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Why I’ve made it my life’s work to invest in Israel

Why I’ve made it my life’s work to invest in Israel

Posted on 22 January 2020 by admin

Ken Goldberg addresses Israel Bonds leaders from several countries at the organization’s International Leadership Conference (Photo:  Peter Halmagyi)

Long before I understood the significance of the Jewish state and its unique place in history, I knew about the need to support it. Growing up as a third-generation member of Congregation Shearith Israel, I remember hearing stories from Holocaust survivors, watching local leaders speak movingly of their connection to Israel, and participating in campaigns held by Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds.
During this time, I had the opportunity to hear famed optometrist and businessman Stanley Pearle speak at our congregation in Dallas. To this day, I remember his remarks, discussing his many meetings and conversations with the likes of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, relating the small but important part Pearle was able to play in building the Jewish state in its earliest days. I knew then and there that I, too, wanted to have a similar role in ensuring Israel’s continued success, and I started looking for ways to get involved.
It didn’t take long. When I was just getting my start as a young professional, I came across an Israel Bonds representative at an event in Omaha, Nebraska, where we exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch. After returning home to Dallas, I wondered when or even if we might see each other again, but it wasn’t long before I received a call: The Israel Bonds representative was in town, and looking to reconnect. We got together, and very quickly I was sold, joining Israel Bonds as a member of its burgeoning New Leadership Division, which strives to get young people involved in supporting the Jewish state.
Here in Dallas, there was a lot of work to do. New Leadership was just getting started, and very few young people had heard of us; most had little or no investments of their own, much less investments in the Jewish state. So we got to work organizing, holding events and talking to students, recent graduates and early-career professionals about the importance of investing in Israel. Israel bonds are not charity, they are a means of supporting the Jewish state that pay you back — with interest. We quickly found support growing with more than $10 million in Israel bond investments from across the Dallas area.
At one event — among the largest in Israel Bonds history — we brought together more than 1,500 individuals to hear former President George W. Bush speak about his support for the Jewish state, and share fond memories he made over the years with Israeli leaders. At others, we helped grow the next generation of Israel Bonds frontrunners through boot camps to hone their skills in networking, and getting the word out about this critical work.
Over time, I gradually took on more responsibility — first as chairman of the Israel Bonds National Campaign Advisory Council, and then as a member of the national board of directors, the position I currently hold. However, I have always taken care to keep in touch with those doing the indispensable work on the ground, where it all began for me. To this day, I still work closely with Dallas New Leadership to ensure that a new generation is joining the cause of partnering with Israel through investment in Israel bonds.
And yet, despite Israel’s immense progress, I still occasionally hear people ask: Why? Why make it your mission to invest in the Jewish state, with so many other worthy causes around? For me, this is personal. I participated in a delegation to Israel during the Gulf War, when we were handed gas masks and emergency syringes upon arrival, and told to be ready for the worst. Those memories endure to this day. And so the answer to this question is simple: I’ve seen firsthand the threats Israel faces, and without showing our support — and putting a dollar figure to it — we risk abandoning the Jewish state when it may need us most. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take, and that’s why I’ve made it my life’s work to invest in Israel.
From my current role as a national board member, this work can feel like it’s taken on a 30,000-foot view, but I’ll never forget the impact it has for those whom it touches. Thinking back to my time as a kid at Congregation Shearith Israel, I still remember the pride I heard in the voices of those who spoke about their support for Israel through Israel Bonds, and the importance they placed on preparing the next generation to carry that legacy forward. Today, I share this conviction completely, and remain dedicated to doing my part to ensure tomorrow’s Israel Bonds investors and supporters have every opportunity that I did to make a difference.

Ken Goldberg is a national board member for Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds and former chairman of the National Campaign Advisory Council.

