Archive | December, 2018

This book gets you going in the right direction

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

After the mountain of books I’ve read in my lifetime, I’ve finally found the one-and-only written just for me: “I’ll Never Get Lost Again: The Complete Guide to Improving Your Sense of Direction” by Linda Grekin.
Not everyone knows that I don’t have any. I never make a “thing” of it until something happens. But there it is. My mother was bad, I’m worse, and my daughter is even “worser.” She believes it’s a sex-linked trait because her brother and her two sons are not similarly afflicted. Whatever: It’s a real handicap.
On a recent Friday, I was due at my hosts’ home for a synagogue-arranged group Shabbat dinner. I knew how to get to the house: straight north on Hillcrest (I do know that street’s direction), turn left on Beltline, turn right on Meadowcreek, turn again at the third street on the right. And I was right. But somehow, I got lost anyway. I did something wrong somewhere, wound up on Hillcrest again, drove around fairly frantically while not knowing where I was or which way I was headed, until I finally hit (not literally, thank the Good Lord) a gas station that gave me specific directions. When at last I arrived, the group was lighting the Sabbath candles – and praying for my safety.
If you’re thinking this must be an occasional happening, please think again. One evening, I tried to find a home on a street that runs west of Coit (yes, I know west for some areas I’ve been before) for a meeting. But when I couldn’t even find the right street, I decided to go back to Coit and try again. And then, I couldn’t even find Coit.
So, I just drove, randomly, not recognizing any street names, until I finally located a gas station (always my best bet) and went inside to ask directions. Already too late for the meeting, I thought I’d just head for home. When they asked where I wanted to go, I said to any main street in Dallas. Guess what? I was in Addison, a few short blocks north of Beltline. I reached my house an hour and 10 minutes after I’d left, having done nothing but drive the whole time.
To help me out, I consult maps before I go anywhere. But I have to turn them around to figure out in which direction I must travel. This book tells me that’s a common “solution” for people like me. It also tells me there are others who can sit in their own dining room and not be able to tell what room is directly above it on the second floor – even after having lived in the same house for years. Or why I’m a whiz at word puzzles but a dud at solving mental manipulation of what something would look like if it’s turned around to another angle.
But it doesn’t explain why my high school geometry teacher somehow figured out that I was drawing my graphs by the “squint and guess” method (the same way I still hang pictures on walls) and was so good at faking it that until his class, I’d managed to fool everyone else…
I go into buildings by one entrance, go out another and don’t know the difference until I’ve walked several blocks in the wrong direction. I ride DART frequently, but I’m always worried that I might be on the wrong side of the platform to catch the right train. And while all this may sound funny to you, for me, it has major costs in time, energy, frayed nerves and embarrassment.
Author Grekin hasn’t really solved my problem, but she has reassured me how not-alone I am, that some big names share my problem, including the original Ann Landers. I always knew she never drove, but until now, I didn’t know why.
Today, I’m sending a copy of this book to my daughter. Mine, I’ll never part with.

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It’s fine to wear tefillin outside of Israel

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I heard that the mitzvah of tefillin is only for the land of Israel, and that doing it outside of Israel is only for practice. (That is a short version of what was said.) If it was just me that was confused about this, I would have written it off to my ignorance, but I would say almost all were not comfortable with this. Could you please comment?
Etta K.

