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SMU to host panel discussion on BDS campaign

SMU to host panel discussion on BDS campaign

Posted on 12 September 2019 by admin

Experts will discuss anti-Israel movement on college campuses

By Avery Cooper
On Thursday, Sept. 19, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, Hillel and SMU Jewish Studies will host a panel of distinguished guests to discuss the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) assault on academic freedom at college campuses.
The panelists include Texas State Representative Phil King, Executive Director of Academic Engagement Network (AEN) Miriam F. Elman, and Israel advocate and Dallas attorney Charles D. Pulman. There will be a reception beginning at 6 p.m. with the panel beginning at 7 p.m. in the Ernst & Young Gallery at the SMU Cox School of Business.
The guest speakers will discuss the origin of the BDS campaign, state legislation addressing the BDS boycott of Israel and BDS assault on academic freedom on college campuses.
Rep. King has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 1999 representing Parker and Wise counties. He is the author of H.B. 89, the Texas Anti-BDS Bill that passed the Texas House and Senate in 2017.
Charles D. Pulman is a Dallas attorney active on issues related to Israel, BDS and anti-Semitism. He worked with Rep. King in the passage of H.B. 89, the Texas Anti-BDS Bill, back in 2017.
Miriam F. Elman was newly appointed executive director of AEN in early 2019 and finds it important to understand the BDS movement’s current campus strategy and tactics. She hopes the event captures an audience of students and faculty.
Academic Engagement Network was founded in 2015 and opposes efforts to delegitimize Israel; supports robust discussion, researches and educates about Israel in the academy; promotes campus free expression and academic freedom; and counters anti-Semitism when it occurs on campus.
Elman’s vision for this particular event is to combat BDS and campus anti-Semitism, advance academic freedom and campus free speech and further literacy about Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“BDS wins simply by monopolizing the conversation,” Elman said, “Which is why, on many campuses, anti-Israel resolutions are proposed year after year, despite the fact that they’re ultimately defeated every time.”
Eliana Abraham, SMU sophomore and Hillel co-president, hopes the event “explains what BDS actually is, particularly in regard to academic discourse as well as Texas legislature.”
Abraham cares about the event because she believes that as students on a college campus, even one with little anti-Semitism or BDS representation, it is important to understand the issue and how it impacts other universities, their students and even the state of Texas.
Pulman is happy to see the student-driven nature of the program.
“This program is an SMU student initiative that timely addresses an important issue affecting all students on all college campuses. Academic freedom is the bedrock principle of our educational system and everyone, regardless of their own beliefs and politics, must be on guard against infringement of any person’s freedom, as denial of freedom for one will lead to denial of freedom for all.”
Bibiana Schindler, an SMU junior and Hillel co-president, said Hillel learned of the opportunity to become involved with this event through SMU’s Republican Club over the summer. She and Abraham both agreed this event would allow the SMU community to engage in a conversation they may not know much about or already have an opinion about.
Schindler found a personal reason to engage in the conversation because she is a Jewish student with family living in Israel. However, she emphasizes that this is a nonpartisan event and its overarching focus is the elaboration of what BDS is and how it finds its way onto university campuses.
“Hillel and SMU stand firmly against anti-Semitism, especially in wake of the swastikas found on campus last semester and anti-Semitism around the U.S.,” Schindler said. “We are elated to see the support from SMU students of different faiths and groups on campus. Their hosting of events like start conversations about inclusivity — which Hillel at SMU aims to do.”
The SMU Hillel co-presidents hope all students, faculty and members of the community at large feel welcome to attend the event and leave feeling like their opinions are not being silenced, but embraced.
“We must understand that although we do not need to agree with others’ views, we do need to be able to listen to them,” Schindler said.
Shira Lander, director of Jewish Studies at SMU and senior lecturer in the department of religious studies, hopes those in attendance can have an open discussion about the true meaning of the BDS movement and what it means for students at SMU.
Lander says the AEN offers a more nuanced and academically-sensitive approach to campus issues related to Israel and Jews and “works with faculty and administrators to build bridges and deepen understanding.” She went on to explain that the AEN’s goals align well with the principles articulated by SMU President Gerald Turner in his March 20, 2018, online statement.
President Turner’s statement read: “SMU has always been a place where ideas are openly shared, examined and discussed. We value civil debate and meaningful dialogue that lead to discovery. We are firmly committed to the bedrock principle of freedom of expression.”
Lander agrees that civil debate and freedom and expression are core principles on SMU’s campus, and she adds the following remark about her goals for the upcoming event:
“Jewish Studies at SMU is dedicated to deepening knowledge about issues affecting Jews and promoting healthy and civil dialogue about those issues. As with many controversial issues in our day, the tendency is to become entrenched in our own points of view and refuse to listen to those who don’t share them. The goal of programs like this BDS panel is to support boundary-crossing conversation that enriches mutual understanding.”
All are welcome to the BDS Assault on Academic Freedom on College Campuses event at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19. Be sure to bring an open mind and any questions you may have for the esteemed panel of speakers.

