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Jewish doctor, son of Nazi, shares journey to peace

Jewish doctor, son of Nazi, shares journey to peace

Posted on 20 November 2019 by admin

Photo: Karen Garfield
Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger shared his upbringing and his conversion process at an event presented by the Southwest Region of Israel Bonds and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Nov. 13 at Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth. From left, SWJC Executive Director Susan Myers, Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah President Debby Rice, Israel Bonds Dallas Chair Dr. Zev Shulkin, Beth-El Congregation Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, Wollschlaeger and Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Executive Director Bob Goldberg.

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

Bernd Wollschlaeger’s Nazi father deserves a lot of credit for putting him on the path to becoming a Jewish advocate for acceptance and justice.
The Florida physician told his story to a crowd of 150 people Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth at an event which was co-presented by the Southwest Region of Israel Bonds and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. His journey to self-discovery and eventually Judaism was spurred by a string of events beginning in his childhood in Bamberg, Germany, in the middle of the 20th century. His father was strict, a Catholic and an alcoholic. He barely described his mother, other than that she was doting, Protestant and fearful of her husband.
World War II had been over for a decade by the time he was born in 1958. The city in East Germany looked untouched by the war, as if nothing had ever occurred there. The past, he said, was never discussed.
“The sense of history was off. No one talked about the past, just the present,” he said.
When the past was discussed at home, his parents shared dueling narratives. His father described a story of glory, how he was awarded some of the most prestigious awards by the “Fuhrer.” His mother’s was more painful, about a difficult time in the country’s history.
He learned more about German history, and his family’s, from an unlikely source, his landlady, Nina Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg. She knew the Nazis well. Her entryway was a portrait of her late husband, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who led a failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
His father dismissed the late general and called him a coward. When teachers taught about the Holocaust, his father said his teachers were lying Communists and the S.S. was acting within its authority to exterminate 6 million Jewish people. But when his father had no remorse for the 11 Israeli athletes and a West German police officer who were killed by a Palestinian group during the 1972 Munich Olympics, Wollschlaeger was done with his father, and, eventually his Christian faith, too.
He soaked up all the information he could about the Jewish people and Israel. He discovered what that yellow star above a building in town represented. He learned about the Holocaust.
He was 18 years old when he met a group of Israelis visiting one of his Catholic teachers, who led interfaith dialogue sessions. Among them was a young woman whom he would eventually follow to Israel.
Wollschlaeger hitchhiked from Germany, across Italy, and took a ferry to get to Israel to see her. But as the son of a well-known, decorated Nazi general, he was nervous he would be turned away. He was welcomed with open arms by the young woman’s family. Her father, who showed him his Auschwitz tattoo, showed him the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
“How can my father hate these people?” he remembers thinking.
When he returned to Germany to study medicine, he acquainted himself with members of the local synagogue.
Inside, a man showed him another memorial. “Who are these people?” he asked his guide.
“They died in the Holocaust,” he said.
That’s it, Wollschlaeger thought. He was going to become a Jew.
He worked for months as the “Shabbos goy” (a Gentile who turns lights on and off and performs other duties for those who are shomer Shabbos) for the community of survivors, studying the faith and preparing for his conversion.
His relationship with his family was strained. His father eventually cut him off after he ditched Christmas for the Sabbath. The small community of survivors became his adopted family and even paid for his medical education.
When he went before members of the German beit din in 1986, they only had one question for him.
“How does the son of a Nazi become a Jew?” he recalled. “Guilt doesn’t count.” (Not feeling guilt is sort of hard for a Catholic, he quipped.)
He made his case and passed. He moved to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces for a year. He then moved to Aventura, Florida, to practice medicine and raise a family.
But he still felt guilty about his past.
The guilt became public when his son, who inspired him to tell his story, told his Jewish day school classmates about his Nazi grandfather. The rabbi summoned Wollschlaeger, concerned about this news. He told his story to the rabbi in his office. Then to his son. Then, he said, he was encouraged to speak to anyone who would listen to his story.
“I stepped out of the shadow. I made sure I learned my lessons and could go on forward,” he said. He was his father’s son but not responsible for his father’s sins.
Decades later the burden was finally lifted.
In addition to Israel Bonds and the Federation and host Beth-El Congregation, community partners for the event were Chabad of Fort Worth, Chabad of Southlake, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Beth Shalom, Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah, Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith, Jewish War Veterans and Southwest Jewish Congress.

