Archive | January, 2019

JCRC spearheads advocacy trip to Austin

JCRC spearheads advocacy trip to Austin

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Photo: JCRC Staff
2017 Jewish Communities Day at the State participants meet with Gov. Greg Abbott.

Jewish community members and organizations from throughout Texas will converge on the state Legislature in Austin Wednesday, Jan. 30, for a day of advocacy.
“The Jewish Communities Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin” is organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. The event occurs every two years based on when the Texas legislature meets. The program is a communal effort to advocate and educate on issues important to the Jewish communities of Texas, including support for Israel, social services agencies and access to quality early learning for all children.
Partners for this year’s program include Jewish Federations in Texas, including those from Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth/Tarrant County, Houston and San Antonio; the JCRC; as well as the University of Texas Hillel, Southern Methodist University Hillel, Hillel North Texas and Hadassah-Greater Southwest Region. As the only full-time JCRC in Texas, the Dallas JCRC brings leadership and expertise in programming, like Day at the State, which supports public policy and social issues that are important to the Dallas community
For the program at the State Capitol, the JCRC invites issue-experts to speak to participants during the morning of Jan. 30 about particular advocacy issues. Legislators are invited to meet with participants during a luncheon period, followed by meetings arranged for small (two- to four-person) groups of attendees to meet individually with legislators or staff during the afternoon.
The JCRC will also arrange “meet and greets” and photo-ops with Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen. In 2017, the JCRC arranged a select leadership meeting between then-House Speaker Joe Straus and high-level representatives from each Federation, during which they discussed strategy regarding getting an anti-BDS bill approved in the House and Senate.
This year, among other things, participants will advocate for support for Texas-Israel water cooperation, in collaboration with the Texas Israel Alliance. Ensuring that Airbnb is a “listed company” that engages in boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel also will be an advocacy priority. According to the anti-BDS bill, which was signed into law in 2017, Texas law restricts the state from contracting with any companies that engage in BDS against Israel.
In Austin, Jewish Communities Day at the State participants will also advocate for issues important to social services agency partners of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, including Jewish Family Service, The Legacy Senior Communities, Community Homes for Adults, Inc. and the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center. One particular advocacy issue for Jewish Family Service includes support for funding of Clubhouse Texas, which provides a community and meaningful work for people with mental illness.
A third advocacy issue will be ensuring adequate funding for high-quality early learning in public schools for all children. A yearlong investigation by the Austin American-Statesman published in December 2018 revealed the dangerous conditions that exist inside many Texas child care settings, leaving hundreds of children with serious injuries and nearly 90 dead as a result of abuse or neglect since 2007. The Dallas JCRC is working with a coalition of multiple organizations, agencies, and stakeholders who are advocating for safe and secure child care.
For more information and to register for the program, visit www.jewishdallas.org/dayatthestate. Optional bus transportation will be provided from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas for those who wish to travel with the group. Online registration closes Friday, Jan. 25. For any questions, contact the Jewish Community Relations Council at jcrcdallas@jewishdallas.org or 214-615-5293.

—Submitted by
Hillary Burlbaw

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FW’s Levinson leads violin tour

FW’s Levinson leads violin tour

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Photo: Kim Goldberg
Following a lecture on Bach’s Chaconne, Gary Levinson taught a masterclass for students at Kibbutz Cabri Arts High School.

