Archive | November, 2018

Brunch will fete Shalom Softball League’s 44 years

Brunch will fete Shalom Softball League’s 44 years

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Photo: John Hauf
The Temple Shalom Softball League spring champions, the Astros, comprise: (front row from left) Danny Marti, Scott Elfenbein, Freddy Barreaz, David Ruiz and Jason Chapman; (top row) Jorge Quintero, Mark Elfenbein, Robert Santiago, George Reed, Brian Smallwood, Scott Sulzer and captain John Hauf. (Craig Einhorn is not pictured.)

By Deb Silverthorn

The Temple Shalom Brotherhood Softball League has rounded the bases for another season, and its team members, friends, families, fans and the community will celebrate its 44th season from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at Temple Shalom.
The Shalom League Softball awards banquet, featuring guest speaker Dale Hansen, the WFAA sports anchor, will celebrate the league’s spring and fall Season division winners, championship teams, most valuable players, rookies of the year, fan of the year, and recipient of the Mr. Shalom Brotherhood award.
“The Shalom League has been a huge part of my life, for more than half my life and that’s a long time,” said Bob Weinfeld, 92, one of the league’s founders who has captained his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates for all 44 years. The league, with 387 players participating for five years or more, grew out of a crew of teams gathering for pickup games over the six years previous. “I’ve kept years’ worth of logs, a real history, and now another year, literally, is in the books.” The Shalom League, open to all adult males, began in 1975 with six teams on two fields at Churchill Park. Heritage Yards in North Plano has been the league’s home field for the past 20 years. This year, 240 players on 20 teams made up the spring 2018 roster, and 168 players on 14 teams played this fall.
Honors will be given to the 2018 spring division winners, the Emeralds led by Sean Greeley, and spring champions, the Astros, captained by John Hauf; and the fall division winners, the Thunder, captained by John Miller, and the Rockhounds, led by Tyler Samsel, and fall champions, the Lake Monsters, captained by Scott Lawrence.
The 2018 rookie of the year and spring finals MVP Jorge Quintero, spring batting champion Max Henry and spring Gold Glove winners Brian Ortega and Darius Wu will be recognized. Wu will also receive honors as fall batting champion and home run champion for both the spring and fall seasons.
The recipient of the 16th Annual Phyllis Unell Scholarship — with this year’s scholarship money reaching $8,000 — 2018 inductees to the league’s Hall of Fame, captain’s MVP and Commissioner’s Awards also will be announced.
“For more than 20 years the league has been a huge part of my life and the friendships made, and the experiences shared, make everyone family,” said Wayne Casper, eight years the league’s commissioner, volunteering almost fulltime hours to coordinate 40 games each Sunday in the spring and 28 during the fall. “There are a lot of talented players, and lots with ‘less’ talent. But out on the fields, it’s nothing but camaraderie and goodness.”

Photo: Scott Lawrence
The Temple Shalom Softball League fall champions, the Lake Monsters, comprise: (front row from left) Kendal Anthony, Roosevelt Gonzalez, Tommy Baer, Adwild Perez and Jeff Radanof; (top row) Captain Scott Lawrence, Matt Brumley, Zack Kazda, John Burke, Tony Lowery, Kevin Knox and Craig Einhorn. (Brian Ortega is not pictured.)

Hansen, the 10 p.m. weeknight sports anchor and host of the Sunday night Dale Hansen’s Sports Special on Channel 8, has been with WFAA for 35 years. Beginning his career as a radio disc jockey and operations manager, then sports reporter at KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska, it was there, as part of a softball league, that Hansen met his future wife.
“Sports is a metaphor for life and all I believe and try to be is based on the lessons of the field,” said Hansen, who has enjoyed playing football, baseball, basketball, volleyball and bowling, golf his mainstay, since he was 12. “I’m honored to be asked to be a part of this event and I appreciate the invitation. I promise it’ll be fun, it’ll be exciting — it might even be a bit controversial, but it’ll be a great way to spend part of a Sunday.”
At the awards brunch, filmmaker Randy Kamen, a former Shalom League catcher and right-fielder, will share parts of his “Temple Shalom Softball” documentary, now covering the Fretz Park years of 1982-1992 and featuring Jay Lifshen, who died earlier this year.
“Jay, who was one of the winningest captains, a fierce competitor, and a friend to all who knew him, is such a central figure to the Fretz Park years of the league,” said Kamen. The filmmaker has completed production on the documentary’s “The First Inning,” spanning 1975-1977, and “The Second Inning,” covering 1978-1981, and continues to raise funds to complete the project. “A Temple Shalom Hall-of-Famer and die-hard Yankees fan, Jay is one of the legendary figures forever remembered for his play on the field and his brotherhood off the field.”
The spring draft begins each February (applications for spring 2019 now posted at shalomleague.org) and games run from March through August. A quick turnaround finds the fall draft in August with games played through November.
“The friends from all walks of life, the fellowship, and the brotherhood are something I don’t think can be found anywhere else,” said Weinfeld. Casper echoed the sentiments. “There’s a lot of ‘special’ out there, but the Shalom League — it’s its own kind of special. We hope the community will come see what we’re all about, maybe sign on, but for sure have a great day.”
Breakfast is free for spring and fall season players and all Shalom Brotherhood members in good standing, and $5 for all others. For more information or to RSVP, call Weinfeld at 972-814-6214 or email robert.weinfeld@tx.rr.com. To donate to the Temple Shalom Softball documentary series, email shalom.softball.documentary@gmail.com.