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Sharsheret to hold ovarian, breast cancer event

Sharsheret to hold ovarian, breast cancer event

Posted on 04 September 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Joel Schwitzer
“Mom would’ve been my greatest cheerleader,” said Joel Schwitzer, whose mother Marsha (seated, left) passed away one week after a Stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis. Pictured are, standing from left, Miriam, Max and Hannah Schwitzer and Miles Merrill; seated, Marsha Schwitzer, Gabrielle Merrill, Myron Schwitzer and Jordan Schwitzer.

Agency will bring together experts, survivors Sept. 17

By Deb Silverthorn
The heart of teal and pink — of the tackle against ovarian and breast cancers — will come together for a community-wide event at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the home of Lizzy and Dr. Jules Greif.
Dallas City Council Member Cara Mendelsohn will moderate a panel of experts on the topic. The panel will consist of Sharsheret Executive Director Elana Silber, Board-Certified Cancer Genetics Counselor Stacy “Sam” Utay and ovarian cancer survivor and co-founder of Be The Difference Foundation Julie Shrell. Simcha Catering and Event Design donated wine and cheese for the evening.
“It’s as simple as wanting to keep people alive,” said Lizzy Greif, whose sisters Margot and Sheri, of blessed memory, lost valiant fights against breast cancer. “The more we can educate, the more we can support patients and their families, before diagnosis and in the midst of the fight, the more we can help. Understanding these diseases doesn’t cure, but it provides an exhale in the throes of crisis.”
Greif, co-chairing the event with her husband Jules, Elaine Pearlman, Beri and Joel Schwitzer, Jacquie and Myron Schwitzer and Marc and Wendy Stanley, serves on Sharsheret’s national board.
Silber is chair of the Federal Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women, and has brought Sharsheret programs to Dallas for many years. The organization offers personalized support and educational outreach, as well as between 300 and 400 programs annually. Silber said the organization changes, and saves, lives through personal connections.
“The connections we make in person, that last as we help people who can benefit from our services, are invaluable,” she said. “Our team of social workers and other professionals are available to teach the Jewish, and greater, communities what we can do today to protect our future.”
And Joel Schwitzer isn’t just talking the talk but walking the walk — actually running the run — on Team Sharsheret in November’s TCS New York City Marathon. Having completed eight half-marathons in the last year, he’s dedicating his first full marathon in memory of his mother Marsha, who died in 2011, just one week after being diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. His wife Beri, and sister Eve, both ran with Team Sharsheret in 2013.
“Mom would’ve been my greatest cheerleader,” said Schwitzer, who was first introduced to Sharsheret while Hillel director at the University of Illinois, when two students’ mothers passed away from ovarian cancer.
“I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight and started running, something neither my mom nor I would have believed possible. I’m honored, through Sharsheret, to do a mitzvah and raise money and awareness for those grappling with this horrible disease.”
With one in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish men and women carrying a BRCA gene mutation, compared to one in 500 in the general population, the risks are significantly increased for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, as well as melanoma, pancreatic, prostate and male breast cancers.
“We want to scream about the disease that whispers,” said cancer-survivor Shrell. The organization she co-founded, Be The Difference Foundation, funds research, provides awareness and supports those fighting against ovarian cancer. “We must educate, we must be aware, and we help the community understand more about the disease,” Shrell said. “We’re truly honored to work with Sharsheret.”
For Mendelsohn, the Dallas city council member, the proactive and reactive benefits of Sharsheret are vital. As former president of Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas, she worked with the organization on many occasions to help initiate connections with Jewish Family Service’s clients.
“Every one of us has or somehow will be affected by these diseases, whether it is personally or through someone we care about,” said Mendelsohn, who was adopted as an infant. With no medical history available, she underwent a genetic testing series that ruled out 132 possible issues. Cleared, she is grateful to now understand what is, or what won’t be, on the horizon. “We can’t be blind, and we can’t ignore the information that is so readily available to us,” Mendelsohn said. “Learning is power and both Sharsheret and Be The Difference Foundation allow us all to be more powerful.”
To register for the community event, or donate to Schwitzer’s race, visit tinyurl.com/Sharsheret-Dallas-9-17. For more information about the event, including the Greifs’ address, email ekleinhaus@sharsheret.org.

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North Texas now has its own FIDF chapter

North Texas now has its own FIDF chapter

Posted on 28 August 2019 by admin

Photos: Holly Kuper Photography
Amy and Harlan Korenvaes hosted the FIDF North Texas Chapter opening meeting at their Dallas home.