By Gil Hoffman
Jerusalem Post

Jewish and Arab students throughout the Western Galilee were given the opportunity to learn from and listen to American violinists, who were led by Gary Levinson, the artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth and senior principal associate concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony.
“This may be the one language we can agree on,” Levinson said. “They all want to make music beautifully, and they all listened with bated breath.”
The delegation also included musicians Sarah Price of Fort Worth and Ilana McNamara, as well as Kim Goldberg, who has been chairwoman of arts and community in the Partnership 2Gether consortium. A team led by partnership director Judy Yuda put together their itinerary to maximize their time in Israel.
The musicians performed three concerts while they were in the region. The first paid tribute to supporters of the crowdfunding campaign that the partnership initiated to raise money to bring opinion leaders from consortium communities to Israel to experience the Western Galilee’s diversity and multiculturalism.
In the second concert, Levinson and top musical students from Akko and the Matte Asher Regional Council performed for Western Galilee residents.
In the final multicultural concert in Akko, the visiting violinists performed to celebrate multiculturalism and coexistence in the Western Galilee.
They also led four masterclasses with both Arab and Jewish students in Akko, Matte Asher, Rosh Pina and the Arab town of Tarshiha.
Levinson said the concerts were very different from each other. For instance, the crowdfunding donors were not used to musicians performing in such a small setting.
“They were shocked by what a great experience it was to have an intimate concert,” he said. “It was a great pleasure for me to introduce them to that kind of experience where they can feel the energy.”
McNamara, a 17-year-old high school student in Omaha, said she enjoyed playing with Jewish and Arab kids who are her age from the Western Galilee’s Keshet Eilon Music Center.
“This has been a great experience,” she said. “I have never done an international concert series before. Every time we played, we wished it was for longer. It was so great that I can’t imagine it could be even better.”
But that is exactly what Goldberg and Levinson are planning to do. Goldberg said that after this delegation, they know better what needs to be done and how they can be more effective. They are working on a follow-up trip in October 2019 and a three-year plan, in partnership with the Western Galilee’s municipalities.
“When we come back, we will do what we didn’t have time to do,” Goldberg said. “Now that we understand what our strengths are, we can reach out to more students. The soil is very rich for this.”
The trip was the idea of Goldberg, who decided to match Levinson with Akko conservatory head Danny Yaron.
“When I saw Gary’s passion, I knew when they got him and Yaron together, magic would happen,” she said. “It seemed to be the perfect fit to get Gary here, engaged with students. I’m always thinking of making connections. It most definitely succeeded.”
Price said the highlight for her was getting to perform for different audiences than they are used to having and getting to meet people from different cultural backgrounds.
“We didn’t know what to expect in the Middle East,” she said. “Everyone was so warm and friendly.”
One highlight for all the participants was meeting with Holocaust violinist Amnon Weinstein, the founder and promoter of the Violins of Hope Collection of instruments from the Holocaust. Weinstein let Levinson play the decades-old instruments; he usually performs on a violin that was crafted in 1726.
“The partnership provided a platform for all these connections, which wouldn’t happen without the Jewish Agency putting aside money and allowing connections to happen,” Yuda said.
She pointed out that some 500 people were touched in one way or another over the weeklong tour by the delegation, which was funded by the 14 consortium communities.
Yuda was touched by a quote from Noa Tenne, the head of the partnership community committee, who wrote her after the final concert, “I am astonished every time anew from the opportunities the partnership offers and the possibilities of making connections between the communities.”
Levinson said he enjoyed teaching the children of the Western Galilee how to listen and that hearing and listening are not the same thing.
“They can communicate with different language and a unified goal,” he said. “That’s why I prefer the language of music. I’m not pretending that this visit will make or break the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But we can’t know the answer if we don’t try.”
This article was first printed in the Jerusalem Post and is reprinted with permission.

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UTD’s AEPi chapter receives charter

UTD’s AEPi chapter receives charter

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Photo: Submitted by Aaron Noble
Members of the Tau Iota Chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi celebrate at their chartering ceremony Nov. 18 at UTD. Aaron Noble explained, ”We named ourselves Tau Iota (TI) for Texas Instruments, because without them, UT Dallas would not be the school it is today.”