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Anshai Torah honors Rajunovs at Diamonds & Dice

Anshai Torah honors Rajunovs at Diamonds & Dice

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Rajunov Family
Debbie and Manuel Rajunov, center, with their children Josh and Abby, will be honored at Congregation Anshai Torah’s Diamonds and Dice event on Dec. 8.

Congregation Anshai Torah will play to a full house at its 2018 Diamonds & Dice casino night, honoring Debbie and Manuel Rajunov. The community is invited to an evening of games and fun, music and merriment, of heavy hors d’oeuvres and an open bar from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.
“Debbie and Manuel are two of the most enthusiastic supporters of our shul,” Rabbi Stefan Weinberg said. “They’re always ready to say yes — demonstrating their dedication to Anshai Torah on a daily basis. We are honored to express our gratitude to them for their leadership.”
Co-chairs Jennifer Hersh, Kimberly Mabel and Eric Olschwanger are joined by Jackie Austein, Beth Berk, Cynthia Brooks, Debbie Cohn, Gretchen Edwards, Shawn Frank, Amy Gross, Marcy Kahn, Matt Kurtzman, Shana Staub, Harvey Swento, Brad Welcher and Kim Velevis in creating the spirited night of Vegas chic. A silent auction will feature jewelry, sporting and entertainment event tickets, pampering opportunities, gifts and more.
“This is a night to celebrate, honor and raise funds to support all that makes Anshai Torah the place people call home,” Rabbi Michael Kushnick said. “The Rajunovs, among the pillars of our congregation, are there at every turn ensuring our success. They are dedicated, present, and they care about every facet of Anshai Torah.”
The Rajunovs, Anshai Torah members for 15 years, help coordinate and lead programs and events, and offer support regularly and devotedly.
Debbie is the daughter of Sabra parents Gideon and Ilana Kishony, and the sister of David, Karen and Ron. A New York native who was raised in Schaumburg, Illinois, Debbie attended religious school and was a member of the youth group at her family’s Beth Tikvah Congregation.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, Debbie is a member of Anshai Torah’s board of directors and co-chair of its Religious School Committee.
Manuel, the son of Ana and Fermin and brother of David and Vicky, was born in Mexico City and spent his formative years living on the Tijuana/San Diego border area. His commitment to Jewish life and Israel began early as he attended religious school four days a week and was a member and leader of the local chapter of Maccabi, a Zionist organization. He has been to Israel 16 times in the past six years for business, personal reasons and on educational missions.
Manuel is an attorney with Greenberg Traurig, LLP, the only international law firm to have an established office in Israel. His practice focuses on tax consulting and transactional advice to foreign investors doing business in Mexico and advising Mexican investors on their investments overseas. His special emphasis is on real estate, corporate and securities, as well as mergers and acquisitions.
“It’s important that we educate our community about Israel, and I’m proud Anshai Torah makes that a priority, not only by hosting world-renowned scholars, but also by leading a large delegation to AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference,” said Manuel, a leader in CAT’s Israel education and advocacy programming.
Chair of Dallas’ AIPAC chapter and a member of AIPAC’s National Council and vice chair of its New Leadership Network, Manuel says, “Israel is a true light unto the nations, and we must do all we can to protect her. In partnership with Anshai, protecting Israel has become one my main missions in life.”
The couple, who met while she was based in Chicago and he was working there temporarily, married in 1999. A job opportunity moved Manuel to the Metroplex, and it became home. As they began their family, it was important to the couple to find a congregation: a Jewish connection and a community with which to surround themselves. In Anshai Torah, they found all of that and more.
“From the time our children started preschool, this has been our second home and we care so much about everything that goes on here,” Debbie said. “When I create a list of friends in my mind, so many we can count are from Anshai. With all of them, our family has ‘grown up’ along with Anshai.”
The two have set the example as strongly identified and committed Jews for their children, Abby and Josh, who as teenagers are now involved in Anshai Torah’s DeReKH Hebrew High and youth programs.
“Our responsibility is to be involved in every aspect of our kids’ lives and to make a better community for them,” Debbie said. “Through Anshai, and its teachers, rabbis and everyone who cares about the synagogue we’re providing a spiritual, religious and personally connective space for them to become strong Jews and strong people. In doing that, we continue to grow, too.”
Providing their family with positive Jewish experiences is foremost, echoed Manuel, saying “Anshai Torah is about active engagement by its clergy, active involvement by its members, and the warmth and welcoming sense that is felt,” reminiscent of his own childhood shul — “a haimesh home.”
For tickets ($75 each) or sponsorships to Diamonds and Dice, call 972-473-7718, email receptionist@anshaitorah.org or visit anshaitorah.org.

