Archive | February, 2019

Be The Difference spins wheels for life

Be The Difference spins wheels for life

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

Photo: Alan Abair
From left, Jon Mize, Events and Corporate Partnerships manager with Be the Difference Foundation, is with organization past and current board members Darren Fishman, Julie Shrell, Lynn Lenschter, Lisa Hurst, Linda Bezner, Sheryl Yonack, Jill Bach and Gary Gardner, with perennial favorite rider and supporter, Roger Staubach. This year (not pictured), Atila Ali and Marissa Shrell have joined the board.

By Deb Silverthorn

The seventh annual Be The Difference Foundation’s (BTDF) Wheel to Survive indoor cycle event is returning to the Aaron Family JCC, Zale Auditorium Feb. 24. The ride helps raise funds for the foundation’s twofold mission: first, to increase the survival rate for women battling ovarian cancer; and second, to provide both hope for a cure, and a future in which ovarian cancer can be treated. More than $2.4 million has been donated to agencies helping those diagnosed with ovarian cancer since the ride launched in 2012.
In 2018, approximately 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed and 14,070 ovarian cancer deaths were expected in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one of every 40 individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry has a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, compared to one in 800 of the general population, increasing the risk of certain cancers, including breast and ovarian in women and breast and prostate in men.
“This organization is where my heart, dedication, and appreciation are because my life, and many others, depends on it,” said Linda Bezner, who is co-chairing the event with Anne Baum. The two are leading a committee that includes BTFD’s Executive Director Shannon Albert and Events and Corporate Partnerships Manager Jon Mize, as well as Molly Aaron, Wendi Alston, Jill Bach, Jessica Buckman, Rose Kreditor, Lauren Lattman, Jeff Seutter, Lauren Shecht, Julie Shrell, Marissa Shrell, Simone Shrell and Sheryl Yonack.
Bezner said that in 2003, she felt twinges in the area of her ovaries. A visit to her gastroenterologist led to a CT scan — and the call.
Though the three-time cancer survivor had had a total hysterectomy and her ovaries removed years before the initial diagnosis, the scan showed an artery and her colon wrapped in an ovarian tumor. Surgeries, chemo and radiation followed, and then several years later the disease returned. These days, Bezner is six years into remission.
Baum, with whom Bezner became friends when their children, now 31, were in kindergarten together, stood by her through illness, and now through chairing Wheel to Survive. The friends first rode in 2014. “We rode as a team, ‘A Positive Spin,’ with my sisters-in-law and I found my place,” Baum said.
Dallas’ Jewish community, a tight-knit friendship of its own, stood by the organization, which has grown and expanded. In 2018, rides also took place in Austin, Boca Raton, Denver, Houston and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The founders of Be The Difference Foundation are Jill Bach, Lynn Lentscher, Julie Shrell and the late Helen Gardner. Bach is an almost 12-year survivor, who inherited the BRCA1 mutation from her father, who never knew he was a carrier before the testing.
Lentscher was the athletic “picture of health” but experienced painful and prolonged diarrhea, despite having had a hysterectomy. After palpating a mass and an elevated CA125 test, she agreed to have her ovaries removed, but woke up to a stage 3 diagnosis. She is now 21 years clear of ovarian cancer.
Shrell, who was diagnosed at 48, BRCA1 tested positive, but not for breast cancer, which her paternal grandmother had survived twice in 30 years. She is now counting eight years of clean health. Gardner, of blessed memory, passed away in 2014 despite her heroic battle, yet lives on through Be The Difference Foundation, and the organizations and people it supports.
Bach is BTDF’s board president. Other board members serving this year are Atila Ali, Linda Bezner, Gary Gardner, Lynn Lenschter, Julie Shrell, Marissa Shrell and Sheryl Yonack.
Ovarian cancer accounts for 2.5 percent of all female cancer cases and 5 percent of cancer deaths because of the disease’s low survival rate, with four out of five ovarian cancer patients diagnosed with advanced disease that has spread throughout the abdominal cavity. Women diagnosed with localized-stage disease have more than a 90-percent five-year survival rate.
“Almost everyone has been touched by cancer, and it is in the spirit of tikkun olam that we hope to repair this piece of the world, to help others, and to help eradicate this disease and to bring long life to all,” said Artie Allen, CEO of the JCC, which has hosted Wheel to Survive since it began. “We hope someday the disease will be gone and we won’t be needed … for this!”
Sisters Marissa and Simone Shrell, Julie’s daughters, created a “Why I Ride” wall to decorate Zale Auditorium, so that riders and visitors to the day are able to “meet” those who have survived, those who have not, and the riders who have been affected by the disease.
Vendors include Chocaloca Designs, Designs by Sarina, Kendra Scott Home, Linen Casa, Scout & Cellar and Your Queen Bead. A raffle and a silent auction with jewelry, sports, restaurant, and vacation packages will run throughout the ride.
Judy’s Mission Ovarian Cancer Foundation was the newest recipient to receive support from the 2018 Wheel to Survive in Houston. Judy’s Mission honors the memory of Judith Liebenthal Robinson by promoting awareness about ovarian cancer and its symptoms, calling attention to the need for early diagnosis and treatment, and funding research for the development of effective screening and treatment.
Executive Director Heidi Suprun said the grant will support its local Survivors Teaching Students program, in which survivors speak to medical students, allowing the disease to surpass the statistics, bringing true faces to the field. Close to home, Bach, Bezner, Lentscher and Shrell are among the volunteers participating at Dallas’ UT Southwestern.
Also receiving BTDF support in 2018 were the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, Lazarex Foundation, MD Anderson’s Ovarian Cancer Moon Shots Program and The Clearity Foundation.
“The rally of support for what we do is infectious — the drive for success, a gift,” Albert said. Having lost her partner to ovarian cancer, she brings personal passion to her role as BTDF’s executive director. “Our goal is to make a difference — a difference in lives and a difference in the fate.”
Wheel to Survive will take place 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at Aaron Family Jewish Community Center’s Zale Auditorium. A practice ride, free with Wheel to Survive registration, starts at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at Cyclebar at Lakeside Market in Plano.
For more information, to donate, or to register for the 2019 Wheel to Survive, visit bethedifferencefoundation.org. Use promocode “TJP” for 25-percent discounted registration.

