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Transformative experience: MoMENtum trip to Israel gives travelers a unique view into Israel

Transformative experience: MoMENtum trip to Israel gives travelers a unique view into Israel

Posted on 11 January 2018 by admin

The Dallas-area contingent in Jerusalem

The Dallas-area contingent in Jerusalem

By Aaron Greenberg
Special to the TJP

A trip to Israel is expected to be transformative for any Jew. For a group of 28 men from the Dallas area, a Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project MoMENtum trip in October delivered far more than just the wonders of visiting the Jewish state.
Kevin Pailet’s wife, Mahra, is on the JWRP board and convinced him to go. It wasn’t an easy sell. Kevin is on AIPAC’s national board and had been to Israel many times before, primarily on business or organizational trips.
“I told my wife I go to Israel all the time, I don’t need to go on this,” Kevin said.
For others, it was seen as a chance to have fun. Chuck Butler, one of the last to sign up, went on his first trip to the Holy Land looking forward mostly to spending time away with friends.
What they received was life-changing advice, experiences and bonding opportunities — all with a backdrop of Jerusalem and other holy sites. In fact, months later, the entire group remains actively in touch, continuing their growth as Jews, fathers and husbands.
“It’s given me a different lens to engage my wife and kids with, and I’m really happy that I’ve got that lens,” Chuck said.
Chuck recently hosted a dinner for the group, and 26 of the 28 came — the other two being out of town. The bond developed last year is clearly lasting.
“I don’t think I could build these friendships in a normal setting, ever,” he said.
Although the JWRP is best known for its work with and for Jewish women, its focus on family and the success of the women’s trips made the men’s trips a natural next step. Many of the women want their husbands to get a similar experience.
“Because we are an organization that listens to our constituency, the MoMENtum trip was born,” Mahra said.
Her involvement with the board reflects that responsive nature. Mahra reached out to learn how she could do more as soon as she returned from Israel. Within a week, she was working out the next steps with the development department.
It’s not only normal for those who go to want to stay involved — it’s the rule of thumb.

Rabbi Shlomo Abrams and Trip Madrich Billy Warshauer

Rabbi Shlomo Abrams and Trip Madrich Billy Warshauer

“One year later, based on our follow-up, 99 percent still say being Jewish is more important to them,” she said. “98 percent have encouraged family and friends to visit Israel. 75 percent say the trip had a large or life-changing impact on them. We’re sending home leaders.”

A new focus

Most of Kevin’s trips have a very specific focus. He meets with elected officials, members of the military, bureaucrats and experts, he said, and it’s “like attending a conference or business trip that happens to be in Israel.”
On the MoMENtum trips, tourism is secondary. Instead of the skyscrapers and beaches, there’s introspection. Just as with the women’s trips, speakers focus on bettering oneself to improve family life and one’s place in the Jewish community. Charlie Harary, an inspirational speaker, shared his advice on a daily basis, and it hit home for Kevin.
“Once you are out of high school and college and have a family, you are doing very little for yourself,” Kevin said. “On this trip, it’s all guys having the same struggles of how to pause, how to focus on the important things in our lives, to transition away from that treadmill and be present in the moment. That was a big part for me, to learn skills to apply back here in daily life.”
Chuck said that one of his biggest challenges is explaining what he received from the trip without sounding like a zealot.
“When people come back, they want to witness to you about how awesome it is. If you haven’t been through it, these people seem crazy,” he said.
“If I could get people to go, I think they’d be better dads, better husbands, better leaders in the community. I struggle with how to not oversell it.”
He suggests looking at it the way he did — a chance to bond with fellow men. There were several guys he knew well, and others he had met briefly over the years.
Dallas has been very much a part of JWRP since its beginning. Two local rabbis — Nasanya Zakon of DATA of Plano and Shlomo Abrams of the Jewish Learning Center — went on the trip. Jewish Education Texas has also been supportive of JWRP.

Rabbi Nasanya Zakon, Mike Stern and Billy Warshauer enjoy dinner.

Rabbi Nasanya Zakon, Mike Stern and Billy Warshauer enjoy dinner.

“This trip has been a game-changer for men,” said Rabbi Abrams. “We are all running around on the treadmill of life trying to balance our work, family and kids and we tend to forget about our spiritual needs and our power as a Jewish man.
“This trip offers the opportunity to stop and look inside and rebuild our core and renew our relationship with our Jewish identity and God.”
Mahra describes the purpose of JWRP trips as rekindling the spark often lost in the daily grind. As such, it could appeal to a wide range of adults.
Future right of passage?
“I see a future where a JWRP MoMENtum trip becomes a rite of passage much like Birthright or March of the Living is for our children,” Mahra said.
Most of the trip was in Jerusalem, but there was also a day at the Dead Sea and Masada. The Dallas contingent was part of a larger group of about 200, including 13 men, most of who grew up in the Soviet Union, who decided to have a bar mitzvah ceremony atop Masada.
The symbolism was extremely apparent and moving, especially after an F-16 flew over.
“You’re having that emotional moment, you are at this ancient place of Masada with that last stand with the Romans and you are sitting here looking at these families from the Soviet Union, they were not able to live openly as Jews, and here they are in the modern state of Israel with Jewish sovereignty and having their bar mitzvahs,” Kevin said.
The men were also moved by their time in the Old City, especially Shabbat at the Kotel. They prayed and danced with others, befriending several members of Israel’s equivalent to Navy SEALs. Kevin said it felt like barriers were broken down, and Chuck described it as like being at the center of the world.
Rabbi Abrams explained, “Once we step into Israel, something special happens and the guys start bonding and come back with a fresh new perspective as a dad, husband and as an inspired Jew in Dallas.”

