Archive | April, 2018

Parashah calls us to lead moral, just lives

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

This week’s Torah portion, as read in the Diaspora, is Acharei Mot/Kedoshim, and I find it to be one of the most inspiring of Torah portions.
Chapter 19 in the Book of Leviticus begins with a ringing call to action, a Divine inspiration that calls us to live our best lives: “You shall be holy for I the Eternal your God am holy.” We have a purpose in life: to lead lives that are elevated above the common, that are examples of proper behavior in front of the world.
Further, God does not leave us guessing how we are to live lives of holiness. “Be good” is a nice exhortation, but not terribly useful unless you’ve already been told what it means to be good or, in our case, what it means to be holy. More specificity is better, and we get it here in the Levitical holiness code.
Verses 9 and 10 command us not to harvest 100 percent of our fields and vineyards. Rather, we are to leave behind a portion of the crops for the poor and disadvantaged to harvest for themselves. It is a way of sharing the bounty God gives us while allowing the less fortunate to sustain themselves and maintain their own dignity. Today, when we no longer live in an agricultural society, we can still learn to create systems that sustain the poor in a dignified manner.
Verse 13 commands us to deal fairly with those whom we employ. We cannot short them or delay paying them or take advantage in general of the people who depend on us for their living. We may have economic power over those whom we employ, but we are forbidden to use that power unfairly.
I find Verse 14 to be inspiring because we are commanded not to insult the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind. The rabbis expand the meaning significantly beyond the two examples listed to demonstrate that even if we won’t be caught, we are forbidden to wrong others, nor may we lead others astray with temptation. For example, if you know your guest is on a diet, don’t urge them to have dessert. If you know someone is an alcoholic, don’t offer them a drink.
We are commanded to establish a purely just society in Verse 15. We are called upon to create a society that favors neither the rich nor the poor. We might be tempted to favor the rich because of their power or the poor because they are up against deep pockets. Yet the society we create should be strictly, purely just.
Verses 33 and 34 are especially important in today’s society. We are commanded never to wrong the stranger, for once we were strangers in the Land of Egypt. We must have compassion for all human beings, remembering the suffering of our own people throughout history. We might be tempted to treat our own people well but others poorly, but we are commanded to fight against this temptation.
What I find most interesting is Verse 35, in which we are commanded to have strictly honest weights and measures. Honesty in business is a religious obligation and you shouldn’t say, “Oh, but rabbi, I deal in the real world.” No. Honesty is for all times and places.
Being holy isn’t reserved for special people or religious leaders. Acting in a way that is holy is for all of us, through our everyday actions. Through this week’s Torah portion, I feel God’s inspiration to live up to our highest ideals, creating a moral and just society.
Rabbi Benjamin Sternman is the spiritual leader of Adat Chaverim, Plano’s Reform congregation.

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Justice doesn’t always mean exactly the same

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
Kids always tell their parents, “That’s not fair!” What exactly are they thinking? What is “fair”? Fairness is a word that is really about justice (mishpat in Hebrew), and justice may be an even harder word for children and for us.
The message of justice is deeply implanted in the spirit of Jewish life. The Torah is filled with laws and examples of how to make a fair judgment and the importance of being fair and just.
• You shall not render an unfair decision: Do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus)
• Only to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. (Micah)
Rabbi Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” This is a very easy way to understand how to treat others. However, being fair isn’t always easy or simple. Fair doesn’t always mean the same.
Here are some good questions to talk about and a great discussion starter story:
* Have you ever been treated unfairly? How did it make you feel?
* Do you think it is fair that older children get to stay up later and do more things than younger children? Why or why not? Do you think it is fair that boys get to do things that girls don’t get to do and vice versa? Why or why not?
* Some families have a rule that if there is a piece of cake to share, one person gets to cut it and the other gets to choose the first piece. How is this a fair way to divide the cake? Can this system be used in other areas?
Shabbat story discussion
A young boy came to a woman’s house and asked if she would like to buy some of the berries he had picked from his father’s fields. The woman said, “Yes, I would, and I’ll just take your basket inside to measure out 2 quarts.”
The boy sat down on the porch and the woman asked, “Don’t you want to watch me? How do you know that I won’t cheat you and take more than 2 quarts?” The young boy said, “I am not afraid, for you would get the worst of the deal.” “How could that be?” she asked. The boy answered, “If you take more than the 2 quarts that you are paying me for, I would only lose the berries. You would make yourself a liar and a thief.”
Talk about the meaning of this story with your family.
We should always try to do the fair and just thing — it is an important value to live by.

