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Adoption attorney helps build families

Adoption attorney helps build families

Posted on 15 November 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Amber Shemesh
Family attorney Amber Shemesh Waks and her daughter and husband David know and live the importance of family, their dream to expand their own — including through adoption.

By Deb Silverthorn

Moses was adopted and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah, and Queen Esther was raised and adopted by her cousin Mordechai. Dallas native and family attorney Amber Shemesh Waks wants the community to know that November is National Adoption Month, and that any day, every day, is the day to bring children to couples — to create families.
For the 442,995 minors in domestic foster care as of September 2017, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, they hope every day is their day.
“Many people think adoption is cost-prohibitive, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Shemesh Waks, who has handled more than 150 cases. “There are many children available, of all ages, and it’s possible for the process to cost in the low thousands, much less than the cost of one or many attempts at IVF (in vitro fertilization), something that couples try over and over. The cost there is not just economic, but physical and emotional as well.
“Looking into the eyes of the children I meet, they are meant to be someone’s children,” Shemesh Waks said.
There are many avenues to adoption, including stepparent adoptions, children who are in foster care and international adoptions. There are open adoptions; semi-open, in which adoptive families direct the relationship; and closed adoptions, with ties severed once the adoption is complete.
For Norma, adopting her son, Martin, was “the best gift God ever gave me. We got the call, and when we picked him up, he was 16 days old. I’m telling you, from the moment I looked into his eyes, he was the most beautiful thing ever and he was my son, and I’ve never felt different for a moment. I’m secure in his love.”
The process to adopt wasn’t two days — but closer to nine or 10 months, with caseworkers following the prospective parents readying for an impending arrival. Norma said that “adopting my son was the most wonderful thing I’ve done. I wanted to be a mom and he fulfilled absolutely everything in me.”
Said Martin, now an adult: “My parents always loved me, and they raised me well. I never felt ‘rescued,’ only loved and cared about, and while it’s not a ‘dramatic’ story, I’m thankful they were open to adoption.”
While there are newborns needing to be placed, there are many older children in need of homes, guidance and care. They all need families. For those who adopt older children, the state provides support in the areas of emotional counseling, health and education expenses.
“In most cases, the child will live with the adoptive family on a trial basis for six months, with a temporary conservatorship awarded,” said Shemesh Waks, who opened her own practice, Law Offices of Amber Shemesh, PC, earlier this year. She specializes in family law, with 15 to 20 percent of her practice adoption-related. “During that time, background checks are completed and the legal signatures and notices to all parties are made and finalized.”
For Jewish couples adopting, the process requires the extra, albeit not intricate, step of conversion.
“The majority of children adopted are not Jewish and therefore require conversion which, according to halacha, means a bris must take place for a boy and, for a boy or girl, immersion in a mikvah is required under the supervision of a beit din (a group of three rabbinic authorities),” said Rabbi Howard Wolk, the community chaplain at Jewish Family Service, who has assisted in many adoptions and who is available for counseling. “The Talmud states that it is a big mitzvah to adopt a child and that adoptive parents are considered like the child’s real parents, assuming responsibilities for providing necessities to the child, including a Jewish education.”
Shemesh Waks, the daughter of Dollie Smith and Sonny Shemesh and the sister of Colby, Gali, Liat, Nathan and Nevin, was raised at Congregation Shearith Israel. She attended Akiba Academy and graduated from Berkner High School, the University of Texas and St. Thomas University School of Law. She is married to David Waks and the mother of 8-month-old Jordan. The family are now members of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.
“Family is everything to David and me, and there is definitely a place in our family to welcome a child through adoption,” Shemesh Waks said. “He is a firefighter and EMT-paramedic who sees the conditions and situations some children are in. Every day, I’m in contact with many needing homes. We hope to grow our family — once Jordan is sleeping through the night, that is — and to open our hearts, and home, to a child waiting.
“Both the children and prospective parents have so much love to give, and receive, and being a part of the process is incredibly fulfilling,” said Shemesh Waks, who provides free consultations, “I hope we can find some kids a forever home, and prospective parents the children they were meant to love.”
To reach Rabbi Howard Wolk for counseling, call 972-437-9950 or email rabbiwolk@jfsdallas.org.

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Family mourns lifelong friends killed in Pittsburgh

Family mourns lifelong friends killed in Pittsburgh

Posted on 14 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Cheryl Weitz
“We had so many connections and years of love and being a community of a family, that watching from here was impossible,” said Cheryl Weitz, whose family has been connected to that of Tree of Life Congregation shooting victims Cecil and David Rosenthal for three generations. This photo of Cecil and David stood at Temple Rodef Shalom, site of their funerals.

