Archive | July, 2019

Supporting Jews in the former Soviet Union

Supporting Jews in the former Soviet Union

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Trip to Georgia exemplifies JDC, Federation support
Photos: Courtesy Jonathan Rubenstein
Jonathen Rubenstein, second from left, and other members of the JFNA National Young Leadership Cabinet 2019 trip to Tbilisi, Georgia, and St. Petersburg, Russia, with Lidiya and husband, Nikolai, in Tbilisi, Georgia.

By Jonathan Rubenstein
Lidiya is 81 years old. Since the 1940s, she has lived in the same third-floor walk-up apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia. The apartment is very small. It is sparsely decorated. The living room serves as a kitchen as well as a bedroom. Lidiya’s health is declining; her impaired vision and high blood pressure worsen each day. Her husband, Nikolai, almost died twice in the last two years. They live off the paltry Georgian government pension — which has varied between $3 and $70 per month.
To many, it may seem as though Lidiya and Nikolai have next to nothing. Recently, I learned otherwise.
Along with 120 friends and colleagues from the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, I had the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the 2019 Cabinet trip to Tbilisi, Georgia and St. Petersburg, Russia. Each year, Cabinet takes a trip abroad, so we can see firsthand the impact of our donations to Federation through the programs of its overseas partners.
The opportunity to witness present-day Jewish life in Russia and Georgia, and contrast it to what we know about Jewish life and communities during the Soviet era, was eye-opening. For decades, across the former Soviet Union, a dark cloud hung over Jewish communities — either forcing them into hiding or to flee elsewhere. What our robust group of young leaders found in 2019 were large, growing and vibrant Jewish communities in both Georgia and Russia. At every Jewish community center, school and organization we visited, we witnessed members of the community showing their pride in being Jewish. The sun now shines brightly on these communities.
Our Cabinet members also had the opportunity of a lifetime during this trip: We were fortunate to have legendary activist and former Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, and his wife, Avital, join us for the St. Petersburg leg of the trip. They joined our group for many activities, spoke about global Jewry, and shared harrowing stories from the time of Natan’s unjust and lengthy imprisonment in a series of Soviet prisons. For many, this was not just the highlight of the trip, but several people shared that it was the highlight of their lives.
Back in Tbilisi, standing on a street corner in a residential neighborhood, we had arrived at Lidiya’s apartment building. Seven of us, including an interpreter, walked up three flights of stairs to Lidiya’s apartment, and she generously invited our small group into her home to learn more about her.
Judaism has always played a big role in Lidiya’s life. Indeed, it was a big deal to her father, who always insisted on having matzo around the house as a constant reminder of from where they came.
Lidiya described not only some of the challenges she and her husband endured in the past while being Jewish in the former Soviet Union, but also the things for which they are now grateful. In the Soviet era, Jews were marginalized, and organized religion was banned. But Lidiya said that the Jews in Georgia were known for being hard workers. This led to them being frequently overworked and not compensated proportionally for their efforts. For most Georgian Jews, earning enough money to just pay the bills was hard, and sometimes impossible.
Lidiya is well educated, having earned an engineering degree from a university in Moscow. But when she and Nikolai were no longer of a “working age,” according to the Georgian government, they were unemployable and forced to live off the Georgian government pension. When Lidiya first went on the government pension, she received $3 per month — nowhere near enough to pay the bills.
When speaking with Lidiya about how she is able to get by each day, the conversation quickly turned to Hesed. Hesed is the name of an organization in Tbilisi that is run by the JDC, one of the longtime overseas partners of the Jewish Federations of North America. Hesed provides much-needed support — in every sense of that word — to the local Jewish community.
The JDC and Hesed mean everything to Lidiya. Hesed saved her life, literally and spiritually. Hesed provides Lidiya and Nikolai with food and medicine and pays for all of their medical expenses, including two emergency, life-saving events recently for Nikolai (heart surgery and treatment for a brain bleed). Hesed visits Lidiya and Nikolai, not just to make sure their apartment is stocked, but to speak with them — as human beings — to make sure they are doing all right. Hesed also runs a community center, where Lidiya and Nikolai go weekly to socialize with their friends, constantly staying connected to the Jewish community. Lidiya said that, without Hesed, at a very minimum, Nikolai “would have been in the ground” years ago.
One of the beautiful things about human emotion is that it matters not what language is being spoken, or even if you understand it. I can list for you all of the great things that Hesed does for Lidiya and Nikolai, but what really captured the impact was the passion in her voice and emotion on her face when she described all of those things. I didn’t need the interpreter. I learned the most important things by just watching and listening.
Courtesy of this organization that the Jewish Federation helps to fund, those who really get to know Lidiya and Nikolai understand it is not true they have next to nothing. In reality, they have everything. They have a roof over their heads. They have food in the refrigerator and medicine in the cabinets. They have community support. They have each other. They have life.
After leaving Lidiya’s and Nikolai’s apartment, the JDC’s volunteer interpreter turned to me and said, “What you do saves lives.” The reason National Young Leadership Cabinet does the work it does cannot be described more succinctly than that.
Jonathan Rubenstein is a Dallas attorney and member of the Jewish Federations of North America National Young Leadership. He participated in the NYLC trip to the former Soviet Union recently.

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Legacy Midtown Park construction is progressing

Legacy Midtown Park construction is progressing

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Health care building expected to open summer 2020
Photo: Courtesy The Legacy Midtown Park
Construction is well underway at The Legacy Midtown Park with the first
building slated to open next summer.