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Putting one shoe in front of the other

Putting one shoe in front of the other

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Photo: Brendan Chavez
University of Oklahoma senior and Dallas native Brennan Pailet puts his best foot forward as founding owner of ShoePlug pop-up shop — at West Village through Sunday and always online at ShoePlug.com.

By Deb Silverthorn

As he puts his best foot forward, Brennan Pailet’s ShoePlug pop-up shop has four days left of its run in Dallas’ West Village, offering high-end, exclusive sneakers, street wear and accessories. The store is open from noon to 8 p.m. through this Sunday, April 29, at 3699 McKinney Ave. in Dallas.
“We provide an experience; it’s not ‘just shopping,’” said Pailet, 22, a business major and senior at the University of Oklahoma. “Our clients are hype-beasts and luxury shoppers, and they want what they can’t find in the stores and on most websites. (The merchandise is) gone sometimes in seconds.”
Pailet’s lines run from $100 to $2,000 and across the board in-between, with items in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes. Brands include Fenty Puma by Rihanna, Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy, Off-White x Nike, Supreme x Louis Vuitton and more.
Pailet opened his 10-day Dallas run, the first of six cities, on April 20. Next up, also with only 10-day advance notice, are Atlanta, Austin, Houston and more that he plans to spot in the coming months. After a similar and very successful trial last winter, Pailet was excited to see prospective customers waiting for hours in lounge chairs for the doors to open on the first day.
“We announce our openings and locations on social media, and if you want to be there, you’ve got to follow us. It’s the ‘get it now’ and adrenaline that pushes a lot of the business,” said Pailet, whose website, ShoePlug.com, is open year-round. The company’s Instagram “theshoeplugco” has more than 20,000 followers. “Part of what our shoppers enjoy is the spontaneity of the experience and that includes not knowing where we’ll be until about 10 days before we open.”
In addition to creative and innovative displays, including the Off-White Nike and Sean Wotherspoon 97/1, ShoePlug’s Creator Lab, a one-hour workshop, is open on a first-come, first-serve basis, with advance appointments sold out shortly after the social media announcement. At the Creator Lab, clients receive a pair of shoes, and then materials, colors and accessories to customize them. The ShoePlug staff provides cutting, gluing and stitching to realize each design.
One could say Pailet’s entrepreneurial sole, comes from his soul. He is the son of business owners Summer and Jeff, who he says have always set the bar high. Setting an example for his younger brothers, Asher and Jaden, who have put in their own sweat equity, Pailet definitely is a “doesn’t fall far from the tree” pro.
“We’ve definitely shared our experiences and some guidance but this is Brennan’s baby and we couldn’t be more proud,” said Jeff Pailet, who, like Summer, is on board and happy to advise. “Summer had her own business for many years and is now a partner at ID360, and I’ve worked in the family business, Pailet Diamond Company, my grandparents Frances and Ervin Donsky absolutely teaching me and influencing my decision to follow them.”
Brennan’s father says that he, his wife, and now his son’s businesses have all had creativity, a unique product line, and a must to connect with the customer as a baseline. “We’ve all had different things we sell but at the core, how we work is very similar.”
A Plano West High School graduate, Pailet was a member of BBYO’s Eamonn Lacey AZA and has grown up at Congregation Shearith Israel.
“When I’m working and setting up shop till four or six in the morning before we first open, it doesn’t matter. It’s all so exciting, and I’m learning so much along the way. I’m a sneakerhead too, and I get it. I want to provide customers with what they can’t find, what’s most often seen on the East and West Coasts,” Pailet said. “I’ve learned from my family and other mentors that being honest and treating my clients with respect is all I have.”
ShoePlug can be also be found at Facebook “ShoePlugCo” and on Twitter “TheShoe_Plug.”