By Deb Silverthorn

If home is where the heart is, then since Oct. 27, the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh has become home to most of the world. For Cheryl Weitz; her mother, Florence Kramer; and her brother, Jeffrey Kramer, going home was true, heartbreaking and heart-filling all at once. A 48-hour blink, to hold close to memories, and people of their past, will never be forgotten.
While the world awaited news of the safety of those inside Tree of Life Congregation, so did the families. Texting with lifelong friend Diane Hirt, one of two sisters of Cecil and David Rosenthal, Pittsburgh native Cheryl held her breath, hoping for good news. “Thinking of you my dear, dear old friend, thinking of you and your family, I love you,” she wrote.
Back from Diane, “Love you too — I am so sick.” Moments later Diane replied that they’d heard both of her brothers had been shot and died immediately. Then came the wait for the FBI to complete their investigation, for her brothers’ bodies, and the other nine, to be released.
And then they were. And then the next long days ensued.
“When I spoke to my mom, she said, ‘We’re going home,’” Weitz said. “We had so many connections and years of love and being a community of a family, that watching from here was impossible.”
Weitz and Florence Kramer flew out on Oct. 29, meeting New York resident Jeffrey and staying with Florence’s brother and sister-in-law, Louis and Sandy Kushner, and their son, Jason, and his family. They are all members of Tree of Life, safe that day except for broken hearts. That night, they went to the home of Michele Rosenthal, Cecil and David Rosenthal’s younger sister, consoling the family and themselves with memories and good thoughts — the only kind possible.
While they were at the house, the Squirrel Hill Fire Department arrived, the chief and three firemen in formal dress. They were there to let the family know that Cecil and David would always be part of their team, and to deliver two badges, uniform hats and siddurim.
On Oct. 30, the family arrived early to Temple Rodef Shalom, site of the funeral, where there were already lines of mourners — 2,000-plus by the time services began.
Diane and her husband, Michael, both provided eulogies, with Tree of Life Emeritus Rabbi Alvin Berkun; his son, Rabbi Jonathan Berkun, now of Aventura, Florida; and Tree of Life Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers also participating in the service. At the end of services, it was announced that donations in Cecil’s and David’s names would be appreciated to Tree of Life Congregation, “which was their home, and to ACHIEVA, the group home where they slept,” said the rabbi.
The Kramer family — Florence and the late Larry, with children Cheryl and Jeffrey — lived just doors away from the Rosenthals — Joy and Elie, with children Cecil, David, Diane and Michele. Florence’s parents, Mildred and Morris Kushner, and Joy’s parents, Becky and Herman Fineberg, also had been best friends.
“We spent lots of time at each other’s home, and even when we were young, we knew to take care of Cecil and David,” said Weitz, who moved to Dallas with her family when she was 12. “My mom was a special ed teacher, and she was great with them and they loved being with her. I learned a lot, even when I was young, about how every person should be treated, and those are lessons I still live today and they helped teach me that.”
Memories flood for Weitz, just one of many in Dallas’ Jewish community with direct ties to Squirrel Hill. The grandparents had left the cold for warmer winters, buying condos next door to each other in their retirement. She recalls her parents putting her and her brother on a plane and the Rosenthal parents doing the same with their children, the six traveling to Florida each winter break, vacations extending in the summer through Cheryl’s college years.
“We’d go to the pool and the boys would wait for us on the balcony. Cecil’s and David’s grandfather had a special relationship with them, and they’d spend time with him,” said Weitz. “We’d go to dinner and we’d all laugh because ‘dinner’ meant getting ready at 3:30 to make the earlybird specials.”
Weitz said Cecil was the friendliest person ever. Once he met you, forever after he’d greet you by your name and ask how was your family. David was somewhat quieter, but you always felt his love and his absolute goodness.
“I absolutely feel a responsibility to share how these beautiful men were the best. They were happy. They were loving. They knew everyone and everyone knew them and it was always that way,” said Weitz, who lit a memorial candle in honor of her friends at Congregation Anshai Torah’s #SolidarityShabbat service on Nov. 2. “I can’t believe their smiles and hugs are something no one will ever share again.”
Perhaps not in the touch of arms, but with the stories of their lives, and those of Joyce Fienberg, Dr. Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger, their smiles and hugs, and lessons of friendship toward everyone, will indeed be shared over and over — and their names, and their lives, will indeed always be for a memory.

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WE brings together local Jewish millennials

WE brings together local Jewish millennials

Posted on 25 October 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Rabbi Heidi Coretz
Last spring, WE came together to celebrate a Passover Seder with more than 30 participants gathering at Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas. WE Shabbat, WE Learn and WE Social bring together members of Dallas’ millennial Jewish community.