—Submitted by
Deb Silverthorn
on behalf of Anshai Torah.

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Community Read leads to ‘Promised Land’

Community Read leads to ‘Promised Land’

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Martin Fletcher
Martin Fletcher will speak about his book “Promised Land” at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Tycher Library Community Read, part of the JCC BookFest, at the Aaron Family JCC.

By Deb Silverthorn

Martin Fletcher’s discussion of his novel “Promised Land” guarantees a special evening at the Tycher Library Community Read, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the library, on the second floor of the Aaron Family JCC.
The event, part of the 2018/2019 Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest, is co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Education (CJE) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, with the support of the Jewish Book Council.
“Martin Fletcher’s writing style is incredible, and with ‘Promised Land,’ he has given us a very new look at a Holocaust story — this is anything but typical,” said Karen Schlosberg, CJE coordinator of projects and administration. “(He is) a charismatic journalist and author with a great reputation. We were thrilled to secure him for our Tycher Library Community Read.”
The annual Community Read is a free lecture, designed to encourage readers, book club participants and individuals to share a book. This is the library’s 12th annual event.
“Promised Land,” the first of a trilogy Fletcher is creating, covers the first 20 years of Israel’s development and ends with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. It is the story of Arie, a business magnate, and Peter, a Mossad agent. They are two Jewish brothers born in Germany, separated during the war, with the rest of their family murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
The story begins when 14-year-old Peter is sent west to America to escape the growing horror of Nazi Germany while younger brother Arie and their family are sent east, to the Nazi death camps. Only Arie returns. The brothers reunite in the new Jewish state, where they both fall in love with Tamara, a Jewish refugee from Cairo. Over two decades, their intrigues and jealousies threaten to tear their new lives apart.
Arie becomes a businessman and one of the richest men in Israel. Peter becomes a top Mossad agent heading some of Israel’s most vital espionage operations. “One brother builds Israel,” Fletcher said, “and the other protects it.”
“Martin Fletcher is a treasure, and we couldn’t be more excited about this event. He was here the first year I started at the J, presenting his Breaking News, and I’m thrilled to welcome him back,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, JCC’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish living, who worked on the event with lay BookFest Chair Liz Liener. “He is an incredible researcher and author who we know offers a good, trusted story. He’s been so generous with his time and he has a special place in my heart. Our guests will not be disappointed.”
Fletcher, who also wrote “Walking Israel,” “The List,” “Jacob’s Oath,” and “The War Reporter,” spent 32 years at NBC as a foreign correspondent based in London, Brussels, Israel, Rhodesia, South Africa, Paris and Frankfurt — 26 of those years covering the Middle East, 15 as news bureau chief in Tel Aviv. He has received many honors, including the National Jewish Book Award, a Columbia University DuPont Award, several Overseas Press Club and five Emmy awards.
“This trilogy is really a ‘Dallas’ meets ‘Exodus’ story, following the generations of a family and the building of a country,” Fletcher said. “I started out writing a nonfiction book about the history of the State of Israel, but I realized I wanted to tell the story of the land, not the history. As a journalist, even though this is fiction, it is still important for me to get it right — to have a storyline that accurately reflects the reality.”
While this series is completely fictional, Fletcher said he received help from those whose lives mimicked the stories he tells, from businessmen who raised the dollars to help Herzliya grow in the early 1950s to former Mossad agents who provided authenticity and background.
“Tom Brokaw wrote of ‘The Greatest Generation’ and I wanted to tell of Israel’s greatest generation,” Fletcher said. “The surviving 20-year-olds of 1948 are now gone or in their 90s. I wanted fact to become fiction, but with lots of facts. How this incredible country was built from scratch by a generation amid anti-Semitism and Nazism; from the camps these displaced people made their way to Israel, and fought three wars. As a journalist, my focus is always on who did what, when and where, but not always what it’s like to be those people, to be there.”
Calling Israel, Mexico and New York home, Fletcher is often on the road. He and his artist wife, Hagar, a Sabra and former sergeant of the IDF whom he met while she was hitchhiking, are the parents of sons Daniel, Guy and Jonathan, and grandparents of Gali.
“Martin Fletcher balances the contributions of Ashkenazi Jews, Jews from the West, Sephardic Jews and Jews from the Arab lands to Israel’s success. The story poignantly grapples with the tragedy and scars of the Holocaust by telling the story of two brothers who reflect the challenges facing the fledgling state,” said Tycher Librarian Judy Borejdo. “‘Promised Land’ brings to life the first 20 years of Israel’s existence, which were a historic challenge for the Jewish people.”
As Fletcher says, “Promised Land” is “a love story set to a historical backdrop — the story of a nation, through the story of its people.”
For more information or to RSVP (requested by Dec. 3), email kschlosberg@jewishdallas.org, call 214-239-7131 or visit jewishdallas.org/communityread.

