Archive | June, 2019

From Fort Worth to NYC with Ahavath Sholom

From Fort Worth to NYC with Ahavath Sholom

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

The confirmands in the sanctuary at Congregation Shearith Israel. From left, Lia Bloom, Maya Kiselstein, Gali Brautbar, Vivienne Roumani (member of Shearith Israel), Ethan Bailey and Nadav Ninio

In New York City, confirmands immersed in Jewish history and culture
By Melissa Morgan
Five students from Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Learning and Engagement Center just returned from their Confirmation Class capstone trip to New York City, immersing themselves in various aspects of the city’s diverse Jewish culture. This trip has become a tradition at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, as 2019 marked at least the seventh time the congregation has sponsored such a trip.
High school students Ethan Bailey, Lia Bloom, Gali Brautbar, Maya Kiselstein and Nadav Ninio, together with teachers David Saul and Melissa Morgan, gathered at CAS at 5 a.m. Friday, June 14. Over the next few days, with the help of vans, planes, subways, boats and lots of walking, they studied Jewish immigration to America and Jewish diversity as well as ate lots of kosher food.
Jewish immigration to America
Visiting Congregation Shearith Israel (The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue) at 70th and Central Park West for morning minyan took the group into the rich history of the Orthodox Sephardic congregation dating back to 1654. With documentary filmmaker Vivienne Roumani as a tour guide, the group learned about the history of the congregation, beginning with a boatload of Jews fleeing Recife, Brazil, to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Minyan was in the small chapel (“Little Synagogue”), and the group saw a Torah scroll from the days of the American Revolution. The sanctuary contains beautiful Tiffany windows, a central bimah and “skeptic lamps,” built when electricity was new (one part of the fixture uses gas; one part uses electricity). The congregation continues to use its own prayer book and minhag (local customs), with separate seating for women.
Looking to Ashkenazic Judaism and why Jews left Europe, the group had the unprecedented opportunity to attend “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish with English and Russian supertitles. Everyone found it intense and absorbing. Texas native Steven Skybell as Tevye was particularly remarkable. Ethan Bailey said, “My favorite part of the trip was ‘Fiddler’ in Yiddish. It just made it feel more legit.”
Of course, the group also took the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, studying the process of immigration to America. Many of the museum exhibits specifically talk about Jewish immigrants, whether for a Passover Seder on Ellis Island or the kosher food available for purchase after immigrants were examined and approved. Various congregations and immigrant aid societies helped the new arrivals any way they could.
The group went from Ellis Island to Lower Manhattan and the Lower East Side, just as many new arrivals just off the boat would have done. Pretending to need housing, they experienced a 1915 tenement apartment, hosted by 14-year-old Jewish immigrant Victoria Confino of Kastoria. This living history tour by the Tenement Museum gives participants the chance to interact with and ask questions of a professional actress who has studied her part for over a year, including working with recordings and family members on accent and content. Victoria Confino lived in that same building for four years, sleeping on the kitchen floor, with nine other family members, in just 300 square feet. The Tenement Museum also has other programs related to Jewish immigration and immigration in general.
Also on the Lower East Side, the group visited the Museum at Eldridge Street, built as Kahal Adath Jeshurun in 1887 by Ashkenazic Jews. From a crumbling ruin in the 1980s, the synagogue building has been restored to a glorious condition. In 2010, a huge circular stained-glass window was added to replace the lost front window. Rachel Serkin, museum educator, taught the group about the building and the Lower East Side Jewish community.
Jewish diversity
While history is a huge part of the trip, so is experiencing a bit of the amazing Jewish diversity found in the United States today. The group saw Temple Emanu-El on the East Side of Central Park; was hosted by West End Synagogue (Reconstructionist) for musical Kabbalat Shabbat services and Shabbat dinner, learning a little about Mordecai Kaplan and Reconstructionism; and spent Shabbat morning singing and praying with the very welcoming Congregation B’nai Jeshurun. Founded in 1825 by members of Congregation Shearith Israel as the second congregation in New York City, B’nai Jeshurun has helped shape 21st-century American Judaism with its emphasis on music, spirituality and justice.
The group also did a walking tour in Borough Park, learning about the Hasidic communities that have developed in the city since World War II. Orthodox tour guide Jeff Altman of Timeline Touring, although not Hasidic, is known in the neighborhood, and is a calm and insightful presence. He taught the group about the many institutions (schools, stores, bus services, bakeries, etc.) that have developed to serve the local community.
Although the group’s main exercise was walking, they also saw the extensive fitness facilities, swimming pool, art studios, day care, meditation space, and beit midrash at the Marlene Myerson JCC Manhattan on the Upper West Side. And they exercised some mental muscle analyzing images from rare documents, presented by Dr. David Kraemer, director of the library at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Kraemer challenged the group to see what they could learn not only from the words on the page, but also the illustrations and style of the documents.
Food
No trip to New York City would be complete without some amazing kosher food. The group experienced grocery stores (Fairway, Zabar’s and stores in Borough Park); deli at Fine & Schapiro (Upper West Side); late-night shawarma, kebabs, and falafel at Ali Baba (Upper West Side); great vegan Chinese (Buddha Bodai, 5 Mott St, Chinatown); and kebabs and more at Ta’am Tov (Diamond District, near Rockefeller Center). Everyone enjoyed the delicious variety of kosher foods available in New York City.
The group completed their New York City immersion with a look at recent history at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a long walk in Central Park and souvenir shopping.
The CAS Learning and Engagement Center is planning a similar adult trip in the future.