By Deb Silverthorn

WE Jewish Dallas is coming together at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 — and on many occasions — for the community’s millennial spirit to shine. This week’s Sabbath blessings will be exchanged amid costumes, spooky drinks (BYOB) and dinner.
“Dallas’ millennial Jewish community is of natives returning and others making the Metroplex their home,” said Rabbi Heidi Coretz, director of SMU Hillel. “WE is, and we are, a bridge for them between college and the next step in their Jewish communal experiences.”
WE — which stands for We Engage — is open to Jewish adults ages 21-35, graduate students and working professionals all seeking Jewish community. Programs are, with Coretz’s support, created by, for and of the participants.
WE comprises young Jews gathering for friendship, learning and celebration, defined visually through the group’s logo created by WE board member William Taylor: a Jewish star, created of six puzzle pieces that interlock, as do attendees of WE’s programs — connecting and each finding a place, Coretz explained.
The WE Advisory Board comprises Lance Barnard, Isaac Feigenbaum, Zee Herrera, Hannah Kavy, Mindy Le, Marissa Mackler, Lisa Raizes, Richard Raizes, Oscar Schechter, Chad Sheinbein, Taylor, Aaron Tverye, Samantha Waldman, Marlo Weisberg and Trish Weisberg.
“Rabbi Coretz is more than a rabbi; she’s a Jewish mom minus the parenting. She’s loving and supportive and being with her is always a positive, fun and connective experience,” said Schechter, originally from Corpus Christi. One of WE’s founders, he’s an SMU graduate and Fidelity Investments network engineer. “Rabbi sponsors WE, making Shabbat, learning, activities — whatever we’re searching for — available. WE is creative, exciting and open.”
Programs are scheduled three times a month, each independent Events scheduled from now through February — WE Shabbat, WE Learn and WE Social — take place at SMU, at offices, venues and in the homes of participants and Rabbi Coretz. All events providing meals include vegetarian options.
2018 events have included a Passover Seder at Thanks-Giving Square, a WE Shabbat barbecue and a WE Shabbat + Tango with Spanish wine tasting, a night in the sukkah, and this Monday’s first Torah + Tacos dinner.
Future WE Shabbat events include this week’s WE Spooky Shabbat, a Nov. 16 WE Shabbat + Art (Nasher Museum picnic), Jan. 18 WE Shabbat + Tu B’Shevat, and the Feb. 8 WE Shabbat +D (at D Magazine).
Upcoming WE Learn programs, Torah + Tacos, are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19, Jan. 28 and Feb. 25.
WE Social nights are a Nov. 8 WE + Dali (at the SMU Meadows Museum’s Dalí’s Aliyah: A Moment in Jewish History), a Dec. 5 WE Chanukah + Wine (Total Wine will host), Dec. 23 WE Sound Bath + Social (at member Rachel Fox’s The Refuge meditation center), and a Jan. 6 WE Movie + Discussion.
“I’ve been away for seven years, and connecting through WE is one way I’m finding a sense of community,” said Feigenbaum, a Dallas native who attended Akiba Academy and Torah Day School of Dallas. Now director of business development at Sinai Urgent Care, he studied in Israel, New Jersey and New York. “We’re of varying careers and ages, and raised in all levels of Jewish observance. Who WE are is a generation excited about experiencing Jewish identity together.”
A grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, $10,000 for 2018-2019 and through the 2020-2021 year, and a gift from within the community makes it possible for most events to be free for participants.
“We are proud of our investment made by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’s planning and allocations committee to provide WE with a grant. This is in line with our overall outreach and engagement strategy of the next generation of philanthropists,” said Gary Wolff, Federation chief operating officer. “Additionally, this grant will complement the work of our Young Adult Division as it continues to focus on leadership and educating young leaders in our community.”
Joining the Federation in support are the family, colleagues and loved ones of Marion Sobol, of blessed memory, the first tenured female professor at SMU’s Cox School of Business.
“Anything to help our young people connect and keep to their roots was and would be meaningful to both Marion and me. Heidi, of whom I can’t say enough, has an exquisite talent of interfacing with young people,” said Sobol’s widower, Dick Helgason, professor emeritus in SMU’s Department of Engineering Management, Information and Systems. They were married by Coretz in 2010. “We attended many Hillel programs, all of them successful and informative, and with our gift, we absolutely trust Heidi to continue her amazing work.”
Coretz and the WE board are beyond enthusiastic for the gifts, which “support this sacred work,” she said. “As the next generation of Dallas’ Jewish community leaders, our world’s community leaders, moves past Hillel’s undergrad programming, we hope to connect at this crucial time in their lives.”
For additional details of times and locations, more information or to RSVP for WE events or further contact, visit the WEJewishDallas Facebook page or wedallas.org.

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WE brings together local Jewish millennials

Posted on 25 October 2018 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn

WE Jewish Dallas is coming together at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 — and on many occasions — for the community’s millennial spirit to shine. This week’s Sabbath blessings will be exchanged amid costumes, spooky drinks (BYOB) and dinner.
“Dallas’ millennial Jewish community is of natives returning and others making the Metroplex their home,” said Rabbi Heidi Coretz, director of SMU Hillel. “WE is, and we are, a bridge for them between college and the next step in their Jewish communal experiences.”
WE — which stands for We Engage — is open to Jewish adults ages 21-35, graduate students and working professionals all seeking Jewish community. Programs are, with Coretz’s support, created by, for and of the participants.
WE comprises young Jews gathering for friendship, learning and celebration, defined visually through the group’s logo created by WE board member William Taylor: a Jewish star, created of six puzzle pieces that interlock, as do attendees of WE’s programs — connecting and each finding a place, Coretz explained.
The WE Advisory Board comprises Lance Barnard, Isaac Feigenbaum, Zee Herrera, Hannah Kavy, Mindy Le, Marissa Mackler, Lisa Raizes, Richard Raizes, Oscar Schechter, Chad Sheinbein, Taylor, Aaron Tverye, Samantha Waldman, Marlo Weisberg and Trish Weisberg.
“Rabbi Coretz is more than a rabbi; she’s a Jewish mom minus the parenting. She’s loving and supportive and being with her is always a positive, fun and connective experience,” said Schechter, originally from Corpus Christi. One of WE’s founders, he’s an SMU graduate and Fidelity Investments network engineer. “Rabbi sponsors WE, making Shabbat, learning, activities — whatever we’re searching for — available. WE is creative, exciting and open.”
Programs are scheduled three times a month, each independent Events scheduled from now through February — WE Shabbat, WE Learn and WE Social — take place at SMU, at offices, venues and in the homes of participants and Rabbi Coretz. All events providing meals include vegetarian options.
2018 events have included a Passover Seder at Thanks-Giving Square, a WE Shabbat barbecue and a WE Shabbat + Tango with Spanish wine tasting, a night in the sukkah, and this Monday’s first Torah + Tacos dinner.
Future WE Shabbat events include this week’s WE Spooky Shabbat, a Nov. 16 WE Shabbat + Art (Nasher Museum picnic), Jan. 18 WE Shabbat + Tu B’Shevat, and the Feb. 8 WE Shabbat +D (at D Magazine).
Upcoming WE Learn programs, Torah + Tacos, are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19, Jan. 28 and Feb. 25.
WE Social nights are a Nov. 8 WE + Dali (at the SMU Meadows Museum’s Dalí’s Aliyah: A Moment in Jewish History), a Dec. 5 WE Chanukah + Wine (Total Wine will host), Dec. 23 WE Sound Bath + Social (at member Rachel Fox’s The Refuge meditation center), and a Jan. 6 WE Movie + Discussion.
“I’ve been away for seven years, and connecting through WE is one way I’m finding a sense of community,” said Feigenbaum, a Dallas native who attended Akiba Academy and Torah Day School of Dallas. Now director of business development at Sinai Urgent Care, he studied in Israel, New Jersey and New York. “We’re of varying careers and ages, and raised in all levels of Jewish observance. Who WE are is a generation excited about experiencing Jewish identity together.”
A grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, $10,000 for 2018-2019 and through the 2020-2021 year, and a gift from within the community makes it possible for most events to be free for participants.
“We are proud of our investment made by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’s planning and allocations committee to provide WE with a grant. This is in line with our overall outreach and engagement strategy of the next generation of philanthropists,” said Gary Wolff, Federation chief operating officer. “Additionally, this grant will complement the work of our Young Adult Division as it continues to focus on leadership and educating young leaders in our community.”
Joining the Federation in support are the family, colleagues and loved ones of Marion Sobol, of blessed memory, the first tenured female professor at SMU’s Cox School of Business.
“Anything to help our young people connect and keep to their roots was and would be meaningful to both Marion and me. Heidi, of whom I can’t say enough, has an exquisite talent of interfacing with young people,” said Sobol’s widower, Dick Helgason, professor emeritus in SMU’s Department of Engineering Management, Information and Systems. They were married by Coretz in 2010. “We attended many Hillel programs, all of them successful and informative, and with our gift, we absolutely trust Heidi to continue her amazing work.”
Coretz and the WE board are beyond enthusiastic for the gifts, which “support this sacred work,” she said. “As the next generation of Dallas’ Jewish community leaders, our world’s community leaders, moves past Hillel’s undergrad programming, we hope to connect at this crucial time in their lives.”
For additional details of times and locations, more information or to RSVP for WE events or further contact, visit the WEJewishDallas Facebook page or wedallas.org.