Special programs for Lone Soldiers one focus for FIDF

By Samuel Weber

At a meeting Aug. 8, at the home of Amy and Harlan Korenvaes, the newly formed North Texas Friends of the IDF (FIDF) chapter demonstrated how its services impact the Lone Soldiers and native soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. FIDF CEO Major General (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, joined some 60 FIDF supporters.
Also in attendance were Board Chair Yoram Avneri, Lone Soldiers Fay Goldstein and Rina Yaholam, and FIDF directors from North Texas, South Texas and the mid-Atlantic region.
More than $100,000 was raised during the event to support Lone Soldiers and native IDF soldiers.
The FIDF Lone Soldiers program is designed to support individuals who have chosen to work toward Israeli citizenship through service in the Israeli army. The process involves moving to Israel and attending programs to learn Hebrew. Additionally, Lone Soldiers are provided places to live, while they serve in the army. The program also provides the IDF with additional funding for 40 different programs, as a way of improving the soldiers’ quality of life, especially during Shabbat, when they have nowhere to go.In 2018, FIDF raised $140,000,000 for its programs, among them the Lone Soldiers program, which helps IDF soldiers visit their families, attend college and move on with their lives after their service to Israel.
North Texas has nine active Lone Soldiers. FIDF North Texas Director Kathi Ravkind Sebastian shared her ideas on the future of the North Texas chapter.
“I look forward to carrying out the vital work of looking out for the brave young soldiers who preserve and protect the freedoms of the Jewish people in Israel and around the world,” said Sebastian, before the meeting.
Avneri said that, meeting Klifi-Amir for the first time while both were attending a convention in Panama, he felt an instant connection with the Major General. The two discussed the lack of an FIDF chapter in North Texas; the original Texas chapter was based in Houston. That conversation led to the launch of the Dallas chapter, in hopes of spreading care to Lone Soldiers from yet another location.
“FIDF is the only body authorized by the IDF and Israel to collect and donate money to the IDF and Lone Soldiers,” said Avneri.
Miami-based Lone Soldier Fay G.(The IDF does not permit the use of last names in news stories) recounted her first experience with FIDF during her sophomore year of college. “As a leader in my pro-Israel campus community, I was invited as a guest to attend one of these meetings,” Goldstein said. The speaker, an IDF soldier, had held her attention. “I had no idea that, years later, I’d be standing in the same position, in the same uniform that she wore,” Goldstein recalled. Wearing the FIDF backpack that she was given, along with her uniform, Goldstein made aliyah at nearly 28 years old.
Fay G. currently is the head of social media communications of the IDF, managing the organization’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks. She said she is living her dream.
“I often think about that night in college,” Fay G. said, “I think about how different my life is now, than it was then, and to remind myself how it was all worth it. I think about how worth it it all is, because now instead of a dress at an FIDF gala, I wear the same uniform as that soldier.”
Joined by Lone Soldier Dallasite Rina Y., Fay G. referenced the code of ethics that every IDF soldier is required to carry with them at all times. Yahalom discussed how she had personally been helped by FIDF in the form of a new gym being built where she was stationed, which was funded as one of the projects undertaken by FIDF.
Klifi-Amir’s address displayed pride in both the IDF and FIDF, citing his 33 years of experience serving with the former. He also shared the differences between the parents of children in the IDF, as opposed to parents of Lone Soldiers.
“If I need to, I can drive or fly not too far to see my children,” said Klifi-Amir. “To me, the real heroes are their (Lone Soldier) parents.” Lone Soldier parents have to trust in their children to be successful and responsible in their service. “We want to make sure they feel that they are not alone,” Klifi-Amir said.
David Wallace, board member of the mid-Atlantic FIDF, as well as an ex-officer in the U.S. Air Force and the State Department, was the evening’s final speaker. “When I was back (in Washington), for the second time, the Washington Jewish Week talked about the FIDF gala . . . I bought my ticket, went to the synagogue,” he said. Wallace indicated that the gala spurred him on to his love of FIDF.
“I was always taught to support what you’re involved in making happen” Wallace said. “There’s only one Israel, and we have to support it, and I urge you to take that first step. Get involved, make that first commitment.”

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Dallasite Richard Harris recalls 1969 Woodstock

Dallasite Richard Harris recalls 1969 Woodstock

Posted on 22 August 2019 by admin

Photo: Mark Goff – Wiki Commons
Richard Harris joined Swami Satchidananda when he welcomed the Woodstock audience with peace and prayer. (Harris is fifth from the right in white.)
Labor Day weekend festival the spot to reminisce

By Shari Stern
Nostalgic Texans eager to dig up their tie-dye T-shirts and flower crowns can enjoy some of the original greats at the Texas International Pop Festival on Labor Day weekend. The festival, set for Saturday, Aug. 31, through Sunday, Sept. 1, at Lake Park Golf Course in Lewisville, welcomes back artists like Chicago, ZZ Top, Grand Funk and Edgar Winter.
The festival may not be Woodstock, but Dallas resident Richard Harris believes it will still bring back the same savor of the storied festival he relished at 17 years old in 1969.
Harris, a recent graduate of the High School of Music and Art in New York, was studying yoga with famous 1960s guru, Swami Satchidananda. Swami’s highly-regarded work for the Integral Yoga Institute earned him an invite to the Woodstock Festival, where he would open with a blessing of peace to the 400,000-person crowd gathered in Bethel, New York.
But blocked roads delayed Swami’s arrival, and some of the performers were unable to get to the site.
As time wore on, Harris remembers that festival promoters encouraged musicians to start playing. Richie Havens, slated as the fifth act, went first.
“After playing everything he knew, he started improvising with his now-famous song, ‘Freedom,’” Harris said. “When he was finished, the Swami had arrived by helicopter.”
Then, Harris, along with his 25 fellow yogis, went onstage with the Swami and became a part of history.
Gazing at the crowd from the stage was a unique opportunity for Harris. He chatted with Havens, while miles of traffic and pedestrians headed toward the grounds, where they had, at one point, stomped over the fence, tearing it down so there were no longer tickets necessary to get in.
“It was like two different events: There was the concert and there was Woodstock Nation,” Harris said.
Friends, families and kids formed ‘tribes’ that set up camp on the grounds near each other.
“I was able to soak in the entire experience, and not just the music,” Harris said. “That’s what made it special. It was living together with people you just met and forming bonds.”
Harris chronicled his experience. “[Woodstock] was a cultural touchstone,” he wrote. “Half a million young people were there, they lived in peace for three days without any visible form of security. They cooperated to share food and shelter.”
The baby boomer still gets emotional when he says, “Woodstock was the epitome of the ’60s, and expressed true values. It was about acceptance and diversity, freedom to express yourself and be yourself in an honest way with music as an integral part.”
Now, Harris will have the opportunity to enjoy some of the same music when Texas celebrates the 50th reunion of the Texas International Pop Festival, featuring some of the same music he heard 50 years ago.
“When I was onstage, I knew that this was going to be one of the most momentous and historical events of the ’60s,” Harris said. “I will never forget it.”

