Archive | January, 2019

Simple cheek swab turns out to be a life-saver

Simple cheek swab turns out to be a life-saver

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Cody Strull
Stem-cell donor Cody Strull was matched with a cancer patient two years after a DKMS drive at UT’s ZBT chapter.

By Deb Silverthorn

With the saving of one life, we are taught we can save the world. Through medical advancements and bone-marrow transplantation, Dallas’ community has often made saving the world possible.
For 23-year-old Cody Strull, the notion of saving a life was something “others did.” Now, he’s one of the “others” by virtue of his match with a cancer patient to whom he donated stem cells.
Strull, the son of Keo and Brian and brother of Brandon and Sean, is a former Rubin Kaplan BBYO member and Richardson High School graduate. He was raised at Temple Shalom and is now involved with Intown Chabad.
In February 2016, as president of the Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity at the University of Texas, Strull expected no more than a good time during Dad’s Weekend. Basketball, revelry and casino games were augmented by a bone marrow donor drive by DKMS, an organization dedicated to fighting blood cancer and blood disorders.
“We planned a casino night and wanted a philanthropy to share the proceeds with,” said Marc Andres, a UCLA ZBT alum and father of UT alumni Louis, who graduated in 2016, and Miles, who graduated in 2018. The brothers helped coordinate Dad’s Weekend. Miles, then the fraternity’s philanthropy chair, chose the efforts of the Guillot family, whose son Zach died in 2014.
Zach fought hard to live, and through his battle, parents Julie and Jeff Guillot (a UT ZBT ’82 alum) and siblings Jake and Lili dedicated themselves to creating awareness and raising funds to find a cure.
“Jeff was in the pledge class with many of the dads of the participating kids, and being a brotherhood and a family, it was an easy decision,” Andres said. “The first year, we raised $1,500; the second, almost $5,000; last year, nearly $17,500; and, as it turns out, we helped make a match, and that’s worth so much more. Fraternity boys can get a bad rap but this is one for the books — great kids, great hearts.”
For Jeff, 35-plus years after he was first a pledge, going back was going home. “The closeness we shared back in the day remains, and that the men responded with action means a lot,” he said. “We want to prevent any family from going through what we have. When you raise money, you raise hope and you give a voice. The donations, both financial and now physical, mean everything.”
Strull enjoyed that 2016 ZBT Dad’s Weekend, taking a few minutes to swab his cheeks and fill out forms — he figured that was a nice thing to do but didn’t expect anything to come from it. Most prospective donors don’t.
“Jeff’s story was eye-opening and inspiring, but I didn’t think there would be any follow-up,” said Strull, who graduated in June and is a sales representative with the Dallas Stars.
But last May, Strull received a call asking him to complete more bloodwork. Soon, he was given the shocking result that he was a match — the second of a UT drive. Strull kept the information to himself, wanting time to think, until ensconced in a Birthright Israel trip weeks later.
By coincidence, one of the programs was about bone marrow transplantation, with a representative asking if anyone knew anyone with a connection. Strull, kept his secret and sat still — but not for long.
Three fraternity brothers had joined Strull on the Birthright trip and one, Mickey Wolf, raised his hand saying he didn’t personally, but that apparently one of 300 who was swabbed through his fraternity had been identified as a match.
During a break, Strull took his buddies aside and revealed his secret. They encouraged him to move forward. “Save a life, save the world,” they’d been taught, they reminded him. “You have to do this,” they said.
“Birthright was an incredibly spiritually awakening trip for me, and when I came home, I knew what I needed to do,” Strull said.
When Strull returned from Israel, he told his family and met with the medical team. In a week, eight tubes of blood were tested. There was waiting, and then a fateful call. At the end of July, during the first week with the Stars, he underwent five days of injections to prepare for the procedure, then sat for four hours during which the stem cells were extracted.
Within hours, the cells were on their way to the recipient, identified only as a male, who received the life-saving gift shortly thereafter.
“Our DNA is linked to our heritage. Jewish patients need Jewish donors — it’s never guaranteed but the chances of a match are greater,” said Amy Roseman, Dallas’ DKMS donor recruiter. “We need all donors, but our young people provide the best patient outcome. Finding a donor in one’s family is like finding a needle in a haystack. We need to fill the haystacks with needles from our ‘extended’ Jewishly connected family.”
“Those with aggressive blood cancers depend on donors for their lives,” said Julie Guillot, featured on the Jan. 17 “Thriver Thursday” series with “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts. Jake, at age 3, went through the process to help his brother, most certainly extending Zach’s life.
“For patients who go through the intense treatments, without a match, it’s heart-rendering. For those who match, and follow through, it’s life-changing.”
New York resident Rich Rothman, a myelodysplastic syndrome survivor, attests to that truth. He received a transplant from Dallas’ Scott Price. The two, who met at DKMS’ 2018 awards breakfast, were matched at a DKMS drive at Parish Episcopal School, where Zach Guillot went to school.
“The DKMS family provided the opportunity for us to connect and I feel like we’ve known each other for ages,” said Price. “When people ask if the donation was painful, I say all I had to do was take a nap. The anesthesia made it quick and easy. It’s a small thing to help someone in need.”
Strull echoes the thought.
“I don’t know anything about the recipient, but he’s the one fighting cancer, throwing the punches,” he said. “I hope he knows I’m in his corner, ‘wiping his sweat, icing his face and massaging his back.’ I want him to kick cancer’s butt and raise his belt — a long life — above his head.”
Those ages 18-55 and in general good health can register at dkms.org. To donate to the Guillots’ foundation, with all donations funding genomic sequencing testing, visit TargetPediatricAML.org.