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NTJDC hosts forum anticipating runoff vote

NTJDC hosts forum anticipating runoff vote

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

From left, Janice Schwarz, Lorie Burch, Sam Johnson and Mel Wolovitz at the April 23 candidate forum hosted by North Texas Jewish Democratic Council

 

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

Some Dallas County Democrats just need to win their runoffs on May 22.
Incumbent judges Carl Ginsberg, Martin Hoffman and Ken Tapscott made the case for their re-election to the bench at a forum hosted by North Texas Jewish Democratic Council (NTJDC) on April 23.
While the incumbents were not popular enough with voters to avoid the runoffs, they argued they are more qualified than their runoff opponents, Bridgett Whitmore, Kim Brown and Paula Rosales.
Voters have returned them to the bench multiple times, and Republicans do not field candidates against them. The eventual nominee faces no Republican opposition in the fall.
Other Democrats at the forum are not as lucky to avoid general election opponents.
But they know that. Like Democrats around the country since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, they are anxious to take on Republicans.
Among those in attendance was gubernatorial candidate Andrew White of Houston, who is seeking the party’s nomination to take on incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. He faces Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez for the nomination. The race is an uphill climb even to the most optimistic Democrat. But White thinks “common sense” Democrats like him have a chance by steering clear of divisive social issues and instead focusing on the nuts and bolts of government.
Valdez was not in attendance.
Down the ballot, four candidates seeking to take on Republicans running for Congress said they would love the audience’s votes. But they will completely support the eventual victor. Collin Allred and Lillian Salerno are seeking to take on incumbent Congressman Pete Sessions, a longtime Republican from Dallas. Sessions did not face a Democrat in 2016. But the party is bullish that Sessions is vulnerable. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district.
Allred and Serano defeated five other candidates in the March 6 primary. Former Congressman Martin Frost, who is Jewish and whom Sessions defeated in 2004, has endorsed Allred. Both are from the district and worked in President Barack Obama’s administration. Both agreed that, whoever wins the runoff, Sessions should not be re-elected.
“Our democracy is at risk,” Salerno said, with Republicans like Sessions and Trump.
Lorie Burch and Sam Johnson are seeking an open congressional seat in Collin County — ironically being vacated by longtime Republican Rep. Sam Johnson. One of them will face Republican Van Taylor, a state senator, in the fall.
“People are hungry for leadership,” said Burch, a lawyer whose wife is Jewish. She has spent months talking to voters and listening to their issues. Voters want a problem solver who sees all perspectives.
“You can protect life and support reproductive rights. You can love God and believe in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights,” she said.
Johnson, who is Jewish, has been involved in politics for as long as he remembers. Democrats are independent thinkers. Taylor is a conservative partisan, he said.
Both pledged to support the eventual nominee.
Audience questions took on issues most important to Democrats, including expanding access to health care, reforming the redistricting process and perceived Democratic weakness on Israel.
“Democrats are not weak on Israel. That is a Republican fallacy,” Johnson said.
In fact, Allred noted he was at the American Israel Political Action Committee annual Dallas dinner the previous evening.
“Among the photos on the screen were of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter negotiating peace accords,” he said. “They are Democrats.”
But Democrats admitted they cannot rely on their party’s enthusiasm alone in their races. They need Republicans to cross over and vote for them, too.
Rabbi Neil Katz is an independent candidate running against a hard-right state representative in East Texas. He is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. But he spoke to the crowd, too. He is taking on Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, and leader of the Texas House Freedom Caucus. Polling shows Schaefer is vulnerable to an independent challenger. But his case is different from the other candidates. Without a Democrat on the ballot, he needs Democrats and Republicans to cross over and vote for him in November.
Common sense candidates need to win in the fall, he said.
They just need Republicans to agree.

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Bnai Zion to honor 3 ‘doers’ at Spring Reception