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Dallas duo starts clothing line to ‘do guud’

Dallas duo starts clothing line to ‘do guud’

Posted on 14 August 2019 by admin

Photo: Jon Abramson
“I believe more than ever people want to align themselves with brands that stand for positive social causes,” said Leon Jacobson, left, with GuudWEAR co-founder Matthew Ladin. The GuudWEAR co-founders are hands-on designing and creating their fashion line, a percent of which will support nonprofit agencies. “For us, that’s owning a brand that stands for something more.”

Socially inspired startup will benefit homeless shelter

By Deb Silverthorn

The mitzvot of tzedakah and tikkun olam are the fabric of Leon Jacobson and Matthew Ladin, and it’s laced in the tapestry of their company GuudWEAR.
GuudWEAR is a socially inspired company whose founders aim to “do guud” by helping locals transition out of homelessness. In July, the Dallas-based GuudWEAR began taking pre-orders through its Kickstarter offering, with special rewards to participants, running through Aug. 22. Regular sales will follow.
“I believe, more than ever, people want to align themselves with brands that stand for positive social causes,” co-founder Jacobson said. “For us, that’s owning a brand that stands for something more. In taking in the values my parents and siblings instilled in me, I’ve always wanted to be a social entrepreneur.”
The exclusive line, initially hand-pressed by Jacobson and Ladin, is done by a labor-intensive process, curating designs from the streets of Dallas. Both men say their homes look like art and science experiments gone wild: inks, molds, designs and fabrics taking over.
Designs available include the “Bullseye,” from a weathered manhole cover in Highland Park; “Sunrise,” found on a path near SMU; “Griffin,” discovered and molded off an advertising sign base in Lower Greenville; and “Texas,” modeled after a Deep Ellum sewer cover. Shirts are made in a variety of colors, sizes and styles. In the future, the company plans to add bags, hats and sweatshirts to the line.
GuudWEAR’s team is also environmentally mindful from apparel to packaging. Their mantra makes people, planet and profit a priority. A minimum of 7 percent of each item sold will be donated.
Dallas is the second-fastest growing metropolitan city in the country with employment rising at double the rate of the U.S. average and homelessness increasing at 9 percent. It’s where GuudWEAR begins its journey.
“It’s humbling to know we have such dedicated groups and individuals willing to give their time, talents and treasures to help the less fortunate and Dallas’ most vulnerable citizens,” CEO of Austin Street Center Daniel Roby.

From left, Daniel Levitt, Spencer Lieman, Danielle Diegel and Daley Epstein in GuudWEAR’s founding fashions now available at guudwear.com.


Austin Street Center, an emergency shelter in Dallas, will be the first beneficiary officially adopted by GuudWEAR.
“This partnership will certainly benefit our organization through social awareness, growth in our volunteer core and increased philanthropic support,” said Roby. “Together, we’ll be steps closer to ending homelessness throughout our communities.”
Jacobson, a North Dallas native who grew up at Congregation Shearith Israel, is the son of Errol and Esme and brother of Marc and Loren. He graduated from Ann & Nate Levine and Yavneh academies, and is a former member of BBYO’s David Berger chapter.

Daniel Levitt and Daley Epstein sporting initial designs by GuudWEAR.


Ladin, the son of Linda Ladin and the late Ken Williams, is from Hurst. Since celebrating his bar mitzvah at the age of 29 at Temple Emanu-El, Ladin feels closer to the religious side of his Judaism, not just the cultural. He continues studies at The Intown Chabad and Dallas Area Torah Association and has served eight years on the board of the American Jewish Committee. He’s currently a full-time information technology consultant.
“My mother always made it a point for us to give to others, regardless of what we had,” Ladin said. “Our Thanksgiving table was open to anyone who needed a seat and I’ve never forgotten my responsibility to giving to others. Through GuudWEAR we want to provide funds, to share awareness and to hands-on volunteer where we’re needed. Through GuudWEAR we’ll keep doing good.”
Do guud. Look guud. Wear guud. To order, or for more information, visit guudwear.com

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ADL to hold Dallas Walk Against Hate

ADL to hold Dallas Walk Against Hate

Posted on 07 August 2019 by admin

Texoma Regional office event will highlight diversity

Photo: Courtesy ADL Texoma
“From strollers to wheelchairs we want to come out in force and to involve our community in celebrating our diversity,” said ADL Texoma Regional Director Cheryl Drazin. Last year’s ADL Walk Against Hate in Philadelphia set the bar. On Sept. 15, ADL Texoma invites the Dallas community to walk the walk and talk the talk.

