if you or your guarantors have poor credit, or are in bankruptcy.
Those who are eligible for the Higher Education Consolidation Loan program can receive interest-free relief to a student loan problem that might seem insurmountable. “Our target audience consists of those who are graduating, and who are living in Dallas,” Goldman said. “We’re trying to move the money around in the community.”
For more information on the Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association’s Higher Education Consolidation Loan program — or any other program — go to dhfla.org or call 214-696-8008.

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Young virtuoso takes glass from gob to art

Young virtuoso takes glass from gob to art

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

According to the young man with an old soul, “A real artist always must want to do what they are doing. It can never be a job. There is always a feeling of joy, as if they are in harmony with the world.”

According to the young man with an old soul, “A real artist always must want to do what they are doing. It can never be a job. There is always a feeling of joy, as if they are in harmony with the world.”

 

Glassblower Waranch honing skill set for bright future career

By Shari Stern
Special to the TJP

In addition to “mind-blowing,” “breathtaking” might be the best way to describe Simon Waranch’s glassblowing work. Each of the artist’s glass pieces is a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind treasure.
The 2017 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts was on a freshman trip to Italy when, while in Murano, he became enamored with the art form of glassblowing.
“I went to a glass hot shop studio and watched glassblowers immersed in their art. The physicality mixed with the creative was me,” Waranch said. “I was hooked. I knew it immediately … (but) the one form of art Booker T. doesn’t teach is glassblowing.”
He found Carlyn Ray Designs and took classes at her studio, Dallas Glass Art. Ray invited him to be an apprentice.
“Simon came to my studio as a young art student in high school and after seeing glass, he fell in love,” Carlyn Ray said. “In the beginning, as he was developing his skills, what stood out to me was his awareness and sensitivity to his environment.”
Waranch was on her production team, assisting Ray with her work. After a year, Ray offered Waranch a position at her studio.
Today Waranch is a glassblower and instructor of the art form.
“I learned the skills through classes and on-the-job training,” Waranch said with pride. Today Waranch is in his first year at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
Ray’s business work has three elements: Carlyn Ray Designs, Dallas Glass Art and a nonprofit educational component Art Reaching Out (ARO). The organization focuses on high-risk kids, especially young women. They are given instruction in glassblowing. Waranch has taught some of those classes.
The young man’s work is not sold at retail or wholesale, but is commission-based in fine art galleries, and can be seen at high-end installations, both residential and corporate. His first major installation is in the new Gardere Wynne Sewell LLB Law Offices on McKinney Avenue. On two floors, hanging from the ceiling down a hallway at varied lengths, are what Waranch calls “Mercury Drops.”
“Their fluidity is mesmerizing,” he said. “My inspiration for Mercury Drops was the Bean in Chicago.” The Cloud Gate Sculpture, also known as the “Bean,” is one of the highlights of Chicago’s Millennium Park, designed by artist Anish Kapoor.
“With Mercury Drops, I wanted to create an organic form that brought an unusual peacefulness in the setting and that attracted human interaction. Your eyes look up at an individual shape and mirror a perception of yourself from multiple points of view, sometimes distorted, sometimes accurate.”

His first major installation is in the new law offices of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLB on McKinney Avenue. On two floors, hanging from the ceiling down a hallway at random lengths, are Mercury Drops.

His first major installation is in the new law offices of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLB on McKinney Avenue. On two floors, hanging from the ceiling down a hallway at random lengths, are Mercury Drops.

In May, Waranch created a commission project for the Hotel Versey in Chicago, and in August he did a commission installation for a renovated Embassy Suites in downtown Baltimore. His organic work is not only interesting to look at from all angles, but also to touch. “All of my pieces are free-blown, not using molds,” he explained.
Ray continued, “At Dallas Glass Art, we teach both with encouragement but also if your goal is to strive to be a glassblower, we provide real-world life lessons into the process. These lessons Simon experienced with us and through taking various classes really helped him grow as a person and artist, and accompany his passion and drive to further learn glass. Simon has the drive, love for the material, and business mind to become a successful artist.”
The entrepreneur added, “Simon is an expressive and passionate person and has chosen the material of glass as his muse. He is developing his language to speak through this material, but the message is out. Simon is creating his path and sharing his milestones with Dallas as he develops his works of art. I am looking forward to seeing where the relationship of Simon and glass will go and what will emerge from this fiery passion.”
Regarding his future Waranch said, “My goal is to grow my business as well as my skills with glass. I want to be considered a maestro before I’m 25.” The 18-year-old continued, “I want to open up my own studio in Dallas within the next four to six years. I love what I do. I have found I am happiest when working with glass, and just as happy when someone purchases my glass. Glass pushes me as a person because there is always something new to learn.”
Waranch will have his first one-man show Dec. 2 at LMB Art Glass Design with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. The gallery is in the Arts District at 1644 Irving Blvd., Dallas.
To enjoy Waranch’s work online, visit simonwaranch.com and lmbartglass.com/collections/simon-waranch. To contact the artisan, reach him at simonwaranch@gmail.com or by phone at 972-742-9055.