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All Fired Up

All Fired Up

Posted on 25 October 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship
The Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship will feature a hot dog eating event, sponsored by the Texas Jewish Post, a pickle eating contest sponsored by Restland Funeral Home, the Elliot’s Hardware Kids Que cooking contest, music and activities for all ages. Admission is free and open to the public.

By Deb Silverthorn

Saucy and spirited is what guests of the Fourth Annual Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship can expect from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, in the Sunnyland Patio Furniture parking lot on the northwest corner of Coit and Spring Valley in North Dallas.
“This is a day of the best of our community coming together, BBQ greatness and an overall terrific experience,” said Brian Rubenstein, co-chair of the event with Sandy Dorf. “We had 1,200 people in 2015 and more than 1,800 last year. We’re excited about the growth and the enthusiasm for this really wonderful day.”
Presented by the Men’s Club of Congregation Beth Torah, the championships are open to the public with free admission, a large kids’ zone, silent auction, vendors, entertainment featuring Counterfeit Radio and food for sale by Dallas’ Texas Kosher BBQ and JoeBob’s Kosher BBQ from Austin.
Beef ribs, brisket, chicken and turkey will be judged for 12 teams (registered at press time), with participating chefs traveling from Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York and elsewhere. The competition, emceed by KLUV radio host Jody Dean has three sets of judges and awards; the Kansas City Barbecue Society(KCBS) Official, Celebrity Awards and the People’s Choice.
KCBS-certified judges mark ballots in double-blind rulings of appearance, taste and texture, with awards for all four meats, also crowning the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion, who share a $500 prize. Winners will be announced and trophies presented at about 3:30 p.m.
Celebrity judges Jill Grobowsky Bergus (Lockhart Smokehouse), Gabriel Boxer (the Kosher Guru), Vicki Nivens (Hard Eight BBQ), John Tesar (Knife Dallas) and Daniel Vaughn (author and first barbecue editor at Texas Monthly) determine a second contest, and a third set of judges, composed of attendees participating in the People’s Choice program, will determine those awards and announce the winners at 2 p.m.
While the event is not centered on tasting entrant recipes, a limited number of $5 passes for People’s Choice Awards, either brisket or turkey, will be available after that judging at 2 p.m.
“Brian and Sandy are so on the ball there are never any surprises and this is a well-prepped event,” said Jennifer Shiflett, she and her husband Bill both Master Certified Judges representing KCBS, the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts, with over 20,000 members and the sanctioning body of over 500 barbecue contests worldwide. “The meat is well-sourced and extraordinary measures are taken to produce such great product. The meat here year in and year out is just phenomenal and the event supreme.”
Teams arrive empty-handed – other than recipes and ruach — with ingredients provided. Seasonings, herbs, meats and all utensils, smokers and grills are delivered to team captains, with Golden Barrel Molasses, Imperial Sugar, Manischewitz broths, TexJoy and others sponsoring the pantry.
Among participants are the 2017 Grand Champion Stan Kotlyar and 2016 Grand Champion Rabbi Mendel “RaBBi-Q” Segal, who is credited with creating the first kosher barbecue championship in Kansas City. He’s now the owner of Backyard BBQ and Brew in Surfside, Florida.
“I was an extreme hobbyist, and when I realized there was no kosher barbecue championship, I wanted to create the benchmark. I’m very proud,” Segal said. “I’m excited to be coming back to Dallas, the organizers have built a great program. For me, success is about the right temperature – it’s ready when it’s ready. Every piece of meat is different, but I do this every day.”
Competitors actually begin Thursday in cooks’ meetings, preparing, trimming and seasoning their meats, before packaging them for refrigeration over Shabbat. On Saturday night, once three stars are out, smokers and grills are set up.
For Kotlyar, of Hartsdale, New York, says while he’s very competitive and focused, some of the best of the event is the up-all-night smoking of the meats, visiting and making friends with other participants.
“We’ve earned a reputation, and some of the best pitmasters, professional and amateur, from around the country will be here,” said Dorf, himself certified as a KCBS Master Judge. “It’ll be barbecue at its best, and even more important it will be our community at its best.”
In addition to Congregation Beth Torah, proceeds from the event will benefit CHAI; Community Homes for Adults, Inc. The American Red Cross will collect blood donations, and food for the North Texas Food Bank will be accepted – a free raffle ticket distributed for every five items brought in.
The Elliott’s Hardware-sponsored Kids Que contest will have 10 aspiring chefs cooking chicken legs, the youngsters 7-15 having access to a full pantry and, with parental supervision, creating their own barbecue masterpieces.
Throughout the day, numerous other contests will take place, including a hot dog-eating event, sponsored by the Texas Jewish Post, and a pickle-eating contest, sponsored by Restland Funeral Home.
“It’s an absolute mitzvah to be a part of this event, making sure the end result is a kosher event – one that most can’t possibly know the intricacies involved in its coming together,” said Rabbi David Shawel, director of kosher supervision at Dallas Kosher. “To sit back at the end of the day and smile at what we’re able to help bring to our community, from the kashrut to keeping kashrut and sharing kehillah, community, is very special.”
“Kish echad b’lev echad, like one man with one heart, the Jewish People stood at Mount Sinai,” Shawel said. “When we stand together as a community, celebrating kashrut and our People, there’s nothing like it.”
For more information, to register for Kids Que, eating contests or to pre-order food, visit dallaskosherbbq.com.