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Leadership team grows at newly merged Akiba/Yavneh

Leadership team grows at newly merged Akiba/Yavneh

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Akiba/Yavneh Academies
Rabbi Yaakov Green is the new head of school at the newly merged Akiba/Yavneh Academies.

This fall, three senior educators will join Akiba/Yavneh Academies, a Modern Orthodox day school for infants through high schoolers.
Rabbi Yaakov Green will serve as the head of school. Most recently, Green led the HF Epstein Hebrew Academy of St. Louis, Missouri, where he was instrumental in re-accrediting the school; balancing the budget; hiring and supervising principals, teachers and staff; fundraising; and building relationships within the larger community.
As the new general studies principal for Yavneh, Donna Hutcheson will draw on her 30 years of experience in the public-school sector, most recently as assistant principal at North Garland Math Science and Technology Magnet.
“I am most passionate about kids. They are the world-changers, the new innovators and the future,” said Hutcheson. “I believe that the biggest part of my job is to create and nurture the most optimal environment for students to challenge themselves and succeed at their highest levels.”
Hutcheson will partner with Yavneh’s longtime principal, Rabbi Maury Grebenau, to support Rabbi Green.
Amanda Stubbs will join the educational leadership team to serve as director of the Ma’alot Learning Platform, a new initiative that will provide students with diverse learning needs the opportunity to realize their full potential. Stubbs brings with her more than 10 years of experience working with children from diverse learning backgrounds in the Denison Independent School District. Her responsibilities there included developing curriculum, mentoring new teachers, serving as a lead teacher, developing and sustaining after-school programs, and staff training and development.
These new hires will join an experienced and successful leadership team already in place.
This year, K-8 Principals Rabbi Chanania Engelsman and Danielle Gershon implemented computer-adaptive standardized tests, the first eighth-grade class trip to Israel, a new reading program, 21st-century classroom seating and new technology for teachers and students. Rabbi Engelsman came to Akiba from SAR Academy in Riverdale, New York; Gershon worked at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago.
Early Childhood Director Jordana Bernstein has grown the Akiba early childhood program to include popular Parent & Me classes, parenting seminars and a robust summer camp. Additionally, the Jewish Theological Seminary chose Akiba’s Early Childhood Program as one of five schools in the United States — and the only school in Texas — to be part of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Research Collaborative.
“We have a strong and talented team in place to elevate our school next year and beyond,” said Bernstein, an alumna of Akiba who has served as the early childhood director for 13 years. “We can’t wait to get started.”

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Home study of Psalms leads into Shabbat

