Archive | February, 2019

Fred Nathan: from educator to author

Fred Nathan: from educator to author

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

Photo: Deb Silverthorn
“It was time for me to do something I never had time to,” said Fred Nathan, who penned “Diversions” and “Explosions.” “I’ve always written to escape, opening chapters, but I never had enough time to complete them. Now, I wanted to finish a dream.”

By Deb Silverthorn

Dallas’ own Frederick “Fred” Nathan, a lifelong educator, has put pen to paper once again, releasing his second novel, “Diversions.” Nathan’s first book, “Explosions,” was released in 2013.
“I spent my career teaching, and I still do some of that, but it was time for me to do something I never had time to,” said Nathan, who still studies history and politics.
“Diversions,” with a strong pro-Israel stance, follows a terrorist cell, deeply embedded in American society, that carries out a massive attack. This cell kills and maims hundreds, almost claiming the president as one of its victims. The horrific attack, which followed previous failed attempts by this same group, emboldens its leader to plan a larger, multifaceted attack directed at the heart of America’s leadership.
The expanding web of terror ensnares a brilliant high school senior, a quiet loner with a strong sense of justice, and a lone terrorist seeking revenge on his former colleagues. The Anti-Terrorist Task Force is charged with uncovering the plot and destroying the terrorist cell. In an effort to divert the task force from uncovering his real objectives, the cell leader plans additional, smaller, but nonetheless devastating attacks.
“Explosions,” meanwhile, tells the story of an Islamist cell deeply embedded in the U.S., led by a sociopath and lead operative who is extraordinarily successful in carrying out his missions. A master of explosives and disguise, he most believably passes himself off as a beautiful young woman as he prepares for the plot to realize on July 4.
“I was head of school at the Beren Academy in Houston on 9/11 and the police came in and said we needed to be on lock-down, that we were vulnerable,” Nathan said. “It brought home how real the possibility of terrorism was, how it had touched so close. Since then we’ve seen and heard of other terrorist plots, and we can only imagine those that have failed. Still, in telling my stories, there are Muslim characters who are heroic, because in life and in my fiction, I don’t want to place labels.”
A Dallas resident since 2002, Nathan grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Yetta and Abraham Nathan, of blessed memory, and the brother of Harvey and Wallace. He has been married to his beloved Esther for 55 years; she is the former director of Dallas’ then Department of Jewish Education (now the Center for Jewish Education). The couple’s family includes children Alysa (Eric) Segal, Tamar (David) Halberstam and Aaron; and grandchildren Avrumi and Sholom Tzvi Halberstam and Becca, Brian, Dan and Joshua Segal.
Nathan served as head of school at the Ann and Nate Levine Academy for six years, and was honored with a Doctor of Pedagogy by the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Life Achievement Award by the Board of Jewish Education in San Francisco and a Merit Award for Exemplary Leadership by the University of Judaism in Los Angeles for his accomplishments in Jewish education.
Taking a job teaching while he was in school redirected his mother’s dream for him to become an attorney; he believed that education was something he was meant to do. A product of Jewish day schools, NYU and Yeshiva University’s graduate schools, Nathan has, from the time he was 23 years old, had education at the core of his resume.
Nathan still teaches at Kehillat Chaverim, and is involved in, and a regular Torah reader at, Congregation Anshai Torah, where he is a member. While he works on the future pages of stories still to be told, he hopes for his books to be optioned for film or television. From friends and strangers alike, the reviews for his books are good.
“Fred is an incredible writer and these first two read like he’s written 30. I hope he’ll do more,” said Gary Solomon, a longtime friend and discerning reader, who had a first read while Nathan was still making edits to the first book. “He weaves a great story together in a really nice manner and held my interest. The books are a fast read and I found I could not put them down.”
General reviews on Amazon also provide five of five stars. Readers call the book an easy read, a gripping, well-crafted and action-packed novel in which Nathan describes characters in detail, uniquely weaving characters’ paths together. Reviews credit both of Nathan’s books as being well written and full of suspense, with logical thinking, believability, and the mirroring of the possible intrigue in life today.
“I’ve always written to escape, opening chapters but I never had enough time to complete them,” Nathan said. “Now, I wanted to finish a dream.”
Fred Nathan’s books are available on Amazon.

