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Kosher Chili Cook-Off names new winner

Kosher Chili Cook-Off names new winner

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

After several runner-up finishes, Litoff finally wins Kosher Chili Cook-Off

Henry Litoff won his first Kosher Chili Cook-Off

Henry Litoff won his first Kosher Chili Cook-Off

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

Henry Litoff finally got his chili championship; now he’s going to need a new sign.
Litoff went into the 24th Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off with a string of second-place finishes dating back to 2014. He had always come close, but hadn’t gotten to hoist and celebrate a title until the judges deemed his as the best beef chili Sunday from a group of 44 entered in the category.
Determined in a blind tasting by the judges, Litoff’s chili edged out the entry from second-place Congregation Shaare Tefilla and the third-place winner from Moishe House.
“It’s exciting,” Litoff said, pausing after having a sip of Champagne and celebrating with the trophy. “I make the chili that I want to eat.
“I know I’m going to have 10, 15 pounds left and I got to give some to my teammates, and they are taking it home to enjoy it,” Litoff added. “I basically cook to my tastes, my teammates. There is no secret; my secret is no gimmicks.”
Litoff said it was a similar recipe to the ones that took second in the past, but this year he really took the simple chili philosophy to heart.
“This year was the most pared-down, simple recipe that I’ve made,” Litoff said. “I tried the least amount of gimmicky stuff. I tried to pare it down to what is the most delicious part, and that’s what I did. No gimmicks.”
While Litoff won the beef competition, the team from Whole Foods Market won the veggie chili title, while Jewish Family Services took second. Five teams were entered into the veggie chili category.
Congregation Shaare Tefilla was crowned the people’s choice for the second straight year. Each visitor at the event was given one gold coin and could vote for their favorite chili.
Organizers now turn their attention to the 2018 Cook-off. That will be the 25th annual event, and the 24th more than lived up to expectations.
In addition to the food, the Mazik Brothers performed a mix of ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s music covers while local vendors had stands set up. The kids were also well entertained with inflatable attractions and a woodworking station.
“It was a beautiful day,” Ed Jerome said. “We host this for the Dallas Jewish community. It’s just great for us to be able to host everybody. We had close to 50 Jewish organizations between the teams and vendors. It’s really a great day for the community.”
The 25th Cook-off already has a date, March 18, 2018 — mark your calendar now — and Jerome said that event will be a big celebration and honor the history of the Cook-off.
Of course, Litoff will be back to try and defend his title.
“As a local Dallas Jew, I was born here (in Dallas) and I’ve been coming here every single year since I think the inception of the Chili Cook-off,” Litoff said. “It’s just a great honor to participate in one of the largest, most inclusive community events that we have.”

 

 

Photos: Sharon Wisch-Ray

Chili cook-off winners

Beef winner: Henry Litoff
Veggie winner: Whole Foods
Beef, second place and people’s choice: Shaare Tefilla
Veggie runner-up: Jewish Family Services
Beef, third place: Moishe House

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Renewed need for community safety

Renewed need for community safety

Posted on 16 March 2017 by admin

Submitted photo Dallas organizational leaders attend a briefing on the new community-wide security initiative.

Submitted photo
Dallas organizational leaders attend a briefing on the new community-wide security initiative.

Federation looks ahead to protect Dallas Jewish organizations

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas rolled out a new community-wide security initiative last week, with the goal of helping protect and better secure all of the Jewish organizations in the area.
“This is something that we wanted to undertake, and it’s something that we felt we could help do for everyone else,” Bradley Laye, CEO and president of the organization, said. “This is something we felt could be put in place to help keep our entire community safer.”
The announcement comes at a time when security has become more paramount for Jewish organizations. Across the country there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish institutions and communities in the past eight weeks, while other acts of vandalism and anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise.
“Unfortunately it hasn’t been the easiest time to be a Jew in the United States,” Laye said. “Through this (initiative) we want to help combat that and protect our community.”
While it may look reactionary because of the timing, the Federation has been working on this for more than a year.
“It’s unfortunate that the latest events nationally have been thrust on the forefront of our news, and have been what people outside of our community been reading most about our community,” JFGD Board Chair Dan Prescott said.
“However I will say that what I can say personally, is the that entire the Dallas Jewish Community led by the Federation will continue to be strong and will be safe and will continue to be successful.”
In February 2016 the Federation requested a $30,000 grant to research and create the community infrastructure required for a more secure Jewish community. They homed in on three main goals including:

  1. Develop a community-wide communication strategy.
  2. Develop continuous community-wide training.
  3. Perform physical site assessments to harden one’s physical infrastructure.