Dear Etta,
I would assume that the lecture you heard was based upon a famous section from the classical commentary to the Chumash, known as Ramban.
Ramban writes the following: “…and (if you don’t listen to the word of God) you will quickly be ejected from the land” (Deuteronomy 11:17); even though I will exile you from the land to the diaspora, remain distinguished in the performance of mitzvos in order that, when you shall return, they should not be new (unfamiliar) unto you. Similarly, Jeremiah (who prophesized the exile) said to the Jews, ‘establish for yourself markers,’ these are the mitzvos which the Jews will be distinguished through (in exile). In the Diaspora the Jews will only be obligated in mitzvos, which obligate the personage such as tefillin and mezuzos (not in the mitzvos upon the land). The Sages explained that the fulfillment of mitzvos there (in the diaspora) is in order that they will not be unfamiliar when they return, because the main fulfillment of mitzvos is for those whom are dwelling in the Land of God. For this reason, our Sages said that living in Israel is compared to the fulfillment of all the mitzvos (as all the mitzvos are complete there)” (Nachmanides Leviticus 18:25).
It is important to understand the full meaning of the words of Ramban, to better understand the importance of Israel as well as to gain a deeper appreciation of mitzvos.
Through the performance of a mitzvah, we become partners to the Almighty in the ongoing creation and perfection of the world, the true meaning of “tikkun olam.”
The word mitzvah reveals two aspects to its fulfillment. The simple meaning of the word is “commandment.” We fulfill a mitzvah because we are commanded to do so. The second meaning is “partnership,” based upon the root tzavta, or “together.” With the performance of a mitzvah, we partner with God in the ongoing creation and fulfillment of the world and its purpose.
The foundation of this partnership is man’s creation in the “Image of God” (Genesis 1: 26-27). Implicit in that creation is God’s empowering us with the ability to powerfully affect the universe. The world is God’s “hardware,” the Torah is the “software,” and when He gave us the Torah, He handed us the “mouse.” We “click” with our observance of mitzvos and affect the entire universe.
There is no difference between Israel and the diaspora as far as the first aspect of mitzvos. To the extent we are commanded to perform the mitzvos, Jews in Israel and the diaspora share the same obligation.
The second aspect, however, the extent that our mitzvos affect the universe, is different when we are in the diaspora and distant from Israel, known as the “Throne of Heaven,” or if we are at the very “Gates of Heaven,” in Israel. Our observance has a greater impact when we are in the vital energy center of God, when we are at our highest spiritual level and greatest level of connection to the Almighty.
It’s important to note that the Ramban is not referring to the Israel of today, which, although geographically is the Land of Israel, is not the complete Israel we are waiting for. What we have been praying for is not simply to dwell in the physical borders of Israel, rather for the full return to Israel with its complete holiness. That includes the Temple, the Shechinah or Divine Presence of God, where we will return to our past spiritual glory.
May it be speedily in our days.

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Dallas Doings: Beth Torah, DATA of Plano

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

Beth Torah introducing two calming services

Congregation Beth Torah will kick off 2019 by experimenting with two new services: a contemplative Friday night service and a Saturday morning yoga minyan.
“We live our whole week racing from one activity to the next,” Rabbi Elana Zelony said. “By the time Shabbat arrives, our minds are still zooming at their weekday pace.” Zelony added that people need help to slow down, focus and savor the worship experience.
“The rabbis of the Talmud used to prepare themselves for prayer by meditating for an hour first,” Zelony explained. “Beth Torah is giving this tradition a modern interpretation.” CBT hopes that by creating opportunities for centering and calming worship the traditional prayers will become more accessible.
The Friday night contemplative service will create a quiet space for self-reflection and relaxation. Participants will begin their experience with a walking meditation surrounded by soft lighting and beautiful music.
During Kabbalat Shabbat, worshippers can choose between singing the Psalms that welcome the Sabbath or a seated meditation. Sermons will be rooted in Chasidic and Mussar texts. Chasidic texts explore spiritual revival, and Mussar texts focus on developing positive character traits. Services will conclude with traditional Ma’ariv prayers followed by refreshments.
The yoga minyan will be taught by Debbi Levy, who also teaches yoga classes at the JCC and Temple Emanu-El. Participants will start their Shabbat morning with an hour of yoga before joining the congregation for the Torah service and Musaf.
No prior yoga experience is needed. All ages are welcome, although children need to be old enough to focus and contribute to a calm environment. Participants should bring a yoga mat or towel for comfort and wear comfortable but modest clothing, as they will be in the synagogue.
The contemplative services will be held at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11, Feb. 8 and March 8. The yoga minyan will be held at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 5, Feb. 2 and March 2. If the services are well received by the community, they will continue in the future.
For more information, please contact rabbizelony@congregationbethtorah.org.
“So many people are anxious and depressed today. Judaism is rich in traditions that help people cope with these emotions,” Zelony said. “By offering these two new services we can connect people to ancient wisdom through modern methods.”

