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Crafting Sukkot memories – literally

Crafting Sukkot memories – literally

Posted on 20 September 2018 by admin

Some families mark their children’s physical growth with a mark on the pantry door, for the Silverthorn family, it is the by the span of their palms on the family’s fingerprints sukkah walls. From left are Barbara Schulman, Deb, Marie, Eric, Blake, Whitney and Jonah Silverthorn, Sidney Loftin, Emilie Silverthorn and Kyle Vannguyen.

By Deb Silverthorn

Impressions – they last, and last, and for our family that means many things, including the impressions made by hundreds of family and friends since we built our first sukkah 27 years ago. It is the impressions of palmprints and fingerprints on our hearts, of all of the colors of the rainbow, emblazoned on the three walls that make our fall holiday home.

Every year, in addition to “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David,” we are blessed to share dinner with our many friends and family who have come once or for whom a lulav and etrog shake is a perennial favorite. No longer here in person, but of our blessed memories, we’re still able to share meals with Poppie J. Brin and Dayani, with Poppa Don and Gail, with Irwin, Barbara, Scott and with Mr. Levitz, with Lola and Richard.

 

Hundreds of handprints provide a special touch for the Silverthorn family sukkah – created of a paper plate with whatever color(s) acrylic paint, palms down, then spread on the sukkah wall, autographed and dated.

 

At our children’s simchas, bnai mitzvot and now a wedding, we added the touch – literally – of many who aren’t able to travel for the holiday, but who are always with us despite any distance. A paper plate with whatever color(s) acrylic paint, palms down, then spread against the wood or tarp, prints then autographed and dated, the children in our lives have added their prints year in and year out – their hands, and hearts, getting larger – spreading wider.

Indelible ink – indelible memories. Sukkot, the holiday of the harvest that always harvests our spirit.

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Some special gifts for your Rosh Hashanah hosts

Some special gifts for your Rosh Hashanah hosts

Posted on 07 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Marco Beltrametti/Wikimedia Commons)
Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah: So why not provide the honey?

By MJL Staff

(My Jewish Learning via JTA) — Invited to someone’s house for a Rosh Hashanah meal and looking for an appropriate gift? In addition to the always appreciated flowers or bottle of wine, here are some other must-have (or must-give) items for the Jewish New Year.
If you’re drawn to the edible items on this list, we recommend you check ahead of time whether your host keeps kosher or has other dietary restrictions.
Jewish calendars
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year after all, and every year needs a calendar. While many, if not most, people rely on digital calendars for day-to-day scheduling, a pretty wall calendar makes a nice decoration and can help keep the household organized. Most Jewish calendars sold in the United States list secular dates as well as Hebrew ones (including all the holidays, of course), and run through the end of the next Gregorian year. (So one that starts with Rosh Hashanah in 2017 will last you until December 2018.) You can find a wide selection online and in Judaica stores and bookstores.
Someone with an artistic bent or who enjoys the stress relief that comes with coloring might enjoy a coloring-book calendar featuring intricate Judaic motifs such as Jewish stars and Hanukkah menorahs. And one from New York’s Jewish Museum showcases a variety of paintings, sculptures and ceremonial objects from its collection.
Jewish cookbooks
If your host invited you over for a home-cooked meal, he or she probably likes to cook. The four books listed here were published within the last couple of years, so there’s a good chance your host doesn’t yet own them — and what better than a cookbook to subtly convey to your host that you’d love more holiday meal invitations? (Find more Jewish cookbook suggestions here.)
“Modern Jewish Baker: Challah, Babka, Bagels & More” is written by Shannon Sarna, the editor of The Nosher food blog, part of the 70 Faces Media family that includes My Jewish Learning. In this gorgeous book, she pays homage to Jewish baking traditions while re-invigorating them with modern flavors and new ideas.
The mother-daughter team of Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman in “The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine” features recipes for German-Jewish cuisine as it existed in Germany before World War II, and as refugees later adapted it in the United States and elsewhere. The dishes are a departure from better-known Eastern European Jewish fare and focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Israeli baker Uri Scheft’s “Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking” offers sweet and savory recipes for European, Israeli and Middle Eastern favorites.
For vegan cooks — or those who often have a vegan family member or guest at their table — “The Superfun Times Vegan HolidayCookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz offers meat- and dairy- and egg-free recipes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (break-the-fast), as well as dishes for a variety of other Jewish and non-Jewish holidays.
Honey dishes
It is traditional to dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah, and a special honey dish can add extra beauty to the practice. We like a stainless steel and glass one that says “Shana Tova Umetuka” (a good and sweet new year) in Hebrew and a Rosh Hashanah apple plate and honey dish set with a pomegranate design available in red, blue and gray.
Food
Why dip good apples and challah in mediocre honey? The Savannah Bee Company, a gourmet honey purveyor, sells a variety of beautifully packaged artisanal honeys, including several variety packs. Or encourage your host to sample some raw honeycomb. The company also sells numerous other honey-based products, like body lotions and soaps. All their honey is KSA kosher-certified.
For Rosh Hashanah, Zingerman’s, a Michigan deli and mail-order gourmet superstore, bakes its own honey cakes, round challahs, mandelbrot and rugelach, and sells an array of gourmet honeys from around the world.
Love marzipan? Try Rosh Hashanah “Marzipops.” A gift set of these marzipan lollipops contains 10 lollipops: two each of a honeypot, a red apple, a challah, a pomegranate and a shofar. They are gluten-free and vegan, but are not certified kosher.
Assorted items
Barbara’s Gifts is based in Israel but ships to the United States. Its Rosh Hashanah gift box contains a pomegranate hand towel, pomegranate challah cover, Jewish calendar tea towel, pomegranate-shaped trivet, pomegranate fabric placemats, a pomegranate notepad and set of Rosh Hashanah greeting cards.
If your host likes scented candles, try an apples-and-honey one. Just make sure you don’t try to eat it after reading the description: “Brown sugar glazed apples blended with warm cinnamon, golden clove and grated nutmeg wrapped in sweet caramel honey drizzles and hints of pure maple syrup.” You can also find a variety of pomegranate-scented candles here.
Off the beaten path
Who doesn’t need a Rosh Hashanah-themed smartphone cover/case? Luxlady offers some in various sizes for popular iPhone and Android models.
Children and adults alike will enjoy accessorizing with High Holiday-themed nail decals from Midrash Manicures.
Nothing quite right? Try searching for Rosh Hashanah on Etsy or visit The Sabra Patch, an Etsy-like online store for Israeli artists. Whatever you buy, best wishes for a sweet and Happy New Year!

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3D project ensures Glauben’s memories will live on

3D project ensures Glauben’s memories will live on

Posted on 29 August 2018 by admin

Photo: McGuire Boles
Heather Maio-Smith, managing director at Conscience Display, a collaborator with the USC Shoah Foundation on the holographic project, adjusts a microphone before taping of Max Glauben begins.