Representatives from local law enforcement, the FBI, and the Secure Community Network (SCN) consulted on this project and on Feb. 7, officially launched a Community Security Initiative that will be led by a director of community security.
The director of community security will be hired with a law enforcement and security background, and the hire is expected to be made within three weeks, Laye said.
That person will guide an initiative that will assess security needs; implement Mir3, a mass communication service; develop training programs; act as a liaison to local law enforcement; and work to create a commissary of security needs to increase quality and potentially reduce cost.
There is no cost to community organizations to be involved and more than 50 local Jewish organizations attended the rollout meeting last Thursday.
Laye said the meeting has had great results. Most of the questions came about specific concerns for specific organizations or institutions, which showed the community is already thinking big-picture with the application.
“It shows that this really was needed and people realize it can help them,” Laye said. “We’re happy to have something in place like this and hopefully we can help everyone feel a little bit safer.”

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Energizer Bubbie: 100 years of laughter

Energizer Bubbie: 100 years of laughter

Posted on 09 March 2017 by admin

2-Norma w grandson Evan Alterman

Gremm ushers in new century, reminisces on 100 years of funny stories, love and memories

By Katie Ray
Special to the TJP

No one would have expected Norma Ray Gremm to live to be 100 years old; when she was a child she drank a glass of gasoline that was lying around the house because she thought it was water.
She also was hit by a Model T Ford when she let go of her mother’s hand and ran into the street. To top that, she’s a breast cancer survivor. But after she tells these stories she always just laughs and says, “And that is what is wrong with me today.”


She means that if you want to be like her, living and thriving at 100, “you don’t quit talking, you don’t quit laughing and you never die.”
The feisty centenarian will receive a blessing from Rabbi David Stern at Shabbat services Friday, March 10, at Temple Emanu-El.
Norma was born at her grandparent’s house in Dallas, on Feb. 11, 1917, into a large family. The house was filled with people including her mother, Elizabeth Beck Ray; her father, Joseph David Ray; her father’s eight siblings and her paternal grandparents. Norma always points out that even though there was never any money it didn’t matter, because there was always so much love and fun.
When asked what is her favorite memory from all her 100 years, she says it is when she met her husband, Phil Gremm. He was a cousin of her best girlfriend, Jenny. He came in from Muskogee, Oklahoma when Jenny’s sister got married.
She noticed right away that he was good-looking, so when he asked for her number, she gave it to him, but she laughs, “I never heard from him.” It wasn’t until a year later when Jenny got married and he came back in town that the courtship truly started. Norma knew he was the one even though, as she says, he wasn’t a big talker like her. She says he was attractive, nice and modest. After a quick courtship, they got married and moved to Muskogee, where Phil had his own plumbing business.
During World War II after Phil enlisted, Norma moved home to help her mother and her siblings, Ola Ray Leibs, Betty Ray Rosenfeld and baby brother Gerald Louis Ray. After World War II, Norma refused to go back to Muskogee and Phil started Atlas Plumbing in Dallas. It was here they raised their three daughters, Beverly Gremm Fetterman, Judye Gremm and Susan Gremm Alterman.
After Phil sold his business, they enjoyed traveling the world with Ola and her husband Mervin Leibs. They went to Israel, Egypt, Hong Kong, Singapore and more.
Sadly, after 62 years of marriage, Phil passed away. Norma has since spent her time with her family and making sure the stories of her past will continue to be shared. She likes to say “this is history,” to stress their importance. She shares her love of history and family in many ways: by baking her mother’s old recipes (including her legendary mandel bread), showing both old and new photographs from her many family albums and telling stories. One knows that a story from Norma will always make them laugh, as some of her favorites include the pranks her dad did, her many misunderstandings she has had because she is hard of hearing, and the time she laughed hysterically at a funeral because she realized she was at the wrong one.
However, her most favorite tale of all is the time she was stopped in the Waldorf-Astoria by Geraldine Ferraro because her skirt was stuck in her pantyhose. Norma is never afraid to tell an embarrassing story about herself, because she loves to share and bring people joy.
Norma’s 100th birthday party was a giant fiesta with more than a hundred family and friends. Attendees from all over the country came, from states such as Oklahoma, Illinois, Nebraska, California, and Florida. Norma, as usual, was dressed in style, which included heels.
After a serious of toasts, Norma said, “When people ask me what my secret is (to living to be 100 years old) there are a few things that’s going through my mind: good genes, good family, good doctors, good drugs, and just as important as all of that perhaps is having a positive attitude.”
She added that she “wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the love and dedication of my three amazing daughters, two sons-in-law (Hank Alterman and Rick Fetterman), one awesome grandson (Evan Alterman), two red-headed granddaughters (Blake Fetterman and Alex Fetterman Price) and two great-grandsons (Isaac Price and Hayden Price), who give me purpose every day and bring me such joy.”