Comments (0)

Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas to host annual Super Sunday phone-a-thon

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

DALLAS — The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas will host its annual Super Sunday event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 3, at the Aaron Family JCC Zale Auditorium in Dallas. This event is presented by Park Place Dealerships and is the Jewish community’s largest fundraising phone-a-thon, offering volunteers the opportunity to work together to raise money to meet vital needs of the community. Leading the charge and serving as event co-chairs are Michael Carr, Micole Pidgeon-Cobert and Andrew Cobert, Shirley and Larry Strauss and Roberta and Stephen Toback.
“From those who never miss a Super Sunday, to newcomers ready to get involved, we’re looking for team members who can join us for the big game,” said Micole Pidgeon-Cobert, Super Sunday co-chair. “The incredible energy of Super Sunday, along with the feelings of connection and compassion that one receives when helping, whether making calls or answering the call, will make for a day our volunteers and our community won’t soon forget.”
Super Sunday offers four hours of volunteer opportunities. Volunteers are needed to make phone calls to close gifts and to help thank current Federation donors as part of its “thank-you” initiative. Snacks and raffle prizes will help add to the excitement of the day. Super Sunday volunteers can sign up easily at www.jewishdallas.org/supersunday.
“This is a great day for our caring neighbors, including our teens, to work together for the well-being and security of the most vulnerable among our extended Jewish family in Dallas, in Israel and overseas,” said Larry Strauss, co-chair of the event. “Teen volunteers can receive credit for community service hours and it’s a fantastic way to experience the vibrant diversity of our Jewish community, to see your friends and meet new ones.”
The event will provide incentives for each of the Federation’s partner agency volunteers in many ways including presenting MVP trophies to the agency, synagogue and individual who wins the most points throughout the day. Points are earned by closing gifts; the more volunteers closing gifts for the partner agency the more points they can score. The whole day will be an energy-filled, friendly competition bringing the community together.
“Come volunteer with us or answer the call and fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah while giving back to our Dallas Jewish community,” said Mark Kreditor, board chair, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. “When we all work together we can strengthen our community for generations to come.”

Comments (0)

Will Israel be the fourth country to land on the moon?

Will Israel be the fourth country to land on the moon?

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of SpaceIL SpaceIL co-founders, from left, Kfir Damari, Yonatan Winetraub and Yariv Bash insert a time capsule into their spacecraft.

 

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — He’s spent eight years trying to land a spacecraft on the moon, but when Yonatan Winetraub stood on the launchpad this month at Florida’s Cape Canaveral, he was still in shock.

“I stood right next to the rocket, and it’s pretty big,” Winetraub said in a phone interview Wednesday. “In the video, you don’t see how big the rocket is and how powerful it is. But when you stand up close it’s pretty powerful.”

If Winetraub sounds like a kid marveling at the thought of space travel, that’s because he kind of is. He and two friends, all in their 30s, are on the verge of doing something extraordinary: They intend to make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon. Only the United States, the Soviet Union and China have done it.

Winetraub and his partners, Kfir Damari and Yariv Bash, aren’t doing it with billions of dollars from a superpower government. In 2011 they co-founded SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit that has a budget of $100 million — a pittance in the space biz. If their mission is successful, it would be the first time any private spacecraft landed on the moon, at lower cost and with a smaller craft than previous landings.

“Kfir, Yariv and myself sat in a bar in a suburb of Tel Aviv and thought, ‘Why not get to the moon?’” Winetraub said at a news conference Wednesday. “I always thought we’re going to get to the moon, but now it’s actually happening, and it’s quite incredible.”

SpaceIL’s squat, circular, three-legged craft is roughly the size of a compact car: 5 feet tall, 6 1/2 feet in diameter and weighing about 1,300 pounds, most of which is fuel. At 8:45 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, barring bad weather or unforeseen problems, the craft will launch into space from Florida hitched to one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. Winetraub called it the “Uber of space travel.”

More like UberPool, the car pool option: Whereas Apollo 11’s 1969 trip to the moon took three days, SpaceIL’s will take about two months. That’s because it’s riding shotgun on another rocket and cannot propel itself directly to the moon. Instead it has to use orbiting to align itself, only meeting up with the moon at the beginning of April.

About four minutes after launch, the SpaceIL craft, named Beresheet — Hebrew for “Genesis” — will separate from the rocket. It will send a first communication to SpaceIL’s ground control in the central Israeli town of Yehud and go into orbit around the Earth. Over the course of about a month-and-a-half it will hurtle through space at a maximum speed of more than 22,000 miles per hour. Its thrusters will push the craft in progressively wider and wider orbits around the Earth, and closer to the moon’s orbit.

Then it will enter one of the riskiest steps of the mission.

Once it gets near the moon, the craft must suddenly slow down enough to be pulled into orbit around the moon. If it goes too fast, it will pass right by, speeding directly into space. Then, after about a week of traveling around the moon, the craft will slow down again, dropping toward its landing spot on the Sea of Serenity. About 16 feet up, it will cut the engine entirely and free-fall to the moon’s surface, making a soft landing.