By Deb Silverthorn

Nineteen cameras, a crew of a dozen-plus, five days and 40 hours of filming are all needed to make sure that one man, Dallas’ own Max Glauben, tells his story, his history and his whole heart to generations to come.
The University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, Glauben and the Dallas Holocaust Museum are creating a holographic exhibit today, about the past, that will last long into the future.
“I know it is my story, but the crew I worked with should get the glory because they are something else, some very special people. That it is in their souls to be sure that our stories are heard and that our testimonies are preserved for years to come, educating the public, is a gift,” said Glauben, who was interviewed last week. “I was mesmerized at the process and can’t even fully express the appreciation I have to be a part of this. It’s truly beyond honor.”
Glauben, the 19th subject in the Dimensions in Testimony initiative, will premiere next spring in a 2D testing format at the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s current space, and then in its full 3D experience at the Dimensions in Testimony Theater at the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum when it opens in September 2019. In the intimate theater, museum visitors will also have access to 17 other interactive testimonies of Holocaust survivors from around the world, as well as a survivor of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China.
“It took me no time to want to participate,” said Glauben, who saw the project in place at Dallas’ Museum of Biblical Arts with survivor Pinchas Gutter of Toronto. That exhibit will run through the end of this year. It is available only in a few museums at this point.
The idea was first envisioned by Heather Maio Smith, managing director of Conscience Display, which creates exhibitions of survivors.
Glauben was just 10 when World War II started and 13 when he was sent on a boxcar to Majdanek, then Budzyn, Mielec, Wieliczka and Flossenburg before being liberated by a Jewish soldier while on a death march to Dachau.
He has shared testimony and developed new generations as witnesses to his tale to tens of thousands as an almost-weekly fixture at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. He has traveled across the country and served as a chaperone for Yavneh Academy’s March of the Living group 13 times. For him, he is speaking for his parents, Faiga and Isaac; his brother, Heniek; and the rest of the 6,000,000 Jews and the 5,000,000 non-Jews who died.
“I’m even more of an open book than I was because one topic brought about another, and the answer to one question had me remembering something I hadn’t talked about before,” said the 90-year-old Glauben. A longtime member of Congregation Shearith Israel, he and his wife of 65 years, Frieda, are parents of Barry (Michelle), Phillip (Linda) and Shari (Norm) Becker; grandparents of Alec (Ellen), Blake, Delaney, Hayley, Madison, Ross (Stacey) and Sarah (Brett); and great-grandparents of Natalie. “What we created is ‘conversations’ I’ll be having with the children and grandchildren of the youngest people I am meeting with now.”
During last week’s taping, Glauben answered 1,500 questions about his life before, during, and after World War II, such as “what did the Holocaust mean,” “what does it mean all these years later,” “what does God mean to you” and “do you feel hope for the future.” The project will be produced by USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies along with the Shoah Foundation, the nonprofit founded by director Steven Spielberg in 1994.
“Max, ‘our Max,’ is something else — he’s just so very special and anyone who has ever spent even a minute with him knows that. He never stops for a minute and now, with this technology, he never will,” said Dallas Holocaust Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins. “His responses were phenomenal and incredibly moving and to see his memory at work is something we all envied. These are subjects, really difficult times, and memories of close to 80 years ago, and yet he held strong and fulfilled the mission we all have.”
Higgins, who was present for much of the filming, said everyone involved could feel the gravity with which Glauben understands the opportunity and the responsibility to impart wisdom that he feels — and that he lives. His answers were deliberate, thoughtful and sincere, but all given with his own brand of personality and heart, with the twinkle that is always in his eye, with the consciousness of the moment and with his ever-positive impact.
“Whatever I can share and whoever I can reach so that this is a better world because some of us gave testimony, that’s why we’re doing it,” said Glauben, one of many who has left a letter placed in a time capsule for the new building. “Maybe something I say will change a heart from hate, from ignorance, from evil. It’s about making sure people know what happened. People need to hear and know that it did happen — and that it should never happen again. Never again.”

 

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22nd Jewish Film Festival features wide variety

22nd Jewish Film Festival features wide variety

Posted on 24 August 2018 by admin

Bye Bye Germany will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13 at Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley.

By Deb Silverthorn

The curtains at Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley will soon part for the 22nd annual Jewish Film Festival of Dallas, produced by the Jewish Community Center of Dallas with support from the Office of Cultural Affairs/City of Dallas, and presented by Pegasus Bank.
Screening throughout September are The Testament (Sept. 4), The Cakemaker (Sept. 5), Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me (Sept. 8 and 26), GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II (Sept. 12 and 16), Bye Bye Germany (Sept. 13), Shelter (Sept. 15), Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel (Sept. 17), The Body Collector (Sept. 20), The 90-Minute War (Sept. 22), and The Last Suit (Sept. 27).
“In watching close to 100 films this year, some in English, many in their original language with subtitles, we searched for outstanding artistic value and relevance with something for everyone,” event chair Brenda Marcus said. “They all have strong values of courage and bravery, and they are spectacular.”
The Testament tracks a dedicated Holocaust historian working to prevent the desecration of a mass Holocaust gravesite to make way for road construction. Examining testimonies of Holocaust survivors who could be witnesses to the massacre, he finds his own mother’s testimony, which she refuses to discuss. Dr. David Patterson, the Hillel A. Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies, Ackerman Center at UT Dallas, will lead the talkback.
The Cakemaker traces the bond between a gay German baker and the Jerusalem-based widow of the man they both loved, which is formed when his Israeli lover dies and he goes to Israel to learn more. The portrait of grief raises an array of social and religious questions. Post-screening discussion will be led by Congregation Shearith Israel Rabbi Adam Roffman.
Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me is about the legendary entertainer — a Puerto Rican, Jewish, African-American who was driven toward the American dream in a time of racial prejudice. The film, spanning his life from childhood and including the Rat Pack, has interviews with Billy Crystal, Kim Novak and Jerry Lewis. Beri Schwitzer, director of congregational learning at Congregation Beth Torah, leads Saturday evening’s discussion.
GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II tells the experiences of 550,000 Jewish Americans. Veterans unknown and famous, including Mel Brooks and Henry Kissinger, narrate their fight for their nation and their brethren in Europe, while struggling with anti-Semitism within their ranks. Sara Abosch Jacobson, chief education, programs and exhibits officer at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, will speak after Sunday afternoon’s showing.
Bye Bye Germany, a dramedy, features a former concentration camp survivor who sees his scarred homeland as one of opportunity. He recruits Jewish traveling salesmen in a scheme selling overpriced linens to guilt-ridden Germans, also facing interrogation by an American military intelligence officer about his past as an alleged Nazi collaborator. The film was inspired by the screenwriter’s family history in an engaging salute to the nearly 4,000 European Jews who chose to remain, reclaiming their lives.
Shelter is the story of a Mossad agent who reluctantly accepts a mission at a safe house in Berlin. The thriller trails her as she protects a Lebanese informant recovering from identity-changing surgery and the two develop a fragile but special bond.
Heading Home is based on Israel’s underdog national team competing for the first time in the World Baseball Classic. With several Jewish American professional baseball players, most of whom had little exposure to Judaism, the team discovers the pride of representing Israel on the world stage. They travel from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where they are heroes, and on to Seoul, where they hope to win. Consul Omer Checkek-Katz, of the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest, leads the post-screening conversation.
The Body Collector, the highest-rated series in Dutch television history, is a true-life drama following an investigative journalist fighting to reveal a prominent art collector as a Nazi war criminal and the price he must pay during his search for truth and justice. Stonewalled by bureaucrats, he refuses to go down quietly.
The 90-Minute War is a satirical comedy revolving around how, after decades of strife and failed peace talks, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree to end the intractable problem with a winner-take-all soccer match. One 90-minute game will decide who remains in the Holy Land. As the two managers prepare for the game of their careers, nothing is easy.
The Last Suit is about a senior refusing to bend to family pressure for him to move into assisted living. He goes to Poland in search of the friend who nursed him back to health when he returned from Auschwitz, hoping to fulfill a 70-year-old promise. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth, Leah and Paul Lewis Chair in Holocaust Studies at the Ackerman Center at UT Dallas, leads the screening’s talkback.
With the festival comes the 2019 Jewish Film Festival of Dallas’ Emerging Filmmaker Prize. Applications of short films will be accepted from Sept. 3 to March 1 for the contest held in memory of the late Dr. Peter Marcus, who co-chaired the festival with wife Brenda for eight years. Filmmakers don’t have to be Jewish but pieces must reflect aspects of Jewish life. Prizes are $500 and a screening of the winning film next year. Applicants must be under 25 and enrolled or recent graduates of middle school through post-graduate programs.
Film schedules, trailers, and ticket sales are available at bit.ly/2M6wVUA. To order tickets by phone, contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at 214-239-7128.
Jewish Film Festival of Dallas Emerging Filmmaker Prize information and applications are at bit.ly/2AVDC6O. For donations, visit bit.ly/2ORFqAt.