Construction is well underway on The Legacy Midtown Park, The Legacy Senior Communities’ Jewish-sponsored rental continuing care retirement community. The new community is a symbol of the nonprofit organization’s commitment to Dallas-area Jewish seniors and their families, and it represents the next step in the organization’s 65-year history of providing vibrant lifestyles and high-quality care for seniors. Recently, the organization celebrated a topping-off of the community’s health care center, which is scheduled to open its doors in summer 2020.
“As an organization, we strive to ensure that our services allow us to best serve Jewish seniors and their families,” said Melissa Orth, president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities. “Through The Legacy Midtown Park, we are creating an environment where residents can thrive with state-of-the-art resources, innovative programming and a deep commitment to Jewish seniors and their families. From the design of the community to the team members brought on board, we’ve taken every step to ensure that The Legacy Midtown Park is a place seniors are proud to call home. We are thrilled to announce each milestone that brings us closer to our purpose of serving Jewish seniors in the Dallas community.”
The urban and contemporary retirement community will be part of the thriving Midtown Park development in North Dallas between Meadow Road and Royal Lane near North Central Expressway. The community will have 184 independent living apartments and the highest quality of care in 51 assisted living apartments, 36 memory care residences, and 54 suites for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care. Construction for the project is being overseen by The Belaire Group, which serves as the project’s Owner’s Representative. The Belaire Group has provided consulting services for The Legacy Senior Communities since the initial planning phase in 2014. The project team for The Legacy Midtown Park also consists of Brian Schiff & Associates (development consultant), StudioSix5 (interior designers), D2 Architecture, and Talley Associates (landscape architects), who are all working to make The Legacy Midtown Park a reality. According to Marco DePalma, president of The Belaire Group, The Legacy Midtown Park has been designed to go above and beyond in providing an efficiently designed community for seniors with access to the high-quality services that The Legacy Senior Communities is known for.
“The uniqueness of the project is that it was designed with extreme attention to detail when it comes to an elegant and contemporary design, all while being functional for residents,” said DePalma. “The Legacy Senior Communities has worked to provide a community for future residents that is more than just a place to call home, but a place where residents are able to live active and vibrant lifestyles. Construction is moving along, and we’re pleased to have recently completed the roof on our health care center. Additionally, the first floor for the Assisted and Memory Care building was placed following the Fourth of July holiday, and we anticipate a new floor being poured in each building every 10 days. We’re pleased to see the community taking shape and look forward to seeing the finished product.”
Construction on the three different buildings is occurring concurrently across The Legacy Midtown Park campus. The community expects to open the health care center building, offering short-term rehab and long-term skilled nursing services in summer 2020. Following the opening of the health care center next summer, the assisted living and memory care building is anticipated to open shortly after, followed by independent living in the first quarter of 2021. Located on 10 acres in the Midtown Park development, The Legacy Midtown Park will be the only Jewish-sponsored rental retirement community in Dallas. The development will offer security and peace of mind for people of all faiths who will call the community home. With multiple dining options including kosher kitchens, a full-service pub with a billiards table, a golf simulator, underground parking, fully equipped fitness, aerobics studio and aquatic center, as well as many other cutting-edge amenities, The Legacy Midtown Park will create the lifestyle desired by seniors today and for years to come.
The Legacy at Home, the organization’s not-for-profit home health care and hospice agency, will also provide home health care, personal assistance, and hospice services for both residents of The Legacy Midtown Park and seniors in the surrounding area. The services provided through The Legacy at Home will act as an extension to further the continuum of care offered at The Legacy Midtown Park.
“As construction moves forward, we couldn’t be more excited to witness The Legacy Midtown Park becoming a reality,” said John Falldine, executive director of The Legacy Midtown Park. “The Legacy Senior Communities has a long-established reputation of excellence for serving Jewish seniors and their families in North Texas, and through The Legacy Midtown Park we will be able to continue that dedication to high-quality service in the heart of Dallas. In addition, as a rental model without an upfront entry fee, our community will offer seniors the opportunity to enjoy the active lifestyle of an urban setting, all while maintaining the privacy and comforts of a close-knit community.”

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Interview with filmmaker about Mike Wallace

Interview with filmmaker about Mike Wallace

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Avi Belkin discusses the making of ‘Mike Wallace is Here’
Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Avi Belkin, director of “Mike Wallace is Here,” a Magnolia Pictures release

