Archive | August, 2019

Why HBO’s series on the revenge murder of a Palestinian teen is causing controversy

Why HBO’s series on the revenge murder of a Palestinian teen is causing controversy

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Photo: (Ran Mendelson/HBO)
Adam Gabay plays a teenager of interest in “Our Boys.”

By Josefin Dolsten

“I’ve been kidnapped,” a voice can be heard saying in Hebrew in the opening of a new HBO series about the lead-up to the 2014 Gaza War.

It’s Gilad Shaer, a 16-year-old Israeli who, along with two other Israeli teens, was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists as they were hitchhiking home in the West Bank. Somehow he has managed to call the police.

The emergency dispatcher tries to get more information, but Shaer is silent.

“Head down,” a voice can be heard yelling repeatedly in Hebrew.

The opening and the series’ name — “Our Boys” — suggests that it will focus on the kidnapping that rocked Israel five summers ago.

Shaer, along with Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, were missing for more than two agonizing weeks, during which Israeli security forces conducted an aggressive and highly publicized search. Their bodies were found 2 1/2 weeks later and Israel blamed Hamas.

On July 8, following escalating tensions with the Gaza-based terrorist group, Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza known as Protective Edge.

But the series, which premiered Aug. 12, does not spend much time on the kidnapping and its immediate aftermath.

Instead it uses the incident as the backdrop to the tragedy that followed: the revenge kidnapping and murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Autopsy results suggested that he had been burned alive. In 2016, a Jewish-Israeli man, Yosef Ben-David, was convicted of the murder along with two minors.

The decision to focus on the murder of the Palestinian teen has drawn criticism in Israel, despite what the creative team said was a conscious choice.

“We were drawn to understanding the perpetrators of this murder more than we were interested in understanding the victimhood of our side,” Hagai Levi, one of the filmmakers, told Drama Quarterly.

The series is “a story of pain turning into revenge,” he added.

Some 120 Israeli families who lost members in terror attacks disagree. They wrote a letter to HBO criticizing the show’s viewpoint, saying it equates two events that differ in significant ways.

“Khdeir’s murder was met with shock and condemnation by the vast majority of the Israeli public,” the parents wrote, according to Israel Hayom. “Dozens of Jews are murdered as a result of the ongoing incitement by the Palestinian Authority every year. The Arab street does not condemn the murder of Jews and even supports and encourages it.”

The Palestinian Authority has a policy of paying stipends to the families of terrorists either in prison or killed in the attacks — a policy that Israel has dubbed “pay to slay.” Its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, rarely speaks out against attacks against Israelis, though he did condemn the kidnapping of the teens.

“Our Boys” was created by two Jewish Israelis, Levi and Joseph Cedar, and one Arab-Israeli filmmaker, Tawfik Abu Wael. Cedar, a two-time Academy Award nominee for best foreign film, and Abu Wael directed the series.

The show gives viewers a look inside the lives of the main actors in Abu Khdeir’s murder — from Mohammed’s grieving family, to the Israel Security Agency members investigating the crime, to the Orthodox man behind the murder and the world he inhabits.

Interspersed with the scripted action are real clips from the summer — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the teens’ funerals and news anchors discussing new developments.

A disclaimer says that “some of the events, characters and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.” Watching the series, it’s hard to tell what is real.

“The idea was to create a unifying world where you don’t reveal what is documentary and what isn’t,” Levi told Drama Quarterly.

One of the main characters, an Israeli investigator named Simon with a backstory of his own, is entirely made up. Others are based on real people, although which parts are embellished is often unclear to the viewers.

The series’ strength lies in the insight it provides into people from all parts of Israeli society who are somehow involved with a wrenching incident.

“What they’re setting out to do, and it will be interesting to see how it lands, is really going deep into characters that weren’t really accessible for most of us as reporters,” said Jodi Rudoren, who covered the events for The New York Times when she served as its Jerusalem bureau chief.

“Our Boys” also shows the disbelief from Israeli society that one of its own had committed a lynching.

“I know Israeli racism, but Jews don’t do something like this,” a policeman tells one of the chief investigators after Mohammed’s body is discovered in the second episode.

Marcy Oster, JTA’s Israel-based briefs editor, recalls that feeling of incredulity as she covered the events.