According to the young man with an old soul, “A real artist always must want to do what they are doing. It can never be a job. There is always a feeling of joy, as if they are in harmony with the world.”

According to the young man with an old soul, “A real artist always must want to do what they are doing. It can never be a job. There is always a feeling of joy, as if they are in harmony with the world.”

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Forgiveness brings relief to both victim, actor

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, Jacob is returning from Haran and pauses on the shores of the Jabbok River in fear of confronting his brother Esau. Jacob had left his parents and brother behind in the Land of Israel to go to Haran to escape his brother and to find a wife.
Well, he found not one but two wives, two concubines, 12 named children, large flocks and tremendous wealth. But in all the years he was away, he never had the opportunity to reconcile with his brother Esau.
As far as Jacob knew, Esau still wanted to kill him for tricking Esau out of his birthright and stealing their father’s blessing. That night before the confrontation with Esau, Jacob was visited by a man and they wrestled all night. Who was it? Was it an angel of God?
Was it his own conscience, his own guilt at confronting after 20 years his past actions? What the text tells us is that he was forever changed by the experience. His name was changed from Jacob, meaning the heel, to Israel, meaning the one who struggles with God. Also, his hip was wrenched and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
In the morning, Jacob looked up to see his brother Esau approaching with 400 men, a large number for a welcoming party but not too large for an army. Jacob was understandably worried about Esau’s anger and he was afraid of what his brother might do. I love the language of their meeting because it’s filled with tension and release. Jacob “himself went on ahead and bowed low to the ground seven times until he was near his brother.”
I can just see him bowing and scraping and reluctantly drawing closer as if approaching a large and dangerous animal. The text continues: “Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and, falling on his neck…” Like a predator? Like a lion biting the neck of its prey? “… he kissed him; and they wept.”
Granted it had been 20 years since they last saw each other, but they reconciled and forgave each other. Jacob, after all his worry and fear, exclaimed to Esau: “to see your face is like seeing the face of God, and you have received me favorably.”
How many have hurt and been hurt by those we love? How many of us struggle and wrestle with complicated and tangled personal relationships?
The problem when we have unresolved anger and hurt in our personal relationships, is that we end up like Jacob on the banks of the Jabbok River, emotionally limping from the encounter. When we wrestle, grappling with the damage in our relationships, who is it that ends up limping? It would be better to seek forgiveness when we have hurt loved ones, attempting to right the wrong.
It would be far better for us to forgive freely when we have been hurt by our loved ones, if not for their sake then for our own. When we freely forgive, we are able to release our own hurt rather than emotionally limping from the burden. Jacob and Esau never did become close, but they were able to come together later to mourn their father, Isaac, when he died.
Our damaged relationships may never be the same, but through forgiveness we won’t be left with a permanent limp.
Rabbi Ben Sternman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Adat Chaverim in Plano.

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Return of Torah remarkable tale

