Everybody ages, but only small children and young teens look forward to getting older. From about 30 on, all people seem to think they’re moving along much too quickly. Milestone birthdays (that’s what I define as all the ones ending in 0, and a few big ones that end in 5, especially 75) begin as fun, then become somewhat terrifying as life goes on; show me someone who really believes the dreamer’s pronouncement that “Life begins at 40”! Finally, these occasions all end up mostly as fodder for nostalgia.
But all bets are off when a boy gets old while he’s still young; really old while he’s really young. Like Sam Berns of Foxborough, Mass., whose recent obituary rated big writeups in newspapers from coast to coast. Sam was 17 on the calendar when he died, but he was already an old, old man.
Sam was cursed with Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome, more commonly known as progeria, a name created from two Latin words loosely translating to “age forward.” He was diagnosed with this rare genetic disease of rapid, premature aging when he was only 22 months old. At his death, the teenager had all the muscle, bone, heart and vein problems, plus the baldhead, associated with the very old. And he looked at least 80 himself.
That obit rang a bell for me, a loud Jewish bell. The only other case of progeria I’d ever heard before this was the son of a rabbi who reconciled sad anger and crisis of faith over his boy’s affliction by writing the book it inspired. The title: “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”
Of course you know the book, or at least its name. Conservative Rabbi Harold Kushner’s 1978 publication was a New York Times best-seller, and continues to be bought, read and quoted after more than three-and-a-half decades. The author’s dedication was to his very young but very old son, Aaron, who had died just one year before at only 14. “He was afraid he would be forgotten because he didn’t live long enough,” the rabbi said. “I promised him I’d tell his story.”
Suddenly, Rabbi Kushner, who had been serving Temple Israel in Natick, Mass. since 1966, had a second career, but he didn’t cut back to half-time until 1983. Finely, seven years later, when the congregation named him “Rabbi Laureate,” Kushner gave up his pulpit for full-time writing and lecturing (although he has been known to return to deliver a High Holy Days sermon or two). His amazing literary success began only after two publishers first rejected his manuscript; we can only guess how sorry they must be now!
In these two cases, we see two very different ways of parental reaction. Rabbi Kushner didn’t become an author in earnest until after his son’s death, using all the empathy and skill with words honed in the practice of his profession. Sam Berns’ parents created the nonprofit Progeria Research Foundation while their son was still living because, even though they are both doctors, they could find so little information about the disease themselves. Their work generated the HBO documentary film, “Life According to Sam,” which premiered last October in New York. Not only is it succeeding at increasing recognition and better understanding of this devastating condition, it has also generated much money for public education and medical research.
Today, while the Foundation’s work goes on, so does Rabbi Kushner’s. He can fill an ample shelf with the books he’s written since his first blockbuster, all drawing deeply on Jewish wisdom while continuing exploration of his enduring, basic theme. Take a look at Amazon’s list! My very favorite is his 2012 “The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person.” Next week, I’ll be looking at what both he and a Protestant minister have to say about how that most suffering of all biblical figures has impacted their lives today.Tweet]]>
A couple of weeks ago, Sheri Allen gave me the heads up that her talented husband Richard wrote a play that would debut at Stage West.
I am looking forward to reading my TVS pal Rafael McDonald’s feature on Richard in next week’s TJP, but in the meantime was thrilled to hear that members of Beth Shalom and others from Tarrant County were on hand in Fort Worth last weekend to see the premiere of “Starbright and Vine.”
More than 35 members from CBS attended the affair. The evening began with a wonderful dinner at the Old Vic Café at Stage West, and ended with a social gathering with the cast.
Allen’s comedy is about an aging writer who teams up with a disillusioned actress to write a sketch for an awards show on national television.
The play runs through March 23 at the Stage West Theatre.
“For years and years I was very story-oriented,” Allen, 54, said from his office at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. “What surprised me most was that I could focus on the characters being together instead of having a contrived crisis, conflict and ending. It was a pleasure. The play wrote itself.”
Another thing that surprised him was how his meditations on aging and mortality would find poignant parallels in real life. He modeled the part of the older comic on Sid Caesar. Caesar died Feb. 12 at age 91.
He envisioned Jerry Russell, founder of Stage West, and father of Texas state senator and governor hopeful Wendy Davis, in the role. Russell read the part in a staged reading Allen directed in March 2013, but he died last September at age 77. “I knew it worked because of his performance,” Allen says. “He had so much to offer.”
Richard Allen is a two-time Emmy-Award winning writer who also serves as professor of Film, Television and Digital Media at TCU.
His plays have been seen on local stages over the past three decades. His most recent work, “The Seduction and Deception of Mozart,” was produced at the University of Texas, Arlington’s Mainstage Theatre in 2012.
Richard’s television credits include Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and As the World Turns.
“Parashah Plays,” Allen’s collection of short comic plays based on the Torah, are performed at synagogues and schools across America.
He is blissfully married to Cantor Sheri Allen of Congregation Beth Shalom, and has three spectacular children: Jeremy, Emily and Rebekah.
Major Jay (Bear) Bernstein personally presented an American flag to Congregation Ahavath Sholom recently.
The flag accompanied Bernstein when he flew over the skies of Afghanistan on a combat sortie aboard an F-16 C+ Block 30 Viper assigned to the 457th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron as part of Operation Enduring Freedom on Mission A4531, Jan. 25, 2014, Aircraft #85-1412.
Major Bernstein and his family are members of Congregation Ahavath Sholom
“At Congregation Ahavath Sholom, our hearts are filled with pride, honor and humility at the gift and presentation of a unique American Flag. This flag is permanently displayed on the synagogue’s Wall of Attributes,” said Michael Linn, CAS executive director.