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Tina Epstein demonstrates The Art of Adapting

Tina Epstein demonstrates The Art of Adapting

Posted on 01 August 2018 by admin

Photo: Christian Ayala
Tina Epstein has been creating colorful masterpieces for three decades and, Parkinson’s be darned, her work and her spirit are brighter than ever.

 

 

By Deb Silverthorn

The colors of the rainbow combined don’t present the brightness, spirit and hue that comes from only a moment with artist Tina Epstein, the focus of Christian Ayala’s documentary debut, The Art of Adapting — Parkinson’s. The YouTube-debuted mini-documentary will screen Aug. 10-19 at the sixth annual Chain NYC Film Festival.

“From the moment we connected, I wanted Tina to have a voice. She was all in and I’m proud of what we created,” said Ayala, who filmed, edited and directed the nine-minute, 25-second piece, sharing producer credits with Giovanni Pantoja. “I went in with a broad scope, but the piece became specific. What I thought would be a four-minute spotlight became a legacy piece and more special than we could have planned.”

When Ayala, a Bishop Lynch High School and 2017 University of North Texas graduate, was looking to create a portfolio, he had no idea how it would form his future.

“I didn’t want to cross any boundaries,” said Ayala, with nearly 1,600 YouTube views, who hopes people will be inspired and educated by the film. He was excited about being accepted to next week’s Chain NYC Film Festival. “It was her suggestion to show the severity of her disease, and it’s powerful for the audience and empowering for her.”

Epstein, painting for years on canvas, wood and metal of Judaica and general themes, has seen requests for her work increase recently. For years, proceeds of her work supported organizations close to her.

French was the first language for Epstein, born in Madrid, to her Moroccan mother, Marie,  and her New Yorker father, David Luzzatto. Epstein’s family, including her brother, Marc, and sister, Francoise, followed her father’s Army and Air Force Exchange Service career to Morocco, New Jersey, Japan and Hawaii before settling in Dallas.

Epstein reflects, relates and credits the goodness of her life to meeting her husband of 32 years, Dallas native Leonard Epstein,  and to her children, Benjamin, Sarah and Sam. The couple, who met playing volleyball at the Jewish Community Center, are longtime members of Congregation Shearith Israel, and their children are graduates of Akiba and Yavneh academies.

“I’ve always had a joie de vivre, but truly Leonard and my children changed my world,” she said. “From Day 1, Leonard has cherished and encouraged every endeavor, and I absolutely believe I was put on this earth to have and nurture kids. I’ve been a wife and mother first, but everything I do has my whole heart.”

Epstein, who was confirmed at Temple Emanu-El and graduated from W.T. White High School and the University of Texas-Austin, found her artist niche after creating earrings when Benjamin was a toddler. After attending a ceramics class, she added that format, then painting.

A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis gave Epstein her first challenges of severe pain in her hands. A minor tremor resulted in two years of testing, but no answers.  Parkinson’s was diagnosed in 2010 after she deteriorated in four months more than most patients do in 10-15 years. Her hands distorted by dystonia, she is primarily wheelchair-bound and a deep brain stimulator now helps her control the shaking she experiences.

One of Epstein’s doctors helped pull her through, aiding her to adapt to not being able to walk, paint and do so many actions she loved. So began her new frame of mind and, expressively appropriate, the title of Ayala’s production.

While at first uncomfortable filming, Epstein believes it a privilege to tell her story and encourage people to “go for it. Christian is a gifted storyteller through his lenses and an absolutely gentle soul. He’s a gift. Period,” she said. “I recognize I’m fortunate to have a handicap that allows me to continue what I love, but it’s most important that people do not take little things for granted.”

Epstein takes no moment for granted, little or big, including those spent dancing at Sarah’s wedding to Brian Fromm or traveling coast-to-coast this spring to see Benjamin receive his Ph.D. in biological engineering, Sarah obtain her master’s in family therapy and Sam begin as a computer programmer at Cisco Systems. Consideringly brightening her days is time spent with her canine pal Acher. “Every day is a blessing.”

“I can’t walk, but I get there. I can’t hold a paintbrush, but I’m still creating valued art. In the kitchen, cooking takes longer, but it’s still delicious and makes those I’m serving happy,” said Epstein. “I’ve adapted in almost everything I do, and I’ve learned it’s important for those I love to see and learn how I deal with this insidious disease with and dignity and determination.”

That determination includes playing bridge with friends of decades, her art, cooking and enjoying getting dressed up — every day an occasion for hair, nails and wardrobe to shine. “It’s the only thing I can control, and if I’m going to go through this life, I’m gonna look damned good in it,” she says.