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

By now, every Jew should know about the Czech Torahs, and most have probably seen at least one — so many have found new homes in American houses of worship since their reclamation following the Holocaust.
Hitler had sequestered them after he raided synagogues throughout that country, with the idea of someday putting them on exhibit in his intended “Museum of an Extinct Race.”
Of course, his aims were foiled and those precious scrolls were saved — more than 1,500 of them — and transported to Westminster Synagogue in London, where they were evaluated, repaired for resumed ritual use if possible, or for display and educational purposes if not. Czech Torahs are now important fixtures in the institutions that have “adopted” them, for they are not in anyone’s ownership; they are on perpetual loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust…
Except for one, which has now been restored to its actual place of origin. And its heartwarming story involves a family in our very own community!
Gary and Ellen Ackerman of Dallas have one son who is a rabbi, and one daughter who is married to a rabbi. This last, Corey Helfand, is the center of a very recent event: the return of one of those precious Czech Torahs to the same place from which it was taken by the Nazis. Over past years, some of those precious scrolls have been passed on to European congregations, but the fact that there is still a congregation to welcome back its very own Torah — that is truly a miracle of sorts. A story worth telling, one that has now been told in the Jewish Chronicle of London and is traveling around the world.
The Ackermans’ son-in-law, Rabbi Helfand, traveled with his congregation’s precious cargo almost 6,000 miles, from Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, California to Olomouc, Czechoslovakia, to return this Torah to the very place from which it had been removed more than 75 years ago. His synagogue raised the money necessary to make the holy scroll — thought to have first been scribed in 1880 — kosher again. Its original home was burnt down by the Nazis in 1939, but there is now a growing Jewish community in the old neighborhood that was there to welcome its Torah back again.
Peter Briess is 86 years old. He and his immediate family were able to leave Olomouc when they gave their home to the German invaders, but the rest of his relatives all died in the horrors that followed. He now lives in England, and came back to his hometown with his sister and a nephew for the Shabbat morning service during which he carried the restored Torah, and for the formal welcoming ceremony the next day.
The Chronicle quotes his joy: “I was the only person there who had actually attended the original synagogue where this scroll was used,” he said. “I still remember going there for Simchat Torah and other festivals. My parents were married in that shul.”
A varied crowd of dignitaries was in attendance: Jeffrey Ohrenstein, chairman of the Memorial Scrolls Trust, was there, along with the Czech Republic’s Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon; also Daniel Meron, its Israeli ambassador, whose wife’s family was originally from Olomouc. But most important was Rabbi Moshe Druin, the American sofer who restored the Torah; he called upon those men — and of course Mr. Briess — to fill in the very last letters. When that was completed, “I cried,” said Petr Papousek, president of the town’s Jewish community. “That doesn’t happen to me often. I hope it (the Torah) will bring our community more energy and enthusiasm for the future.” Then singing and dancing accompanied the scroll as it was placed into the Ark that has become its new, permanent home.
Last Shabbat, when Rabbi and Mrs. Helfand were visiting her family, he told this remarkable story to an especially appreciative audience: the worshippers at Beth Torah, the Ackermans’ home congregation for many years.

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Around the Town: Interfaith coalition, Thanksgiving

Around the Town: Interfaith coalition, Thanksgiving

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Beth Shalom hosts Arlington Interfaith Coalition program

On Nov. 4, Congregation Beth Shalom hosted a Havdalah service and reception for the Arlington Interfaith Coalition. In addition to Beth Slalom’s Cantor Sheri Allen, Dina Malki of the Al-Hedayah Islamic Center and Shepherd of Life Lutheran Church Pastor John Foster led a talk on how each religion celebrates its respective Sabbaths. Also discussed was how each faith distinguishes between holy and secular time. The Beth Shalom Players presented a short play.

Cantor Sheri Allen explains the Torah to Beth Shalom’s guests.

Cantor Sheri Allen explains the Torah to Beth Shalom’s guests.

B’nai B’rith’s Thanksgiving tradition

It’s an annual Thanksgiving tradition in Fort Worth — members of the Isadore Garsek B’nai B’rith Lodge and additional volunteers cook and serve a Thanksgiving lunch at Congregation Beth-El for up to 100 Jewish Seniors from all over Tarrant County. And the next day they did it all over again, this time serving over 120 Thanksgiving dinners to senior residents at the Fort Worth Mollie and Max Barnett B’nai B’rith Apartments.
Rich Hollander wrote to volunteers, “I want to thank all of you for your help this morning.  I think what we did was a rousing success. The food was good, well presented, and much appreciated by people that have less than we do.  It is so encouraging for me to know that in this day of self-centered life styles our community has a group of people willing and eager to give back to those that may be a bit less blessed than we are.”

(Clockwise from left) Marvin Beleck, Rich Hollander, Phyllis Levy, Jim Stanton and Linda Moses take a break from making Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen.

(Clockwise from left) Marvin Beleck, Rich Hollander, Phyllis Levy, Jim Stanton and Linda Moses take a break from making Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen.