Home study of Psalms leads into Shabbat

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

Pre-Shabbat Tehillim education

By Deb Silverthorn
Erev Shabbat gets a kick-start at 7:45 a.m. each Friday morning, at the home of Carole and Joram Wolanow. At that location, Tehillim — the Book of Psalms — is taught and defined by Rabbi Yaakov Tannenbaum of Shaare Tefilla. The class is open to all, and there is no charge.
The class began as an opportunity for parents, involved with carpooling to the Schultz Rosenberg Campus, to learn and grow for themselves. Years in, with an invitation from the Wolanows, the sessions moved to their home near the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, and there they remain. Good coffee, muffins and more combine with the study of the 150 poems in the Book of Psalms, which provide a range of expression of appreciation and thankfulness to God, of praise to the Almighty and of prayers in need.
“We read the Hebrew and we read the English and we take our time. I assure you there’s no rush and we make sure it is well understood, not just the translation, but the meaning and the depth,” Tannenbaum said. “We are sensitive to the text and to the reading, but my focus is on having us all truly feel what we are studying, that everyone feel the participation.”
There is no order to the readings. While some chapters required less than a week for all to feel complete, others have taken much longer. An hour in the morning, after school drop-offs and before most need to be accounted for, is precious and holy time.
“Rabbi brings to the table lessons of more than Torah, more than religion, and more than our history — he shares it all and can bring values of all three in the study of one psalm,” said Joram Wolanow, who with wife Carole over the years has become more interested in the details of the Torah, of Mishnah (oral law), of Gemara (commentary) and more. “I want to learn more of the history and relevance, and Rabbi Tannenbaum is dedicated to bringing it to life.”
Studying through a number of rabbis and various organizations, the Wolanows have opened their door, put on the coffee and served up a nosh alongside the learning for the last seven years.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Tannenbaum and Rachel, his wife of 46 years, moved to Dallas 11 years ago. His grandfather was a practicing rabbi, while his father, who was also ordained, worked as a diamond cutter. Once ordained, Tannenbaum became the director of technology services for a publishing company.
When his job was outsourced, the couple were encouraged to make the Lone Star State their home by their son Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum and his family. Rabbi Tannenbaum “junior,” as he is lovingly referred to by his students, and his wife Miriam, taught at Akiba, Yavneh and others since 2003. In 2018, they made aliyah to Israel, where Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum serves as a director of Jewish enrichment for BBYO.
“We all come to the class with our own level of understanding, and it is widely varied, but together we share a critical in-depth review. Pasuk by pasuk, verse by verse, through a unique and very analytical approach,” said David Weiss, who has been a part of this group since January, and has studied with with Tannenbaum senior for close to eight years. “I formed an instant bond with Rabbi when we first met and whatever he’s teaching, I’ll gravitate to it. This is a beautiful way to end the week, to prepare to start Shabbat.”
Members of the group, now studying amid the 11 chapters of Tehillim attributed to Moses, belong to synagogues around the community and are of varying degrees of observance. There is no education level required to participate, no need for anything but a desire to learn and to share.
“This class is often the anchor of my week and a very important piece of my life,” said class member Yaffa Podbilewicz-Schuller. “Rabbi Tannenbaum is extraordinary: wise, kind, humble and a very sensitive and gentle soul.”
Podbilewicz-Schuller echoes the sentiments of others in the class, noting that Tannenbaum brings to each week a relevance to their lives in whatever they are studying. The depth and meaning of Judaism are illuminated in the study of text, and in the process, the lives of those that engage in this study are transformed.
“I’ve been reading Tehillim for many years, often with the intention of prayer for healing for a friend or family member. Other times I connect to the meaning hidden in the words, seeking a spiritual connection to express gratitude to God or to connect with something deeply human,” said Podbilewicz-Schuller, who treasures two pocket-sized Tehillim books, both with Hebrew, one translated into English and the other to her native Spanish. “With Rabbi Tannenbaum, it’s as if he puts into words what is already deeply within us. Experiences come full circle as my heart and mind are awakened with understanding.”
For Tannenbaum, it is what a Jew feels about life and the meaning of life and how we deal with life’s challenges and the experience and seriousness of God’s presence and the purpose each of us serves.
“This class and the Tehillim are about realizing and reflecting where we all are in our lives and how we can relate to our Master,” said Tannenbaum, the father of four and grandfather of 14. “Not to be overcome by the crisis and trials of life, but to be able to live through those toughest times, to have the capacity to be full.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve studied for a day or if you are incredibly learned,” he continued, noting that while he is the teacher, he too learns much from every session. “The only ‘must’ is to bring yourself and a willingness to hear the perspectives of those at the table.”
For more details, email jytannenbaum@gmail.com and, for location information, contact joramw@sbcglobal.net.