SpaceIL’s founders are confident that the mission will be successful. But Winetraub acknowledged that it’s fraught.

“There are many things that can go wrong and only one thing that can go right,” he said. “You really can’t test everything. The atmosphere is different on the moon, the gravity is different on the moon, so you have to have some simulations, some educated guesses about how it’s going to work.”

There were early hiccups. At the news conference, Winetraub wanted to show an inspiring video about the history of moon landings. Except the sound wouldn’t work. Then the sound came on, but the screen went blue.

“Can we have the sound?” Winetraub asked, chuckling. “The sound is more difficult than getting to the moon. We’ll give it one more try.”

To even reach this point was an unlikely journey for SpaceIL, whose story is a quintessential Israeli startup tale. It was founded to compete in Google’s Lunar XPrize, a contest to see who could build the first private spacecraft to reach the moon. The co-founders submitted their application right at the deadline, Dec. 31, 2010, and went through a few failed experiments before building the right craft.

The first model was the size of a Coke bottle. When that didn’t work, the team made the craft the size of a dishwasher. Now they’re up to a car.

“It is rocket science,” Winetraub said, explaining the difficulty. “If it doesn’t work the first time, that’s OK, but the second time around you expect it to work, so that was hard. We did it again and the design you now see on the launchpad is the third or fourth iteration.”

The XPrize shut down without a winner last year, but along the way SpaceIL received enough funding to keep going. It’s working in partnership with Israel Aerospace Industries, and its donors include the U.S. billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn and Canadian-Israeli real estate mogul Sylvan Adams.

The mission has also become a kind of cause celebre. Buzz Aldrin, who knows something about getting to the moon, tweeted his best wishes Wednesday. His Apollo 11 mission landed on the lunar surface nearly 50 years ago.

“If the #SpaceIL mission is successful this Thursday, Israel will become the fourth country to land an aircraft on the moon,” he wrote. “Good luck, Beresheet!”

The spacecraft will raise an Israeli flag once it reaches the moon. It will carry a time capsule with the entire Bible printed in microscopic text on a coin, along with hundreds of other documents compressed onto small discs: dictionaries, encyclopedias, and Jewish and Israeli texts like the Israeli national anthem and the traditional Jewish prayer for travelers.

The mission also will include scientific research. In partnership with NASA and The Weizmann Institute, an Israeli university, the craft will test the moon’s magnetic field in addition to taking photos and video. After two days the craft will be shut off and the mission will be complete.

But SpaceIL doesn’t think its work will end there. The organization also hopes to inspire Israeli kids to go into science and engineering by showing them that space exploration is achievable. Its educational programs have already reached a million children, whom SpaceIL engages by asking them to help solve certain problems the craft might face, like how to stabilize with fuel sloshing around inside. The craft’s time capsule also will include drawings from Israeli kids.

And SpaceIL is hoping to engage the Israeli public in the mission. There is even a Spotify playlist of Israeli songs appropriate for the launch featuring “Space Shuttles” by the Israeli singer Berry Sakharof.

“It’s the first Israeli spacecraft, but hopefully not the last,” Damari, another co-founder, said at the news conference.

When kids ask him if the craft will return, he says, “We tell them no, it stays there with the time capsule and all sorts of interesting things inside. It’s your job to reach the moon and bring it back.”

Comments (0)