“Adapt — it sounds simple; it’s not,” Epstein said. “But it’s more than keeping me alive, it’s keeping me living. It’s only too late if I don’t wake up one day!”

The Art of Adapting — Parkinson’s can be viewed at bit.ly/2v6FGCL. To contact Ayala to support the documentary and his work, email cjamesa20@yahoo.com or call 314-477-8995.

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Presidents and their ties to Israel: Reagan to Trump

Presidents and their ties to Israel: Reagan to Trump

Posted on 26 July 2018 by admin

Photo: Yaakov Saar/GPO via Getty Images
President Ronald Reagan, left, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin at the White House, Sept. 9, 1981

By Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Israel turns 70 this year.
And no relationship has been more important than its on-again, off-again friendship with the United States and its presidents.
In this series, we describe the U.S.-Israel friendship through portraits of 13 of those presidents, from Harry Truman to Donald Trump.
Part II, featuring Ronald Reagan to Trump, is below. Part I, from Truman through Jimmy Carter, was published in the July 5 issue of the TJP.
Ronald Reagan: A cold warrior who cared — and sold spy planes to the Saudis
When Ronald Reagan cowed the Soviet Union into winding down the Cold War — his successor, George H.W. Bush, formally ended it — a key component of his animus toward Moscow was the treatment of its Jews.
“He was someone who was truly committed to overturning the Communist system and gaining freedom for all people, but he had a particularly soft spot in his heart for Soviet Jewry,” Mark Levin, a longtime advocate for Soviet and Eurasian Jewry, told JTA in 2004 when Reagan died.
When Theodore Mann, the chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, returned from a visit to the Soviet Union in 1981, the first call he received in his law office was from Reagan.
“He wanted to know all about the trip,” Mann said in 2004.
On Reagan’s watch, in 1986, the Soviets released Natan Sharansky, the prisoner of conscience who spent nine years in Soviet prisons. Reagan’s ties to the pro-Israel community extended back to his Hollywood days as an actor and union leader. As California governor in 1967, he headlined a pro-Israel rally at the Hollywood Bowl.
Reagan won over the wary with his avuncular affect.
“This man cared,” Shoshana Cardin, who led a number of Jewish organizations, once said of Reagan, but his persuasive powers could also be a sharp-edged weapon.
In 1981, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbied hard against a proposed sale of AWACS spy plans to Saudi Arabia. Reagan met with Jewish senators one on one and threatened to unleash dual-loyalty charges if they voted against him.
“It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy,” the president said. The Reagan administration in 1981 joined a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor.
After Israel’s Christian allies in Lebanon massacred Palestinians in 1982, Reagan sent U.S. troops into Lebanon — against advice from Israel.
He and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin exchanged barbs, and Begin famously chided Reagan for treating Israel like a “banana republic.” Reagan secretly planned to surprise Begin with a peace plan that would have pulled Israel out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under pressure from Reagan, Israel allowed PLO leader Yasser Arafat to safely leave Lebanon.
On Reagan’s watch, authorities arrested Jonathan Pollard, a civilian Navy analyst who was a spy for Israel, and Israeli figures were caught up in his administration’s efforts to trade arms to Iran for the release of U.S. hostages in Beirut, and then funnel the proceeds to right-wing militias in Central America. In his final months in office, a lame duck beyond political pressures, Reagan established ties with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
To the chagrin of even his closest allies, Reagan went ahead with plans in 1985 to visit Germany’s Bitburg cemetery, where 40 members of the Nazi Waffen SS were buried.
“It is precisely because you have so impressed us in the past with your deep understanding of the need to keep the meaning and memory of the Holocaust alive that we have been so keenly disturbed by your plans,” Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist, said in a telegram to Reagan.
George H. W. Bush: The patrician advocate for Jews in distress and the Madrid peace talks
George H.W. Bush was involved in Soviet Jewry advocacy since his days as ambassador to the United Nations under President Richard Nixon. As Reagan’s vice president, his responsibilities included efforts to free Jews in distress — not only in the former Soviet Union but in Ethiopia and in Syria.
Bush quarterbacked Secretary of State George Schultz’ confrontation with the Soviets over Russia’s captive Jews and was instrumental in persuading the Syrian dictator, Hafez Assad, to allow young Jewish women to immigrate to the U.S. so they could marry within the faith. As president, he gave the nod to the Marxist Mengistu regime in Ethiopia that led to Operation Solomon, the mass airlift to Israel in 1991.
Following his success in the 1991 Gulf War, Bush convened the multilateral Arab-Israeli peace conference in Madrid. It was marked by his tensions with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. But in retrospect, Bush was as tough on the Arab interlocutors, and just the fact that Saudi Arabia, Gulf states and North African countries sat at the table with Israel led to Israeli diplomatic inroads in those countries.
Pro-Israel activists will never forget — or forgive — when Bush said he was “one lonely guy” facing off against “thousands of lobbyists on the Hill.” He was referring to lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who in 1991 were pushing back against his pledge to suspend loan guarantees to Israel unless it froze settlement building.
But lacking Reagan’s easy charm, the patrician Bush couldn’t get away with the tough-guy talk and instead sounded self-pitying and mildly anti-Semitic. His secretary of state, James Baker, didn’t help things when he reportedly dismissed the prospect of Jewish protestations by saying, essentially but much more crassly, “To hell with them — they don’t vote for us anyway.”
After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Iraqi strongman pelted Israel with missiles. Israel itched to respond, but Bush insisted that Israel take it on the chin so he could assemble as broad a coalition as possible to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Israel complied, and its leaders were stunned when in the war’s aftermath, Bush used American actions to protect Israel during the war as leverage to get Israel to Madrid. It seemed galling because Israel had been reluctant to accept the assistance in the first place.
Bill Clinton: The ‘chaver’ who brought Israelis and Palestinians together — up to a point
“Shalom, chaver,” Bill Clinton said at the funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and those two words encapsulated the intimate passion Clinton felt toward Israel: He was a friend, one close enough that he wanted to bid goodbye to a man he saw as a mentor in his language.
Clinton’s relationship with the American Jewish community was similarly intimate. Unlike George H.W. Bush, he was an adept retail politician and made it a point to win folks over. The pro-Israel community, likewise, understood that this was a president who responded best to friendly overtures. AIPAC named as its president Steve Grossman, a Massachusetts businessman and early Clinton backer. In 1995, over cigars on the White House balcony, Grossman talked Clinton into imposing the first sanctions on Iran related to its nuclear program.
Clinton, in his first term, had the luck of working with an Israeli administration whose peacemaking agenda matched his own. In what one reporter called “a triumph of hope over history,” Clinton brought Rabin and Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, to the White House to shake hands on their first agreement on ending their conflict.