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Dallas Doings: Beth Torah, Baruch Habah, Portnoy

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

Beth Torah to honor
Leventon and Winter

Congregation Beth Torah’s Sisterhood will fete two young members as this year’s joint Torah Fund Honorees, recognizing their work to enhance and expand opportunities for the synagogue’s youngest members.
Rachel Leventon and Jessica Winter will be honored at noon Sunday, Feb. 10, at a dairy brunch in Beth Torah’s newly remodeled social hall.
Leventon and her husband, Isaac, 13-year Beth Torah members, are parents of Caleb, 8½; Miriam, 6½; and Shira, 1½. Winter and her husband, Douglas, are parents of Noah, who became a bar mitzvah at Beth Torah last summer, and Kaitlyn, who will mark her bat mitzvah in June 2020.
Leventon, an Alabama native, met her future husband when both were counselors at a Jewish camp in Georgia. They married after he received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. They’ve lived in Richardson since 2006 and now live just a half-mile from Beth Torah.
Winter, originally from Bridgeport, also had Jewish camping experience. Trained in accounting and administration, she came to Dallas in 1993 for her continuing management career in copier sales and service. She and her husband met the “modern” way, through computer dating, and live in Plano.
The two women have worked closely together on innovative programming for young children. Beth Torah’s initial “Tot Shabbat” has grown to include services for even the very youngest members on High Holidays and Sukkot. The Hand-in-Hand initiative is offered on two Sundays each month for babies, toddlers and pre-kindergartners. This program incorporates arts and crafts, music, movement and Jewish stories and traditions. Membership in Beth Torah is not required for participation.
Both honorees have led services, held positions on the Synagogue Board and lend their voices to the congregation’s volunteer music-makers for the monthly Friday evening “Joyful Noise” service.
Said Leventon: “Our goal is to create community, to give parents and other adults the opportunity to engage with their kids in a Jewish setting.”
Added Winter: “It’s amazing to watch the children get comfortable, knowing who they are and where they are with a ‘family’ of teachers and friends.”
The Beth Torah Sisterhood’s Torah Fund tradition began a quarter of a century ago, with the late Esther Cohen as its first honoree. Her daughter Robyn Rose was honored last year. Tradition also dictates that the most recently honored woman chairs the annual event, with all past honorees serving as the committee.
All are welcome to attend the 2018 event. Cost is $25 for the synagogue brunch at 720 Lookout Drive, Richardson. In addition, a minimum contribution of $18 to the Torah Fund of the Women’s League of Conservative Judaism is required. These tax-deductible contributions benefit five institutions, located in the United States, Israel, Argentina and Germany, that educate Conservative rabbis, cantors and teachers.
For information and to make reservations, contact Elaine Scharf, Beth Torah Sisterhood’s Torah Fund chair, at 972-307-3521 or email ebscharf@verizon.net.