By Deb Silverthorn
The Texoma Regional office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is readying for the community-at-large to take a step in the right direction at the city’s inaugural Dallas Walk Against Hate. The walk, open to the public, will begin its two-mile stretch on Sunday, Sept. 15, at Victory Plaza.
Check-in begins at 8 a.m., followed by the opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. and the walk at 9:30. Main Stage entertainment, a nonprofit diversity expo, and a corporate village will continue, with all events concluding at 11 a.m.
“From strollers to wheelchairs we want to come out in force and to involve our community in celebrating our diversity,” ADL Texoma Regional Director Cheryl Drazin said. “This isn’t a protest or a march, but rather a gathering together of people who are on the same page against hate.”
As ADL regional director, Drazin oversees the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland-Odessa, Temple, Waco, Tyler, Marshall and all of Oklahoma.
The ADL Walk Against Hate events started in 2010, with thousands participating in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and San Diego. After attending the 2018 Walk in Las Vegas, Drazin and Kerri Aikin Rosenberg, the organization’s director of development, committed to bringing the North Texas and Oklahoma community together to promote diversity while celebrating the values of respect and inclusion.
“Las Vegas was amazing with close to 1,000 people who felt it important to come together to stand against hate,” said Rosenberg. “The ADL provides resources and support to both our Jewish community and the greater community. Hate has no place in our society.”
Co-chaired by Susie Carp and Wendy Stanley, the Walk Against Hate will, rain or shine, be a morning filled with spirit and activities. The main stage entertainment arena will include comments from community dignitaries and ADL leadership, musical and other celebrations from drum circles and dancers, cheerleaders and choirs.
At the diversity expo, selected nonprofit organizations will share their work through engaging activities while, at the corporate village, sponsors will be provided marketing opportunities.
Beginning in 1913, the ADL has fought hate and intolerance; protected free speech and religious freedom; spoken out against anti-Semitism, racism and bullying; and built respect for diversity.
ADL Texoma’s programs include its No Place for Hate® program, reaching 36 local schools last year; its Words to Action program providing resources to increase understanding of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias; and its Managing Implicit Bias training for Law Enforcement, enabling understanding of implicit bias concepts and their relevance to contemporary policing practices.
“The ADL’s mission is to fight hate,” said Stanley, who has served on the ADL Texoma board for nearly five years. “Together, we can be a force that will fight hate for good and that is exactly the opportunity we are bringing to our community on Sept. 15.”
ADL Texoma’s goal is to highlight the diversity in North Texas while celebrating the values of respect and inclusion. . Participants can register individually or as a team. Net proceeds of the event will support anti-hate and anti-bullying programs in schools, civil rights advocacy work, extremism training for law enforcement, incident response and the ADL Texoma leadership development program for young adults.
“We want to bridge our communities and bring together participants of all ages, ethnicities and religions from throughout the Metroplex — all those who care, who want to be part of the answer.”
High school students (grades nine to 12) are invited to participate in the Walk Against Hate essay contest, co-sponsored by ADL Texoma and The Dallas Morning News. Essays, in 500 words or less, should reply to the prompt “What I can do to take a step in the right direction to fight hate?” and must be submitted to texoma@adl.org (with the subject line “ADL Walk Against Hate Essay Contest”) by Sept. 1.
The contest’s winner will be announced at the event and will receive a prize of $1,000, and the essay may be published in The Dallas Morning News.
ADL Texoma is taking a step, just one at a time, in the right direction.
Early registration ($15) is open until Aug. 15 and general registration, $20, is available through Sept. 14. At the event, participation is $25. Children ages 3 to 18 are $10, and there is no fee for those age 2 and under.
Prospective participants, volunteers, entertainers and sponsors can find details and registration at walkagainsthatedallas.org. Visit dallas.adl.org/walk-against-hate-essay-contest for essay contest details and forms.

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Supporting Jews in the former Soviet Union

Supporting Jews in the former Soviet Union

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Trip to Georgia exemplifies JDC, Federation support
Photos: Courtesy Jonathan Rubenstein
Jonathen Rubenstein, second from left, and other members of the JFNA National Young Leadership Cabinet 2019 trip to Tbilisi, Georgia, and St. Petersburg, Russia, with Lidiya and husband, Nikolai, in Tbilisi, Georgia.