—Submitted by
Jessie Taper

DATA of Plano expands

DATA of Plano, a community synagogue and Jewish education center, is expanding.
Established in 2001 and located in a shopping center on the southwest corner of Parker and Independence in central Plano, DATA of Plano has burgeoned from a small mom-and-pop style synagogue to an all-inclusive Jewish engagement center offering learning opportunities for Jews of all levels.
The current expansion project, which began earlier this fall, is slated to increase the capacity by at least 50 percent. The project includes the design and construction of an all-new dedicated children’s programming wing to house the Hebrew school and various other student programs. The plans also include an expanded sanctuary and social hall to accommodate the frequently overflowing crowds.

—Submitted by
Eli Nissel

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Dallas Doings: Andrew Goldstien, Mr. Rajunov, Bryan Rigg

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

Andrew Goldstein vies for Jewish Star Talent Search Top 6

Teen musician Andrew Goldstein, son of Dana and Jonathan Goldstein of McKinney, was selected as one of the top 12 in Jewish Rock Radio’s Jewish Star Talent Search.
The Jewish Star Talent Search is a competition organized by Jewish Rock Radio to identify emerging young Jewish artists in the North American Jewish community who have a passion and desire to impact the Jewish world. Many teens and young adults auditioned.
A panel of international celebrity music artists judged the auditions, selecting the 12 finalists based on their vocal and instrumental skill, overall performance skills and passion for impacting the Jewish world.
Six grand prize winners will be selected in a public vote that lasts through Dec. 17. The winners will receive a prize package designed to help launch their musical careers, including:
• Private mentorship from a nationally recognized Jewish celebrity recording artist.
• A professional studio recording session to record an original composition or a cover song from a preapproved list of Jewish music artists.
• International exposure highlighting winner artists on an exclusive Jewish Rock Radio show broadcasting the songs recorded by prize winners.
• An all-expenses-paid trip to attend the 2019 Songleader Bootcamp National Conference in February in St. Louis to receive coaching and skills training from the judges: Beth Schafer, Julie Silver, Rick Recht, Josh Nelson, Sheldon Low and Nefesh Mountain. Prize winners will also be featured and perform live at the conference.
Andrew, 14, started beat boxing at 7, playing guitar at 9 and wrote his first song — a Mi Chamocha setting — at 10.
“Our congregation and our Jewish community are lucky to have Andrew’s family as active and dedicated as they are. While music is Andrew’s expression, Judaism is his soul,” Adat Chaverim Rabbi Benjamin Sternman told TJP contributor Deb Silverthorn in June 2017. “He’s an absolute joy, always pushing for more. Given the opportunity, post-bar mitzvah, to study Torah with me, rather than in Hebrew class, Andrew does so wanting to learn more about Torah and its meaning.”
To vote, visit https://www.wishpond.com/lp/2376227/. At press time, Andrew had garnered 1,030 votes.
Among the Jewish Star contest supporters are Dallasites Jarrod Beck, Kevin Pailet and Manuel Rajunov, according to the organization’s website.

Mr. Rajunov goes to the White House

Manny Rajunov of Frisco attended the afternoon Hanukkah reception at the White House Dec. 7. Rajunov is the AIPAC Dallas Executive Council chair.
Rajunov explained that for him, an immigrant from Mexico and a Jew, being at the White House was an impactful experience.
“When you are there, in the moment, you realize how fortunate we are to live in a country where Jews are as openly accepted as Americans while, at the same time, we as Jews have returned to our homeland in Israel to build a vibrant and dynamic society that, in partnership with America, has become a true ‘Light unto the Nations,’” Rajunov said. “The U.S.-Israel relationship was in full display that night, and I was very proud of it.”
At the earlier Hanukkah reception, President Donald Trump recognized eight Holocaust survivors, remarking they had experienced “evil beyond description.”
At both ceremonies, Trump mentioned the deadliest attack in American Jewish history at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 Jewish worshippers were killed by a lone gunman during Shabbat-morning services Oct. 27.
He said that in the shooting’s aftermath, “we reaffirmed our solemn duty to confront anti-Semitism everywhere” and that we “must stamp out this vile hatred from the world.”