By Susan Kandell Wilkofsky
For almost 40 years, if the words ”Mike Wallace is here,” were uttered in your office, it was time to start shredding paper. It probably meant that the legendary “60 Minutes“ journalist was on your doorstep and about to descend upon you with a microphone and TV camera.
Premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, “Mike Wallace Is Here” is Israeli filmmaker Avi Belkin’s outstanding documentary spanning the career of investigative reporter Mike Wallace. Using only archival footage, Belkin deftly weaves a story of a man who was not afraid to ask difficult questions, while chasing his own demons.
Often using a split screen to demonstrate the counterpoint of an interview, Belkin tells the professional side of the story about the man, sometimes using Wallace’s own interview techniques. But, Belkin is not content to reveal just the man we knew from “60 Minutes.” He travels back to the beginning of his career, where we witness Wallace, not so much as a newsman, but as a game show host and cigarette pitchman. It wasn’t until after the death of his son, Peter, that Wallace decided to devote himself to more serious pursuits.
One of the highlights of the film is segments of interviews you didn’t see when the originals aired. Skillfully, Barbra Streisand verbally spars with Wallace and perhaps bests him. Even watching him hawk Fluffo shortening was compelling!
I spoke with the filmmaker, Avi Belkin, who provided insight into the making of the film, and how he conceived of the title. And, I tried my best not to go Mike Wallace on him.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Susan Kandell Wilkofsky: Ma nishma, Avi?
Avi Belkin: (a little laugh) Nice. You pronounced that very nicely.
SKW: Oh thank you. I’ve been practicing. My granddaughters speak Hebrew, but I’m afraid that’s probably all I will say in Hebrew today. So let’s get right into this. The film was riveting, engrossing, captivating and I could go on and on and on with other superlatives. And I promise, as an interviewer, I’m not at all like Mike Wallace. There will be no hard-hitting questions today.
AB: You can try!
SKW: This is a very timely story, so let’s start at the beginning. Why this story? What piqued your interest?
AB: So, you’re saying timely; when I started working on this film, it was roughly three years ago. So, this was before Trump got elected. The truth is that journalism was in a lot of trouble before Trump’s presidency. And that’s why I wanted to do a film about it. I was looking for a story. I always look for a microcosm in a story that can tell a bigger story. And I was looking for an event or a person that I can tell the bigger story of journalism through. And Mike had this unparalleled career of over 60 years in journalism. So, I had this idea of doing a portrait of Mike Wallace, and through that, tell the genesis of journalism.
SKW: So that’s how a nice Jewish boy from Tel Aviv ended up writing about an American journalist. How about the title? Did you ever consider anything else, like “Gotcha?”
AB: Excellent. So, when I started making the film, I heard a story about Mike from the ‘70s. He said basically when you’re going into your office on a Monday and your secretary tells you that Mike Wallace is here to see you, these are the most dreaded words in the English language because you know he’s got the goods on you. I felt like, at the end of the day, this is a very nice final statement to express. But also, I felt like Mike Wallace is here, expressing again, the timely aspect of the story. Mike was still here. The legacy, the thumbprint that he put on journalism is always with us. He never left. And so, I kind of like that. So “Gotcha” is a good title — perhaps the second stage.
SKW: The bottom of the press notes had some Fun Facts. You had over 1,000 hours of footage to sift through. Did you consider making a series instead of a 90-minute doc?
AB: No, it didn’t occur to me. Here are two reasons why. I’m not doing any interviews. I’m not shooting any re-creations. This is an all archival film, and I really wanted this film to kind of tick and move quickly, the way Mike was. I wanted to capture Mike’s spirit. And I showed there was something very strong about a 90-minute film that’s very dense and intense to watch. You know, complex but also very fast-moving. And I felt like if I’m going to spread it out into a series, it will lose a little bit of Mike’s essence. But there was definitely enough material to do a six- or eight-part series. And, that was one of the hardest things to do in this film, to decide what you’re not showing, what you’re not telling.
SKW: How did you settle on which interviews to include?
AB: Very early on I read this piece in Vanity Fair where Mike said that he’s fascinated with people’s weak spots, and I was very interested in that. But also, he continued to say that he is very much aware of his own personal weak spots. So, when he goes into interviews, all he has to do is frame those weak spots in the form of a question. And I felt like, that’s beautiful and that’s very revealing. So, I started looking through interviews, basically looking for moments where Mike is revealing his own character in the exchange. Where there’s the moments Mike is asking a question, but the conversation is about him in a way.
SKW: Well, you selected some interviews that highlight exactly what you’re talking about. It revealed a lot about the man. So, some of the footage, especially from Mike Wallace’s interview show, which launched his hard-hitting style, came from the University of Texas at Austin. Tell me about that.
AB: So, I approached Rafael Marmor, the founder of Delirio Films, with this project, and he felt like we first needed to talk with a family and that was the right strategy. So, we talked with them, and they were very happy and supportive of the end goal. Since all of Mike’s old kinescopes of the “Mike Wallace Show” were at the University of Texas, they were the ones who contacted the university and asked them to help us with the materials. So we got our foot in the front door, and had those shows re-digitized from the original set of film reels. Which is why they look amazing. They are in black-and-white from the fifties, and include interviews with Salvador Dali and Frank Lloyd Wright, people who are icons. And it was beautiful see them again, and present them to the audience.
SKW: Just seeing some of the original logos of CBS with the eye that looked like a camera lens was like a trip down memory lane.
AB: That’s something that I didn’t expect when I made this film. I hear from a lot of people how nostalgic those materials are. I didn’t grow up with those images, but for a lot of people it’s reminiscent of childhood and their early memories of news. So, it’s a beautiful aspect of this film. Right?
SKW: Absolutely! One of the techniques you use is the split screen that was very, very effective. How did that come about?
AB: I read another story about Mike where he said that he always sees the interview as a ring, a battle of the mind where two people go at it. So, I thought it would be so interesting if I used a split screen to tell a story. Close-up against close-up actually looks like they’re dueling. They used to shoot those interviews with two cameras, one for the interviewee and one for the interviewer. When you watch the actual footage on television, you’d never see those two cameras. It’s another element that I added, and I felt it was very interesting to see the other person as well.
SKW: I thought it was very effective, because you can see facial expressions like a raise of an eyebrow that you might not have seen in the original.Although I know you focused almost exclusively on his work, you did touch on his personal life, struggles with depression, his son’s death. I know he was raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, by Russian-Jewish immigrant parents who were very strict, but there’s no talk of his religion in the documentary and whether it influenced him or his reporting. Is there anything that you learned while going through his tapes that you can add about this?
AB: He was proud of being Jewish and never, backed away from it. And so, for me, when you said I didn’t cover a lot of his personal stuff it was because, like I said, I chose very early on to focus on his career, the broadcast journalism story. Otherwise it will be all over the place and it would be nine hours. His son’s death and the depression echoed the journalism story I was trying to tell. His son’s death made Mike become a serious reporter. Mike covered the Middle East extensively. It was one of the things that he was most proud of, and it just didn’t really have a niche in the film. But Mike never shied away from being a Jew. Mike had a feud at certain times with the Jewish lobby because he used to cover the Middle East and he would give voice to the other side as well. And a lot of the time, the Jewish lobby felt like Mike was covering it unevenly and more from the Palestinian side, which Mike never felt he did. But that’s a story for the second stage.
SKW: So how has this affected how you look at the news?
AB: Wow, a lot. I mean, first of all, for me it was just amazing to discover how intertwined Mike is in the original story of the news, and how he was the one who was kind of a game changer in a way. But it affected me mostly understanding that it wasn’t Mike that changed the game dramatically into what we see today. It was television that changed the news. The moment television came into the game, news had to adapt and change into a medium that was much more a spectator sport. You had viewers and you had to compete for their attention. We see it even more today with the internet and it just added this element of showmanship and drama into the news that we see today.
SKW: Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Avi. Shabbat Shalom. Have a wonderful weekend and I wish you much luck with this project. It deserves to be seen by a wide audience. Thank you.
AB: Thank you. Bye Bye.
“Mike Wallace is Here” opens at the Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, on Friday, Aug. 2. For more information, visit https://www.angelikafilmcenter.com/dallas.