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Fairmont’s new kosher kitchen debuts deliciousness

Fairmont’s new kosher kitchen debuts deliciousness

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Rabbi David Shawel
“This is a blessing in so many ways, and the enthusiasm to produce excellence by everyone involved is something we’re happy to be a part of,” Rabbi David Shawel, Dallas Kosher’s director of supervision, said of the DK/Fairmont Hotel partnership.

By Deb Silverthorn

Dallas’ Jewish community is now being served deliciousness — specifically, kosher deliciousness — from the kitchen at the Fairmont Dallas hotel. Kosher meals are available for events involving

as few as 50 guests, or as many as 1,000 diners.
The Fairmont is creating meat, fish, and pareve menus to tempt any foodie’s tastebuds. A kosher wine list is also available.
“There is no reason to be limited in what we can serve our guests — everything we do is high-level and exquisite, a luxury menu,” said Sher, a Sabra who, after serving in the Israel Defense Forces, became an executive chef. Sher moved with the Fairmont hotels to Dallas three years ago, wanting to elevate the dining experience for all, including the kosher community.
“Previously, we couldn’t commit to an event more than six months in advance because of the requirements,” he said. “But now, with this tremendous change, we can walk in, turn on the lights, and be cooking. The camaraderie in our kitchen, and our relationship with Dallas Kosher, is fantastic.”
The Fairmont’s kosher kitchen, in its first week open, fed more than 250 guests of the American Jewish Congress and another 530 for the Texoma Regional office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), when it held its 2018 Larry Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award Luncheon, Nov. 15, and was able to avail itself of the kosher menu.
“We’ve had events at the Fairmont for 28 years and this was seamless,” said ADL Texoma Director of Development Kerri Aikin Rosenberg.
The Fairmont is also the site of this year’s Schoenbrun luncheon and its Henry Cohn Humanitarian Award Dinner. “It was delicious, and everything about it was made very easy for us, the client,” Rosenberg said. “We look forward to many events in the future.”
Chad Mendelman, Fairmont’s director of catering and conference services, indicated that the kosher kitchen is the hotel’s next step in providing the best dining presentation. “Our best is now elevated and there’s little we can’t do,” said Mendelman, who arrived in Dallas last fall, bringing 10 years of his service with Fairmont hotels in Australia, Canada and San Francisco to the company. “We think out-of-the-box about how to modify recipes to meet kosher laws, but nothing we do is compromised at all, allowing us to serve intimate parties and mass meetings and celebrations.”
The Fairmont — which for more than two decades has turned a kitchen kosher every now and then, kashering appliances and utensils for events as they come — can now serve a more elaborate menu to greater-sized guestlists, and without the extensive planning that was needed previously. Having added new plates and silverware, two convection ovens, a flattop stove, a grill, fryer, sinks and dishwashers, work tables, a meat-slicer and more, there is little the hotel’s culinary experts can’t create.
“To lose the labor-intensive hours, really days, to turn a kitchen is priceless. Before, we had to clear a kitchen, kasher everything, prep for whatever the menu; now, so much of that is cut out and it makes a difference all around,” said Dallas Kosher’s Director of Supervision Rabbi David Shawel. His DK team helped coordinate and supervise the kashering of everything related to the Fairmont.
During Passover and Hanukkah, the hotel hopes to expand the menu, exploring options of meals to go and other new opportunities to serve the community.
“Dallas Kosher has had a wonderful relationship with the Fairmont and we appreciate the significant investment that was made to create this beautiful kitchen,” said Meira Naor, executive director of Dallas Kosher. “The new equipment, the staff which is knowledgeable, educated, dedicated to kashrut, and which has experienced little turnover in our years together, is something we’re so happy to be a part of.”
Seemingly, the Fairmont, and Dallas Kosher, and the many cooks in the kitchen, are the right combination of ingredients for our community.