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Blueprint for modern Judaism

Blueprint for modern Judaism

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Tal Keinan
Author Tal Keinan and Congregation Anshai Torah Rabbi Stefan Weinberg will lead a conversation about Keinan’s “God is in the Crowd” at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at the JCC as part of the JCC’s BookFest.

By Deb Silverthorn

Congregation Anshai Torah Rabbi Stefan Weinberg and author Tal Keinan will discuss Keinan’s “God is in The Crowd” at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, at the Aaron Family JCC as part of the 2018/2019 Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest.
Israel Bonds is presenting the event.
“Tal has written a book filled with passion, and his personal history has introduced him to a wide variety of Jewish settings and Jewish values. Together, these experiences have compelled him to seek an answer to the many challenges facing Judaism,” Weinberg said. “Realizing that assimilation is destroying the Jewish community, he attempts to rescue the Jewish people, and Tal’s book reflects his bold thinking as well as his passion for Judaism’s continuity.
“Combining his private school experience in New England with his stint as a pilot in the IDF, Tal tells a compelling story that invites the reader to listen,” Weinberg continued. “This is a special opportunity to listen to a new voice advocating for action, someone who is unwilling to let our Jewish vitality slip away, someone who is willing to fight for the future of the Jewish people.”
“God Is in the Crowd” is a blueprint for Judaism in the 21st century, presented through the lens of the author’s personal story, analyzing the threat to Jewish continuity, according to publicity statements.
“Tal Keinan’s book is very well-written, innovative and a fresh look at solutions for some of the challenges the Jewish people face today,” said JCC BookFest Chair Liz Liener, working for the sixth year with Rachelle Weiss Crane, JCC’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish living.
As the Jewish people have become concentrated in America and Israel, Keinan writes of the loss of a subtle code of governance that endowed Judaism with dynamism and relevance in the age of Diaspora.
This code, Keinan explains, is derived from Francis Galton’s “wisdom of crowds,” in which a group’s collective intelligence, memory and spirituality can be dramatically different from, and often stronger than, that of any individual members. He argues that without this code, this ancient people — and the civilization that it spawned — will soon be extinct. Keinan puts forward a plan to rewrite the Jewish code, proposing a new model for Judaism and for community in general.
“Over the past 20 years, I have searched for a satisfying definition of the value of Judaism. I have discovered a complex moral map, which has preserved an ancient wisdom while incorporating the amendments and refinements of successive generations through an exquisitely subtle code,” said Keinan. “‘God Is in the Crowd’ is my diagnosis of the break in the Jewish code and a prescription for rewriting it. Although the book has been described in literary terms, it is not art. It is a battle plan. I hope to draw a critical mass of thinkers, a group I describe as ‘the Crowd,’ into a process that drafts a Jewish future with the goal not just of surviving, but of creating sustainable purpose and meaning in Judaism.”
Keinan, an entrepreneur and social activist, has a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School and is a graduate of Israel’s Air Force Academy. He is co-founder of Clarity Capital, and chairman of Koret Israel Economic Development Funds, Israel’s largest nonprofit lender to small and micro businesses. He serves on the boards of directors of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life and the HESEG Foundation, which provides academic scholarships for qualified applicants and former lone soldiers. He is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and chairman of the YPO (Young Presidents Organization) Intercontinental Chapter.
Keinan was born and raised in a secular family in Florida; his interest in Judaism was ignited by a Christian minister at his New England prep school, leading him down the unlikely path to enlistment in the Israel Air Force.
“We need to acknowledge that Israel is a means, not an end. It is not a regular country but a vital asset for the entire Jewish people. It is the physical refuge, the intellectual convening point and the spiritual center of Judaism,” Keinan said. “Israeli Jews often forget this. It is easier to conceive of themselves within the category of country, a geographic entity representing the people who live within its physical borders. That is part of what Israel is, but it is not the whole story. I argue that it is not even the interesting part of the story.”
Keinan continues that American Jews also forget. “We are lucky to live in times of security and prosperity, in a society that embraces us as full members. It is easy to forget that this is an exception to the rule of Jewish history, that, even today, there are Jews who are less lucky,” he said. “Both communities are losing sight of the legacy that has been left in our custody, a legacy with great value, not only to the Jews but to the world, but I think we can bridge the gap and reclaim that legacy.”
“Tal is charming, brilliant, and engaging and I’m excited to have helped coordinate his visit to our BookFest,” said Event Chair Lizzy Greif. “He’s incredibly accomplished and meaningful and I believe that everyone who attends will learn something, grow, and appreciate what he has to share.”
Tickets are $10 each until 3 p.m. Dec. 10 and $15 after. Books ($28) will be available for purchase at the event.