Anti-BDS Law and the 1st Amendment

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

In 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 89, also known as the Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) bill. The bill prohibits state agencies from contracting with, or investing funds in, companies that boycott Israel.
Now, the Anti-BDS law is being challenged on the basis that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment Rights — specifically, freedom of speech. However, anti-BDS laws do not, and are not intended to, restrict an individual’s right to speak against Israel but rather to target the discriminatory commercial nature of the BDS boycott campaign.
Prohibition of
discriminatory practices
There is a long history of laws in the U.S. prohibiting discriminatory commercial activity targeting Israel. Such laws were designed to prevent entities from imposing misguided foreign policy in the U.S.; they apply to both individuals and companies, and restrict unauthorized commercial boycotts against foreign nations. While these federal anti-boycott laws apply to BDS boycotts, they have yet to be enforced against BDS.
Meanwhile, in response to the BDS’ anti-Israel stance, Texas and other states enacted laws that generally prohibit the state from using taxpayers’ money to contract with, or invest in, businesses that engage in commercial discrimination against Israel. As of this writing, 26 states currently have anti-BDS laws on the books, and additional states are considering adopting similar laws.
However, these state-supported anti-BDS laws do not infringe upon the First Amendment. There are many Supreme Court decisions that allow states to choose whom they do business with and to exclude discriminatory actions from First Amendment protection.
Free speech violations? No.
Why, then, is the constitutionality of this law being challenged on the basis of free speech?
Those arguing that anti-BDS laws violate the First Amendment typically cite the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case of NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. In this case, African-American citizens in Mississippi could engage in a commercial boycott against white business owners who directly discriminated against African-American citizens. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, this action violated the Constitution.
However, the Claiborne and BDS boycott models are vastly different. In Claiborne, the boycotters were the injured parties, with the targeted businesses doing the damage. As such, the boycott was used to vindicate the African-Americans’ constitutional rights.
However, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict isn’t a constitutional issue. In addition, those engaging in BDS activity in the United States are involved with a secondary boycott: in other words, a boycott that isn’t directly between an aggrieved party and the party from whom they are seeking redress.
Another U.S. Supreme Court case, International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO v. Allied Int’l, Inc., focused on a secondary boycott. Workers refused to unload cargo from the Soviet Union as a form of protest against that country’s war in Afghanistan. The court ruled that the First Amendment did not protect the workers, since neither the workers, the ship’s owners, nor American consumers penalized by the boycott were a party to the foreign dispute.
Finally, others point to similarities between the BDS campaign against Israel and the boycott of South Africa during apartheid. Again, there are critical differences, the main one being that apartheid doesn’t exist in Israel. Additionally, while the U.S. officially sanctioned South Africa via a government-mandated boycott, the government has friendly relations with Israel. Israel is a strategic partner of the United States, and the U.S. government is against organized boycotts of Israel.
Challenging the challenges
The BDS campaign’s discriminatory nature is evident, as it advocates actions that would lead to the end of Israel as the nation/state of the Jewish people. Implementing constitutionally-protected anti-BDS legislation is a decision that allows states to express, loud and clear, the will of their citizens.
When it comes to the question of constitutionality, an Arkansas federal judge ruled in a recent case that the state’s anti-BDS law is constitutional, and not a violation of free speech. This judge, for the first time in a challenge to a state anti-BDS law, analyzed relevant case law and subsequently came to the correct conclusion.
Additionally, in defense of Arizona’s anti-BDS law, Zachor Legal Institute filed an amicus (friends of the court) brief in court, detailing the anti-Semitic, discriminatory nature of BDS and the direct connection between BDS founders and designated terrorist organizations. The Zachor Legal Institute supports First Amendment Rights, and supports anti-discrimination laws that focus on combating BDS.
Separately, the Israeli government recently issued a report “Terrorists in Suits,” detailing the ties between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) promoting BDS and terrorist organizations. Anti-Israel terrorist groups, such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were involved in the formation of BDS and continue to manage BDS activity worldwide.
To conclude, while a person has a First Amendment right to express a political opinion, the Supreme Court has ruled that this does not include the right to engage in advocacy that constitutes material support to terror. As such, properly constructed anti-BDS laws are protected by the First Amendment, and we are confident the Texas law will withstand the current legal challenge.
Ron Machol is the COO of Zachor Legal Institute, an organization using the law to combat BDS; he can be reached at ron@zachorlegal.org. Charles D. Pulman is a Dallas attorney and Israel advocate.

Comments (0)