 

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Challah Bake helps raise dough for cancer fight

Challah Bake helps raise dough for cancer fight

Posted on 15 October 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Marcy Rhoads
Hundreds of men and women of all ages participated in the 2017 Great Pink Challah Bake, and registration is open at bit.ly/2IHdSLK for the 2018 edition on Oct. 24, part of the The International Shabbos Project. The event will also provide information and BRCA gene testing.

By Deb Silverthorn

The Great Pink Challah Bake has all the right ingredients to create an evening of memory, health education and deliciousness for Shabbos tables throughout the community. The doors will open at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Zale Auditorium at the Aaron Family JCC for a night of flour, fun, friends and family.
“We’re all so busy, and on Shabbos, we change from humans ‘doing’ to humans ‘being,’ disconnecting from everything but those around us,” said Marcy Rhoads, chair of the event. “We energize and let go. At the Pink Challah Bake, we’ll get into the mood, into the spirit and prepare something holy, delicious and filled with love to nourish our families and their souls.”
The Challah Bake is part of The Shabbos Project, which takes place Oct. 26 and 27.
“The Shabbos Project, which began in 2013 in South Africa as a global, grassroots movement that brings Jews from across the world together to celebrate and keep one complete Shabbat, brings together neighbors, families and strangers – who become strangers no longer,” Rhoads said. “The Challah Bake is a kick-off to something so very special.”
The evening, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is co-sponsored by Sharsheret, a national nonprofit supporting young Jewish women and their families facing breast cancer, and Myriad, a leader in genetic testing, molecular diagnostics and companion diagnostics. Myriad will offer educational resources and BRCA screening before the baking begins at 7 p.m.
Partners for the event are congregations Ohev Shalom, Ohr HaTorah and Shaare Tefilla, Jewish Family Services, Levine Academy, Nafshi Wellness and the Sephardic Torah Center of Dallas.
As part of this year’s Shabbos Project, community members may help determine personal benefits from genetic testing by taking Myriad’s Hereditary Cancer Quiz at hereditarycancerquiz.com before the Challah Bake.
In less than a minute, the questionnaire recommends or not, moving forward. Dallas-based obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Alejandro Singer will be conducting preview screenings at the event, and for those for whom recommendation is made, on-site 28-gene Myriad myRisk Hereditary Cancer test will be performed.
For those meeting medical society guidelines, most insurance companies cover genetic testing at 100 percent. Once testing is completed, participants will be notified with an opt-out if payment is denied meaning no unexpected costs.
As Ashkenazi Jews register in a higher risk category, they should be aware of family history. BRCA screenings and annual mammograms for women with a family history of breast cancer – and with the consultation of personal doctors — for women 35 and older are encouraged, Myriad literature states. Those interested in testing should bring their medical insurance information.
“Knowledge is power, and we hope through events such as these we can provide knowledge, testing and answers. For many, and for men it’s just as important as women, this testing is life-saving,” Myriad spokesman Ron Rogers said. “We recommend everyone speak to their physicians, that physicians bring the conversation and questions to their patients, and that family history be a conversation. The power of genetics and testing can make all the difference.”
The Challah Bake will open with a video message by Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, and a montage about the history of the Shabbos Project and Challah Bake.
Participating groups of friends and family are encouraged to RSVP together, and each table will have enough ingredients for each person to make their own challah dough. Rebbetzin Ruckie Sionit, of the Sephardic Torah Center will direct how to make the challah and explain the significance of making challah together and the power that it generates as Jewish women.
“I’m honored to participate in this inspiring evening, as making challah is a special mitzvah given to women and has been passed down over the generations, through the upheavals and migrations of Jews throughout the world,” Sionit said. “Separating challah while we are preparing it enforces our faith in the Almighty, ultimately opening the gates of blessings into our homes.”
While waiting for the challah to rise, Nikki Friedman, co-director of the Nafshi Wellness organization that integrates Jewish and holistic principles to enhance emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual wellness, will speak about the power of positivity and self-care. Also, Beth Broodo, Jewish Family Service program director and clinician for breast cancer support services, will share her personal experience and information about JFS’ related services.
Once the challah has risen, bakers will braid the dough, sing songs and dance in the spirit of Shabbos – the challahs to be taken home to bake.
“On a Kabalistic level, Shabbos is a time and space that was created by G-d for us,” Broodo said. “Lighting the candles, families enjoying challah and celebrating Shabbos together can move mountains spiritually.”
Online registration is available at bit.ly/2IHdSLK. Tickets are $5, and all supplies are included. For more information, or to register to participate in a Shabbos Project, visit dallasshabbatproject.com

