Archive | February, 2019

JCRC hosts session with RISD leaders

JCRC hosts session with RISD leaders

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

From left, Dr. Jeannie Stone, superintendent, Richardson ISD; Debra Levy Fritts, chair, JCRC Early Learning Committee; Melanie Rubin, JCRC chair; and Justin Bono, president, Richardson ISD Board of Trustees

 

DALLAS — More than 30 parents of Jewish students met with leadership of the Richardson Independent School District (RISD) on Feb. 19. The program featured a presentation and remarks by RISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone and RISD Board of Trustees President Justin Bono.
As part of its Education Initiative, the JCRC initiates programming, and offers support and guidance, to help Jewish students attending public school to be successful in the public school environment. The JCRC provides accurate and unbiased educational resources about Jews, Judaism, and Israel to public school districts. It also convenes and connects parents of Jewish public school students with one another and ISD leadership, and coordinates educator trainings and workshops on teaching about Israel and the Middle East.
The RISD leadership shared statistics on RISD students, as well as information about the school district’s model and strategic planning. A Q&A session followed the remarks, allowing parents to ask questions and share experiences. The JCRC has held similar meetings for parents of Jewish students in Allen, Frisco, and Plano.
“The Jewish Community Relations Council helps support the success of Jewish students in public schools by connecting parents to understand what is happening in the classrooms, as well as ensuring accurate information on Jews, Judaism, and Israel in textbooks,” remarked JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin.
For more information, contact the Jewish Community Relations Council at jcrcdallas@jewishdallas.org.
— Submitted by JCRC

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The Blue House will be restored, modernized

The Blue House will be restored, modernized

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

Photo: Mark Ford The Rosenfield House — or The Blue House — at the site where it was built in 1884, on the road, and now at its new location at 1419 Beaumont St., is like “a grand Lego house,” said developer Mark Martinek, who with Jay Baker is renovating the home.

By Deb Silverthorn

A change of address card is in order. The Rosenfield House, also known as the Blue House, has, over the past year, made its way from its original home, at 1423 Griffin St. in Dallas, to where it stands now, just blocks away, at 1419 Beaumont St. The fifth oldest home in Dallas continues to stand strong. What began in April 2017 became reality 10 months later, in May 2018.
The move enabled the architecturally and historically important house to be rehabilitated and re-used, and to fill in a vacant lot with other single-family homes.
“This is a great story of restoration magic and a confluence of people who came together to save this home,” said Debra Polsky, executive director of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society. “It’s the last of its kind in an area that was the heart of the Jewish merchant community. The Harrises, the Sangers and the Tychers lived there before moving north.”
The two-and-a-half-story Queen Anne-style house in The Cedars was built in 1885 for Jennie and Max J. Rosenfield. It was the model home for its subdivision, and within the confines of what was then the heart of the Jewish community.
These days, the home has local connections. Dallas’ Alex Ray (husband of TJP publisher and editor Sharon Wisch-Ray) is the great-grandson of the couple. The couple’s son, John Rosenfield, Jr., began his career with The Dallas Morning News in 1923 and served as its art critic for 41 years.
“My mother would’ve been beside herself knowing that her grandparents’ first home was still intact,” said Ray. “I want to personally thank the people who have brought it back to life and, when moving it, kept it in the neighborhood that my great-grandfather developed back in the 1880s.”
The Blue House was sold in 1889 and in 1897, and its last inhabitants owned the home from 1942 to 1980. Vacant for five years, it became the Trinity Center drug rehabilitation center. In the last decade, the property was used as a halfway home, then vacated. Time Warner acquired the home in 2015.
Jewish community member and journalist Robert Wilonsky saved the house; it was he who first saw bulldozers in front of the property, then called David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas. Katherine Seale, chair of Dallas’ Landmark Commission, addressed City Hall as the next step to halt Time Warner from demolishing the house to make way for an office and parking lot. Two-plus years later Time Warner stopped demolition, and paid for the building’s move.
“It was a great save and while we wish it could have stayed in place, it was the only residential home left there,” Preziosi said. “Now it’s in a neighborhood.”
“It’s in surprisingly good shape, with a good roof and strong foundation. This isn’t a fix-and-flip project, not a lucrative project, but one to save a bit of our history from demolition,” said Mark Martinek, who lives three blocks away, in a home built in 1902.
Lots of heart and hope for the home has been drawn from the hands of Martinek, whose “day job” is designing and building modernist architecture. This project, which was “modern” almost a century-and-a-half ago, is new again. “It’s been about three years since the property was sold, and we almost lost it. Instead, history reigns. I’ve always been working on a restoration of one sort or another, warehouse conversions to loft space and other homes.”
To make the move, the home was cut into sections and the main house was stacked like great shelves in five major pieces, the piers and the carriage house following. Once the new foundation was in place, the house was reassembled at its new lot. It was first built long before Facebook or even Polaroid pictures were popular, so there are few photos of how the house first stood. What needs to be reproduced is happening here in Dallas.
Martinek, who is partnering with Jay Baker on the project, is not on the clock for the house’s completion. The expense — and it’s grand — and the methodical care and trueness of the work are his priorities. The team is working with the pine trim and moldings, the stairways and historic windows, to reproduce what was. However, they are updating the wiring and plumbing. What the eye sees on the exterior will be how it was. Internally, this will be an energy-efficient and in-every-other-way-appreciated home of 2020, when move-in is likely.
Following the story has been documentarian Mark Birnbaum, also a Cedars resident, who, with Robert Wilonsky and other neighbors, first saw the excavator in front of the home. “The Blue House” is a docufilm in part about Dallas’ Jewish history. “I started out wanting to make a film that brings us back to the 1880s, to when Congregation Shearith Israel and Temple Emanu-El were still visible from the Rosenfields’ home.”
Birnbaum, who has won numerous awards including Preservation Education and Texas Media awards from Preservation Texas for his film “Restore,” is excited to have his film covering the Blue House, as it begins its second life in a third century.
“We are trying our best to recreate it back to its origin, with materials as best we can. Our first job was to literally move the building and put it back together — an amazing jigsaw puzzle of sorts,” Martinek said.