Baruch Habah to the
TJP’s newest columnist

The TJP is thrilled to welcome Matan (his English name is Josh) Rudner, who made Aliyah to Israel in August 2017, as a monthly columnist.
Matan is the son of Lisa and Steve Rudner of Dallas and the brother of Jordan and Zach (his twin). He is a graduate of Ann and Nate Levine Academy and Greenhill School in 2017. Matan’s first installment of “Dispatch from the Homeland” can be found on Page 13 of this week’s TJP. It explains in detail what motivated him to make aliyah.
We look forward to hearing more from Matan every month.

Next steps for Portnoy

David Portnoy, Yavneh head of school for the past seven years, has been named the new head of school of the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus (AEC) in Las Vegas. Portnoy will begin at AEC in July 2019. He will continue at Yavneh through June 2019. AEC is a community Jewish school serving students ages 18 months to 18 years, with 450 students enrolled in preschool through grade 12.
“Serving the Yavneh and Dallas Jewish communities these past seven years has been an extraordinary privilege and pleasure, in large part because of the opportunity to meet exceptional people such as yourself, as well as hundreds of students, parents, alumni, donors and other community members,” Portnoy wrote recently in an email to the community.

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Ratner’s PT goal: Treat the whole person

Ratner’s PT goal: Treat the whole person

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

Physical therapist Jen Ratner and her team at Ratner Center for Physical Therapy and Wellness. Ratner will hold an open house at the center from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.

If you go to Jen Ratner for physical therapy, don’t be surprised if she asks questions about much more than what hurts.
Ratner says she tries to treat more than patients’ physical symptoms — she wants to treat the whole person at her Fort Worth clinic, Ratner Center for Physical Therapy and Wellness.
“Here, you’re not a number, you’re a person,” Ratner said. “We take pride in taking care of each person as an individual and working toward their own individual goals.”
Ratner said her goal is to treat each patient in all aspects of life. Physical and emotional health often overlap, she explained, and therefore the therapists at her center want to get to know their patients in order to help them to the best of their abilities.
“Every person is on their own journey,” Ratner said. “My saying that has gotten me through opening the clinic and doing this whole process has been ‘trust your journey.’
“I firmly believe that people need to trust their journey, and part of trusting their journey is trusting their therapist,” Ratner said.
Ratner Center for Physical Therapy and Wellness opened in November 2018 in Fort Worth and has been growing rapidly since.
Ratner says what makes her practice different is that she combines a multitude of different treatments, including soft-tissue therapy, dry needling and laser treatment, to help her patients back to health.
“The more tools you have in your tool box, the more things you’re able to offer people to get them better,” Ratner said. “When something doesn’t work, you go to another tool, you pull that out of your tool box and you continue to move forward until you find the right thing that’s going to help that person heal.”
Ratner’s passion for her work is apparent in the way she speaks of her patients and her practice.
“There is no better feeling at night than going home and knowing that you impacted somebody’s life for the better,” Ratner said.
Ratner’s own health and fitness journey began after she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This diagnosis inspired her to treat not only her patients’ physical needs, but also their overall wellness.
“When I decided to open up this clinic, I decided very quickly that we needed a wellness component,” Ratner said.
Ratner has brought on a certified strength and conditioning specialist to ensure her patients who finish treatment will continue their health and fitness journey. Ratner also hopes to integrate nutritional services into her practice in the future.
“The idea of this center is to really work on the whole person,” Ratner said.
“My goal is to help people get back to life,” Ratner said. “It’s to help people that can’t do something that they want to be able to do and to be able to accomplish that goal.”
Ratner said there hasn’t been any step of that way in which she hasn’t prayed that everything goes as planned. She said the Jewish community has supported her every step of the way.
“The Jewish community has been a tremendous support for me,” Ratner said.
Ratner Center for Physical Therapy and Wellness will host an open house with wine and hors d’oeuvres from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31. The center is located at 5500 Overton Ridge Blvd., Suite 228, in Fort Worth. For information, call 817-295-1255 or visit ratnerpt.com.