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Correcting a Buchenwald historical inaccuracy

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

One of the world’s greatest horrors unleashed on mankind, the mass extermination plan against Jews and others deemed inferior by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler, is known as “the Holocaust,” which was carried out throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
One of the first and largest of the concentration camps was Buchenwald, located near Weimar, Germany. More than a million people each year visit Buchenwald, which operated from July 1937 to April 1945. When visitors travel through Weimar, they see signs crediting the Soviets for Buchenwald’s liberation. In truth, it was the American army, under General George Patton, who first reached the camp April 11, 1945. The Soviets did not come to the area until July 3, 1945, almost three months later. However, as a part of the Potsdam Agreement, the eastern sector of Germany, which included Buchenwald and its surrounding cities, was turned over to the Soviets.
Almost immediately after the Soviets took possession of Buchenwald, they took credit for the area’s liberation. However, since the Soviet Union’s fall and Germany’s reunification in 1990, there has been a need to place a historic marker to properly credit Buchenwald’s liberators, the U.S. Army.
According to Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, the cities closest to Buchenwald, Weimar and Thuringia, still have publicly posted signs crediting the Soviet Union with the Buchenwald liberation. But no signs exist crediting the United States.
The organization approached the Buchenwald Foundation with a proposal to pay for a single American Liberators Memorial to be placed at the front entrance, properly crediting the American forces with being the first to reach and liberate the camp. If approved, it would be the only Buchenwald memorial crediting Patton’s Third Army as the camp’s liberators.
Before the American rescuers arrived, many prisoners attacked fleeing Nazi guards, and were consolidating their control of the camp.
Instead of having to face the Nazi enemy, Patton’s troops had to fight the powerful stench and horrible unhealthy living conditions, while treating starving and sick survivors.
The Army medics did what they could to help save whom they could, as many were dying before their eyes. An enraged Patton sent military police with army interpreters such as Rudy Baum, my friend of blessed memory, to nearby towns, forcing residents to see, up close, how their death camp looked and smelled inside.
“Nothing I have experienced in my entire life can compare with the impact that Buchenwald had on me,” wrote Rudy, in his 1996 memoir, “Children of a Respectable Family.” “When I talk or think about the Holocaust, it brings back to my mind pictures of the emaciated, dying victims in the camp. It embodies all the evil inflicted by the Nazis on mankind in general, against the Jews and especially against my family. It is the epitome of man’s inhumanity to man, which hopefully will never happen again. Only through a miracle could a human being survive the indescribable brutalities and atrocities, including floggings, starvation and mass executions committed by the Nazis.”
Rudy is gone, as are many of his fellow veteran liberators. But hopefully, the American Liberators Memorial in Buchenwald will become a reality for those remaining survivors, liberators and all future visitors to see.

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What the Trump peace plan cannot accomplish