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Local teens make global impact through BBYO

Local teens make global impact through BBYO

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

Photo: BBYO
Ethan Freed (back row, far left) was elected Grand Aleph Gizbor (treasurer) and Kian Roy (back row, third from left) was elected Grand Aleph Mazkir (secretary) when BBYO held its annual International Convention in Denver Feb. 14-18.

By Elena Okowita

More than 120 teens from the BBYO North Texas Oklahoma region gathered with more than 3,000 Jewish teens from around the world at the organization’s International Convention in Denver over President’s Day weekend, Feb. 14 to Feb. 18. The convention featured seminars, as well as celebrities, business leaders, political figures and philanthropists from more than 36 countries. It was co-planned by local teen Aidan Jacoby, who is BBYO’s international vice president.
Jacoby, son of Karla and Eric Jacoby of Plano, described the planning process as a marathon, with lots of late-night phone calls, stressful meetings and management of close to 300 teens, However, once he stepped out on the stage during the convention’s opening ceremonies and saw the entire convention body for the first time, it was all worth it, Jacoby explained.
“Planning BBYO’s international convention provided me with the opportunity to grow as both a Jewish leader and a secular teen,” Jacoby said. “My time on calls, spreadsheets and documents ultimately paid off as I watched more than 6,000 people appreciate the hard work of our team.”
The “team,” as Jacoby refers to it, consisted of the IC steering committee made up of other BBYO teens from around the globe. This committee was led and supervised by Jacoby, who credited the convention’s success to this group.
“Their hard work made convention possible, and being able to celebrate with them after their programming was implemented was very rewarding,” he said.
Two North Texas teens — Kian Roy, son of Jenni and Gavin Roy of Dallas, and Ethan Freed, son of Dana and Larry Freed of Plano — were elected to the International Board for the 2019-2020 term.
Roy, who was elected Grand Aleph Mazkir, or international secretary, said his motivation to run stemmed from the opportunity to make an impact upon others. He is excited to act as a leader and role model for the next generation of Jewish teens.
“Being on the board gives me the opportunity to interact with teens and adults from all across the globe, while really learning how to successfully connect and build relationships with my peers,” he said. “My influence will hopefully inspire others to find their passion for Judaism, enhancing our Jewish futures while creating strong friendships with fellow Jews from around the world.”
In his new position, Roy will be responsible for coordinating the International Leadership Training Conference, a three-week summer session at BBYO’s Perlman Camp in Pennsylvania.
The session is full of leadership and Jewish enrichment,” Roy said. “Having the chance to build special moments and bond with all of the teens in attendance will be an amazing experience, and allow me to finish my term on board with one last special opportunity.”
Ethan Freed was elected to the position of Grand Aleph Gizbor, or international treasurer. Inspired by past members who continued to push him further into his BBYO journey, Freed is grateful and excited for the opportunities that are ahead.
“Past members of my chapter put their time and dedication into me, and I knew that I had to give back to the organization that gave me so much,” he said.
As the new treasurer, Freed plans on using his position to make a real and lasting impact on the organization.
“I plan on expanding the current monetary sources that BBYO has, to ensure that BBYO can continue to grow to countries that lack funds, so we can fight the 80 percent post-bar mitzvah drop-off rate,” he said. “Let’s show that being Jewish has never been about being; it has always been about doing.”
Dallas will host the International Convention next year. The city will welcome over 5,000 teens, guest speakers, stakeholders, and performers over the weekend of Feb. 13-17, 2020. With local leaders like Roy and Freed at the helm, IC 2020 is sure to continue its legacy of success and Jewish continuity.
There will be many volunteer opportunities to get involved with the planning of IC Dallas. Email Lory Conte, BBYO senior regional director, at LConte@bbyo.org to learn more!

