Archive | July, 2019

Jori Epstein: scoring in print and online

Jori Epstein: scoring in print and online

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

The young, local journalist finds her niche in sports
Photo: Barry Epstein
Interviewing the home team, here with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, or a rival opponent, Jori Epstein scores the best interviews for USA Today Sports.

By Deb Silverthorn
If ever one were to score a touchdown, a slam dunk, a goal and a home run, it would be Dallas’ own Jori Epstein. Since October 2018, the 24-year-old reporter for USA Today Sports, who covers the Dallas Cowboys and the National Football League, has created material for the paper’s print, web, video and social media platforms.
Whether interviewing a home team favorite or a rival opponent, Epstein has become as comfortable in the locker room as she is analyzing on-field elements and the business side of the game.
With a significant resume and enough bylines to fill a scoreboard, just three years after graduating from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II Honors and Journalism, Epstein has produced stories for The Dallas Morning News and DMN/SportsDayDFW.com.
While still a Longhorn, she was a campus correspondent and reporter for Sports Illustrated, a sports editing intern at the Philadelphia Daily News, and football columnist, senior sports writer and sports editor at UT’s The Daily Texan, and contributing writer, copy editor at the Texas Jewish Post and Tower Tomorrow Fellow for The Israel Project.
During school, the budding journalist knew the career path she was interested in, but it came with some decisions. As a news reporter, she’d have to leave class on a moment’s notice; the top student couldn’t meet that. Turning to sports, a more scheduled subject, she realized that, in order to keep Shabbat as observantly as she did, she could not cover live football games. Able to make that work, this now football-writing wizard covered just one UT football game live during college — a Monday night postseason bowl game.
“Cross-country, soccer, basketball and softball — I covered almost every other sport and somehow I still got here,” Epstein said. “Pro football doesn’t happen on Shabbat and I’m able to make it work and I love it. I have so many stories to tell and they come from on and off the field, from the business office to back in the locker rooms.
“There are 53 players on the team with a united goal. My job is to find their stories that won’t be showing up on 30 other sites,” she said, her voice also heard on Twitter, Instagram and other social media circles.
Epstein enjoys being in Dallas, but reaches out to find that piece. On a story about Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott, she went to his hometown of Haughton, Louisiana, to talk to his high school friends. A story with Randy Gregory, defensive end for the Cowboys, had him talking about mental health challenges as he returned from a yearlong suspension. “How I get the story is sometimes as important as the story itself,” Epstein said.
Chasing the players, making the calls, it sometimes takes 10 attempts to get one return. “I’ve learned to view rejection differently,” said Epstein, one of about five women, among more than 40 men, covering the Dallas Cowboys. “I have a long list of pieces I plan to work on, and I’m always wondering where I can take my readers, what can I teach, what can I give them.”
A graduate of Akiba and Yavneh academies, and former member of the Judy Kravitz chapter of BBYO, Epstein is the daughter of Barry and Dia and sister of Daley, Jason and Zach. Together, the family has long supported the Food Pantry at Jewish Family Service, Epstein and her siblings taking turns chairing annual food drives at school.
Previously a lifeguard and camper at Camp Young Judaea, Epstein also spent teen summers as a counselor at Akiba’s Camp Mazal and the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center’s pre-camp and participating in BBYO’s Camp Impact programs in Boston and Washington D.C.
Having grown up at congregations Beth Torah, Shaare Tefilla and Shearith Israel, and now involved at The Intown Chabad, Epstein appreciates aspects of each of her communities.
While she is passionate about reading Torah in some congregations, she regularly shares a weekly d’var Torah on Shabbat at The Intown Chabad.
“My Jewish life has always meant a lot to me. It’s important for people in my generation to learn, grow and share,” Epstein said. “It’s important to me to see people in my peer group passionate about Jewish learning and participating in the many facets of our community.”
Reaching out to her community, Epstein is working on her first book, the memoir of local Holocaust survivor Max Glauben. More than three years in the making, of style and form different from any of her work to date, it is a “coming soon” project worth waiting for.
In the audience at a recent Legacy of Willow Bend semimonthly “Getting to Know Your Neighbors and Your Staff and your Relatives of Residents” series at The Legacy at Willow Bend, Sylvia Epstein was proud of every answer her granddaughter gave interviewer Bob Weinfeld. She also gave the real scoop. “Jori’s always been an energizer bunny. She’s always fun and always a pleasure.”
Throughout Weinfeld’s interview, Epstein was never stumped, but no answer came quicker than to his “Tell me about your siblings.” Her response: “We’re a team.” Score for the Epsteins, a score that can’t be beat.
“Jori was terrific, she’s really an incredible young lady with quite a spirit and a lot of talent,” Weinfeld said. “Someday I might even let her on the field of the Temple Shalom Softball League.”
An offer Epstein couldn’t let pass, and if a woman is going to swing a bat on the sacred fields, it just might be her.
Follow @JoriEpstein on social media and read her articles in the print and online editions of USA Today.