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Avraham did well after winning his ‘lottery’

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

I’ll admit it. I got excited along with the rest of the country when the Mega Millions lottery hit a whopping $1.6 billion jackpot in October of this year. I bought a ticket and enjoyed an overly long conversation with my wife about what we would do with the money if we won.
We decided that we’d knock down our house and build a better one in its place (with a Texas-proof foundation), we’d take some amazing family vacations around the world, set up funds for all of our children and future grandchildren, and why not throw in a private chef for good measure (or at least until we get a kosher Chinese joint in town)?
We were just as excited, as I’m sure many readers can relate to, considering the new charitable vistas a billion dollars would open up to us. We could finally get our shul that building our community has been eyeing for years, and we could pay off the debts of organizations we admired. The possibilities were endless. I would be hard-pressed to argue that it wasn’t worth the $2 cost of the ticket for all the imaginative fun that little slip of paper created for us during those 24 spirited hours.
On the flip side of the mass lottery hysteria that was gripping the country lay a question that none of us, myself included, really wanted to consider, lest it ruin our collective daydreaming. Would winning the lottery be a genuinely positive thing for us in the first place?
Sure, we’ve read of lottery stories that warm the heart. The Lohse family from Bondurant, Iowa, who have used and continue to use their $202 million winnings to improve the lives of the people in their small city. They’ve made considerable improvements to their local parks, built a new football stadium for the local high school and even opened a $4.5 million grocery store because the city of 4,000 didn’t have one yet.
Other lottery winners reported on the news outlets have largely set aside self-indulgence, instead focusing on setting up considerable trust funds for all the current and future members of their family. These winners might not set records for charitable giving, but their winnings have certainly helped create comfortable lives for many of those around them.
But for every lottery success story we hear of, there seems to be a parallel tale of lottery nightmares to match. Stories of people losing preposterous amounts of winnings in short stretches of time on gambling, drugs, alcohol and vice. People whose lives have subsequently spun out of control, causing them to lose their marriages, their children and even their very lives.
How do we know, then, which camp we would fall in if we were to win the lottery? Would we use the lottery winnings for good, making the world and our families’ lives better in the process, or would such massive, newfound wealth corrupt and tempt us until we couldn’t recognize ourselves in the mirror?
Examining the details of the life of Avraham, the very first of the Jewish patriarchs, should shed much needed light on this matter. After all, is Avraham not the earliest recorded historical figure to win a lottery of sorts, when God, as if out of the blue, first reveals Himself to our forefather (then 75 years old) and promises him vast earthly wealth if he would but follow Him to the Holy Land?
As the Torah recounts:
“And the Lord said to Abram, ’Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [you shall] be a blessing” (Beresheet 12:1-2).
And, as Rashi notes, “I will bless you” is a reference to a divine gift of wealth.
Avraham, in other words, was the very first person to hit all five lotto numbers and the Powerball.
What’s interesting to note is that the Sages of the Mishnah teach that Avraham was tested with 10 distinct trials during his lifetime, all of which he subsequently passed (Pirkei Avot 5:3), and all of the commentaries agree on one thing — God’s asking Avraham to leave his home and go to the Holy Land is counted as one of those 10 tests.
It’s hard to comprehend. I can imagine how hard it must be to uproot your family from your hometown, leaving much of your family behind and moving to a new, foreign and mysterious place (“the land that I will show you”), but who are we kidding? Is there anyone amongst us who wouldn’t take the leave-your-homeland challenge for divinely assured vast wealth? Sign me up!
According to Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, dean of the Talmudic University in Miami, Avraham’s test was not about the journey at all. The real test, in fact, was to arrive only after he received his promised riches. What would happen then? Would he use these gifts for himself or would he employ them to better humanity?
Avraham’s test was to be a foreshadowing of the tests that all future lottery winners would face one day.
Of course, we know how the Biblical narrative goes. Post-lottery Avraham becomes the everlasting paradigm of chesed (loving kindness), leaning on his resources to feed and care for hungry desert travelers who fatefully passed by his place of dwelling. The Midrash notes that Avraham didn’t stop there, instead taking the opportunity to nourish the travelers’ souls with teachings of the oneness of the Almighty and of the misguided nature of idolatry. Avraham, far from being corrupted by his earthly possessions, employed them in his life’s mission — to love and educate humanity.
And here lies Avraham’s secret to passing spiritual tests — extensive advance preparation. For although the text of the Chumash reveals almost nothing of Avraham’s life and nature before this first test, the oral tradition informs us of Avraham’s spiritually rich early years discovering the one true God, and of his later years — still before this first test — willingly persecuted for this belief. Avraham was prepared well in advance of God’s test, fortified with a deep sense of mission and purpose. When money was added to that equation, Avraham knew how to use it accordingly.
So, is it good to win the lottery? It all depends on your preparation.
Rabbi Yogi Robkin is the outreach director of DATA of Plano. He can be reached at yrobkin@dataofplano.org.