Bryan Rigg to speak at Beth Torah breakfast

Bryan Rigg, author of “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers,” will be the guest speaker at the Congregation Beth Torah Men’s Club breakfast Sunday, Dec. 16.
Rigg, a veteran of both the Israeli army and U.S. Marine Corps, has written several books based on his groundbreaking examination of Jews who fought for Germany in World War II. He also wrote the upcoming “Flamethrower,” the story of Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, who won the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Everyone is welcome at the lox-and-bagel breakfast, which begins at 9:30 a.m. and costs $10; $5 for students.
Beth Torah is located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson.

—Submitted by
Michael Precker

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Plaskoff creates podcast launching pad

Plaskoff creates podcast launching pad

Posted on 13 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Kevin Porier
On-Air Media’s podcast studio

By Leah Vann

Melissa Plaskoff never thought her “Carpool Talk” show would lead to her being a local podcast sensation. But now, she’s helping others like her dip their feet into podcast media.
“I never thought it was possible,” Plaskoff said. “I’ve tried a lot of things and this is definitely my path, and if I were to go back and talk to myself 20 years ago, I would’ve said, ‘It’s OK, you got this.’”
Plaskoff, a lifelong Dallasite, grew tired of looking for something entertaining to listen to in her endless carpool commute as a mom with three kids, so she started “Carpool Talk” in 2015 as something all parents could listen to while waiting for their kids in what seemed like a monotonous daily routine.
Plaskoff’s podcast grew in both popularity and guest appearances. With that, networks came calling, but she wanted the freedom to dictate the direction of her podcast. She had meet Chris Jagger, former 102.1 The Edge host with experience in both radio and film industry through CBS and Warner Bros.
Both found out that the only way they could foster their own and others’ creativity was to start their own media company, On-Air Media.
On-Air Media would find its permanent home in a 12,000-square-foot facility outside the Dallas design district this summer, complete with two studios professionally equipped with four part-time production and sound engineers with editing experience.
The studios are soundproof with green screens, professional microphones and cameras. One has a 4K camera, while the other features an HD camera. There’s even a lounge with Kombucha on tap, where professionals can collaborate freely with people looking for ideas.
“We’re creating this environment where everyone is in it together, we can all win,” Plaskoff said. “We won’t have to charge a fortune and have our hands in everyone’s pocket.”
On-Air Media offers monthly memberships that include a package of four shows a month. The company keeps costs down with only three full-time employees and four part-timers. It streams every show live on Facebook, YouTube and On-Air Media’s website simultaneously, enabling it to keep the space affordable. Livestreaming cuts post-production costs, and all shows are stored away to stream on-demand via iTunes. The company is also leasing extra space in the building to other companies.
“We wanted to keep in mind there’s a number of different types of people that use it,” Jagger said. “Hobbyists, they have an idea for a show, want to do something that is interesting and entertaining, looks good and sounds good and has sound elements, that looks like it’s not embarrassing shooting out of your home somewhere. We also knew that professionals would want to come in.”
When new clients come in with an idea for a show, they first meet with Plaskoff and Jagger to find direction before launching. They can also schedule additional consultations. Jagger said that while it’s a freely creative environment, they’re able to balance the guidance.
“There’s a lot more freedom here,” Jagger said. “One of the things I ran into later in my career, at iHeartMedia, CBS Radio, you had program directors who tried to control everything because they were trying to be told what to do. Radio started to contract, eliminating a lot of jobs, fewer people involved in making decisions; it turned out to be a bad thing because they were just handing down edits. It became so restrictive, it was ridiculous; it continues to be that way. With what we do, anything goes at this point.”
And he adds that Plaskoff is a natural talent at pointing people in the right direction when starting or struggling with a show.
“She’s a natural-born producer,” Jagger said. “I tell her, ‘You should’ve been working for Oprah.’ She has the natural instincts. Had she been in that circle of people, she would’ve. You can’t teach that. I was like, ‘OK, you have a lot to learn, but you have great instincts, and if I’m not with you at some point down the road, you’ll fully understand what’s going on here.’”
Some of those instincts include which ideas resonate with an audience and how to execute those ideas in the best way possible.
“The way we structure the onboard of a new show is highly organized,” Plaskoff said. “Everyone knows their role and everyone knows their part.”
On-Air Media has produced an array of successful shows, including “The Benet Embry Show,” an unbiased progressive podcast that talks about today’s current issues while also promoting local artists in the R&B, neo-soul and hip-hop genres.
All podcast shows own their own content and can monetize if they choose. Sometimes, if a podcast needs help getting its feet off the ground, On-Air Media has professional co-hosts waiting in the wings with years of experience for consulting. They include former WFAA anchor Alexa Conomos, Dallas Observer and Pressboxdfw journalist Richie Whitt, KSCS voice Jasmine Sadry and Dallas blogger Julie Fisk.
It also provides an avenue for city business owners to try to get their messages out. Plaskoff and Jagger often meet with companies on how they can produce video and content professionally and how to spread it on social media.
Whatever the goal is, Plaskoff hopes that she’s providing a platform that helps people pursue their media dreams the way that she and Jagger have.
“It gives me so much energy,” Plaskoff said. “I love hearing the different stories people come in and tell me every day. No two are alike.”