Despite human anger, we can draw closer to God

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

Have you ever been so angry that all you want to do is smash something? If so, you have something in common with Moses. Specifically, in the parashah of Ki Tissa, Moses showed how destructive he could be, after witnessing his people dancing and singing around the golden calf.
Impatience on the part of the people, combined with Moses’ volatile temper following his return from the summit of Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments in hand, is a tragic combination, resulting in broken tablets and thousands of dead sinners.
It doesn’t seem to make sense that Moses isn’t allowed entry into the promised land after he strikes a rock instead of talking to it, yet smashing the tablets with the literal words of God written upon them doesn’t even merit a reprimand. After all, there is a price to pay if we drop a Torah scroll during services. We must take responsibility if we contribute, even inadvertently, to its literal downfall. Some traditional rulings claim that we must fast for 40 days to atone for it.
We also endure psychological trauma if we witness a Torah scroll falling to the floor. This happened at Beth Shalom not too long ago. Our Torah scroll was perched, precariously as it turned out, in the wooden holder. All of the sudden, the scroll tipped. A congregant bolted for it, but wasn’t quite quick enough. A collective cry arose from the congregation, and I thought one of the gabbaim was going to have a heart attack. It was a truly traumatic moment, and our response was to establish a “Holy Rollers” fund to make sure our Torah scrolls would be maintained properly.
Still, it doesn’t seem fair that, when a Torah is accidentally dropped because of unintended human error, we must engage in teshuvah, repentance, while Moses, in a bout of anger, shatters the stones on purpose and gets away scot-free! How can that be justifiable?
Leave it to the rabbis to answer that question. Referencing Exodus Rabbah 41:1 (chabad.org), Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson explains the action was Moses’ attempt to deflect some blame onto himself: “Upon breaking the tablets, he told God, ‘Now I am a sinner just like them. If You decide to eradicate them, destroy me as well.’” Another theory explains that the weight of the tablets was diminished by the sacred letters inscribed on them. But as soon as Moses came down the mountain and saw the celebration around the golden calf, the letters flew into the air, making the now-ordinary stones too heavy for Moses to carry, and they fell to the ground.
It seems to me that some of these explanations, although creative, are a bit of a stretch. Some of them make the case that Moses had a strategy for doing what he did, such as to risk sacrificing the tablets (and his own life) to save his people. But these explanations gloss over the elephant in the room, or shall I say, the camel in the desert: Moses’ temper. The people tried his patience on a number of occasions, but this was the straw that broke that camel’s back. And, as the text keeps reiterating, he lost it.
A form of the verb charah, to become hot, angry, to burn with anger (charon in the noun form), is found five times within the same chapter, and describes the reactions of both God and Moses upon discovering what the Israelites were up to in Moses’ absence. This verb is often combined with the noun af meaning “nose, nostril,” or, metaphorically “anger.” Exodus 32:19 indicates, “As soon as Moses came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, he became enraged (vayichar af Moshe); and he hurled the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.”
The text makes it clear that his anger burst forth spontaneously. There didn’t seem to be any strategizing going on, no game plan; he simply witnessed a horrific sight and lost his temper. Perhaps that was because God, being all-knowing, knew how Moses would react, and didn’t stop him.
Perhaps after seeing His people crack so quickly under the fear of abandonment, God realized that they needed to forge a closer, more intimate relationship — an actual partnership — with Him. And for that to happen, the first set of tablets wasn’t going to work.
Exodus 31:18 declared, “When (God) finished speaking with (Moses) on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of God.” One chapter later stated that: “The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing, incised upon the tablets.” However, in 34:27, when Moses returns for the second set of Commandments, God said: “Write down these commandments, for in accordance with these commandments I make a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses did so, meaning there is a human element involved. While God dictated, Moses was the scribe.
Through this action, God seems to acknowledge that His creations need to be involved in the process; this covenant will only work if it is a true partnership.
The “Eitz Chaim” Chumash states, “This second set was written with a greater knowledge of human weakness, at the hand of an imperfect human being, rather than by a perfect deity.” God not only gave them the gift of Torah; He also gave them pride of ownership.
We are told both the broken and whole tablets were housed in the ark, not just as a reminder of sins, but as a reminder that wholeness, strength and goodness, can grow out of that brokenness. We need to embrace the whole package: We are the sum total of our mistakes as well as our successes. No matter how broken we might feel, we can feel whole again, even if we are left with scars.
The second set of tablets gives us the opportunity to engage in an ongoing conversation with God, and with our ancestors, through the ages, who struggled to make sense out of God’s sacred text.
Though Moses’ anger did get the best of him, perhaps when he broke that first set of tablets, he brought us closer to God. And God, in turn, possibly saw the opportunity of that outcome, a chance to create an everlasting partnership with His people.
Sheri Allen is the part-time cantor of Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington, and a chaplain for Vitas Healthcare.

Comments (0)