 

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DJHS seeks memorable menorahs

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP

This year, Hanukkah begins the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 12. Though the Festival of Lights is still a couple of weeks away, you might already be dusting off your hanukkiah, taking out the latke and sufganiot recipes, and searching high and low for those missing dreidels that are firmly entrenched in the darkest depths, under your sofa.
And, if you have a meaningful or unique hanukkiah you won’t be using this year, you might consider donating it to the Dallas Jewish Historical Society’s menorah exhibit, Let There Be Light.
“We have a few already in our collection,” said Debra Polsky, the DJHS executive director. The late Ann Sikora, one of the leaders of the Dallas Jewish community, designed one such menorah. That hanukkiah is in the shape of a mariachi band. Others have been donated, over the years, to the organization. “Now we’re reaching out to ask people to loan us their menorahs for the upcoming show,” Polsky said.
Presenting Jewish symbols with community donations isn’t new for the DJHS. A year ago, the organization borrowed dreidels from the community, and put together an exhibit.
“People really loved it,” Polsky said. “When it comes to ritual objects, people looking at it will say ‘I have one like that’ or ‘My mother had one like that’ or even ‘I’ve never seen one like that.’ ”
The favorable reaction to the dreidel exhibit was one reason why Polsky pushed forward on a menorah show. Another reason was because of the menorah itself. While the dreidel is meant for fun and games, lighting the hanukkiah fulfills a mitzvah.
“Whenever you display an article that fulfills a mitzvah, such as a mezuzah or menorah, you are supposed to make the mitzvah as beautiful as possible, hiddur mitzvah,” Polsky said. “That’s why Torah covers are so beautiful. And that’s why you see beautiful menorahs and mezuzahs.”
Designs for hanukkiot can range from the traditional brass or silver nine-branch types that continue to be popular, to those that are reflective of the art, design and fashion of their times. “One of the menorahs we have, and that we’re using, is made from different types of women’s shoes,” Polsky pointed out.
As such, Polsky said the exhibit will accept both traditional and unusual hanukkiot, but there is a caveat to this. For one thing, as the display will begin before Hanukkah and run through the holiday, don’t expect to use that menorah in your home. And second, the object needs to have some kind of personal or other history. Polsky said she has about three windows to fill, and she wants to fill those windows with meaningful objects.
“We want menorahs that people have bought, or have, either because it meant something to them, or it tickled their fancy,” she said. “We’re looking for anything that reflects the person who is loaning the piece to us, or that reflects the times during which it was made.”
Depending on the success of this year’s menorah exhibit, Polsky indicated she might look into mounting other displays in the future, one with Seder plates, for example. But, for the time being, the DJHS would like to share your menorah with others. If you’re unable to do that, the DJHS invites you to visit the display. And, when you do so, Polsky hopes it provides an understanding of how ritual objects reflect the Jewish community of its time, whether the hanukkiah is a more traditional one from 1920s Europe, or an emoji version that comes complete with LED lights.
“These objects reflect who we are, and what we think is beautiful,” Polsky added. “Though our idea of beauty changes throughout the ages, the idea of beautifying a mitzvah remains with us.”
For more information on the exhibit, and where to donate, contact Debra Polsky at 214-239-7120, or email her at info@djhs.org.

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Happiness, growth more related than you think