A true group

Chuck said there were no real cliques, regardless of who knew whom beforehand. He mentioned a trip to the shuk (traditional marketplace) where several smaller groups started exploring and ended up together.
The experience continues after the men and women come home. They are encouraged to stay connected and get involved.
“Everybody focuses on the trip because that’s what they know,” Mahra said. “They think it’s Birthright for moms. But a participant goes through teambuilding, is educated about Jewish values and has the Israel experience. Then the journey continues when they get home.”

The Dallas contingent

The Dallas contingent

Kevin said his emotional connection to God has changed as a result of Harary’s words. Celebrating Shabbat with family has taken a bigger role in his life, and the Pailets now include blessings over the children and additional songs.
Chuck, who converted about six years ago, is more spiritual than religious, but the experience reached him on multiple levels. He’s looking forward to future trips to Israel, but it’s not to see as many sights as he can.
“I don’t care how many times I go back, I would always spend a few days in Jerusalem,” he said. “It’s the center of it all. I’m looking down at the Kotel, and at this mosque dome, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there’s every religion, the holiest sites within 15 minutes of each other. It’s an overwhelming thing to see so many people emotionally charged and caring about one place. And it’s not a big place.”

Brett and Adam Diamond at the Kotel

Brett and Adam Diamond at the Kotel

As a group, the Dallas members rotate sharing a Shabbat inspirational message and keep in touch through WhatsApp, meeting when they can.
“We don’t realize as guys how much we also crave connection and friendship,” Rabbi Zakon said. “What is amazing to see is how this trip provides an opportunity for guys to bond. These friendships are only getting stronger since the trip. We have events just for the guys and we all stay and talk over beers for hours.”
“It’s an easy connection. It’s never handshakes, it’s always hugs. It’s a brotherhood,” Chuck said.

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Estate planning with purpose

Estate planning with purpose

Posted on 05 January 2018 by admin

Photo: Sharon Kuhr Photography Nationally known speaker Chris Erblich is flanked by Dallas Jewish Community Foundation’s Chairman of the Board Rusty Cooper (left) and CEO/President Meyer Bodoff at the 22nd annual fall seminar that the Foundation hosts. Chris will return to speak at the DJCF annual meeting Jan. 25.

Photo: Sharon Kuhr Photography
Nationally known speaker Chris Erblich is flanked by Dallas Jewish Community Foundation’s Chairman of the Board Rusty Cooper (left) and CEO/President Meyer Bodoff at the 22nd annual fall seminar that the Foundation hosts. Chris will return to speak at the DJCF annual meeting Jan. 25.

Husch Blackwell’s Erblich offers insights at Annual Meeting

By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP

Chris Erblich wants people to know one thing about estate planning, something that has nothing to do with estate tax. The managing partner with Phoenix-based Husch Blackwell LLP indicated that “90 percent of wealthy families will go from shirtsleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.” The reason why wealth tends to be squandered within three generations? “What people don’t spend time on,” Erblich explained “is figuring out ways to pass down values. Passing wealth down without values can be destructive.”
Erblich, who is highly passionate about this topic, will be the main speaker at the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation’s Annual Meeting, which will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, at the Aaron Family JCC. There, amid a lavish dessert selection, attendees will learn the importance of values and estate planning, no matter the size of the estate.
“Passing the values down is more important than passing the wealth down,” Erblich noted. “That’s true, whether you’re passing down a dollar, $100, or $1 million.”
Erblich said the fundamental question to be answered concerning wealth is what the money will be used for, beyond the necessities. Philanthropy is certainly important, but even more vital is the reason behind the giving. “People need a purpose,” Erblich said. “They need to know their values.” Such values can differ from family to family, he noted, adding that donating to an organization such as the Foundation helps broadcast a specific purpose of wealth and giving to family members.
Erblich’s information, as well as that passed along from other experts in Annual Meetings past, is what helps make the Foundation’s annual events somewhat different from others of its type. “When people hear the term ‘Annual Meeting,’ they think about a bunch of tired speeches and nothing else,” said Meyer L. Bodoff, Dallas Jewish Community Foundation president and CEO. Yes, the Foundation January event will have board elections and Sylvan T. Baer Foundation award presentations to Jewish community organizations. But year after year, it is the speakers, and their audience-friendly presentations, that are the main draw. “It’ll be a fun night,” Bodoff said. “Plus, nobody does dessert like we do.”
As an aside, the desserts are being offered up by Taste of the World Catering, and according to Dallas Jewish Community Foundation Director of Scholarships and Programs Mona Allen, they are “show-stoppers.”
Though satisfying the sweet tooth could be considered a decent lure to the event, the main purpose of the Annual Meetings is to encourage all individuals from the community to attend. Bodoff indicated that, as the Foundation represents all age groups, socioeconomic strata and sectors of Judaism — a “true cross-section of the community,” as he puts it — the main speakers are selected to appeal to everyone.
“Last year (2017), Morgan Stanley’s national vice president of philanthropy was the speaker, and she had an excellent presentation,” Bodoff said. “Chris’ presentation will be markedly different.” He went on to say that people don’t generally have the opportunity to learn about estate planning and ways to make a difference, even if they aren’t thousandaires, millionaires or billionaires. “Information like that is typically presented in technical, IRS and legal terms,” Bodoff added. “This presentation will be in a way that the average person can understand.”
And Erblich himself is no stranger to the DJCF. “He spoke a few times to our professional advisors, for continuing education classes,” Allen said, adding that those sessions tended to be more technical, and geared toward an audience of lawyers, estate planners and accountants. Erblich’s most recent presentation to DJCF professional advisors focused on handing down values in tandem with wealth. The topic resonated, and Allen said the presentation would be perfect for the Annual Meeting. Furthermore, “Chris will be presenting in a way that is geared toward non-professionals, helping them gain from his insights and understanding,” Bodoff said.
As for Erblich, he considers it an honor to present at the DJCF event. “It’s my honor to have this opportunity,” he said. “This group truly has an incredible purpose and mission that is impacting other people, and I’m thrilled to be doing this.”
The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation’s 2018 Annual Meeting will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 25, at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, 7900 Northaven Road in Dallas. Reservations are required by Jan. 18. For more information, visit http://www.djcf.org/annualmeet2018.