Yet to the consternation of the Palestinians, Clinton would never get ahead of Israel. Although the Oslo track clearly was destined toward statehood for the Palestinians, Clinton did not articulate that outcome until his last weeks in office. In 2000, after the Camp David talks ended without a deal, Clinton broke with protocol and blamed Arafat for the failure.
After Rabin’s assassination in 1995, Clinton thought it important enough to preserve his friend’s legacy that he blatantly electioneered on behalf of Rabin’s successor, Shimon Peres. Rattled by a series of deadly terrorist bus bombings, Clinton pushed Middle East leaders into convening a summit against terrorism starring Peres. It didn’t work. Benjamin Netanyahu was narrowly elected to his first term in office, and the U.S.-Israel relationship turned rocky.
Clinton grew frustrated at what he said was Netanyahu’s predilection for introducing out-of-left-field demands after talks on an issue had wrapped up for the day. In one instance during the 1998 Wye River negotiations to advance the Oslo process, Netanyahu asked Arafat to assassinate a Gaza Strip police chief. In another, during the same talks, he asked Clinton to release Jonathan Pollard, the civilian Navy analyst who was caught spying for Israel. (Clinton was ready to do it, but his intelligence chiefs were outraged and threatened to quit.)
Clinton learned his lesson by the 1999 elections and kept out — kind of. His two campaign advisers, Stanley Greenberg and James Carville, traveled to Israel to advise Netanyahu’s challenger, Ehud Barak, and Barak won.
George W. Bush: Launching a war on terror, and making the case for democracy
The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 seemed for Israelis to be a turning point in U.S. foreign policy, burying once and for all the American realist strain that posited engagement with bad actors as a dirty but necessary statecraft. George W. Bush’s “with us or against us” approach to the war on terrorism, his very coinage of the term “war on terrorism,” was music to the ears of Israelis who for years had said that partners in peace must renounce absolutist demands and absolutist means to achieve them.
Bush extended his outlook to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Relaunching the peace process with his “road map” in 2002, one explicit condition was that he would no longer deal with Yasser Arafat, who had steered his PLO factions into participating in the bloody second intifada.
“The Jewish community started to see a resolve for promoting peace by motivating the Palestinians to take good actions rather than starting with Israeli concessions,” Jay Lefkowitz, a former Bush White House policy adviser, told JTA in 2004.
The same year, Bush made history when he recognized some Israeli claims to the West Bank. His vision of a new Middle East borrowed much from Natan Sharansky’s 2005 book, A Case for Democracy.
Bush also never demanded that Israel hew to standards he would not: Once the United States launched targeted killings against suspected terrorists, the Bush administration put an end to State Department statements condemning Israel for doing the same.
In his second term, during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, Bush overrode his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who was pressuring Israel to end the war before it was ready to do so.
“It is important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah’s unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel,” Bush said at the time.
Fred Zeidman, a Jewish Texas businessman and a longtime Bush backer, told JTA in 2004: “If there has ever been a thing that was not politically expedient, it was the way he handled Israel.”
Ariel Sharon was elected Israeli prime minister just about the same time Bush became president, and the two already were close: Two years earlier, Sharon had taken Bush on a helicopter tour of Israel to make tangible how small and vulnerable the country was. There was talk that Sharon would be to Bush what Yitzhak Rabin was to Bill Clinton: a wizened, war-tested father figure and mentor.
That didn’t quite work out, perhaps because Bush already had two competing father figures — his actual father, who unlike Clinton’s was alive, and his vice president, Dick Cheney. In any case, by 2005, the honeymoon was over. Bush had agreed not to press Israel on settlements as long as the growth remained “natural,” but Bush administration officials had concluded that the growth was anything but natural. A Texas summit in April of that year between the two leaders turned sour: Sharon, unlike most other leaders, was not invited to spend the night at Bush’s ranch, and instead was ensconced in a Waco hotel. About all the leaders could agree on was that Israel would withdraw its settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip that summer. By the time of the 2009 transition to the Obama administration, Bush administration officials were so frustrated with Israel they treated the “natural growth” agreement as null and void.
Also irritating the relationship was the raid in 2004 by federal agents on AIPAC’s offices in pursuit of evidence of espionage charges that years later proved groundless.
A tireless democracy promoter, Bush insisted on Palestinian elections in 2006, which Israel correctly feared would bring about a Hamas victory. (It didn’t help that Rice, on multiple occasions, likened what she witnessed in the West Bank to her upbringing in the Jim Crow South.)
Bush also rejected Sharon’s advice to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq and get out, again pinning his hopes on Iraq to set an example as an Arab democracy. Instead, a long U.S.-led occupation went south and set the stage for the rise of Iran in the region — and ultimately dampened American enthusiasm for involvement in the Middle East. Israelis complained privately that Bush’s focus on Iraq was giving Iran a free hand. Adding salt to the wound, Bush denied an Israeli request in 2008 for permission to fly through Iraqi airspace to hit Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons facilities.
He remained beloved nonetheless and delivered a speech at the Knesset in May 2008 marking Israel’s 60th anniversary.
“You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,” Bush said to applause. “And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side.”
“Such statements about the State of Israel have never been spoken before by a U.S. president in the Knesset,” marveled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Barack Obama: Acts of friendship and diplomatic pratfalls
Barack Obama, a Democratic presidential hopeful, did something few before or since have accomplished as a speaker at AIPAC’s annual conference: In 2008, the then-U.S. senator from Illinois received a standing ovation for talking about something that had nothing to do with Israel.
“In the great social movements in our country’s history, Jewish- and African-Americans have stood shoulder to shoulder,” he said.
Obama seemed to herald a return to an alliance long troubled, in part because of differences over Israel and increasing African-American sympathies for the Palestinians. Candidate Obama sought out the council of Israel’s then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and a range of pro-Israel figures in the United States on the threat posed by Iran and on the means to achieve peace. As president, he expressed affection for the state — and for the Jewish community — in ways that suggested his belief in the U.S.-Israel alliance stemmed from his perspective as a black man.
“To a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating,” he told the Adas Israel congregation in Washington in May 2015, the first address by a president to a Jewish congregation. “The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.”