“We are proud and respectful of all the men and woman that have served in the Armed Forces,” he added.
Kudos to Terri Mann, a registered nurse, who is a frequent volunteer in the Fort Worth office of Vitas hospice.
“I didn’t want to disappear from hospice,” Mann explains.
After almost 14 years as a hospice nurse, she realized in 2007 that a recent bout with breast cancer had left her unable to lift patients. Staying true to her hospice heart, she resigned as a VlTAS nurse and became a VlTAS volunteer in 20 IO.
Terri says her experiences, memories and the impact patients have had on her are as strong now as they were when hospice was her full-time job.
Although sometimes, just for a moment, Volunteer Terri slips into being Nurse Terri, officially her nursing skills do not come into play as a volunteer; volunteers simply spend time with the patient or help the family. She was needed by one family to drive their young daughter to an art class every week. The instructor included Terri in the class and she had a wonderful time — until the daughter decided she’d rather be with her terminally ill mother, and Terri’s volunteer services were no longer needed. “I felt sad,” Terri admits. “I was suddenly cut off from the whole family.”
Later the mother needed someone to talk to, and Terri was reassigned to the family.
Terri has a psychiatric nursing background that pays off in her hospice work, particularly when survivors are angry — a natural part of the grieving process, she says. “I just listen and offer solutions, and it usually ends in hugs.” She shares her hard-earned wisdom by teaching nursing skills one day a week at Weatherford College.
Over the years, when acquaintances worried that hospice was depressing work, Terri would respond, “No. I find it spiritual, but not depressing.” But she prepares herself, she says, just as she does when she climbs stairs to blow off steam or breathes deeply when feeling stress.
There is one more life lesson Terri is working on: don’t sweat the small stuff. It comes from her husband, a Holocaust survivor who is very clear on what is worth worrying about. “His views of what is important aren’t mine,”
Terri admits. “I see how he carries on, prioritizes. He sets a good example: keep it simple; don’t sweat the small stuff.”Tweet]]>
It is always a pleasure to correspond with our readers. Months ago I wrote about a talented 16-year-old, Emily Shlesinger.
I received a recent update on the events that Dallasite Emily Claire Shlesinger has on her agenda.
Emily has been invited to perform at two showcases during South by Southwest in Austin March 15.
One of the two is a very special cause. A representative of Gilda’s house, an organization founded to help people afflicted with cancer, contacted Emily and asked her to write a song based on a terminally ill child’s story. You can find that song “Blue Sea and Paradise” at www.SingMeAStory.org and then click on “Listen to songs.”
By listening to the song and/or donating to their cause, readers help them raise funds and awareness for this very worthy cause. One hundred percent of the funds raised go to the charity.
As a result of this, Emily was invited to perform “Blue Sea and Paradise” along with a 40 minute set of her original songs at a South by Southwest showcase “The Tiniest Rockstars in Texas” which will be spearheading the grand opening of a new cancer treatment center in Austin.
For those of you who have children in Austin at UT or may be visiting, it will take place around noon March 15 outside The Tiniest Bar in Texas.
In addition, Emily was also invited to perform that same day at 3 p.m. at the Music Gorilla SXSW Showcase at Burnside’s Tavern.
She is also scheduled to perform at the I-30 Music Festival at 6 p.m. Friday, March 28, Deep Ellum Arts Festival Sunday, April 6 at 1 p.m., and The Earth Day Festival in Sherman Saturday, April 26.
Reverbnation, a marketing platform for musicians, also selected Emily to be the Artist of the Month on their website in October 2013 for her original song “Me and You” and in February 2014 for her original song “Drowning in your Love” (both can be found on iTunes). She has also received radio play on CBS Radio in St. Louis, Women of Substance Radio, Female Flow, Radio Airplay and Spotify, among others.
In “her spare time,” she will be continuing her high school education and making appearances at local venues such as Lekka on Preston Road, Shady’s Grill in Richardson, Ascension Coffeehouse and Bar in the Design Arts District. In addition, she has performed the national anthem at various venues in the area.
For private bookings contact: Barbara Shipper Shlesinger at 972-841-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To follow Emily, or become a fan, go to: Twitter: @emshles, Instagram: @emilyshlesinger
www.EmilyClaireMusic.com, YouTube: EmilyClaireMusic, www.Reverbnation.com/EmilyClaire.
The Dallas Jewish Historical Society (DJHS), an organization dedicated to preserving the history of the Dallas Jewish community, has named Alexis J. Ferguson as its new archivist.
In her role, Ferguson will organize, catalog and display the extensive array of Dallas Jewish archives dating back to the earliest days of the Jewish community. These paper, artifact, and, in the last several decades, multimedia archives, were donated by families, synagogues/temples and Jewish-based organizations to the DJHS for posterity and education.
“It’s truly an honor having Alexis join the DJHS,” said board president Jim Schwartz. “So far, she has done an excellent job of going against the grain and making her mark in organizing and cataloging our materials, and has worked in assembling our volunteers to assist. As we progress into making our archives more digital and accessible to the public, we embrace her knowledge and passion.”
Alexis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from TCU and a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Her experience includes the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and the Texas Fashion Collection. She has also worked in the private sector as the corporate digital librarian for Financial Network. Ferguson’s skills include administration, archival arrangement, cataloging and digitization.
2014 began with great excitement as The Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary #256 had the pleasure of installing their new President LuAnn Bergman, at their annual Installation of Officers banquet. The installation was held at the Wyndham Hotel Jan. 26, 2014. Bergman served two terms in the past and was asked to resume the role of president again this year. Past President Shirley Crane did the honors of installing new officers at this year’s ceremony. Members and guests enjoyed the dinner and following the installation, were entertained by Doc Gibbs.