“When I wasn’t reporting on the kidnapping of the three Jewish teens and the discovery of their bodies, I was trying to help my children work through their feelings about the incident,” she said. “It became even more difficult when we learned that Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir had been burned alive. We did not want to believe that Jews had committed such a horrific and indefensible act.”

Rudoren said that singular spotlight on Abu Khdeir’s murder and how it came to happen — while eliding the murders of the three Israeli teens — is likely to differ from how many Jewish Israelis experienced the events.

“I was sitting in a place of covering both sides, Palestinian and Israeli, so I definitely experienced those two things as parallel events. Most Israelis definitely did not,” said Rudoren, who is leaving The Times to become the editor-in-chief of the Forward. “For most Israelis, the month of searching for the yeshiva boys was a major, major event, and the idea that would be almost a prologue to this story would be surprising.”

Challenging prevailing perspectives about that summer’s tragic events is exactly what the creators sought to do. That also means challenging perceptions of Abu Khdeir’s murderers, Cedar told Drama Quarterly.

“It’s easy to say they were extremists, but they’re not,” he said. “They are just like us. So we tried to understand how this could happen – could it be us? Could it be our children?”

Comments (0)

JFGD convenes security session

JFGD convenes security session

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Photo: JFGD
SCN National Security Advisor Doron Horowitz leads a security preparedness program for community leaders and first responders. The program, held at Congregation Shearith Israel, was convened by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Community Security Initiative.

Program focuses on preparedness and resiliency

Submitted Story
(Dallas) On Sunday, Aug. 18, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Community Security Initiative (CSI), in partnership with Congregation Shearith Israel, brought together more than 50 individuals representing local Jewish organizations from across the city, for an educational program. The program focused on preparedness and resiliency in emergency situations.
Bill Humphrey, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD), convened members of local law enforcement and first responders. The inaugural tabletop exercise was part of its ongoing educational series to help elevate the planning, preparedness and response of local organizations, schools and synagogues.
The program was led by the Secure Community Network (SCN) Deputy Director & Chief Operating Officer Patrick Daly as well as the National Security Advisor Doron Horowitz. SCN is the official Homeland Security initiative for organized Jewish communities. This served as the beginning of an increased culture shift, focused on enhancing safety, security planning, and infrastructure for Jewish organizations across North Texas.
“The High Holidays are around the corner. We need to plan, be diligent and stress-test those plans and be ready for anything,” said Bill Humphrey, JFGD director of community security.
“In addition to last week’s training, we plan to provide additional and ongoing educational programs on active shooter preparedness and it is my hope that everyone in the community will see the importance of it and participate,” he continued.
Founded in the summer of 2016, CSI is funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas unrestricted annual campaign and the Korenvaes Family Foundation. Federation’s security initiative in collaboration with SCN creates and implements plans to ensure the safety and resilience of our community. Since its inception, the initiative has successfully planned and conducted an educational series for each of the area’s Jewish schools, synagogues and agencies.
“The work of the Community Security Initiative is important to set a culture of responsiveness and preparedness for our local Jewish community,” said A.J. Rosmarin, board chair, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. “In today’s world we see security as a utility, just like water and electricity,” he added.
—Submitted by
Jamie Moore

Comments (0)

North Texas now has its own FIDF chapter

North Texas now has its own FIDF chapter

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Photos: Holly Kuper Photography
Amy and Harlan Korenvaes hosted the FIDF North Texas Chapter opening meeting at their Dallas home.