By Deb Silverthorn

Dallas-based male college students returning to class this month have a new organization to join, as the Metroplex now hosts the recently chartered Tau Iota chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), a Jewish fraternity.
Founded by a group of University of Texas at Dallas students in the fall of 2017, the chapter is now recognized by its national headquarters, joining more than 190 campuses in eight countries.
“The camaraderie of my brothers, and those in our community, is very important to me and the relationships we are building, I’m certain I will have forever,” said Ethan Fisher, the Tau Iota chapter’s current master who was recently voted Outstanding Member.
First adopted in 2017, with Aaron Noble as founding master, the chapter welcomes students from community colleges and other schools in the area that don’t have a chapter. AEPi’s Tau Iota is based at UT-Dallas, but is not yet a recognized organization of the university.
“I’ve become incredibly close to those who started our chapter, and those who I’m active with now,” said Fisher, a UT-Dallas junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “This isn’t only a social organization, as much as I enjoy that aspect of it, but the philanthropy and the education and the leadership training that we experience is a huge part as well. Sharing all of that with a Jewish community of men, and the bond that comes from mutual background is very strong — that, and we have a great time together.”
The chapter has made its mark through activities of Jewish philanthropy, recruiting, education and service to community. It honors the national organization’s Repair the World Fund, which supports BBYO, B’nai B’rith’s Disaster Relief Program, Gift of Life, Heroes to Heroes, Israel Children’s Cancer Foundation, IDF Widows & Orphans Organization, Innovation: Africa, MadaTech Museum, Simon Wiesenthal Center and Birthright Israel. Locally, the group has taken on projects to clean up roadside trash, hosted a bone marrow registration drive and worked with Jewish Family Service on several projects.
“Being a part of a fraternity of Jewish brothers adds to my life in which my Judaism plays a big part,” said Fisher. “Whether it’s the programming and events that are religiously related, or even for those that are not, it’s the commonality and connection of our core that brings us together, and that enhances my own experiences. It isn’t about religious observance or experiences, but experiences shared by those of a common religion.”
The brothers lent their services to build sukkahs for community members, hosted a Hanukkah party and numerous Shabbat dinners, and have collaborated with Hillel on many programs. The chapter also hopes to connect with synagogues and other Jewish organizations to provide support, to share in programming and to create community.
Serving as the chapter’s adviser is Lance Friedensohn, who was the founding master of the University of Oklahoma chapter in 2007. Now the program director and campaign associate at the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Friedensohn is a sounding board of the experiences of building a chapter.
“It can be difficult in a community with a smaller Jewish population and in schools with fewer Jewish students, but being a part of something with shared values is important whether the group is big or small,” said Friedensohn, who graduated from Arlington Lamar High School. “I attribute much of who I am to what I learned and how I grew through AEPi, and I’m happy to be able to pay that forward. This chapter is a group of great mensches, and I’m very proud of them.”
At its chartering ceremony, AEPi CEO Andrew Borans and Supreme Master Jeffrey Jacobson honored and celebrated the next generation.
“In Parashat Beresheet, God asks Cain where his brother is and Cain replies, ‘Hashomer achi anochi? Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The answer is, of course, yes,” Borans said. “We are all our brothers’ keepers, and these young men are absolutely caring of each other, and caring about their futures. They are of our future leaders and it was an honor to be in Dallas to celebrate their success and welcome them wholly to the organization.”
He added, “These young men create, finance, produce and share events and programming, and it’s all part of the learning process. We are a microcosm of the world. We can’t just ‘attend the party.’ We must set, complete and follow through in life. Going from being a colony to a chapter is a bit like a bar mitzvah — from ‘now I am a man’ to ‘now we are a chapter’ — and the men of Tau Iota are indeed strong as a chapter.”
The chapter has 10 active members and rush for the spring semester is underway. Male students interested in joining should visit dallasaepi.org. Congregations and organizations wishing to work with the chapter should email programming@dallasaepi.org.

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Around the Town: JWV, Beth Shalom

Around the Town: JWV, Beth Shalom

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Photos: Submitted by Phil Kabakoff
The Jewish War Veterans Martin Hochster Post #755’s 2019 officers are, from left, Kim Factor, post bugler; Rabbi Sidney Zimelman, chaplain; Phil Kabakoff, judge advocate; Will Kutler, junior vice commander; Nana Atkens, commander; Mike Bumagin, senior vice commander; Michael Ross, quartermaster; and Fred Korngut, officer of the day. Linda Landy, adjunct, is not pictured.

JWV Martin Hochster Post #755 installs 2019 officers

The Martin Hochster Post 755 of the Jewish War Veterans of Fort Worth installed its 2019 officers Sunday, Jan. 6, at Beth El-Congregation.
Assuming their new duties were Commander Nana Atkens, Senior Vice Commander Mike Bumagin, Junior Vice Commander Will Kutler, Judge Advocate Phil Kabakoff, Quartermaster Michael Ross, Chaplain Rabbi Sidney Zimelman and Adjunct Linda Landy.
The post awarded the Morton Herman Service to Veterans Award to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. JWV National Commander Barry Schneider of Fort Worth presented the honor. Price was recognized for the following reasons:
• Closely backing and supporting Naval Air Station and Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth.
• Interacting with the USS Fort Worth (participated in ceremonies and interaction with commander, officers and crew).
• Participating in ceremonies and interacting with Charlie Company, a Vietnam-era veterans group adopted by the City of Fort Worth.
• Member and past president of Texas Mayors of Cities with Military Bases (founding member together with the City of Fort Worth).
• Participating in Memorial Day ceremonies at Mount Olivet Cemetery and the National Military Cemetery.
• Sponsoring initiatives with homeless veterans to get them housing and settled. Price’s latest endeavor was The 100-Day Challenge, an initiative to house 100 veterans in 100 days, culminating Dec. 21, with 181 veterans housed.
The first recipient of the Morton Herman Service Award to Veterans was State Sen. Wendy Davis in 2010. Those who followed were Judge Brent Carr (2011), Stevie Hansen (2012), Nikki Hatley (2012), Rep. Pete Geren (2013), Rep. Kay Granger (2014), Valerie Groll (2016), Councilman Jungus Jordan (2016) and Admiral Woody Beal (2017).
Two World War II veterans, Stan Kurtz and Irwin Raffel, were recognized. And veterans who had passed away in the last year — Arvie Cooper, Earl Givant, Ted Hoffman and Harry Kahn — were remembered with a moment of silence.