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My upbringing told me I belong in Israel

My upbringing told me I belong in Israel

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

It’s been a year and a half since my aliyah to Israel, and I’d like to make some things clear.
I didn’t leave Dallas, the city where I was born and raised for 19 years, because of any animus toward Texas or the United States. I didn’t leave in order to rebel against my parents or because I rejected the values of the community that raised me. On the contrary, my aliyah was an affirmation of love for the place from which I came.
My worldview was shaped in the halls of the JCC, Levine Academy and Shearith Israel. In my mind, my childhood is the challah I brought home on Fridays, Points for Peace games at the J, Yom HaAtzmaut parades in the parking lot and bar mitzvah services across the Metroplex. It was in the institutions and among the people of the Dallas Jewish community that the values I hold dear were instilled in me.
And when I was very young, I realized that the only way I could live a life in line with these values was to leave Dallas for a land across the sea, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Because it was in Dallas where I was taught that my story was the story of the Jewish people, that my culture was Jewish culture and that my values were Jewish values. At home, in class and at shul, I was raised to love my G-d and my land. And I was told that my fate was eternally intertwined with our people’s fate.
And while I know that millions of American Jews (including some in my family) disagree strongly with my assessment that Jewish life can and should be lived only in Israel, I don’t know how it’s possible to be brought up like I was and not see aliyah as the only way forward.
People make aliyah for a plethora of reasons, all of them valid. Some come to escape persecution or struggling economies, and some come because they feel halachically obliged. There’s also the increasingly strong argument, backed up by study after study, that non-haredi Jewish life in America will simply disappear in a few generations.
But for me, the most compelling case is that Israel is where we belong. I refuse to sit comfortably in America on the sidelines of Jewish history. Israel is where the next chapter of our story is being told. In this beautiful and complicated land, Jews are free, for the first time in 2,000 years, to live out loud. We are not Jews of the ghetto, cowering before our own shadows; and we are not Jews of America, the 21st-century Babylon, choosing daily between assimilation and isolation.
Every Sunday, as I make my way to my military base, I drive on streets named not for saints but for rabbis and great Zionists. As I wander through the bus station, I pass by restaurants that adhere to my dietary laws and I pay for my bus ticket in the language that reflects my people’s experience and in a currency that was first mentioned in the books that I read at synagogue.
When I strap my gun on in the morning, it is a vow to protect the country that I love and that loves me in return. It is an act of defiance against those who sent my family to the gas chambers and an act of pride that Jews no longer depend on anyone else’s permission to stay alive.
Living in this land, contributing what I can to the people who have given me everything, has been the greatest gift of my life. Because in spite of, or maybe because of, the difficulties and the challenges that I’ve faced here, I’m no longer a Jew of the exile. I’m a Jew from the Land of Israel: proud, confident, and free.
So I hope you’ll join me here, in this land that I love with all my heart. I promise you won’t regret it.
Dallas Native Matan Rudner made aliyah in August 2017 and serves as a Lone Soldier in the IDF.

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Honoring your parents same as honoring God