Special programs for Lone Soldiers one focus for FIDF

By Samuel Weber

At a meeting Aug. 8, at the home of Amy and Harlan Korenvaes, the newly formed North Texas Friends of the IDF (FIDF) chapter demonstrated how its services impact the Lone Soldiers and native soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. FIDF CEO Major General (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, joined some 60 FIDF supporters.
Also in attendance were Board Chair Yoram Avneri, Lone Soldiers Fay Goldstein and Rina Yaholam, and FIDF directors from North Texas, South Texas and the mid-Atlantic region.
More than $100,000 was raised during the event to support Lone Soldiers and native IDF soldiers.
The FIDF Lone Soldiers program is designed to support individuals who have chosen to work toward Israeli citizenship through service in the Israeli army. The process involves moving to Israel and attending programs to learn Hebrew. Additionally, Lone Soldiers are provided places to live, while they serve in the army. The program also provides the IDF with additional funding for 40 different programs, as a way of improving the soldiers’ quality of life, especially during Shabbat, when they have nowhere to go.In 2018, FIDF raised $140,000,000 for its programs, among them the Lone Soldiers program, which helps IDF soldiers visit their families, attend college and move on with their lives after their service to Israel.
North Texas has nine active Lone Soldiers. FIDF North Texas Director Kathi Ravkind Sebastian shared her ideas on the future of the North Texas chapter.
“I look forward to carrying out the vital work of looking out for the brave young soldiers who preserve and protect the freedoms of the Jewish people in Israel and around the world,” said Sebastian, before the meeting.
Avneri said that, meeting Klifi-Amir for the first time while both were attending a convention in Panama, he felt an instant connection with the Major General. The two discussed the lack of an FIDF chapter in North Texas; the original Texas chapter was based in Houston. That conversation led to the launch of the Dallas chapter, in hopes of spreading care to Lone Soldiers from yet another location.
“FIDF is the only body authorized by the IDF and Israel to collect and donate money to the IDF and Lone Soldiers,” said Avneri.
Miami-based Lone Soldier Fay G.(The IDF does not permit the use of last names in news stories) recounted her first experience with FIDF during her sophomore year of college. “As a leader in my pro-Israel campus community, I was invited as a guest to attend one of these meetings,” Goldstein said. The speaker, an IDF soldier, had held her attention. “I had no idea that, years later, I’d be standing in the same position, in the same uniform that she wore,” Goldstein recalled. Wearing the FIDF backpack that she was given, along with her uniform, Goldstein made aliyah at nearly 28 years old.
Fay G. currently is the head of social media communications of the IDF, managing the organization’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks. She said she is living her dream.
“I often think about that night in college,” Fay G. said, “I think about how different my life is now, than it was then, and to remind myself how it was all worth it. I think about how worth it it all is, because now instead of a dress at an FIDF gala, I wear the same uniform as that soldier.”
Joined by Lone Soldier Dallasite Rina Y., Fay G. referenced the code of ethics that every IDF soldier is required to carry with them at all times. Yahalom discussed how she had personally been helped by FIDF in the form of a new gym being built where she was stationed, which was funded as one of the projects undertaken by FIDF.
Klifi-Amir’s address displayed pride in both the IDF and FIDF, citing his 33 years of experience serving with the former. He also shared the differences between the parents of children in the IDF, as opposed to parents of Lone Soldiers.
“If I need to, I can drive or fly not too far to see my children,” said Klifi-Amir. “To me, the real heroes are their (Lone Soldier) parents.” Lone Soldier parents have to trust in their children to be successful and responsible in their service. “We want to make sure they feel that they are not alone,” Klifi-Amir said.
David Wallace, board member of the mid-Atlantic FIDF, as well as an ex-officer in the U.S. Air Force and the State Department, was the evening’s final speaker. “When I was back (in Washington), for the second time, the Washington Jewish Week talked about the FIDF gala . . . I bought my ticket, went to the synagogue,” he said. Wallace indicated that the gala spurred him on to his love of FIDF.
“I was always taught to support what you’re involved in making happen” Wallace said. “There’s only one Israel, and we have to support it, and I urge you to take that first step. Get involved, make that first commitment.”

Comments (0)

Focusing on the reality of living with ADHD

Focusing on the reality of living with ADHD

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Life coach Hilary Stern helps clients beat ADHD challenges