Congregation Beth Shalom adult ed series continues

Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington will welcome Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez when its Adult Education Speaker Series continues at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 27. He will speak on “A History of Spanish and Portuguese Jews.”
Bejarano-Gutierrez is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, from which he earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. He studied at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland and received a Master of Arts degree with distinction in Judaic studies. His master’s thesis focused on Jewish Identity in the Second Temple Period.
He completed his doctoral studies in 2015 at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. His doctoral dissertation “Complex Identities: Christian and Jewish Attitudes Towards Conversos” was accepted in September 2015.
He also studied at the American Seminary for Contemporary Judaism and received rabbinic ordination in 2011 from Yeshivat Mesilat Yesharim.
Bejarano-Gutierrez served as the assistant editor for HaLapid, the quarterly publication for the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, from 2011-2012. He also served as a board member and treasurer for the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies from 2011-2013.
Bejarano-Gutierrez served as the volunteer rabbi of Chavurah Zohar Yisrael, a traditional Jewish community with rotating services, serving South Dallas and Northeast Dallas counties, with a special focus on helping Hispanics of Crypto-Jewish ancestry.
A prolific writer, he is also the author of multiple books, including “Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews”; “Crypto-Judaism, The Rise of the Inquisition: An Introduction to the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions”; and “What is Kosher: An Introduction to the Laws of Kashrut.”

Press note

Chabad of Fort Worth will host a Shabbat dinner and lecture with Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, at the Sonnenschein Chabad Jewish Center.
Shurpin’s topic is “the Jewish View on Reincarnation.” There is no cost to attend, but a reservation is required at rabbi@jewishcowtown.com or 817-263-7701.

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Dallas Doings: Ladino, BT Men’s Club, Levine, Waldman, Yavneh

Dallas Doings: Ladino, BT Men’s Club, Levine, Waldman, Yavneh

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Ladino takes the spotlight at Judeo-Spanish Culture event

SMU’s fifth Celebration of Judeo-Spanish Culture from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, will feature personal Sephardic stories, an update on Ladino studies and a concert of Ladino music.
Ladino is a historic Jewish language with a geographically diverse distribution that developed a rich cultural heritage since its emergence in medieval Spain.
The offerings are:
• Ladino Komunidad founder Rachel Amado Bortnick will tell the story of her grandfathers in “Two Ottoman-Jewish Gentlemen in an Era of Transition.”
• Sarah Korman will share memories of growing up Sephardic in Portland, Oregon, in “Personal Reflections of Ladino.”
• M. E. Rios will recount his experience of gaining Spanish nationality as a descendant of Jews forced to convert in Spain and later persecuted by the Inquisition.
• Alejandro Acero Ayuda will present an updated report of the current status of Ladino in the 21st century.
• Austin musician Michelle Alany and friends will perform Sephardic music infused with tasty Texas-blues twist.
The coffee break will include Sephardic sweets.
The free public event will take place at McCord Auditorium on the third floor of Dallas Hall, 3225 University Blvd., at Southern Methodist University. No registration is required.

BT Men’s Club breakfast to feature UTD robotics prof

Patrick Michaud, assistant director for robotics education at the University of Texas at Dallas, will be the guest speaker at Congregation Beth Torah Men’s Club’s breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 20.
Michaud will discuss the importance of robotics in education and engineering, and his role in robotics competitions. He, his students — and their robots — will present a demonstration of their work.
The public is welcome at the lox-and-bagel breakfast, which costs $10, $5 for students. Beth Torah is located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson.