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Scoring an interview with Chuck Cooperstein

Scoring an interview with Chuck Cooperstein

Posted on 31 July 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Bob Weinfeld ‘Gets to Know’ the sportscaster
Photo: Texas Scottish Rite Hospital
Last summer, Coops’ Kids presented a check for $35,000 to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. (Left to right) Stephanie Brigger, Karen and Chuck Cooperstein, Lynda and Mark Thompson and Ashley Reaves Givens. In the last four years, Coops’ Kids has raised more than $450,000, supporting numerous children’s agencies.

By Deb Silverthorn
The Legacy at Willow Bend has scored in scheduling Chuck Cooperstein to visit at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. Closing in on 120 interviews, it is Legacy resident and “mayor” Bob Weinfeld, who, with Cooperstein, will make a slam dunk for his “Getting to Know Your Neighbors and Your Staff and your Relatives of Residents” series.
“Chuck is something else and he brings the Mavs games to life,” Weinfeld said. The just-turned 93-year-old interviewer doesn’t miss a shot as he researches his guests and makes the one-hour tell-all occasions informative, interesting and always loaded with laughter.
“We’ve met over the years during the holidays at Temple Shalom and I’m so excited to bring him in and have him tell his story — play by play!” Weinfeld said.
A New York City native, Cooperstein earned a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcasting from the University of Florida. He is the husband of Karen, and father of Jeffrey, now following in dad’s, and creating his own, footprints working at ESPN and The Dallas Morning News.
Cooperstein, for a decade, has been heard as the play-by-play voice of the Mavericks on ESPN, where he has also anchored since 2001. He also made Dallas’ sports scene home.
“After college, I started out working for Sports Phone, everything that radio was except our broadcast was over the phone as opposed to over the air,” Cooperstein said. “In 1984, Brad Sham gave me a great opportunity at KRLD, one that lasted eight years, and there we had as strong a staff as any.”
Cooperstein’s career includes a play-by-play history with TCU and the University of Texas football, TCU, Texas A&M and SMU basketball and Dallas Cowboys pregame shows. He broadcast CBS/Westwood One NCAA basketball games beginning in 1991, and CBS/Westwood One college football games starting in 1995.
“I have always loved basketball,” said the sportscaster, who played the sport in high school and was a student team manager while in college. “It’s a great sport; in a confined space, spectators can easily see the plays and players — no helmets or hats. It’s easy to connect to the game and every night I get to see the best players on the court.”
Cooperstein, who was honored with a Katie Award for his play-by-play expertise by the Dallas Press Club, and who travels with the team, has missed only a couple of games, due to the High Holy Days.
“If Sandy Koufax can miss World Series games for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I can miss a preseason game,” he said. “I hate to say out loud that I’d do this job for nothing, but it beats any 9-to-5 opportunity. I’m very grateful and to call this my career is absolutely a blessing.”
With his wife, Cooperstein has created the Coops’ Kids Foundation, a nonprofit providing grants to support social, emotional and physical health of children through educational, athletic and leadership development. More than $450,000 has been raised in the last four years with events including the 2018 Talk of the Town, which featured Cooperstein, Eric Nadel (voice of the Texas Rangers), Brad Sham (voice of the Dallas Cowboys) and The Ticket/KTCK hosts George Dunham and Craig Miller.
“Chuck is all about raising funds for our children but along with that he’s about being here for them,” said Texas Scottish Rite Hospital’s Ashley Givens, who last year received a $35,000 donation from Coops’ Kids. “He’s an awesome guy who comes in and visits and just brightens up the patients’ day.”
“Chuck is a very special guest. Actually, special is the only kind of guests we have here,” Weinfeld said. “He’s got stories from the road and home court, from mitzvah projects and all kinds of community service. You may know the voice, but you’ll learn a whole lot more about the man here at The Legacy.”
Cooperstein’s upcoming visit to The Legacy at Willow Bend is open to the public. For details about Coops’ Kids, visit CoopsKids.biz.

Photo: Dallas Mavericks
Chuck Cooperstein (center), with Mavs Television play-by-play announcer Mark Followill, gets to visit with the best of the best, including the Dallas Mavs’ recently retired Dirk Nowitzki.