Bnai Zion to honor 3 ‘doers’ at Spring Reception

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn

Kavod. Kavod. Kavod. Honors three times over will be touted for Lowell Michelson, Summer Pailet and Caleb Waller at Bnai Zion’s annual Texas Spring Reception at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Temple Emanu-El, 8500 Hillcrest Ave. in Dallas.
“We invite the community to partake in a special evening supporting the urgent need by Israel’s at-risk youth,” said Bnai Zion North Texas Region President Diane Benjamin. “They need us and we must show up. We just must.”
The Ahava Village for Children and Youth, a project of Bnai Zion, helps Israel’s disadvantaged children in need of shelter and treatment due to abuse and neglect. Hundreds of children have found refuge in the residential community and funds are now being raised for a new therapy center to allow children to receive customized, coordinated and cutting-edge treatments.
The Spring Reception, whose honorary chair is Kim Kaliser with an honorary committee of Jay and Fonda Arbetter, Ann Stacy and Kim Zoller, will be catered by Michelson’s Simcha Kosher Catering. Michelson and the Bnai Zion staff have created a night to feature wine pairings and a dinner of Israeli tastes celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday. Jay Arbetter will moderate a panel including Royal Wine Corporation’s Regional Sales Manager Josh Feldman, Chef Jordona Kohn, and Food Stylist and Pastry Chef Alyssa Wernick discussing Israeli wines, food, and Israel’s premier food technology advancements.
A live auction will include naming opportunities for Ahava Village’s computer center, security and air conditioning systems; b’nai mitzvah celebrations and bike excursions for residents; vocational programming for soldiers; sound systems and instruments for music therapy; cost of living and school supplies. Ahava Executive Director Yoav Apelboim will speak.
Michelson, who also owns Catering by Arthur, never wanted to do anything but cook. The youngest of four of Calvin and the late Louise, Michelson was born and raised in San Antonio. His mother was a wonderful cook and “I was always stirring and chopping and tagging along,” he said. “I learned then and I’ve always loved being in the kitchen.”
For the last 18 years, his businesses have provided exclusively kosher meals. Weddings, simchas, and corporate events keep his staff busy.
Michelson, a member of both Congregation Ohr HaTorah and Shaare Tefilla, and “connected by my heart to every shul in town,” is thrilled to have recently welcomed daughter Melissa as his creative director.
From the time the University of Texas and Northwood University graduate came to Dallas in 1981, the skyline add-on of the new Hyatt Regency sold him. “I wanted to be here the minute I saw that building, the coolest building in the coolest city. Today it’s celebrating 40 years and I’ve just catered an event featuring Jill Biden,” Michelson said. “Dreams happen. For Bnai Zion, this night is about making support happen for children in Israel so their dreams happen too.”
Pailet, collaborating managing partner at ID360, facilitates training and learning programs. She’s a UT graduate with 25-plus years as a recruiter, business owner and consultant. A three-time recipient of SMU’s Cox School of Business Teacher’s Excellence Award for her Personal Brand Impact program, she calls herself a “soulpreneur,” rising up and working her light into a soul-driven career.
Pailet and her husband, Jeffrey, are parents to Asher, Brennan and Jaden. The daughter of Candice Ferney also calls in-laws Harrell and Marilyn Pailet her “most powerful role models.”
“My Jewish life became full when I came into this community, and to be honored by Bnai Zion is very special. I’ve made many trips to Israel, and every inch of the land has become a huge part of my heart,” Pailet said. “That part of me swells when I think of Ahava does and I want to share in it any way I can.”
Pailet, involved with the upcoming Sukkah Project, JLC’s Jewish Women’s Connection and its Shabbat Project, is a former board member and Synaplex co-chair at Shearith Israel. She has become enmeshed in the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP), twice traveling as a participant, and twice a madricha (leader), responsible for raising thousands of dollars for organizations in Israel. At press time, touring with JWRP’s Momentum Grand mission, she will visit Ahava’s Youth Village.
Waller will connect by video, since he’ll be in Israel, his nearly 40th trip. The son of HaYovel founders Tommy and Sherri and the organization’s director of public relations, Waller also co-hosts The Joshua and Caleb Report television series with his brother.
“Israel is the land that God uses to show us who He is,” said Waller, who was introduced to Bnai Zion’s leadership during a trip to Dallas and plans to visit the Ahava Youth Village. “Since learning about Bnai Zion, we’re so impressed. Key to us is establishing our own roots and coming to the heart of support.”
Waller’s 10 siblings also are associated with HaYovel, the next generation now 25 strong with more babies on the way. In the last 12 years, HaYovel has recruited more than 3,000 volunteers to help.
Israel’s farmers in Judea and Samaria harvest 4,000-plus tons of produce. The nonprofit’s mission is to strengthen the often-overlooked small independent farmer in Israel through creative networking, education, tourism and activism.
“That Israel became a state was a miracle and there are thousands around the world who want to help and who have a desire to see the land grow,” said Waller, husband of Kendra and father to four, awaiting the birth of his fifth. “We’ve seen prophecy become reality. There’s a desire to see the land grow. We want to be involved, not just talk about it.”
Three honorees. One spirit to support those in need.
“Lowell is of the fabric of our community, Summer has carved her own way in a family of doers, and Caleb and his family are on the ground and in the moment,” Benjamin said. “Our region is among those leading the way, and with people like our honorees backing us, there’s no question our children in Israel have the best show of reaching their potential.”
For more information and registration, call 972-918-9200 or visit bnaizion.org/event/annual-texas-spring-reception.