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JFS extends its umbrella over Priya Fund

JFS extends its umbrella over Priya Fund

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

Photo: Julia Shapiro Photography + Art
“We wanted to help people financially, even with a modest amount, and also raise awareness about the issues of infertility, to clear the stigma that often comes with it,” said Annie Glickman, who with her husband Rabbi David Glickman established Dallas’ Priya Fund, now also in Kansas City, Kansas. “I’m confident that the right pieces are coming together with the Fund moving to JFS where it will be nurtured from every angle.” (Left to right) Gavi, Rabbi David, Annie, Ellie and Daniela Glickman
Priya provides funding and focus for infertility issues

By Deb Silverthorn
Priya, be fruitful and multiply, is one of the first commandments in the Torah. The Priya Fund, established in Dallas in 2009, is a most significant way the Dallas Jewish community creates awareness of infertility issues, and supports costs for adoption, medical treatment, or surrogacy.
Now under the ever-widening umbrella of Jewish Family Service of Dallas, the Priya Fund will continue helping Jewish families.
“Over the years, JFS has brought expertise and services specific to the needs of the Jewish community that have both a deep impact in the lives of individuals and families, and those in line with our founding Jewish values as an organization,” said Cathy Barker, JFS CEO. “The Priya Fund, absolutely, is one of those services.”
Established as a fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, the Priya Fund has made 21 grants with close to $80,000 dispensed for at least 13 babies, including two sets of twins, allowing families to kvell.
The Priya Fund was established by Annie and Rabbi David Glickman (formerly of Dallas’ Congregation Shearith Israel) after their own struggle with secondary infertility. While their son Gavi, now 18 and a rising senior, was a toddler, the Glickmans hoped to expand their family. In the limelight of community, it was difficult managing the personal issue, while embracing their very extended “family.”
“We wanted to help people financially, even with a modest amount, and also raise awareness about the issues of infertility, to clear the stigma that often comes with it,” Annie Glickman said. “The silent suffering is so hard. I’m confident that the right pieces are coming together, with the fund moving to JFS, where it will be nurtured from every angle.”
Sari and Rabbi Adam Raskin (formerly of Congregation Shearith Israel and Beth Torah) offered a gift to the Glickmans to help in what they knew was an expensive prospect. After Ellie, now 13, and Daniela, now 10, were born, the Glickmans established the Dallas Priya Fund, grateful for the growth of their family.
“When Daniela was born, we requested that instead of gifts people share to the Priya Fund,” Annie Glickman said. “Since then, people have given in the spirit of weddings or anniversaries, of birthdays and births. The goal was to support all who need it in some way.”
In 2012, the Glickmans moved to Overland Park, Kansas, where David Glickman is the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom. Annie Glickman is director of school services for The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and of Priya: Growing Jewish Families in Kansas City. Priya, established there four years ago with more than $100,000 raised, has supported nearly two dozen families with 11 babies born.
Here, the Priya Fund’s transition from the DJCF to JFS will allow the organization’s complete menu of mental health and social services to support parents in their effort to grow Jewish families. In addition, JFS will be able to raise money for Priya, increasing the amount available to couples.
“Dallas Jewish Community Foundation manages funds, hundreds of them, but we don’t raise the dollars,” said DJCF’s Director of Philanthropic Advancement Mona Allen. “From start to finish, JFS will best serve couples through the processes and, while it will be a void to us, we’re always here for guidance.”
The Priya Fund is coordinated by Caryn Peiser, the mother of Elisheva and Rachel. Peiser’s spirit and soul roars with passion to help others create and build their own families.
“At JFS, everyone from the professional leadership to the part-time volunteers is part of a team, and working together on Priya is going to be an incredible effort,” Peiser said. “The mix of marketing and business development, combined with a need for care and delicate support, is the perfect place for me and I’m very excited.”
The wife of Gary and daughter of Estrella and Ruben Bengio, Peiser attended Akiba and Yavneh academies. The Dallas Jewish community is part of her backbone. She studied at Sharfman’s Seminary Bnot Torah in Israel and earned her bachelor’s degree in child learning and development, with a minor in business administration, from University of Texas-Dallas, just days before the birth of her second daughter.
“As a parent herself and by growing up and being an active member of the Dallas Jewish community, Caryn is a great advocate for the need for this funding by others,” Barker said. “She personally understands the desire to have a child and raise them in the Jewish faith.”
Jewish couples looking for support should contact Peiser to determine eligibility and complete an application. An advisory committee, of medical and Jewish community lay leaders, meets to review each application — the couples remain anonymous — then designates allocation of any funds.
Couples are required to provide a copy of a future invoice (e.g., in vitro, surrogacy, adoption) within 180 days to receive the funds. Funds will ultimately be distributed from the rabbi’s discretionary fund with whom the couple shares a relationship.
“We are eternally grateful for Priya’s support as we faced fertility challenges,” said Monique Roy Chuney, referred to the Priya Fund by a family friend. Chuney and her husband Ken, members of Congregation Anshai Torah, welcomed baby Max on May 24, 2018. “We are blessed with a special and amazing gift. Priya is a wonderful organization, and we are truly thankful.”
The amount that Priya Fund can grant has decreased over the years as the number of requests received increase. Grants are only for future treatments and, while funds are not provided to meet increasing needs per application review cycle, couples are eligible to re-apply and receive additional assistance.
“Beyond the financial burden, which is great for anyone, I will direct prospective families to emotional, spiritual and psychological support and other help. JFS’ clinicians really do reach every level of almost every need,” Peiser said. “That I have this very special role to provide outreach and find applicants, and donors, and to walk them through the process is something I’m very grateful for.”
Gifts that help others create families, truly are of the gifts of life.
For more information or to begin the application process, email cpeiser@jfsdallas.org or visit JFSDallas.org/priya. To make a donation to the Priya Fund, visit tinyurl.com/JFS-PRIYA-donation with notation in the “additional comments” that the gift be directed to Priya.