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JCRC holds Community Teen Havdalah event

Posted on 05 January 2018 by admin

Submitted report

DALLAS — More than 150 teens gathered on Dec. 9 at the Aaron Family JCC for the first-ever Community Teen Havdalah hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
The program began with a Havdalah service and singing led by the beloved-by-teens music team of Eric and Happie (Eric Hunker and Happie Hoffman), followed by an Israel education and advocacy training led by Rayna Exelbierd, Southeast High School Coordinator of StandWithUs, and Zachary Schaffer, Community Strategy Associate of the Israel Action Network.
The program, titled Israel on Campus: A Reality Check, is an interactive Israel advocacy program that follows modeled civil discourse on issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and showcases effective and ineffective conversational skills. Event partners included all local synagogues, Jewish youth groups, StandWithUs and the Israel Action Network of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Following welcome remarks by JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin, teens Noga Even, a member of the JCRC Teen Advisory Council and a StandWithUs intern, and Zach Denn, also a member of the JCRC Teen Advisory Council, introduced Eric and Happie to lead the Havdalah service. After Havdalah, Exelbierd and Schaffer presented tools and strategies for how to participate in conversations about Israel with someone who may hold differing beliefs. Part of the program involved using a small group of teens role playing with the trainers.
“The Community Teen Havdalah was a really special night to gain some knowledge and skills related to Israel. I’m glad so many teens joined us, and am grateful to our Jewish community for putting together this kind of event for teens,” Noga said.
The evening’s program concluded with a song session led by Eric and Happie while teens enjoyed a kosher candy bar and green-screen photo booth, with backgrounds of Israel. Custom-made stadium seat cushions were handed out as free giveaways to the teens in attendance.
“It was so nice to be a part of the Community Teen Havdalah event. Happie and Eric led a beautiful Havdalah service, and I learned a lot from the Israel advocacy trainers about how to better respond to a potentially difficult conversation about Israel on campus, said Sophia Fineberg, member of the JCRC Teen Advisory Council and Shlicha of BBYO’s North Texas-Oklahoma Regional Board.
The Jewish Federation’s High School Impact Committee and JCRC staff planned and prepared for the event with feedback from its Teen Advisory Council. Members of the 2017-18 JCRC Teen Advisory Council are Maayan Abouzaglo, Alec Becker, Rachel Berkowitz, Zach Denn, Noga Even, Sophia Fineberg, Mikayla Gothard, Chandler Kassel, Avery Klatsky, Ben Levkovich, Alexandria (Lexi) Lewis, Eli Minsky, Robert Roseman and Ross Rubin.
“This event is part of a larger and critical initiative in our community to engage our teens in conversations about Israel. We are committed to educating and empowering our youth regarding the complexities of the issues and provide the resources so that they can do their part to support a strong and vibrant Jewish State of Israel. I am grateful for the dedication and diligence of our lay leadership and JCRC staff for putting together such a meaningful event for our teens,” remarked Rubin.
Part of the mission of the Federation/JCRC Combatting BDS Committee is to educate local teens about responding to potential BDS and anti-Israel activity on campus. To that end, the High School Impact Sub-Committee, chaired by Ruthy Rosenberg and Melanie Pinker, continues to engage local teens in educational programming about Israel.
For more information about the JCRC and the Federation’s Combatting BDS Initiative, please visit www.jewishdallas.org/JCRC, call 214-615-5293 or email jcrcdallas@jewishdallas.org.

 

 

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JCRC Community Teen Havdalah

Partner organizations:

  • Anshai Torah
  • Adat Chaverim
  • BBYO
  • Beth-El Ft. Worth — Camp Impact
  • Congregation Beth Torah
  • Congregation Shaare Tefilla
  • Congregation Shearith Israel
  • Congregation Kol Ami
  • Chabad of Plano
  • Israel Action Network of Jewish Federations of North America
  • The JCC
  • Jewish Student Union (JSU)
  • NCSY
  • NFTY
  • Nishmat Am
  • Shir Tikvah
  • StandWithUs Texas
  • Temple Shalom
  • Temple Emanu-El
  • Tiferet Israel Congregation
  • USY
  • URJ Greene Family Camp
  • Yavneh Academy

The event was made possible by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

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ONE Night to feature comedian Mandel

ONE Night to feature comedian Mandel

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

The Maccabeats to provide music

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas will host its third-annual communitywide fundraising event featuring comedian Howie Mandel. ONE Night with Howie Mandel, generously presented by BB&T, is chaired by Angela Aaron Horowitz and Doug French, Jolie and Michael Newman and Natalie and Michael Waldman. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, at McFarlin Auditorium on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus.