Putting possessions in spiritual perspective

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

“One who acquires more possessions acquires more worry (Pirkei Avot 2:8).”
This intuitive notion serves as a powerful check on one of the most powerful of human drives: the drive to amass wealth and assets. I must have heard, learned and taught this famous dictum of Hillel a hundred times or more in the past decade alone. Suffice it to say that our generation, a generation blessed with more wealth and opportunity than perhaps any generation, needs Hillel’s guidance more than ever. And yet, as I’ve only recently learned, it’s a whole other thing to experience the wisdom of a Torah teaching in one’s own life.
When my children were younger, money wasn’t important to me. Sure, I needed funds to to pay the rent and utilities for the modest apartment we lived in, and to buy groceries, Pampers and clothing for my growing family. But, as long as we had enough to provide those basic needs, I was fully content.
Then, my family’s expenses grew, considerably so.
Five children in prekindergarten and up meant five tuition bills to Jewish day school and summer camp. These wonderful investments in our children’s future, nonetheless carried lofty price tags. Throw in extracurricular and weekend activities,mix in birthday parties and bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. Don’t forget to add in memorable family vacations, and yearly two-way trips for seven people to visit Bubbe and Zayde in Baltimore, and Saba and Savta in Atlanta. Still, our budget was swelling and, once again, I was tolerant of, if not fully satisfied with, our fiscal well-being.
But my thoughts turned to a costly future. A 16-year-old daughter meant car insurance, a new vehicle and the other expenses that come with a teenager. My mind wandered to upcoming college tuition and nuptials which, with God’s help, wouldn’t be too far off, and savings put aside for future grandchildren. Then there was the question of our own retirement.
The seemingly endless dollar signs in my brain made my head spin and my stomach weak. Making monthly ends meet no longer seemed enough. With my salary largely set, thoughts of potential investments in the stock market, into a business or real estate ventures seemed necessary to cover future expenses.
I studied the ins and outs of a particular investment for six months, and jumped in with a great deal of hope. Things went largely as planned, and I felt we had invested in something that would hopefully bear fruit down the road. What I didn’t expect to find was my stomach turned like a wrench, my mind returning over and over to my investment, and my sleep disturbed. Had I gotten the best deal? Run the numbers correctly? Chosen correctly and properly analyzed the future of the investment? Would the investment perform well long term? What were the knowns and the unknowns of the transaction? Should I buy or sell? The list went on and on, and with it, much of the peace and quiet in my mind.
I had run the numbers multiple times and received the input and advice of experts in the field, yet it seemingly wasn’t enough for me. It was as if my newly acquired assets had, in fact, acquired me. I walked around with Hillel’s dictum in my mind’s eye; the more possessions one had, the more one had to worry about. I couldn’t help but jealously look back at my earlier, simpler and more peaceful days, and relate to the spirit of Solomon’s wise quip: “The sleep of the laborer is sweet, whether he eat little or much, but the satiety of the rich does not allow him to sleep (Kohelet 5:11).”
However, unloading my investments meant a return to the fear that accompanied the prospect of an unprepared future. But how to overcome the associated nervousness and angst? Perhaps Hillel’s teaching meant that ownership and worry were inextricably linked, that one of the inevitable costs of possessions is worry itself. Would life then become nothing more than a choice between the lesser of two evils?
I turned to God and asked Him to take over. As I did so, feelings of relief slowly came to me. Although it didn’t happen immediately, I eventually reached a point of internal peace. My investments returned to their rightful place, the back of my mind. And my focus returned to what really mattered, and the reason I was doing all of this in the first place: my family.
Perhaps this is what Hillel taught us all along with his dictum. If you see the possessions you’ve acquired as yours alone, then you alone must bear the burden of concern for those assets. However, if you don’t see yourself as the “true” owner, that you are but a custodian of God’s possessions, then God can, and will, share in the burden of possession. With such an emotionally healthy outlook we can share in the promise of King David when he said, “Cast your burden upon Hashem, and He will bear you (Tehillim 55:23).”
Rabbi Yogi Robkin is the outreach director of DATA of Plano. He can be reached at
yrobkin@dataofplano.org.

Comments (0)

The importance of Jewish elders to the young

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
Recently there has been a renewed interest and excitement about Jewish grandparenting. A national survey on Jewish grandparenting was launched in November, plus there are many new programs throughout the country and here in Dallas.
There are so many special gifts that an elder can provide to a young child. Jewish educator Joel Lurie Grishaver wrote a piece titled “10 Attitudes of Highly Effective Jewish Grandparents — Patterns for Enhancing and Sustaining your Grandchildren’s Jewishness.” Here is a brief outline of his suggestions:
1. Ask the right question. Don’t ask “Do you want your grandchildren to be Jewish?” Rather ask “What kind of Jews do you want your grandchildren to be?”
2. Be “Auntie Mame.” This wonderful aunt gave two gifts: first, exposure and freedom to explore wonderful new worlds, and, second, total attention to talk and process them.
3. Be a curator. Collect, preserve, catalog, exhibit and then bequeath the family artifacts, including family recipes, stories and memories.
4. Be Scheherazade. Write letters and tell stories.
5. Be there in times of pain. One of the treasures elders offer is the ability to handle pain and deal with the difficult things in life. Be available — that is the key.
6. Be a community center. Be the place where great things happen.
7. Don’t be the Pope and the Poperinna. Be the place where holidays happen but let your children create holidays at their home.
8. Do not play tug-of-war with the children’s parents.
9. Live locally, support globally. Support, volunteer, get involved and show your grandchildren the joy of being part of community.
10. Be all you want them to be. Be the best Jew you can be — keep learning — show them how it’s done.
We know that all the generations from young to old are benefiting from such relationship-building programming. We are thankful to have many grandparents whose grandchildren live far away matching with children here.
To further that connection, a new program at the J Early Childhood Center, made possible through a grant from a wonderful J grandmother and her family, connects children with the J elders.
Being a grandparent is a wonderful time of life. Give your grandchildren the gift of your love of Judaism. And what if you aren’t a grandparent? These can be done by aunts, uncles, friends and even parents!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Comments (0)

Should pleasure be minimized? Or not?