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No dilemma; enjoy each other’s differences

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
Every year at Hanukkah time, we hear the same discussion for families with young children talking about how to deal with the “December Dilemma.” This “problem” is all about how to help your Jewish children survive Christmas. This year myjewishlearning.com had two new thoughts on this important issue.
The first thought comes from Lauren Ben-Shoshana, titled “You Need to Talk to Your Jewish Children About Santa.” She states, “In their first year of kindergarten, if not before, every parent needs to have a Santa Claus conversation. It begins like this: Santa is not real. And then talk about secrets.”
She gives parents the words to talk about secrets that are good and feel good inside, and we tell our Jewish children that Santa is one of those secrets and we do not want to ruin that secret. This is a tough one, but it is a wonderful way to teach about other people’s beliefs and then to give an opening for discussion on other types of secrets that you should not keep. What a great way to begin this conversation and give parents a reference point as children grow.
The second thought, also from myjewishlearning.com, is titled “Celebrating Hanukkah…Even If You Don’t Celebrate Hanukkah” by Rachel Jarman Myers. She shares this post from a blog, New Orleans Mom Blog by Ashley, non-Jewish mom. Here are the words that Myers shares:
She’s a mom who wants her “children to know that they live in a world where their family’s way of celebrating is not the only way to celebrate.” She goes on to say, “I want my children to understand that their beliefs aren’t everyone’s beliefs, and while I want them to be confident in what they believe, I also want them to be open-minded enough to consider others ideas and perspectives.”
Both these “thoughts” can help us navigate this season for our children and for ourselves. The spirit of Hanukkah is really about recognizing our unique beliefs and cultures, and celebrating proudly. The December Dilemma has been about the feeling of wanting something that isn’t ours — the way we have talked to our children about this included everything from making Hanukkah even more special so they wouldn’t feel they were missing something, to helping them understand that Christmas and Hanukkah weren’t in a competition, but each had deep meanings and messages.
However, the message for all families should be not only celebrating what is ours, but recognizing and celebrating the differences in our religions and cultures. The New Orleans Mom shares this favorite song:
“Here in my house there are candles burning bright, one for every night of the holiday. We gather with friends, sharing gifts and happy times, Happy Hanukkah. And in my neighbor’s house, the lights are shining, too, red and green and blue ‘round the door. The sound of jingle bells and laughter everywhere. Merry Christmas, and many more. Season of light. Season of cheers. Season of peace, may it last throughout the year.”
We are not so different but let’s enjoy our differences…and our similarities.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Xmas traditions may come from Hanukkah

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
As a mother, every year I am challenged by the proximity of Hanukkah to Christmas. How can we possibly compete, lighting our candles, with their stunning display of colorful lights filling the malls, decorating their houses and their trees? What do I say when the kids ask me if Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas?
Marcia P.
Dear Marcia,
What you and many others are facing is truly a challenge. The reality is that we and our children are surrounded by the culture of the country in which we live. If we try to outdo those around us, we are doomed to failure. We must instead, while acknowledging the compelling nature of the local culture, focus on the beauty of what we have as Jews.
I have always been struck by what I consider one of the greatest ironies of Jewish history. Some scholars of religious history maintain that many of the customs and celebrations of Christmas are based upon the celebration of Hanukkah, which predated Christianity by hundreds of years. According to these scholars, in their desire to attract Jews to Christianity, Christian leaders established this holiday at the same time of year as Hanukkah, with many similarities, hoping it would break down the barriers of Jews to enter their fold. Hence, they established the kindling of lights, which are an embellishment of our Hanukkah lights. The original 12 days of Christmas are a twist on the Torah reading of Hanukkah, which outlines the gifts of the 12 heads of the tribes during the consecration (Hanukkah) of the original tabernacle, over 12 days.
Here’s the irony: There are studies which show that more Jews observe Hanukkah than any other Jewish holiday. Some sociologists explain the reason for this phenomenon is that many Jews consider Hanukkah their “Jewish Christmas.” How ironic it is that the very holiday which is largely an imitation of Hanukkah should serve as the reason for Jews observing its true source.
(The irony continues: Many, if not most, of the familiar Christmas carols which so define the contemporary holiday were actually composed by Jews. “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Let It Snow,” “Silver Bells,” “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch,” to mention a few, were all composed by Jews.)
To make it even more ironic, Hanukkah was enacted as a celebration of the Jews’ withstanding the Syrian-Greeks’ attempts to assimilate the Jews into Greek culture and society. This concept is borne out by the nature of the miracle of the menorah. The miracle of the menorah was performed with a flask of olive oil. The symbolism of the oil is that when it is mixed with water, eventually the oil will separate and rise to the top. So, too, the Jews were not assimilated into the Greek society and culture around them. They eventually separated and rose back to the top, remaining true to their connection to God and to each other.
The last thing we would expect is for Hanukkah to become a way to identify with the culture around us, the antithesis of its own essential message.
Hanukkah is a time to focus upon our uniqueness, with a subtle separation from our surroundings. Only when we fully recognize and appreciate this uniqueness and separateness can we serve as a light unto the nations.
I would recommend you visit some of the many wonderful Jewish websites that offer a wealth of material you can utilize to explain the beauty of Hanukkah to your children and will enrich your own appreciation of this special time. Sites like Aish.com and Chabad.org, to mention a couple, provide reading material, videos, cartoons and many multi-media opportunities to bring Hanukkah alive to your family and friends.
On Hanukkah, we begin lighting with only one candle and ascend to lighting more and more lights, night by night. May Hanukkah be a time that all Jews will ascend and grow in their observance and pride in their unique Jewish identity, their connection to the illumination in our Torah and rich tradition.
A joyous and meaningful Hanukkah to you and all the readers.