By Deb Silverthorn
A new coach has been tagged in the game of life. It is Dallas native Hilary Stern, who is bridging the gap between the assumptions, and the reality, of living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Through her practice, ADHD Advance Coaching and Consulting, Stern helps clients, ages 10 to adult, identify how they can benefit from potential challenges, resulting in productive and fulfilling lives.
“I was diagnosed with ADHD in high school and it was a relief to have an explanation,” Stern said. “I’ve been there, and done that. I’ve taken medication and then chosen not to. I’ve really worked through it all.”
The daughter of Dr. Aaron and Eileen Kreisler, and sister to Amy, Barbi and Stephen, Stern’s work is linked to her parents’ careers; her mother is an educator of children with special needs, her father, a pediatrician. Their care combined, Stern’s clients are in the right hands.
In 2017, one of Stern’s own children was diagnosed with ADHD. The time commitment to classroom success was more than she could share herself, explained the former teacher at Akiba and Levine academies, Greenhill School and Richardson’s Classical Magnet Elementary School. So she looked for a way to manage support for everyone around her.
“I’d thought about life coaching but didn’t know how to get there,” Stern said. “Timing is everything. Shortly after I left the classroom, I saw an ad for ADHD coaching and training, while in my own child’s therapist’s office.
“When someone takes the ownership, saying ‘I’ll’ make the change, empowerment begins,” she added. That notion served her, as she redirected her own life to become an International Coaching Federation-credentialed ADHD life coach. “I guide my clients, but they create their agenda. I help them make changes that work and it’s never the same for everyone.”
For college junior Gavin Shrell, Stern has been an integral part of his journey.
“She puts everything into perspective, and makes what I want to do seem possible. Her help in my creating a plan, and seeing how to make it happen, has been huge,” Shrell said.
With Stern’s help, Shrell identified his goal of summer travel. He created the budget, figured how to earn what he needed, and together they worked on interviewing and other skills. “She helps me make sense of what I need to do and she’s very supportive,” Shrell said. “I’ll continue to work with her while I’m in school, and I know that what she’s taught me I’ll apply in many areas.”
A graduate of Greenhill School and member of BBYO’s Jenny Zesmer chapter and regional board, Stern earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at American University, and her master’s in education administration from the University of North Texas.
While Stern and her husband Josh met as preschoolers at the (now Aaron Family) Jewish Community Center, and their families were entwined in Dallas’ Jewish community, it was only after they graduated college did they become a couple. Married in 2002 at Congregation Shearith Israel, where they were both raised, they are the parents of Aidan, Benjamin, Noah and Sarah. The family has membership with Chabad of Dallas.
In addition to working one-on-one, Stern visits businesses, schools and organizations to work with professionals.
“Knowledge is power, and Hilary comes in loaded with knowledge, eager and able to pass it on,” said Dr. Paul Rubin at Frisco Kids Dentistry, where Stern led a workshop for the practice. “Hilary empowered us with an insightful look into the world of ADHD, and gave us tools to better help, treat and educate our patients and families!”
“We all have the right answers within us,” Stern said; “sometimes we just have to be asked the right questions.”
For more information on Stern, or to read her blog, visit adhdadvance.com. To schedule a complimentary consultation, email hilary@adhdadvance.com.

Comments (0)

Around the Town: Julie Eisenfeld, Garsek Lodge , Bnai Brith

Around the Town: Julie Eisenfeld, Garsek Lodge , Bnai Brith

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Submitted Photos
Julie Eisenfeld’s “London City Scene” is among the works on display in the Beth-El Congregation boardroom.

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray


Faces and Places: A Julie Eisenfeld Retrospective


For nearly 50 years, Julie Eisenfeld has found artistic satisfaction by expressing herself through a variety of media.
Her art career for the first 30 years focused on acrylic painting, serigraphs (silk screen), etching and crafting linoleum prints. Through expressionism and her perception, she has placed people with recognizable, everyday elements in unprecedented situations that draw the viewer into the artist’s viewpoint and invite them to become part of the art.
For the past 20 years, she has focused on and continues to paint watercolors “that have given her the opportunity to ‘play within the light’ to suggest traditional form. Watercolors allow her to capture the transient and momentary effect of sunlight…,” according to her daughter Candice Eisenfeld, an artist known for landscape, abstract painting.
She holds a B.F.A. from Indiana University, studied printmaking and painting, and has taught kindergartners as well as college students. “Art is storytelling,” she says, emphasizing the importance of interacting with people, places and objects.
Her works often express her emotional experience rather than physical reality. As a result, they appear playful and creative, but still give rise to serene contemplation combined with subtle odd, eccentric or humorous elements.
Both the media along with the moods or feelings she has captured — whether humorous, entertaining or profound — are bold and evocative. Her drawings make a statement and have something to say. “If you can laugh at yourself, things aren’t half bad,” she adds.
Simply put, she views creating art as fulfilling her personal need to release energy, followed by printmaking that she considers the next step in producing a truly original work of art.
Beauty as well as other qualities in works of art are often said to be in the eye of the beholder. While Julie Eisenfeld accepts that others see qualities in her work that she doesn’t, she finds it “especially gratifying and worthwhile when someone comes along and likes something just as she did it.”
—Submitted by
Arlene Reynolds