Levine Academy to host unique fundraiser March 9

Ann & Nate Levine Academy is putting a new twist on its Annual Fundraising Gala, scheduled for Saturday, March 9, 2019, at 6500 Cedar Springs Road, Suite 200, in Dallas
Titled “The Real Mensches of DFW: Great People. Good Deeds,” this year’s gala moves away from the traditional honoree dinner. Instead, seven community leaders — Neil Beckerman, Julie and Jay Liberman, Lillian and Jon Pinkus, and Jackie and Steve Waldman — will partner with students in grades 5-8 to help them perform acts of service for four area nonprofits that are aligned with Levine Academy’s core values.
The organizations are The Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, The Legacy Senior Communities, Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas and The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Partnership 2Gether, supporting the Western Galilee in Israel.
The evening will begin with cocktails, silent and live auctions, and a multicourse dinner, with entertainment provided by DJ Brooks Butler. The evening will culminate with a video presentation and speeches highlighting the students’ community contributions.
“What a fitting year to highlight the good that we all do for our community and to bring everyone together, said Levine Academy board president Solomon Israel. “At Ann & Nate Levine Academy, we identify a core value each year on which our programming is focused. This year, our midah (Jewish value) is ‘Responsibility.’
“We are teaching our students that it is their responsibility to participate in our community’s commitment to social justice and tikkun olam. The projects implemented by the students for this event will be a great reminder to us that love, compassion and contribution are stronger than hate.”
For information about sponsorship opportunities, tables and tickets, visit www.bidpal.net/levinegala.

Photo: Courtesy JCC
Maxine and Erwin Waldman

With loss of Maxine Waldman, JCC tourney gets new name

One of the JCC’s signature events, the annual golf tournament, is changing its name to honor a longtime pillar who recently died.. Moving forward, the Aaron Family JCC Golf Tournament will be named the Maxine and Erwin Waldman Memorial Golf Tournament.
“My grandparents were giants in the Dallas Jewish community,” said Scott Cohen, a grandson of the Waldmans. “And no cause was closer to their hearts than that of the JCC. When my grandfather passed, my grandmother loved the idea of the golf tournament as a way to honor both him and their passion for the JCC. She would be happy to know the tradition and support continues on in their name.”
This year’s tournament will take place on Monday, June 3. Proceeds from the event will continue to support the Joanie I. Weinstein Camp Scholarship Fund and Elaine Quint Schrager Preschool Scholarship Fund at the JCC. Through sponsorships and raffle proceeds, the Aaron Family JCC is able to fund these scholarships for children to attend J Camps and the Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center.
“I believe in the valuable work of the JCC and I am honored to be involved with the Golf Tournament year after year,” Tournament Co-chair Clay Aaron said. “This event means so much to many in the community, as Maxine and Erwin were great role models for all. They brought so much passion and dedication to the J.”
Added Co-chair Neil Goldberg: “I believe the golf tournament will continue to be a success well into the future. This is such a great event to both lead and participate in. A fun day of playing golf and raising money for preschool and camp scholarships, what can be better?”

Photo: Yavneh Academy
Yavneh students who scored in the top 2 percent on the ACT and SAT are, front row, from left, Jenna Sasson and Maayan Abouzaglo; middle row, Ezra Ruderman, Ben Levkovitch, Max Weinstein, Zach Bernstein and Adam Frydman; and back row, Simcha Malina, David Cohen, Jonah Schwarz-Mullins, Leib Malina, Ari Berke and Yosef Weiss.

Yavneh students ace college entrance exams

Thirteen Yavneh Academy students have scored in the top 2 percent of national college admissions testing — SAT and ACT — including a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.
Nine Yavneh seniors and four Yavneh juniors earned SAT scores averaging more than 1,500 (out of a perfect 1,600) and ACT scores averaging more than 34 (out of a perfect 36).
The high achievers are Maayan Abouzaglo, Ari Berke, Zach Bernstein, David Cohen, Adam Frydman, Ben Levkovitch, Leib Malina, Simcha Malina, Ezra Ruderman, Jenna Sasson, Jonah Schwarz-Mullins, Max Weinstein and Yosef Weiss.
“This is an astonishing number of high scorers for one school, let alone a school our size,” Head of School David Portnoy said. “Our Yavneh faculty has done an outstanding job of preparing these students academically for the top colleges, universities, yeshivot and seminaries.”
Added Allyn Schmucker, director of college counseling: “I have never seen such terrific results from a group of high-achieving students. Colleges and universities respond to our Yavneh applicants based on a range of qualities, and this current crop will continue to burnish our school’s top reputation in Dallas and beyond.”