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Around the Town: David Patterson, Israel

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

Kornbleet Scholar Lecture Dec. 4

This year’s Kornbleet Scholar Lecture will feature David Patterson, Hillel Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies at the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas. The program is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road in Fort Worth.
A winner of the National Jewish Book Award, the Koret Jewish Book Award, and the Holocaust Scholars’ Eternal Flame Award, Patterson is a prolific author and researcher, publishing more than 35 books and more than 220 articles, essays and book chapters on topics in literature, philosophy, the Holocaust and Jewish studies. His most recent books include “Shoah and Torah” (forthcoming), “Portraits: Elie Wiesel’s Hasidic Legacy” (forthcoming), “The Holocaust and the Non-Representable” (2018), “Anti-Semitism and Its Metaphysical Origins” (2015), “Genocide in Jewish Thought” (2012) and “A Genealogy of Evil: Anti-Semitism from Nazism to Islamic Jihad” (2010).
During his lecture, “Understanding Modern Anti-Semitism: From Hitler to Hamas,” he will discuss the historical links between the Nazis and the Jihadists, both politically and ideologically, and how it continues to be significant with respect to anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and the future of the Jewish people.
The lecture is free to attend. A dessert reception will follow the program.


Community Israel trip planned


Bob Goldberg tells the TJP that plans are underway for a Tarrant County community trip to Israel next fall, Oct. 11-22, 2020.
Trip highlights will include:
• Geopolitical tour with IDF Lt. Colonel at Syrian border
• See Safed’s famous synagogues and learn about Kabbalah
• Home-hosted Intimate Shabbat Dinner
• Quality time with our Partnership2Gether friends
• Tour of the Western Galilee; including Acco’s UNESCO Heritage sites and Old City and the Northern Command Center
• Enjoy an amazing dinner while visiting with IDF Soldiers
• Visit archeological sites such as Beit Shean
• Shabbat evening service at the Kotel
• Walking tour of Jerusalem’s oldest neighborhoods
• Seam line/security fence tour with former security official and fence architect
• Visit the Shalom Hartman Institute, a leading center of Jewish thought and education
• Culinary markets and street art/graffiti tours
• Beer Sheva Gav-Yam Negev High Tech Park
• Visit museums such as the Israel Museum, Air Force Museum, Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and Independence Hall
• Explore the Negev Desert and Mitzpe Ramon region
• Experience Ethiopian and Bedouin hospitality and learn about their histories
Basic cost for the tour package (land only) is $4149 per person. Earlybird registration and deposit payment ($1000) will save $200 per person. For more information, visit www.tarrantfederation.org or contact Federation Executive Director Bob Goldberg at 817-569-0892 or b.goldberg@tarrantfederation.org.

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Fort Worth actor writes his ‘Ninja Turtles’ story

Fort Worth actor writes his ‘Ninja Turtles’ story

Posted on 06 November 2019 by admin

Kenn Scott in 1989 in his Rafael suit. Originally, he was supposed to be an extra in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II.”

By Nicole Hawkins

Special to the TJP

Originally cast as an extra, a Fort Worth man writes of his experiences playing the iconic role of Raphael in the 1991 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” in his newly released book, “Teenage Ninja to Mutant Turtle: Becoming the Reel Raphael.”

Kenn Scott pursued a life of martial arts, acrobatics, fencing and many other adventurous activities throughout his youth in his quest to be a movie and action hero, he said. 

While he was living in North Carolina, a movie studio opened a few hours from Scott’s house, and he made it his mission to get through its doors. 

When Scott eventually got into the studio, mostly by dressing up as a pizza delivery boy, he met someone who had information about a martial arts movie that was set to be filmed in North Carolina, he said.

Originally, Scott was hired as an extra for the first and second “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies. Early into filming the sequel, the stunt double for Raphael broke his nose and was unable to wear the turtle costume, leaving an opening that Scott had the opportunity to fill.

“It was like a dream come true,” Scott said. “Even though I was wearing a big stupid green rubber suit, I was playing an awesome…ninja hero in the movie.” 

“I knew that was just one step of many on the way to achieving my dreams but at that moment it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me,” Scott said.