Garsek Lodge honors 2 exemplary students with academic awards


Earlier this month, the Garsek Lodge presented its 2019 Award for Academic Excellence to Lily Goldberg and Rafael Cocchi.
Lily is the daughter of Kim and Bob Goldberg. She graduated from Paschal High School, where she attained a 4.0 GPA and a score of 1520 on her SATs. Lily is attending Washington University in St. Louis in the fall, majoring in biology.
Lily is enthusiastic about her education. She received several awards including National Merit Commended Scholar Awards and several AP Scholar with Distinction Awards and two Regional Visual Arts Scholar Awards. She was a member of the National Honor Society for four years, Paschal Society of Academic Excellence and Paschal’s Key Club.
Three years ago she also founded the In Tune Music Education Partnership (read about it in the Aug. 8 edition of the TJP).
Throughout her high school career, Lily was active in Beth-El Congregation and served as a religious Sunday school teacher’s aide. She has also been a counselor for three summers at Camp Impact.
Lily enjoys playing the violin and painting when she is not studying or volunteering.
Isadore Garsek B’nai B’rith Lodge is honored to recognize Lily Goldberg’s achievement and present her with its 2019 Award for Academic Excellence.
Rafael Cocchi is the son of Horacio Cocchi and Suki John. Rafael graduated from Paschal High School, where he attained a 3.8 GPA and a score of 1360 on his SATs. He is attending the University of North Texas at Denton and pursuing a degree in media arts with a minor in theater management.
An excellent student, Rafael was a member of the National Honor Society, a FWISD Superintendent Scholar, an AP Scholar with Honor, National Hispanic Recognition Program and a FWISD Academic Sweatshirt Scholar.
Rafael was a member of Paschal’s cross-country and soccer teams. He was involved with the school’s theater and served as its backstage manager. He was also a member of the Yearbook Club his senior year.
Rafael was active in Beth-El Congregation’s youth group (FWFTY) and served as a religious Sunday school teacher’s aide for two years. He volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House as well. In his spare time, Rafael managed to work as a public pool lifeguard, teach children’s swim lessons, be a soccer referee and deliver pizzas for Perrotti’s.
Gone 2 Texas Exhibit extended through May 2020 at Ahavath Sholom
The eye-catching exhibit at Ahavath Sholom, filled with African sculptures and Russian keepsakes, has been extended through the end of May 2020. The family of the late Bernard Zilberg, who donated Zulu walking sticks and heirloom copper pots to the displays, has requested that his memorabilia and those of other immigrants remain on exhibit until Dr. Zilberg’s unveiling in May.
Titled “Gone 2 Texas,” the exhibit intertwines the histories of Jewish migration from South Africa and the Soviet Union from the 1970s to the 1990s.
New to the exhibit, in the corridor outside the library at Ahavath Sholom, is South African currency engraved with images of lions, water buffalo and hippos. Also added is a set of vintage Russian nesting dolls that children in the Religious School may handle. In one of the locked display cases there is now a comical set of matryoshka dolls with likenesses of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers and a saxophone.
The exhibit received a strong review in Southern Jewish History, an academic journal published in Atlanta. The reviewer, Dr. Nils Roemer, director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, wrote that the “intimate exhibition illustrates how relocating involves not only change and the retooling of both old and new cultures and identities but demonstrates continuities as well.”
The exhibit was organized by the Fort Worth Jewish Archives. It includes African textiles, Zulu jewelry, and wood carvings on loan from Anita Davidson; also a Soviet samovar from Alex and Sophia Nason and a Gzhel teapot from Claudia Boksiner.
—Submitted by
Hollace Weiner