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Upstander told Nazi: ‘We are all Jews’

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Last week, I sat in the Dallas Holocaust Museum, hearing survivor Simon Gronowski tell his story. He was 11 years old then, on the last train from Belgium to Auschwitz, the one remembered today because it was stopped by a trio of partisans who managed to pry open a door and free 17 of the Jews headed for destruction. The young boy and his mother were not among the 17, but as the train began to roll again, she sent him off, telling him to run. He never saw her again. But in his story of his life, he credits the kindness of others who helped him live. “Upstanders,” our museum calls them.
So, here’s another story, with a central character deserving to be famous because he’s one of the greatest “Upstanders” of all time. I offer it today as a postscript to both the Holocaust and Passover.
It was in the waning days of World War II. The tide had already turned in favor of the Allies, but German soldiers were still following Hitler’s order: Fight to the death for the Fatherland. And it happened that some 1,200 young American soldiers, a troop, separated from all comrades, fell into the enemy’s hands, enduring a two-day march before being herded into a Nazi prison camp. These GIs were without military leadership; the ranking “officer” among them was Master Sgt. Robbie Edwards. Some may have heard of him, but his bravery deserves more publicity…
Among the 1,200 were about 200 Jews. Their “dog tags,” like those of all Jews serving in America’s fighting forces then, were marked with a capital “H,” for “Hebrew.” And they were instructed to discard them in case of capture. Whether they had done so or not at the time of their incarceration is not known, but it really didn’t matter in this case; the Germans were hardly going to hand-check the identification of 1,200 individuals. Instead, they ordered everyone to stand at attention and called Sgt. Edwards, the young leader designated by necessity, to the front of the crowd. There was not a sound from the Americans as the ranking Nazi spoke to him: “Give us your Jews,” he ordered.
Edwards never flinched, never hesitated. It was as if he had known all along that he would be given such an order and had decided in advance what he would say when the time came to say it. And so he responded with this short, very sweet answer: “We are all Jews here.”
The Nazi in charge pulled out his pistol, put it to Robbie Edwards’ temple, and this time threatened: “Give us your Jews or I’ll shoot you.” Again, the sergeant showed no fear. Instead, “You can shoot me,” he said, loud and clear, “but then you’ll have to shoot everyone else here, too. You know the war is coming to an end and you are losing. So you’ll be tried as a war criminal, and that will be the end of your life, too.”
Without another word, the German officer pocketed his pistol and walked away.
This is one of the amazing stories of non-Jewish heroism at a time of such peril for all Jews in Europe, including those Jews in American uniforms who were fighting not just for Jews, not just for America, but for the good of the world. And Edwards had spoken truth — not about how many Jews were under his leadership, but about the state of the war. And it wasn’t long before Russian troops arrived to take those Nazis prisoner, and to free the Americans. The date of their liberation, fittingly enough, was March 25, the second day of Pesach 1945.
Yes, Staff Sgt. Robbie Edwards has been recognized as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem. But at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, which teaches the virtues of taking action rather than just standing by when one sees the abuse of others, he would be called “Upstander.” Truly a Sergeant First Class.

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‘Righteous’ Irena Sendler’s story worth remembering