In assuming her new role as president, Bergman will continue to support and expand all the great service projects performed by the organization. The group will work collaboratively for initiating new ideas for ways to further help veterans and the community in the future.
JWVA#256 is a credit to our community. Their organization provides a plethora of acts of kindness and good deeds. Word has it that they have fun doing it! If you would like to join in the fun of helping the veterans, their families and the community we would love to have you as a member. Please contact Membership Vice President Lynn Teitlebaum at 972-233-8937.
It is a personal pleasure to me to write about the JWVA#256. I always look forward to seeing what the ladies are doing. Congratulations to LuAnn and the other officers of their board in their new roles in JWVA#256.
What a nice ending to the month of March for singles wanting to meet others at Shaare Tefilla’s regional singles Shabbaton (ages 40-65) while spending a weekend of lively davening, the promise of meeting new friends, and greeting old friends in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Attendees are expected from Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, elsewhere in Texas and nearby states. The fee for the weekend is $175, and the venue looks like fun. Shaare Tefilla is located at 6131 Churchill Way in Dallas.
Festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 28 at the synagogue with a meet and greet, followed by a Kabbalat Shabbat service. Dinner, an “ice breaker” and program will conclude the evening. On Saturday, Shabbat services will begin at 9 a.m. through noon. A Kiddush shared with the congregation will be held and lunch at a congregant’s home. Attendees are free until 5 p.m. At 5:30, there will be a program with refreshments at a congregant’s home. Mincha, Seudat Shlishit, Maariv and Havdallah will take place at Shaare Tefilla, followed by a wine tasting. There will be an informal brunch at the congregant’s home Sunday morning, March 30.
All meals from Friday night dinner through Sunday brunch are included and will be kosher.
There are several options for housing. Sleeping accommodations can be arranged with a Shaare Tefilla member within walking distance of the synagogue. Additional options include The Guest House at the Cooper Aerobics Center, The Holiday Inn Express and Suites Dallas (Galleria Area), is located 1 mile from Shaare Tefilla at Preston and LBJ Freeway. (this hotel is not in the eruv).
For additional information, please contact: Dr. Paul Chafetz at email@example.com. Registration and payment must be received by. Chafetz by March 14. Chafetz states that in order to achieve a good gender and age balance among participants, it is not guaranteed that all participants will be accepted. Registrants will be notified of acceptance of decision by Wednesday, March 19. In the event of non-acceptance a full refund will be made.Tweet]]>
NEW YORK (JTA) — Nostalgia about summer traditions notwithstanding, Jewish camps have changed dramatically from a generation ago.
Camp’s value for Jewish education and identity-building is now a major focus of communal attention. Major Jewish foundations, federations and organizations are investing heavily in the sector.
Many camps have become more intentional about incorporating Jewish learning, Shabbat and Israel into their programming. They’ve also evolved to meet families’ changing expectations and demands: offering a wider range of choices of all kinds (from food, to activity, to session length); providing more frequent updates and communications to parents; accommodating numerous medical requirements and allergies; and placing greater emphasis on safety and security.
At the same time, the Jewish camping field is becoming more professionalized. The job of camp director has been shifting from a seasonal gig to year-round career, and counselors are receiving more intensive training.
With all this change in the Jewish camp world, here are 10 specific trends we have noticed:
Once upon a time, summer camp meant the entire summer, with the majority of campers attending for seven, eight or even 10 weeks. Now it is the rare child or teen who spends the full summer at camp (or at one camp), and most programs offer multiple sessions, ranging in length from just six days to seven weeks. “Our three-week session has always sold out more quickly than the four-week, and our new two-week session has been a quick hit as well,” said Vivian Stadlin, co-director of Eden Village Camp in Putnam Valley, N.Y.
Whether a child’s passion is sports, the environment, outdoor adventure or science and technology, there’s a Jewish camp for that. An incubator under the auspices of the Foundation for Jewish Camp spurred the creation of five specialty camps in 2010 (including Eden Village, which is focused on the environment) and another four that will open this summer. The idea is to attract kids who might not otherwise consider a Jewish camp and to show them they can combine their passion with Judaism. Increasingly, established general-interest Jewish camps are adding specialty tracks and electives. For example, the New Jersey Y camps offer a science program and various sports programs, while Ramah in the Poconos has run basketball clinics and a tennis academy.
Serving healthy, locally sourced food is a part of the mission of some specialty camps like the new health-and-wellness-focused Camp Zeke and was a component of Ramah Outdoor Adventure from its beginnings in 2010. In addition, many established Jewish camps have been redoing their menus to make them more nutritious and environmentally friendly: adding salad bars, replacing “bug juice” with water, offering more vegetarian fare and even planting their own organic vegetable gardens.
The Foundation for Jewish Camp recently introduced a new program called BunkConnect that enables first-time campers from middle- and lower-income families to search for a variety of discounted Jewish summer camp options. While BunkConnect is currently only available in the Northeast, New England and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, the foundation hopes to expand it in future years. In addition, most Jewish overnight camps offer financial aid. The One Happy Camper Program, initiated in 2006, offers grants for all first-time campers regardless of need. So far 50,000 children have received One Happy Camper grants.
While rural settings and rustic accommodations are still the norm, two specialty camps — the Union for Reform Judaism’s Six Points Sports Academy and Six Points Science & Technology — are located on boarding school campuses, and another, the 92nd Street Y’s Passport NYC, is in the middle of Manhattan. Passport NYC, in which participants choose among tracks in culinary arts, film, fashion, musical theater and music industry, and live in air-conditioned dorms, and Six Points Science blur the boundary between “camp” and “summer program,” while programs like USY on Wheels and Adamah Adventures, which operate under the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s umbrella, blur the boundary between “camp” and “teen travel.”