By Jonathan Rubenstein
Lidiya is 81 years old. Since the 1940s, she has lived in the same third-floor walk-up apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia. The apartment is very small. It is sparsely decorated. The living room serves as a kitchen as well as a bedroom. Lidiya’s health is declining; her impaired vision and high blood pressure worsen each day. Her husband, Nikolai, almost died twice in the last two years. They live off the paltry Georgian government pension — which has varied between $3 and $70 per month.
To many, it may seem as though Lidiya and Nikolai have next to nothing. Recently, I learned otherwise.
Along with 120 friends and colleagues from the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, I had the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the 2019 Cabinet trip to Tbilisi, Georgia and St. Petersburg, Russia. Each year, Cabinet takes a trip abroad, so we can see firsthand the impact of our donations to Federation through the programs of its overseas partners.
The opportunity to witness present-day Jewish life in Russia and Georgia, and contrast it to what we know about Jewish life and communities during the Soviet era, was eye-opening. For decades, across the former Soviet Union, a dark cloud hung over Jewish communities — either forcing them into hiding or to flee elsewhere. What our robust group of young leaders found in 2019 were large, growing and vibrant Jewish communities in both Georgia and Russia. At every Jewish community center, school and organization we visited, we witnessed members of the community showing their pride in being Jewish. The sun now shines brightly on these communities.
Our Cabinet members also had the opportunity of a lifetime during this trip: We were fortunate to have legendary activist and former Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, and his wife, Avital, join us for the St. Petersburg leg of the trip. They joined our group for many activities, spoke about global Jewry, and shared harrowing stories from the time of Natan’s unjust and lengthy imprisonment in a series of Soviet prisons. For many, this was not just the highlight of the trip, but several people shared that it was the highlight of their lives.
Back in Tbilisi, standing on a street corner in a residential neighborhood, we had arrived at Lidiya’s apartment building. Seven of us, including an interpreter, walked up three flights of stairs to Lidiya’s apartment, and she generously invited our small group into her home to learn more about her.
Judaism has always played a big role in Lidiya’s life. Indeed, it was a big deal to her father, who always insisted on having matzo around the house as a constant reminder of from where they came.
Lidiya described not only some of the challenges she and her husband endured in the past while being Jewish in the former Soviet Union, but also the things for which they are now grateful. In the Soviet era, Jews were marginalized, and organized religion was banned. But Lidiya said that the Jews in Georgia were known for being hard workers. This led to them being frequently overworked and not compensated proportionally for their efforts. For most Georgian Jews, earning enough money to just pay the bills was hard, and sometimes impossible.
Lidiya is well educated, having earned an engineering degree from a university in Moscow. But when she and Nikolai were no longer of a “working age,” according to the Georgian government, they were unemployable and forced to live off the Georgian government pension. When Lidiya first went on the government pension, she received $3 per month — nowhere near enough to pay the bills.
When speaking with Lidiya about how she is able to get by each day, the conversation quickly turned to Hesed. Hesed is the name of an organization in Tbilisi that is run by the JDC, one of the longtime overseas partners of the Jewish Federations of North America. Hesed provides much-needed support — in every sense of that word — to the local Jewish community.
The JDC and Hesed mean everything to Lidiya. Hesed saved her life, literally and spiritually. Hesed provides Lidiya and Nikolai with food and medicine and pays for all of their medical expenses, including two emergency, life-saving events recently for Nikolai (heart surgery and treatment for a brain bleed). Hesed visits Lidiya and Nikolai, not just to make sure their apartment is stocked, but to speak with them — as human beings — to make sure they are doing all right. Hesed also runs a community center, where Lidiya and Nikolai go weekly to socialize with their friends, constantly staying connected to the Jewish community. Lidiya said that, without Hesed, at a very minimum, Nikolai “would have been in the ground” years ago.
One of the beautiful things about human emotion is that it matters not what language is being spoken, or even if you understand it. I can list for you all of the great things that Hesed does for Lidiya and Nikolai, but what really captured the impact was the passion in her voice and emotion on her face when she described all of those things. I didn’t need the interpreter. I learned the most important things by just watching and listening.
Courtesy of this organization that the Jewish Federation helps to fund, those who really get to know Lidiya and Nikolai understand it is not true they have next to nothing. In reality, they have everything. They have a roof over their heads. They have food in the refrigerator and medicine in the cabinets. They have community support. They have each other. They have life.
After leaving Lidiya’s and Nikolai’s apartment, the JDC’s volunteer interpreter turned to me and said, “What you do saves lives.” The reason National Young Leadership Cabinet does the work it does cannot be described more succinctly than that.
Jonathan Rubenstein is a Dallas attorney and member of the Jewish Federations of North America National Young Leadership. He participated in the NYLC trip to the former Soviet Union recently.

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Shearith Israel’s Family Mission to Israel

Shearith Israel’s Family Mission to Israel

Posted on 25 July 2019 by admin

Photo: Shearith Israel
Group on Mount Scopus Observation Deck overlooking Jerusalem

Rabbi Ari Sunshine and family returned from a successful Congregation Shearith Israel Family Mission to Israel in early July. Rabbi Sunshine led 34 travelers, including 12 students ages 13-22. Some highlights from the trip included Masada; the Dead Sea; dinner at Abraham’s Tent; Yad Vashem; Mount Herzl Cemetery; a sunset boat ride on the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) featuring a soulful, musical performance by Netanel Goldberg, who inspired Rabbi Sunshine’s popular Prayer Rhythms services; a barbecue dinner in Northern Israel with young Israeli soldiers; Kabbalat Shabbat services at the Tachana Rishona (First Station) in West Jerusalem, then at Azarat Yisrael/Robinson’s Arch and the Kotel in the Old City, providing a fascinating and moving juxtaposition of old and new — traditional and progressive Jewish practice and ritual; and a working session at Pantry Packers, a group that feeds Israel’s needy and empowers them to take the necessary steps to achieve success in their own lives. The Shearith group also visited the Old City and purchased 11 pairs of tefillin for the Abuyadaya Jewish community in Uganda. A community member from Abuyadaya spoke at Shearith one Shabbat morning in June, inspiring several Shearith members to make generous donations to support the Ugandan community.
After the trip, Rabbi Sunshine said that he was honored to be a part of this journey where the group discovered “a shared love for the land, the people, and the State of Israel while they bonded as a group.”