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Gov. Abbott blocking refugees violates Texas tradition

Posted on 22 January 2020 by admin

Since 1820, when pioneer Moses Austin petitioned the Mexican government for vacant land for a colony to be developed and sold to settlers, Texas has been a land of opportunity for those with the ambition and perseverance to succeed. Do not confuse this issue with that of President Trump’s attempts to restrict entry through our southern border of Mexican and other Central American citizens.
The president’s executive order allows state governors to “sign on,” if they wish, without approval by their legislatures, to legally block entry of legal immigrants attempting to resettle in their state.
One result would be the inability of immigrants to join family members who are already established within the state and could probably provide much of the newcomer’s needs.
As of this writing, Greg Abbott is the only governor to agree to block refugee resettlement.
No rationale is given by the governor other than a vague reference to a slight increase in illegal crossings at the southern border, which is a completely separate issue from the Resettlement Program consisting of “legal” immigrants.
It appears that the governor’s political loyalty to the president has blinded him from the traditional will of the people in Texas to accept refugees into their community.
The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) has joined other aid groups in suing to protect this longstanding refugee resettlement program they have assisted since its inception in 1980.
Here are just a few reasons why the Resettlement Program should be continued and perhaps, even expanded.
Pardon all the statistics, but they are necessary to help explain how immigrants are such a positive addition to the Texas population.
•One of every six residents is an immigrant, while 15% are native-born citizens with one or two immigrant parents.
•Over a third of all immigrants in Texas are naturalized citizens.
•Sixty-three percent are reported able to speak English “well” or “very well” and are represented in educational levels from high school graduates to college graduates.
•Immigrants are a vital part of the Texas workforce and contribute toward the Texas communities in which they reside.
A pending decision by the courts hopefully will block the governor and return Texas to its historic tradition of acceptance for those seeking refuge.
Hopefully, the federal courts will find that President Trump’s executive order violates the Refugee Act of 1980, which set up a uniform, federal system for refugee resettlement encompassing all the states. President Trump’s order appears to violate the 1980 law. Hopefully, Texas will continue to welcome its immigrants.

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Shema and mezuzah basics

Posted on 22 January 2020 by admin

Dear Families,
This week my lesson at the J was about the
“Shema” and the “mezuzah.” The Shema is one of the first prayers we teach our children because it is said first in the morning and then right before bed. It is a wonderful part of many bedtime rituals that families have. The Shema is not a prayer to God but is a statement about God, about us, and about the connections binding us with God and with each other. It says that there is one God for all of us.
The custom is to cover your eyes when saying the Shema so that you can really think about what you are saying. At the J Early Childhood Center, many classes make it part of their day in different ways.
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.
Hear O Israel, Adonai is Our God, Adonai is One.
The Shema is inside of the mezuzah, which we also talked about this week. We talked about the Shema inside the mezuzah, and our children created their own mezuzah. (We did not include the parchment, just an English translation and advice to purchase your own kosher scroll.) Here are some of the details to remember:
·A rabbi does not need to put up your mezuzah — here is the prayer: Baruch Atah Adonai Elohaynu melech ha’olam asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu likboah mezuzah. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who has made us holy with mitzvot and instructed us to affix the mezuzah.
·Face the door from the outside. Touch the right doorpost — that is where to place the mezuzah about 2/3 of the way up with the top of the mezuzah tilted in.
·A mezuzah may be placed on every doorpost in the house except for the bathrooms and the closets.
·The parchment includes the Shema and Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-31.
·Become a mezuzah kisser — first touch your hand to the mezuzah, then bring your hand to your lips and kiss it.
·Mezuzah literally means “doorpost” but is normally taken to refer to the case which holds the parchment. On the outside of every mezuzah is a single Hebrew word — one of God’s names: Shaddai. The rabbis turn this into an anagram: Shomer Delatot Yisrael, Guardian of Israel’s Doors. When we put up a mezuzah and reconnect with it every time we enter, a sort of nonverbal prayer for protection is pointed in God’s direction.
A final story is a legend on the rabbinic “argument” on whether to hang the mezuzah vertically or horizontally. The story tells of the typical argument back and forth, ending with a compromise to hang it at an angle. The important message for all times is that sometimes we need to compromise and that each time you enter your home (or school or business), the mezuzah is reminding us that we need to meet each other in peace!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Enrich your understanding of Talmud with joint study

Posted on 22 January 2020 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I was inspired to hear about the recent celebration of the completion of the Talmud held in MetLife Stadium. Even though I’ve never studied Talmud (and am not exactly sure what it is), it made me proud to be part of a People that tens of thousands of come out in the freezing cold for hours to celebrate Jewish studies. It makes me want to tap into Jewish studying myself, but I am not sure how. I don’t do well with classes; is there a way to study with someone who could teach me at my level and where we could discuss the material together one-on-one?
Mark K.