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Be happy having only what you need

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

With the Ten Plagues and the other great miracles that God wrought to bring us out of slavery in Egypt, I will admit that the miracle I’m fascinated with in this week’s Torah portion, B’shalach, is not as spectacular. It’s kind of a quiet, unpretentious miracle that I am drawn to examine and understand.
Once we escaped Egypt, crossed the Sea of Reeds on dry land and began our journey through the wilderness, God spoke to Moses (Exodus 16:4): “I will rain down bread for you from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion…”
That God provided manna for us in the wilderness, miraculous as it is, isn’t what fascinates me the most. Rather, I am drawn to verses 15-18 later in the chapter: “…And Moses said to them, ‘That is the bread which the Eternal has given you to eat. This is what the Eternal has commanded: Gather as much of it as each of you requires to eat, an omer (a unit of dry measure) to a person for as many of you as there are; each of you shall fetch for those in his tent.’
“The Israelites did so, some gathering much, some little. But when they measured it by the omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no deficiency: they had gathered as much as they needed to eat.”
There it is, a small, quiet miracle: Gather much or gather little, everyone had as much as they needed. The fascinating part is that some wanted to gather more and some wanted to gather less, but what they actually got was precisely what they needed.
The entire episode gets me to thinking: How much does a person need, as opposed to how much does a person want? The simple answer is we almost always want more than we need.
I have a personal finance book called “Uncommon Cents” and quoted within it is a study that asked people of four different income levels if they had “enough.” They all answered no. When asked how much more they would need to feel comfortable they all answered “about 10 percent more.” Whether they made a little or a lot, all groups wanted more. It doesn’t matter how much you might make, the desire for more is there and our wants outstrip our actual needs.
Ben Zoma understood this basic truth about human nature when he asked in Pirkei Avot (4:1): “Who is wealthy? The one who is happy with their portion.” It is not possible to be happy with your portion if your portion doesn’t meet your basic needs. But once your basic needs are met, your happiness is up to you. Will you be satisfied with what you have or will you be perpetually unhappy that you don’t have more?
Furthermore, when you are out gathering for yourself, don’t forget about the people left behind in the tents who are unable to gather for themselves. We are commanded also to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. There is sufficiency for all of us, if we look out for each other.
Only you can answer the final question: Whether you gather much or gather little, will you be happy with what you have?
Rabbi Ben Sternman is the spiritual leader of Adat Chaverim in Plano.

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1920s-1940s were Jewish gangsters’ heyday

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

As a young “boychik” growing up in the Bronx in the ’40s, one of my fondest memories was attending the movies, especially enjoying western and gangster movies, followed by war movies during World War II.
Little did I realize at that time that many of the real gangsters, especially those in the New York City area, were Jewish like myself, my friends and my neighbors.
It seems that thievery and corruption knew no bounds. Each immigrant group — Irish, Italian, Chinese, Jewish and others — had their “no-goodnicks” and thieves.
Formed into organized gangs, they often found themselves competing and fighting for control of ever-expanding territory of all sorts of illegal activities within their own ethnic group and sometimes across ethnic neighborhoods.
There have been primarily four or five phases of Jewish organized crime in the United States.
With the large influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, there also arrived mobsters who formed gangs in New York’s Lower East Side. Organized crime activity included “protection,” prostitution, tax evasion and gambling.
During the period known as prohibition (1920-1933), when alcoholic beverages were illegal to produce, bottle, transport and sell, Jewish gangsters such as Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Abe Bernstein, Dutch Schultz, Moe Dalitz, Kid Cann, Charles “King” Solomon and Abner “Longy” Zwillman all became wealthy.
An unusual “twist” in the traditional relationship between the “feds” and the mobs occurred after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Fear of possible infiltration through American ports by German and Italian agents led U.S. Naval Intelligence to gather information from the many Italian-American dockworkers and fishermen in the New York-New Jersey area.
Little success resulted from Naval Intelligence’s efforts, because the dockworkers were reluctant to work with government agents. The agents became more successful by switching tactics.
Enlisting the aid of Lansky, a known Jewish mobster who hated the Nazis, Naval Intelligence was able to negotiate with the top mobster of organized crime at the time, Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano.
Luciano, who was serving 30-50 years in prison, was open to an arrangement that might prevent him from spending the remainder of his life behind bars.
Lucky’s deal with Naval Intelligence resulted in full cooperation by the dockworkers and fishermen, but more significant was the gathering of intelligence concerning the Sicilian coastline in preparation for the Allied 1943 invasion known as “Operation Husky.”
In Israel’s 1948 War for Independence, Lansky and other Jewish gangsters took an active role in the collection and shipping of weapons during the arms embargo in which shipment of arms to either side was prohibited.
Other than Italian-American criminal elements, Irish-Americans and Jewish- Americans in organized crime have somewhat faded into obscurity.
Since the decline of the former Soviet Union, Mafia types have emigrated to Israel, some posing as Jews seeking asylum. Various Russian and Israeli Mafia groups include the Mogilevich, Fainberg and Abergil crime families.
In more recent years, beginning in the 1970s, Jewish-American organized crime has formed primarily in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn, where many former Soviet immigrants have settled, including criminal elements.
Hopefully, the New York City Police Department and the FBI, with their long history of having to deal with organized crime, will continue to be up to the challenge that these groups present.
While gangster movies might make for good entertainment, in real life, too many good people are hurt by organized crime and Jewish organized crime is a shameful situation.