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25 tidbits to live by this season

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

As we prepare to enter Hanukkah this year, let’s pack a bag to take with us, filled with two dozen bits of wisdom from the late beloved Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.
These came from a number of different sources, and in no particular order, except you should be prepared for the last one. But don’t look ahead. (Do, however, pay special attention to No. 14; it’s perfect for all of us at this time of this year.)
1. You cannot add more minutes to the day, but you can utilize each one to the fullest.
2. Lead a supernatural life and God will provide the miracles.
3. Existence is the greatest of all miracles.
4. Wealth is not a mansion filled with silver and gold. Wealth is children and grandchildren growing up on the right path.
5. This is the key to time management: to see the value of every moment.
6. When the soul is starved for nourishment, it lets us know with feelings of emptiness, anxiety or yearning.
7. There is no need to accept the standards of the world at large.
8. When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever.
9. God gave each of us a soul, which is a candle that He gives us to illuminate our surroundings with His light.
10. Man can never be happy if he does not nourish his soul as he does his body.
11. We cannot rest until every child, boy and girl, receives a proper moral education.
12. A successful marriage is dependent on inviting God into the relationship.
13. Love is the transcendence of the soul over the body.
14. Your home should become a light that illuminates the entire street and community.
15. Charity transforms matter to spirit, and turns a coin into fire.
16. We must translate pain into action, and tears into growth.
17. If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the work that God has left for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong, and how ugly it is, then it is you yourself that needs repair.
18. Miracles are all around us; we must open our eyes to see them.
19. Everyone must be a leader.
20. The world says that time is money; I say that time is life.
21. If you wait until you find the meaning of life, will there be enough life left to live meaningfully?
22. What matters is not so much where you stand, but with what force you are moving in which direction.
23. Our mission on earth is to recognize the voice — inside and outside of us — and to fill it.
24. All Jews share one and the same Torah, given by the one and same God. While there are more-observant Jews and less-observant ones, to tack on a label does not change the reality that we are all one.
25. This last is not from the Rebbe, but from Max Edelkopf of New York, who posted it on Facebook more than two years ago, but it is fresh and new and real, today more than ever:
At a conference for neurologists that took place in the United States, a professor got up to explain why it is that there are people who, upon arising in the morning, suddenly faint. It seems that this is a problem many people suffer from, and the speaker explained that it takes 12 seconds for the blood to leave the feet and get up to the brain, and if someone gets up very quickly, he or she could faint. She recommended that all people, upon arising in the morning, sit for at least 12 seconds before they actually get up. At this point, a Jewish professor got up and said, “I’d like to explain to you that the Jewish people have had a custom for thousands of years: to praise God upon arising. And the prayer that they say is exactly 12 words long — and if you say it properly, it takes 12 seconds.”
Enjoy. Have a Happy, Happy Hanukkah.
Harriet Gross can be reached at harrietgross@sbcglobal.net.

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‘Thanksgiving Story’ is not all that factual

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Each year, approximately 50 million elementary school students in the United States are taught the “Thanksgiving Story,” which goes something like this;

When the Pilgrims arrived in America, they were destitute and had great difficulty living off the land.

A group of Wampanoag Indians led by Massasoit befriended the pilgrims at Plymouth, showing them how to live off the land, growing corn and using fish to fertilize their fields.