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JCRC holds Jewish advocacy day in Austin

JCRC holds Jewish advocacy day in Austin

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

Photos: Courtesy JCRC Dallas From left, JCRC Executive Director Anita Zusman Eddy, State Senator Nathan Johnson, JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin and Jeff Kitner

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, more than 150 individuals from Jewish communities throughout Texas traveled to the Texas State Capitol for Jewish Communities Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin (Day at the State), organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
Jewish communities from across the state participated in the event, including the Jewish Federations of Greater Dallas, Austin, Greater Houston, Fort Worth & Tarrant County, and San Antonio. Partners also included the Community Relations Council (CRC) of San Antonio, Hadassah – Greater Southwest Region, Torah Day School of Dallas, Texas Hillel, Chabad at UT, Hillels of North Texas, and SMU Hillel.
Jewish Communities Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin is a bi-annual event, coinciding with the Texas State Legislative session every two years “The Day at the State program was an opportunity for Jewish communities throughout Texas to come together in order to make a valuable impact in Austin during this legislative session by showing our support for Israel, as well as expressing our concerns about other issues that affect all Texans. Issues important to the Jewish community include anti-BDS legislation, increased safety and security of children in day care centers, and support for social services provided by our Federation partners — Jewish Family Service, Legacy Senior Communities, the Jewish Community Center, and CHAI. We are looking to our state senators and representatives especially from the Dallas area to be receptive and supportive of these important initiatives. Based on our interaction Wednesday, including a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, it was a successful day for our greater Jewish community,” said A.J. Rosmarin, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas chair-elect .
The Day at the State program began with a legislative briefing by Harvey Kronberg, editor of the nonpartisan online publication Quorum Report, followed by speakers on the various advocacy issues: support for Israel, support for social services and Federation agency partners, and support for access to quality early learning and child care safety for all children.
Regen Horchow Fearon, board chair of Early Matters Dallas, discussed the importance of high quality early learning and need for increased safety and security of child day care centers. Lisa Brodsky, CEO of Community Homes for Adults, Inc. (CHAI), discussed the need to support quality services and programs to instill a capacity for independence and self-sufficiency among Texan adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Toba Hellerstein, CEO of the Texas-Israel Alliance, shared facts about Israel as a global leader in water management and innovation, and how Israeli technology can be used to help Texas in solving water challenges.
“The JCRC is grateful to all the speakers and participants who joined us in Austin on Jan. 30,” said Dallas JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin. “Their participation, enthusiasm and commitment in educating our legislators and advocating for issues important to the Jewish community is what made the day a true success.”
Representative Phil King (R- Weatherford) met with the group following the passing of House Resolution 111 that morning, affirming Israel’s achievements in water management and the Israel-Texas Water Initiative. The resolution was crafted at the request of the Dallas Jewish Community Relations Council and the Texas-Israel Alliance. Rep. King also discussed the follow-up bill to the Texas anti-BDS bill, which was passed last legislative session and prohibits the State of Texas from contracting with any company that engages in boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel. The follow-up bill this session is intended to tweak the existing anti-BDS law and to make some clarifications on enforcement of the existing law. This year’s bill notes that the anti-boycott statute is a commerce issue and not an infringement on any individual’s free speech rights. The new bill also eliminates applicability to sole proprietorships to show that this is not about individual content, but rather about government contracts using taxpayer funds.
During the Day at the State program, the Dallas JCRC arranged advocacy meetings with legislators from both political parties. Small (two- to four-person) groups met with individual legislators or staff during the afternoon. There was also a meeting and photo with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, which led to his inviting the entire group on an impromptu tour of the Lieutenant Governor’s office and official Capitol residence.
“I learned so much at the Jewish Communities Day at the State program,” commented Dawn Strauss, Day at the State co-chair. “I left Austin feeling invigorated, proud and excited to be a part of the Dallas Jewish community. This mission was an amazing opportunity to have our voices heard and to make an impact in Austin.”
Adam Segall, Day at the State co-chair, added, “We appreciate the support and participation of the Jewish Federations and many Jewish organizations and agencies throughout Texas. As the only full-time Jewish Community Relations Council in Texas, our Dallas JCRC is pleased to have served as the planning and coordinating entity that brings together all the Jewish communities in Texas for this critical advocacy program.”