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Torah says to protect, preserve the planet

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
We will celebrate Tu B’Shevat on Monday, Jan. 21. Hopefully, it is not one of those things that either we don’t know about so we don’t stop and think about it, or we know about it, went online and bought a tree at www.jnf.org and we were done.
There are so many wonderful ways of teaching our children to appreciate the wonder of nature and to learn that the Jewish people have been ecologists and environmentalists since biblical times — commanded by God to care for our earth. Yes, we must teach our children, but today more than ever, we must be reminded to go out in nature and renew our sense of wonder in the world.
The Torah tells us how the world was created, but then goes on to tell us how to protect and preserve the earth. A very important Jewish law is Bal Tashchit (Do Not Destroy). The Torah tells us we must not destroy and we must not waste. Take time to talk and think about the meaning of the various comments from Jewish texts on taking care of the earth. Go radical — bring a text to the dinner table.
Before you begin: Do not be nervous if you have never studied a Jewish text. Begin by reading the full text aloud. Ask, “What do you think it is saying?” Then begin to break down the text into smaller pieces. Remember that there is no right answer, but that each of us must find meaning for ourselves (and even young children are capable).
• Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai used to say: “If you have a sapling in your hand and you are told that the Messiah has come, first plant the sapling and then go welcome the Messiah.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 31b)
• It is forbidden to live in a town in which there is no garden or greenery. (Jerusalem Talmud, Kodashim 4:12)
• When you besiege a city for a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. You may eat from them, but you must not cut them down. (Deuteronomy 20:19)
• Whoever destroys anything that could be useful to others breaks the law of Bal Tashchit. (Babylonian Talmud, Kodashim 32a)
• The whole world of humans, animals, fish and birds all depend on one another. All drink the earth’s water, breathe the earth’s air and find their food in what was created on the earth. All share the same destiny. (Tanna de Bei Eliyahu Rabba 2)
As you walk outside to begin your day, say this:
“May our souls be rekindled as we open our hearts to the world and take good care of God’s world. ‘When you look out at the world around you, you are looking at God; and He is looking back at you.’” — Reb Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Esau’s angel wanted to cripple Jacob’s Torah love

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
Thank you for your response about the encounter between the angel of Esau and Jacob. I still was wondering what is the significance of touching his hip, of all places. It seems like there’s more important places to try to harm than the leg. I understand what you said about the Jewish people limping, but is there anything more to this?
Mark T.