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

(JNS) When the Trump administration released the economic portion of its Middle East peace plan last week, the avalanche of criticism was immediate and harsh. Even though the president’s foreign-policy team couched the plan as a “vision” of peace rather than an intricate blueprint, its critics weren’t wrong in pointing out that there was little in it that was new, and that its chances of success were nil.
Yet in analyzing the effort, it’s important to note that there’s a difference between saying that the plan won’t succeed and saying that putting it forth was the wrong thing to do. That’s because the problem with it isn’t the content, but the context. An effort to shift the focus from a push on Israeli concessions, which are never enough to satisfy the Palestinians, to one in which Palestinian society could be transformed — economically and hopefully peaceably — was long overdue. But as long as the intended beneficiaries aren’t interested in such programs, the “ultimate deal” is simply not going to happen under any circumstances.
The sticking point is clear. Palestinian Authority leaders say they want the investment and aid, but that any discussion of economics must await a political settlement in which they will be given an independent state. Only after they achieve sovereignty, they say, will the aid be welcome or relevant.
That’s a fact that many Trump-administration critics have echoed when dismissing the plan authored by presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner and U.S. negotiator Jason Greenblatt. They say Trump’s team is putting the cart before the horse and effectively rendering the peace process irrelevant by not focusing on the actual points of contention that separate the parties, like borders, settlements and refugees.
As veteran State Department peace processor Aaron David Miller, who now heads the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, put it: “The Palestinians’ economic problem isn’t a lack of money. It’s a lack of liberty.”
Even if we were to lay aside for the moment that the main obstacle to Palestinian liberty is the tyrannical rule of Hamas in Gaza and that of Fatah in the West Bank rather than Israel, this argument fails to answer the key question that must be posed to critics of Trump’s plan: Why have decades of peace processing by foreign-policy professionals like Miller, who knew a lot more about the conflict and diplomacy than Trump’s Middle East team, always failed?
All previous administrations have paid some lip service to economic issues, with many issuing their own plans that were not dissimilar to the one Trump just proposed. They have all taken the approach the Palestinians say they prefer: how to strong-arm Israel into agreeing to a two-state solution. Yet that strategy never succeeded, no matter how much pressure presidents like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama put on the Jewish state, and no matter how many times Israel said “yes” to two states as they did a number of times in the last 20 years.
The Palestinians had their chance to get the “liberty” they say they wanted in 2000, 2001 and 2008, when Israeli governments put a two-state solution with almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem in their hands. They also enjoyed eight years of an Obama administration that clearly saw Israeli policies as the main obstacle to peace. Still, every time they had the chance to get the state they say they want so badly, they said “no.”
At some point, the foreign-policy professionals should have figured out that the old approach was never going to work.
That is, in essence, what Kushner, Greenblatt and company have done by attempting to restart the conversation about peace in a different way.
Instead, they think emphasizing policies that will give the Palestinians a stake in peace and promoting measures that will mandate good governance have the potential to change everything. You can call that an attempt to “bribe” the Palestinians into accepting peace with Israel, but all it really amounts to is a reminder that co-existence would create a better reality than the current one rooted in conflict.
Trump was right to try to end his predecessors’ coddling of Palestinian fantasies of defeating Israel, which is what their policies of non-recognition of Jerusalem and refusing to condition aid on ending support for terror amounted to.
The problem is that the Palestinians’ century-old war on Zionism has become inextricably linked to their national identity to the point where it is impossible for anyone inside their political structure to imagine normal life alongside a Jewish state. And even if they could make that leap of imagination, entrenched forces like Hamas and other Islamist groups, as well as the millions of descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees who continue to hold on to the false hope of erasing the last 71 years of history, won’t like them to act on it.
That’s why Hamas continues to promote the “right of return” as if the eradication of the Jewish state was a viable option. And it’s why the Palestinian Authority continues to subsidize terror in the form of salaries for imprisoned terrorists, and pensions for their families and survivors, because to do otherwise would be to admit that their defeat in a war they haven’t the courage or the good sense to give up on.
If Trump’s plan is going to fail — and it will — it can be attributed to these reasons. It’s not because previous administrations understood the conflict any better, or that the focus on economics is wrongheaded. If this latest approach doesn’t work, then the blame should fall on those responsible — the Palestinians — not on the ideas behind the plan itself.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS —Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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Strive for courage, strength

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

This summer we study mitzvot through “mitzvah heroes.” Each week we remember — “We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us!”
Ometz Lev, the mitzvah of courage, literally means “dedication of the heart.” When our heart is set, we have the inner strength to overcome fear and doubt. This is not only the soldier kind of courage, but rather the courage that we have because we have trust in God. It also means the power to have endurance, persistence and the strength to be a good person.
Mitzvah hero of today’s world —
Hannah Senesh
Hannah Senesh was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1921. As a teenager, Hannah was very active in Zionist activity, and in 1939, she moved to a kibbutz in Palestine. World War II broke out and Hannah was very worried about friends and family. In 1943, she joined the Palmach, the Jewish army in Palestine. The Palmach planned a raid to help Jews escape from the Nazis. They would drop soldiers behind enemy lines. Hannah volunteered and was the only woman chosen to go on the raid. Soon after landing, she was captured and tortured to divulge plans and codes. Hannah refused to speak and was executed by a firing squad. Word of Hannah’s bravery and strength spread to all the Jews. She remains in the hearts of all Jews and is remembered through her poetry for her bravery.
“I wounded another not knowing both ends of an arrow mar.
“I too was hurt in the battle and shall bear a scar.”
In our ancestors’ footsteps —
Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai
There is in Rome the famous Arch of Titus showing Romans in 70 CE triumphantly parading spoils from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which they had just destroyed. It is one end of the story of the time that the Romans conquered Israel. This could have been the end of Judaism, but it wasn’t because of the bravery and wisdom of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai.
While the Romans laid siege against Jerusalem, ben Zakkai had a plan. His followers pretended he was dead and carried him outside the city gate in a coffin, but ben Zakkai arose, and went to the general, who granted ben Zakkai one request: “Give me Yavneh and its sages.” The small academy of Yavneh became the spiritual center of the Jewish people and a new type of Judaism survived which allowed Judaism to flourish wherever the Jews would go.
Finish these statements
Hannah Senesh fulfilled the mitzvah of Ometz Lev by:
Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai fulfilled the mitzvah of Ometz Lev by:
I can fulfill this mitzvah by:
Family talk time
• Let each family member talk about a time they did something that took courage. Remember, it doesn’t always have to mean physical courage. Does having courage mean you are never afraid?
• When we talk about strength, we usually think of physical strength. What does it mean to be strong in other ways?
• Some people talk about “strong families.” What makes a strong family? How can you make your family stronger? Does being part of the Jewish religion or community help you be stronger? How and why?
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Don’t blame the messenger; rather, embrace him (or her)