Howie Mandel

Howie Mandel

ONE Night with Howie Mandel will bring together the Dallas Jewish community as it celebrates the event’s theme, “ONE Night, One Event, One Community.” ONE Night is the Federation’s largest annual fundraising and outreach event of the year supporting the Jewish community in Dallas, in Israel and in more than 70 countries around the world. In addition to a night of community, giving back and laughter, special musical guests The Maccabeats will perform. Last year’s ONE Night with Jim Gaffigan was a huge success with more than 1,300 in attendance raising more than $1 million.
There is no charge to attend the event but a suggested minimum gift to the Federation’s Annual Campaign is required. More information about donating can be found at jewishdallas.org/onenight.
“As immediate past board chair of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, it’s a special privilege to serve as an event chair for the Federation’s ONE Night,” said Angela Aaron Horowitz. “Without the support of the Federation, the JCC’s largest donor, we could not remain the vibrant organization serving as the central address for the Dallas Jewish community.” She explains, “The ONE Night epitomizes the very essence of the partnership and support for the entire Jewish community and offers everyone an opportunity to come together to support so many Jewish agencies in the greater Dallas area.”
Mark Kreditor, Federation board chair adds, “I hope every Jewish person in our Greater Dallas community will join us for this amazing evening of laughter and philanthropy. Our Federation has grown and expanded its allocations over the past few years because our community is able to see all the good we do through amazing events like ONE Night. ONE Night is a celebration of our community’s commitment to ensure the safety, success and continuity for every Jew in this community, in Israel and throughout the world. It is my hope we have a very full house. You do not want to miss Howie Mandel.”
The evening’s highlight will be comedian Howie Mandel, who has remained a constant force in show business for more than 30 years. Mandel is executive producer of many shows through his production company Alevy Productions and also serves as one of the judges on NBC’s summer hit talent competition series America’s Got Talent alongside Heidi Klum, Mel B and Simon Cowell. Previously, Howie received an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Host For A Reality or Reality- Competition Program” for Deal or No Deal and a Daytime Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Game Show Host” for the syndicated version of the show.

Submitted photo The Maccabeats will perform at ONE Night.

Submitted photo
The Maccabeats will perform at ONE Night.

Howie started his career on a dare in Toronto in 1979. During a trip to Los Angeles, he was at the legendary Comedy Store on amateur night and was coaxed by his friends to get up and try his luck. As fate would have it, there was a producer in the crowd who immediately hired him to appear on the comedy game-show Make Me Laugh. His appearance on the show led to talk show appearances, a stint as Diana Ross’ opening act and eventually to the award-winning NBC drama St. Elsewhere, where Howie spent six seasons as Dr. Wayne Fiscus.
Howie has done countless comedy specials on both cable and network television and continues to perform as many as 200 concerts a year throughout the U.S. and Canada. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Terry, and their three children.
To register, visit www.jewishdallas.org/onenight. Tickets are non-transferable and online registration is required.
— Submitted by JFGD Marketing and Communications Director Hillary Burlbaw

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Therapy co-founder hopes to make sizeable hoofprint

Therapy co-founder hopes to make sizeable hoofprint

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Submitted photo Hallie Sheade created a new framework for care in her doctorate thesis. It is known as Spectrum of Therapeutic Equine-Partnered Services, or STEPS.

Submitted photo
Hallie Sheade created a new framework for care in her doctorate thesis. It is known as Spectrum of Therapeutic Equine-Partnered Services, or STEPS.

Sheade’s Equine Connection Counseling growing rapidly

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

Hallie Sheade has a problem: The Fort Worth-based equine therapist cannot turn away clients.
Through her Cleburne-based private practice Equine Connection Counseling (ECC), which specializes in providing counseling and psychotherapy to veterans and at-risk youth through interaction with horses, she sees about 25-30 clients a week. (The waiting list currently hovers at around 80 individuals.)
“I just can’t say no!” she said.
(She still, however, finds time to attend Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth, where she hopes to eventually join as a member.)
Sheade loves her job in part because she loves horses too. At 2 years old, the Illinois native was the only kid who went on those pony rides at the county fair. Her parents signed up the 5-year-old for horse riding lessons.
“It became my obsession,” she said. She was so obsessed, in fact, her parents steered her sister toward other hobbies.
“They couldn’t afford to have two kids obsessed with horses,” she said.
At 9 years old, she worked at a barn full of horses. She was especially attracted to Cowman, who liked neither people nor other horses, continuing her interest in horse-human relationships.
She studied psychology and biology at the University of Miami and later received a degree in counseling from Georgia State University.
The empathic workaholic who loves her job and horses has the data to prove she needs to provide her services longer than the usual counselor. She noticed that many of her clients were reluctant to end services once treatment goals had been met because they did not want to lose the connection with the horse. Many of them relapsed after termination of services.
For her doctorate thesis at the University of North Texas, where she earned the degree in 2014, she established a new framework for care, known as Spectrum of Therapeutic Equine-Partnered Services or STEPS.
After completing counseling, clients can continue their relationship with the horse by participating in supportive activities designed to help them build upon the progress and skills achieved during counseling. They can become active members of a horse community through which they can deepen their relationship with horses while also connecting with other people who share similar interests and experiences.
“The STEPS model is a revolutionary, one-of-a-kind approach to mental health treatment and ongoing wellness after treatment has ended,” Sheade said. “Counseling works and has a high outcome. But a problem in the mental health field is what happens post-counseling?” she added.
Using the model, in 2017, Heade and her husband, Paul Ziehe, a Marine Corps veteran and a certified therapeutic riding instructor, founded the nonprofit STEPS With Horses. It pairs horses with active and veteran military service members and their families, at-risk youth and others.
The STEPS approach is a great fit for veterans, said Ziehe.
As many as 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress, depression or traumatic brain injury and an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Many of these individuals go untreated, avoid traditional therapies or drop out of treatment prematurely due to the stigma, and sometimes discomfort, associated with seeing a counselor, Ziehe said.
Veteran John Halpin is a former ECC client who did not want to give up seeing his horse, a Belgian named Marshall. Halpin retired from the Marine Corps in 2009 after serving almost 25 years, with the final rank of sergeant major.
“I didn’t come to grips with some of the things I saw in combat and with the Corps in general,” Halpin said. “I started the groundwork with Hallie and picked the horse. He and I just bonded. The comfort and bond with the horse has a calming effect for me. It helps me to forget. It grounds me and helps me out in my daily life. It’s closed the loop for me.”
If Sheade and Ziehe are to help veterans like Halpin, however, they need some help.
ECC currently operates on the site of another nonprofit. But to successfully deliver and expand services, they need their own site. They recently launched a $1.2 million capital campaign with that goal in mind. Funds would go toward acquiring land and facilities and purchasing necessary equipment.
Sheade and Ziehe do not plan to keep STEPS confined to the Dallas/Fort Worth region. They hope to replicate the model elsewhere.
“We need land. But we will start with a barn. It just takes getting one person or a few people to help,” Sheade said.
For more information on STEPS with Horses, visit Stepswithhorses.org.