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Yavneh falls short of TAPPS state title in 2OT, 46-39

Yavneh falls short of TAPPS state title in 2OT, 46-39

Posted on 03 March 2017 by admin

Photo: Ron Romaner Griffin Levine (right) hugs Our Lady of the Hills’ Chandlin Hale after the conclusion of the double-overtime game. Levine averaged 18.6 points per game during the season, including 14 in the state championship game.

Photo: Ron Romaner
Griffin Levine (right) hugs Our Lady of the Hills’ Chandlin Hale after the conclusion of the double-overtime game. Levine averaged 18.6 points per game during the season, including 14 in the state championship game.

Staff report

The Yavneh boys’ basketball team had the speed, but Our Lady of the Hills had the size.
Yavneh played from behind through most of the game before falling short in its first-ever TAPPS Class 3A state championship in double overtime, 46-39, at Abilene Christian.
The game time was changed from 1 p.m. to 10 a.m. to accommodate Yavneh’s trip home before Shabbat.
Luke Schultz, a 6-foot, 9-inch center, dominated the paint for Our Lady of the Hills and collected 14 rebounds and 12 points. Yavneh’s quick guards managed 12 assists and 12 steals — the Hawks had zero in both categories.

Photo: Ron Romaner Yavneh’s Pierce Bell drives toward the hoop during the TAPPS Class 3A state championship.

Photo: Ron Romaner
Yavneh’s Pierce Bell drives toward the hoop during the TAPPS Class 3A state championship.

Griffin Levine scored 14 points to lead Yavneh, while Noah Rubinstein had eight rebounds.
“The truth is it’s tough to come up a little short,” Head Coach David Zimmerman said. “It’s been such an unbelievable year. I really hope that the boys see it that way because I know the school does and the community does. As the days and weeks and years go by, we’ll be looking back and remember the whole season and the journey and the bus rides and plane trips, not the final score.”
Both teams played championship-caliber defense. Yavneh shot 30 percent for the game, while the Hawks shot 44. Yavneh exerted excessive energy on the defensive end, mainly guarding the Hawks’ interior size. That may have carried over into their shooting legs.
The Bulldogs trailed at halftime, 16-15, and appeared content to shoot jump shots and 3-pointers. Much of that decision was because of Hawks center Schultz. That unwillingness to drive inside led to a 28-23 deficit at the end of the quarter.
But the Bulldogs were able to negate some of Schultz’ effectiveness by keeping him away from the low post.
“We neutralized him as well as anyone this year,” Zimmerman said of the Montana State signee.
Then the Bulldogs pushed the tempo behind Levine. Levine made an assist, hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 28 and then a jumper to take a two-point lead with 2:20 left. Yavneh and the Hawks exchanged 3-pointers and a pair of turnovers. Our Lady of the Hills scored a layup with 49 seconds left to tie it and a Levine turnover right before the end of regulation stopped any chance for a game-winning shot.
In the first overtime, both teams played very conservatively. The Hawks ran off 2 minutes before turning the ball over. Then Yavneh followed suit with an over-and-back violation, giving the Hawks one last chance. The Hawks got to the rim but missed the layup as the buzzer sounded.

Photo: Ron Romaner

Photo: Ron Romaner

Photo: Ron Romaner

Photo: Ron Romaner

In the second overtime, Luke Schultz’ size became a factor again. The center grabbed offensive rebounds, made a basket and free throws to give the Hawks a 40-33 lead. Yavneh battled back and made it 42-39 on a Rubinstein basket, but the Hawks made their free throws down the stretch to reach the final score of 46-39.
“I could not be prouder of these student-athletes and their coaches for the incredible positive energy and pride that they brought to our school community all season long,” said Dr. David A. Portnoy, head of school for Yavneh.
Beyond that, Portnoy said he was “very grateful that TAPPS and the other teams involved accommodated our religious needs to be back for Shabbat in Dallas.”
Yavneh (31-4) will graduate Zach Epstein, Noah Rubinstein, Daniel Chernikov and Liad Guttman. Freshman Jonah Eber and junior Levine, who were both major players in the run to the state tournament, should return.
“We’re losing three seniors who gave so much,” Zimmerman said. “We’re losing size but anytime you can return a top player like Griffin (Levine), the future is bright. Our tournament experience is going to bode well for us.”