Dear Mark,
There is, in fact, another understanding of the encounter that you mention, which explains why Esau’s spiritual patron was out to affect Jacob’s legs.
The deeper Jewish mystical sources explain the following (Zohar, Parashas Vayishlach 171a). Jacob, of all the patriarchs, represented the study of Torah. “The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows trapping, a man of the field; but Jacob was a man of completion, abiding in the tents” (Genesis 25:27). “Abiding in the tents” means that Jacob spent his days and nights studying Torah, according to Rashi’s analysis of Genesis 25:27.
The Zohar teaches that the struggle between Jacob and the patron angel of Esau was a spiritual one; Esau did not want Jacob to take the birthright and the Torah that accompanied it. The angel was attempting to remove the Torah from Jacob’s ownership, taking it out of his hands and heart.
When the angel saw he could not overcome Jacob, because his love of Torah was so intense that he would rather die than to cease his study and observance of it, the angel touched his leg. The legs of a person hold him or her up. They represent standing up and walking forward.
Like the legs of Jacob held him up, so too the supporters of Torah throughout the generations are like the legs of the Torah. Those who monetarily support Torah become the legs of the Torah who prop it up, making it accessible to those who want to study it. As the sages say, “if there’s no flour, there’s no Torah” (Mishna, Avos 3:17).
When Esau touched Jacob’s leg to move his hip out of place, he was “touching” the supporters of Torah throughout the generations. He knew that the Jewish people loved the study and observance of Torah too much to minimize it directly, so he had an alternative plan. He would minimize the desire of the Jews of means to appreciate the importance of Torah study, so they won’t support it wholeheartedly and to the extent they should (R’ Tzadok Hacohen, Pri Tzadik, Kobeitz Ha’mincha 37 in explanation of this Zohar). The lack of support will minimize the amount and intensity of Torah study, thereby weakening the “voice of Jacob” in the yeshivos, kollels and synagogues.
This, says the Zohar, will give Esau and his offspring (namely the Roman and, subsequently, Western culture and nations) the ability to control Jacob. Isaac said to Jacob, at the time of the blessings, “… the voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau” (Genesis 27:22). The Talmud explains this to mean that when the voice of Jacob is strong and powerful, reverberating the sound of Torah in the study halls, then the “hands of Esau” are powerless to harm us. But when the voice of Jacob becomes weak (see commentary of Vilna Gaon), Esau’s hands then are empowered and able to harm us and take us over.
The angel of Esau, by minimizing the support of Torah by touching the support of Jacob, crippling his legs, was preparing the stage for later troubles he would cause to the Jewish people.
Those individuals who, indeed, stand up and wholeheartedly and generously support the Torah become the “legs of Jacob,” the support of the Torah itself. Upon them the Torah bestows the blessing, “Baruch asher yakim es divrei haTorah hazos” (Deuteronomy 27:26), blessed is he who upholds this Torah.

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A meaningful Star of David makes its debut

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

I made a promise to myself on the day of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in my native Pittsburgh: I would no longer go out in public without something identifiably Jewish around my neck. I have stars, Hamsas, even a miniature State of Israel made there from the metal of a scud rocket. I have silver and gold to match any outfit. As if that were the important thing, which of course it is not…
What is important: I can finally let go of the shaming insult I received as a teenager from a shoe salesman. Too bad my feet are long and narrow and hard to fit; what he commented on was the necklace I was wearing. And what he said was, “You Star of David girls are never satisfied with anything.” I didn’t wear anything identifiably Jewish after that — except in Jewish settings only — my Boubby the Philosopher’s old star, set with bits of marcasite that sparkled like diamonds.
She gave it to me immediately after my wedding, just before my husband and I left for New York to be unit directors at a big Jewish camp in the Catskills. I put it on and never took it off until, in mid-August, the chain broke, and I put the star aside to await my next chance to shop for a replacement. But it never happened, because that same night, the staff residence in which we lived burned to the ground, taking Boubby’s star along with it. I’ve tried for years to replace it, but — as the old saying goes — “close, but no cigar.”
That lost star isn’t my favorite story. This one is: When Fred and I visited Poland, first we saw the Holocaust horror sites, but then we visited one of the country’s other main draws: the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow. It’s really an underground museum, since miners over centuries have carved statues in that salt. Down we went on an elevator with other visitors for a long look. Previously, in both Warsaw and Krakow, I had visited shop after shop stocked with items carved from the ubiquitous amber of that area, looking in vain for any Jewish star. There were hundreds and thousands of crosses in all sizes, but not a star anywhere. Should I have been surprised? Frustrated.
I just abandoned my search.
But of course, this mine, like most tourist attractions, had a gift shop, where I gave my hunt one last try: “Do you have any six-pointed stars?” I asked the young woman behind the counter. “A Jewish star?” She answered no, which didn’t surprise me. But as I started to walk away, she called me back to wait a moment. And, reaching under her counter, she brought up a small box of odds-and-ends, pulling from it a pair of earrings — small, dangling stars of silver, each centered with amber. I asked no questions, paid whatever she wanted and brought my treasure home.
I do not wear earrings, having been warned never to put any weight on either ear ‘way back in 1969, when I had surgery to remove a tumor from behind the right one. So, I took these to a jeweler friend, who formed a pendant for me — one star atop the other. Today was my day to wear it for the first time since the massacre.
Since making that personal promise to wear a Jewish symbol every day for the rest of my life, I have done so. And no one yet has ever made a comment on anything that was hanging around my neck. Sorry to disappoint you, but today (which was a week before you’re reading this), nobody said a word, either. I’m disappointed, myself. And I puzzle over this: Are my most treasured symbols invisible? Well, it doesn’t matter: It was enough just to be a proud, public Jew, wearing what may well have been the last Jewish stars left in Poland.

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