While the Conservative movement’s Camp Ramah has long operated both day and overnight camps, Jewish day camps generally haven’t interacted much with overnight camps, nor have they received the same level of attention from Jewish communal leaders or philanthropists as their sleep-away counterparts. That is changing as this year, for the first time, leaders of Jewish day camps are being included in the bi-annual Leaders Assembly of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. The foundation is finalizing plans with UJA-Federation of New York to establish an incubator developing six specialty day camps in the region. In addition, the Union for Reform Judaism is opening its first day camp this summer. Meanwhile, the philanthropic group Areivim is funding Hebrew-immersion day camps throughout the United States.
An estimated 13 percent of children have some sort of disability, but only 2 percent of Jewish campers do, according to research conducted last year by the Foundation for Jewish Camp. The Jewish camping world is looking to make the camping experience accessible to more children with disabilities, including them at regular camps wherever possible, rather than segregating them at separate facilities. The foundation is currently working to raise $31 million for a multipronged effort to serve more such children by offering relevant staff training, revamping physical facilities to make them accessible, and creating vocational education and life-skills training programs at multiple camps.
Growing numbers of camps are offering educational programming during the school year through partnerships with institutions like synagogues and day schools. Such partnerships often involve sharing staff members, under the auspices of new programs like Ramah Service Corps and the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Nadiv initiative. In addition, camps within easy commuting distance of major metropolitan areas and ones in temperate regions or with winterized facilities are increasingly hosting a range of family/community programs in the off seasons: Eden Village, just 50 miles north of Manhattan, runs a home-school program and weekend family/community programs throughout the year, while nearby Surprise Lake Camp, in Cold Spring, N.Y. even runs High Holiday services and Passover seders. Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia runs a weeklong Passover retreat.
Family camps have been around for decades, but now virtually every Jewish overnight camp offers at least one family-camp session, usually a three-day weekend, each year. A number of camps “got into the business just trying to use the facility more, but it wound up being a great recruiting tool,” said Foundation for Jewish Camp CEO Jeremy Fingerman. Several camps also host sessions specifically for families of children with disabilities. While traditionally marketed to camp-age kids and their parents, Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, national director of the Conservative movement’s Camp Ramah network, said several Ramah camps are considering adding sessions for Ramah alumni with younger children. “It’s a relatively inexpensive family vacation,” he noted.
In response to last year’s much-discussed Pew Research Center survey of American Jews, a wide range of Jewish communal leaders have offered their prescriptions for engaging more youth. While these leaders may differ on many issues, almost all have cited Jewish summer camp as something that “works” and is a worthy investment. Jewish camps are already popular with funders, but all the pro-camp buzz will likely generate even more dollars for the field.
NEW YORK (JTA) — In the late 1960s, when husband-and-wife team Barbara and Herb Greenberg first decided to create a Jewish overnight summer camp program for developmentally disabled children, it was hard to find a camp willing to host it.
Camp directors thought such a program would make other campers and staff uncomfortable, and that parents of non-disabled children would see the presence of disabled children as a potential danger.
But in 1970, the director of the Conservative movement’s Camp Ramah of New England agreed to try it, and the Tikvah program was born. Now Tikvah serves 250 children in nine Ramah camps throughout North America and offers family-camp and vocational-training programs.
While Ramah was a pioneer in the field of inclusion — serving disabled children at regular camps rather than segregating them at separate facilities — today more than 50 Jewish overnight camps, including all Ramah and Union for Reform Judaism camps, accommodate some children with disabilities, mostly serving kids with cognitive impairments and autism.
A Foundation for Jewish Camp study last year found that approximately 2,500 children with disabilities attend Jewish overnight camps.
The foundation recently hired a full-time professional, Lisa Tobin, to focus on special needs and is hoping to increase significantly the numbers of children with disabilities served over the next decade. While the 2013 survey found more campers with disabilities attending camp than the foundation had anticipated, the disabled population — an estimated 15 percent of children — is still considerably underrepresented among the 75,000 North American children attending Jewish overnight camp each summer.
The study also found that 93 percent of parents of special-needs campers were satisfied or extremely satisfied with their child’s Jewish camp experience, but that most camps do a poor job of marketing and publicizing their programs for children with disabilities.
“Even if you say that a nice proportion of the camps are offering opportunities for kids with disabilities, it’s a handful of kids each session,” said Abby Knopp, vice president of program and strategy at the Foundation for Jewish Camp. “People’s hearts are in the right places, but we’re not doing enough as a field. We know from parents that there are not enough opportunities.”
The foundation is working to raise $31 million to implement a multipronged initiative focusing on staffing and training; making more facilities physically accessible and supporting the development of more camp-based vocational education and life-skills training programs for young adults with disabilities, such as one offered at several Ramah camps.
Knopp said the foundation would like to double the number of children with disabilities attending Jewish camps over the next five years and ultimately have children with disabilities make up 10 percent of the total campers.
To reach that goal, the foundation plans to provide grants enabling more camps to hire senior professionals with expertise in special needs, while also helping them train their entire staffs in best practices in working with children with disabilities.
“Some models are, you have one expert at the camp who deals with all issues related to disabilities, and that’s not a good situation,” Knopp said. “The whole staff needs to be well trained.”
The foundation also wants to provide funding for accessibility-related capital improvements and equipment at 15 camps and to create 10 new camp-based vocational training/life-skills programs.