B’nai B’rith Person of the Year dinner set for Sunday, Sept. 22


Some of the most anticipated events of the Tarrant County Jewish community year are those surrounding the B’nai B’rith Isadore Garsek Lodge Person of the Year announcement and dinner. This year’s program will be held 6:30-9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road in Fort Worth. Last year’s winner Debby Rice will reveal the best-kept secret in Fort Worth to those attending. Speakers for the evening will be B’nai B’rith International President Chuck Kaufman and Fort Worth Jewish Archives historian Hollace Weiner, who will give a history of the Isadore Garsek Lodge. The Garsek Lodge is celebrating its 143rd year. Cost for the evening, which is being catered by Babe’s Fried Chicken, is $25. Wine and beer will be provided with ticket purchase. To buy tickets, contact Marvin Beleck at marvinbeleck@aol.com; Rich Hollander at rich.d.hollander@gmail.com or 817-909-4354; Alex Nason at alexnason@charter.net; or Dan Sturman at dsturman@charter.net.

Comments (1)

Understanding the spirit — and letter — of Jewish law

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Deuteronomy 12:28 reads: “Safeguard and hearken to all these words that I command you…when you do what is good and right in the eyes of Hashem your God.”
A basic question we may pose is: Isn’t it sufficient to obey all the words of the Torah? What, in addition, is being asked of us by stating that we must also do “what is good and right?”
There is a need to state this to countermand a lifestyle that, while religiously observant, is empty in terms of inner beauty and spirit.
One could simply “go through the motions” of Jewish life, but not connect with one’s heart and soul. Rather, one must act with goodness and righteousness even when complying with mitzvot. The Torah is communicating to us an overview of both behavior and attitude to permeate a person’s approach to God’s commandments.
It is not possible or desirable for the Torah to list every possible human action or interaction. Rather, the Torah gave us representative laws and then their guiding principles, what we can call meta-halacha. This goes beyond the law, and addresses itself to the spirit of the laws that should never get lost in our compliance with the laws themselves.
There are two faces to the law: the outer one, called the letter of the law, and the inner one, called the spirit of the law. Nahmanides teaches us that we are to obey mitzvot, but also do them for the right reason. If one ignores the spirit of the mitzvah, you fulfill only one part of the Torah declaration: “Do what is good and right.”
The Talmud (Bava Metzia 83a) provides a powerful example: Rabbah bar Bar Chana was a scholar and wealthy individual. He hired porters to transport barrels of wine. The workers were negligent and broke the barrels. The rabbi wanted payment from the workers for the damages and lost wine. He took their clothing in lieu of payment.
The porters went to Rav to stake their claim. Rav ruled in their favor and their garments were returned. Bar Chana asked Rav, “Is this the law?”
Rav affirmed his ruling, citing a verse from Proverbs (2:20): “In order that you may walk in the road of good men.” Technically, the porters were at fault, but Rav dealt with them, according to a higher spirit of the law.
The porters were still unhappy. They had worked all day and wanted to be compensated for their labors (though they had damaged the barrels). They complained that they were hungry and needed their pay to purchase food for themselves and their families.
Again, Rav ruled in their favor. The astonished Bar Chana again asked: “Is this the law?”
Rav affirmed his decision quoting the end of that same verse from Proverbs: “And you shall guard the path of the righteous.”
Rav explained that based on strict law, he would have to rule in favor of Bar Chana, who hired the porters. But Rav took into account all the circumstances of the case: wealth, poverty, scholars and laborers.
Rav said the facts have to be tempered by the situation. Ethically, the porters were dependent on their daily wages for their very sustenance. So, Rav went lifnei me’shurat ha’din — beyond the letter of the law.
The Torah requires us to do what is both good and righteous, to keep both the letter and spirit of the law. If an individual concentrates only on one, it causes a shift in the delicate balance of things. One could end up dangling dangerously off the side. When we balance the two together, we reach physical and spiritual heights. We can then walk on a high wire without fear of falling.
We thereby formulate a religious balance and harmony.
That is precisely what we should seek, as we begin the month of Elul, one month preceding Rosh Hashanah.
Shabbat Shalom.
Chodesh Tov.
Rabbi Wolk is community chaplain of Jewish Family Service and rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.