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Chabad Fort Worth to expand next door

Chabad Fort Worth to expand next door

Posted on 13 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Dov Mandel
Chabad of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Rabbi Dov and Chana Tovah Mandel and their children look forward to their enlarged center. They are pictured here at the Kotel.

 

The Sonnenschein Chabad Jewish Center officially opened its doors in 2007 at 5659 Woodway Drive in Fort Worth. The center’s goal was to provide physical space for the then 5-year-old Chabad Lubavitch of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. It seemed fitting, therefore, that the 3,000-square-foot center’s first event was a Pesach dinner.
That dinner, however, presented a handful of challenges. The center was a house that was, in the words of Chabad Fort Worth leader Rabbi Dov Mandel, “a structurally sound but crummy-looking property.”
Mandel himself was recovering from a case of kidney stones. And he and his wife, Chana Tovah Mandel, found themselves hosting a larger-than-expected crowd, many of whom were Lockheed Martin-employed Israelis. “I’m not sure how we ended up with 90 people in this poorly lit house,” Mandel recalled. “Somehow, we did it.”
Some 11 years later, the Sonnenschein Center is no longer crummy-looking, but rather is a well-lit space where Tarrant County Jews come to worship, learn and eat. Yet, thanks to the organization’s growth, the house seems as cramped as it was when 90 people sat for that first Seder in 2007, due to the organization’s expansion. The children’s playroom is small, there is no yard to speak of and parking availability is non-existent. Said Mandel: “We’ve done all we can do in this space.”
To mitigate the issues, Chabad Fort Worth placed a bid on — and awaits the close of — the house next door. Chabad Fort Worth is expected to close on the house at 5663 Woodway Drive Jan. 9, 2019. Then, the organization’s growth can continue.
From apartment, to house,
to house
In 2002, Dov and Chana Tovah Mandel, along with their first-born daughter, arrived in Fort Worth at the behest of Chabad Headquarters in Texas and in conjunction with Chabad of Dallas. The goal was to spearhead Chabad activities in Tarrant County.
The family rented an apartment “to feel everything out, and keep expenses low,” Mandel said. Within a year, the Mandels bought a house to provide a place for their growing family and expanding Chabad programming. For a time, the three-bedroom home provided enough room for both. Until it didn’t.
Mandel moved his office out of the house and into a professional building, though he and Chana Tovah soon realized they could no longer host Chabad activities in their home. With help from donors, the Mandels acquired the Woodway house on behalf of Chabad, dubbing it Sonnenschein Chabad Jewish Center, after the grandmother of one of the donors.
Growth continued from that first crowded Seder. Minyans became more frequent, as did Shabbat and holiday services. The center added a mikvah in 2011. Two years later, an additional 700 square feet was built to provide more space for worship and programming. Meanwhile, the Mandels helped spearhead the launch of Chabad of Arlington and the Mid-Cities, to serve Jews in eastern Tarrant County.
But the Sonnenschein Center has been bursting at the seams, prompting Mandel to ponder expansion for the past several years. “We make do with what we have, but right now, we’re piling programs on top of programs,” He said. “We can only use the same room so many times in a day.”
Enter 5663 Woodway Drive, in a fortuitous bit of timing.
“The house was owned by three siblings whose parents had died,” Mandel said. “Two months ago, they indicated they were willing to sell.”
From house to . . . synagogue?
The 2,000-square-foot house currently under contract is on a corner lot, just north of the Sonnenschein Center. Mandel said that once the sale is finalized, the next step will be a building campaign. The eventual goal is development of an actual center, one that looks more like a commercial building and less like a house. Noted Mandel: “the zoning for the entire Wedgewood neighborhood is single-family residential, school or church. We’re not building a church. But we will be building a synagogue.”
This could mean razing part of one or both of the houses.
Mandel is adamant that permitting, platting and development will be done by the book, no matter how long it all takes. “My goal is to be able to sleep easily at night, knowing the city won’t show up with a bulldozer one day,” he quipped.
In all seriousness, Mandel envisions a Chabad center that will provide a great experience for the Tarrant County Jewish community by offering plenty of space, enough for programming and parking. As such, hosting a 90-person Seder in an old home was just a start for Chabad Lubavitch of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Growth and momentum are the main goals, no matter how sticky things might become.
“People want to be part of something that is positive and forward-looking,” Mandel observed. “God wants us to go all the way in, and show we’re for real. Then He takes us to the finish line. That’s the philosophy of Chabad, and the philosophy of life.”