Photo: Ron Romaner Rosie Bernstein, left, and Megan Lacritz

Photo: Ron Romaner
Rosie Bernstein, left, and Megan Lacritz

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Yavneh boys 1 win from state title

Posted on 02 March 2017 by admin

Staff report

The Yavneh boys’ basketball team won their TAPPS Class 3A state semifinal, 55-40, and will play for a state championship at 1 p.m. Friday in Abilene.

The Bulldogs (31-3) defeated Dallas Covenant, which hails from the same District 3. Yavneh trailed, 15-8, after the first quarter but closed the first half on a 16-7 run for a 24-24 tie at halftime. Yavneh pulled away in the third quarter and kept space in the fourth for the victory.

Yavneh will face Kerrville Our Lady of the Hills (26-6) in the 3A state final. Our Lady of the Hills defeated Beaumont Legacy, 46-37, in the other semifinal.

 

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Jewish Communities Day at Texas Capitol promotes Jewish values, policy priorities

Jewish Communities Day at Texas Capitol promotes Jewish values, policy priorities

Posted on 02 March 2017 by admin

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

Photo: Senate media Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick meets with participants of the Jewish Communities Day at the State to show his support for the anti-BDS bill.

Photo: Senate media
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick meets with participants of the Jewish Communities Day at the State to show his support for the anti-BDS bill.

From left) Rivae Campo; Jaziah Masters, staffer for State Representative Helen Giddings (D-Dallas); Susie Avnery; and Alice Barnett met for a small advocacy session in the representative’s office.

From left) Rivae Campo; Jaziah Masters, staffer for State Representative Helen Giddings (D-Dallas); Susie Avnery; and Alice Barnett met for a small advocacy session in the representative’s office.

 House Speaker Joseph Straus meets with high-level representatives from each Federation. (From left) Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Board Chair Daniel J. Prescott, Rob Shoss, Robert Simon, Speaker of the House Straus, Kevin Epstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Bradley Laye and Executive Director of the JCRC Anita Zusman Eddy.

House Speaker Joseph Straus meets with high-level representatives from each Federation. (From left) Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Board Chair Daniel J. Prescott, Rob Shoss, Robert Simon, Speaker of the House Straus, Kevin Epstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Bradley Laye and Executive Director of the JCRC Anita Zusman Eddy.

Jewish organizations from across Texas descended upon the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 22, for their biannual Jewish Communities Day at the State: Mission to Austin advocacy day.
The event was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. It brought together 150 people from every Jewish Federation of Texas: Greater Dallas, Austin, Greater Houston, Fort Worth & Tarrant County, San Antonio and El Paso. The Community Relations Council (CRC) of San Antonio, Texas Hillel, Chabad at UT, Texas A&M Hillel, and Hillels of North Texas, also participated.
Attendees focused on three issues: access to early childhood education for all children, support for social services and Federation agency partners and legislation prohibiting the Texas State government from contracting or investing in businesses currently boycotting or planning to boycott Israel. They heard from longtime legislative observers, policy wonks and state officials.
Speakers included Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the nonpartisan online publication Quorum Report. (Editor’s note: The author of this article is a Quorum Report writer.) Marnie Glaser, executive director of Early Childhood Education for the Texas Education Agency (TEA), discussed the significance of high-quality early childhood education, which has been shown to narrow achievement gaps while improving lifetime outcomes for all students. Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, gave an overview of state and federal legislation that would cut funding from social service programs and echoed the attendees’ social service priorities,
But the anti-BDS bills were seen as key priorities among advocates and legislators.
House Bill 89 by State Reps. Phil King, R-Weatherford and Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Senate Bill 134 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, are part of a national trend targeting the BDS movement.
King told the group he is optimistic about the bill’s passage but legislators must know it is a priority among their constituents. The bill has the backing of leaders of both Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, who is Jewish.
Even if the state’s top officials support the bills, Dallas JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin agreed with King: Advocacy is important. And not just to pass this bill or other priorities.
“It makes a significant impact on our state legislators when they see such a well-attended program, with participation from Jewish communities throughout Texas. Our Jewish Communities Day at the State is an occasion for all of us to show our support for Israel, as well as our concerns about issues that impact all of us who live in Texas. Anti-BDS efforts, increasing access to high-quality early childhood education and support for the social services provided by our Federation partners, Jewish Family Service, Legacy Senior Communities and CHAI are issues that are important to the Jewish community as well as our broader communities throughout the state,” Rubin said in a statement.
Their attendance was not just acknowledged in personal meetings but on the House floor as well.
Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, acknowledged attendees with a resolution declaring Feb. 22, “Texas Jewish Communities Advocacy Day.”
Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Board Chair Daniel Prescott and other Jewish Federation joined Villalba on the floor for the resolution.
Prescott noted, “It was a great honor to stand with Representative Villalba as he recognized our Jewish Communities Day at the State. Numerous state representatives approached me afterward to express their support for Israel and the Jewish community.”
Seth Kaplan, Day at the State chair, also noted, “We appreciated the support and participation of all the Jewish Federations and many Jewish organizations and agencies throughout Texas. As the only full-time JCRC in Texas, our Dallas JCRC is pleased to have served as the planning and coordinating entity that brings together all the Jewish communities in Texas for this critical advocacy program.”
The Dallas JCRC continues to work with other local and statewide organizations to advocate for and support the Texas anti-BDS bill currently under consideration in the current legislative session.