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Charter school emphasizes STEM, languages

Charter school emphasizes STEM, languages

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Ms. Otey’s kindergarten art class

Ms. Otey’s kindergarten art class

Lone Star Academy preparing students for 21st-century jobs

By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP

Staci Weaver was hired May 26, 2017, as principal and superintendent of Lone Star Language Academy, one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s newest charter schools. Three months later on Aug. 21, the new charter school in West Plano opened its doors for the first time to welcome 108 new students, from kindergarten through third grade.
According to Weaver, the school opening in that short span was nothing short of a miracle.

Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Weaver at the red ribbon ceremony

Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Weaver at the red ribbon ceremony

“We usually get a year to launch a charter school,” she said, with a laugh. But with assistance from another charter school, the Region 10 Educational Service Center, Academica Southwest and Priscila Carrera, the school’s office manager (“who is nothing short of amazing,” Weaver said), the school at 5301 Democracy Drive is now in the business of education. Furthermore, Weaver and the school have definite plans for growth and expansion.

Ms. Matto’s kindergarten class during drug-free week

Ms. Matto’s kindergarten class during drug-free week

Each day, students are immersed in science, technology, arts and math (STEAM/STEM) programs, along with English/language arts and social studies, as well as the ability to learn two languages: Hebrew and Spanish.

Isaac Carrera

Isaac Carrera

“The reality is that many of the STEM-related fields and jobs are international,” Weaver said, adding that being bilingual and trilingual ends up being a competitive advantage on the job market. Spanish is offered, as it is the second-most spoken language in the United States. The Hebrew component, in the meantime, ties into the Jewish community’s growth in Far North Dallas and Collin County, a natural fit for Weaver, who is also Jewish.
“We felt that the Jewish families would want their children to learn more Hebrew in school,” Weaver said. Future languages, such as French, are being considered; Weaver indicated she is soliciting feedback from parents.

Staci Weaver

Staci Weaver

Many of those parents have jobs in the area of Legacy West Plano, which is one reason why the school was conceived. Launched by a group that believed a charter school should be up and running near a major employment center, Lone Star Language Academy’s doors open as early as 6 a.m. to accommodate parents who work in and around the Legacy area. In addition to its being open to students attending school in the Plano Independent School District, families belonging to the Allen, Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Frisco and Richardson ISDs may apply as well.
In addition to learning about languages and an emphasis on STEAM/STEM curriculum, students will be armed with marketable skills by the time they graduate from high school, specifically, an associate’s degree. Weaver said Lone Star Language Academy will eventually offer a K-12th grade curriculum, with students obtaining high school credits while in middle school, and high school students ending up with college credits before they graduate. The plan is to add fourth- and fifth-grade levels for the 2018-2019 school year, have a middle school up and running the following year, then culminate the process with a high school component.
Weaver herself is no stranger to charter schools. An ex-police officer, she found a second passion as a teacher after retiring from the police force. Though she originally taught in Florida, her Texas teaching and administrative backgrounds include stints with the Comal ISD (near San Antonio) and two charter schools. One institution was New Frontiers Charter School in San Antonio; the other was Meadowland Charter School in Boerne, in the far northern reaches of the San Antonio area.

Elia Puente and Eliyana Rey study Hebrew at Lone Star Language Academy.

Elia Puente and Eliyana Rey study Hebrew at Lone Star Language Academy.

Weaver and her husband came to Dallas because her son and daughter-in-law live in the area. When she spotted a job ad for the Lone Star Language Academy leadership position, she applied, was hired — then opened the school’s doors in a little more than 90 days.
Though the rush toward the 2018-2019 school year won’t be quite so dramatic, Weaver is already discussing the application period, which begins Jan. 10, 2018. The period will be ongoing until all available spots are filled, after which applicants will be placed on a waiting list.
Meanwhile, she is enjoying the ride during Lone Star Language Academy’s first year.
“I love what I do, I love going to work and I love working with the children,” she said. “they are simply amazing.”
Lone Star Language Academy will host an open house next week for families interested in enrolling in the school. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at the school at 5301 Democracy Drive in Plano. For more information, log on to http://www.lonestartx.org/ or call 972-244-7220.