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Ahavath Shalom fetes Elsie Blum for 68 years of service

Ahavath Shalom fetes Elsie Blum for 68 years of service

Posted on 13 December 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Linda Lavi
From left, Linda Lavi, Ava Beleck, Elsie Blum, Marla Owen and Daniel Sturman helped organize a tribute to Blum at Congregation Ahavath Shalom Shabbat services on Dec. 1.

Congregation Ahavath Sholom honored Elsie Blum for her 68 years of service to the shul at Shabbat services, Dec. 1. Linda Lavi, Ava Beleck, Blum, Marla Owen and Daniel Sturman coordinated the event.
Marvin Blum, Elsie’s son, paid tribute to her from the bimah.
“Picture in your mind a 19-year-old girl who had never lived outside her parents’ loving home, who moves to Fort Worth from Montgomery, Alabama, as a new bride,” he said. “She was raised by parents who set an example — they were deeply dedicated to their synagogue, and their home and their hearts were always open to the community.”
Blum said his mother came to Fort Worth 68 years ago knowing nobody but her husband, Julius, but she followed her parents’ example “and this shul became her family.”
She started her service to the synagogue as treasurer of the Hebrew School. She became the first woman on the Ahavath Shalom bima when she started a Yom Kippur tradition of speaking about the importance of Jewish education and to raise funds to run the Hebrew School. Her “Lady Bird Johnson-style Southern drawl” is still remembered, her son said.
For 52 years until Julius’ death, the Blums did almost all of their volunteer work at the shul, Marvin Blum said. “They were involved in almost everything going on up here.”
Afterward, her son said, “I often said that Mama remarried — she married the shul. She threw herself into her work up here with a fervor, seven days a week, more than a full-time job.”
She would help staff plan events and review catering events and Shabbat lunch, her son said. Elsie would “meet with families who were celebrating life events, plan menus and do the pricing for the events,” her son said.
“No task was beneath her,” he added. “She’d wash tablecloths, set tables, polish silver, you name it.
Marvin Blum also spoke about his mother’s life after her husband’s death: “When Daddy died, Mama became a role model for how to pick up the pieces of a broken heart and move on with your life,” he said. “I often said that she should write a how-to book on ‘How to be a Widow.’”
Two years ago, Blum scaled back on her work at CAS after son Irwin died, to run the family business, a distributor of meatpacking supplies.
“Once again, she became a the role model to show us how you have to go on with your life,” Marvin Blum said. “She told me it doesn’t ease the pain, it still hurts every single day, but you have to be resilient and keep on living.”
Elsie Blum said that she has been blessed with a long life, privileged to stand under the chuppah with grandchildren and witness great-grandchildren living a beautiful Jewish life.
“This shul is in my ‘neshomah,’ she added. “Whatever I have accomplished has been a labor of love. I am the beneficiary. Anyone who gives of himself for a good cause gets back far more than he gives. I have never sought to be honored. When one lives with a purpose, it makes life meaningful.
“It is my prayer that my beloved Ahavath Sholom will grow from strength to strength and serve as a source of inspiration for the entire Fort Worth community, l’dor v’dor — from generation to generation.”