Obama put an end to the linking of loan guarantees to Israel’s spending on settlement construction and increased defense assistance to Israel to the unprecedented level of $38 billion over 10 years, making permanent hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Israel’s anti-missile programs. He authorized assistance to Iron Dome, the short-range anti-missile system that has proven critical in Israel’s three wars since 2009 with Hamas on its border with the Gaza Strip. In 2011, when Israeli diplomats were trapped inside the Cairo embassy by rioters, Obama made their extraction a priority. “This was a decisive and fateful moment,” Netanyahu said. “He said ‘I will do everything I can,’” he said, referring to Obama. “And so he did.”
There was a hard edge to Obama’s embrace of the alliance: Israel’s military might and intelligence savvy provided the pressure that Obama sought to leverage Iranian compliance with his demands that it roll back its nuclear weapons program. Under Obama, Israel and the United States are believed to have worked together to create the computer virus that crippled Iran’s uranium enrichment capability in 2010. Israelis unhesitatingly said military and intelligence cooperation was closer under Obama than any of his predecessors.
Beyond the secret relationships, there were plenty of firsts: Obama was the first president to conduct formal Passover Seders in the White House; the first to mark Jewish Heritage Month in May with a party; the first to deliver a speech at the Israeli Embassy, marking Holocaust remembrance; the first, in 2016, to hold multiple Hanukkah parties to accommodate demand. (Multiple Christmas parties have long been a thing.) He may have been the first, in 2011, to structure a speech to a Jewish audience, the Union for Reform Judaism, around a d’var Torah.
But Obama’s relationship with Israel suffered from the flaw of every good friend who is certain he “gets” you: He doesn’t truly get you.
Before Obama was elected, he told a group of Jews, “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.” The implication was that Netanyahu’s party was a nuisance — especially awkward after Netanyahu would return to office just weeks after Obama was inaugurated.
The conversation between Obama and Israelis — Netanyahu, in particular — seemed susceptible to pratfalls, however good the intentions on both sides.
Obama addressed the Muslim world in a 2009 speech in Cairo, and said Holocaust denial was corrosive and counseled acceptance of Israel; he was lacerated because it seemed to some that he predicated Israel’s existence on the Holocaust. The next year, Vice President Joe Biden landed in Israel for a let’s-be-friends trip; within hours the mood was soured when a midlevel Israeli bureaucrat announced, apparently to Netanyahu’s surprise, that there would be new building in eastern Jerusalem.
And the next year, in 2011, Obama outlined a Middle East policy that for the first time included a formal American endorsement of a longstanding Israeli demand that a Palestinian state be demilitarized. Whatever goodwill that may have garnered was squashed by Obama’s inclusion of the 1967 lines as the basis for a Palestinian-Israeli border. Netanyahu subsequently lectured Obama on Middle East history in the Oval Office.
Nothing frustrated Netanyahu and his advisers more than repeated assurances from Obama and his cohort that they knew what was good for Israel, particularly heading into the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.
“To friends of Israel, and to the Israeli people, I say this: A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief,” he said in a 2015 speech on the deal, which swapped sanctions relief for a rollback in Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu decried the deal as a deadly one, saying its “sunset clauses” removing some restrictions simply delayed for a few years Iran’s nuclear weapons. He arranged with the Republican leadership in Congress to speak out against the deal in a joint meeting, infuriating Obama and prompting a rift between Israel and Democrats that persists until this day. AIPAC threw itself into trying to stop the deal, intensely lobbying lawmakers to kill it and other Jewish organizations to speak up against it.
The pattern — an act of friendship followed by a diplomatic slapdown — persisted until the end of the Obama presidency. His administration’s two final Israel-related acts were signing the deal with Israel that guaranteed unprecedented levels of assistance — and then letting the U.N. Security Council adopt a resolution condemning Israel’s settlements. Notably, it was the first time that Obama failed to stop a Security Council resolution that Israel opposed — his predecessors allowed through multiple such resolutions.
Obama was adamant to the end that he had Israel’s best interests at heart. Four days before he left office, he told Israel’s Channel 2, “I believe it would be a moral betrayal for the world not to protect and secure a homeland for the Jewish people.”
Donald Trump: Following through on his Israel promises
Donald Trump, the unlikeliest of Republican presidents, has gotten a reputation for unpredictability. But if he is consistent on one thing, it is his campaign promises. He tends to keep them.
On Dec. 6, 2017, he made good on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” Trump said. “Today, I am delivering.”
Trump not only delivers, he delivers with a vengeance. Recognizing Jerusalem and setting a schedule to move the embassy would have been enough for his Jewish base, but Trump accelerated the process and the embassy opened in May, albeit in temporary quarters.
The same goes for his other Israel-related pledges. Trump promised to block Israel-hostile actions at the United Nations; his ambassador to the body, Nikki Haley, has been perhaps the most proactively pro-Israel envoy since Daniel Patrick Moynihan under Gerald Ford. Haley has forced the United Nations to withdraw reports critical of Israel and stopped a Palestinian from assuming a senior position in the body because the same courtesy has yet to be afforded to an Israeli.
Similarly, Trump said he would reconsider the Iran nuclear deal; he has scrapped it.
“With President Trump, I have fewer disagreements,” Netanyahu said when he was asked to compare his interactions with Obama and Clinton. “It’s fair to say I don’t have any disagreements.”
Trump wants to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks and has entrusted the task to a team of three, all with solid pro-Israel ties, led by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is Jewish.
In the second year of his presidency, Trump is bolder and more confident in his role, and is distancing himself from the foreign policy mavens who insist the United States must ensure stability worldwide. For example, he plans to pull out from Syria the 2,000 or so troops there training and advising U.S.-friendly rebel forces.
“It is very costly for our country, and it helps other countries more than it helps us,” Trump said in April of the U.S. presence in Syria. “I want to get out, I want to bring our troops back home.”
That’s not a prospect Israel relishes. Russia has joined with Iran and Hezbollah — both deadly enemies to Israel — in propping up the Assad regime in Syria. Israel is adamantly opposed to a long-term Iranian presence in Syria, and to an emboldened Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that launched a war against Israel in 2006.
Now that Syria’s civil war is winding down, the absence of a U.S. presence would give Russia, Iran and Hezbollah more room to consolidate their presence there. Already the prospect of an Israeli conflict not just with Iran but possibly with Russia is looming in Syria.
Trump’s base on the isolationist right has made it eminently clear it wants out of Syria, and Trump is being responsive. The same loyalty to his base could explain the horror he has stirred among American Jews with his failure to condemn — and at times his seeming encouragement of — white supremacists.
The most searing moment was last August, when it took Trump days to unequivocally condemn the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, an event that culminated in a car-ramming attack on counterprotesters that killed one. Trump said there were “very fine” people on both sides, drawing rebukes from across the Jewish spectrum — including, unprecedentedly, from AIPAC and even the Republican Jewish Coalition.