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

One lesson of Shelach, this week’s parashah, is: “Don’t shoot the messenger.” This expression dates back to ancient history, and can be found in Plutarch’s “Life of Lucullus.”
When Rome was on its way to attack the kingdom of Tigranes the Great, the messenger who informed Tigranes of the oncoming army was beheaded for his pains. Consequently, no one else wanted to bring Tigranes any other intelligence. Without it, Tigranes sat while war blazed around him, giving ear only to those who told him what he wanted to hear.
Whether at war or not, it’s hard to hear the truth. Our first impulse when it comes to bad news is to shoot, or blame, the messenger. However, the Torah teaches that truth must prevail, even when it’s hard to hear.
In Shelach, Moses sends out 12 spies to the land of Canaan, to determine if it can be conquered. Ten of the spies return and tell the Israelites that the land cannot be conquered. But Caleb and Joshua, the two remaining spies, believe the Israelites can conquer Canaan. The Israelites then threaten to stone Caleb and Joshua — the biblical version of shooting the messenger. But what was it about their message that was so hard for the Israelites to accept?
HaAmak haDvar, a 19th-century commentator, suggests that the Israelites might have believed that Caleb and Joshua were trying to drag the Israelites into a dangerous war. The battle was going to be tough, with real losses taking place. The Israelites were unwilling to take this risk. They were trying to protect themselves.
Unlike the Israelites, Caleb and Joshua weren’t afraid of the battle, because they believed God was on their people’s side. They also believed in the people. By telling them to conquer the land, they were telling the Israelites that they were capable and strong. The truth they delivered was a message of encouragement and empowerment: “We can do this!” Many times, being reminded of our own competence is the most frightening message of all, because it means we have to strive to fulfill our potential.
Eighteenth-century commentator Be’er Mayim says that it’s possible the Israelites wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb, because they preferred to return to Egypt, and to serve God there. While Egypt had been awful for the Israelites, it was, at least, a known situation. More than once in the Torah the people ask to go back to Egypt, which can be explained as a form of regression. The Israelites didn’t want to face new challenges. They wanted to repeat old patterns. The Israelites, like most of us, like things to be familiar and easy even if they aren’t good.
Caleb and then Joshua told the people a truth they didn’t want to hear, that it would be difficult to conquer the Land but that they could do it. The hardest truth to hear is sometimes that we’re up for the challenge.
The gift this parashah offers us is, when the Calebs and Joshuas in our lives tell us that God has a plan for us, and that we are capable of accomplishing something hard, we should overcome our fears and reject the idea of returning to our personal Egypts. Instead of shooting the messenger, we must acknowledge our own potential, and try to overcome the obstacles that will bring us to our own Promised Lands.
Rabbi Elana Zelony is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson. She is a member of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas.

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A trip through the ‘Begging Drawer’