The Legacy at Willow Bend has scored in scheduling Chuck Cooperstein to visit at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. Closing in on 120 interviews, it is Legacy resident and “mayor” Bob Weinfeld, who, with Cooperstein, will make a slam dunk for his “Getting to Know Your Neighbors and Your Staff and your Relatives of Residents” series.
“Chuck is something else and he brings the Mavs games to life,” Weinfeld said. The just-turned 93-year-old interviewer doesn’t miss a shot as he researches his guests and makes the one-hour tell-all occasions informative, interesting and always loaded with laughter.
“We’ve met over the years during the holidays at Temple Shalom and I’m so excited to bring him in and have him tell his story — play by play!” Weinfeld said.
A New York City native, Cooperstein earned a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcasting from the University of Florida. He is the husband of Karen, and father of Jeffrey, now following in dad’s, and creating his own, footprints working at ESPN and The Dallas Morning News.
Cooperstein, for a decade, has been heard as the play-by-play voice of the Mavericks on ESPN, where he has also anchored since 2001. He also made Dallas’ sports scene home.
“After college, I started out working for Sports Phone, everything that radio was except our broadcast was over the phone as opposed to over the air,” Cooperstein said. “In 1984, Brad Sham gave me a great opportunity at KRLD, one that lasted eight years, and there we had as strong a staff as any.”
Cooperstein’s career includes a play-by-play history with TCU and the University of Texas football, TCU, Texas A&M and SMU basketball and Dallas Cowboys pregame shows. He broadcast CBS/Westwood One NCAA basketball games beginning in 1991, and CBS/Westwood One college football games starting in 1995.
“I have always loved basketball,” said the sportscaster, who played the sport in high school and was a student team manager while in college. “It’s a great sport; in a confined space, spectators can easily see the plays and players — no helmets or hats. It’s easy to connect to the game and every night I get to see the best players on the court.”
Cooperstein, who was honored with a Katie Award for his play-by-play expertise by the Dallas Press Club, and who travels with the team, has missed only a couple of games, due to the High Holy Days.
“If Sandy Koufax can miss World Series games for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I can miss a preseason game,” he said. “I hate to say out loud that I’d do this job for nothing, but it beats any 9-to-5 opportunity. I’m very grateful and to call this my career is absolutely a blessing.”
With his wife, Cooperstein has created the Coops’ Kids Foundation, a nonprofit providing grants to support social, emotional and physical health of children through educational, athletic and leadership development. More than $450,000 has been raised in the last four years with events including the 2018 Talk of the Town, which featured Cooperstein, Eric Nadel (voice of the Texas Rangers), Brad Sham (voice of the Dallas Cowboys) and The Ticket/KTCK hosts George Dunham and Craig Miller.
“Chuck is all about raising funds for our children but along with that he’s about being here for them,” said Texas Scottish Rite Hospital’s Ashley Givens, who last year received a $35,000 donation from Coops’ Kids. “He’s an awesome guy who comes in and visits and just brightens up the patients’ day.”
“Chuck is a very special guest. Actually, special is the only kind of guests we have here,” Weinfeld said. “He’s got stories from the road and home court, from mitzvah projects and all kinds of community service. You may know the voice, but you’ll learn a whole lot more about the man here at The Legacy.”
Cooperstein’s upcoming visit to The Legacy at Willow Bend is open to the public. For details about Coops’ Kids, visit CoopsKids.biz.

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Around the Town: B’nai B’rith, JWV, Marvin Blum

Around the Town: B’nai B’rith, JWV, Marvin Blum

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Save the date: Sept. 21 B’nai B’rith Person of the Year Dinner

On Sunday, Sept. 21, the Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith will hold its Person of the Year dinner as well as celebrate 175 years. B’nai Brith International President Charles Kaufman will be the guest speaker and Fort Worth Jewish Archives archivist and historian Hollace Weiner will share the history of the Lodge. Dan Sturman is this year’s dinner chair. The event will be held at Beth-El Congregation and catered by Babe’s.
Information on tickets will be coming soon.
The lodge is looking for nominees for the Person of the Year. If you know someone who deserves this great honor, please write a nomination and send to Isadore Garsek Lodge #269, P.O. Box 10124, Fort Worth, TX 76185. Last year’s winner, Debby Rice, will announce this year’s winner at the dinner.
For more information, contact Dan at dsturman@charter.net.

Dr. Julian Haber, right, pictured with Martin Hochster Post Commander Nana Atkens, received the Guardian of the Post Award.
JWV #755 recognizes stellar members and partners

The Jewish War Veterans Post 755 held its Social and Awards Meeting on Sunday evening, July 28.
Dr. Juliam Haber received the Guardian of the Post Award; Laurin Baum was named The Jewish War Veteran of the Year; and the Community Partner Appreciation Awards went to Five Below and SFC Joshua J. Hernandez U.S. Army Recruiter.

Marvin Blum on FAST speaking tour

Marvin Blum, estate planning expert, has embarked on a speaking tour to educate advisors across the country on a new trust technique known as a FAST trust. The tour includes speeches in New York, Chicago, San Diego, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Sarasota and numerous Texas cities.
FAST is an acronym for Family Advancement Sustainability Trust. The FAST was jointly developed by Blum and Tom Rogerson, founder of GenLeg Company, to help families create a lasting family legacy and prepare heirs to receive an inheritance. The FAST is created by a family’s matriarch and patriarch as an “add-on” to their existing estate plan.
The FAST does two things: (1) it provides funds to pay for family meetings, education and enrichment activities; and (2) it appoints leaders who will plan the meetings and activities to make sure they happen. Statistics show that only 10 percent of families thrive into the third generation and beyond. The successful families are those who engage in these activities to build communication and trust among heirs. The FAST starts now, and continues after the parents are gone, to ensure the family continues to engage in these activities. The FAST can be tailored to fit a family of any level of wealth.
Marvin Blum’s firm, The Blum Firm, P.C., has added Family Governance & Legacy Planning, including the FAST trust, to its tax and estate planning offerings. According to Blum, “this is a reflection of our commitment to estate planning that embraces both matters of the head as well as matters of the heart.”

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Examining the true definition of spirituality

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Compassion and love of nature only scratch spirituality’s surface