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Holly Clegg raises awareness of gastric cancers

Holly Clegg raises awareness of gastric cancers

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Holly Clegg
Mike and Holly Clegg with two of their grandsons, Clegg and Kase Goldberg; Holly’s mother Ruth Berkowitz; and her brother Michael and his wife Jane Berkowitz

By Sharon Wisch-Ray
For years, I have been an avid follower of Holly Berkowitz Clegg. I remember receiving my first in her amazing “Trim and Terrific” cookbook series about 28 years ago and was inspired by her healthy recipes and shortcuts for busy moms. Over the years we have featured Holly’s recipes in the TJP as one of her many cookbooks (at least 14; some are out of print) was released. I am proud to say I own them all and my family has been the beneficiaries of her enthusiasm and creativity.
Shortly before July 4, I reached out to Holly, to see if she had anything new cooking and wanted to share some July 4 recipes with our TJP readers.
I knew that she had been diagnosed with gastric cancer last August, but also I knew she was still working as I was still receiving recipes via email.
I assumed that in typical, Holly, energizer-bunny fashion, she was “beating the hell out of cancer.”
While she was continuing to work, Holly had been undergoing rigorous treatments, eight rounds of chemo at MD Anderson in Houston as well as two HIPEC procedures.
She has chronicled this journey in detail in her blog https://thehealthycookingblog.com/gastric-cancer-journey-md-anderson/.
Holly emailed me on July 3 to share that she had returned to Dallas on hospice. She and her family have started a fight gastric cancer fund. As of July 4, in just 10 short days, the fund had already raised over $75,000.
Holly writes, “I am not sure if you have heard but I have gone into hospice; I am home and surrounded by my family. However, I am still working and spreading my passion for healthy cooking with my recipes!
“I have taken to heart the words Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Ft. Worth, ‘This is the time to keep on living and not start dying.’
“There is one thing very dear to my heart that you can do for me. Our family has created Holly Clegg’s Gastric Cancer Research Fund at MD Anderson in hopes that many others will continue to benefit from the great care I have received and treatment options yet to be discovered.
“When I was first diagnosed, I sat in my doctor’s office and said ‘I can do this. I have a platform where I can raise awareness and hopefully help save lives.’
“I need YOU #TeamHolly to join in the fight against gastric cancer and SUPPORT the Holly Clegg Gastric Cancer Research Fund at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Any amount helps! 100% of all the proceeds will go towards gastric cancer research at MD Anderson to help find a cure one day! Every little bit helps — whether it’s what you would spend on a quick lunch or the most gourmet of dinners, please consider donating! And spread the word as I want this to be a grass roots campaign.
“My mission is to create awareness so please consider posting this graphic on your website and feel free to share on social media outlets.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support in joining me in my fight! I am eternally grateful and keep cooking Trim and Terrific!”
On her blog, Holly shares a number of statistics on gastric cancer.
“According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States, about 27,000 cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed in 2019. This is compared to more than 268,000 breast cancer cases and over 11,000 will die from this disease. Globally stomach cancer is a much bigger problem with nearly one million cases diagnosed every year. Stomach cancer remains the second cause of death (738,000 deaths annually) of all malignancies worldwide. Stomach cancer mostly affects people over the age of 65, and there is a higher risk for men compared to women. Risk factors can include diet, inherited conditions, infection with Helicobacter pylori (a type of bacteria) and unknown environmental causes.”
To donate to the Holly Clegg Gastric Research Fund, write a check payable to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and reference Holly Clegg Gastric Cancer Research Fund. Mail it to MD Anderson, P.O. Box 4486, Houston, TX 77210-4486. To donate online, visit http://Gifts.mdanderson.org; complete all fields; click: “I’d like to choose where my donation will go”; using drop- down menu, select “Other”; type in: Holly Clegg Gastric Research Fund and enter in credit or debit card info.
I understand from both Holly and her family that she is in good spirits and very committed to spreading the word about gastric cancer in the hope there will be more research and treatment options available. To read more about Holly’s inspirational journey, as well as her tips for cancer patients, visit her blog at https://thehealthycookingblog.com/gastric-cancer-journey-md-anderson/.