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
Thank you for your elaborate response clarifying the concept of comfort and pleasure, which was published in last week’s TJP.
As a follow-up, when I engage in pleasure, it is not for the purpose of enjoying God’s gifts, as indicated, but rather out of pure desire. I think this makes me more materialistic which, in turn, hurts my service toward Hashem.
As far as “giving one joy to better fulfill mitzvos,” this would seem to imply that engaging in pleasure is simply a necessary means so as to enable one to perform direct service of Hashem through Torah learning, mitzvos and others, at the highest level. If this is the case, this would line up with my suggestion that it would be best, through a baby-step approach, for one to minimize one’s engagement in pleasure, thereby minimizing the amount of pleasure one needs to be a happy and content person. This in turn, would eventually present maximum time, money and energy dedicated to the service of Hashem.
Based on the points above, wouldn’t it be ideal for someone like myself to minimize pleasure through a baby-step approach, thereby maximizing my efforts toward the service of Hashem?
Thank you again!
Sammy
Dear Sammy,
As we elaborated in the past columns, refraining from physical pleasures is not necessarily the Jewish ideal, as God created pleasures to be enjoyed. There is, however, a level that you describe for individuals who seek a higher existence.
It would be very dangerous for one to embark on such a path without proper guidance, however. A template to what you are asking is outlined in the classical Jewish philosophical and practical guide to Jewish growth, the “Mesillas Yesharim.” This was written by the renowned 18th-century sage R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, first published in Amsterdam in 1738, and known in English as “Path of the Just,” Feldheim Publishing Company.
This unique and profound work is one of the foundational treatises of the “Mussar Movement,” which we discussed in previous columns. This Jewish scholarly movement focuses on character growth, self-improvement and utilizing the mitzvos to “climb the ladder” to a higher and closer connection to God. That “ladder,” its rungs and how one is able to climb it, is outlined and elucidated in great detail.
Among other suggestions which flow from a profound understanding of the world and man’s place and purpose in it, Mesillas Yesharim deals with the proper attitude toward pleasures: the extent that one should seek them or be involved in them when they present themselves. Luzzatto often explained that the attitude toward pleasure depended on what rung of the ladder on which the individual stood.
While this work is recommended if you are sincerely seeking a path of growth in the spiritual realm, I would caution you to do so under the guidance of a Torah scholar to whom you can address your questions.
Although Luzzatto’s teachings are timeless and, indeed, are a pillar of Jewish thought, many people today are not truly at the levels he discusses. If you study this work slowly and deeply you may, however, truly find the path you seek.
The only other practical advice I would offer is something first offered in the classical 13th-century guide to repentance, “Shaarei Teshuva” by Rabbi Yonah of Girondi, Italy, in the essay “Yesod Hateshuva.” Quoting the holy sage Ravad, Yonah suggests a new type of “fast,” though he suggests we should not refrain from foods that the Torah allowed and encourages us to enjoy.
However, as gluttonous eating is the source for many spiritual and emotional downfalls, one should not eat until one is overly full. But rather than completely finishing off a good meal and cleaning the plate, leave a small amount to the side as a “fast,” to demonstrate you are in control of your desires. Because you do this to gain strength to serve God, such a “fast” is more beloved by God than even the offerings brought in the Holy Temple. That is because, unlike the offerings one could only bring from time to time, you bring this “offering” day in and day out. With it comes the strength to serve the Almighty in every situation.
This is known in scholarly circles as “Ravad’s Taanis,” or the “fast of the Raavad.” Perhaps this is something you could try, in conjunction with the study of the Mesillas Yesharim, and you will find a healthy and satisfying path to growth.