“What does it mean to be a spiritual person?” I recently posted this question on Facebook after hearing people throw around the term (whether in praise or contempt) without stopping to define what they meant by it. The same goes for being “religious” — but that’s another conversation.
In addition to the anticipated comments, there were also some surprising explanations. One man tried to argue, for example, that being spiritual was synonymous with being compassionate. I replied that while compassion may be an aspect or trait of being spiritual, it certainly isn’t the defining feature. In other words, “spiritual people” are compassionate, but many individuals (even animals) display compassion without being considered “spiritual.” The same applies to a range of other emotions that are noble, but not necessarily spiritual.
Another answer was that to be spiritual is to enjoy being secluded in nature. Well, spiritual people may often be drawn to nature, but the natural and the spiritual are distinct areas.
In reviewing the relatively new usages of the term, I wondered why certain individuals tried hard to redefine the quality, stripping it of any specific connotation — claiming the quality of spirituality had nothing to do with the soul, with God, or an attraction toward mystical content. It seemed as if they wanted to take the “spirit” out of the spiritual.
For them, the characteristic was subjective. Hiking or playing golf could be a spiritual act, for example, if it made the person feel serene. If going to the opera was moving or inspirational, it too was “spiritual.”
Most comments on the post, however, were in line with what one might expect: In contrast to a “materialistic” character — someone who focuses on form over substance and pursues physical pleasures — a “spiritual person” has a keener interest in what lies beyond the visible here and now. He or she desires to unveil the mask of the material which obscures the soul. To be sure, everyone has the ability to be spiritual, but not everyone uses it — the same way we colloquially label certain individuals as being an “intellectual,” or “emotional” person or “philosophical,” because they exhibit certain behaviors, inclinations or mannerisms.
The spiritual and the natural
The above Facebook discussion prompted by the original post, and the suggestion that “spiritual people” are often drawn to nature, opened the door to another interesting point. Why does that seem to be the case? What is the connection between the spiritual and the natural?
A simple surface explanation is that nature is peaceful; it provides a place for reflection, free from the disturbances of the bustle of the city, an environment which soothes the mind and soul. Nature is also restorative and unchanging. The seas are forever. Mountains exhibit a majestic, fixed stillness. The forest is tranquil. Towering trees seem to carry an ancient wisdom and warmth. The heavens, stars and planets are massive and eternal. In a constantly changing and capricious world, the consistency of nature is reassuring and quieting. The blessing of being alive and free is more tangible.
This appeal of the natural may be true for anyone, even the person who isn’t “spiritually” inclined. For the spiritual person, though, that same calmness in nature offers an additional benefit: As the base energy and body is put at ease, the soul can get more in tune with the oneness within the natural order — “How numerous are Your works, O Lord! You have made them all with wisdom” (Psalms 104:24) — which then allows a person to contemplate the source: an infinite power beyond this universe.
This window to recognize the greatness of the Creator is why, in Hebrew, the word “nature,” teva, connotes an imprint or stamp. Each being has a distinctive form and behavior which conforms to the tailored divine life force inside it.
The consistency and perfection within nature enables a person to recognize the grandeur of the Creator. “So long as the earth exists, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)
Life as it should be
On a deeper level, it may also be because in nature there is an underlying sense that everything is exactly as it should be: the direction of the cool breeze, the sun setting and rising on time, the birds chirping, or the soft buzzing of background melodies created by a host of insects. Everything happens in harmony, just as it should be happening, without any desire for interference.
To be sure, nature can be hard and merciless. The golden fawn standing by her mother’s side, delicately nibbling on a leaf, is suddenly torn apart by a ferocious lion who’d been lurking nearby. The scene is neither subtle or kind — but it’s not evil.
In contrast, within the world we live — whether the external environment or our own mind — there is a pervading sense that things are not (yet) as they should be. Many thoughts and beliefs that enter our psyche have destructive results; they need to be refined and challenged. We are continually forced to make active hard decisions, and moral failure is always a possibility.
Free choice and repair
At the same time, it is within the tension of the fluctuating imperfect world — with all its pain, risks and disappointments — that complete spiritual accomplishment takes place. There’s an opportunity to steadily contribute to a community, to forge friendships, to create a welcoming home, and enable future generations to thrive — all with the goal of bringing an influx of light and meaning into the disorder. Life becomes more about finding the soul’s purpose than escaping struggle to nourish one’s frailties.
Being spiritual is largely a thirst for more light in a dim world, a desire to elevate or transcend. But without a proper guide, context or study, even the most rewarding meditation and powerful insights will inevitably lead to an endless maze, without a clearly defined path. And questions remain: what deeds are most desirable and healing?
And that’s where Torah guidelines come into play — to align with a system that enables one to navigate within the world. Tradition channels, checks and harnesses freestyle spirituality and gathers the momentum of the predecessors. As Ethics of our Fathers says: It is the mitzvah, not enlightenment or experience, that ultimately holds the greatest light.

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The Talmud and illegal immigration