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Judaism is more than just a religion

Judaism is more than just a religion

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

Throughout millennia of our existence, we’ve transformed from family to tribe, and from people to nation. For thousands of years, we’ve retained a distinctly Jewish ethnicity, culture and system of faith. We’ve consistently referred to ourselves either as “Am Israel” or “Bnei Israel,” the People of Israel or the Children of Israel.
But our understanding of ourselves changed when, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Jews facing the beginning of the modern era had to decide how to survive as the world changed around them. Movements such as Bundism, Zionism, ultra-Orthodoxy, and Communism offered unique visions for our people’s future.
Western Europe, however, offered a more lucrative solution. Governments across the continent offered Jews relative physical and financial security, if only they shed their national character. Jews, they said, would be equal in the eyes of the law, if they declared themselves as “Germans of the Mosaic persuasion” or “Frenchmen of the Israelite faith.” “Assimilate into our societies, shed your nationalities,” they said, “and we will accept you.”
Despite the fact that their assimilation did nothing to save these Jews from the gas chambers, and despite the fact that sacrificing identity for the sake of financial opportunities is halachically forbidden, these Jews succeeded in redefining what it meant to be a Jew in the Western world. They were so successful that Abraham Geiger, one of the founders of Reform Judaism, called Jerusalem “a noble memory from the past that holds no hope for the future.” So successful that former American Jewish Committee president Jacob Blaustein “repudiated vigorously the suggestion that American Jews are in exile.” So successful that most Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, consistently refer to Judaism as a religion and nothing more.
Thousands of years of national identity and yearning for Zion were cast aside when they became inconvenient.
And while calling Judaism a religion instead of a religious ethno-national group might seem, at minimum, insignificant and, at maximum, a symbol of assimilation, this difference in terminology has dark consequences. It simultaneously divorces young Jews from their national heritage, and is at the heart of the American understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
American Jews and their political allies often praise Israel as a place of refuge for Jews around the world (at least those Jews who weren’t lucky enough to become American), a country that offers Jews sanctuary amid growing global anti-Semitism.
But this flawed definition of Israel’s purpose, to merely be a place of refuge, easily lends itself to anti-Israel sentiment. Why should Americans support Israel, a place of refuge, if its existence in the Middle East is “unjust” to the Arabs of the region? Why should Americans support Israel, a place of refuge, if Jews can find refuge just as safely in the United States? Why should Americans support the “Jewish state” if Judaism is just a religion? Since when do religions need states of their own?
David Ben-Gurion said once that “the connection between the Land of Israel and the Jewish people is not one of needs and benefits, rather one of destiny and fate.”
This is why Israel exists, not as a place of refuge but as the natural aspiration of our people to live once more in the land that gave us life. Our national history, and our identity as a united people with deep roots in the Levant, are our only legitimate rights to this land.
When American Jews promote this widespread and damaging myth that Judaism is just a religion, they perpetuate falsehoods about Israel’s purpose and lend a hand to those who wish to delegitimize our state.
It’s time for American Jews to reclaim their national identity, for their own benefit and for the security of the State of Israel.
Dallas native Matan Rudner made aliyah in August 2017 and serves as a Lone Soldier in the IDF.