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

This week, we read about the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, beginning with the declaration of the Ten Commandments — the building blocks for moral societies and religion.
We often take these commandments for granted, regarding them as the most straightforward and elementary precepts. However, their concise wording opens a sea of discussion in the attempt to define the parameters of each instruction and dig into its reasoning. How does one “remember” the Sabbath? In thought? A verbal recollection? What constitutes murder, and adultery?
We have one Torah scroll, but two classic tablets. The division into two tablets conveys the prime categories of commandments. The first five focus on one’s relationship with God; the next five relate to the rights and welfare of humans.
Some people are more inclined to be careful with the second group, emphasizing kind behavior toward people in their personal value system, but forgetting to nurture the first set of laws. Others are careful to perform the private rituals that enhance their consciousness of the divine, the quiet spiritual component of life, but neglect to show a pleasant face to the world — their fellow man. Both tablets are vital in Judaism.
Out of place?
The above categorization into two groups is clear, except for one commandment, which doesn’t seem to belong among the first five: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12).
What is the quality of honor? Showing someone honor generally entails humility and admiration of specific virtues or deeds. Jewish tradition outlines the specific guidelines as it pertains to one’s parents — in thought, speech and action — and how to fulfill this important mitzvah.
It’s not always easy, especially when there is cause for resentment, as people tend to trace every personal struggle or psychological complexity to some form of neglect and damage by a parent during early childhood. And even when there is a smooth and loving relationship, the Talmud describes this as the most overlooked and hardest of all commandments to fulfill properly.
The next step in Torah study, after defining the parameters of each command, is seeking its basis and rationale: In this case, why should we honor our parents?
The biblical commentators, noting the placement of the fifth commandment, offer various interpretations. Nachmanides, in his commentary on this Torah portion (Yisro 20:13), explains that the command to honor parents rightfully belongs in the first group because honoring one’s parents is equivalent to honoring God. “For the sake of honoring the creator, someone is commanded to honor parents who contributed to his or her creation.”
Rabbi Aaron Halevi, however, in his Sefer Hachinuch (“Book of Education”), expounds on the logical basis for the mitzvah. There is a foundational principle in Judaism called hakarat hatov (acknowledging the good that someone has done for you) and expressing gratitude by acting kindly toward them. In this case, he explains, when someone considers that the parents are the cause for being and contemplates the toil and investments that parents made throughout one’s youth — how they clothed and fed, nurtured and cared, provided a home, an education and more — the natural inclination will be to express gratitude. It is only fitting to act toward them in the most respectful manner and help them in any way possible. Too often children grow up, get married and, in their preoccupation with their own ambitions, quickly forget all the years their parents toiled for them.
He continues to explain that when a person practices and instills this attitude of gratitude, they will naturally recognize the good that God has done for them. “For, by the same logic the creator is the ultimate cause for his existence, and that of his parents, and all his ancestors throughout history.” Internalizing these ideas enables one to be more attentive to a relationship with God.
Parents as partners
The two explanations of the rationale have subtle distinctions. If the basis is, as the latter suggests — instilling the trait of gratitude and applying it to God — the connection between honoring parents and honoring God is indirect. Nachmanides, however, implies an actual equivalence: The basis for honoring parents is purely because they “contributed to your creation.” This statement is reminiscent of the Talmud’s simplified yet profound statement: “There are three partners in the making of a person: the Holy One, the mother and the father. When someone honors his or her father and mother, the Holy One says, ‘I consider it is as if I am dwelling among them and they are honoring me.’”
Becoming “a partner” with the Creator is reserved for conceiving — not child rearing — because providing love and sustenance, emotional and physical support, to one’s child is more an act of independent will and skill. Bringing a child into this world, however, is not dependent on the parents’ effort and abilities, but rather taps into a transcendent force, which carries the breath of life, the human soul, to each child.
Bringing a new being into existence is perhaps the most wondrous ability that we possess among natural phenomena. Paradoxically, within the most physical lies a gateway to the infinite, very essence of the soul infinite.
The bridge
The rationale for the fifth commandment thus comprises two distinct aspects: There is a more perceptible reason entailing gratitude for all the good that our parents did for us. But even when this doesn’t apply, there is an underlying recognition that, regardless of their human frailties and flaws, these individuals put themselves in a position to “join” with God to bring us into this world. From a different angle, we honor God granting us life through acknowledging those who exercised the immeasurable power instilled in them, and in “partnership,” brought us into being.
This unique commandment is situated — both conceptually and visually — in the middle of the Decalogue; it serves as a bridge between the previous four precepts and the latter five because it relates to both groups. It is as much a spiritual practice as it is a social one.