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Federation opens grant application process

Federation opens grant application process

Posted on 13 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Sharon Wisch-Ray/TJP
The Texas Jewish Arts Association’s Sukkah Project Dwell in Design, which was held in October 2018, was awarded a Short-Term Grant in both 2017-2018 ad 2018-2019.

 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas has begun the 2019-20 grant application process, through which community organizations can receive short- and Long-Term Grants to fund new and increased needs and foster innovation in programming for the Dallas community.
The application process started Dec. 3, targeting initiatives that address one of the Federation’s impact areas: education, social services, global and local responsibility, Jewish identity, outreach and engagement, and security. All applications are due Feb. 6, 2019. Grant applications will be reviewed in the spring by the Federation’s Planning and Allocations Committee and grantees will be notified in mid-July.
“The Federation is pleased to once again offer these grants for our community,” said Robin Kosberg, Planning and Allocations Committee chair. “These grants allow the Federation to encourage innovation and fill important needs for our partner agencies and community organizations. We have been inspired by the programs funded in the first year of this grants program, and we hope that this resource will continue to energize our community.”
Short-Term Grants are available to all Jewish 501(c)(3) organizations serving the greater Dallas area. The funds are for one-off programs and/or seed funding of a project. Organizations may submit up to two applications requesting up to $20,000 per project. The grant application is available online at www.jewishdallas.org/grants. These grants are offered annually. Last year the Federation allocated $134,850 in Short-Term Grants to Dallas-area non-partner organizations and $112,000 to local partner agencies.
Long-Term Grants are available to current partner agencies that receive core funding from the Federation. These grants enable organizations to address increased and new needs for their organizations, as well as new, innovative programming. The grant funding commitment can be from 18 months up to three years. The maximum funding request is $75,000 per year. Similar to other Dallas-area grant-making organizations, the Federation will commit funding for up to three years, pending its performance, without the need for agencies to reapply annually. Last year the Federation allocated $694,000 in Long-Term Grants to its partner agencies.
“With the growth in our annual campaign, we have been able to support an increasing number of these innovative programs and look forward to continuing this expansion,” Federation President/CEO Bradley Laye said. “These supplemental funds continue to allow us to support new ideas and programs that strive to ensure our community’s strength and vibrancy.”
For more information on the grants, contact Evan Wolstencroft at ewolstencroft@jewishdallas.org or 214-615-5262.
—Submitted by Jon Cronson on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

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The network makes it hard to keep secrets