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Dallas Doings: Stephen Becker, Dr. Edo Panel, Press Notes

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

Stephen Becker hosts Beth Torah Oscar preview

KERA film critic Stephen Becker, who also produces the popular Think show, is hosting the annual Oscar preview on Sunday morning, Feb. 17, at Congregation Beth Torah.
The synagogue’s Men’s Club and Sisterhood sponsor the breakfast program, which combines Men’s Club lox and bagels with fabulous Sisterhood desserts.
The breakfast, which is open to the public and costs $10, begins at 9:30 a.m. Beth Torah is located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson.

Panel discussion on Israeli tech and Texas’ water crisis

In Texas, predictions indicate we could run out of water as soon as 2020. Israeli water expert Dr. Edo Bar Zeev will join Scott Moore and Peter Lake in a panel discussion on “Texas’ Looming Water Crisis: How Israeli Tech Could Save the Day” from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the Ernst and Young Gallery of SMU’s Cox School of Business, 6214 Bishop Blvd. The event is co-presented by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, AJC Dallas and the SMU John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.
The three panelists are experts in their fields. According to program materials, “Dr. Edo Bar-Zeev is a senior lecturer in the Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, which is part of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research. A passionate advocate for the global access to fresh water, he pursued his interest in the practical application of desalination technology and earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from Bar-Ilan University, followed by post-doctorate work at Yale University. Today at BGU’s Sede Boqer Campus in southern Israel, Dr. Bar-Zeev leads a multidisciplinary team of young scientists who explore subjects ranging from environmental engineering and aquatic microbiology to virology.
“Scott Moore is a political scientist whose interests center on environmental sustainability, technology and international relations. His first book, ‘Subnational Hydropolitics: Conflict, Cooperation and Institution-Building in Shared River Basins’ (Oxford University Press, 2018), examines how climate change and other pressures affect the likelihood of conflict over water within countries. At Penn, Scott is director of the Penn Global China Program. Previously, Scott was a water resources management specialist at the World Bank Group, and Environment, Science, Technology, and health officer for China at the U.S. Department of State.
“Peter Lake has served as a board member of the Texas Water Development Board since December 2015. Governor Greg Abbott designated him chairman in February 2018. Lake has held a variety of financial roles across a number of industries. Previously, he acted as director of research and head of automated trading at Gambit Trading, a member firm of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In this capacity, he led the firm’s market research initiatives and directed the development of its first automated trading programs. As one of the firm’s proprietary market makers he also traded interest rate derivatives, primarily focusing on U.S. Treasury bond futures.”
This event is free, but registration is required at https://whoozin.com/943-XGE-4EKC/RSVP. For more information, contact Sissy Zoller at szoller@aabgu.org or 646-452-3710.

Press notes:
future college athletes

•On National Signing Day, Feb. 6, Hudson Morris, son of Christie and Kyle Morris, signed a letter of intent to play football at Penn State. Hudson is a senior at Shelton School and attended Akiba Academy. In addition to football, Hudson hopes to pursue a degree in engineering. He is the brother of Molly, 15.
•Jordan Rozenblum, son of Deanna and Kenny Rozenblum, a senior at JJ Pearce in Richardson, will play baseball at North Arkansas College in Harrison, Arkansas next year. Jordan is an infielder and right-handed pitcher. He is the brother of Levi, 13.
We love to hear from our readers. Know of other athletes who will play in college next year? Send their contact information to sharon@tjpnews.com.

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JFS senior program receives Sixty and Better award

JFS senior program receives Sixty and Better award

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

 

Photos: Courtesy JFS
Hedy Collins of JFS Senior Program displays the Sixty and Better award.