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From Ft. Worth to Mississippi with CAS

From Ft. Worth to Mississippi with CAS

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy CAS
Fort Worth’s Ahavath Sholom had the largest delegation of educators at the Institute of Southern Jewish Learning Educators Conference in Jackson last month. Pictured, from left, are Gillat Brautbar, Penny Brister, Elaine Bumpus, Rebecca Isgur, Rivka Marco, Inbal Morris and Fani Kiselstein.
In Jackson, faculty takes on Jewish education

Jackson, Mississippi, hotbed of Jewish education? Hard to believe but true. Five faculty members and the co-learning leaders from Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Learning and Engagement Center (CAS LEC) trained at the Institute of Southern Jewish Learning with fellow educators representing 80 congregations. Fort Worth took the prize for the biggest group from any city in the 15 states attending.
CAS LEC just completed an amazing year of learning for our students and their families. The annual conference on Jewish education provided the faculty the opportunity to continue their educational journey and attend sessions that addressed options to help shape the coming year.
CAS LEC teachers Fani Kiselstein, Inbal Morris, Penny Brister, Elaine Bumpus, Gillat Brautbar, along with education leaders Rivka Marco and Rebecca Isgur, networked, learned, and enjoyed the intensive 48 hours on the ground. Elaine Bumpus shared, “The Conference was both exhilarating and exhausting. The curriculum is designed for everyday use by the everyday teachers. They gave us a set of tools and taught us how to use them.”
Some of the many offerings were two-day intensives with interesting topics “Hands On, Minds On,” “Classrooms on the EDGE,” and “From Tzedakah to Tzedek.” Wildcard sessions included “I Don’t Roll on Shabbos: An Exploration of Shabbat through Text, Pop Culture and the Big Labowski.” Yes, there was even a Study Hall with choices from “Topsy-Turvy T’filah” to “Market Your EVENTURE.”
Gillat Brautbar said, “We learned a lot! It was a great experience for everyone.” The many engaging and meaningful learning activities, soulful spiritual minyanim, and new insights into student and parent populations promise a meaningful Jewish educational experience for all who join the CAS Learning and Engagement Center.
For more information and to register your students, contact Rivka Marco or Rebecca Isgur, lec@ahavathsholom.org or 817-731-4721.
— Submitted by
Rebecca Isgur

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Marco Polo was not the first world traveler

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

By Jerry Kasten
Every summer, children splash the pools trying to evade capture in a game called “Marco Polo.” The game is simple: A blinded tagger roams the pool shouting, “Marco!” while others respond, “Polo!” driving the tagger in the direction of his or her victim by sound.
I assume these children were taught that the game is named after Marco Polo, an early overland traveler merchant who helped the East meet the West.
Marco Polo crossed into Asia by a combined land and sea journey from southern Europe to India and China. His journey established trade routes and fostered the exchange of European and Asian knowledge.
However, Marco Polo was not the first to conquer this task.
Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jewish scholar, made a similar journey 100 years before Marco Polo. His observations provided a more scholarly insight and perspective and might have served as a foundation for Marco Polo’s journey.
Since knowledge of life outside of Western Europe was limited, any eyewitness accounts by travelers helped contribute to the knowledge of the world. Benjamin’s travels took him from Europe to Asia and Africa.
We know that Benjamin left Tudelo, Spain, around 1160 and returned in 1172.
Places he visited included Barcelona, Marseilles, Rome, Naples, Rome, Salonica, Constantinople, Corico, Jerusalem, Damascus, Mosul, Bagdad, Cairo and Palermo.
He visited both Jewish and non-Jewish communities, keeping a travel diary titled “The Travels of Benjamin,” during his journey of a dozen or more years.
Benjamin’s observations describe each area’s sociological and geographical features, in addition to its Jewish community.
Originally written in Hebrew, his book was deemed important enough to be translated into the major European languages for all to read, including future travelers such as Marco Polo.
World history publishers need to credit Benjamin of Tudela (Spain) in addition to Marco Polo (Italy) with helping to provide significant geographic knowledge of our early world.