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Mitzvah of the Month: providing acts of kindness

Mitzvah of the Month: providing acts of kindness

Posted on 21 July 2019 by admin

Women’s group connects community through chesed 
Photo: Courtesy Gina Tolmas

By Deb Silverthorn

“Love your fellow as yourself,” Rabbi Akiva once said. “This is a great principle of the Torah.” In establishing the Mitzvah of the Month program, Dallas’ Gina Tolmas has, for three years, ensured that she and a close-knit group love their fellows through acts of kindness. 

“I’ve done mitzvah projects all my life and with my daughters for all of theirs but I wanted to do something to reach outside my own circle,” said Tolmas, who invites women from the community to participate in the organization. “People want to do good; they sometimes just need an avenue. I host many of the projects at my home, and it really is a social time as much as it is a mitzvah ‘moment.’”

Throughout July, the group is collecting school supplies to support Shared Housing Center. In August, backpacks filled to the brim will be given to more than 300 third- through eighth-grade students at the organization’s School is Cool Celebration.

“We love Gina’s group, and we really do count on them and those who support them. Their carloads of donations come from generous hearts,” said Shared Housing Center’s Executive Director Maria Machado. “Our children are either homeless or newly located, and for them to start off the school year prepared with the tools is so important. They know others are helping them and the feelings of respect and care are the greatest tools of all.”

Shared Housing Center offers services to meet the needs of homeless and near-homeless with supportive living environments that foster interpersonal growth and self-help. The Center runs two shelters with 15 units; a third will open next year with an additional 24 units. The families they help stay between three months and a year, some receiving support and remaining connected years into the future.

Many times throughout the year the group creates greeting cards to be included in Meals on Wheels delivered by the Visiting Nurses Association of Texas. With hundreds created in one sitting, be it Thanksgiving or the recent Fourth of July holiday, the craft project brings an evening of connection for the women, and joy to the recipients. Last year, in December, the group collected toiletries and packaged them in holiday stockings for Jewish Family Service’s Food Pantry. They also collected full-size toiletry items for JFS in June 2019. 

“It has been proven time and time again that each personal touch and heart line we are able to provide to our clients helps in warding off depression and feelings of loneliness,” said Kim Peters, manager of corporate and community partnerships at the VNA. The VNA’s Meals on Wheels program delivers more than 4,300 meals daily in Dallas and Rockwall counties. “The VNA Greeting Card program allows volunteers to send light into our clients’ lives by writing to them,” Peters said. “This equals a longer and more lively life for those who suffer from debilitating diseases.”

Other organizations, including Anne Frank Elementary School, Attitudes and Attire, Austin Street Center, Family Place, Jewish Family Service, nonPareil Institute, Parkinson Voice Project, Operation Kindness, Ronald McDonald House and Task Force Dagger have also been beneficiares of the Mitzvah of the Month. Gloves and scarves, children’s books, water and snacks, school supplies and toiletries are a partial list of items collected and shared to these organizations.

In August 2019, the group will collect women’s clothing and accessories for Attitudes and Attire, which has served more than 22,000 women since 1996. The organization’s Core Program consists of workshops designed for women to recognize their self-worth, create a positive image and improve job-search skills. Upon completion of the workshops, each participant is invited to select workplace-appropriate clothing from a boutique stocked primarily with donations, such as those through Mitzvah of the Month. Attitudes and Attire also hosts its Hopeful Smiles program, a partnership with area dentists; and its Boots to Heels effort, which assists individuals in transition from military to civilian life by focusing on job readiness.

“It feels so good to do good and I love the connection to Rosh Chodesh, a special time for women,” said Hannah Lambert, who has volunteered to help Mitzvah of the Month since its inception. “It’s a wonderful and wholesome way to reach out to others. Gina makes it so easy, and she’s such a good hostess when we get together. It’s really a nice time with the gals, some sweets and doing good deeds. It’s terrific to combine fun and meaningful work.”