On Jan. 28 Hedy Collins accepted an award on behalf of the Jewish Family Services Senior Program. The award was presented to Hedy by Sixty and Better, formally known as Senior Citizen Services.
One aspect that made the morning special is that those in attendance were able to listen to Evelyn Siegel share words of wisdom with warmth and humor. Evelyn and the Jewish community have a long and important history with Sixty and Better.
The agency was started with a grant from National Council of Jewish Women and its founders were Evelyn Siegel and Roz Rozenthal. Among the first board members were Ellen Mack, Amy Stien and the late Rosalie Schwartz.
In attendance were Dr. Carole Rogers, Jewish Family Services director, as well as Steve Katten, attorney and Sixty and Better board member; attorney Karen Johnson; and Evelyn Siegel’s son Terry, all three of whom are extremely active volunteers.
Sixty and Better provides meals to 25 senior programs in Tarrant County. The Jewish Family Senior Program is one of the partner agencies. Jewish Family Services runs a daily senior program which takes place at Congregation Beth-El.
In addition to a meal, the JFS program provides socialization and activities such as exercise and bingo.
Sixty and Better also offers more than just a meal to their partner programs.
At no cost to the programs the organization offers health and wellness classes designed to improve the physical and mental well-being of older adults. The classes include Aging Mastery, A Matter of Balance, and Health For Me Chronic Disease Management.
The entire Tarrant County Community is thankful to Evelyn and her friends for having the foresight to start this agency. And of course, the Jewish community is grateful to Hedy and her staff for running the daily program.
Jewish Family Services is also grateful for financial support provided by the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation.

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The necessity to create joyful noise

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

The theme of this week is noise.
When we are productive and feel good about ourselves, life is easier. When we feel we messed up, life becomes more difficult. An unfulfilled soul, plagued by regrets, detects a resounding static coming from within.
Spiritual noise and silence symbolize two states. Noise reflects the process of repentance, the cry of those feeling distant from God. Silence, on the other hand, reflects a feeling of closeness. When one is content and progressing smoothly, there is no inner-conflict. The soul is calm. But attempting to change — amidst the struggle to leave behind sins — creates a restless noise inside, which must be expressed.
Between the lines of the recent Torah passages appears an interesting dialogue about these two states. In one of the most pivotal scenes, the High Priest — the Kohen Gadol — dressed in his eight specific garments, enters the holy place in the Temple as a messenger of the Jewish people. Each of these garments is crucial, symbolic, and possesses a special power in achieving atonement.
Here, we will examine one garment — the robe — and its broader significance. When describing the robe, the Torah relates the following: “And on its bottom hem you shall make pomegranate [shaped balls]…all around, and golden bells in their midst…It shall be on Aaron when he performs the service, and its sound shall be heard when he enters the Kodesh, the holy chamber, before the Lord…so that he will not die.” (Exodus 27:33-35)
Bells and Pomegranates
When examining the verse, there is a disagreement between two primary biblical commentators as to where the bells should be placed. The divergence stems from the Hebrew word b’tocham, which can mean either “between them” or, more literally, “within them.” Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki), the foremost commentator on the Torah and Talmud, understands the phrase as “between.” Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman) disagrees and believes that the bells were literally placed within the pomegranates.
Inserting bells inside the rounded ornaments — to bang against their walls — makes sense, given the instruction to make the pomegranates hollow. But, according to Rashi, the ringing was generated from the clappers within the bells, and thus the hollow pomegranates were purely decorative. For this reason, Nachmanides takes issue with that approach: “Having hollow pomegranates served no function then,” he writes. “And if they were only for beauty, they should have been made like golden apples . . .”
While his argument about functionality is compelling — why bother making each pomegranate hollow if nothing was placed inside them? — his additional comment about golden apples is cryptic, prompting investigation by later scholars.
And why, according to Rashi, was the robe beautified with pomegranates?
Noise is necessary
Let’s examine the following: “Its sound shall be heard when he enters the holy place…” Why was it so important to hear the bells jingle — to the point that the success of the High Priest depended on this noise? Seemingly, in such an intimate setting, designed to achieve atonement, “a still silent voice” (Kings 19:12) would be more appropriate.
The commentaries explain that sound shows respect for the moment, ensuring that entrance into a holy site doesn’t take place mindlessly or unannounced. The jingling bells are similar to a visitor asking permission to enter the king’s chamber. The more profound explanation relates to the overall function of the Kohen Gadol, seen as a messenger of the Jewish people, taking with him the entire nation into the holy chamber.
In this sense, the jingling of the bells is symbolic of those people engaged in an ongoing struggle to improve — to come closer to God while in a dark and confusing world. Consequently, when approaching the holy place, seeking to gain atonement on behalf of the entire Jewish people, it was essential that the Kohen Gadol provide an accurate symbolic representation of the entire spectrum of the community.
The beauty of struggle
With these images in mind, we can discover a more profound dialogue between Nachmanides, who favors apples, and Rashi, who prefers pomegranates. Both the golden apple and pomegranate describe the Jewish people throughout the Bible. However, while the apple represents Israel in the most virtuous state, the pomegranate refers to the “empty ones amongst you.”
So, is true beauty in the struggle to improve, or in attaining excellence?
Rashi chooses to emphasize the external aspect of the human being, marked by complexity, but full of goodness. Specifically, those who face an inner void, and are regarded as being on the lower spiritual level, are represented by the hollow fruit shape, on the bottom hem. Yet even they will go with the High Priest into the holy chamber. Indeed, there is an advantage in the tension over smooth spiritual progression and contentment. The rise and fall, the consistent effort needed to improve, eventually breaks barriers and exposes the limitless power of the soul.
Nachmanides, who incorporates more esoteric mystical ideas into his commentary, focuses on the deeper dimension within the person — the pristine and unblemished state, removed from all sin. “If for beauty, and not functionality,” he argues, “make them like golden apples, full and sweet.”
Applications for today
These days, we are bombarded by negative noise of the outside world, screaming for our attention at every turn. This, in turn, adds to the inner noise and makes it harder to hear to what’s going on inside. These distractions mean that the soul’s needs often are unnoticed and neglected. Likewise, the depth and richness of Judaism are quiet.
In previous generations, there was not as much need to create positive noise. These days, however, we must learn to generate more beautiful noise, raising the sound of holiness by showing more creativity and enthusiasm in our love for Torah, the remarkable land of Israel, and in celebrating Jewish life.
Rabbi Dan Lewin is director of the nonprofit Maayan Chai Foundation. For information, visit www.maayanchai.org.