Dear Mark,
The event you mentioned, called the Siyum HaShas, or Completion of the Talmud, was truly one of the most inspiring Jewish events to be held in years. My wife and I as well as numerous members of our community had the good fortune to be present with some 90,000 Jewish men and women who gathered together, from around the world, to participate in the greatest and largest celebration of Torah in Diaspora history! Numerous concurrent celebrations were held throughout the world, bringing together about a million Jews in celebration of the Talmud. No words could describe the incredible feeling of celebrating, praying, singing and dancing with that many fellow Jews!
The Talmud is the fusion of the Mishna, codified in Israel in the third century CE, and subsequent discussions, called the Gemara, codified in the sixth century. The Talmud is the sum total of all Jewish law, thought and philosophy. It has been called the portable homeland of the Jewish people, keeping Jews connected through its study and teachings throughout the exile of our people.
The Jewish people worldwide unite through the study of a daily folio, or Daf (two sides of a page). This cycle, which was instituted in the early 1900s, is a 7½-year cycle to complete the 2711 folios of the Talmud. This celebration was the bar mitzvah celebration, the completion of the 13th cycle since its initiation.
A few years ago, in Berlin, a Holocaust museum was built with a series of stone structures to walk through, attempting to show the enormity of the loss of 6 million Jews. Of course, the artist, a non-Jew, constructing this could not actually erect 6 million structures, and created as many as possible given the space constraints, to convey that feeling. All in all, the arbitrary final number was 2711! The meaning wasn’t lost on anyone who noticed; what is keeping our people, the “People of the Book,” going throughout the trials and tribulations of our exile, is that 2711, the pages of the Talmud which bind us up together for all time.
This event has been an inspiration for untold thousands of Jews worldwide. Many have initiated their own Talmud study and attempt to join world Jewry for the next celebration in 7½ years. Many more have begun some sort of Torah study, at whatever level he or she may be on.
What I would recommend for you is one recently launched in Dallas called “Partners in Torah.” It is the local branch of an international organization,
partnersintorah.org, which matches up Jews around the world with a study partner, a mentor, to study by phone weekly. The local branch is run by my organization DATA, meeting weekly Monday nights 8-9, featuring refreshments and a warm, inviting atmosphere. Dozens of “partners in Torah,” men and women all join together with a mentor. The mentor, assigned by the program, works out to study whatever area of Judaism interests the student, at their own level. With the one-on-one discussion that ensues, there’s no comparison between studying alone and studying with another! Especially in a room filled with like-minded Jews, all seeking a better understanding of our tradition.
To join this wonderful, meaningful (free of charge!) program or for more information, please contact Binyomin Epstein,
binyomine@gmail.com.
May the inspiration of the Siyum HaShas bring you and many others to renewed learning and growing in our rich heritage!

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Take the time to listen to our veterans