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Nature reminds us: Do not destroy

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
We celebrated Tu B’Shevat this week, and the weather outside has been cold one day and warm the next. We have been able to enjoy the beauty of nature outside, even in January. As we continue to celebrate trees and all of nature year-round, remember this important Jewish value: bal taschit (do not destroy).
The rabbis tell us a story in Ecclesiastes Rabbah that, after the creation of humans, God took Adam and Eve around the Garden of Eden. God showed them all of its beauty, then said, “See how beautiful is my handiwork. I have created all of it for you to use. Please take care of it. Do not spoil or destroy my world.” This is a special message to us, even though the rabbis could not have imagined that we would do such damage to our world.
The mitzvah of bal tashchit comes from this verse in Deuteronomy 20:19: “When you wage war against a city…do not destroy its trees.” The rabbis tell us that we must not destroy any object from which someone might benefit.
Shabbat teaches us the relationship between nature and mankind. We were given six days to manage the earth, but on Shabbat, we must neither create nor destroy. On Shabbat, we can just enjoy the beauty of the universe. Jewish agricultural laws also give us the “sabbatical year” to give the earth a rest. Talk about these texts:
• Care is to be taken that bits of broken glass should not be scattered on public land where they may cause injury. Pious people often buried their broken glassware in their own fields (Talmud, Baba Kamma 30a).
• A tannery must not be set up in such a way that the prevailing winds can send the unpleasant odor to the town (Jerusalem Talmud, Baba Batra 2:9).
• Whoever breaks vessels, tears clothes, demolishes a building, stops up a fountain, or wastes food, in a destructive way, transgresses the law of bal tashchit (Mishneh Torah, Melachim 6:10).
A few things to do
• Recycling is a beginning to help the world. What can we do or do more of in recycling?
• Can you go through your books, toys and clothes and give any away? What are other ways you can give to others and help the world?
• Do you recycle? If not, begin now. Pick one thing: newspaper, plastic bottles, soda cans. Decide and do.
• What are other things that would fit under “do not destroy”?
And make sure to get outside. Take a Jewish nature hike — look with eyes that see God’s creation. Enjoy beauty — say a blessing.

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No prayer is too trivial for God to ‘bother’ with

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
In the course of my recent trek toward Jewish observance, I find prayer among the most challenging of obligations. I have a really hard time bothering God for my needs — as they seem so petty compared to the much bigger matters in the world that God has on his plate. My financial needs don’t add up to the challenges of the missile crisis with Iran or the national debt. What gives me the right to inconvenience God with my trivial problems? I would much appreciate your insight on this.
Laurie K.

Dear Laurie,
I can assure you that your question is shared by many. Even Jews who have been observant their entire lives have issues with what you have raised, finding it difficult to approach God with their needs. Often, I have been asked by school-aged boys and girls if it is appropriate to “bother” God for help in passing a test.
The Jewish answer to your question is a resounding YES!
The Torah outlook is that not only are you not “bothering” God with your requests, but you are affording Him the greatest honor and respect possible by doing so. How is this so?
The reason is, the greatest respect we can give to God is to look at him as our “Father in Heaven.” A child never thinks twice about approaching her father with even the most seemingly trivial requests, because she knows that her father’s love overcomes that triviality and it is important to him because it’s important to his daughter. From the perspective of the love between a parent and a child, there is no triviality. The father is happy with his daughter by her showing him that he is the address for all her needs and concerns, whether big or small.
The more we approach God for our every need, the greater the expression of reliance upon His kindness and the cognizance that, ultimately, He is the source of life itself and all that is contained in that life. The more we approach him as our Father in Heaven, the happier He is with us, as each and every approach creates more bonding, more connection and more love.
We begin the Amidah prayer by asking for wisdom. Wisdom includes succeeding on one’s test at school as much as it means wisdom to properly raise one’s child or understand the depths of Torah. Each person can tailor-make their own kavanah, or intention, to their own specific needs, and it’s all good; it’s all contained within the meaning of the words. This is, again, because we are addressing our Father, who lovingly cares about each person’s individual needs.
As God is Al-mighty, turning toward one’s individual financial needs doesn’t detract from His ability to address the crisis in Iran or the national debt. If anything, the opposite is true. The more people turn to Him, the greater God reveals His presence in the world by bestowing greater levels of blessing, bounty, health, sustenance and peace throughout the world.
Your question is as timely as it is appropriate. My organization, DATA, is currently spearheading a communitywide effort toward the study and understanding of prayer. It is based upon a contemporary book, “Praying With Fire,” which offers numerous short but meaningful insights upon which one can reach profound levels of connection through prayer. The author, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, spent this past weekend speaking in numerous local schools and synagogues, spreading the message of prayer and, specifically, the perspective of approaching God as our Father in Heaven.
To receive the book or to find out about any classes taking place as part of this effort, contact the chairman of the campaign, Rabbi Shaya Fox of DATA, at sfox@
dallastorah.org. My wife and I will deliver the kickoff class on this subject.