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Theodore Roosevelt: friend of the Jews

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

With President’s Day around the corner, it is an appropriate time to think about our nation’s chief executives.
We have had 45 Presidents of the United States, so there is enough material for a complete encyclopedia. However, I hope that you’ll be satisfied with a few scatterings of interesting factoids.
In 1945, I was looking for a seat on the uptown subway after seeing a Broadway movie, I noticed that everything was much more quiet than usual, except for some sobbing. It was eerie. No one was talking, newspapers were wide open, and I could see the front-page headlines: “Extra: FDR Dies.” This is a childhood memory I will never forget.
My interest has also been focused on FDR’s presidential relative, Theodore Roosevelt. What first endeared me to that Roosevelt were descriptions of how he struggled to overcome childhood asthma.
I, too, had asthma as a child and was overweight, to boot. Roosevelt’s struggle to develop physically, to overcome his handicaps, was also my struggle.
His love for the outdoors was one I shared later in life. One of the “must visit” places in the New York City area is Sagamore Hill, a national historic site on Oyster Bay, Long Island.
Sagamore Hill was TR’s home for the last 33 years of his life. From 1901 to 1909 it was the Summer White House.
What struck me on my visit to this National Historic Site were the great number and variety of wild animal heads, horns, skins, and bodies on display, on walls, floors, and ceilings.
Specimens from the many hunts he participated in before, during, and after his presidency “follow you around” as you try to concentrate on other aspects of his life and home.
It is strange to think how, on one hand, this man could gain a reputation as a great hunter. Yet, on the other hand, he is highly regarded as a great conservationist. The greatness of the man was his ability to be hunter, protector of wildlife and caretaker of the wilderness.
And, as Jews, we should consider Theodore Roosevelt a friend, as evidenced by many examples. While serving as New York City Police Commissioner, he was under pressure by New York’s Jews to ban the speaking engagement of an anti-Semitic German preacher.
Roosevelt instead ordered that the police bodyguard unit consist only of Jews. The result was that the anti-Semitic preacher was duly embarrassed by the newspaper coverage, especially the editorial cartoons that poked fun at the speaker’s predicament in the next day’s newspapers.
President Roosevelt publicly denounced the Russian pogroms of Kishinev. He supported the idea of an independent Jewish state of Palestine. Additionally, he favored independence for the Arabs and the Armenians.
And finally, Roosevelt was the first president to appoint a Jew to a cabinet level position; Oscar Straus had the position of U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor from 1906 to 1909.
Perhaps the one the one thing that endeared Theodore Roosevelt to most Americans, including its Jews, was the Teddy Bear. Roosevelt, who had been invited to hunt bears by the Mississippi governor, hadn’t had any sightings, and was the only hunter without a bear. An aide felt sorry for the president, and captured an old, injured, emaciated bear and tied him to a tree for the president to shoot. President Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear. Rather, he ordered it put down, to spare it any more pain and suffering.
A few days later, a Jewish candy store owner, Morris Michtom in Brooklyn, New York, saw a cartoon poking fun at Roosevelt, the hunt, and the president’s refusal to shoot the bear. Michtom, and his wife Rose, created stuffed animals, which they sold out of their store. One of those animals was a stuffed bear, which Michtom sent to President Roosevelt with a request that the product be named Teddy’s Bears.
President Roosevelt gave his permission, and worldwide demand for the Teddy Bear eventually led to creation of the Ideal Toy Company.
Most of my family and friends had a Teddy Bear in their home at one time or another. I still have a Teddy Bear, for the grandkids.
To conclude, Theodore Roosevelt was larger than life, with a focus on conservation and justice. He was also supportive of the Jewish community in a time during which such support was needed.