Posted on 22 January 2020 by admin

The headline of a story in the most recent Seniorific News, a free monthly paper always available at the Dallas JCC, caught and held my eye: “Last Witnesses to the Greatest Generation,” it’s called. That means me!
Those who served in World War II are commonly referred to today as “The Greatest Generation.” Other generations also have other names: My children are “Baby Boomers,” those born between 1946 (after the vets came home, married and started having families) and 1964. I’m a member of what has been called “The Silent Generation,” born in 1945 or before and including those who defended our country and saved the world from Hitler. Some of them have really been silent ever since they came home from war, but some have spoken out about their experiences.
I was born in 1934; as a 7-year-old, I learned firsthand about Pearl Harbor, and have clear memories to this day of Dec. 7, 1941, and the chaos that ensued. I knew that my mother’s five brothers all enlisted in an assortment of service branches (Army, Air Corps, Merchant Marine) the very next day, and were inducted immediately. I consider myself lucky to be one of those “Last Witnesses.” But that is also scary. How can we — who are aging or already aged ourselves — keep alive the realities of that time for the generations who have come after us?
My children knew their great-uncles well after they returned home, and heard their stories firsthand, and have never forgotten them. And my grandchildren and great-grands, members of cohort Generations Y and Z, are fortunate that one of my uncles — the youngest of the five — lived long enough for all of them to know him well, and to hear his stories. Because of his longevity (he was almost 96 when he passed away last year) we made up, for a too-brief time, a rare five-generation family. But were those youngsters old enough to understand those stories, and retain them? I doubt it. It’s now my job, as one of the Last Witnesses to that Greatest Generation, to keep those stories alive by retelling them as I learned them from that generation before me.
So now, I’m making a pitch here for the local Jewish War Veterans’ Posts, and their Auxiliaries. Every Jew who has ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces — any service branch, in any year — war or peace, any place — overseas or stateside — any amount of time — at any age from teen to senior, should be a member. As should every woman who has ever served in uniform, or kept the home fires burning while her husband or children were away on duty, or was widowed during her husband’s wartime service, or has outlived him since his return. Please use your Google to find meeting dates and locations in both Dallas and Fort Worth and just walk in: you will be warmly welcomed, and hear some great stories!
Someone once told me that the quality of a war is found in its songs. “Keep the Home Fires Burning” emerged from World War I, as did the “smile trio”: “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag,” “Smile Awhile,” and “There Are Smiles That Make You Happy.” The Greatest Generation gave us “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer,” and “Roger Young.” If you don’t recognize any of these, please look them up. But I dare you to find any song from the Korean War that hit the pop charts, and those from Viet Nam that did were mainly about peace. However, the greatest song of all time — in war and in peace — for all of us is “God Bless America,” by our esteemed Jewish composer Irving Bailin, a Russian immigrant who adopted the last name “Berlin” to sound less ethnic. In 1911, who could have known? That not-knowing in advance is itself the biggest story of history!
Harriet Gross can be reached at harrietgross@sbcglobal.net.

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American Jews must stop living in exile