“What we’re hearing from camps and families is that children are aging out of the programs that do exist, and the big question on the minds of a lot of camps is what to do now for them,” Knopp said. “Other teens are moving on to leadership training and Israel trips, and there are no opportunities for their peers with disabilities.”
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, director of the National Ramah Commission, whose Tikvah program has vocational training programs at several camps, said participants perform a variety of camp jobs depending on their abilities, ranging from setting tables in the dining hall to helping in the office to assisting in baby-sitting programs for the children of camp staff.
At the Ramah camps in California and Wisconsin, participants are placed in jobs in nearby towns, giving them training and experience that will help them find year-round jobs.
“It’s extraordinary to watch them interact with their employers,” Cohen said. “They’re thrilled to do jobs other people see as drudge work but that make them feel productive.”
When asked about the Foundation for Jewish Camp initiative, Cohen said, “It’s fantastic that the foundation has dived into this area.”
For many children with disabilities, camp is one of the few places where they are able to receive a Jewish education and feel part of the Jewish community, he said.
Tikvah parents, he said, frequently tell him, “I sent my child to your camp so they’d have fun and make friends. I didn’t realize you’d be nurturing his soul and sending him back as a committed Jew.”
But the children with disabilities and their families are not the only beneficiaries of inclusion programs, he said.
“It has a sensitizing effect on people and makes an important statement about the community you serve,” Cohen said, noting that tutoring a Tikvah girl for her bat mitzvah inspired his daughter to pursue a career in special education.
“Once you’ve run a program like this, you realize you don’t have an alternative,” he said. “You must. It’s just a responsibility.”
ADVERTISEMENT: Visit OneHappyCamper.org to find a Jewish camp and see if your child qualifies for a $1,000 grant.
NEW YORK (JTA) — At most Union for Reform Judaism overnight camps and youth programs, girls account for at least half, if not more, of the campers.
Outside the Orthodox community, Jewish institutions often struggle to attract and retain boys.
But finding boys is not a problem for URJ’s Six Points Sci-Tech Academy, one of four new Jewish specialty camps opening this summer. (The others are a business and entrepreneurial camp, a nutrition and fitness camp, and a sports camp.) The biggest challenge facing the camp in Byfield, Mass., is recruiting girls: Of the 70 campers registered so far, fewer than 20 are female.
“One of the things I’ve been shouting from the rooftops is that this is a program for girls, too,” said Greg Kellner, Sci-Tech’s director.
At Sci-Tech, located on the campus of the Governor’s Academy boarding school, participants choose from four tracks: robotics and engineering, video game design, environmental science and digital media production. The camp is open to children entering fifth through ninth grades.
It is believed to be the first Jewish summer camp focusing on science, so children “don’t have to choose between science and a Jewish program,” Kellner said.
“My passion lies in making sure that when the children are at camp that they can learn that science and Judaism are not exclusive of one another,” he said. “You hear a lot of people say, ‘I’m a scientist, so I don’t believe in God.’ But you can have both. Judaism can inform our decisions as discoverers and explorers. We can use robotics in a discussion about repairing the world because robotics is being used a lot in medicine and in creating prostheses.”
Despite the science focus and the academic setting — the children live in dorms rather than cabins — Kellner says Sci-Tech is more camp than summer school.
“When the children get up in the morning, they’re going to have morning singing,” he said. “There will be traditions in the dining hall, athletic programs, evening programs, campfires, special days and trips. It will have a camp feel, and certainly we’ll celebrate Shabbat with dinner, song and dancing.
Kellner, who served as assistant director of URJ Camp Eisner and senior assistant director of URJ Crane Lake Camp, both in Massachusetts, emphasizes that Sci-Tech is not just for science whizzes and that beginners are welcome.
“We want to encourage children to explore,” he said.
ADVERTISEMENT: Visit OneHappyCamper.org to find a Jewish camp and see if your child qualifies for a $1,000 grant.Tweet]]>
We all hope to make a difference in the world and we wonder about what we can do to make the world a better place. Judaism calls that tikkun olam — fixing the world. It is our obligation to do our part.
The challenge of tikkun olam is our fear of acting. Too often, we stand back and think that someone else will do the task. However, if everyone thinks another will act, the world will not get better. The time is NOW for everyone to act.
We begin by learning — explore needs in your community. Find something that you can do or contribute to. Giving time is the best, but often giving money is important as well. Save your change — it can change the world!
“Everything is foreseen, yet the freedom of choice is given. The world is judged with goodness, and everything depends on the abundance of good deeds.”
— Pirke Avot 3:19
Ometz lev actually translates as “strength of heart.” These are emotional, internal qualities. Courage is having the inner strength to take charge. Courage offers us the strength needed to face difficulty, danger, pain and fear. The story of Purim is about Esther having to do the brave thing even though she was afraid. Mordechai tells her that she was put in this place at this time to do the important and scary task of standing up to the king and Haman.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.Tweet]]>
I want to share with you some experiences from a most unlikely, almost counterintuitive weekend which was recently celebrated in Dallas. Imagine a Chasidic rebbe from Israel, who doesn’t speak English, accompanied by an entourage of Chasidim wearing long, shiny coats and high fur hats, who mostly speak only Hebrew and Yiddish, descending upon the Dallas for four days to uplift the community. Would you think they could have even the slightest impact? Guess again!
From Feb. 20-23, Rabbi Chaim Shaul Taub of Bnei Brak, known as the Rebbe of Modzitz, led a large entourage of loyal followers to Dallas. He is the scion of a long line of Rebbes of Modzitz, a Chassidic sect originally from Poland. This sect has always been renowned for their musical acumen and the many famous melodies composed by their Rebbes throughout the ages, many of which form the staple of our prayer services and Shabbos songs (without most realizing the source of those melodies). This entourage was joined by distinguished American Torah leaders, dignitaries and lay figures, all who added to this historic visit.