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Understanding the Shema and mezuzah

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
This week my lesson at the J was about the
Shema and the mezuzah. The Shema is one of the first prayers we teach our children, as it is recited first thing in the morning and then right before bed. It is a wonderful part of many bedtime rituals that families have. The Shema is not a prayer to God but is a statement about God, about us, and about the connections binding us with God and with each other. It says that there is one God for all of us.
The custom is to cover your eyes when saying the Shema, so that you can really think about what you are saying. At the J Early Childhood Center, many classes make it part of their day in different ways.
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.
Hear O Israel, Adonai is Our God, Adonai is One.
The Shema is inside of the mezuzah, which we also discussed this week. The children created their own mezuzot, but without the parchment — what was included was an English translation of the
Shema, and advice to purchase the kosher scroll for inclusion.
Here are some of the details to remember for installing your mezuzah:
· Mezuzah literally means “doorpost” but is normally taken to refer to the case which holds the parchment. On the outside of every mezuzah is a single Hebrew word — one of God’s names: Shaddai. The rabbis turn this into an anagram: Shomer Delatot Yisrael, Guardian of Israel’s Doors. When we put up a mezuzah and reconnect with it every time we enter, a sort of nonverbal prayer for protection is pointed in God’s direction.
· A mezuzah may be placed on every interior doorpost in the house except for the bathrooms and the closets.
· The parchment includes the Shema and Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-31.
· A rabbi does not need to put up your mezuzah. You can place it yourself, with the following prayer.
Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha’olam asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu likboah mezuzah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who has made us holy with mitzvot and instructed us to affix the mezuzah.
· Face the door from the outside. Touch the right doorpost, and place the mezuzah about 2/3 of the way up, with the top of the mezuzah tilted in.
· Become a mezuzah kisser. First touch your hand to the mezuzah, then bring your hand to your lips and kiss it.
A final story is a legend about the rabbinic “argument” on whether to hang the mezuzah vertical or horizontal. The story tells of the typical argument back and forth, ending with a compromise to hang it at an angle. The important message for all times is that sometimes we need to compromise, and that each time you enter your home (or school or business), the mezuzah is a reminder to meet one another in peace.

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The positive sides of pleasure in Judaism