 

 

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Anatomy of a Charter School

Charter schools in the state of Texas are considered public schools, and are funded as such. Such institutions, however, have a specific educational twist, or direction. According to the Texas Educational Agency (TEA), the mission of charter schools is to “cultivate innovative, high-quality learning opportunities, and to e

Yael Cohen

Yael Cohen

mpower the charter community through leadership, guidance and support.”
However, one doesn’t just simply find a vacant building and open a charter school. The path from concept to opening day can take up to two years. The basis is a small core team of founders who set a goal for the charter school, an additional group of people to get the whole process moving and a rigorous application and interview process with the TEA. The process of founding and opening a charter school can take up to two years.
Charter schools must be set up as nonprofits, and they aren’t allowed to charge tuition. Staci Weaver, Lone Star Language Academy’s superintendent and principal, indicated that the school gets funding from the state, but its income consists mostly of attendance dollars. As such, fundraising and donations are definitely encouraged.
For more information about charter schools in Texas, log on to https://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Charter_Schools/

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Sisterhoods invite Repp to tell his story

Sisterhoods invite Repp to tell his story

Posted on 27 December 2017 by admin

Holocaust survivor will discuss book at Jan. 7 luncheon

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

Reflection, reconnections, and the relishing of friendships new and old are certain at the 2018 IntraFaith Sisterhood Brunch. This year’s luncheon will be hosted by Temple Emanu-El’s Women of Reform Judaism at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7, and catered by Simcha Kosher Catering. The featured speaker will be community member and author Jack Repp.

Photo: Deb Silverthorn Jack Repp will speak at the 2018 IntraFaith Sisterhood Brunch at Temple Emanu-El. Repp (center), here with event Honorary Chair Sarah Yarrin, has told the story of his life in his recently published Dreams & Jealousy, his story as told to Rabbi Dan Lewin (right).

Photo: Deb Silverthorn
Jack Repp will speak at the 2018 IntraFaith Sisterhood Brunch at Temple Emanu-El. Repp (center), here with event Honorary Chair Sarah Yarrin, has told the story of his life in his recently published Dreams & Jealousy, his story as told to Rabbi Dan Lewin (right).

“Sisterhoods across the country connect, advocate, and act and Temple Emanu-El’s WRJ couldn’t be more thrilled to host this year’s gathering,” said Celia Rose Saunders, co-chairing the event with Elise Mikus and Sue Weiner and Honorary Chair Sarah Yarrin. The co-chairs are excited that the event is open to both women and men (ages 15 and over), hoping to see the generations represented.
“Everything that Sisterhood stands for is meaningful and to have Jack Repp as our guest, a man we honor, admire and really love so dearly, here to share his own story that is so important, is a gift to us all,” Saunders said. “We’ve opened the event to men and women and to teens, and we’re bringing in Simcha Kosher Catering hoping those from all the congregations, and those who are unaffiliated as well, will join us together — as one — as Jews — to experience and strengthen what we know as community.”
Each Sisterhood IntraFaith Luncheon, this one the 15th annual affair, is hosted by a different Dallas-area congregation, bringing together the members of the sisterhoods of all branches of Judaism. The women of each chapter create the program and menu, and coordinate the afternoon with previous event themes related to cooking, the environment, the history of Jews in Texas, the arts, career planning and more.
“Sisterhood is about our heritage and an incredible forum for friendships and connections at the many ages and stages of life,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, who serves as Temple Emanu-El WRJ co-president with Kay Schachter. “The relationships that are built are treasures and the platforms of issues, of youth, education, social action, world Jewry and more cross the lines of the branches of Judaism and are concerns to all of us as Jews, as women and as Jewish women.”
Repp, known for speaking to groups large and small throughout the community, will reflect on his experiences during the Holocaust as shared through the publication of his book Dreams & Jealousy; The Story of Holocaust Survivor Jack Repp as told to Dan Lewin. After his lecture and a question-and-answer session, Repp will sign copies of his book, available on Amazon and which will also be sold at the event.
“I started my life as Itzik Rzepkowicz in Radom, Poland and now I get to tell my story to children and adults, in schools and in museums, and here in the temple that I love,” said Repp, who is excited about speaking to the intrafaith sisterhood audience, and this the rare occasion for men to share in the celebration. “I am so glad that this program is open to everyone in the community. To me, if you believe in God, you are a religious person and it isn’t about Reform or Conservative or Orthodox. I was born twice — once to my parents, and once again when I was 15 and instead of going to the crematorium, I went to the other line. God has watched over me all my life and everything to do with Him has turned my life in a positive direction.”
Repp’s struggle and survival are the focus of the book that tells his story. Just 69 pounds and 99.9 percent dead when liberated, he is grateful — and amazed — to have still had his mind. “I’m not educated but I can recall 70 years ago like this morning — my marbles are working. At 94 years young, I don’t want to get old,” said the 44-year-long business owner who has remained in the same house for 58 years — always resilient, with one foot forward moving after the next. “You must depend on God. He works in mysterious ways. I want people should know the truth, accept what happened, and do their part so it doesn’t happen again.”
Immigrating to Greenville, Texas, where he had family, Jack and his wife Esther (later known as Edna), of blessed memory, raised their family: children Lotty (Peter) Casillas, David (Bobbie) and Stan (Marsha), four grandchildren and recently — a first great-grandchild.
“Jack’s done it all. He’s been a merchant, a smuggler, a spy, and a survivor and he makes lemonade out of lemons like no one I know,” said Yarrin, a past-president of Temple Emanu-El’s WRJ. “To have him speak at Temple, where I’ve belonged since 1946 and he since 1949, a place that is truly my ‘home away from home,’ is so exciting. WRJ makes a huge difference to so many and supports so many and I just love that he’s coming to speak at a program of those who serve the community. It’s what he’s done for so long on his own — and now, we come together. It’s going to be just beautiful and very, very meaningful.”
RSVPs by Dec. 29 are appreciated for the luncheon. Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased online at tesisterhood.org/brunch or by calling 469-230-5195.