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What black history means to the Jews

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

Today may be the last day of Black History Month, but it can also be the first day that you consider looking into the historical connections of black people and Jews.
There is a strong relationship, if you are willing to examine the facts.
Both black people and Jews have faced death from the hands of their oppressors: Jews faced the death of their first-born sons in Egypt, followed in our time by the gas chambers and crematoriums of the Nazis.
Black Americans, as slaves, experienced the possibility of death or horrible punishment by the whims of their overseers.
Lynching of black people in the South and elsewhere occurred after the Civil War, as part of an informal, repressive system to keep them “in their place.” It may not seem so today, but it was not that long ago, historically speaking, that America’s Jews experienced prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives.
For example, during the 1950s in Chicago, Jews and black people were equally baited. “Jewtown” became a section of Chicago where Jewish and black musicians, as well as tradesmen, could intermingle freely, separate from mainstream Chicagoans.
In many ways, the civil rights struggle was also a Jewish struggle, first in Eastern Europe against the Czarist-supported pogroms which terrorized every Jewish shtetl. Then fleeing to America, seeking safe, new lives in a strange new land, Jews were forced to struggle again to adapt and be accepted, without giving up their heritage.
As Jews, we should embrace our rich multicultural history, which includes people of color.
Here are just a few of the many black Jews who rank high as achievers in their respective field:
Darrin Bell , cartoonist; David Blu, basketball player; Lisa Bonet, actress; Sammy Davis, Jr., dancer and singer; Ada Fisher, physician and politician; Aaron Freeman, comedian; Capers C. Funnye Jr., rabbi; Lewis Gordon, philosopher; Reuben Greenberg, criminologist; Lenny Kravitz, musician; Sandra Lawson, rabbi; Adah Menken, actress and poet; Alysa Stanton, rabbi; and Andre Tippett, football player.
Here are some interesting achievements among black Americans.
Jack Johnson, a black longshoreman working the docks of Galveston, developed into a boxer, eventually becoming the first black man to win the title of the Heavyweight Boxer of the World in 1908. While his boxing title was impressive, it was not the achievement I had in mind. I have a tool in my garage that you probably have as well, which Jack Johnson invented. It is called a “wrench.”
Another black inventor was Elijah McCoy, whose parents were runaway slaves that fled north to Canada, before returning to the United States after the Civil War. As a teen, Elijah journeyed to Scotland to study engineering, but, upon returning to the United States, could only find a job as a railroad fireman.
Part of his duties was to lubricate moving parts every time the train stopped. He invented a device that lubricated the train’s parts while it traveled, saving much time and eventually increasing the company’s profits. Though other copycat inventors tried to duplicate McCoy’s patented model, their products were inferior. When railroad engineers wanted the patented device for their trains and didn’t want the fake copycats, they asked for “the real McCoy.”
One of the most important inventions of World War II was developed by Dr. Charles Drew, while he was a medical student at McGill University in Canada, during the 1930s. Drew invented a process for preserving blood plasma, which allowed quantities to be stored and transported over a period of time. Before the United States officially entered the war, Drew helped supply Great Britain with needed blood plasma in its struggle against Hitler’s onslaught. Once the U.S. entered the war, Drew was put in charge of the blood collection program for America’s troops.
Against Drew’s objections, the plasma collection was segregated, dividing white from black donors. Drew spoke out against this racist policy, but the Army refused to change their policy, so he resigned in protest.
America’s modern blood bank storage system owes a huge debt of gratitude to the work of Charles Drew and his assistants.
Many thousands of America’s soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen survived the war because of the process he developed in helping to maintain an adequate blood supply wherever it was needed.
As Black History Month draws to a close, it’s a good idea for us, as Jews, to seek out similarities and successes in our backgrounds, rather than dwelling on the differences.