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2018-2019 JCC BookFest; A Real Page Turner

2018-2019 JCC BookFest; A Real Page Turner

Posted on 26 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Deb Silverthorn
The 2018/2019 Aaron Family JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest are “Twenty-Six Seconds” (10/9), “The Fox Hunt” (10/17), “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” (10/18), “Stakes is High” (11/1), “Irving Berlin – The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing” (11/4), “Husbands and Other Sharp Objects” (11/28), “Promised Land” (12/6), “God is in the Crowd (12/10), “In Broad Daylight” (2/6), “The Lost Family” and “The Lost Girls of Paris” (2/12), “Unconditional Love – A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today” (3/6), and “Memento Park” (4/3).

By Deb Silverthorn

The next chapter of the Aaron Family JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest opens Oct. 9 with events featuring some of 2018’s best new releases and their authors. Unless otherwise noted, all events begin at 7 p.m. and are hosted at the Aaron Family JCC.
“Our visiting authors will educate and entertain audiences with events you won’t find anywhere else,” said BookFest chairperson Liz Liener, in her sixth year as lay leader. “We’re blessed to provide these programs and are honored to once again think of Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer, of blessed memory, to whom BookFest is dedicated, as we devote our efforts.”
This year’s BookFest, which opened on July 23 to a sold-out audience for “The Other Woman” author Daniel Silva, interviewed by Michael Granberry, is partnered by the JCC with the AJC Dallas, Dallas Jewish Historical Society, Congregation Anshai Torah, Shearith Israel, Congregation Shearith Israel’s SISterhood, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, Israel Bonds, JCC Dallas’ Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education, Jewish Community Relations Council and Tycher Library, and the Jewish Book Council.
Leiner; Rachelle Weiss Crane, the JCC’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish living; and a team of volunteers read many titles and participate in a week of introductions to more than 250 authors presenting their books through the Jewish Book Council in New York.
“In addition to our venturing out, Dallas has earned a reputation as a strong festival with great crowds and we now have authors asking to come to us and we are thrilled. Mitch Albom, Nancy Churnin, Martin Fletcher, and Daniel Silva are all returning and we’re happy to welcome them ‘home,’” said Weiss Crane.
Alexandra Zapruder visits Oct. 9 with her “Twenty-Six Seconds.” Fifty-six years after her grandfather Abraham Zapruder captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – on what he thought would be a home movie — the author tells the story of the film and its journey, demonstrating how one man’s unwitting moment in the spotlight shifted the way politics, culture, and media intersect, bringing about the larger social questions that define our age.
On Oct. 17, Mohammed Al Samawi brings “The Fox Hunt” to Congregation Anshai Torah, describing his escape from Yemen’s brutal civil war with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media. To protect himself and his family from death threats, Al Samawi fled to what became the heart of a civil war, his online contacts responding to his appeal, working across technology platforms and time zones, to save him from deadly forces.
Mitch Albom and “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” arrive on Oct. 18. Of this sequel to “Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Albom says it is the “natural story about Eddie going from meeting five people to being one of five for somebody else.” Albom explores the accident that took Eddie’s life, what Annie lost, and how, in the wake of her trauma, she has no memory of the accident.
Pastor, activist, and community leader Rev. Michael Waters, with Congregation Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Adam Roffman, comes to BookFest on Nov. 1 bringing his “Stakes is High,” blending his hip-hop lyricism and social justice leadership. Weaving stories from centuries of persecution against the backdrop of today’s urban prophets on the radio and in the streets, Waters speaks on behalf of an awakened generation raging against racism and fueled by the promise of a just future.
At 2 p.m. Nov. 4, Dallas Morning News writer Nancy Churnin visits with Mark Kreditor to discuss her book, “Irving Berlin – The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing.” The two will provide visual images and live music of the musician, a refugee from Russia forever remembered as the master behind 1200-plus songs including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “A Pretty Girl is Like A Melody,” “God Bless America,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz” and “White Christmas.”
On Nov. 28, at Shearith Israel, Marilyn Rothstein talks about her “Husbands and Other Sharp Objects,” the story of Marcy Hammer readying to get herself unhitched – while everyone else is looking for a commitment. Her boyfriend wants to get serious and her soon-to-be ex-husband wants to reunite. When her daughter announces her engagement, Marcy finds planning the wedding while seeing her divorce through a trial – and trying to make everyone happy, proving seemingly impossible.
The Tycher Library Community Read, Martin Fletcher’s “Promised Land,” presents Dec. 6. The story is the saga of two brothers and the woman they love, a triangle set against the tumultuous founding of Israel.
Tal Keinan and “God is in the Crowd” come to BookFest on Dec. 10. Keinan’s book analyzes the threat to Jewish continuity. He writes of the Jewish people concentrated in America and Israel, having lost the subtle code of governance that endowed Judaism with dynamism and relevance in the age of Diaspora.
On Feb. 6, Father Patrick Desbois introduces “In Broad Daylight – The Untold Story of How the Murder of More Than Two Million Jews Was Carried Out.” Debois’s book documents the murder of 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine during World War II and how nearly a decade of his team’s efforts, drawing on interviews of 5,700 neighbors to the murdered Jews, and visits to more than 2,700 extermination sites, wartime records and the application of modern forensic practices to long-hidden grave sites.
On Feb. 12, Dallas’ Andrea Peskind Katz, of the Great Thoughts Great Readers website, will interview both Jenna Blum about “The Lost Family” and Pam Jenoff about “The Lost Girls of Paris.” Blum’s novel creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family and the haunting grief of World War II. Jenoff’s book shines the light on the heroics of the brave women of the war and their courage, sisterhood and the strength in surviving its hardest circumstances.
On March 6, Jane Isay brings “Unconditional Love – A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today.” Drawing on personal experience, dozens of interviews and the latest findings in psychology, Isay shows how grandparents can use perspective and experience to create lasting bonds that echo throughout a grandchild’s life.
The Tycher Library Spring Read closes out April 3 with Mark Sarvas and his “Memento Park,” a book of family and identity, art and history, and the unanswerable question of ‘how to move forward when the past looms?’ Sarvas’ Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting he believes was stolen from his family in Hungary, during WWII. To recover it he must repair his strained relationship with his father, uncover family history, and restore his own connection to Judaism with a narrative as much about family history and father-son dynamics as about the nature of the art.
Liener, who has loved to read since childhood, says chairing the BookFest is a gift to her – the chance to read books and meet authors she might not otherwise as well as giving her the the opportunity to bring them to the Dallas audience.
“BookFest introduces the best of the best to our community and introduces attendees to a diverse group of authors and styles,” she said. “We remain the only festival in the area focusing on Jewish authors and books with Jewish content, and every year our schedule is filled with especially wonderful events – this year, we raise the bar again.”
Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door except for the Dec. 6 “Promised Land,” Feb. 6 “In Broad Daylight,” March 6 “Unconditional Love” and April 3 “Memento Park,” which are free; and the Oct. 18 “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven,” which is $30 in advance and $40 at the door, including a signed copy of the book. For more details or to order tickets, call 214-739-2737 or visit jccdallas.org/special-events/bookfest/.