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

We are at the year’s midpoint, so it’s time for me to empty the “Begging Drawer” once again.
This special drawer is reserved for a single purpose: It’s where I put solicitations as I receive them. My usual time of giving is year’s end, but that doesn’t stop the year-round flow of begging letters. And each one also offers a gift. Maybe a note pad, maybe a bookmark or two, but most often a sheet of personalized name-and-address labels. The first two, I pull out and keep on hand for potential future use.
As for the third, I can remember a time when I actually paid to have personalized name-and-address labels printed! Now, I have this inundation of freebies. I guess I’m supposed to feel guilty or thankful enough to send another contribution each time one arrives, but I don’t. However, I do save the labels, in a large bag near the basket that holds my all-purpose and personalized stationery and an assortment of cards for all occasions. I write lots of letters and notes, but my basket and bag both bulge all the time. And the Begging Drawer only closes because I go through its contents quarterly to weed out all duplicates.
For the most part, this system works for me. But, I’m confounded by the membership cards that accompany many of these letters. I didn’t think I’d joined anything by making a single year-end contribution, which I will do again at the end of this calendar year. I didn’t know that the membership I didn’t know I had is expiring now, or will expire soon, and I am supposed to renew it immediately. Which I do not, and will not.
Let me explain: I try to be a generous giver. I support many causes —for animals, for fighting diseases, for helping sick children, for research of various kinds, for educational institutions and organizations to which I feel connected. In our Jewish community, most renewals of giving — be they for memberships or annual fundraising — are requested as our own New Year approaches, so those I take care of on that schedule. And, I give thanks that many — but not all — of these groups do not keep reminding me all year long that it’s time to give again.
My “problem,” if that’s what it is, is that I grew up in a home of Great Depression-era parents. Even today, I cannot bear to throw away anything that might somehow, ever, become useful in the future. I end up with a collection: thin flannel blankets, cardboard “coasters” for drink glasses, enough bookmarks for more books than anyone could possibly be reading at the same time, and — most of all — the name-and-address labels. I keep them so I have choices. I can always find something with a completely appropriate design to identify my envelope personally when I hand-write letters and notes.
Don’t misunderstand. I love email for its immediacy, and because I can type much faster than I can handwrite. But there is something old-fashionedly wonderful about sending something that recipients will hold in their hands, and maybe even keep, if they’re so inclined. Emails are elusive, ephemeral. Envelopes with name-and-address labels carry at least an illusion of personal attention and permanence.
So now, my goal — and I think I may actually reach it before it’s my time to exit this world — is to amass enough of those stickers to paper a small room. The only drawback would be that this might give me a problem when the time comes that I’m ready to sell my home. So maybe I should just keep stuffing those name-and-address labels into that already bulging bag, and having the fun of picking out something truly personalized for each one who will receive an envelope from me.
As for now, however, it’s time for me to get on with the task at hand. The Begging Drawer awaits, and here I come!

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Tiferet Israel hosts summer music program

Tiferet Israel hosts summer music program

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

Side Gig will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Tiferet Israel. From left are band members Rusty Cooper, Joel Futterman, Ron Nevelow, Bruce Katz, Ron Friedman and Rob Shrell.

Tiferet Israel held the first installment of its summer music series (singing along and dancing included at no extra charge) with the Kent Ellingson Group, Sunday, June 23. The program will continue at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 14, with Side, and at 7 p.m. Aug. 25, with Windy City.
Put on your dancing shoes and join the gang at Tiferet.
The Side Gig Band plays a broad spectrum of pop and rock from the 1970s to now — from Clapton, Green Day, Queen and The Doobie Brothers to Jon Mayer and Ed Sheeran. The musicians of Side Gig belong to Anshai Torah men’s a cappella group, Kol Rina. Kol Rina performs traditional Jewish songs and melodies. They have been working on taking these Jewish songs to the next level by infusing them with rock rhythms and musical instruments. This concert will be the first time Side Gig will publicly perform this music, and Tiferet Israel is honored to be their host. You may have heard Side Gig (Ron Nevelow, Bruce Katz, Ron Friedman, Rob Shrell, Rusty Cooper and Joel Futterman) at the 26th Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off.
Windy City is a tribute band, playing the music of Chicago, with a concentration on the first two albums. David Judson (guitar), Jim Rosenthal (drums) and Bob Rosen (bass) founded the nine-piece band, adding keyboards, trombone, sax, trumpet and two vocalists. Windy City also played at the 26th Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off and was fantastic.
All installments of the music series will be held at Tiferet Israel, 10909 Hillcrest Road in Dallas. Cost is $20 per person and childcare is available. Beer, wine and soda are available for purchase. Light snacks will be served. Please RSVP by July 11 for Side Gig on July 14 and by Aug. 22 for Windy City on Aug. 25.
For more information, including sponsorships, visit www.tiferetisrael.org. To RSVP, contact Jennifer Williams at 214-691-3611 or by email at jwilliams@tiferetisrael.org.

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Young Jewish adults to gather in Austin for L’Chaim

Young Jewish adults to gather in Austin for L’Chaim

Posted on 27 June 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

L’Chaim City Limits will attract folks from all walks of Jewish life
Photo: Michelle Bach
From left, Adam Edelson, Hayley Glauben, Adam Sandgarten, Mitchell Robbins and Philip Ben Shabat were among those gathered in Dallas earlier this month for a happy hour co-sponsored by L’Chaim City Limits and Moishe House.