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Judy Borejdo’s legacy can be found in Tycher Library and its books

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

I arrived in Dallas in 1980. How many of you can go back there with me?
The Dallas Jewish Community Center was quite different from what it is now. My husband and I joined quickly, mainly because we could play ping-pong there. I don’t see any table any more.
However, I was intrigued by what was going on in that area of the first floor to the immediate left, as you enter. What is now a major meeting room was then a sort of “warren,” a string of places to pass through. At the far back was the first home of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society. It housed one desk, one file cabinet and some beautiful prints sent by the company that supplied tulip bulbs; selling them yearly was the organization’s only fundraiser. (I’ve often wondered who got those prints, and who has them today. If you know, or are that person, please confess.)
In the middle was a sort of reading room: Large tables, racks of newspapers, some tall shelving units holding reference books — most of them Jewish. In the front, you were in the library. Not much of a library, as libraries go; now we have the full-scale Tycher Library on the second floor. But then, that was it. Some shelved books, and a rack of old paperbacks that were routinely given away. This little haven for readers was presided over by Judy Borejdo. I walked in there one day wearing a T-shirt I’d gotten on a recent trip to Australia; Judy recognized it right away as the design of a friend of hers. That’s how I learned this ersatz “librarian” had a fascinating history. It vanished very recently, with Judy’s death.
After the JCC’s remodeling, after a real library was created on the second floor, Judy followed it upstairs. She was not a professional librarian, but nobody had more interest in books than she did. That’s why she had the task of running that mini-library on the first floor, likely as a volunteer. I’m sure nobody else wanted to do it.
Things were different in the new environment. There were computers, comfortable chairs and separate spaces for adults and children. And suddenly, there was so much activity. A committee was organized to help direct the new library’s policies and programming, there were memberships solicited at various levels and someone — not Judy — was named as director. But Judy stayed on, using her remarkable knowledge of books and what readers would like to see on the new shelves. Finally, a professional librarian was hired, and much that had been hands-on and informal before became more routine. Still, Judy remained.
Soon after the start of this year, I led a book discussion in the library. Judy was there. Judy had arranged it, as she had arranged a calendar of book discussions throughout the years, from the library’s move and growth until just a short while ago. Always frail, never completely healthy, Judy became very sick. Soon, she was terminal. She was no longer in the library. Finally, she left us permanently. There was so much rain on the day of her funeral, I had to believe that the skies were crying for her, reminding us of our loss.
The Tycher Library is an underused gem on the JCC’s second floor. There’s even an elevator to make access easier. But not so many people read books any more, as e-readers have replaced words on paper between covers for a good many. But if you knew Judy at all, or even if you didn’t, please do me a favor and make that trip upstairs in her honored memory. See what she — a true book-lover — helped bring about. Hold a book, a real book, in your hands and think of Judy Borejdo. She worked hard. She deserves to be remembered. She will be greatly missed by all of us who still read books.

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Understanding abortion in the Torah and Talmud