Posted on 20 January 2020 by admin

I spent a lot of my time over the past several years explaining to friends, family and strangers why I made aliyah and why I encourage others to do the same. Usually my well-rehearsed elevator pitch on the richness of Jewish life in our homeland is accepted warmly by American Jews who are quick to recount to me their trips to Israel and affection for the country. But what I don’t mention — for the vast majority of interlocutors would either disagree, take offense or both — is that not only did I move to Israel because I believe in Jewish life here, but because I do not believe in Jewish life in America.
I’m an ardent believer in shlilat hagalut, the negation of the exile, or “the Diaspora” as most TJP readers prefer to call it. This concept, one in which most of my fellow Israelis themselves do not believe, is that life in exile is unsustainable, hypocritical and and irresponsible. It’s not a popular opinion, but it’s key component of my Zionism.
Before I explain the multiple reasons that I am against Jewish life in America — for there are many — it’s important to say that my beliefs in no way diminish the respect that I have for my community, friends and family who feel differently and who have every intention of living proud Jewish lives in the United States. The following reasons that I believe in shlilat hagalut are shared not out of animus but out of love.
First, Jewish life is religiously and culturally designed to be lived in the land of Israel. Our festivals reflect the seasonal progression of Levantine agricultural life, synagogues worldwide are built to face Jerusalem, and many of our commandments can be fulfilled only in Israel. Rav Kook, the founder of modern Religious Zionism, said, “A Jew cannot be as faithful to his ideas, feelings, and imagination in the exile as he can in the Land of Israel.”
In fact the thousands of Texan Jews who have never questioned their identities as Americans have themselves prayed to make aliyah every time they’ve participated in services. “Sound the great shofar for our freedom,” we say during the Amidah prayer, “raise a banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land. Blessed are You Lord, who gathers the dispersed of His people Israel.” And every year at the Seder we pray to be swiftly returned to our land, to be “Next year in Jerusalem.”
In the past these prayers were the expression of our people’s yearning to see our commonwealth reestablished, to be free once more. Now, in an era in which the State of Israel exists, with its arms stretching outward to the Jews of the world, ready to accept us with love and with thousands of shekels in cash on arrival at the airport, these prayers are said in vain. These pleas to be brought back to our homeland are completely void of meaning, for the American Jews who utter them have no real intention of carrying them out.
Second, Jewish life in the exile is dangerous. One of the most beloved pastimes of the nations of the world is to torment us, to expel us from our homes, to take advantage of our minds and then kill us for the fun of it. And America, with its synagogue shootings, swastika graffiti, and daily harassment, is no different from Europe, the cursed continent of our past. For though its crimes are fewer and certainly less fatal, the principle remains the same: In the exile, we depend on others for our rights and safety. Only in Israel do Jews take arms in our protection, only here are we the guarantors of our destinies.
Third, Jewish life in the exile is unsustainable. According to sound data, the majority of American Jews, who lack significant knowledge of Hebrew, Jewish literature and practice, are marrying goyim and raising their children to be either “half Jewish” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) or not Jewish at all. The only group of American Jews that is actually growing is the ultra-Orthodox population. But living such an insulated life, one in which women are second-class citizens, men don’t participate in the workforce, math and science are taboo, and intellectualism is seen as an enemy, is no way to preserve our people.
Last, aliyah is a responsibility. In Israel we sacrifice for the sake of our people, we fight on land, in the air and on the sea against the enemies of our people so that every Jew in the world can live without fear. And why is it that Israelis are the ones burdened with securing the Jewish future? Because they had the misfortune of not being born in America, the golden medina? Because their grandparents chose our people and Zionism over American materialistic opportunism?
Make no mistake — there are millions of Jews in America and around the world who live Jewish lives, at day schools and youth groups and college campuses, who are more committed to our people than the average Israeli may ever be. My love for our people was fostered at Levine Academy and Shearith Israel, at Camp Ramah and in BBYO and AIPAC. These communities are strong and they love our heritage and our God.
And I am in fact grateful for the 2000 years we spent in exile, for it transformed the Jewish people. The humanism and the ethics that we developed as a hunted minority have helped shape our people’s modern value system. Our experience in the exile is our greatest weapon in the fight against the elements of nationalistic chauvinism and anti-Arab racism that are spreading throughout Israeli society.
But the fact of the matter is that the next chapter of the Jewish story is being written where it all began, in the land from which we came. The problems are our problems, the triumphs our triumphs! To those Jews who care deeply about living Jewish lives, who see themselves first and foremost as Jews — the time has come to return home. To “go forth from the land of your birthplace to the land that God will show us.” To a land of milk and honey, a land that is ours.
Dallas native Matan Rudner made aliyah in August 2017 and serves as a Lone Soldier in the IDF.

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Transitioning into a harsh life in Egypt