The mastermind and most unlikely host of this most unlikely trip was R’ Zvi Ryzman of Los Angeles, a business leader, renowned philanthropist and Torah scholar of note and author of numerous works on Talmudic thought and Jewish philosophy. For reasons many could not fathom, R’ Zvi decided a couple of years ago that a visit by this Rebbe to Dallas would uplift the community, and, if we would be willing to host it, he would take care of the rest. He has been pushing me all this time, despite the pushback of many sceptics, to host this visit. Finally the sceptics relented and what seemed illogical came to be, led by R’ Zvi himself with his wife and family. (At one point R’ Zvi exclaimed to me, “Rabbi Fried, tell everyone to stop worrying so much! I’m telling you it’s going to be good!)
What came to be was something never to be forgotten by the many hundreds of Dallasites who were positively affected and uplifted by this visit. The visit began with R’ Ryzman delivering a fiery Talmudic discourse at a local home, kindling a new movement of Talmudic study which will pull together many different communities. Friday morning, we brought the group to Yavneh Academy, where, after the Rebbe and R’ Weinreb spoke, the entire school broke into singing and dancing with the Chasidim! After addressing the older students at Akiba, the group visited Torah Day School of Dallas, greeted by the entire school who were outside awaiting the Rebbe’s arrival, the younger children holding welcome posters. After singing and dancing in honor of the Rebbe and the Torah he represents, he addressed them all standing outside the building. After further addresses inside, all the students received a gift from Modzitz, as did the students of Yavneh, a Modzitz Megilla of Esther for Purim printed in honor of this visit. Sunday morning, the Rebbe visited Texas Torah Institute and addressed the students on the importance of Jewish unity. The teachers and administrators of the schools later noted the positive impact of this visit upon their respective student bodies. (The entire visit with the Rebbe was a test of my instant replay translating skills!)
What happened in between was sublime: an uplifting Shabbos of inspirational words of Torah by the Rebbe and other members of the entourage, new friendships and connections, singing and dancing, and more singing and dancing! The theme of the Shabbos at Ohr Hatorah, and the entire visit, was “Meshi’nichna Adar Marbim B’Simcha,” or “When the month of Adar arrives, we increase our joy” in anticipation of the holiday of Purim, a most joyous holiday of celebration. The event was crowned by a gala melava malka celebration hosted at Shaare Tefilla by R’ Ryzman with singing, words of Torah and graced by a surprise video address by former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Y. M. Lau. Members of every Dallas orthodox shul participated in an unprecedented show of Jewish unity — the rabbis of many shuls gracing the dais.
Most impressive of all was who was most moved by the entire weekend: the members of the entourage themselves! I’ve been privy to many notes and letters shared among themselves and to me, how they’ve been driven to tears of joy to celebrate with so many whom have recently returned to their Jewish roots. One Chasid writes of him joining the others in singing at the DATA “learner’s minyan” led by Rabbi Epstein that he later related to the Rebbe how the occasion had driven him to tears. He wrote that the Rebbe said to him, “It seems that this occasion has been as emotional for you as the time we visited the gravesite of the children in a forest in Poland.” The Chasid answered him, “There my tears were from feelings of sadness and destruction. Here, my tears are the tears of joy from growth and building.”
We all saw how Torah, joy and song can transcend language and political barriers. This was a weekend of Jewish unity not to be forgotten for many years to come!
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tweet]]>
On March 12, Daytimers will have Dina Malki speak about facts, myths, misconceptions, interpretations and the changing status of women in the Muslim world. The program begins at noon in the Great Hall at Congregation Beth-El.
One of the major sources of criticism against Islam is the status of women in Islamic tradition. Muslim women have been historically portrayed in the West through an array of representations, from “termagant” to “odalisque.” In today’s world Muslim, women have been looked at as oppressed and submitting to men.
Malki, a graduate student in Religious Studies pursuing a Masters in Islamic Studies and Christian Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, lives in Arlington where she has participated in interfaith dialog for over a decade. She also writes for the Examiner, an online publication, where she covers Islam in Dallas and the Metroplex to give a realistic representation of her faith community.
Malki is not apologetic; she will point out every issue that is related to the oppression of women in the Muslim culture, but she will also explain how Islam, and the Qur’an, were both meant to liberate women. An important element in studying religious scripture is the cultural and historic context. This presentation will build on the significance of the relationship between religion and society or culture.
Lunch ($9) includes chips, cookie coffee and tea and will be catered by Pak a Pocket. Choose from chicken shawarma, turkey pastrami or babaganous.
The program only is $5.
For Reservations call Larry Steckler, 817-927-2736 or Hugh Lamensdorf, 817-738-1428 with your credit card. Please include your ZIP code and security code.
On Wednesday Feb.12, a group of Sylvia Wolens Daytimers of Congregation Beth-El rode the TRE from Fort Worth to Dallas to visit the Reunion Tower. While on the train, they lunched on brown-bag meals, then once off the train, strolled through the underground tunnel from Union Station to the base of the Tower and took the elevator to the top.
Interactive video screens allowed everyone to explore Dallas from above. You can identify and zoom in on all the significant attractions throughout the city. Larry Steckler reports, “While there the Dallas Fire Department decided that it was a great time for a fire drill and we were quickly escorted out of the tower to the street below. It was a drill and we were free to return, but the warm sun was inviting and instead we wandered back to Union Station for our return trip.”