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
It has been my understanding that Orthodox Judaism is pro-life, and abortions are prohibited. Yet, I recently learned about an Orthodox woman who was granted permission by her rabbis to have an abortion. What is the Orthodox view on abortion?
Jessica M.
Dear Jessica,
The recent passing of the New York abortion law has churned up much discussion as to how to ethically view abortion. But neither the standard interpretation of pro-life or pro-choice accurately describes the Torah viewpoint.
The simple answer is that, in Judaism, the question of abortion is a very complicated one and, in part, depends upon the stage of the pregnancy.
Of course, the Torah is pro-life, as Deuteronomy 30:19 supports choosing life; we also value life over nearly all values. Yet, even the most important of Torah laws are trumped by even the slightest concern of danger to life. For example, Talmud Yoma 82a rules that danger to life supersedes Yom Kippur, Shabbat and other mitzvos, besides the three cardinal sins.
The popular concept of pro-choice, which puts the decision of whether to or not to discontinue a pregnancy in the hands of the mother, does not jibe with the Torah decision-making process.
However, the Catholic edict that one can never terminate a pregnancy, even to save the life of the mother, is equally at odds with traditional Torah thought and practice. To say that a mother can herself decide matters of life and death for her fetus — a life in its own right — based on her own rationale, convenience or other reasons would run contrary to the entire process by which matters of life and death are decided in Jewish law.
Judaism considers the unnecessary termination of the life of a fetus to be murder, albeit a category of murder not punishable in a court of law.
This applies from the 40th day of conception, since according to Jewish tradition the soul enters the body of the fetus on that day. From then and forward, the fetus is deemed a living human being. Before the 40th day, according to most opinions, killing a fetus is a lesser transgression than murder, but a transgression nonetheless, unless a number of criteria are fulfilled.
There are, however, situations where the health or the life of the mother is sufficiently compromised by the fetus. In such situations, Torah law allows us, or requires us, to intervene.
The Talmud discusses the case of a woman whose pregnancy put her life in danger, where the Mishna (Yoma 82a) ruled to terminate the pregnancy in order to save her life. The rationale given by the Talmud and Maimonides is based upon a distinction between the the mother’s “complete life” vis-à-vis the fetus’ life, which is considered only a “partial life.”
Consequently the mother’s life, when endangered by pregnancy, trumps that of the fetus, and the performance of an abortion is indicated. Once, however, the head or the majority of the body of the fetus is presented, the mother and baby are then considered as equals, and one life doesn’t supersede the other.
There are additional difficult and thorny questions that arise, such as if the fetus is a carrier of a genetic disease, or the pregnancy results from rape. Such cases must be referred to a competent rabbinic authority that is well-versed in this specific area of Jewish law, to discuss the option of abortion.
One message that is clear from Jewish law is, we do not have a “fundamental right” to control our bodies, and a woman does not have such a “right” which allows her to terminate her pregnancy at will.
This world view is totally at odds with the New York abortion law.
Although there is much to debate about the specifics of this law and in what cases might Jewish law conform, the overall outlook on both the ownership of our bodies and the definition of abortion as just another medical condition, is diametrically opposed to the timeless truths of Torah, the truths passed down to us by the very Creator of our bodies, which are endowed with the reproductive powers, enabling the creation of life we call a fetus.

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Left-wing group protests Shabbat speech by ex-Israeli soldier at UT Chabad

Left-wing group protests Shabbat speech by ex-Israeli soldier at UT Chabad

Posted on 25 February 2019 by admin

 

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Members of a Jewish left-wing group protested a speech by a former Israeli soldier who spoke following Shabbat morning services at the Chabad Jewish Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

About a dozen protesters from the Austin chapter of IfNotNow sang protest songs and carried signs reading “Occupation is not moral” and “Moral combat? Moral disaster” as they protested in front of the center Saturday morning.

Chabad Rabbi Zev Johnson charged in a blog post that the protesters took photos and videos of people entering the Chabad, including his young children, encouraged his children to join their protest, and prevented guests from entering the building. IfNotNow denies his version of events.

IfNotNow in a statement also objected to Chabad characterizing their actions as disrespecting Shabbat.

“We know our actions were only mischaracterized because we spoke out against the Israeli occupation,” the statement said.

“Why is IDF propaganda allowed in our communal spaces, let alone following Shabbat morning services? That is the real outrage here, not a bunch of Jews standing outside the building singing ‘Olam Chesed Yibaneh’ (We Will Build This World with Love),” the group also said in a tweet.

The soldier, Leibel Mangel, an American-born motivational speaker, spoke at lunch following services about visiting Auschwitz with his survivor grandfather, who he said stood up to the SS officer and physician Joseph Mengele during his internment there. He also spoke about his experience of being one of the soldiers to discover the bodies of three Israeli teens kidnapped and killed by Hamas in 2014, according to Johnson. He also led a discussion about morality in combat.

IfNotNow charges that Mangel “uses the Holocaust as a way to justify the occupation. There is no denying the very real trauma that the Holocaust has left on our community; yet, our historical trauma should not be exploited to justify the oppression of Palestinian people.”