Posted on 20 January 2020 by admin

This week, we begin the second book of the Torah, Shemot (Exodus). Moving on from Bereisheet — the rich and vibrant verses relating the mysteries of creation, the human portraits of our patriarchs and matriarchs, through Joseph’s majestic triumph in a foreign land — is a rough transition. We shift from a mood of fruitful accomplishments into scenes of cruelty, blood, sweat and tears.
This opening parasha is heavy and dark, detailing the rise of an evil ruler who enslaved the Children of Israel and caused them unthinkable suffering. When 30 years of harsh labor could not break the Jewish spirit and they continued to grow, Pharaoh intensified their workload. But in the middle of this bitter exile comes a beam of light. Moses, the redeemer of Israel, is born.
This idea emerges as a pattern through the generations. Whenever a period of terrible hardship and persecution arises for the Jewish people, the soul of a special leader descends into this world to counteract the darkness. Furthermore, there is a principle in Judaism that “God creates the cure before the illness” — it’s already there but needs to be discovered.
In this story, Pharaoh’s astrologers discerned that the Jews’ future savior had arrived, and so to prevent this event, Pharaoh “charged his people, saying: Every son that is born shall be cast into the river…” Describing Moses’ birth, the Torah mentions that after the delivery, his mother Yocheved looked at her newborn baby and “she saw that he was good.” (Exodus 2:1) Then she hid him away for three months.
The commentaries wonder what this seemingly extraneous phrase — “she saw that he was good” — tells us. After all, it’s natural for any mother, upon seeing her newborn baby, to immediately be overcome with an intense feeling of love, joy and gratitude and to embrace the child — so, of course, he was good in her eyes. But because every word is precise and relevant (how much more so concerning the focal figure in the Torah), there must have been some unique goodness that she noticed.
One interpretation, brought by the Aramaic translation of Targum Yonatan, is that Moses was born in the seventh month of pregnancy, an early birth that could have resulted in death. Nevertheless, he was complete and strong. Another explanation, cited by the most literal commentary of Rashi, is that this additional comment of “she saw he was good” is reminiscent of (and linked to) the very first time the Hebrew word “good” is used in the Torah:
God’s first creation was light, whereupon the verse in Bereisheet (1:4) states: “God saw that the light was good.” Just as God created light, then saw that the light was good, so too Yocheved gave birth and saw that he was good. This remarkable similarity, therefore, hints at some connection between the birth of Moses and the appearance of newly created light.
The Talmud explains that the moment Moses emerged from the womb, the entire room was suddenly filled with light, a sign that a special soul had entered the world.
The heroine
The backstory of Moses’ birth involves a discussion with Moses’ sister, Miriam. Jewish tradition recounts that when Amram, Moses’ father, first learned of Pharaoh’s decree, he reasoned (and likewise persuaded others) that any procreation would be in vain — their children would be killed anyway. After hearing this, Miriam, his daughter, strongly opposed his reasoning. She argued that the fundamental mitzvah “to be fruitful and multiply” is a definite reality that must be heeded without any calculations of future outcomes, which are merely possibilities. As a result, Amram and other men reunited with their wives, providing the impetus for the Exodus.
The Jewish Sages declare: “By virtue of the righteous women of that generation our ancestors were freed from Egypt.” And a key characteristic is reflected in this story. Imagine the strength that it took for a mother to make such a dreadful decision, knowing that her newborn son would immediately be killed. Yet, the cosmic effect of such faith — inspired by Miriam — brought about the redeemer and most famous spiritual leader in history.
One simple message is clear: Each child is an entire universe, unlocking channels of blessing for its family and the world at large.
A double decree
Like the abovementioned hint at the light that entered the room, there is another revealing subtlety in a famous verse, quoted in the Passover Haggadah, regarding the attempt to prevent the Jewish redemption. “Pharaoh charged all his people, saying: ‘Every son that is born you shall cast into the river; and every daughter techayun (you shall sustain, keep them alive).’” The precise wording sparks an inquiry: If Pharaoh’s sole concern was for all Jewish boys to be drowned in the river, why bother adding the obvious ending — “and every daughter you shall sustain”?
The superficial understanding of this phrase is that the fate of the girls did not interest Pharaoh; “just leave them alone.” Yet the juxtaposition — two instructions within the same verse — suggests the concluding phrase, too, involved some harsh decree. Picking up this nuance, the commentaries point to the meaning of the word techayun — “you shall sustain them, keep them alive.” They explain that the additional wording — “to sustain” — connotes a more active expression, an instruction to raise every daughter in the ways and practices of Egyptian culture.
Thus, Pharaoh gave two messages, one related to killing the bodies and the other to the souls: Pharaoh ordered his people drown the Jewish boys in the river in order to bring about physical death. Those same Egyptians were commanded to actively “sustain” (i.e., raise) the girls as Egyptians, by immersing them in the prevalent culture, and thereby causing them to forget their roots.
Egyptian traps
Since Egyptian exile is mentioned as the root of all subsequent exiles, its harsh decrees — as well as its recipes for persevering — apply (in some form) to all periods in our history. In this regard, we may encounter a prevailing attitude and pressure to immerse children in the popular way of life, even if it runs contrary to essential Jewish values. More specifically, Jewish children are often taught more about the modern political figures and heroes, before they can explore their own roots. In this week’s parasha, we have two heroes to celebrate and educate about: Moses and Miriam.
Rabbi Dan Lewin is director of the nonprofit Maayan Chai Foundation. For information, visit www.maayanchai.org.