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

A despondent congregant came to speak with me. She felt immense anguish over the large chasm that existed between her current spiritual state and the spiritual state that she felt confident she was capable of achieving and, alas, was not.
What do you say to such a person when you concur that hers is a very real dilemma, worthy of careful consideration and personal concern, and yet, you equally recognize that her heightened degree of private turmoil is such that instead of serving as a source of personal motivation to bridge her spiritual gap it has rather become for her a deep-seated source of internal paralysis and harmful self-loathing?
One can imagine the delicate balance required of anyone considering a response to such a sensitive inquiry. The answer given will either affirm the spiritual dilemma at hand and perpetuate the congregant’s negative beliefs about themselves, or soothe the congregant’s nerves while minimizing what should be a serious issue of concern to any committed Jew. I therefore decided to address both sides of the matter at hand.
I offered suggestions that I thought might booster her spiritual growth, but I also tried to raise her up in her own eyes. “The fact that you care so deeply about your spiritual life, about living your life with the utmost meaning, is itself an incredible achievement that needs to be recognized,” I told her. “Unlike so many others, you are playing the game of life the way it’s supposed to be played. And that alone should fill you with an incredible feeling of pride and self-satisfaction!” I was pleased to see that my words had hit their mark and that my congregant left with a newfound kick in her step as well as a vision of how to proceed going forward.
I found myself reflecting upon this exchange with a congregant upon completing Victor Frankl’s masterful work, Man’s Search For Meaning.
He first clarified his belief that man’s primary motivational force is the striving to find meaning in one’s life, which is in contradistinction to Alfred Adler’s belief in the primacy of the will to power, and Freud’s central focus on the pleasure principle. Frankl recognized the centrality of the will to power and the will to pleasure in mankind, but saw those as expressions of a frustrated will to meaning. “Sometimes the frustrated will to meaning is vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money. In other cases, the place of frustrated will to meaning is taken by the will to pleasure” (p.107).
Frankl bemoans what he deems to be the “mass neurosis of the present time,” something he terms “the existential vacuum.” What is this existential vacuum? In Frankl’s words, it “can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as the contention that being has no meaning” (p.129)
In other words, we live in a world in which people have largely ceased believing that human life and the process of living has intrinsic meaning. Rather, more and more individuals are convinced that life is but the “result of biological, psychological and sociological conditions, or the product of heredity and environment” (p.130). And what meaning, what dignity, can there be for man who is essentially reduced to an advanced, randomly conceived machine?
Or as Frankl puts it in a postscript written almost 40 years after the original release of his book, “As to the causation of the feeling of meaninglessness, one may say, albeit in an oversimplifying vein, that people have enough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning” (p.140).
Frankl adds that one of the primary reasons why this epidemic is so pronounced in the modern age is that “man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing” (p.106). This seems to me a reference to the post-enlightenment’s abandonment of religion en masse. For if religion is that vehicle that most directly asserts meaning into man’s life, and if meaning is the dominant motivational force of man, modern man’s abandonment of religion can be seen as nothing less than catastrophic in its psychological implications for mankind.
It is for this reason that Frankl urges the reader to run once again toward meaning, and not away from it. The challenge: This striving for meaning necessarily introduces a new degree of tension into one’s life that, like the tension of my congregant, is oftentimes uncomfortable. In one of the most compelling paragraphs in the entire book, Frankl writes:
“Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become… We should not, then, be hesitant about challenging man with a potential meaning for him to fulfill. It is only thus that we evoke his will to meaning from its state of latency. I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, ‘homeostasis,’ i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task” (pp.104-105).
It’s worth noting that for all of the tension that the striving for meaning spawns, it is this very progress that generates the seeds to human happiness. Again the wise words of Victor Frankl:
“To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’ Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation” (p.138).
How similar is this reflection to the teaching of the great German Torah sage, Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch zt’’l (1808-1888), who taught in his commentary to the Chumash (Devarim 4:1) that the word simcha, “happiness,” is etymologically related to the word tzmicha, “growth.” The concept is that one cannot achieve the state of happiness by pursuing happiness directly, as happiness is not a product in and of itself. Happiness is, rather, the natural byproduct of, and emotional response to, the experience of human growth.
The time has come, then, for us to reconsider our emotionally-fraught relationship with tension-filled meaning, if for no better reason than the selfish pursuit of our very own happiness.
To contact Rabbi Yogi Robkin, email him at yrobkin@dataofplano.org.

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Take time to be thankful

Posted on 30 November 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
Thanksgiving is over and we are getting ready for Hanukkah. At the J, our “Jewish Value of the Month” is “Hoda’ah — Appreciation or Gratitude.” Being thankful is a life-affirming quality.
A new poll has found that Americans think their own gratitude is increasing, while everyone else’s is going down (survey commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation). What does that say about us? Here are some of the findings:

  • How important is gratitude? More than 90 percent agreed that grateful people are more fulfilled, lead richer lives and are more likely to have friends.
  • When do we feel grateful? Given a list of categories, people were most grateful for their immediate families, followed closely by freedom.
  • How do we say “thanks”? Less than 50 percent said they would be “very likely” to thank salespeople that helped them, as well as the postman, the cleaning staff, etc.
  • Who is grateful? Women were more grateful than men; 18- to 24-year-olds express gratitude less often than any other age group; people were least likely to express gratitude in workplaces…despite wishing to be thanked more often themselves at work.

Lots of interesting facts and thoughts for us to work on in our daily lives! Judaism has a way to express thanks — saying blessings! The rabbis tell us to say 100 blessings every day; however, the only Torah-based blessing is the Birkat Hamazon, the blessing after the meal. It is written in Deuteronomy 8:10, “And you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless Adonai your God for the good land which God has given you.” There are four blessings in the traditional Birkat Hamazon:

  • Birkat Hazan: praising God for sustaining life and providing food for all creatures.
  • Birkat Haaretz: thanking God for being compassionate and nourishing the Jewish people, both with food and with Torah.
  • Birkat Yerushalayim: begging God to be merciful and continue to support the Jewish people and to rebuild Jerusalem.
  • Birkat Hatov v’Hameitiv: This blessing ends by voicing the hope that “God will never deny us anything good.”

It is an interesting idea that blessing after you eat is commanded. Perhaps that is when we are feeling most thankful. Yet, saying blessings before makes us stop and think about how fortunate we are and to take a moment to appreciate it before moving on. Take time during the holiday season to be thankful every moment of every day!

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