A mistake that Scott made was assuming his role as Raphael would lead him to be cast in other movies, he said. 

“When I moved to Hollywood after [filming], it didn’t mean anything, really, nobody cared,” Scott said. “All it really meant was I had a great conversation starter.”

Although the role did not jumpstart Scott’s career, he said playing Raphael helped him as an actor. 

“It mattered to me because it was like getting a tremendous education on making movies and what it took,” Scott said. “It prepared me for everything else I was going to do after that.”

“Being a ninja turtle is the single most defining thing about my life as far as the rest of the world is concerned,” Scott said. “More people know me because I was Raphael the ninja turtle than anything else I’ve ever done.”

Because of his “low level of celebrity” Scott is able to support a variety of charities, including the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which he is supporting through profits from his book, he said.

“It allows me to travel around the country and support various causes I believe in,” Scott said. 

Scott said he decided to write his book for two reasons. The first, to provide fans behind-the-scenes stories about filming the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies.

The second and more personal reason was born when Scott’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. While dealing with his diagnosis, his father began writing memories from his life and Scott decided to do the same. By the end of this process, Scott had the outline of a book, he said.

Scott decided to move from Los Angeles to Fort Worth for the start of a new chapter of life and to be closer to his brother, who lives in the area. He now serves as the Chief Creative Officer of Avadel, a Fort Worth-based advertising agency.

“Teenage Ninja to Mutant Turtle: Becoming the Reel Raphael” was released Oct. 31.

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Around the Town: Peace Together, Mitch Reitman

Posted on 23 October 2019 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Join the Peace Together Walk Nov. 2

Congregation Beth Israel and the Multi Cultural Alliance are among the sponsors of the Peace Together Walk, which will be held, at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, at Colleyville Masjid, 500 Cheek-Sparker Road in Colleyville. Check-in begins at 1 p.m.

Peace Together is an inclusive interfaith organization based in Tarrant Country, whose mission is building relationships among people of all beliefs, cultures and backgrounds. The Peace Together Walk is a public activity and event that encourages people to put this into action by linking individuals from diverse communities with a public walk designed to build and strengthen relationships between member organizations and the general public.

The Peace Together Walk is free an open to the community. Supporting levels are also available. To register for or support the Peace Together Walk visit https://bit.ly/32OdQuN. To inquire about volunteering, contact Howard Rosenthal at rosenhow@aol.com or Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker at rabbi@congregationbethisrael.org.

Mitch Reitman named TBFAA Person of the Year

Mitch Reitman has been selected as the 2019 Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (TBFAA) Person of the Year. As in years past, the selection is made by a committee of past winners and the TBFAA executive director.

Mitch was selected for his longterm service to Texas TBFAA and his industry involvement with a multitude of industry associations. He will formally receive the award at the Roast & Toast Dinner as a part of the TBFAA Convention to be held in Rockwall in October.

 Mitch began his involvement with TBFAA as a member in 1996. He joined the board as financial adviser in 2007. Over the years he has served on the convention & Legislative Committees. He has also worked with TBFAA and local associations to setup and administer a scholarship program for children of public safety officers.

 For over 20 years, Mitch has been actively involved in local, state and national security trade associations and held leadership roles on boards with the Electronic Security Association (ESA) and Alarm Industry Research and Education (AIREF). He is a frequent speaker on business and financial topics at local meetings as well as state and national conventions.

Mitch is a member of the Security Sales & Integration Industry Hall of Fame and Editorial Review Board and is a columnist for Security Sales & Integration Magazine.  He served as a city councilman for Coppell, Texas.

Mitch began his career at Coopers and Lybrand, Certified Public Accountants where he was an audit manager. He has been in the security industry for 23 years and was Vice President of Acquisitions for Select Security, and Director of Acquisitions and Business Development for Protection One Alarm Monitoring. He is currently Management Principal of Reitman Consulting Group in Fort Worth.

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On the Road with Marvin Beleck

On the Road with Marvin Beleck

Posted on 16 October 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Marvin Beleck
Marvin Beleck, at the opening reception of “Bits and Pieces: A Celebration of Judaica,” at Shalom Austin’s J Gallery. He is standing next to his very first mosaic, which he made in the eighth grade.