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

The sages provide potential solutions to undocumented immigrant problem

With more than 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States, proponents from both sides of the political aisle agree that something must be done.
Some argue that an offer of amnesty will allow for organized absorption of these otherwise invisible individuals. Citizenship for millions of able-bodied workers would increase total tax revenues on the state and federal levels, and allow the many “non-skilled” foreign workers currently working the fields and construction sites to continue legally filling positions that most Americans aren’t interested in to begin with. Beyond this, they argue, lies the human toll imposed on a growing population (many brought here as children) who find themselves in an impossible state of perpetual limbo and fear.
On the other end of the spectrum, we find equally impassioned factions lobbying for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants. Anything less, they argue, would be an insult to the millions of immigrants who went through the costly and arduous immigration process through the proper legal channels. Illegal immigration, they note, is a violation of federal law, and should be treated as such. Proponents for deportation also point to the tax burden which arises from caring for illegal immigrants (in health care, education and child care), and decry this unfair burden, which is ultimately passed on to legal, taxpaying Americans.
It seems that the only thing both sides can agree on is that the time has come to finally address the problem. As Jews, it would be enlightening to know how the sages of the Talmud might have addressed this conundrum.
Nochum Mangel and Shmuel Klatzkin (“A Torah Perspective on National Borders and Illegal Immigration”) point to two seemingly contradictory Talmudic principles that are pertinent to the discussion.
On the one hand we find the Talmudic principle of ein chotei niskar, which essentially means the sages of the Talmud were not willing to accept a potential legal outcome that would ostensibly reward someone who refused to abide by the law.
To relate this principle to the case of illegal immigration, an argument could be made that we mustn’t craft legislation that leads in any way toward citizenship, as this essentially rewards those who arrived on these shores illegally.
On the other hand, we find a separate Talmudic principle called takanat hashavim, an enactment made for the benefit of those who wish to repent from their past misdeeds. A classic example involves an unusual case discussed in Talmud Gittin (55a), of a thief who stole a crossbeam and subsequently built it into the structure of his house. According to strict Torah law, the repentant thief is obligated to return the exact item that he stole to its original owner. In this case, however, the sages knew that the repentant thief would have no other option but to deconstruct his house at great personal loss to retrieve the relatively inexpensive crossbeam — an exorbitant requirement that would discourage even the most contrite of men. The rabbis thus addressed this spiritual hurdle by allowing the thief to pay the value of the stolen beam to the original owner and thereby fulfill his halachic obligation. (It should be noted that the nature of the rabbis’ ability to circumvent Torah law is particular to the unique powers that Jewish courts have in monetary law, in particular.)
To draw a parallel, undocumented immigrants have, so to speak, built their homes (their familial and financial lives) illegally. And, if the only path to rectification would require the utter destruction of their houses (in our example, the equivalent of handing themselves over to the authorities and subsequently being deported), who amongst us would come forward? One might argue, then, that the principle of takanat hashavim encourages our government to create a system that encourages illegal immigrants to come forward for processing, with the promise that their lives, as they currently stand, will not be dismantled in the process.
To summarize, there must be a considerable consequence for the illegal immigrants’ past violation of American law (financial penalties, back-taxes or mandatory community service), but not one that would impose such a great sacrifice so as to discourage the undocumented immigrant from coming forward in the first place. This could come in the form of an amnesty of the kind last seen under President Ronald Reagan, or another type of documented work program that allows these residents to stay, work, pay taxes and/or potentially work toward legal citizenship.
Furthermore, while a government has the right to deport anyone living illegally in a country, it would seem a practical impossibility to locate and process the vast majority of illegal immigrants. If we are to solve the conundrum of the millions of undocumented immigrants currently amongst us, it would seem, then, that the only practical solution would be to create a system whereby the illegal immigrant is encouraged to come forward, to create a path toward rectification.
One more pertinent Talmudic source must be considered. The Mishnah in Gittin (4:6) rules that, although it is a great mitzvah to redeem Jewish captives, we are forbidden from overpaying the ransom money. The Talmud, in one of its explanations of the Mishnah, explains that we are concerned lest the overpayment incentivize future Jewish kidnappings.
In our discussion as well, is there not room for concern that lenient judicial measures (amnesty in particular) might serve to incentivize and embolden future waves of illegal immigration? If so, it would seem irresponsible for any bill addressing immigration reform to not simultaneously address pressing matters of border security.
In the end, no amount of legislation will ever fully curb illegal immigration. The migrant flocks to our country, not in the romantic hope of some far-off day in the future when he will be fully embraced into the national fold, but for the promise of something much more pressing and closer at hand — the hope of a better tomorrow for himself and his family. Can even the harshest of legislation ever fully curb such aspirations? Unless we are to become as barbarians, the answer is no. We must, then, find a way to best address this matter.

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Helping others through tzedakah

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

This summer we have been studying mitzvot through “mitzvah heroes.” Each week we remember — “We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us!”
Tzedakah is the mitzvah of helping others. Although it is often translated as “charity,” which is viewed as a voluntary act, tzedakah is a responsibility for everyone, even the poor.
The Hebrew root of tzedakah is tzedek, which means justice — it means helping others is the just thing to do. The Torah tells us how important helping those in need really is, but it also reminds us to care about the dignity of poor people.

Mitzvah hero of today’s world — Albert Einstein

Many people who know of Albert Einstein’s scientific accomplishments may be unaware of his dedication to social justice and tzedakah.
He was born March 14, 1879, in Germany and did much of his work there until the rise of the Nazis. The man who created the theory of relativity and changed the world of physics forever devoted much of his time to charitable acts.
In 1921, after winning the Nobel Prize, he visited the United States. and spent much of his time explaining the need for the State of Israel and raising funds to help settlers in Palestine.
Einstein helped found the International Rescue Committee in 1933 to help all refugees in need. He worked hard to help Jews and non-Jews in need.
When Chaim Weizmann died, Einstein was asked to become the second president of Israel. In 1999, Time magazine named Albert Einstein “Man of the Century.”

In our ancestors’ footsteps — Maimonides

In his day, Maimonides (1135-1204) was a rabbi, philosopher, author, physician and community leader. He lived in Spain but was forced to flee to Egypt where he became the physician to the royal family.
Maimonides wrote of how hard it was to be a physician and that he had to be up all hours of the night helping people. In spite of his work as a doctor, Maimonides found time to help others.
He wrote important books on Jewish law and philosophy that have guided people in how to live as a Jew for centuries. In his writings, Maimonides wrote of eight levels of tzedakah, beginning with the lowest rung — giving reluctantly and with regret — to the highest — helping another to become self-supporting.

Finish these statements

Albert Einstein fulfilled the mitzvah of tzedakah by:
Maimonides fulfilled the mitzvah of tzedakah by:
I can fulfill this mitzvah by:

Family talk time

• Tzedakah is a commandment. Should we be commanded to give and to help others? Or should we do it because we want to?
• Why should poor people be commanded to give to others? How do you decide how much to give, especially when you are needy?
• The root word for tzedakah is tzedek — justice. What does justice have to do with giving to others? Is there a “fair” way to give or to be sure everyone has what they need?
• Sometimes people feel embarrassed or bad when you try to give to them. Why would they feel this way? How can you give to people so that they don’t feel embarrassed or bad?
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and director of Jewish life and learning at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Origins of the Jewish calendar

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Sages, witnesses, and new moons formed today’s lunar calendar

Rabbi Fried,
We all get Jewish calendars at the grocery store or in the mail and take them for granted. What are the origins of the Jewish calendar? I’ve been wondering about this for years, and hope you can provide some insight.
Marvin G.