Comments (0)

Reviewing Isaac Shapiro’s ‘Edokko’

Posted on 21 February 2019 by admin

If you think you’ve heard everything about what happened to our fellow Jews in those dark years of the 1930s and World War II, please think again. I learned a great deal from a 202-page paperback autobiography that tells the tale of an incredible life lived in Japan.
Isaac (“Ike”) Shapiro’s autobiography is called “Edokko,” a word denoting someone who has lived an entire lifetime in Japan, preferably representing at least the third generation of a family. But the book’s subtitle clarifies his status: “Growing up a Stateless Foreigner in Wartime Japan.” How could such a thing be?
The author’s forebears might well be the perfect examples of the proverbial “Wandering Jews.” The families of his parents, Constantine Shapiro of Moscow and Lydia Chernetsky of Odessa, fled the pogroms of Russia. The Chernetskys ended up in Harbin, China, in 1905, while the Shapiros settled in Japan after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Constantine and Lydia, both professional musicians, met and married in Berlin, then left Germany. They tried, unsuccessfully, to make a decent living by playing with orchestras and giving private lessons in both Palestine and China, before giving up and joining Constantine’s parents in Japan. That’s where Isaac was born in January 1931, the fourth of four boys — twins among them.
It was not a peaceful life, especially as the parents separated just six months after their youngest son’s birth. His mother returned to Harbin, China, to live with her now-widowed father.
According to the author, “As far as any of us knew, there never was ‘another woman’…all we knew was that in July 1931, at the age of 25, she decided to leave Papa; she found herself married to a man who had taken her to live in far-off places, and who appeared unable to earn enough money to provide for his family.”
Of course, the boys went with her. “Being only six months old at the time, I have no memory of our taking leave of Papa or Japan,” Shapiro wrote, “so that when we returned there in June 1936, when I was five, it was like a first encounter.” And, in 1939, Isaac became a big brother when his mother gave birth to a fifth son.
Shapiro had a classical education at the Yokohama International School, and was a quick study of required languages, including French and English. But it was his fluency in Japanese that determined the course of his life. He absorbed all the history being lived at that time: Hitler’s “non-aggression” pact with Russia, all the invasions and occupations of European countries that triggered World War II. However, he recalled that “The coming of the war with the United States and its allies was a slow but steady tidal wave…Japan was now allied with Hitler, and we feared that the Japanese would develop a more hostile attitude toward foreigners who were neither Italian or German, and — in particular — toward Jews.”
The Shapiro family learned from German-Jewish refugees arriving in Japan about the new racial laws of Nazi-occupied Germany, but not at that early time about the extermination camps.
What happened next proves Mark Twain’s wisdom: Truth is always stranger than fiction because fiction must look to what’s possible, but truth can turn the impossible into the possible.
The Shapiro family lived through all the Allied bombings and, with Japan’s occupation, young Isaac was taken under the wing of American Marines, who offered him work as an interpreter. This led to his move with to the United States at age 15 under a protective mentor, to graduation from Columbia University and its law school, to serving in the U.S. Army, and to becoming an American citizen. Today, Shapiro is recognized as a premier international attorney, with offices in the United States and Europe.
The only thing more remarkable than Shapiro’s life story is his incredible memory for detail. The “bite” I’ve given you here is just an appetizer to an amazingly satisfying full meal.
Issac Shapiro’s “Edokko: Growing Up a Foreigner in Wartime Japan” is available on Amazon.

Comments (0)

Nearly 100 French Jewish gravestones vandalized with swastikas on day of marches against anti-Semitism

Nearly 100 French Jewish gravestones vandalized with swastikas on day of marches against anti-Semitism

Posted on 19 February 2019 by admin

TOPSHOT – A picture taken on February 19, 2019 in Quatzenheim shows svastikas painted on graves at a Jewish cemetery, on the day of a nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. – Around 80 graves have been vandalised. The damage was discovered on Tuesday morning at a cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace region, a statement from the regional security office said. (Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

(JTA) — Almost 100 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in France were discovered vandalized with swastikas hours before the start of marches Tuesday against the recent rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the cemetery in the eastern French village of Quatzenheim, near the border with Germany, on Tuesday afternoon and promised that his government would take action.

Local Jewish community representatives joined Macron as he stood in front of the graves vandalized with blue spray-painted swastikas and observed several moments of silence, The Associated Press reported.

The French president is scheduled to hold a moment of silence with other French leaders on Tuesday evening at the Holocaust memorial in Paris.

French police reported last week that anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 74 percent in 2018 over the previous year, and a wave of anti-Semitic incidents centered on Paris has swept the country in recent weeks, spurring 14 political parties to urge a protest rally in response. The parties, including Macron’s La République En Marche!, and the CRIF Jewish umbrella group called on French citizens to rally Tuesday in Paris and several other French cities in demonstrations under the banner “No to anti-Semitism.”

In response to the cemetery vandalism, Israel’s immigration minister, Yoav Galant, in a tweet called on French Jews to “come home” and immigrate to Israel.

“The desecration of the graves  in the Jewish cemetery in France is reminiscent of dark days in the history of the Jewish people,” he wrote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement Tuesday called the vandalism “shocking” and said French and European leaders must take a strong stand against the “plague” of anti-Semitism.

– Marcy Oster

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here