Johnson said the protesters “lied about the what was discussed, and exploited our Jewish community for cheap photos on social media.”

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A Jewish guide to the 2019 Oscars

A Jewish guide to the 2019 Oscars

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Ruth Bader Ginsburg chats with her granddaughter, Clara Spera in “RBG.” The film is is up for best feature documentary. It’s directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen.

 

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — The Oscars are a mess. Hollywood’s biggest night still does not have a host, with Kevin Hart withdrawing over past homophobic tweets. That seemed to have reminded celebrities who were potentially interested in the gig that it’s one of the toughest in showbiz (some want to believe Whoopi Goldberg is secretly hosting).

But there has been more drama: the possibility of a new category for best popular film elicited strong emotions and eventually was scrapped; plans to present some awards during commercial breaks to shorten the rather lengthy ceremony were protested by some prominent people, among them Martin Scorcese and Brad Pitt; and a decision to buck tradition by not inviting back some 2018 winners as presenters was widely derided.

Scott Tobias, writing in The Verge, said the Academy Awards show “will almost certainly be a fiasco of epic proportions.”

But there’s always hope. While many expected the recent Grammy Awards to be a disaster following pre-ceremony drama involving performers like Ariana Grande, postmortem reflections were much kinder.

The list of Oscar nominees this year lacks the epic Jewish themes and connections present in most years, but there are still interesting story lines to many of them and the show must go on. Here’s your Jewish guide to the 2019 Academy Awards:

And the big nominees are …

* Rachel Weisz is one of the favorites to win best supporting actress for her role in “The Favourite.”

* Perennial nominees the Coen brothers are up for best adapted screenplay for their Western “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

* Past nominee Eric Roth is nominated in the same category for co-writing “A Star is Born.”

* The documentary “RBG,” on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is up for best feature documentary. It’s directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen.

* “A Night at the Garden,” about a massive Nazi rally held in New York City in 1939, is nominated for best documentary short.

* The hit “Shallow,” from “A Star is Born,” is up for best original song. It was co-written by Mark Ronson, the star producer who had a bar mitzvah.

Spike Lee gave us a Jewish cop.

The veteran director talked to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about his best picture-nominated “BlacKkKlansman,” in which a Jewish detective helps a Colorado town’s first black cop infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. “We did not want [it] to become another black-white kind of buddy film, which has been done a million times,” Lee said.

A James Baldwin adaptation gave us Dave Franco in a yarmulke.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” — “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of the James Baldwin novel — is also up for best picture. One of the film’s most moving scenes involves a Jewish landlord played by Dave Franco.

‘Roma’ brought up Mexican-Jewish history (sort of).

Alfonso Cuaron’s period piece “Roma” is favored to win at least a few Oscars on Sunday night, including best picture. It is set in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City in the 1970s; not mentioned in the film is that it used to be one of the city’s centers of Jewish life.

A Nazi documentary angered Fox News.

The aforementioned “Night at the Garden” made headlines when Fox News declined to run a 30-second ad because of its “disgraceful Nazi imagery” (that’s a little like not running a commercial for breast cancer prevention because of sexual content). CNN and MSNBC later ran the ad.

‘Black Panther’ offered a moment to reflect on black-Jewish relations.

The blockbuster superhero flick, which broke box office records and Hollywood assumptions about race, is based on the original Marvel comic — created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (born Stanley Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg) at a crucial juncture in the civil rights movement. The film is nominated for seven awards, including best picture.

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Unconditional love, from 1 grandparent to all others

Unconditional love, from 1 grandparent to all others

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

Photo: Harvey Wang
“Grandparents are the hinges of history, reaching back to our own grandparents, reaching forward to our grandkids,” said author Jane Isay, who will speak on March 6 at the Aaron Family JCC.