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Yom HaShoah 2018 (The Day of Remembrance) has recently passed, but besides honoring those who died in the Holocaust, we should also remember those non-Jews who risked or lost their lives in order to protect Jews from the Nazi death machine.
Their lives and deeds of heroism are recorded at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and they are referred to as “the Righteous Among Us.”
According to Yad Vashem, Poland had more citizens helping to hide and save their Jewish citizens than any other nation, with an estimated minimum number of 6,706 rescuers.
Other sources claim that the total of Polish rescuers may have numbered as many as 1,200,000, most of whom received aid from the Polish underground organization known as Zegota.
One Polish Righteous woman whose story was unknown for many years was that of a social worker, Irena Sendlerowa (also known as Irena Sendler), who saved many children from the Warsaw Ghetto, all of whom had been destined to die in the Nazi death camps.
Her story and those of other Polish heroes were suppressed by the Polish communists after the war and did not come to light until the end of Communism in Poland in 1989.
Operating as a social worker in the Warsaw Ghetto, Sendler talked Jewish parents into giving her their children so that they could be secretly removed and placed with non-Jews or in convents.
She falsified records as best she could, but kept records of the original name, the false name and the names of the biological and the “new” parents, as well as location. These records were placed in a jar, which she then buried with the hope that the families could be reunited after the war.
In reality, the children survived, but the parents sent to the camps did not. Sendler successfully saved about 2,500 Jewish children.
Eventually captured, she was tortured and was scheduled to be executed, but the Zegota group raised enough money to bribe her captors for her release.
Irena Sendler’s heroic courage and achievement was not fully and properly recognized until the late 1990s.
A group of high school students in a small Kansas farm town were challenged by their innovative high school history teacher, Norm Conrad, whom students referred to as “Mr. C.”
It was 1999, and the upcoming National History Day observance was an opportunity for high school students around the country to compete for the winning project, the theme being “Turning Points in History.”
Mr. C placed brief news clippings in front of the students.
One of the news items given as a possible topic was a story about a Polish social worker praised by Yad Vashem who supposedly saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis: Irena Sendler.
The students could not believe that number since Schindler had saved 1,200. “It must have been 250, not 2,500,” Mr. C’s students thought.
The work of these four Kansas high school students under the guidance of their history teacher resulted in Life in a Jar, The Irena Sendler Project in play, book and film form.
Subsequently, the four student researchers flew to Poland to meet with Sendler after she finally received worldwide recognition as a result of the students’ efforts.
The awards she deserved for so long began to pour in. Tikkun Olam, Righteous Gentile, Honorary Citizen of Israel, Poland’s highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle, and her nomination for the 1963 Nobel Peace Prize by the Polish government.
Irena Sendler died in 2008 at age 98.
The book, Life In A Jar by Jack Mayer, is well worth reading.

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75 years ago, a boy escaped a death train

75 years ago, a boy escaped a death train

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Photos: Amanda Harris
Mary Pat Higgins, Linda and Mervyn Sacher, and Veronique and Hylton Jonas

 

By Ben Tinsley
btinsley@live.com

Seventy-five years ago, 11-year-old Simon Gronowski jumped off a Nazi deportation train heading from Belgium to the deadly gas chambers of Auschwitz.
“I jumped and I escaped and I ran all night into the woods,” said Gronowski, now 86.
The 11-year-old barely escaped the Nazis with his life on that day, April 19, 1943. His mother and sister, unfortunately, later died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Last week, on the 75th anniversary of his escape, Gronowski shared his incredible story of survival with several reporters and an audience of about 50 at the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance. Later in the day, he gave a second, museum-sponsored, presentation at Congregation Shearith Israel.
Gronowski, his mother, Chana and his sister, Ita, were apprehended by the Gestapo at their Brussels home in February 1943. Gronowski’s father, Leon, was in the hospital when the Gestapo raid took place, and his presence went undetected. Gronowski’s mother told the Gestapo she was a widow.
Over 1,600 Jews were being transported to Auschwitz on the train on which Gronowski and his mother were placed. (Gronowski’s sister was on a separate transport.)
Gronowski said he still remembers hearing the members of the Belgian Resistance stop the train in an attempt to rescue the Jews on board.
There was a brief shootout before the train started moving again, he said.
The members of the Resistance were unable to reach Gronowski’s boxcar to free the people inside before the train started moving again.
However, heartened by the efforts of the Resistance, the deportees in Gronowski’s boxcar pried open the boxcar door so they could escape. Gronowski’s mother, also heartened, gave her young son 100 francs and urged him to jump from the train and run to safety.
Chris Kelley, a representative of the museum, said Gronowski’s mother was trying to convince him to escape by himself because she had very little chance of joining him.
“It was too far of a jump and it was far more important to her that her son be saved,” Kelley said. “There were 231 Jews who jumped from that train and he is one of the last survivors of the group.”
Kelley said this entire incident stands as one of the best examples of the Jewish people standing up during the Holocaust. It also is said to be the most significant rescue action taken by resistance fighters during World War II.
Only 5 percent of 25,602 deportees from the camp survived the Holocaust. Of the 116 deportees who were freed, Gronowski was the youngest.
“This was an 11-year-old kid who had to go into hiding for the rest of the war — but he survived,” Kelley said. “This is history that comes alive. This is history that moves us forward.”
After Gronowski’s escape from the Nazis, a Belgian police officer helped him return to Brussels.
The child survived the war by hiding.
Despite Gronowski’s tragedies, his story and positive outlook on life visibly moved Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the museum. and members of an audience of 50 listening to his story last week.
“I do not bring to you a message of sadness — but one of hope and happiness,” Gronowski said to the museum audience. “Life is beautiful. Every day matters and I am happy — even more so because I met you.”
Gronowski told the audience he refuses to become jaded.
“Even today, there are people in the world who suffer,” he said. “I am keeping my faith in the future, because I believe in human goodness.”
His comments led to a standing ovation from the museum audience.
After the war, Gronowski became a lawyer and an amateur jazz musician, and was featured in Transport XX to Auschwitz, the only documented rescue attempt of a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust.
He co-wrote a French children’s book about his life experiences, titled Simon The Child of the 20th Convoy. He is also a regular public speaker.
His story is considered to be of great importance at a time that public memory of the Holocaust seems to be fading.
This month, a national survey released for Holocaust Remembrance Day disclosed that many Americans, particularly millennials, do not have basic knowledge of what happened during World War II.
As many as 66 percent of Americans ages 18-34 could not identify Auschwitz when asked. Furthermore, 31 percent of adults and 41 percent of millennials who were questioned thought 2 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, even though the actual number was at least 6 million.
Gronowski, meanwhile, said he has tried his best to live up to his words of hope.
There was one incident that took place in 2003, after Gronowski made public his identity as the 11-year-old who escaped the Nazis.
One of the former Nazi guards at the facility where Gronowski and his mother had been held before being placed on the Auschwitz train approached him begging for forgiveness.
“He heard about him (Gronowski) in the news,” Gronowski’s grandson, Romain De Nys, 24, explained
Gronowski forgave him.