Comments (0)

Embrace learning as a lifelong activity

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
For most children, school has begun, though young adults are waiting for the start of college classes. For adults, learning opportunities are available, from college campuses to online classes. Jewish learning is also available for all ages and stages — but this means reaching out and committing to continued learning, and continued growing. You are never too old, or too young, to learn.
In Judaism, learning is one of the key values that has kept us alive and vital through the generations. Here are a few quotes and commentary (my own). Take these, talk about them with family and friends, and then find a learning opportunity that works for you.
“Only learning that is enjoyed will be learned well.” — Judah HaNasi
This idea of enjoying learning is crucial for all ages We must especially send this message to all who teach children. Adults can vote with their feet; if they are not enjoying a class, they can leave it. Children, however, do not always have the choice, so we need to remember the words of Judah HaNasi.
“A student should not be embarrassed if a fellow student has understood something after the first or second time and he has not grasped it even after several attempts. If he is embarrassed because of this, it will turn out that he will come and go from the house of study without learning anything at all.” — Shulkhan Arukh
This is a challenge as we grow older. We think we should know something, and are embarrassed to ask if we don’t understand. Don’t let embarrassment or fear stop you from learning and asking questions.
“Much wisdom I learned from my teachers, more from my colleagues, from my pupils most of all.” — Maimonides
As a teacher, this is my favorite quote. I have learned so much from my students of all ages.
”Say not, ‘When I have leisure I will study.’ Perhaps you will have no leisure.” — Pirke Avot 2:3
And, here is the mandate to use to take the time to learn.
I would not be doing my job as a Jewish educator at the Jewish Community Center if I did not plug our classes, films, books and other activities. Opportunities to learn exist at every synagogue and Jewish organization. Find what interests you and begin your journey. And, I would love to learn with you, and from you, at the J.

Comments (0)

Explaining population size: Jews versus Muslims

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
In Genesis 21:9, the Lord said for Abraham to “look at the stars, see if you can count them. As many stars as there are up in the heavens, so many will be the children of your family.” The Lord also promised that Ishmael would have many children, and God would make of him a great nation. Today, there are 12 million Jews (from Isaac) and more than 1 billion Muslims from Ishmael. If Isaac inherited the covenant, why is there such a huge difference in the numbers of descendants today? Why are there so many more Muslims than Jews?
Joel B.
Dear Joel,
I don’t think you are asking me to explain the sociological reasons the Jewish nation is so small in numbers; those reasons include persecution, murder of the Jews, assimilation and so on. Rather, I assume you are asking why God would allow those factors to persist if He truly wanted the Jews to be as abundant “as the stars of the sky.”
Truthfully, the Torah itself elucidates this strange fact of history. “Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did God desire you and choose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples. Rather, because of God’s love for you and because He observes the oath that He swore to your forefathers did He take you out with a strong hand…” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). We see that God, Himself, considers us “the fewest of all the peoples.” How does this fit with “like the stars”?
The commentators explain with an example of fruit from a tree. The farmer grows a tree for its fruit, but the fruit is very minuscule in comparison to the roots, trunk, branches, leaves and peel. All of this exists for what the farmer loves most: the succulent fruit. Although the tree is vastly greater than the fruit it produces, in the mind of the farmer, it’s about the fruit.
The Jewish people are charged to be a “light unto the nations.” This, in short, means that we are to be the ambassadors of God’s teachings at Mount Sinai, where He revealed the purpose of creation. In that way we, the Jewish people, are like the fruit, while the other nations are like the larger tree. In other words, the Jews are built upon quality, not quantity.
Mark Twain put it so well: “…the Jews constitute but 1 percent of the human race…the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of…extravagantly out of proportion to his bulk. His contributions to…literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers…” (Harper’s Magazine, September 1899).
To prophetically receive the tremendous spiritual energy carried by the Torah at Sinai, the Jewish nation was endowed with an expanded soul, which could contain all that energy. Hence, that expanded soul excels in other areas of study as well.
The contributions of the Jews to the world, their positive impact is “as numerous as the stars,” similar to a nation of hundreds of millions. Despite such small numbers, some 30 percent of Nobel Prizes have been won by Jews. In contrast, the Muslim nation, with over a billion adherents, holds nary a Nobel Prize in anything but “peace”!
Until, perhaps, the future messianic times, when the count will be literal, the meaning of the Jews’ numbering like the stars takes on a different meaning. Consider a star; it looks like a minuscule point of light at night, but we know that as we approach the star, it is a massive light and heat source almost beyond comprehension. So, too, with the Jewish people. As much light as we are able to radiate unto the nations, is simply a tiny point of light compared to how we will shine when the “cover comes off” and our full illumination will be felt, beyond our comprehension today.