I think I was about 15, when I saw “Gentleman’s Agreement” for the first time. I was not only struck by Gregory Peck’s good looks, but by the subject matter. It was amazing to me that right after World War II and the Holocaust, Hollywood was willing to take on the subject.
If you haven’t seen the film or it’s been a long time, or you are just looking for something to do at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, March 9, I encourage you to attend the free screening at Ahavath Sholom. “Gentleman’s Agreement” is the fifth film in CAS’ 2014 Showtimes Film Series.
It is a drama about a journalist (played by Peck) who goes undercover as a Jew to conduct research for an exposé of anti-Semitism. The film was nominated for eight Oscars and won three: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm), and Best Director (Elia Kazan). The movie, based on Laura Z. Hobson’s 1947 novel of the same name, was controversial in its time. The film is 118 minutes; it will live on and continue to teach us life lessons forever.
The showing of “Gentleman’s Agreement” is co-sponsored by Ha Shomer and the North Texas/Oklahoma Regional Office of Anti Defamation League. ADL Community Director Roberta Clark will lead the discussion after the film.
As a special treat, Ha Shomer will provide ice cream and syrup to all who attend. Special thanks to Posy McMillen and her Ha Shomer team for all their help and support throughout the year.
All of the Showtimes Film Series films are free, so are the popcorn and cold drinks.
The 2013/14 Showtime Committee has done a great job planning and putting on the films. They hope everyone will enjoy the selections and look forward to seeing you at the film showings. Thanks committee members Liz Chesser, Elizabeth Cohen, Kate Cohen, Foster Owen, Dr. Jane Pawgan, Debby Rice, Reggie Rog, Jayna Sosland, Jim Stansbury and Riki Zide.
Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s 2014 Showtimes Film Series is funded by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, and their help is appreciated.
For more information call Congregation Ahavath Sholom at 817-731-4721.
See you at the movies.Tweet]]>
From Feb. 9-10, the Dallas Chapter of Hadassah hosted four separate events, which featured Hadassah’s National Chair for Youth Aliyah Benita Ross. Members, associates and guests learned more about Hadassah’s youth villages and the benefits of members’ support.
The series was part of a four-city tour in the Greater Southwest Region of Hadassah. Ross shared stories and provided insight to the impact of youth aliyah.
Hadassah supports three youth aliyah villages in Israel. Since its creation in 1934, more than 300,000 individuals have been served.
Hadassah’s youth aliyah program provides shelter, nurturing and first-rate education to immigrant and at-risk Israeli youth from poor or dysfunctional homes. These adolescents and teens cannot live at home for various reasons — family violence, poverty, immigration hardships, sick parents, etc.
They are referred to Hadassah by Israeli social workers and teachers. Others are referred because they are orphans or because their parents could not easily integrate into Israeli society, and thus were unable to help their children become part of their Israeli peer group.
In addition to the full support and nurturing of the students at the villages, each year 100-plus students are selected to go on the Poland Heritage Mission. Scholarships subsidize youth aliyah’s annual mission to Poland, where the students visit the Warsaw ghetto and the Auschwitz/ Birkenau concentration camps to understand the Holocaust and its place in their Jewish heritage.
From March 30-April 3, a mission to Poland is being offered through Hadassah. Members and associates can meet students and intersect with the Youth Aliyah Poland Heritage Mission. Ross will lead the group on this inaugural mission.
Hadassah expressed its gratitude to its Chair Susie Avnery for coordinating all the events in Dallas; hosts, Robbe and Robert Epstein, Maura Schreier-Fleming, The Legacy at Willow Bend and Congregation Beth Torah; and committee members Amy Applebaum, Susan Blum Barnett, Carol Ann Bracken, Lilli Cirillo, Sheila Cooper, Janet Coppinger, Shirley Frankl, Rebecca Gerbert, Lisa Harris, Hanna Hochster, Marcia Kaufman, Sharon Kuhr, Rachel Leventon, Carol Rawitscher, Jo Reingold, Debby Rice, Linda Steinberg, Pamela Wainer and Sue Warren.
Contributions to Hadassah Medical Organization and/or to support its youth aliyah villages can be made at www.hadassah.org/dallas or you can call 214-691-1948 or email email@example.com to arrange a meeting with one of our representatives. A gift made to youth aliyah will make a profound impact on these children’s lives.
Good wishes to Idarene Glick who will celebrate her 90th birthday with a celebration from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, March 1 at the Hyatt Residence on La Sierra. The almost nonagenarian was born Idarene Haas March 4, 1924, in Marlow, Okla. to parents Elece Zeve Haas of Nacogdoches and Emanuel Philip Haas of Weatherford.
Mrs. Glick lived in Marlow until 1943, when she moved to Dallas and lived with her aunt, Celine Haas Levy Glaser. In Dallas, she met and married Louis Glick July 4, 1944. Idarene and Lou had two daughters, Olga Strauss of Tucson, Ariz. and Carol Hirsh of Dallas, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Guests are expected from Austin, Denver, Atlanta, Kansas and Oklahoma for a full weekend of celebrations.
Donna Bender, president and chief executive officer of The Donna Bender Company, was awarded the 2014 Women’s Business Enterprise of the year for businesses under $5 million.
The Women’s Business Enterprise of the Year Award recognizes a woman-owned business in each category (under $5 million and more than $5 million) that exemplifies outstanding performance in service, delivery or added value to their clients.
As an active member and advocate of The Women’s Business Council Southwest for five years, Bender stated that she is honored to be given this award for something that she loves and has the passion to do every day.