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A fruit-based Seder to honor Tu B’Shevat

Posted on 24 January 2019 by admin

This past Monday was Tu B’Shevat. Did you celebrate it? Did you mark it in any way? Do you even know what it is?
I had the recent opportunity to lead a Tu B’Shevat Seder for Herzl Hadassah. I asked for this privilege to honor the memory of longtime Herzl member Natalie Lewis, who passed away in her 90s during 2018. Before she left Dallas to live near her children in the D.C. area, she was a noted area bookseller who advised book groups about their choices, a religious school teacher for more than 50 years, a dear friend to many (including me), and a Hadassah stalwart who conducted this early-spring event herself for several years.
Most Jews think that “Seder” is a word confined to Pesach. But in truth, it means “order”: to do things in a specific order, as we are commanded by our guidebook, the Haggadah, at the Passover table.
Popularizing the Tu B’Shevat Seder is a gift from the Reform movement, which produced a simple “Haggadah” for it several decades ago. Its form — its “order” — takes us on the same kind of journey we travel at the Passover table, giving us the same kind of understanding of how to observe the holiday as we go: At its table, we also drink four cups of wine, but instead of matzo and the Seder plate’s mandated foods, we eat at least three fruits (a word that in this context also includes nuts) that grow in Israel. We may choose those we like, but according to specific “rules” — one whose hard outside covers an edible center; then the reverse, one whose edible outside covers a center that we cannot eat; finally, one to be eaten whole, its inside and outside together. You can see how this can also become a delicious holiday.
In Israel, Tu B’Shevat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of that name) is for planting trees, so some call it “the Jewish Arbor Day”; its other name is “the birthday of the trees,” because every living tree is considered one year older on that date. Here, like this year, planting is sometimes impossible. But uncooperative weather isn’t enough reason to neglect the annual celebration.
At our Hadassah Seder, we served up, along with our fruits, both white and red fruit juices — no wine for a bunch of primarily senior women at 10 a.m. These were poured and mixed appropriately as needed, at four times during the Seder, to represent four stages of tree and plant growth: first, all white, the earliest awakening; second, white tinted with red to make pale pink, for buds fully opening; third, a half-and-half of the two, showing a high point of growth; and the final fourth cup — all red — representing that growth in its ultimate fullness.
Our “fruits” of choice were oranges and almonds, because the almond tree is the first springtime bloomer in Israel; unpitted olives; and figs, which are totally edible, tiny seeds and all. Of course, before each fruit and each drink we offered the traditional blessings for God’s gifts of vine, earth and tree. This routine, this “Seder,” is a wonderful way to teach children (as well as our unknowing selves) about a holiday so little-known and little-observed by Jews in America.
I tell you this with hopes of encouraging more local observance of this springtime holiday. Even if we can’t actually dig in the earth to plant something new, we can remember and honor the advice of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, whose wisdom comes down to us from the time of the Second Temple: “If you have a sapling in your hand, and someone comes to tell you that the Messiah has arrived, first plant the tree, and only then go out to welcome the Messiah.”
P.S. If you dislike carob, the most traditional Tu B’Shevat fruit, as much as I do, no one will penalize you for observing the holiday without it.

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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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