Comments (0)

Finding communication amid clutter

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

I have long since forgotten who gave me the tastefully gold-lettered sign that’s been rooted on my workspace for years. “A Cluttered Desk Is the Mark of Genius,” it says. Of course, it is securely planted amid the everlasting clutter, sometimes rendered almost invisible, lost among folders, boxes, books and piles of paper.
Among the latter, I often find bits covered with impossible-to-decipher notes that once must have meant something – maybe even something important. No matter how often I neaten things up, no matter how diligently I purge the accumulations, no matter how often I promise myself I won’t let the desk get into that shape again, it always does. That sign remains at the center of things, endlessly reminding me of its comforting half-truth, half-lie A cluttered desk? Yes! A sign of genius? Not so much.
One of my worst habits is making quick notes on small scraps of paper, that just as quickly become parts of the workday rubble, later to be found as lost futures that have already faded into the past. When I unearth them, they are like strange treasures encountered during an excavation, all needing similar research. Why didn’t I jot down a name with this telephone number, since I have no idea whose it is? Where is the announcement of the forthcoming book review I’ve made a note to attend, and when? And, what is the book in question?
It’s amazing how quickly some “current events” stop being current, and how unimportant some heavily underlined future events become after I missed them. But, it’s also amazing how often I unearth a forgotten gem that I can once again reread with the great pleasure it gave me originally – which I why I saved it: Because it makes me think. Here’s one I have just found, penciled in my own handwriting, on a nondescript square of scratch paper, source unknown.
“It does no harm, just once in a while, to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames. That there are people in this country besides politicians, entertainers and criminals. And they do really good things. And maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all.”
I have no idea who said this, or when and why, and how it took up residence on my desk. But it’s a good message, and I’m glad I wrote it down. I would like to thank whoever said this, but I don’t even have an unidentified phone number for this one.
Here’s another: “I fear a day when I will not remember you…No longer see your face, or feel your touch…” This reads like the start of a poem written after a very personal loss. Written by whom? This is scrawled, in my own handwriting, of course, on a scrap of paper less than half the size of the one mentioned above. There is a clue of sorts: The handwritten note is below what is obviously the printed head of a longer piece of paper. It says, in blue letters, “A Note for You.” Am I the “You?” Whose note is/was this, anyway? I have very recently marked five years since the passing of my husband, and am definitely not the owner of this “fear.” But, where did I get this? And why? And how? And from whom?
Clearing off my desk to once again reach “ground level” is among many projects that can be postponed, and too often are. But this one shouldn’t be, because I know I will always find some forgotten treasures, such as the ones noted above. Good words, important words, words worth passing on. And, when I finally start to do it, I also know I’ll have that same “clean” feeling I get after unloading the dishwasher or the washing machine. Even better, because the desktop makes promises of hidden treasures to be found, reread, appreciated – maybe even the gifts of true geniuses with equally messy desks!

Comments (0)

Israeli girl, 17, killed in West Bank terrorist attack

Israeli girl, 17, killed in West Bank terrorist attack

Posted on 23 August 2019 by admin

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A 17-year-old Israeli girl was killed and her father and brother were severely wounded in a bomb attack at a nature reserve in the West Bank.

Rina Shnerb of Lod, her father Eitan, a rabbi, and her brother Dvir, 19, were hiking at the Ein Bubin spring when they were attacked with an explosive device, possibly a grenade, hurled at them from a passing vehicle, according to reports by the Magen David Adom ambulance service and others.

The spring, which was named for a terrorist attack victim who died in 2015, is a popular destination for hikers. It is near the West Bank settlement of Dolev, east of Modi’in.

The Israel Air Force rescue unit, 669, evacuated the three wounded people from the scene of the attack while treating their injuries.

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here