L’Chaim — community life for NextGen Jews is alive
By Deb Silverthorn
Many l’chaim toasts will be raised, to the lives of Jewish young adults gathering from around the United States and the world, for a weekend of fun and networking at the first “L’Chaim City Limits (LCL)” in Austin.
During the weekend of July 19-21, young adults ages 21 to 40, representing all branches of Judaism and levels of observance, and those unaffiliated, are invited to share in programming created by Judaism United.
“We are bringing in the spirit of Shabbat through a weekend filled with Judaic and social aspects, with people from at least seven cities, in three states, across five venues in Austin,” said Scott Eiseman, a Judaism United founder and chair of L’Chaim City Limits.
Judaism United’s mission is to unite those of Jewish background through events, social networking and leadership conferences. The group has ambassadors in a number of cities. In Dallas, it is Michelle Bach connecting the dots and directing her community to the organization.
“L’Chaim City Limits is a great weekend to make friends, create relationships and to even network professionally, all while exploring the awesome city of Austin,” said Bach, a graduate of Levine and Yavneh academies. She mixes her Jewish life both socially and professionally, as a resident at the Dallas Moishe House, by attending events at many of the young Jewish professional organizations and as a development associate at CHAI, Community Homes for Adults, Inc.
“Early in our careers, with most of us not yet married or with families of our own, many of my generation aren’t yet affiliated with a congregation,” Bach said. “Judaism United is one more way that we can build our own community and this weekend it will be built of young Jews from around the country.”
Bach helped host an LCL Happy Hour, that had many in the crowd making rooming and travel plans for the upcoming event. “People seem very excited and I think we’re going to have a good group from here,” Bach said.
The event will begin Friday with a Kabbalat Shabbat minyan led by Rabbi Mendy Levertov, followed by a meet and greet.
“I’m very proud of Judaism United and its cause, and I’m looking forward to bringing in Shabbat for this first big event,” said Levertov, who, with wife Mussy, leads Chabad of Austin’s Young Jewish Professionals. “Shabbat services will be high-energy with zmiros (song) and dance, and, I assure you, with lots of meaningful fun.
“We need more nuance-layered events, with learning and connecting, with spirituality and casual fun and this weekend is just what that is,” he added.
The evening’s Shabbat dinner at Stubbs Bar-B-Que will begin with a candle-lighting and kiddush led by Rabbi Daniel Septimus, a former University of Texas Hillel director.
“Austin is energizing, and with the growing population our Jewish community, is growing. It’s a cool, unique, even ‘weird’ — and that’s a compliment — place with incredible appeal,” said Septimus, CEO of Shalom Austin, the city’s Jewish Federation, Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Service and Jewish Foundation. “The goal to bring together the next generation of Jews through a weekend of networking in the heart of Austin, with the heart of Shabbat. It’s something I’m excited to be a part of.”
An after-party at Maggie Mae’s on 6th Street will follow dinner. All meals throughout the weekend will have certified kosher options available.
Shabbat morning service options and a Judaically themed yoga session taught by Isaac Stock will be offered on Saturday morning. In the afternoon, a BYOB pool party will take place at the Connection Apartments on Oltorf Street. Saturday night, a spirited Havdalah service will be led by LCL committee members at the Native Hostel, Bar & Café on 4th Street, followed by dancing and complimentary drinks.
On Sunday, there will be a farewell brunch and representatives from Chabad, Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation and Moishe House will provide information on their organizations.
“There’s really going to be something — many parts of the weekend — for everyone,” said Mikey Korn, an Austin Moishe House resident who, with Bach, Eiseman, Alan Yancelson and the participating rabbis, has planned a weekend to remember. “Building community is part of my Jewish journey and it’s what has brought us together.”
The weekend is partially sponsored by a grant from Reality, a Schusterman initiative which, in part, invests in efforts to improve public education in the United States, strengthen the Jewish people and Israel, and address the needs of marginalized individuals and communities.
“Bringing young Jews together has for a number of years been a goal and I’m committed to Judaism United, to LCL and I hope many other opportunities in the future,” Eiseman said. “We are a strong generation, a strong Jewish generation, and I want to bring as many of us together as we can.”
Weekend passes and tickets for individual events are available. A block of rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn, 500 N. Interstate 35, is being held until three days before the event. Request Judaism United rate for the discount. To register, or for lodging and other information, visit lchaimcitylimits.com.

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