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Making vows involves ongoing dialogue with God

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, we find three spectacular images tied to the three towering personalities: the clouds of glory attributed to the merit of Aaron, the “Well of Water” to the merit of Miriam, and the manna to the merit of Moses. The “Clouds of Glory” and the “Well” disappeared with the passing of Aaron and Miriam, but they were later restored in the merit of Moses (who broadened his leadership role).
One of the distinguishing qualities of Aaron, recounted in Pirkei Avot, was that he loved beriyot (creatures) — even those people who had no other apparent virtue other than being “creatures [of God].” Thus, it is said of Aaron alone that “the entire house of Israel mourned Aaron for 30 days.” (Numbers 20:29) That is also the deeper reason why the “Clouds of Glory” came by virtue of Aaron — for, as the Talmud explains, everything follows the principle of “measure for measure.” Just as he loved all beings without distinction, so he elicited the “Clouds of Glory” which encompassed each member of the community equally.
But these clouds of glory, which had surrounded and protected the Jewish people, temporarily disappeared with Aaron’s passing. It was then that the nations who had been observing what was happening within the camp of Israel smelled opportunity — they figured that the Israelites were now vulnerable. One nation, located closest to the south of the land, decided that it was an appropriate time to attack.
Picking up on a detail in the verse, the biblical commentaries relate that this nation was, in fact, Amalek, the archenemy of the Jewish people, who approached them in disguise: “The Amalekites changed their language and spoke in the language of Canaan, so that the Israelites would pray to God to deliver the Canaanites into their hands, and [since] they were not, in fact, Canaanites [the prayers of Israel would have no effect]. Nevertheless, Israel noticed that they were dressed like Amalekites…”
Amalek first took a Jewish maidservant captive. One child seized from the Jewish community was enough to prompt the entire Jewish people to wage war. And before setting out to battle, they made a vow to God, saying, “Vayeedar Yisrael neder … if I’m able to be victorious over this people” — it said “this people,” instead of specifying, because the identity wasn’t yet clear — “then I will consecrate their cities.” The Torah continues that “God listened to the voice (i.e., the vow) of Israel,” accepted the prayer, and delivered the Amalek people into the hands of Israel. And after the people were destroyed, the possessions in the cities were all dedicated to God, given to the Temple.
The power of speech
In Judaism, making a vow to God is a solemn act. This power that a person has in his or her mouth is more intense than many may realize. There is a type of neder, vow, that is unilateral — things that a person verbally resolves to do or refrain from doing. In Jewish law, such a vow can even make certain items holy, or off-limits, for an individual. Then there’s the type of vow mentioned in the above verse, which is more like “making a deal” with God. It usually arises in a dangerous situation, when a person is feeling helpless and pleads that “if You, God, will help me, then I’ll do such-and-such for You.”
This phrase “he made a vow” appears only three times in scriptural narratives: The first mention is with our forefather Jacob while he was traveling down a precarious and dangerous path to Haran, where he would find his soulmate and build his home. After the mysterious dream where he saw the ladder reaching up to heaven, he made a vow and said “If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way…and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house…this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me, I will tithe to You.” (Genesis 28:20-22)
The second place this phrase, “Vayeedar neder,” occurs is in this week’s portion, when Israel (Jacob’s proper name, now used for the Jewish people) made a vow. The third and final time appears in the Book of Judges, Chapter 11. But in the story of this final mention, making a vow degenerated into a tragic situation wherein the general, Yiftach (Jephthah), didn’t take into consideration what could possibly evolve from his deal with God.
Should we make deals with God?
The subject of making vows is a complex topic to consider, including whether such promises are recommended or discouraged. On one hand, we see from the verses of Jacob and Israel’s vow that there is a precedent for making deals. On the other hand, the concept of making vows to God can be dangerous. There are those who argue that, as a rule, all decisions and promises should be kept in one’s heart rather than expressed in words. The most basic reason is that we lack foresight and cannot consider all factors — a person never knows whether they will be able to follow through with the vow. (In the spiritual realm, just as in the financial, it’s always preferable to receive a gift or an investment in your venture than to take a loan, even an interest-free loan.)
The mystical teachings point out that whenever the story of a vow appears, the Torah uses the words, “Vayeedar neder.” This phrase possesses the same numerical equivalent, 474, as daat — ”knowledge” or “consciousness.” Perhaps the deeper message here is that the ability to make a vow, in the optimal sense, requires a high level of knowledge. In other words, if a person has higher consciousness, the ongoing awareness that God is the only true reality guiding the outcome while everything in this world, “below,” is relatively naught — then his or her vow will be solid. If, however, the vow is made from desperation, a lower-level consciousness, it is unwise.
This does not mean, however, that in one’s private communion with God, one should refrain from declaring positive resolutions. After all, the effectiveness and fruits of prayer are largely about effort and personal change. When you change, so does your judgment and fate. Likewise, to make room for blessings, it is always helpful to express a firm commitment for the future — but without promising (in Hebrew, “bli neder”). The ideal approach is to make the commitments regardless of any outcome.
The theme from all the above is internalizing how improving our relationship with God is more than refining our attitude toward the events in our lives — it involves an ongoing dialogue. Sometimes, the impetus to get closer stems from “an initiative from above.” For example, because something good happened to us, we feel inspired to make a positive change as a way to show gratitude. Other times, we make the change first — do a mitzvah, or pray — and then look for reciprocation. And there are times when, under pressure, we feel compelled to call out for help and we lay out the terms — “If You do this for me, then I’ll…”
Either way, we learn from the Torah that our words make an impression.
Rabbi Dan Lewin is director of the nonprofit Maayan Chai Foundation. For information, visit www.maayanchai.org