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Hanukkah at Governor’s Mansion

Hanukkah at Governor’s Mansion

Posted on 21 December 2017 by admin

Gov. Greg Abbott looks on during the ceremony.

Gov. Greg Abbott looks on during the ceremony.

Cecilia Abbott and Trevor Pearlman light the menorah at the governor’s Hanukkah party Dec. 17.

Cecilia Abbott and Trevor Pearlman light the menorah at the governor’s Hanukkah party Dec. 17.

AJC Dallas President Susie Avnery and State Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth at the governor’s Hanukkah party

AJC Dallas President Susie Avnery and State Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth at the governor’s Hanukkah party

Staff report

Texas Governor Greg Abbott hosted an intimate gathering at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin Sunday, Dec. 17, to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah.

The governor tweeted Sunday, “Cecilia & I were honored to celebrate Hanukkah at the Governor’s Mansion with so many friends devoted to a strong relationship between Texas and Israel. #HappyHanukkah.” Among those from the Metroplex in attendance were Susie Avnery, Ari Feinstein, Zander Feinstein, Lily Feinstein, Coby Feinstein, Kim and Alex Kamen, Jaden Kamen, Maya Kamen, Kevin Pailet, Trevor Pearlman, Ryan Pearlman, Lori and Todd Platt, Janine and Charles Pulman, Dave Roberts, Samantha Roberts, Fredell and Dr. Allan Shulkin, Dr. Zev Shulkin, Joel Schwitzer, Miriam Schwitzer, Hannah Schwitzer, Barbara and Shelly Stein, and Texas House Rep. Craig Goldman (R), who represents District 97 in Southwest Tarrant County.
Yavneh Academy Freshman Zander Feinstein shared a d’var Torah about Hanukkah. Trevor Pearlman helped facilitate the event and introduced Governor Abbott.

 

 

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Polarizing president draws rare, broad Jewish support with Jerusalem declaration

Polarizing president draws rare, broad Jewish support with Jerusalem declaration

Posted on 14 December 2017 by admin

Metroplex, US organizations applaud action

 President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Dec. 6 and has said he plans to move the embassy at some point.

President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Dec. 6 and has said he plans to move the embassy at some point.

By Sean Savage
JNS

It’s not often that the American Jewish community is united on issues pertaining to President Donald Trump, or on any political topics for that matter. But Trump’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his expression of the intent to move the U.S. embassy to that city drew widespread support from Jewish organizations, dovetailing with the expected backing of Christian Zionist groups.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body for 50 national Jewish groups, said it is “gratified that its decades-long policy calling for U.S. recognition of Israel’s capital in Jerusalem has now been realized.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, told JNS that Trump’s decision is a “victory for pluralism and religious freedom,” noting that Israel has allowed unfettered access to Christian and Muslim holy sites since it took full control of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Stern dismissed concerns that Trump’s Jerusalem decision may ignite regional violence.
“If this is going to cause mass violence, it is not the fault of the United States,” she said. “It is the fault of the Arab world, which has not even recognized pre-1967 Israel in their textbooks, but teaches that all of Israel, even pre-1967 Israel, will one day be ‘Palestine.’ ”

Local and national response

Several Metroplex Jewish leaders and organizations were eager to voice their support.
“Jewish history provides a shining example for all of us on how to tackle difficult issues,” Temple Emanu-El President Mike Simms and its clergy wrote in an email. “Then as now, it’s important for us to embrace difficult conversations and to strive to engage with those with whom we may disagree passionately, and with respect and civility for each other’s views and experiences.”
The Shearith Israel clergy wrote to its membership, “We celebrate this important step in the fulfillment of the promise and destiny of our holiest city — but it is only a step. We must never rest in our endeavor to unite these two Jerusalems — the Jerusalem of earth and the Jerusalem of heaven. We must continue to advocate for recognition of our ancient ties to our capital, but we must also rededicate ourselves to pursuing peace, to rejecting and preventing violence …”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County issued similar statements. The Dallas Federation’s statement read: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Federations of North America, our national organization which issued a similar statement earlier today, welcome this decision as it upholds our long-standing policy of encouraging recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We also welcome the affirmation by the President of a negotiated two-state future between the parties in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side with secure and recognized borders.”
Congregation Ahavath Sholom Rabbi Andrew Bloom commented on Facebook, “It is time to rejoice upon the renewed recognition of Jerusalem’s importance and centrality to Israel. For thousands of years Jews around the world have claimed Jerusalem as their home, and now all of them can rest in the recognition that ‘The City of Gold’ is truly their/our own.”
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris expressed hope that “other countries will value the clarity and wisdom of President Trump’s historic decision, and also recognize Jerusalem and relocate their embassies there.”
Harris also praised Trump for emphasizing in his Dec. 6 remarks that the announcement does not affect the role of the U.S. in navigating final status issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The administration’s commitment to advancing that peace process is most welcome,” said Harris.
Similarly, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the Jerusalem announcement as a “significant step that acknowledges reality” and urged the Trump administration to push forward in peace negotiations.
“We recognize that this is an enormously sensitive and volatile issue, and we call on the administration to implement this new policy in a careful and thoughtful manner in consultation with regional leaders,” said Marvin D. Nathan, ADL’s national chair, and Jonathan A. Greenblatt, its CEO.
Dallasite Lillian Pinkus, president of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, said Trump’s decision “is more than an important benchmark — it is a milestone that corrects a historical wrong.”
Yet some Jewish leaders, while recognizing the importance of the Jerusalem move, said the timing was not right.
Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said that although the U.S. embassy “should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” the Reform movement “cannot support (Trump’s) decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process. Additionally, any relocation of the American Embassy to West Jerusalem should be conceived and executed in the broader context reflecting Jerusalem’s status as a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.”
Reconstructionist Jewish organizations said they are “concerned over the possible impacts of the timing and the unilateral manner of President Trump’s decision for the U.S. to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outside the framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.”