 

By Deb Silverthorn

The greatest of loves — of grandparent and grandchild — has lightheartedly, with a sprinkle of truth, been explained as the love between two generations who share “a common enemy.” A morning of understanding the best of this relationship will take place March 6, at the Aaron Family JCC, with family expert and “Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today” author Jane Isay.
The program, cosponsored by the Aaron Family JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest and the Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, is free and open to the public.
“When the grandkids come, the tic-tac-toe game of life gets played in 3-D. There’s nothing like it.” said Isay, grandmother of four who treasures the bond and hopes to help others glean the most they can. “Regardless of proximity, whether you see the kids twice a year or every week, the love crosses the generations. Grandparents are ‘Switzerland’ — always a safe place.”
Isay, who has edited nonfiction books for more than four decades, discovered Mary Pipher’s “Reviving Ophelia,” and commissioned Patricia T. O’Connor’s bestselling “Woe Is I” and Rachel Simmons’ “Odd Girl Out.” She also edited classics, including “Praying for Sheetrock” and “Friday Night Lights.” Before publishing “Unconditional Love,” she wrote “Walking on Eggshells,” about parents and their adult children; “Mom Still Likes You Best,” regarding adult siblings; and “Secrets and Lies,” about family secrets and revelations. “I learned a lot from my authors,” Isay said.
For many grandparents, a grandchild offers a second chance to become the parent they maybe didn’t have the time or the energy to be when raising their own children, the opportunity to turn missed moments into wonderful memories.
Drawing on her personal experience, dozens of interviews and psychological research, Isay explores the realities of today’s multigenerational families, identifying problems and offering solutions to enhance love, trust and understanding between grandparents, parents and grandchildren. She also provides practical advice from when to get involved, when to stay away, and how to foster strong relationships when separated.
“Using an authoritative yet friendly tone, respectful of all three generations involved, and startlingly deep insight into the impact of the past decades of social and economic change on family life, Isay shows the reader how to navigate the new choreography of grandparenting and enter into a dance of grace and delight,” said Wendy Mogel, gracing Isay’s book cover. Mogel herself is the author of “Blessing of the Skinned Knee,” “The Blessing of a B Minus” and “Voice Lessons for Parents.”
“I heard Jane speak at a Jewish Book Council event and she was absolutely engaging. Her book is for every grandparent — the new and the seasoned. It’s really written for all family relationships,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, JCC director of Israel engagement and Jewish living. “We’re excited to partner with our Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, and to make a daytime event possible.”
“Grandparents are ‘it’ in the eyes of our children and that is the greatest blessing. We have grandparents running carpool, volunteering in classrooms, and touching their grandchildren’s lives every day. It is beautiful,” said Tara Ohayon, director of early childhood education at the Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center.
Ohayon went on to say that her parents, Helen and Bill Sutker, played an integral role by caring for her own four children. “We love having both generations in the building to share the learning, Shabbat mornings, the Jewish connections, and the bubbies and zaydes so hands-on in the daily care — the fun and the responsibilities.”
Isay is the daughter of Rose N. Franzblau, a New York Post human relations columnist, and the late Abraham Franzblau, a former dean of Hebrew Union College who also practiced psychiatry.
After years of editing at Yale University Press and in New York publishing, it was time for Isay’s next calling. Her two sons were then busy building their own lives in their twenties; she, working to develop the next step of relationship with her now adult children, couldn’t find a book to help her through. “I decided to leave the corporate world and write it myself,” said Isay, whose late husband, literary agent Jonathan Dolger, sent out “Walking on Eggshells.”
Days later, right after her first grandchild was born, Isay got the go-ahead. “My writing and my family have grown together,” the author said. “I now have four grandchildren and four books — and I’m incredibly proud of all of them.”
Isay might not have known her own grandparents — all had passed before she was born — but she is, academically and of the heart, experienced in the ties of grandparents and grandchildren. Friends of her mother filled in the “you are perfect no matter what you do position,” she said. “It’s not the blood, it’s the love,” that builds the connection.
The author, known as Grandma Jane, said she is not the “cheerleader at all events close” to her grandchildren, but the “be there, share experiences, and make Grandma’s special chicken close.”
“Grandparents are the hinges of history,” she said, “reaching back to our own grandparents, reaching forward to our grandkids.”
Jane Isay will speak at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas, 7900 Northaven Road The event is free; RSVPs are necessary. For more information, visit jccdallas.org/event/jane-isay.

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