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Yavneh transformed into international stage

Yavneh transformed into international stage

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

BBYO IC participants flood school with diversity of nations

By Jori Epstein
Special to the TJP

Photo: Becky Nurko Yavneh Sophomore Sammy Nurko (second from left) and his brother Yavneh Senior Jonathan Nurko (not pictured) hosted three teens from Uruguay for five days prior to IC.

Photo: Becky Nurko
Yavneh Sophomore Sammy Nurko (second from left) and his brother Yavneh Senior Jonathan Nurko (not pictured) hosted three teens from Uruguay for five days prior to IC.

They all cradled the same coffee cups, debated the same sports teams and music groups, the boys even donning the same kippot.
But as 179 Jewish teens from 29 countries outside the U.S. flocked to Yavneh Academy of Dallas Feb. 14, the day was anything but typical. A teen from Berlin led a traditional Shacharit service in one hall. Students packed a classroom in meditation upstairs. Still more circled in the library for a musical service that fittingly ended with a rendition of Matisyahu’s One Day lyrics.
All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for, for the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
They’ll be no more wars
And our children will play
The international teens came from France and Uruguay, Switzerland and Moldova, Georgia (the country) and Latvia. All were in town for the 93rd annual BBYO International Convention, where thousands joined at the Hyatt Regency from Thursday through Monday.image IMG_4736-1
First, the international attendees joined Yavneh.
“This idea kind of morphed from a conversation this summer to follow up,” said Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum, Yavneh’s principal of Judaic studies who works for BBYO in the summers. “I realized it’d be great to bridge them.”
The day’s programming spanned activities nearly as diverse as its audience, from sports to TED talks, cooking to music.
One Yavneh classroom transformed from its usual home for Exodus analysis and Julius Caesar readings to a theater stage. Its actors hailed from Austria, Israel, Serbia, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
Yavneh’s math classroom shifted from filling whiteboards with calculus problems to penning slam poetry pieces to paper. Poems ranged from Spanish to English, Hebrew to French. In some cases, Google Translate bridged linguistic gaps. Other times, students encouraged peers to perform in their native languages.
“It’s in French,” one boy said, hesitant to share his reading.
“Perfect,” another student told him.
“Just express yourself,” a third chimed in.
He did, reading verses of how he feels “a little richer when I say I’m Jewish/I have a lot of things on my heart, do Yom Kippur with hunger.”
The experiences expressed were common among the otherwise diverse teens — a unity in diversity paradox that became the theme of the day.
Yusuf Gurkan, one of nine teens visiting from Turkey, said he wanted to come to Dallas for international convention (IC) after attending a BBYO summer camp. The trip so far hadn’t disappointed.
“In Turkey we don’t have so many Jews our age so it’s really good to see more people here,” said Gurkan, 16. “I’ve never seen this much Jews together in my life.”
Sixteen-year-old Erika Kleiman, in town from Buenos Aires, Argentina, agreed. She’d been to the U.S. before, visiting Disney World in Orlando with her family. But even the self-described happiest place on Earth didn’t compare to what this trip meant to her.
“IC is like a dream for everyone,” Kleiman said. “I really love it, like I can meet everyone and see the different cultures and communities.”
It’s those interchanges, Tannenbaum said, that the school aimed for when planning the exchange day.
“The mission at Yavneh is for our kids to feel Judaism come alive to them,” Tannenbaum said. “To feel it be more than just text study, more than just history. Having them experience this with 170 Jews who are strong enough to identify as Jews even in their countries that aren’t necessarily so hospitable to Jews…is such a great opportunity.”
As the teens mingled, sang along to Matisyahu lyrics and prayed together, they were part of something bigger.
“Listening to someone lead services from Berlin — yeah, he has a German accent but it’s the same words and the same tunes,” Tannenbaum said. “We’re the same even though we’re different and I think that’s the greater message today: You’re not alone. Wherever you are there are Jews and you really have much more in common than you have different.”
David Schapiro, who led that same morning service he usually leads at school in Berlin, agreed.
“This is what Judaism’s about,” Schapiro said. “You can go anywhere and you feel at home because the people are like you there.
“It’s so cool.”
In Polish and Turkish, Italian and Romanian, Spanish and Hebrew, the message was the same.