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Free to live in a better world

Posted on 11 July 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!”
Herut is the mitzvah of seeking freedom, which began with the Israelite’s escape from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. Since that time, we have been told to remember and tell the story.
Judaism understands that freedom does not mean the chance to do whatever you want — it means the chance to live and work for a better world.
A special mitzvah that goes along with Herut is Pidyon Sh’vuyim or freeing of captives. It is our responsibility to help Jews who are held captive whether from the Soviet Union, Ethiopia or other places of oppression.
Mitzvah hero of today’s world —
Natan Sharansky
Anatoly Sharansky was born in Russia where Jews could not practice Judaism, nor could they leave the country. Sharansky became active in the movement to gain freedom for Jews and for all those suffering under the Communist regime.
Due to his work, he was denied an exit visa, harassed by the KGB and imprisoned. He became the best-known Jewish dissident.
Sharansky’s wife, who changed her name to Avital when she arrived in Israel, worked for his release. In November 1985, President Reagan convinced Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev to let Sharansky go to Israel.
When Sharansky arrived in Israel, he kissed the Western Wall and said, “Baruch matir asurim. Blessed is the One who liberates the imprisoned.” He changed his name to Natan — a gift from God.
In our ancestors’ footsteps — Alfred Dreyfus
Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was a Jewish army officer in France who was accused of passing military secrets to the Germans in 1894. In spite of all kinds of errors in his trial, he was found guilty and sent to Devil’s Island Prison. Finally, in 1904, a new court re-examined the case and declared that the evidence was unsubstantiated and that Dreyfus was innocent.
Theodor Herzl was a journalist covering the case. He was so upset by the anti-Semitism that had caused this that the “Dreyfus Affair” prompted Herzl, the Father of Zionism, to begin his quest for a Jewish state.
Finish these statements
Natan Sharansky fulfilled the mitzvah of Herut by:
Alfred Dreyfus fulfilled the mitzvah of Herut by:
I can fulfill this mitzvah by:
Family talk time
• We all know the story of the Israelites in Egypt who were slaves until Moses came along. The people came to Mt. Sinai and received the Torah — a book filled with rules. Did that mean we were no longer free? How can you be free if you have to follow rules?
• Find out about one of your camp friends who is from Russia. Why did their family come to Dallas? What does freedom mean to them?
• The mitzvah called “Pidyon Sh’vuyim — freeing of captives” is about a responsibility we have to help others gain their freedom. What are some ways we can do this mitzvah today?
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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What we mean by ‘Next year in Jerusalem’

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
We, in the Diaspora, end the Passover Seder with “Next year in Jerusalem!” What do people in Jerusalem say?
Mark J.
Dear Mark,
People in Jerusalem say, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
This should not come as a shock because as part of the daily silent Amidah prayer we also ask God to return us to Zion and Jerusalem. That prayer is recited by Jews living in Jerusalem.
Now, you’ll ask, “Why is that so? They have already returned to Jerusalem.”
The Jerusalem we have today is not quite the same Jerusalem we have been praying for the last 2000 years.
We are more than thrilled to presently have possession of the Wall, the Old City and the surrounding new cities of Jerusalem. It affords us the opportunity to connect to Jewish history, the Jewish people and God. It offers many Jewish young men and women the opportunity to study for short- or long-term periods of time in yeshivos and seminaries on very high levels of Jewish scholarship.
However, the Jerusalem of today is still a far cry from the Jerusalem we are still waiting and praying for. Jerusalem is not just a place, even a holy place, but a concept. It is the composite of two words, “yirah,” meaning the awe of the Almighty, and “shalem,” meaning perfection and inner peace. Shalem is also the root word of shalom. The combination of the two spells out “Yerushalayim,” or as we know, “Jerusalem.”
The way we arrive at the real Jerusalem is with the Divine Presence, the Shechinah which dwells within it. This took place in the Holy Temple which stood above what we know today as the Western Wall. That wall, with all its holiness and power, is merely a retaining wall, below the Second Temple courtyard. The Temple itself, known as the Beit Hamikdash, or House of Holiness, was a place that Jews and Gentiles could visit and bring their offerings to God. Many of those who entered that hallowed place felt they entered a different dimension, a kind of twilight zone which could not be described. Even Gentile visitors knew they were in a completely different space and were left changed forever. That feeling was not limited, however, to the Temple alone. Its light shone upon the entire city of Jerusalem. The entire city was a place where its visitors had the potential of being transformed by its granting of inner peace and the awe of God exhibited by many of its citizens. The light of the Temple illuminated courtyards throughout Jerusalem.
This is the meaning of the verse we sing with the removal of the Torah from the Ark each week: “Ki Mitzion Teitzei Torah u’dvar Hashem M’Yerushalayim,” “From Zion will emanate the Torah and the Word of God from Jerusalem.” When Jews from throughout Israel came to Jerusalem three times a year on each holiday as the Torah commands, something special happened. They saw the holiness on the faces and in the lives of the Jerusalemites, and observed the hallowed existence of the Kohanim, a group of priests performing the Temple worship in their unique garb. They noticed the shining face of the Kohein Gadol, the high priest, in his eight royal vestments, surrounded by holiness, and felt the aura of the Shechinah. All this they took back with them after the holidays to their respective towns and villages, serving as an inspiration to diligently study Torah and aspire to newer and higher heights of observance and spirituality.
That is the Jerusalem we, together with the citizens of the present Jerusalem, are waiting and praying for. Next year in Jerusalem!