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SMU student president DeVera has packed senior year

SMU student president DeVera has packed senior year

Posted on 20 September 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Nathan DeVera
“It is an honor to lead and serve my school community and to amplify the student voice,” says SMU student body president Nathan DeVera.

By Deb Silverthorn

Nathan DeVera is in the midst of a very busy senior year.
When he is not managing parliamentary procedure as Southern Methodist University student body president, he is the captain of SMU’s rugby team, president of the university’s Southern Gentlemen a cappella group and a Hillel Board member.
Not to mention completing requirements for the math and mechanical engineering bachelor’s degrees and the mechanical engineering master’s degree he will receive next May – yes, a double major and a master’s degree in four years.
A student senator in his freshman year and student body vice president last year, DeVera has made himself present in student government throughout his college career.
Now, whether he is speaking at new-student orientations, encouraging extracurricular activities or just giving directions on campus, DeVera’s bright smile and great demeanor are one of the bright lights on the University Park college campus.
“It is an honor to lead and serve my school community and to amplify the student voice,” said DeVera, who regularly meets with students, faculty and the university’s leadership. “The renovation of our Hughes-Trigg Student Center, enhancing the on-campus housing experience and student body unification have all been priorities, and to be at the forefront of these changes is very rewarding.”
A Southern California native who was raised nearly his entire life in Las Vegas, DeVera is the son of Lorenzo, born in the Philippines, and Esther, born and raised in Israel.
“We couldn’t ask for more from Nathan and how he has taken his incredible work ethic and spread it across all he does, everything he gets involved with, while always being respectful and loyal,” his mother said. “Nathan has always been an over-achiever, cranking it up a notch, always consistent in his commitment to all he does. I admire him for all he does, and how well he does it all.”
DeVera’s first trip to Israel came in the summer of 2016 as a Birthright participant, during which he also visited with many members of his mother’s family. After a lifetime of family coming to the U.S. to be together, he now has his own memories of Masada, of the Kotel, of going to the markets in Tel Aviv and speaking Hebrew in the streets.
The former Milton I. Schwartz Hebrew Academy (now The Adelson School) and The Meadow School student celebrated his bar mitzvah at Chabad of Las Vegas. His family also attended Temple Beth Sholom. DeVera, who came to SMU with a deep connection to his Jewish roots, quickly sought out the campus’ Hillel. He met director Rabbi Heidi Coretz and found programs and services that throughout his college career have allowed him to hold on to his heritage.
“I definitely appreciate the opportunities and programs that Rabbi Coretz and Hillel provides to our community, the Jewish community and the SMU community-at-large, because in addition to the social experience, there are many educational opportunities, whether they are teaching programs or the teaching of our community that comes because of its presence,” said DeVera. “Our community within the university community, which is diverse and has so many organizations, is proud and strong.”
“Nathan represents himself, his family and his People most honorably in how he respectfully handles himself and his role as a leader on campus” said Coretz, noting in her 15 years leading SMU’s Hillel, DeVera is only the second Jewish student body president – Taylor Russ was the first more than a decade ago. “Nathan brings talent, leadership, academic and now professional success to the table. He is an awesome example and a great friend to us all.”
With eight months until graduation, DeVera’s recent summer internship at Lockheed Martin resulted in an already signed contract to begin work next summer at Lockheed Martin Space as a project engineer with the navy’s fleet ballistic missile program.
“I really will be a rocket scientist,” DeVera said. “I had an incredible experience at Lockheed this summer, and I look forward to beginning my career.”