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Posted on 19 April 2018 by admin

Imagine if your wife had a bird’s-eye view of what you did at the office every day. Would she find herself impressed with your productivity level and work ethic? Or, would she discover a ship that needed much righting? Could she rightly point to multiple items on your business to-do list left unattended to, as well as time that could have been used more efficiently (say, for more sales calls and less YouTube dancing squirrels)?
For many men, this is more of a theoretical scenario than a real one, as offices are typically tucked away in an office park, miles away from the house, and office visits from family members are somewhat of a rarity.
How different is it for our wives? Even as many modern women work outside of the house, the primary duty of taking care of the home typically remains upon them and essentially transforms our homes into their “workplaces.” And there lies the challenge. We live in their “workplaces.” How do we remain profoundly appreciative for all that our wives do for our households, never treating their familial service as a job to be held over their head, or their performance as something subject to our critical analysis?
This challenge proved too difficult for one of my students. He is a keen observer and persistently felt an underlying feeling of annoyance walking through his house each day, his dwelling much too untidy for his liking. His wife didn’t work, and he felt that she had the time to keep the house in order if it was truly a priority in her mind. He knew full well the myriad responsibilities that she had on a daily basis. They had a large family, after all. But, he still felt that there was enough time in the day to also care for the house properly and, of course, have a freshly prepared dinner ready each night by 6.
His fraught emotions turned more and more to charged, critical statements directed to his wife. “I thought you were going to take care of that already.” “Why is dinner never ready on time?” “This house is filthy.” His venting brought him relief from emotions otherwise suppressed, while his wife had to endure the heartache that came with each and every verbal blow.
Recognizing that he had an issue that needed to be dealt with and that he was the responsible party, he came to speak with me. I shared with him the Rambam’s famous injunction that we should always seek the middle path in middos (character traits), and that this requires us to veer to the opposite extreme of wherever we happen to be. That only by moving from one extreme to the other can we free ourselves of our bad habits and ensure that we end up with a balanced approach to life.
As Rabbi Reuven Leuchter explains on Page 89 of Teshuva: Restoring Life:
“The underlying assumption behind the Rambam’s approach is that every midda (character trait) has an extreme quality. When we find ourselves under the influence of a particular midda, it alone determines our perceptions and feelings. We become oblivious to any other perspective or reality. Only by shifting to the opposite extreme can we counteract this blindness. Only by focusing on the direct opposite of what we are experiencing and by treating the initial extreme as if it does not exist can we eventually arrive at a point in the middle.”
I advised my student to apply the Rambam’s methodology to his own life and to veer to the opposite extreme. His critical perspective of his wife was blinding him from ever perceiving a different, more positive reality of his wife’s help in the upkeep of their home. He needed to not only refrain from criticism of any kind, but to desist from any discussions or requests, however innocuous they might seem, concerning the subject of housekeeping. As he was not yet able to walk the middle path, any discussion of housekeeping was likely to turn ugly. The only exception to this rule would be expressions of gratitude for anything his wife might have done in the house. I encouraged him to use his observant nature to discover positive contributions that his wife had made each and every day and to heartily express his gratitude.
“This commitment would need to be for one month,” I told him, “and only then might you attempt to form a healthy, middle-of-the-road approach.”
To my utter delight, a month passed, and with it a renewed sense of peace and tranquility in the student’s home. Both husband and wife found themselves happier. A fresh set of lenses (which only took shape after a few grueling weeks of self-restraint) enabled my student to finally see how hard his wife truly worked for the family, and his wife felt appreciated for the first time in quite a while. After experiencing newfound calm in the house, my student recognized how responsible he had been for creating a toxic environment in the house, as well as how much pressure and anxiety he had exerted on his wife.
Unable to discuss any household needs with his wife, he found himself picking up the broom and the dustpan to take care of problem areas around the house. It dawned on him how rarely he had ever offered to help with the housework that mattered so much to him.
My student could now attempt life in the middle path, but he would need to be vigilant lest he slide back to his old habits.
During this period of the counting of the Omer, we are instructed to use each day as a steppingstone toward self improvement. The Rambam’s advice can help us get there.
Rabbi Yogi Robkin is the co-director of DATA of Plano.