By Sharon Wisch-Ray
As the High Holidays approached, Marvin Beleck headed to Austin Sept. 18 for the opening reception of Bits and Pieces: A Celebration of Judaica,” at Shalom Austin’s J Gallery. The exhibit will run through Oct. 28. In addition to Marvin’s art, the work of Ginette Jordan, Susan Ribnick and Martha Kull is being showcased.
Nineteen of Marvin’s mosaics are on display, including his first one which he made in the eighth-grade.
Marvin was born and raised in Tyler. Following the Navy and college he made his home in Fort Worth along with his wife Ava.
Marvin’s original one of a kind designs are inspired by symbols and images that are meaningful to Judaism. His unique method of creating his art includes his use of various colors and textures in a variety of materials and tiles to execute his vision. Production of these rich mosaics involves a process of selecting a theme, laying it out on a plywood board and meticulously hand-cutting appropriate materials for each piece which is individually permanently glued in place on the board.
In addition to this artistic passion and hobby, Beleck has accumulated a vast collection of stamps featuring Jewish people and themes, which he published in 2017 in a book entitled “Noted Jewish People of the World on Stamps.”

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In step with Dr. Brandon Chicotsky

In step with Dr. Brandon Chicotsky

Posted on 10 October 2019 by admin

Submitted Photo
Dr. Brandon Chicotsky

Sixteen years ago when Brandon Chicotsky departed Fort Worth to pursue a bachelor’s at The University of Texas at Austin, his hometown had approximately 300,000 fewer residents than its current, burgeoning status. The city had cultural mainstays such as The Stockyards and The Amon Carter Museum, but had not yet earned its new-age, vibrancy claim of “funkytown.”
Today’s TCU students and area residents indulge in new scenes that were once segmented to seemingly far-off lands, such as award-winning pop-up restaurants, artisan food trucks, crafty do-it-yourself community meetups, urban yoga mobs, trendy social impact volunteer movements, refurbished-bricked mixology bars, loungy movie taverns and artist street festivals.
After Brandon completed his undergraduate studies, he began working at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. His work involved lobbying the U.S. Congress and policy influencers for military aid appropriations to support strategic allies of America, principally Israel. Brandon would eventually live in Tel Aviv while completing an externship in private equity as part of his master’s in management at New York University.
While Brandon was working at AIPAC, his hometown demonstrated noteworthy resilience during the ‘08-’09 recession. The city’s housing-market-appreciation outperformed the country’s index by several points and has since established itself among the “top rankings for consistent growth” (Redfin, 2019). This trend would help direct Brandon’s future plans.
Between graduate degrees that included a Ph.D. in communication and information sciences (media and branding + data science + emerging technology) from The University of Alabama, Brandon worked in growth-stage companies as a Chief Marketing Officer. He then accepted a business faculty appointment at Johns Hopkins University, which was followed by a return to NYU to serve as a marketing professor.
Like Brandon, Fort Worth remained spiritedly Texan throughout a journey of growth and infused international insight. As Cowtown emerged, Brandon’s family layed long-term stakes in the ground, as exemplified by Chicotsky Real Estate Group—a partnership led by Brandon’s older brother, David, and sister-in-law, Michaela, in association with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty.
Brandon’s journey came full circle this fall when he accepted a marketing professorship at TCU’s Neeley School of Business. Whether in lectureship or while accompanying him at Carshon’s Deli—Fort Worth’s first Jewish deli co-founded by his great-grandfather in 1928—Brandon’s energy is a blend of joy and purpose. Over a bagel and lox, Professor Chicotsky remarked, “Perhaps my journey is somewhat analogous to Cowtown of late. I’m stronger now, so I have more to give. And similar to Fort Worth, my best is yet to come.”

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Chicotsky named B’nai B’rith Person of the Year

Chicotsky named B’nai B’rith Person of the Year

Posted on 25 September 2019 by admin

Photos: Sharon Wisch-Ray
Robert Chicotsky is flanked by past honorees, Dr. Carole Rogers, left, and Debby Rice.

The Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith held its annual Person of the Year dinner Sunday, Sept. 22, at Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth.
Robert Chicotsky was named this year’s recipient and was both humble and overjoyed when he accepted the award. “I usually don’t seek recognition, but wow this is fantastic, I need to seek some more… I’m just overwhelmed. I appreciate it very much and I’ll work extra hard over the years to continue to deserve this.”
Before Chicotsky was announced, B’nai B’rith International President Chuck Kaufman installed the Lodge’s slate of officers, which include: Alex Nason, president; Sheldon Levy, first vice president; Dan Sturman, second vice president; Ebi Lavi, third vice president; Jeff Kaitcer, secretary; David Hecht, treasurer; and Rich Hollander, chaplain.
Hollace Weiner, Fort Worth community archivist presented a slide show, chronicling the history of the Isadore Garsek Lodge #269 since its inception in the late 1800s. She also discussed the waxing and waning of BBYO over the years. Currently both AZA and BBG are dormant.
In his presentation, Kaufman shared facts about the rise of anti-Semitism, the importance of Diaspora support for the State of Israel, and the importance that Jewish college students feel empowered and are knowledgeable to stand up for Israel.
Rabbis Andrew Bloom delivered the invocation and Rabbi Brian Zimmerman delivered the benediction, closing the night with the Shehecheyanu.
Robert Chicotsky, Rich Hollander, Jeff Kaitcer, Alex Nason and Dan Sturman made up this year’s dinner committee.

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Around the Town: Tarrant County, Bnai Brith

Posted on 18 September 2019 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Tarrant County’s Reform congregations to host Joy Ladin as Selichot scholar

The Reform congregations of Tarrant County — Arlington’s Beth Shalom, Colleyville’s Beth Israel and Fort Worth’s Beth-El — will host Joy Ladin as their Selichot Scholar-in-Residence. The weekend will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, at Beth-El, 4900 Briarhaven Road. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, Cantor Sheri Allen and Rabbi Brian Zimmerman will lead the service and Ladin will deliver the sermon.

Saturday morning, Beth Shalom will host Shabbat services at 10 a.m. at the synagogue, 1212 Thannisch Drive.

A Selichot lecture and service will conclude the trio of events at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Beth Israel in Colleyville, 6100 Pleasant Run Road.

Joy Ladin holds the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University, and in 2007 became the first and still only openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. Her memoir, “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders,” was a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award. her recent book, “The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective,” is a Lambda Literary Award and Triangle Award finalist. She has also published nine books of poetry.

All in the community are welcome. For more information, contact any of the three congregations. This program is made possible through the generosity of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

B’nai B’rith Person of the Year Dinner

Don’t forget, B’nai B’rith International President Chuck Kaufman will be the guest speaker at this year’s Isadore Garsek Lodge Person of the Year Dinner. Hollace Weiner will present the history of the Isadore Garsek Lodge. The program is 6:30-9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, at Beth El-Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road. Babe’s Chicken Dinner House is catering and tickets will be available for purchase through Friday. To purchase tickets, contact, Marvin Beleck, marvinbeleck@aol.com; Rich Hollander, rich.d.hollander@gmail.com, 817-909-4354; Alex Nason, anason53@gmail.com; or Dan Sturman, dsturman@charter.net. This year’s B’nai B’rith person of the year will be revealed Sunday.

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

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

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

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

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray


Faces and Places: A Julie Eisenfeld Retrospective


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


Garsek Lodge honors 2 exemplary students with academic awards


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


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


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

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Ahavath Sholom welcomes Hazzan Jeffrey Weber

Ahavath Sholom welcomes Hazzan Jeffrey Weber

Posted on 22 August 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Jeffrey Weber
Hazzan Jeffrey Weber looks forward to interacting musically with congregants at Ahavath Sholom.
Former opera singer blends music and worship participation