Businesses owned by women represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the business environment, not just locally, but nationally and internationally as well. The Women’s Business Council — Southwest offers certification, procurement, networking and educational programs that help Women’s Business Enterprises grow. The programs are offered throughout a four-state region, which includes Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Using her creativity and visionary skills, Bender brings 30 years of executive experience in marketing to her position. Her branded marketing and promotional strategy consulting company builds companies into brands. Bender provides a holistic approach to marketing and helps companies create an emotional connection with their clients.
Bender was active in Shalom Bayit and is involved in many other facets of the Jewish Community. For more information about The Donna Bender Company, visit http://www.donnaco.com.Tweet]]>
On March 2, we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet and that means Purim is almost here — I hope you bought your costumes the day after Halloween! All too often, we feel that the holidays sneak up on us and we don’t take the time to get ready. The synagogues are already organizing so we should be as well. As we prepare, there are a number of things to do — and keep reading the next few weeks to learn more. Purim is more than costumes, noise and drinking!
1. Begin your Mishloach Manot preparations. The gift of food is an important mitzvah on Purim and we are obligated to send at least one gift of food to another person. This gift, usually called Shalach Manot, must consist of at least two types of food that are ready to be eaten, i.e., that require no cooking. This is definitely a family event for planning, preparing and delivering. We are also obligated to give gifts of money to at least two poor people — Matanot L’evyonim. This is a good time to make a family donation.
2. It is also time to get out your Megillah and read the story. As our children grow, we adapt the story to their understanding, but first we must understand the story ourselves. The Book of Esther is definitely a book for grown-ups so don’t miss out on the intrigue and s-e-x. There are many commentaries, so GOOGLE!
3. For older children and teens, issues of Jewish identity and anti-Semitism are both themes in the Megillah, making Purim a good time to talk about these issues. Here are some questions taken from The One Hour Purim Primer by Shimon Apisdorf that are good discussion starters:
After you do the preparation for Purim, go to your synagogue and celebrate — it is a great holiday filled with fun, food and friends!
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady,
Laura Seymour, is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas.Tweet]]>
In front of a capacity crowd, Feb. 22, the Yavneh Bulldogs pulled away late to defeat Frisco Legacy Christian Academy 56-39. In doing so, the team moved to 32-4 for the season, extending their winning streak to 16.
Senior big men Itai Guttman and Adam Schor anchored the victory. Guttman recorded his 200th career block, while Schor added a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with three rejections. Schor attributes his success to Coach David Zimmerman and a shift in his role on the team.
“Last year, I was more of a role player,” Schor said. “This year, I’ve become a force. Zimm (Zimmerman) always tells me to go up strong, and I feel like I’ve gotten better at that. With defense, I’ve learned the fundamentals much better.”
Zimmerman, 34, has coached at the college and semi-pro level, but said his head coaching position at Yavneh was a dream come true.
“This was a dream job because one of the reasons that I was always tied in with the Jewish basketball world was that I really got tired of hearing the stereotypes,” Zimmerman said. “I got tired of hearing that Jews can’t play sports and aren’t athletic. I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Jewish or Christian. We all put our pants on the same way. I always wanted to go out and show that if you had a kid that was Jewish and wanted to succeed in the world of athletics, it was possible.”
Just as the players were starting to show those signs, the team’s strength took a massive blow on Jan. 7, when senior guard Adam Karnett broke his finger against Celina. The team went on to win, but lost Karnett for the season. However, Karnett said the team’s chemistry and mentality got them through the pain and on to their deep playoff run.
“The team picked up right where I left off, as if I never even was gone,” said Karnett, who hopes to be back for the highly coveted Red Sarachek Tournament at the end of March. “We’re a team, and don’t revolve around one player. We didn’t miss a beat.”
The guard’s backcourt teammate, Sam Kleinman, said Karnett has always been the “heart and soul” of the team. Assuming more responsibility, Kleinman stepped up his play and led the Bulldogs to a perfect 10-0 District season. He capped it off in the District final against Brook Hill, when he hit a game-winning floater with four seconds left to win by one point. Against Frisco legacy, he found the seams and threaded 13 assists, tying his career high. Despite the heroics, he says that the team’s success is due to Zimmerman’s coaching philosophy.
“I’ve been telling people all two years that with Zimm, the whole style is different,” said Kleinman, a senior and team captain. “It’s more of a team game, and the goal is to get everyone touching the ball before we score. We are deep and he plays almost everybody on the bench every game. It makes a big difference.”
Zimmerman, who started coaching basketball at age 14, said that his coaching style took awhile to implement because of old habits.
“When I got here, there was an interesting mentality that you could see in tryouts and practices,” said Zimmerman, who has also coached Maccabi basketball teams since he was 18, the youngest coach in the tournament’s history. “Kids weren’t comfortable doing a lot of things, and really acted as though they were more of facilitators. They were used to facilitating to the next big superstar, and it took a really good amount of time the first couple of months to begin to change that mentality and have kids be less robotic and have the faith and confidence to do more in this different type of philosophy and system.”
His system helped vault the team into a quarterfinals showdown with defending state champion Lubbock Christian Tuesday, Feb. 25. At press time, the TJP learned that Yavneh lost that game, 59-54. A team filled with seniors, the Yavneh players want to leave their mark on the program sans regrets.
“We [seniors] really just want to leave everything on the court, and play every game like it’s our last,” said senior Adam Steinbrecher. “We don’t have a lot of games left and we see our high school careers coming to a close, so we’re just giving it all we have every game.”
Zimmerman said he gets as much from the players as they get from him. More than wins or losses, he believes his job is about impacting and improving the lives of his student athletes.
“Some coaches want a clear separation between themselves and the players,” Zimmerman said. “I want the players to respect the coaches as adults and teachers, but at the same time, I want players to know that my door is open and they can talk to me about what’s going on in their life.”Tweet]]>