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
Thank you so much for the response concerning pleasure in last week’s TJP. I have a couple of follow-up questions:
1) The more comfort one engages in, the more one’s desire for comfort increases. The more one’s desire for comfort increases, the more likely one will be to serve himself than Hashem. Doesn’t logic dictate that it would be best for both man and Hashem if the former minimizes his comfort as much as possible? If so, more time, energy and money will be available to serve Hashem which will, in turn, generate more of the ultimate good for man.
2) The Mishna in Pirkei Avos 6:4 seems to corroborate the above logic: “Such is the way [of a life] of Torah: You shall eat bread with salt, and rationed water shall you drink; you shall sleep on the ground, your life will be one of privation, and in Torah shall you labor. If you do this, ‘Happy shall you be and it shall be good for you… Happy shall you be in this world, and it shall be good for you in the world to come.’”
How does your analysis fit with this Mishna?
Thank you for the help!
Sammy
Dear Sammy,
I will start by addressing your second question first.
There are commentaries who explain the Mishna you reference not to mean that one should strive to live that way. Rather, that if one finds himself in dire straits, he should still be willing to toil in study of Torah. That would be the application of the Mishna for most people.
So, the answer to your first point is that it is not a Jewish ideal, for the vast majority, to strive towards asceticism. It is, in fact, considered sinful to live an ascetic life. This is why, for example, a Nazirite is required to bring a sin offering at the end of his or her period of Nazirus, because they vowed not to drink wine during that period. Additionally, additional prohibitions should not be added upon oneself beyond those already mandated in the Torah. See Numbers Ch. 6 and Talmud Tractate Nazir 19a for additional information.
In this way, among others, Judaism is in direct opposition to the philosophy of Catholicism, which lauds asceticism and holds that to be holy, one needs to refrain from the pleasures of this world, such as the life of a monk, or most priests who refrain from marriage as it represents sin. From the Jewish standpoint, a life of refraining from marriage and its pleasures is considered a sin.
That being said, you are correct that one can easily become overly engaged in pleasures that could pull him or her away from spiritual pursuits and into a life of physicality. Our sages teach that the antidote to that concern depends on one’s mindfulness when engaging in any sort of pleasure.
When one engages in pleasure for pleasure’s sake, as an end in and of itself, it carries the concern you voiced in your question. Pleasures have the potential of becoming addictive and becoming one’s life pursuit, not a positive thing.
If, however, one has in mind to enjoy this world as a vehicle for enjoying God’s gifts, and to give oneself the joy to better fulfill mitzvos, to study Torah, to be a positive force in the world and better help others as a happy and content individual, the life’s pleasures take on a spiritual perspective. If one enjoys a deliciously prepared steak to bring honor to the Shabbos, the consumption of that steak itself becomes a mitzvah. When one takes the family to a beautiful national park to enjoy the creations of God and to bring the family closer together, that trip becomes a mitzvah.
Such pleasures don’t carry the potential of addiction to bigger and better pleasures, or a movement away from spiritual pursuits. The pleasures themselves enhance one’s spirituality, leading to higher goals and aspirations. This is the beauty of Torah.

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A Midwestern town and Tree-of-Life tragedy

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

My train of thought has pulled into the Tree of Life station. I can update you on the deadly anti-Semitic massacre that seems to me like yesterday, but was actually almost four months ago. I’m indebted to Sean Hamill of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for providing the facts and figures.
Of course, figures mean money, which always comes in quickly following a tragedy. What else can people do after the dead are buried and the wounded survivors are receiving care? Here, the figures are incredible. My old hometown received an astounding $10 million from many sources. And, donations keep coming in.
Adam Harrison of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is tasked with the tracking. Money came from T-shirt sales, from entertainment venues taking donations at their entrances and from GoFundMe campaigns. In one such campaign, an Iranian refugee graduate student raised $700,000 in just two days, and continued until his total was $1.2 million. (The North Texas Jewish community heard from this remarkable student, Shay Khatiri, an AIPAC activist when he told his story at the annual AIPAC dessert reception at the Hyatt Regency Sunday night.) About the donors — large and small, organizational and individual — Harrison said this: “People just wanted to help. The giving has been an expression of their grief, and an expression of their desire to help and heal.”
But here is the story of the most unusual fundraiser of them all. This story is remarkable enough to be remembered forever in a city now overrun with good deeds, and should stand out as a shining example of what good exists, even in the smallest parts of America.
Gurnee is a small Illinois town, 40 miles north of Chicago. In that town, Warren Township High School’s drama club was preparing for the final performance of its fall show, when word was released about Tree of Life. As a coincidence (but I can’t help believing this was all the hand of God at work), their play was: “And Then They Came for Me: Remembering Anne Frank.” An unusually somber audience for any student production anywhere heard an announcement before the curtain went up: This last night’s show was dedicated to the victims of the Tree of Life shooting. And at the end, the performers lit candles in honor.
Yet, this wasn’t the final curtain call. The school’s social worker and teacher, who directed the play, immediately emailed administrators. “This was not enough,” she said. “Can we do something else?”
The following Monday, when the 35-member cast and crew members gathered to take down the play’s set, they were told to leave it alone, because they would be performing one more show — a Tree of Life fundraiser. The next Sunday, Nov. 4, was set for their Anne Frank “encore.”
Using the week between the first scheduled closing and the additional performance, these students “…responded by posting fliers all over town, organizing a Facebook fundraiser, and getting the word out through social media,” according to their teacher — who isn’t Jewish herself. The school auditorium’s 150 seats sold out, with $3,000 raised at the show itself. An additional $2,000 came in from the kids’ online efforts. All of it was sent immediately to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Quite rightly, the final words were these that came from a truly inspiring teacher: “To do this, to be able to bless and support the people you are trying to recognize with a fundraiser — this was special. It was an honor to help.”
And here are my final words: Now I can get my mental train back on track again. But I’ll never forget this briefest of stops at an otherwise obscure Midwestern high school, where the best of all that America should stand for came to life in combat against the worst that ever happened here to our people.

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