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SMU Hillel planning wide range of programming

SMU Hillel planning wide range of programming

Posted on 20 September 2018 by admin

hoto: Courtesy SMU Hillel
From left, SMU Hillel Co-Presidents Marlo Weisberg and Jackie Malish join Hillel Director Rabbi Heidi Coretz in introducing students to the organization during the first week of school.

By Deb Silverthorn

In this season for celebrating, Southern Methodist University’s Hillel has its proverbial, albeit invisible, doors wide open, with its constant programming and its mission to enrich the lives of Jewish students.
Rabbi Heidi Coretz, beginning her 15th year as SMU’s Hillel director, brings her smile, spirit and student bonding to the holiday season, and year-round, providing community and connections.
Sushi in the Sukkah, taking place at 7 p.m. –Sept. 26; an Oct. 19 Shabbat dinner hosted by Shira Lander, SMU’s director of Jewish studies; and an Oct. 28 “Challaween” baking event are only the beginning of this year’s programming.
“We are here, we are available, we are excited and we are thrilled to have an incredible student board, wonderful activities, and really great opportunities for our Jewish community to come together,” said Coretz, who also serves as rabbi of Shir Tikvah in Frisco. “We are a small community, rumored to be 350 or so, but we are strong and we are one.”
Jewish life has flourished through the years at SMU. Hillel, an Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter and the university’s Jewish studies program provide academic, social and spiritual opportunities. Whether participants want to learn about Jewish life, faith and culture – or to make and keep friends, Hillel provides inspiration and support.
With more than 200 guests to more than 40 programs last year, Coretz is excited about the future. In addition to Sushi in the Sukkah and other October events, the Hillel calendar includes congregational invitations to students throughout the community; Interfaith programming, including a Passover Seder for nearly 100, a Bring Friends to Shabbat evening, and Yom Hashoah events; and leading the campus’ Good Deeds Day.
“Our campus is unique because, at least in my time here, there’ve been no anti-Israel, BDS or anti-Semitic rallies – perhaps one debate years ago is all I can recall. We are blessed that SMU is a great and respectful community,” Coretz said. “We work hand in hand quite often with the Office of the Chaplin, Multi-Cultural Affairs, the Perkins School of Theology and The Women & LGBT Center. SMU really is a family – widespread and diverse – but we are a family.”
Coretz and Hillel have become a home away from home.
“Heidi spends lots of time and has so much care helping us plan to make everything we do special, and for all of us it really is our ‘home,’” Hillel co-president Marlo Weisberg said. “She absolutely has our best interest at hand. I have so much love for this organization and am excited to be sharing it.”
Weisberg, from Charleston, West Virginia, is following in the footsteps of her sister, Trish, both as SMU Hillel leader and as a SMU Hunt Leadership Scholar.
Weisberg is co-president with Jackie Malish, the two joined in board service by Eliana Abraham, Sarah Crespo, Nathan DeVera, Adam Feldman, Solomon Guefen, Lauren Miller, Bibiana Schindler, Margo Schoenberg, Jake Waldman, Sam Waldman and Jordan Williams.
For more about SMU Hillel programming, visit smuhillel.com

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Crafting Sukkot memories – literally

Crafting Sukkot memories – literally

Posted on 20 September 2018 by admin

Some families mark their children’s physical growth with a mark on the pantry door, for the Silverthorn family, it is the by the span of their palms on the family’s fingerprints sukkah walls. From left are Barbara Schulman, Deb, Marie, Eric, Blake, Whitney and Jonah Silverthorn, Sidney Loftin, Emilie Silverthorn and Kyle Vannguyen.

By Deb Silverthorn

Impressions – they last, and last, and for our family that means many things, including the impressions made by hundreds of family and friends since we built our first sukkah 27 years ago. It is the impressions of palmprints and fingerprints on our hearts, of all of the colors of the rainbow, emblazoned on the three walls that make our fall holiday home.

Every year, in addition to “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David,” we are blessed to share dinner with our many friends and family who have come once or for whom a lulav and etrog shake is a perennial favorite. No longer here in person, but of our blessed memories, we’re still able to share meals with Poppie J. Brin and Dayani, with PawPaw Moses, Buzzy, Poppa Don and Gail, with Irwin, Barbara, Scott and with Mr. Levitz, with Lola and Richard.

 

Hundreds of handprints provide a special touch for the Silverthorn family sukkah – created of a paper plate with whatever color(s) acrylic paint, palms down, then spread on the sukkah wall, autographed and dated.

 

At our children’s simchas, bnai mitzvot and now a wedding, we added the touch – literally – of many who aren’t able to travel for the holiday, but who are always with us despite any distance. A paper plate with whatever color(s) acrylic paint, palms down, then spread against the wood or tarp, prints then autographed and dated, the children in our lives have added their prints year in and year out – their hands, and hearts, getting larger – spreading wider.

Indelible ink – indelible memories. Sukkot, the holiday of the harvest that always harvests our spirit.

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