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‘Really, really fun:’ BBYO IC brings energy, international flair to Dallas

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

By Jacob Kamaras
JNS.org

DALLAS — My interview with Aaron Mantell and Danielle Wadler, two teens from New York’s Long Island region, is drowned out by a parade of chanting students passing us by.
Welcome to the BBYO International Convention.


Until this point, my experience at the Jewish pluralistic teen movement’s convention in Dallas largely consists of navigating a venue whose every inch is lined with teens, and giving up on any notion of using the hotel elevators. But now I understand and feel the true nature of this gathering of 5,000 people — including 2,500 Jewish teens — from 48 U.S. states and 30 countries.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but it always ends up being really, really fun. Like you get past the overwhelming, and you get used to a thousand people screaming at you all day,” says Wadler, 17.
“It’s really impressive. It’s always mind-blowing. These people fly around the world to get here and have the most energy I’ve ever seen in teenagers,” says Mantell, 16, assessing his peers.
The enthused BBYO delegates who interrupt my talk with Wadler and Mantell, en route to the convention’s opening ceremony Feb. 16, are just the tip of the iceberg. The festivities are nothing short of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games. The numerous American and international delegations outfitted with hats, capes and athletic jerseys, while they chant fight songs. Pop music blasting from the loudspeakers. Students dancing and singing. Picture a rock concert, summer camp color war and high school football game, all put together and multiplied by 10. It’s hardly my first major Jewish conference, but the energy is incomparable.
“I have not been in a room in my entire life with so many teens, so much energy and so much hope. Thank you for the hope! We need this gathering!” Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen says at the opening ceremony, apparently agreeing with my sentiment.
But the BBYO convention is about more than energy and hope — it’s about vision and resolve. For five days, the student-led youth organization and its delegates come to hear prominent speakers at plenary sessions and hold smaller breakout discussions, sharpening their leadership skills and grappling with hot-button issues facing both the Jewish community and society at-large. The ultimate goal, according to this year’s convention tagline, is “Changing the Game.”
“The theme of the conference comes from our desire to put teens in control of their own destiny, to let them know that not only can they shape the Jewish community, but they can shape the world,” Matt Grossman, BBYO’s CEO, tells JNS.org. “In so many teen settings, they’re listening to adults tell them what they can do and what they can’t do, and they’re bound by different rules. Here, we put them in charge, we tell them that the future is theirs, and they respond in very powerful ways.”

Global expansion

In an increasingly borderless world, one of the hallmarks of both the 2017 BBYO convention and the organization’s growth trajectory in general is international expansion. This year’s gathering saw delegates from Austria and Poland for the first time.
“The power of the BBYO movement comes from the connectivity that exists between the teens, and a lot of that connectivity starts (at the convention),” says Grossman.
Fittingly, the youth movement’s top leaders — “International N’siah” Ellie Bodker of the BBG women’s order, and “Grand Aleph Godol” Aaron Cooper of the AZA men’s order — have spent their gap year between high school and college visiting BBYO communities in North America and around the world in order to strategize on growth and inspire the local chapters.
Cooper, 18, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is particularly moved by seeing BBYO’s operations in Hungary, whose estimated Jewish community of 100,000 is down from 800,000 before the Holocaust, but is thriving.
“Seeing our program there, and seeing that it’s been so successful, and it’s only been there for a year…I think is super-beautiful and amazing and something we take pride in,” Cooper tells JNS.org. “It’s amazing to see us be a part of vibrant Jewish communities…but also the ones that still have the remnants of awful tragedy lurking in the back of their heads.”

An Israeli perspective

The need for Jewish connectivity can also exist in places where one might not think such connection is lacking. Daniel Segal, 18, a youth leader for Maccabi Tzair, an Israel-based sister organization to BBYO, explains that the 25-30 different youth movements all cater to specific populations — except Maccabi Tzair, whose pluralistic nature mirrors BBYO.
Segal reflects that starting in third grade, Maccabi Tzair taught him “how to manage working with people,” and by eighth grade, he was “not only part of a team, but the head of teams, and that position gave me skills for life.” Today, he oversees the efforts of 60 youth coordinators and 200 Maccabi Tzair program participants from third to 12th grades.
“The fact that you have many Jews (in Israel) doesn’t mean it’s not necessary for them to get informal education after school,” Segal says.
“We help them meet Judaism in a way that is proper to their life, where they can relate to it in a non-religious way,” echoes Noga Vieman, a Maccabi Tzair staff member.
Before their international leadership tenures are complete, Bodker and Grand Aleph Godol Cooper — who will attend Brown University with the intent of later pursuing a law degree — hope to help BBYO meet its goal of surpassing 20,000 members around the world.
“It’s a special moment in Jewish history that 2,500 young people from across the globe can come together (at the convention) and celebrate what it means to be Jewish,” says CEO Grossman. “This is a place where they can be hopeful, they can be bold and they can be community-builders.”