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Fitting into Judaism’s continuous chain

Posted on 20 January 2020 by admin

Dear Families,
I have another new book to recommend although I haven’t finished it, which may be a good recommendation or not! Sarah Hurwitz, former speechwriter for Michelle Obama, wrote a book titled “Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life — in Judaism (After FINALLY Choosing to Look There).” She has described herself as the quintessential lapsed Jew and after beginning her journey back, she is amazed at what was there all the time!
It is something many of us have struggled with as being “forced” to go to Hebrew school and attend services did not leave a good taste in many Jews’ discerning palate. To be honest, although I admit my Jewish learning consisted of an amazing time for many, many years at Jewish camp, I never strayed but I never learned enough until I got older and have learned more and more as I continue to teach (learning to teach something is a very good way to really learn something).
Although I haven’t made it through the book yet, the introduction is worth buying the book! Let me share the story she shared from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. He invites us into a library filled with books with many values you could choose to embrace and many lifestyle options. You can take any book, read it, and then choose more on that topic or put it back and pick another. But what if you find a book with your family’s name on it? Here is what he says:
“Intrigued, you open it and see many pages written by different hands in many languages. You start reading it, and gradually you begin to understand what it is. It is the story each generation of your ancestors has told for the sake of the next, so that everyone born into this family can learn where they came from, what happened to them. What they lived for and why. As you turn the page, you reach the last, which carries no entry but a heading. It bears your name.”
Wow! That’s Judaism! And your name will always be there waiting for you to write the next pages. Our Jewish journey is each of our story and how we fit into the continuing chain. Each time I am reminded of our Jewish story, I remember the marketing campaign many years ago of Chase Manhattan. They said to all: “You’ve got a friend at Chase Manhattan!” Sounds great! But then Bank Leumi, the bank of Israel, next door created their own marketing campaign: “You may have a friend at Chase Manhattan but at Bank Leumi, we’re mishpacha — we’re family!” That’s what makes Judaism so special and so unique. You may define your practice in myriad ways from being a gastronomic Jew (it’s all about the food) to being a cardiac Jew (I don’t do anything but I feel Jewish in my heart) to being observant of the commandments. You are part of the family!
I will update you as I move through the book, but it is filled with lots of information and written in a way that we can understand. Enjoy!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Ketubah’s aim is to protect the bride

Posted on 20 January 2020 by admin

Firstly, I thank you for your weekly article which enriches our weekend, and we look forward to it all week! Could you please explain what exactly is a ketubah; is it a document of sorts or is it part of the actual act of the Jewish wedding? Why do some people hang it on their wall?
Barbara L.

Dear Barbara,
During the early stages of the wedding ceremony, the first order of business is the completion, signing and witnessing of the ketubah, or marriage contract. This contract is required by rabbinic law and, according to some Talmudic authorities, actually dates back to Biblical times.
The ketubah, which is traditionally read out loud under the chuppah, is written in Aramaic, which was the spoken language of the Jews during Talmudic times when the wording was institutionalized. This document details the husband’s obligations to his wife, including food, clothing, dwelling and intimacy mandated by the Torah. The ketubah, which is a legally binding document, also creates a lien on all his property and his estate to pay his wife a sum of money should he divorce her or predecease her.
The document is signed by two witnesses, who have observed the groom’s acceptance of all the obligations within the ketubah by way of a kinyan, a type of acquisition effected by lifting up an object given to him by the rabbi officiating. The ketubah, once signed, has the status of a legally binding agreement in Jewish law, which in some countries is also enforceable by civil law.
The ketubah is not part of the actual betrothal or the wedding per se, but is a prerequisite for the wedding to take place once the financial agreements, enacted by the Talmudic sages, are in place. The Ketubah was enacted as a protection of the rights of the bride, and the sages did not allow the wedding to commence until that protection is in place. (Some, today, have the practice to enact a halachic prenuptial agreement as well.)
The ketubah is the wife’s possession and it remains in her care. It must remain in a safe place throughout the couple’s married life, such as in a safe or safety deposit box, as it serves as a sort of standing license in Jewish law for the couple to live as man and wife.
Because the ketubah is the tangible evidence of this momentous occasion in their new life together, it is sometimes decorated or written as an illuminated manuscript. Some couples frame it and display it in their home as a meaningful work of art, one which testifies to their home being built upon the timeless foundation of the chuppah and meaningful concepts of the Jewish wedding.