Posted on 13 December 2018 by admin

This week in Parashat Vayigash, Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers before reconciling with them. He then asks them to bring his father and their families to come live in Egypt, where Joseph had risen to such prominence.
At the emotional climax of this revelation, we read in Genesis 45:1-2: “Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone withdraw from me!’ So, there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.”
If Joseph thought that he might keep his news private, he was badly mistaken, as confirmed in Verse 15: “The news reached Pharaoh’s palace: ‘Joseph’s brothers have come.’ Pharaoh and his courtiers were pleased.”
Secrets have a way of getting out, no matter the precautions or methods one takes to prevent them from doing so. I love what Benjamin Franklin had to say in Poor Richard’s Almanac about the keeping of secrets: “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Joseph’s hope of keeping his news private was doomed from the start, which is an important reality for us to keep in mind.
Information passes from person to person, whether we will it or not, through a network of friends and acquaintances. It can also be surprising how extensive those networks are. It’s fun to play Jewish geography, that social game when you meet someone for the first time and try to see if you have any connections within your overlapping Jewish networks. But, it is also illustrative of how far and wide information may flow.
I remember distinctly how surprised I was the first time I visited Israel. My friend and I took a Pan Am tour (which gives you an indication of just how long ago it was) of Israel over winter break during our sophomore year in college. We had a day to explore the Old City in Jerusalem and saw a sign in the Jewish Quarter for free tours. As college students, free was important to us, so we took the tour.
Before we got started, the guide asked us where we were from. “The United States,” I answered. “Yes,” he scoffed, “I know. Where are you from?” “New York.” “Yes, where are you from?” “Long Island.” “Where on Long Island?” “Syosset.” “Where in Syosset?” “‘Miller Boulevard,” I said, getting frustrated. “Oh, by the railroad tracks.”
It turned out he had had a girlfriend in Syosset and took the train out to meet her, and so he knew Miller Boulevard. I was astonished, though today I wouldn’t have been. A few weeks ago, I was honored to officiate at a wedding in New Orleans and met two different people at the reception whom I had a connection to through two different synagogues where I had served as rabbi. I know now that it is a small world and we are all connected in one way or another.
We live in a time when division and discord seem to be sky high. It would be better for us to remember how deeply connected we actually are, even when we aren’t aware of it. We should be careful of what we speak about and how we speak because what we say will be repeated farther and wider than we might believe to be possible.
We should also remember that we have far more connections and similarities than we have divisions. When we remember our connections, our differences begin to fade and we can live in a more harmonious world.
Rabbi Ben Sternman is the spiritual leader of Adat Chaverim in Plano.

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A late take on December Dilemma

Posted on 13 December 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
When you read this, Hanukkah will be over, so why keep talking about a holiday that truly is not the most important in Judaism and has its share of myth-making (meaning the story we tell our children is not the whole truth)?
I am an avid reader of many Jewish internet sites, spanning all Jewish perspectives — it is good to expand to get the full picture of Jewish life. I have often recommended myjewishlearning.com, as it presents a variety of views. A part of the site that is specifically directed to families with young children is kveller.com.
In a recent post, there were a number of writings about Christmas and the age-old December Dilemma. A few that caught my eye were from either interfaith families or converts to Judaism. Each has a different struggle from our “typical” family with two Jewish parents. I say “typical” in quotes because there is no such thing.
Let me also recommend a book titled “Two Jews Can Still Be a Mixed Marriage” by Azriela Jaffe. The point being that we all come from different families with different traditions and ways of managing every part of our lives, Jewish and not specifically Jewish (for a discussion on what that means, I need another column). How do we live in this world of diversity and honor all, yet keep our uniqueness? This is a challenge for everyone.
So what did the various people say? Some converts and spouses in an interfaith family had a lot of trouble with “giving up Christmas.” All are a work in progress coming to terms with changing lives. For all of us celebrating whatever holidays we choose, it is an evolving process as we change and our families change.
We go from our parents’ home to perhaps time as a single to married to children and all the possibilities in between. Of course, there are differences, changes and challenges. And every family is different. Plus, there is no wrong way, just the way you make it work for your family.
Why talk about this after Hanukkah? As we know, the Jewish calendar is a strange thing, and this year Hanukkah was a bit early. We will soon have two months of Adar to get us back on track, and soon we will be saying that the holidays are late. Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations pose a problem whether early or late. This year, Hanukkah will be long gone by the time it is Christmas. Does that make it easier or harder?
As many of you know, I’m great at asking questions, then letting you decide the answers that work for you and your family. What will happen this Christmas for you? The bigger question is which Chinese restaurant will you be at and which movie will you be seeing on Christmas Day? Yes, that is a common tradition for us Jews.

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