‘Tough, ultimately correct’

Boris Zilberman, a deputy director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, called Trump’s announcement a “historic step in U.S.-Israel relations and an important affirmation of Israel’s international standing as a co-equal.”
“President Trump made a tough but ultimately correct decision,” Zilberman told JNS. “While the move of the embassy will not happen immediately, the Trump administration is moving to make the move a reality in the very near future as they select an appropriate site.
“A more secure Israel,” said Zilberman, “is better placed to make tough decisions in the peace process, something (PA) President (Mahmoud) Abbas would be wise to consider as he calibrates his response.”

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New group putting Democrat back in Big D

Posted on 07 December 2017 by admin

North Texas Jewish Democratic Council aims to mobilize DFW

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

Janice Schwarz is a Jewish Democrat.
But unlike some, the longtime Dallas Democratic activist is proud to say it.
About 70 percent of Jews voted for former President Obama in 2012. Around 64 percent of Jews say they are Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Yet Jewish Republicans tend to be more outspoken about their partisan identity.
“They paint Jewish Democrats as anti-Israel, which they are not,” Schwarz said.

The North Texas Jewish Democratic Council, which kicked off Oct. 29 at the home of Bob Franklin and Lenna Webb, seeks to make more people become like Schwarz, or at least get more Jews involved in local and state Democratic politics.
It is not that Jews are not active in politics. But currently no Democratic Jewish officials serve at the state level.
In fact, in the last cycle former Far North Richardson Democrats President Laura Irvin tried when she ran and lost against Koop. It was believed to be the only general election race featuring two Jewish candidates from both parties. Irvin has since moved to Ohio.
While that group includes a number of Jewish members, this club is different: a club created by and for Jews. (Schwarz said they would not turn away non-Jews, however.)
So there is another goal: increasing the local dearth of Jewish Democratic officials.
Plenty attended the event, including judges Carl Ginsberg and Mark Greenberg. Two candidates for office attended as well: Sam Johnson, who is running to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (who is not related), and Brian Chaput, who is running for Texas senate District 8. Both districts are in reliably red Collin County. The candidates expect an uphill battle.
But the candidates may have some help from a former Republican in the NTJDC leadership. Larry Strauss left the party after strong disagreements with President Donald Trump. With the help of his friend and Democratic activist Warren Harmel and the Dallas County Democratic Party, the duo met Schwarz.
“After the Republican Party, with a majority in both houses, had no plan in place and failed to unite in repealing and replacing Obamacare, I was so disgusted, I called the Dallas County Democratic Party and the North Texas Democratic Council was born,” Strauss said.
The club is the first of its kind in the region.
Another prominent Jewish Democrat, Marc Stanley of Dallas, spoke about his new group. The Jewish Democratic Council of America was launched in July after President Donald Trump refused to denounce a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one person dead.
The group succeeds the now defunct National Jewish Democratic Council. Stanley and former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas served on that board until it folded this past year.
Stanley shared with the TJP on Tuesday, why he helped spearhead the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
“I have long been involved in Democratic Party politics, and felt that the Jewish community needed a strong formal voice in the party. This became particularly true as we saw Donald Trump, both during the presidential campaign and since taking office, pandering to anti-Semitic and racist groups. Unfortunately, we are seeing the fanning of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia — all of which are antithetical to my beliefs as a Jew. And, too many of the people inside and adjacent to this White House are a part of it. So many of the policies we see today in the White House and Congress go against the progressive beliefs that I and most other Jews hold dear.”
Stanley, a council member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and chairman of the Legacy Senior Communities, spoke about the JDCA’s goals.
“Through this new organization, we can ensure that lawmakers and candidates know where we stand, and that we support those with similar beliefs. Additionally, JDCA will fight for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, working to ensure that the Democratic Party strongly supports the Jewish state and that Israel continues to be the bipartisan issue it long has been.”
Stanley also told the gathering about the importance of mobilizing Jewish Democrats to impact the 2018 and 2020 elections and influence local and state elections.
They have reason to be interested. Statewide, Democrats consider a majority of the Republicans in the Dallas County delegation to the legislature top targets. Along with Linda Koop, Democrats are targeting Reps. Jason Villalba of Dallas, Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, Matt Rinaldi of Irving and Morgan Meyer of Highland Park. Republican State Sen. Don Huffines of Highland Park is also seen as vulnerable.
One opportunity under consideration is a candidate forum for competitive districts like Congressional District 32, represented by U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions. Democrats see the Dallas Republican, who defeated Frost, as a top target this cycle. Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district.
“It’s important to have Jewish Democratic representation. Democrats represent Jewish values,” Schwarz said.
They just need to get involved.
Contact Janice Schwarz at tamsterbath@gmail.com or 214-460-7283 for questions about the local group.

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