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Teammate keeps heart attack patient ‘staying alive’

Teammate keeps heart attack patient ‘staying alive’

Posted on 20 July 2018 by admin

Submitted photo
Mark Stromberg, left, says he owes his life to teammate Brooks Alkek, right.

By Ben Tinsley
btinsley@live.com

RICHARDSON — Dallas attorney Mark Stromberg beat astoundingly — frighteningly — narrow odds when he survived a recent heart attack that came on as he prepared to play in a Mother’s Day 2018 soccer game.
Stromberg, 57, said he owes his life to teammate Brooks Alkek, who performed extensive cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him when Stromberg went into full cardiac arrest on the field of this 9 p.m. game at Richardson’s Breckinridge Park.
“I was told I was lost several times,” Stromberg said. “I was pretty lucky.”
Alkek’s quick response to Stromberg’s heart attack allowed him to survive the eight minutes it took a delayed ambulance to arrive at the field and begin care on Stromberg, friends and witnesses said.
After stabilizing Stromberg, the ambulance took him to a Baylor, Scott & White Medical Center in the vicinity.
Stromberg said he didn’t realize how bad his condition was when he started feeling faint on the soccer field that day.
“All of a sudden, I passed out and didn’t remember anything until I woke up in the hospital,” he said.
Stromberg’s heart attack was one of Alkek’s most harrowing experiences, Alkek said.
This is Alkek’s account of what happened: Before the game began, Stromberg warmed up with their team. The two play in the “Over 40 League” in the North Texas Premiere Soccer Association (NTPSA).
About the time of the warmup, Stromberg started not feeling well. So, he went to sit on “the bench” for a bit in the hopes of feeling better.
“Our game commenced,” Alkek explained. “But less than 30 seconds later, the goalkeeper yelled ‘Stop the game’ and we were puzzled. We turned around when we heard him say, ‘Mark has collapsed!’”
Alkek said he looked over at the bench and saw Stromberg bent over backward on the bleachers.
“I knew every second counts in a situation like that, and I was on the far side of the field,” Alkek said. “But I got to him before anyone else and sat him up. It looked like a seizure, but I suspected cardiac symptoms. So I hugged him and picked up and turned him around. He had been really tense. His muscles tensed up and he relaxed.”
With help from others checking Stromberg’s pulse, Alkek immediately started performing CPR on Stromberg — 100 compressions a minute.
“I was doing it to the tune of Staying Alive,” Alkek said. “It was ‘Staying Alive, Staying Alive, bum, bum, bum, bum Staying Alive. …”
Alkek said he asked another player from the team to support Stromberg’s airway.
“So he cradled Mark’s head and I said ‘No, you’re supposed to tilt his forehead,’” he said. “I showed him how to keep the airway open and I continued compressions.”
The ambulance took what Alkek described as an “eternity” to get to the scene.
“We were at a sprawling park and there are a couple of complexes of field and I believe they went to the wrong complex at first,” Alkek said. “We were on Field 18. As I was doing CPR I could hear the sirens for quite awhile.”
Alkek said he was trying to calm his own breathing and use his own body efficiently so he could push himself to keep up the compressions on Stromberg as long as they were needed.
“Eventually, the paramedics got there and hooked him up to defib (a defibrillator), he said. “They shocked him until they got a rhythm.”
But things got scarier with the patient before they got better. Stromberg’s heart stopped again.
“They prepared to shock him and I pulled his wedding ring off and they shocked him again,” Alkek said.
When Stromberg was stabilized, the paramedics put Stromberg in their vehicle and left for the hospital.
“I don’t know how long he had been without oxygen, and I heard his ribs breaking when I was doing compression,” Alkek said. “I know that’s a part of CPR, but I didn’t know what to think at the time.”
Alkek said the emotional impact of helping Stromberg truly hit him when he climbed into a vehicle to follow the ambulance to the hospital.
“I got pretty emotional — I got weepy,” he said with a laugh. “At that point I took the opportunity to call my mom for Mother’s Day. I was feeling very sentimental.”
A member of the patient’s medical team could not immediately be reached to elaborate on the medical situation.
Reached after he had left hospital care, Stromberg said several times he could very well have died if not for Alkek. He said a cardiologist friend provided him with some grim statistics to back that belief up.
“If you have a cardiac arrest of some kind outside of a hospital and it doesn’t somehow stop itself, your chances for survival without complications are 1 or 2 percent,” he said.
The heart attack survivor said he woke up in the hospital “with a very sore chest.”
As Alkek indicated, his aggressive CPR injured Stromberg’s sternum and left Stromberg with broken or sore ribs.
But that means the CPR was performed correctly, Stromberg said.
“If you are not hurting the person, then you are not helping them,” Stromberg said.
When Alkek arrived at the hospital to see how the patient was doing, members of the ER staff shook his hand and told him how improbable it was that Stromberg survived.
Stromberg ended up staying in the hospital that Sunday, Monday and part of Tuesday before he was released. He returned to work May 25.
The entire incident has reinforced to Stromberg the strong importance of needing to know CPR.
“My life was saved by CPR and it is important people learn the most updated information about CPR because they may be called on to save somebody,” he said.
The 57-year-old patient has a 19-year-old son who is a sophomore at Texas A&M and a 21-year-old daughter who is a senior at the University of Texas.
He said he is lucky the 50-year-old Alkek, a resident of Addison, was there to help.
“The guy who saved my life, we have history,” Stromberg said. “My mother knows his mother and his mother knows my wife’s mother and … it’s all in the family.”

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County judge briefs Jewish leaders on many issues

County judge briefs Jewish leaders on many issues

Posted on 12 July 2018 by admin

Photos: JCRC
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins stands with members of the Jewish community and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

 

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins updated a group of Jewish community leaders about family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, early childhood education, health care and fighting poverty during a June 26 meeting.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas was host to the event.
“As Jews and as people of moral conscience, we understand the importance of treating all people with dignity and compassion. We are well aware of the humanitarian concerns along our borders and applaud Judge Jenkins’ efforts to meet the needs of children and keep families together,” JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin said to open the meeting. Rubin acknowledged Jenkins’ efforts in promoting quality early learning for all children. Leadership from various Jewish organizations were present at the briefing, including the Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Shalom, Congregation Anshai Torah and others.
“We are grateful that Judge Jenkins is an avid advocate for quality early learning,” said Rubin. “He appreciates the long-term effects this can have on a child’s growth and development, and how this serves as an important part of alleviating poverty and supporting a vibrant economy in our county.”
Since taking office in 2011, Jenkins has led the responses to public health emergencies, has made efforts to increase health coverage in Dallas County, and serves on many multi-agency boards and commissions, including Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas and the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce. Jenkins spoke about various initiatives in the county, including Dallas County Promise, a transformational effort between school districts, colleges, universities, workforce and communities to increase college completion.
The campaign guarantees tuition-free college to graduates of Dallas County high schools who apply for federal financial aid, regardless of income or GPA. The campaign is part of a national, nonpartisan initiative to build broad public support for funding the first two years of higher education for hard-working students, starting in America’s community colleges.
“More than 9,300 students are currently engaged with the Dallas County Promise campaign,” Jenkins said. “Completing all steps of the pledge, including filling out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms, means their tuition for college can be underwritten, and they will graduate debt-free. This helps them start their career with the best chance for success. What we want to do, ultimately, is help lift people out of poverty.”