By Amy Wolff Sorter
The purpose of a cantor, or hazzan, is to uplift a congregation during Jewish worship.
“The role of the hazzan is to inspire the congregation, both in niggun and in meaningful prayer,” Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Rabbi Andrew Bloom said.
It was for that purpose, and others, that Jeffrey Weber came to Texas in July, taking over as Ahavath Sholom’s hazzan. Weber, a classically trained tenor vocalist, has an impressive performance career, featuring stints with the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, as well as other international performance endeavors. He could have continued that path to a successful performance career, but instead, changed direction.
“God blessed me with the ability to sing,” Weber said. “It’s more meaningful for me to make a difference and be a part of people’s lives, as opposed to being on the other side of the footlights.”
The early years
Born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Weber was raised on Long Island, in Commack, New York. Weber’s family — father, Warren Weber; mother, Phyllis Weber; and sister, Robyn (Weber) Rubin — attended the local Conservative shul only during the High Holidays. The family wasn’t particularly musical; however, Warren had sung on a local radio show, as a teenager.
“He was a crooner,” Weber said. “He sang with Vic Damone before he became Vic Damone.”
Though Warren was a radiologist by trade, he had a love for opera and classical music, a love he passed down to his son.
“There was a whole room in his house dedicated to stereo equipment and thousands of LPs,” Cantor Weber said.
Weber began piano lessons in first grade, continuing to play for several years. While voice was his main instrument, he also played guitar and “dabbled” in bass and drums.
“I used to have long hair,” Weber said. “While I performed opera, I was also in a heavy metal band.”
Music and a religious purpose
Weber’s artistic talents earned him a spot at the Julliard School of Music, as well as with several opera companies in the New York City area. While at Julliard, Weber truly connected with Judaism, thanks to a job performing with a male octet at Park East Synagogue. Over the years, he lent his talents to shul quartets, including Park Avenue Synagogue and Sutton Place Synagogue in New York City and Congregation Ohev Shalom in Orange, New Jersey. As he performed with secular companies, he realized his avocation was merging music and religion.
Following his graduation from Julliard, Weber attended the Schechter Institutes of Jewish Studies (Machon Schechter) in Israel, which led him to the Jewish Theological Seminary’s H.L. Miller Cantorial School.
During his studies at cantorial school, Weber held student cantorial and cantor/hazzan positions at a variety of synagogues, including Congregation Beth El in New London, Connecticut; Temple Beth El in Springfield, Massachusetts; and Temple Emanuel of North Jersey in Paterson, New Jersey. Once he received his diploma of Hazzan, Master’s of Sacred Music, Weber’s resume grew to include Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C.; Temple Beth Shalom in Sarasota, Florida; and his most recent stint with Beth Sholom Congregation, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.
On the personal side, Weber married Andrea in 1990. Andrea, an accomplished opera singer, sang at the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, as well as with top music festivals nationwide and, as Weber put it, “helped me with many temple choirs over the years.” The couple have two sons: Samuel, age 23, a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), and 21-year-old Ben, who attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Arrival in Texas
Weber learned about the Fort Worth cantorial job opening through the Cantors Assembly of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and immediately jumped on it, though he’d never been to Texas.
In researching Fort Worth’s Conservative shul, Weber was impressed with Rabbi Bloom’s credentials.
“I looked at his background, and saw where he came from,” Weber said. “I thought he would be a good partner to work with.”
Meanwhile, in North Texas, Ahavath Sholom’s 17-person committee, led by Marvin Beleck, was nearing the end of a five-month-long cantorial search process. The group had combed through multiple resumes from across the United States, as well as Israel and Poland, while participating in several Skype and phone interviews. The committee brought in the finalists, with Weber earning the spot. It was “his friendliness, his voice and history” that placed Weber in the position, according to Michael Linn, Ahavath Sholom’s executive director.
“He’s a good fit,” Linn added. “He’s a mensch.”
“He’s very personable,” added Bloom, who also dubbed Weber a mensch. “He comes with plenty of experience in the cantorial world, and we get along very well.”
The family’s migration from Pennsylvania to Texas has been positive, so far. Weber said he appreciates the Texas-friendly attitude. As for the North Texas heat? “I’m used to it,” he said. “I worked in Sarasota. There was heat there.”
Goals and objectives
Weber will eventually have oversight of Ahavath Sholom’s Learning & Engagement Center. In the meantime, the hazzan’s short-term goals involve familiarizing himself with the shul’s style of music.
“It’s imperative you don’t take that away from people,” he said. “It’s what they are used to, it’s what connects them to prayer.”
Weber also wants to form a choir and a band with the purpose of encouraging congregants to sing with him versus him singing at them.
“It goes back to the difference between opera singing, standing up there and performing as the entertainment, versus welcoming people to join you in singing,” he said.
This is not to suggest, however, that there is absolutely no link between Weber’s career as a performer versus hazzan. Through opera, Weber was able to use music to interpret foreign-language stories for audiences.
“Most people don’t speak Hebrew, either,” he said. “As hazzan, my objective is to interpret text musically, so people understand the feeling of it, even if they might not understand the words.”

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