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Shepton sophomore known  for ‘making world better place’

Shepton sophomore known for ‘making world better place’

Posted on 16 February 2017 by admin

Staff report

More than 1,000 family members, friends and classmates mourned Samantha Remy Sacks at her funeral Tuesday morning, Feb. 14, at Temple Shalom.
The 16-year-old Shepton High School student died in a car accident late Friday, Feb. 10. Lilly Davis also died in the crash and another friend, Kendall Murray, was critically injured.
In addition to Rabbi Andrew Paley, three of Samantha’s friends, her parents Julie and Jeff and sister Sydney eulogized Samantha, who was known as one of those people that lit up a room.
Samantha was in the top 10 percent of her sophomore class and aspired to become an orthopedic surgeon. She was infatuated with bones from early childhood and had been scheduled to attend a medical program at Harvard this summer.

Samantha Sacks

Samantha Sacks

A gifted athlete, Samantha was the captain of her volleyball team. She loved the beach, shopping, and being with family and friends and was known for her effervescent personality. The phrase, “Love as much as you can in one lifetime,” was one that she not only said, but embodied, encouraging people to end conversations with “I love you,” in case they didn’t have the opportunity to say it again.
“I was her older sister, but I looked up to her and wanted to be just like her,” said her sister Sydney.
Susan Schildcrout read Samantha’s mother’s remarks. Julie shared a life of love, laughter and crazy over-the-top fun with her daughters. She enjoyed planning Halloween costumes with Samantha, each year more elaborate than the one before, and packing her the perfect lunch.
Her father, whose eulogy was read by close friend Sam Schildcrout, said that Samantha’s twinkle in her eye captured his heart from the moment he laid eyes on her.
Each person who shared reflections about their relationship with Samantha — friend, mother, father and sister — considered her their best friend and emphasized the joy she brought to each of them and the world around her.
Interment followed at Hillcrest Memorial Park. Donations may be made to ‘Memorial Fund for Samantha Sacks’ c/o Guaranty Bank & Trust, 16980 Dallas Parkway, Suite 110, Dallas, TX 75248.

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Dallas, soldiers can ‘Stand Together’

Dallas, soldiers can ‘Stand Together’

Posted on 16 February 2017 by admin

Paratrooper, performer featured in Feb. 19 event at Hyatt Place

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

Dallas’ Jewish community can support Standing Together from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, at the Hyatt Place Dallas.
Elite Israeli Defense Force paratrooper and Standing Together Assistant Director Ari Fuld, and former IDF soldier and performer Noam Agami, are the featured guests for an evening filled with networking, schmoozing, tales of the IDF, music and support.

Photo: Ari Fuld Standing Together Assistant Director Ari Fuld says, “This is not about providing a ‘favor’ to the soldiers, but these are all of our sons and daughters.” Fuld, a reservist who is an elite paratrooper, will be in Dallas this weekend.

Photo: Ari Fuld
Standing Together Assistant Director Ari Fuld says, “This is not about providing a ‘favor’ to the soldiers, but these are all of our sons and daughters.” Fuld, a reservist who is an elite paratrooper, will be in Dallas this weekend.

“We are so excited to introduce Ari, Standing Together and Noam to the community and I promise everyone who attends is in for a very special experience,” said Dallas resident Hilary Bernhardt, who has coordinated Fuld’s visit to Dallas with Benji Gershon and Linda Leftin. It was a social media connection of her mother-in-law, on the other side of the world, that put things in motion. “It’s come together in a whirlwind as my dear sweet mother-in-law, Lynette Bernhardt, saw a post by Ari that he was coming to the States. She is a fan of his Facebook page and blog and she follows him with great passion and interest. Mind you, she’s in South Africa but she called my husband about the post and said we ‘must’ get him here. Long story short, we’re able to share this very special man, with a very special mission, with our community and I promise those who attend will have an incredible opportunity.”
Fuld, a New York native who was raised in an observant Zionist home by his parents Mary and Rabbi Yonah Fuld, also was influenced by his grandmother Esther Varga, of blessed memory. Varga, who survived being sent to five camps during World War II, made an impact that set the impetus for her grandson’s first visit to Israel for the summer when he was just 16. While he recalls vivid dreams, as a child, of himself in an IDF uniform, it was every part of that first trip that brought Israel to him like a magnet, as though he were stepping into his own dreams.
“My grandmother was 5 foot 3 inches tall, and a gentle woman, but filled with energy about Israel being our home,” said Fuld, who will share stories about his experiences in the IDF, including an incredible miracle that took place while fighting with his unit in Lebanon. “I climbed mountains I was attached to, and when we visited holy places I felt so connected, and at Har Herzl, the national cemetery, it stuck me like a knife. I needed to be here and I knew this would be my life.”
Fuld returned to Israel to study for a year after graduating high school. After a chance interview by CNN while visiting the Kotel, during which he became very emotional, he called his parents and told them he couldn’t miss the opportunity to help and protect Israel. “There was no one in Europe to protect my grandmother and the others; I needed to do that.”