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We are losing a generation of giving people

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

My last uncle, Irwin, has died. His seven sisters — my mother and my aunts — are long gone, as are his four brothers.
It is sad, frightening and humbling to lose the last survivor of a whole generation, the generation of those rocks upon which I have built a whole life.
Today, people worry about the Millennials and, now, the so-called Z Generation already following them — the “Z” signifying the last. Maybe our society has run out of names for those who will be born later. But for me, my uncle’s generation was the true last generation of Americans who were willing to put their lives on the line, quite literally, to save the world.
And my uncle was one of them.
As you read this, I am in Pittsburgh. Uncle Irwin’s funeral was yesterday. I now know the answer to the question I asked myself, but no other: “Who will wear the black ribbon for him?” I wrote his obituary for the local daily and the Jewish weekly, and, in doing so, compiled two long lists: first, all those who preceded him in death; second, all of us who have followed him in the family.
The first list was long; the second was much longer. I named only direct descendants of his own first-degree relatives, for all of whom are dead. But their progeny totaled more than 40, and, with him, numbered five generations. To lose him, our only link with a whole part of our past, is to say goodbye to an irreplaceable part of our history.
I love Dallas, my adopted city. But Pittsburgh, my birth city, is forever the home of my heart. If you can look past last year’s Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, because something like that could have happened anywhere, you will agree with me that it’s an excellent place for Jews to live.
There are many synagogues and places to buy and eat kosher. There is a Jewish Federation, a community center, a Holocaust Memorial and Jewish schools. While Pittsburgh doesn’t have many Jewish schools, I’d argue that less is more.
Because Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is smaller, those who are part of it recognize how important such Jewish institutions are. People who do not keep kosher at home support the kosher businesses, because they know that without them, their city would not be somewhere that all Jews could live comfortably.
It’s even a good place to die: There is only one full-service Jewish funeral home, where everyone Jewish is memorialized and buried from. It’s consistent in its services and provides comfort in closeness with its community.
My uncle, age 96, was a product of this community. A self-made wealthy man, he gave generously to charities and to his own family. He anticipated needs and met them without being asked. Until his death, he was putting others before himself.
We will always laugh through tears at the experience one of my cousins had when visiting Uncle “Srol,” a nickname derived from his Hebrew name, “Yisroel.”)
Just two days before his death, David, just wanted to hold his hands and talk to him, no expectations, nothing more.
And the response he got was, “Why are you here? Don’t you have some errands to run?” How many who are literally on their deathbeds could make a comment like that?
So, as I write this, looking back and moving forward, I am full of tears, but not crying. Not yet.
Because I’m sure that, by the time you are reading this, many would already have cried with me yesterday.

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Remembering Ross Perot’s relationship with Israel and the American Jewish community

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Remembering Ross Perot’s relationship with Israel and the American Jewish community

Posted on 11 July 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Photo: Screenshot
Ross Perot, a 1992 independent presidential candidate, delivers his concession speech on election night.

The two-time U.S. presidential candidate was a friend and a donor to various social causes.

By Jackson Richman

(JNS) Two-time U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot died in Dallas on Tuesday at the age of 89 after a battle with leukemia.

Beside for becoming a self-made Texas billionaire, he was known for calling for balancing the budget, opposing the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and advocating for reducing the national debt, in addition to supporting abortion rights and gun control.