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Making sure the 6 million’s names live on

Posted on 19 April 2018 by admin

I wrote this four days ago, after I had just returned from Reading the Names. The Beth Torah Men’s Club had this inspired idea, began it in 2003, and it’s now a sacred tradition.
This quote is attributed to an elusive figure named Bansky: “A person dies twice. First, when he takes his last breath. Second, when the last person remembers his name.” Whether that was the inspiration, I don’t know. But 15 years ago, someone in the congregation realized that the names of many of the 6 million had never been spoken since their Holocaust deaths, and this annual ritual of remembrance is the result. It is subtitled: “To Every Person, There Is a Name…”
Anyone who wants to read names may do so. It’s a 24-hour vigil, beginning after Havdalah on the Saturday closest to Yom HaShoah, and ending at Sunday’s sundown. (Guess who reads through the wee small hours? Teenagers who have an all-nighter under the watchful supervision of youth group leaders and Learning Center personnel.) This tradition was started by Beth Torah, but was immediately opened to the greater community; now, folks of other synagogues, of churches and mosques, come; some even Skype in — sometimes from as far away as Israel. The names come from Holocaust museums that lend what they have: the Nazis’ own records of their victims. Who lived where? Died where? At what age? Germans have always been efficient at keeping details; the Holocaust was no exception.
People who don’t want to read are encouraged to come, sit quietly and just listen, to hear the names read aloud so that those who have drawn their last breaths now become people who have not died that second time. So, I sat in the darkened synagogue sanctuary until it was my turn to read, listening to others, facing the line of 11 candles lit in memory of our own 6 million, plus the 5 million others who shared their horrific fates.
A table on the bimah was stacked with individual sheets of paper, all covered with those neatly printed German statistics for each of the non-survivors. Four piles, each about a foot high. I calculated: My two great-grandsons will likely have grandchildren of their own when the Reading of the Names is finally completed. Maybe not even that soon…
But we read on. Some of us have difficulty with pronouncing the foreign names, or the towns in which their owners lived (and often died). But less difficulty with some of the death sites so carefully noted: Auschwitz — Sobibor — Babi Yar; we are already too familiar with them. With each name, however, we do our loud-and-clear best, to make sure that these people have not yet fully passed away. Sometimes it’s hard not to cry; I have to exercise a seldom-needed kind of self-control when I realize I’m reading off the names of an entire family: I can tell by the surname, the town in which all lived, their ages — people in their 80s, 60s, 40s, 20s and those who were teens, or 10, 8, 6, 4, 2. But most often, most sadly, they have not even died together in the same place. However, every one of them is coming to life again, off those awful pages, if just for a brief moment…
Israel’s three most special days are in this order: Very soon after Yom HaShoah, when Holocaust survivors are celebrated and victims memorialized, comes Yom HaZikaron, paying tribute to those who have given their all as soldiers of their country, and others who have suffered terrorism. Then, just one day later, comes Yom HaAtzmaut: Independence Day. After first mourning the long-gone, then stopping all activity for an incredible silence to salute those whose bravery and suffering have made their country live, Israelis burst out in a show of life like nowhere else in the world.
That final day is today. Let’s celebrate, too. And let’s mark our calendars now, to join in the Reading of the Names next year.

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