Quarter-century of service

His service — now a quarter of a century — has included work as a paratrooper and now reservist. Fuld still gives his wife Miriam, whose own family made aliyah when she was 9 years old, and children Tamar, Naomi, Yakir, and Natan, a goodbye kiss and a prayer like that which he gives on Shabbat evening. Treasuring his time in the service, he says he can’t imagine the day when his service is over.
“I never want to not be beneficial to my country.”
Fuld’s dedication and career at Standing Together makes it possible for the nonprofit organization, founded in 2003 by David Landau, to donate minifridges and microwaves for hospital rooms of wounded soldiers. The group has also presented wounded soldiers with personalized bathrobes, emailed Rosh Hashanah greeting cards, and given mobile cellphone charging units, treats, pizzas, warm clothes during the winter and ice cream parties in the summer, as well as having Independence Day barbecues, Chanukah doughnut parties, challahs, Purim mishloach manot packages at army bases and checkpoints and much more.
“Ninety-six percent of all donations to the organization are used to support the soldiers,” said Fuld, who writes a blog and each week posts updates about Israel, a Friday Torah lesson and more. Standing Together minimizes costs with a predominantly volunteer staff, by e-newsletters rather than traditional mailings, and employing modern social media marketing strategies.
“The only way I would come to the company is to know that the work we do, and the money we raise, indeed supports the soldiers. I’ve been there, am still there as a reservist, and I know what it means when others show support. What it means — is everything!”

Visiting area schools

On Friday, Fuld will visit with the preschoolers at Temple Emanu-El and residents at The Legacy at Willow Bend. The community is invited Saturday morning when he will co-host the Shabbat Kulanu services at Congregation Tiferet Israel with Rabbi Meir Sabo, and at Congregation Shaare Tefilla, where he will speak after mincha services, which begin at 5:40 p.m.
The Sunday evening program is open and appropriate for guests of all ages and, while there is no charge, donations of $18 or more will secure preferred seating. All donations from the event will be used to purchase food trucks to support Standing Together’s programs that supply food, tools and gear to tens of thousands of IDF soldiers every year.
Sunday night, the program will open at 5:30 p.m. with an hour for registration, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and nonalcoholic drinks, and music by Noam Agami. Agami will then continue with a more formal concert that includes traditional Jewish and Hebrew songs, as well as those he played during his service in the IDF band. Dallas’ own Dr. Zev Shulkin will then speak about fighting the BDS movement and the importance of investing in the safety and security of Israel and its people, and, at 7 p.m., Fuld will speak about his own history and experiences in the IDF and the work of Standing Together.
“I travel around the world sharing our work, and I take what I do very personally. This is not about providing a ‘favor’ to the soldiers, but these are all of our sons and daughters,” said Fuld, the father of two whose parents and brothers Moshe, Doni, Hillel and Eytan have all since made aliyah, following his lead in returning “home.”
“Life isn’t about the clock, but about what you do with it.”
Agami, born in Israel and now a Dallas resident, performs at weddings, b’nai mitzvah celebrations, and other occasions including a concert of Israeli music last weekend at Valley View Mall.
“The work of Standing Together supports and matches how I feel about Israel and the soldiers there keeping the peace and keeping our country safe. I am proud to participate in a program for this group and I feel very connected to their message,” he said.
“It is important for all of us to support Israel in general and the IDF and its soldiers with our actions, our visits, our voice, prayers, and our donations,” said Gershon. “Helping the IDF soldiers, the men and women who keep our homeland safe — who keep our people safe — is something we must do. Sunday night will be a magnificent way to do most of that at once, and as a community.”
The Hyatt Place Dallas is located at 5229 Spring Valley Road in Dallas. For more information or to register for the event, visit DallasStandsWithTheIDF.Eventbrite.com. To follow Fuld and Standing Together online, visit StandingTogether.org and Standing Together 24/7 IDF on Facebook.

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