Dear Marvin,
The very first mitzvah that the Jewish people were commanded while still in Egypt was to sanctify the new month. “This renewal [of the moon] shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.” (Exodus/Shemos 12:1-2)
This means that the Jewish people are not to simply calculate our dates. We need to sanctify the first day of each month, which is called Rosh Chodesh, or the “head of the month.” From the time of Moses, and for nearly a thousand years, the high Jewish court, or Sanhedrin, calculated and sanctified the new month. Each month, the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem would wait for two witnesses to appear, stating they had observed a new moon. After testing the veracity of the witnesses, the court would establish the sanctity of Rosh Chodesh by the power vested in them, and by proclaiming “Mekudash, mekudash,” meaning, “It is sanctified, it is sanctified.”
From the time Joshua led the Jews into their land, conditions existed to carry out the sanctification of the new months. As long as the months were sanctified in this divinely ordained manner, there could not be an annual set “calendar.” Because each new month required witness testimony, no one could guarantee whether the current month would be 29 or 30 days. Jewish holidays, such as Passover, depended upon when the Sanhedrin proclaimed the new month.
Jews would wait to be informed when Pesach would “fall out” that year, an uneasy feat in a pre-electronic communicative world. A system of bonfires, lit atop mountains across Israel, would announce from Jerusalem when the new month was established. When saboteurs maliciously lit fires on the wrong days to mislead the people, the Sanhedrin had to send actual messengers by horseback across the country to inform all of the new month.
This process continued until one of the last generations whose leaders still had actual semicha, or ordination, through an unbroken chain from Moses. That type of semicha was a prerequisite to sanctify the new month. Because this semicha was in danger of cessation, the entire institution of Rosh Chodesh and Jewish months were in danger. To ensure continuity of Jewish months, Hillel the Last and his court, who still held that form of semicha, calculated and sanctified all the coming months until the time of the messiah. By doing so, they established the first actual calendar, in the year 359 CE. From that time, and onward, they no longer needed to wait for witnesses. Rather, they relied upon calculations sanctified with the semicha power vested in them.
The Torah established that our months be lunar, or moon-based, as opposed to the solar, or Gregorian, calendar used today in most of the world. The Torah also commands that Passover always fall in the spring. (Deuteronomy/Devarim 16:1) These two commands, however, conflict with each other. For this reason, an extra month or leap year, was established to synchronize the solar with the lunar calendar, seven out of every 19 years. In this way, the months have remained successfully synchronized for more than 3,300 years since we received this commandment.
As an aside, it is fascinating to note the precision of our sages’ calculations. The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 25a) and Maimonides (Code, Laws of Sanctifying the Moon 6:2-3) calculate the length of a solar month as 29.53059 days. A number of years ago, NASA made the following statement: “After years of research based on calculations using satellites, hairline telescopes, laser beams and super-computers, scientists at NASA have determined that the length of the ‘synodic month,’ i.e., the amount of time between one new moon and the next, is 29.530588 days.”
Jewish dates don’t arbitrarily fall out. They are calculated. We don’t just follow along with the flow of time. Rather, the Torah empowers us to actually change time and dates. The Torah puts us above time, and to live above time is to connect to the eternity of the Jewish people.

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Jewish hymnals should make a comeback

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Just a week after my uncle’s funeral in Pittsburgh, I attended another here in Dallas: this one of a Christian friend. She was memorialized with “A Celebration of Life” at Northaven United Methodist Church. But that church has struck the “United” from its name; it was one of the dissenters when the United Methodist Church, at its recent major meeting, decided against some of today’s challenging changes, such as accepting gays and lesbians as members and solemnizing same-sex marriages.
Northaven has been fully accepting of everyone for a long time, and “It’s too late to put the cork back into the bottle,” it says. And it wouldn’t ever have wanted to, anyway. It has now covered up the “United” on its front-lawn name sign with a cloth of many colors — gay pride colors!
(If you don’t know already: This is the church that has given Beth El Binah a home! When Dallas’ Reform congregation, founded by lesbians and gays but long since attracting others to membership, outgrew its first home in Oak Lawn, Northaven offered it the very large room that has now become both its full-time headquarters and sanctuary.)
An old friend of mine, a retired English teacher and Northaven church member, for years has been leading a poetry study group there, and I am part of it, attending the every-two-weeks Tuesday morning meetings. And it was one of this group’s members who passed away, very unexpectedly. Her Friday morning memorial service was quite simple: a few words from a few of Ann’s relatives and friends — including some from members of the poetry group, readings of two short Biblical passages, several prayers and music. I liked that last the best: Everyone joined in singing two hymns, and we all had all the words in front of us, because there’s a hymnal, along with a prayer book, on every one of the 333 seats in the sanctuary.
Holding a book of sacred music in my hands made me long for those “olden days” when Jews in many synagogues also had hymnals, when hymn-singing was part of every service. Many of our beloved Hanukkah songs came out of those books, but there was also both original and traditional music in them for other holidays, songs that have mostly disappeared from our worship today. How many of you can remember “Father, See Thy Suppliant Children,” a vanished staple for Confirmation? How many can sing more than one verse of “Rock of Ages”? With hymnal in hand, so much more singing is possible.
At Ann’s funeral, a song chosen for communal singing was “Hymn of Promise,” a United Methodist Hymnal suggestion for memorial services and funerals because its theme is eternal life. These are the words of its first two verses: “In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree…in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free…In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody…there’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me…From the past will come the future, what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
There’s nothing to offend Judaism or any other faith in these simple words, which sound quite wonderful when sung aloud by a group of individuals, all of whom have all the words in front of them, with a simple single piano accompaniment to keep everyone in tune.
This hymnal, published in 1989, offers 896 different songs on almost a thousand pages! I wish all streams of today’s Judaism would “resurrect” that old singing tradition for us. Our book could be much shorter, with no instrumental accompaniment necessary. But what a welcome way for us to raise our voices in praise of God, and we might even surprise ourselves with how good we sound!

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