But Perot, who in 1992 won 18.9 percent of the popular vote, or 19,741,065 votes–the largest percentage for a third-party candidate in modern presidential elections, even though he did not receive an electoral vote—was not so widely known for his stance on the U.S.-Israel relationship.

“Support for Israel was not a big issue in 1992, when Ross Perot had his big moment. [It] was just a given, as it should be,” historian Gil Troy told JNS.

Regardless, the Zionist Organization of America mourned his passing. “Perot expressed strong support for Israel,” ZOA national president Mort Klein told JNS.

Klein noted that during the 1991 Gulf War, which the Electronic Data Systems (EDS) founder opposed, “Perot insisted that ‘Israel has been our friend during the recent war, and you stand by your friends. It’s just that simple.’ ” They were remarks that Perot, who sold EDS to General Motors for $2.5 billion several years prior, made at an American Jewish Committee dinner in New York, his first comments to a Jewish crowd after declaring his candidacy.

Perot added, “Israel is a beacon in its part of the world in terms of its democratic government. It is a role model to the others there,” urging the United States to strengthen Israel economically.

“Israel is a beacon in its part of the world in terms of its democratic government. It is a role model to the others there.”

“History may have turned out better if Ross Perot had won the 1992 presidential election,” said Klein. “We might have avoided having Bill Clinton pressure Israel to agree to the disastrous 1993-94 Oslo Accords, which brought the [Palestine Liberation Organization] and PLO arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat into Judea and Samaria, and resulted in Palestinian-Arabs murdering and maiming 10,000 innocent Jews throughout the next years and decades.”

On June 15, 1992, New York Times columnist Leslie Gelb wrote about the then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush losing credibility in the Jewish state:

“Israel may be the only country in the world where leaders of all parties would like to see George Bush retired. Neither Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir nor the Labor Party leader, Yitzhak Rabin, nor other politicians I talked to this week will say that outright. But their feelings are unmistakable: They think that at best Mr. Bush does not place high value on Israel, and that at worst he would nail the old tail to the wall if re-elected.

“Ross Perot scares them too because they have no idea what or how he thinks, particularly about the Middle East. Word is just beginning to filter back here about Mr. Perot’s staff rebuffing contacts by American Jewish leaders. Israelis know little about Marilyn Berger, the former reporter who is now the Perot Mideast adviser. But they are uneasy about Don Hewitt, her husband, whose CBS news program, ‘60 Minutes,’ has done some hard-hitting features on Israel.

“Bill Clinton, with good ties to the Jewish community and with his positive rhetoric about Israel, is the beneficiary of all these considerations. But mainly, Israeli pols have been quite careful in talking about America.”

‘He admires the Jewish people’

Perot was also a financial donor to Jerusalem’s Shaarei Zedek Medical Center and was fond of then-Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Sharon.

“I know that he admires Sharon,” Morris Talansky, executive vice chairman of the American Committee for Shaare Zedek, told Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) in 1992, mentioning that Perot had visited Israel.

“He admires the Jewish people, and he certainly admires Israel and is a very warm friend of the hospital,” said Talansky.

Perot was close friends with Morton Myerson, who worked with him at EDS and later at the information-technology services firm Perot Systems.

During the 1992 campaign, however, it was publicized that two Orthodox Jews—Reggie Dallaire and Nancee Haft—were fired from EDS during the early 1980s and 1985, respectively, with the former being relieved for wearing a beard and the latter for being absent from work during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Perot and Meyerson said they didn’t know about the Dallaire case, and Meyerson told JTA that he himself did not know about Haft’s case, which happened the year after EDS was sold to GM.

“We had a policy of not discriminating against anyone based on religion, race, color or sexual orientation,” Meyerson told the outlet. “Since I am Jewish, I vigorously enforced that policy.”

In a 1992 interview with ABC News, Perot said, “In terms of your inference of discrimination, please don’t lose sight of the fact that the great builder of EDS happened to be a Jew, Mort Meyerson.”

Perot gave the biggest single donation to a new cultural hall in Dallas, contingent upon it being named for Myerson. The Meyerson Symphony Center opened in September 1989.

Two years earlier, Perot was honored with the Raoul Wallenberg Award “for his personal courage in the dramatic rescue of his [two] American employees being held captive in Iran” during the Iranian hostage crisis from November 1979 to January 1981, according to the website of the Raoul Wallenberg Award Committee of the United States. The award is known for the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

“The things he did were just incredible,” said Perot of Wallenberg upon accepting the award. “He had to go up against [Adolf] Eichmann … he had nothing but gall, bluff, brains, wits, creative ability.”

In 1996, Perot ran under the Reform Party banner, winning 8 percent of the popular vote—more than 10 points lower than four years before. Clinton won re-election.

Perot is survived by his wife, Margot; their five children; a sister; and 19 grandchildren.

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