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Rabbis get firsthand look at border conditions

Rabbis get firsthand look at border conditions

Posted on 27 June 2018 by admin

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
A boy from Honduras is shown being taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border near Mission, Texas, June 12.

By Dave Sorter

Even after President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending the policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the U.S.-Mexico border, local rabbis and other Dallas Jewish community leaders involved in finding solutions to the immigration crisis agree that much work remains to be done.
While families are now being detained together after being arrested because of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings, another apparent softening of the policy took place Tuesday. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was no longer handing illegal immigrants over to prosecutors because it did not have enough detention space, seemingly returning to the Obama administration’s “catch and release” protocol. Trump administration officials maintain that zero-tolerance remains in effect.
Trump issued his executive order on June 20. One day later, Dallas-area rabbis David Stern (Temple Emanu-El), Nancy Kasten and Elana Zelony (Congregation Beth Torah), along with local Anti-Defamation League regional director Cheryl Drazin, joined a national interfaith delegation that traveled to McAllen to see firsthand the conditions at the border. The national Religious Action Center and the Central Council of American Rabbis (of which Stern is president) helped organize the trip, which was initiated by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
And this group may have been prevented from visiting a detention center because of first lady Melania Trump’s visit there the same day.
Then, on June 22, Congregation Kol Ami Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis traveled to McAllen with a group organized by LULAC, the Latino civil rights organization.
Both Zelony and Kasten were struck by the inclement South Texas weather they encountered, especially flooding. They saw it as a metaphor for the suffering the separated children are experiencing.
“It made me realize people are literally sweating their way to the border,” Zelony said. “And people aren’t going to stop coming to the United States for a better opportunity. All I could think about were immigrants camped on the Reynosa side of the river.”
Added Kasten: “We were in a big coach. The bags were under the bus, and the water was 3, 4 feet deep. When we got to dry land, the bags were soaked; some people lost their computers. Cars were stranded in the middle of the road. The one thing I was thinking was that this separate-at-the-border policy is just one of many indicators that this administration doesn’t care.”
Trump and other administration officials have defended the zero-tolerance policy as a way to keep drugs and criminals out of the country and to uphold the law against illegal border crossings.
The June 21 group first visited the Catholic Charities Respite Center, which takes in people who crossed at the legal checkpoint and who are seeking asylum. It’s also too small for the current level of activity.
“They process up to 200 people a day,” Zelony said. “There are two showers and two toilets. The building is clean and efficiently run, but woefully inadequate. They need a larger facility.”
Some of the group, including Zelony, attended a federal court proceeding, where all of the about 50 immigrants whose cases were heard pleaded guilty to crossing the border illegally. Then, they attended a news conference, where people “quoted scripture and warned us to remember our world history,” Zelony said. “It was also pointed out that this wasn’t the first time we had separated parents and children. Slavery was mentioned, and I would add Ellis Island.”
After the news conference, the group tried to visit the detention center — which they were scheduled to do earlier but were bumped because of the first lady’s visit. However, the Border Patrol turned them back.
“That seems like it’s pretty typical down there,” Kasten said.
“All I could think about was what it must feel like to be an immigrant and make a long journey, to stand at the border only to be refused and told to return home,” Zelony said.
Dennis’ group didn’t get in either, but protesting from the outside, he did see conditions he did not like.
“It was indeed a neighborhood of faceless, windowless warehouses, and the facility holding hundreds of children isolated from their families was no different,” Dennis wrote. “…These children are being warehoused in a storage building designed for tires and floor tiles, now repurposed to store children.”
Then, it hit home. A bus neared the facility.
“At first, I thought it was another protest caravan,” Dennis wrote. “But then its features came into focus. We saw bars on the windows, with a cage wall behind the driver. A dozen heads, hands and faces of children and teens could be seen inside this rolling jail, built to hold felons and convicts.”
Some in the group surrounded the bus, trying to impede its progress. Those at the sides of the bus were waving at and shouting words of encouragement to the youngsters. Those at the front and back were angry. Guards, local police and a SWAT team converged. Negotiations took place, Dennis and others urged the crowd to step back, and the situation returned to that of a peaceful protest.
No one was prepared for any of that, Dennis wrote. His group was not prepared to see the children caged in the bus, and the guards at the facility were not prepared for the uprising. It was part of the chaos that struck Kasten one day earlier.
“There was a lack of clarity of who’s responsible for which aspect of the border crossing,” Kasten said. “But the chaos is just a distraction from the main issue: How does the wealthiest nation in the world harness its resources to help these children? It doesn’t seem people are interested in a long-term solution.
“We need ‘We the People’ to deal with the issue, but it’s been they and them and theirs.”
All those who took the trip understand more work needs to be done. Ensuring that families are reunited — which Trump’s executive order does not address — is the primary issue. Zelony wants to try to raise more money for the Catholic Charities Respite Center, by donating to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. She’s even thinking of asking the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas to include the agency among its allocations.
Kasten, meanwhile, received a calling to educate and advocate — and to empathize.
“What I got from the trip was that when you go to a place that’s different from your day-to-day life, you feel a sense of connection and empathy from other people,” she explained. “You come face to face with people who are reflecting God’s image in a way I never would have experienced had I not gone.”
She added that she wants to “go out and meet people and talk to them without preconceived notions. That’s something we all need to do.”
In fact, just two days after visiting McAllen, Kasten was heading for Washington for the last day of the Poor People’s campaign.
“I’m trying to find ways to educate people about the unintended consequences of systems the country has in place,” she said. “I’m starting to see patterns and gain a broader understanding.”

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New Holocaust Museum enters final phase of construction

New Holocaust Museum enters final phase of construction

Posted on 22 June 2018 by admin

Ann and Nate Levine, board members and major donors

 

Local survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides were recognized June 13 at a special “topping out” celebration as construction of the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum enters its final phase. Ron Steinhart, campaign co-chair; Brad Brown, president of Austin Commercial; Thear Suzuki, board member; The Honorable Florence Shapiro, Holocaust Museum board chair and daughter of Holocaust survivors; and Mary Pat Higgins each addressed the gathering.
A time capsule which included letters from survivors will be placed inside the walls of the new Museum.
Finally, the crowd shouted “Fly the Beam” in unison and watched skyward as construction workers secured it to the three-story structure.
Construction on the new museum commenced on Oct. 10, 2017 and is set to be completed in September 2019. Upon completion of the new 51,000-square-foot museum, Dallas will move to the forefront of 21st-century human rights education with all new interactive exhibitions, state-of-the-art theater and gathering spaces, accessible archives for documents and historical artifacts, and classrooms to accommodate school groups.
The new museum will be unique among the nation’s 21 Holocaust-related museums, featuring an expanded examination of the Holocaust with dozens of video testimonies from Dallas-area survivors, along with new, in-depth technology-enriched exhibits on other genocides, human rights issues and American ideals.

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