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We are still the ‘People of the Book’

Posted on 20 January 2020 by admin

“Have You a Jewish Book Shelf in Your Home?” What a good question! I have it in print: the title of a small pamphlet from the Jewish Publication Society. It’s double-good: full of good words and good advice, starting with this: “A love of books and learning has always been a distinguishing characteristic of our people. Today, perhaps more than ever before, we need the spiritual stimulation of our own rich tradition and eternal faith…”
I’m happy to say — or maybe embarrassed to admit — that I have more than one Jewish book “shelf” in my home. The entire house has become something of a Jewish library, with piles of books of all kinds to be found just about everywhere. The shelves and desktop in my office have long-since been filled; the “overrun” is stacked on and under tables, and on several chairs and one ottoman dedicated to that purpose. Books also surface in living and dining rooms and on a kitchen shelf that holds several cookbooks — not well used, I admit, except for the two I will never part with: Sara Kasdan’s “Love and Knishes” from 1969, which taught me how to make the easiest and best chicken soup ever, and a 1941 gem by Mildred Grosberg Bellin called, quite simply, “The Jewish Cookbook — According to the Jewish Dietary Laws.”
My father started me off as a serious book collector when I moved from grade school into junior high. I‘d been reading for years, even before I started school, but he put the necessity into what he wrote in my “slam book,” that personal autograph-type album we students passed around so we’d always remember our classmates as we moved up and out of one educational setting into another. In contrast to the usual lighthearted remarks on its pages, Dad offered this: “Education is not a mere means to life; education is life itself.” And so I read on…and on…
I can’t stop adding to my ever-growing collection, but I’ve stopped worrying about it: I give many books that relate in any way to the Holocaust to the Ackerman Center at UT-Dallas, to be used by students of the Shoah. And I will give all the rest to the new Legacy Midtown Park, now under construction, whenever it opens for occupancy. Because I hope to move there myself at that time, I’ll know that in its library — one of the promised residents’ amenities — I can find any book I would want to reread. Good planning, yes?
JPS is quite specific about how every family should begin taking part in its “Jewish Books in Every Jewish Home” effort. The first essential volume must of course be a Bible. Second is “History of the Jews: From the Earliest Time to the Present,” a six-volume set that could fill up most people’s shelves all by itself! The author, Heinrich Graetz, is credited with being first ever to tell our people’s story from a Jewish perspective.
But now, time for “true confessions”: This is not a recent pamphlet I’m referencing. It’s dated 1936 (when I was 2 years old!) and offers an array of books for sale to JPS members at special reduced prices, so that almost everyone would be able to stock a family shelf even so soon after the Great Depression: $1 for most adult titles, 75 cents for children’s. Yellowed and with crumbling edges, my treasure recently surfaced as I looked into an accordion folder I hadn’t even looked at for many years. But a quick peek on Google shows me I can still buy Graetz’ six-volume history of Judaism from earliest times to the author’s “present” (which was more than 120 years ago), published between 1891 and ‘96 and still in good condition, for $75 to $100.
I’m sure today’s Jewish Publication Society would deem this collection a worthy addition to my own overflowing, space-consuming “Jewish Book Shelf.” And maybe my ancient pamphlet would be welcomed into its own collection…?
Harriet Gross can be reached at harrietgross@sbcglobal.net.

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