In celebration of their successful harvest and improved living conditions, the Pilgrims and Indians enjoyed a three-day feast, becoming the first Thanksgiving.

It is estimated that this annual festival lasted no more than one generation. You may have been one of those children who was told the fairy-tale version of the story, which states that ever since the first Thanksgiving, it has been an annual tradition…

The reality of growing European colonialism affected the native peoples in a decimating fashion. As the number of European settlers increased, Native Indians were pushed farther into the interior, losing traditional hunting and farm land.

Any Native contact with Europeans led to widespread epidemic diseases to which most Europeans were immune.

It is estimated that eventually 90 percent of the Native American population of North America died as a result of having never been previously exposed to smallpox, measles and flu.

The original unified celebration of Thanksgiving took on a more sinister singular nature in 1637, when Massachusetts Bay Gov. John Winthrop proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving a day after the Pilgrims carried out a surprise attack on a defenseless Pequot village, resulting in the slaughter of 700 native men, women and children.

From then on, successful massacres of Indians were usually followed by a “Thanksgiving celebration” (not the type of Thanksgiving we normally think of).

In grade-school classrooms this Thanksgiving Week, students will re-enact that “first Thanksgiving.” Hopefully, their teachers have done their research, not depending on that state-adopted text book for the “facts.” Some misconceptions:

• The English settlers did not wear somber black clothing and silver-buckled shoes, as usually depicted. They didn’t even refer to themselves as “Pilgrims.”

• Nor did the native Wampanoags wear the full-feathered head dress they are usually depicted as wearing.

• Their Thanksgiving food of deer meat, corn and shellfish bear little resemblance to today’s plethora of turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries and pie.

What is more important than what they looked like and what they ate was how they interacted with each other. Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, had earlier experiences with Europeans and knew English. After helping the settlers learn to plant corn and use fish to fertilize their fields, both sides agreed to defend each other against any attacks by other tribes.

The peaceful arrangement was short-lived, as increasing numbers of additional European colonists pressured government support for additional land expansion in the colonies. To most colonists, the Indians were “in the way.”

Teachers have an opportunity to provide a learning environment where the Indian people are not marginalized as they often are (in textbooks and instructional materials).

More Native Americans today live in urban areas (20,000 in the D-FW area) than they do on reservation land. They are not just part of our past to be considered one day each year as a “feel-good” story.

The Thanksgiving Story can be a good start to the even bigger story of how people should not treat each other.

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How David Ben-Gurion challenged Dulles

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Dear Friends,

Although I spend my waking hours working at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, I don’t use this column to push programs — at least not too often. However, here is a wonderful free opportunity.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at the J, there will be an exclusive screening of “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue,” with an introduction by and conversations with Doug Seserman, CEO of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. This movie won the 2017 Israeli Ophir Award (Israeli Oscars) for Best Documentary.

Admission is free, but space is limited. RSVP is required by Friday, Nov. 30 — contact szoller@aabgu.org or 646-452-3710.

This reminded me of a special story about founding Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that was shared by his grandson. As you read this story of our people, remember that telling our stories both about our people and even our families is so important.

“In 1954, when Ben-Gurion was prime minister, he traveled to the USA to meet with President (Dwight) Eisenhower to request his assistance and support in the early and difficult days of the State of Israel.

“John Foster Dulles, who was the then secretary of state, confronted Ben-Gurion and challenged him as follows:

“‘Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister — who do you and your state represent? Does it represent the Jews of Poland, perhaps Yemen, Romania, Morocco, Iraq, Russia or perhaps Brazil? After 2,000 years of exile, can you honestly speak about a single nation, a single culture? Can you speak about a single heritage or perhaps a single Jewish tradition?’”

“Ben-Gurion answered him as follows:

“‘Look, Mr. Secretary of State — approximately 300 years ago, the Mayflower set sail from England and on it were the first settlers who settled in what would become the largest democratic superpower known as the United States of America. Now, do me a favor — go out into the streets and find 10 American children and ask them the following:

• “‘What was the name of the Captain of the Mayflower?

• “‘How long did the voyage take?

• “‘What did the people who were on the ship eat?

• “‘What were the conditions of sailing during the voyage?

“‘I’m sure you would agree with me that there is a good chance that you won’t get a good answer to these questions.

“‘Now in contrast — not 300 but more than 3,000 years ago, the Jews left the land of Egypt.

“‘I would kindly request from you, Mr. Secretary, that on one of your trips around the world, try and meet 10 Jewish children in different countries. And ask them:

• “‘What was the name of the leader who took the Jews out of Egypt?

• “‘How long did it take them before they got to the land of Israel?

• “‘What did they eat during the period when they were wandering in the desert?

• “‘And what happened to the sea when they encountered it?

“‘Once you get the answers to these questions, please carefully reconsider the question that you have just asked me.’”

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