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JFS extends its umbrella over Priya Fund

JFS extends its umbrella over Priya Fund

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

Photo: Julia Shapiro Photography + Art
“We wanted to help people financially, even with a modest amount, and also raise awareness about the issues of infertility, to clear the stigma that often comes with it,” said Annie Glickman, who with her husband Rabbi David Glickman established Dallas’ Priya Fund, now also in Kansas City, Kansas. “I’m confident that the right pieces are coming together with the Fund moving to JFS where it will be nurtured from every angle.” (Left to right) Gavi, Rabbi David, Annie, Ellie and Daniela Glickman
Priya provides funding and focus for infertility issues

By Deb Silverthorn
Priya, be fruitful and multiply, is one of the first commandments in the Torah. The Priya Fund, established in Dallas in 2009, is a most significant way the Dallas Jewish community creates awareness of infertility issues, and supports costs for adoption, medical treatment, or surrogacy.
Now under the ever-widening umbrella of Jewish Family Service of Dallas, the Priya Fund will continue helping Jewish families.
“Over the years, JFS has brought expertise and services specific to the needs of the Jewish community that have both a deep impact in the lives of individuals and families, and those in line with our founding Jewish values as an organization,” said Cathy Barker, JFS CEO. “The Priya Fund, absolutely, is one of those services.”
Established as a fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, the Priya Fund has made 21 grants with close to $80,000 dispensed for at least 13 babies, including two sets of twins, allowing families to kvell.
The Priya Fund was established by Annie and Rabbi David Glickman (formerly of Dallas’ Congregation Shearith Israel) after their own struggle with secondary infertility. While their son Gavi, now 18 and a rising senior, was a toddler, the Glickmans hoped to expand their family. In the limelight of community, it was difficult managing the personal issue, while embracing their very extended “family.”
“We wanted to help people financially, even with a modest amount, and also raise awareness about the issues of infertility, to clear the stigma that often comes with it,” Annie Glickman said. “The silent suffering is so hard. I’m confident that the right pieces are coming together, with the fund moving to JFS, where it will be nurtured from every angle.”
Sari and Rabbi Adam Raskin (formerly of Congregation Shearith Israel and Beth Torah) offered a gift to the Glickmans to help in what they knew was an expensive prospect. After Ellie, now 13, and Daniela, now 10, were born, the Glickmans established the Dallas Priya Fund, grateful for the growth of their family.
“When Daniela was born, we requested that instead of gifts people share to the Priya Fund,” Annie Glickman said. “Since then, people have given in the spirit of weddings or anniversaries, of birthdays and births. The goal was to support all who need it in some way.”
In 2012, the Glickmans moved to Overland Park, Kansas, where David Glickman is the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom. Annie Glickman is director of school services for The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and of Priya: Growing Jewish Families in Kansas City. Priya, established there four years ago with more than $100,000 raised, has supported nearly two dozen families with 11 babies born.
Here, the Priya Fund’s transition from the DJCF to JFS will allow the organization’s complete menu of mental health and social services to support parents in their effort to grow Jewish families. In addition, JFS will be able to raise money for Priya, increasing the amount available to couples.
“Dallas Jewish Community Foundation manages funds, hundreds of them, but we don’t raise the dollars,” said DJCF’s Director of Philanthropic Advancement Mona Allen. “From start to finish, JFS will best serve couples through the processes and, while it will be a void to us, we’re always here for guidance.”
The Priya Fund is coordinated by Caryn Peiser, the mother of Elisheva and Rachel. Peiser’s spirit and soul roars with passion to help others create and build their own families.
“At JFS, everyone from the professional leadership to the part-time volunteers is part of a team, and working together on Priya is going to be an incredible effort,” Peiser said. “The mix of marketing and business development, combined with a need for care and delicate support, is the perfect place for me and I’m very excited.”
The wife of Gary and daughter of Estrella and Ruben Bengio, Peiser attended Akiba and Yavneh academies. The Dallas Jewish community is part of her backbone. She studied at Sharfman’s Seminary Bnot Torah in Israel and earned her bachelor’s degree in child learning and development, with a minor in business administration, from University of Texas-Dallas, just days before the birth of her second daughter.
“As a parent herself and by growing up and being an active member of the Dallas Jewish community, Caryn is a great advocate for the need for this funding by others,” Barker said. “She personally understands the desire to have a child and raise them in the Jewish faith.”
Jewish couples looking for support should contact Peiser to determine eligibility and complete an application. An advisory committee, of medical and Jewish community lay leaders, meets to review each application — the couples remain anonymous — then designates allocation of any funds.
Couples are required to provide a copy of a future invoice (e.g., in vitro, surrogacy, adoption) within 180 days to receive the funds. Funds will ultimately be distributed from the rabbi’s discretionary fund with whom the couple shares a relationship.
“We are eternally grateful for Priya’s support as we faced fertility challenges,” said Monique Roy Chuney, referred to the Priya Fund by a family friend. Chuney and her husband Ken, members of Congregation Anshai Torah, welcomed baby Max on May 24, 2018. “We are blessed with a special and amazing gift. Priya is a wonderful organization, and we are truly thankful.”
The amount that Priya Fund can grant has decreased over the years as the number of requests received increase. Grants are only for future treatments and, while funds are not provided to meet increasing needs per application review cycle, couples are eligible to re-apply and receive additional assistance.
“Beyond the financial burden, which is great for anyone, I will direct prospective families to emotional, spiritual and psychological support and other help. JFS’ clinicians really do reach every level of almost every need,” Peiser said. “That I have this very special role to provide outreach and find applicants, and donors, and to walk them through the process is something I’m very grateful for.”
Gifts that help others create families, truly are of the gifts of life.
For more information or to begin the application process, email cpeiser@jfsdallas.org or visit JFSDallas.org/priya. To make a donation to the Priya Fund, visit tinyurl.com/JFS-PRIYA-donation with notation in the “additional comments” that the gift be directed to Priya.

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