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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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Sukkah Project transforms tradition into art

Sukkah Project transforms tradition into art

Posted on 13 June 2018 by admin

Photo: Toronto Sukkah Project
An overhead view of Toronto’s Sukkah Project

 

Sukkot 2018 begins at sunset Sunday, Sept. 23 and ends at nightfall Sunday, Sept. 30. Dallas’ Jewish community will have an opportunity to celebrate this year with an innovative spin on the holiday. The Sukkah Project’s (SP) premiere is an opportunity for Jewish families to enjoy a new take on Sukkot, with attention drawn to the heart of the holiday, the sukkah itself.
The Sukkah Project: Dwell in Design, is presented by the Texas Jewish Arts Association (TJAA). If selected, entrants will design and construct a unique, nontraditional sukkah for a juried panel. A call for entries to the project went out in May to architects, builders and artisans.
“We have received 12 entries to date and expect more,” said Melinda Kollinger, project manager. “Half of those entries have been from out-of-state and one is from Mexico. Each entry includes the registrant’s intent to submit a proposal. They will have until July 13 to submit their design.”
Finalists will be announced in late August before off-site construction begins. Sept. 20 is the build date, and the featured event is Sept. 23. The sukkahs will be on public display at the Museum of Biblical Art (MBA) Sept. 21 through Sept. 27.
Veronique Jonas is immediate past president of TJAA and is chair of Dallas’ SP. She said, “TJAA was created in 2013 with the primary goal of promoting and enhancing the Jewish arts in Texas. Our hope is to expand the organization from visual arts to include various other art forms such as performing arts, literature and architecture.”
“When we were first introduced to Sukkah City in New York,” Jonas continued, “we knew that this was something we wanted to bring to Dallas. I believe that this is something that a large city like Dallas deserves.
“So, aside from being a natural extension of the arts, we see this as an outreach opportunity for the Jewish community to connect with the greater Dallas/Fort Worth population. The goal is the promotion of tolerance and understanding by educating and sharing the beauty of this most ancient Jewish tradition,” Jonas added.
The project chair expressed the meaning of Sukkot like this: “Sukkot highlights the importance of a safe refuge against the elements, and therefore reminds us of those in our cities who are homeless or under-housed, dislocated and estranged and their need to establish homes of their own.”
Jonas recognized the project’s beneficiaries: “This is our mitzvah opportunity to support National Center for Jewish Art; Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity; and Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas.”
The jury panel will include Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA; Gregory S. Ibañez, FAIA, Principal, Ibañez Shaw Architecture; Max Levy, FAIA; Mark Lamster, Professor, Architecture School, UTA; Gary Cunningham, FAIA.
The 10 to 12 winning, full-size sukkahs will be constructed on the lawn of the Museum of Biblical Arts the week of Sept. 21 through Sept. 27. The museum is on the corner of Boedeker and Park Lane near NorthPark Center in Dallas.
A sukkah festival and awards ceremony will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at the MBA. At this time, the planned program will include tours of the sukkahs, an Artists’ Village, daylong live music and entertainment, and children’s activities. Sukkahs will be open to the public throughout the week with a variety of programs being planned. There will also be activities for small children like puppet shows, face painting, the PJ Library, beading and others. The Dallas Street Choir will perform, along with Levine Academy’s choir. Rabbi Shira Wallach of Congregation Shearith Israel, who brought the SP idea to the TJAA, will speak.
As Sukkot falls right after the High Holy Days and the personal introspection that arises, thoughts of the state of the world, homelessness, hunger, and societal harms become more relevant. The coming together of the Jewish community, the arts of architecture, performance and visual on one day makes the festival-like occasion in September sound like a blessing.
“I’ve always loved Sukkot, as we celebrated and built a sukkah every year when I was growing up. The significance of Sukkot, with the holiday’s message of safe refuge and inclusion, is especially meaningful right now. The project is a compelling opportunity to both educate and unite our community,” said Anne Brownlee, who is leading marketing and communications efforts for the project.
The Sukkah Project is made possible in part from an Outreach and Engagement Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas as well as private donors.
In addition to the Federation community partners at presstime include: Aaron Family JCC; Akiba Academy; Ann and Nate Levine Academy; Center for Jewish Education; Congregation Anshai Torah; Congregation Shearith Israel; Dallas Rabbinical Association; Hebrew Order of David, Shimon Perez Lodge; Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas; Jewish Family Services; Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; PJ Library; Temple Emanu-El; Texas Jewish Post; and Yavneh Academy.
For additional information on the Sukkah Project, visit thesukkahproject.org.

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Joy given and received through volunteering

Joy given and received through volunteering

Posted on 31 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Molly Pluss
Photo: Courtesy Molly Pluss
Molly Pluss treasures the time she spends volunteering for Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship riding center. For years, Pluss has been one of many volunteers, ages 12-80, who have provided more than 30,000 hours of support — many of those directed through Jewish Family Service’s Mitzvah Central.

 

By Deb Silverthorn

Twenty years and tens of thousands of volunteer hours ago, Barbara Schwarz created Jewish Family Service’s first Youth Mitzvah Central, then just six pages and 17 agencies looking for help. Renamed Mitzvah Central in 2006, with opportunities for all ages, the support via JFS’ publication is stronger than ever, now 73 pages and 104 agencies in all.
“Barbara is an amazing volunteer, and she has helped propel JFS’ reputation of great opportunities for fulfilling mitzvot because of what she’s built and what she continues to update,” JFS CEO Steve Banta said. “The halls of the associated agencies are full of our referrals.”
A New York native who was married to her beloved Harry, of blessed memory, Schwarz brought to JFS her years of working with the New York City Department of Aging and experience and dedication as a volunteer at the Jewish Braille Institute since high school. Schwarz has always set an example for her children, Jessica and Marc.
Honored in February with JFS’ Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award, Schwarz is a member of Congregation Anshai Torah who transplanted to Dallas in 1997 to be closer to daughter Jessica Schwarz-Zik, son-in-law Brian and her grandchildren, Jodi and Michael.
Spurred on by her grandchildren’s requirements as Solomon Schechter Academy (now Ann and Nate Levine Academy) students to fulfill mitzvah hours, Schwarz wanted to help find opportunities for pre-teens. She made it her project, and passion, to find programs for pre-teens, teens and those who remain teens at heart.
“I worked with Janine Pulman (JFS’ former director of volunteers) and Michael Fleischer (JFS’ former CEO) and Jackie Waldman, bringing leaders in the community together,” said Schwarz, who still coordinates the listings, now working with Jamie Denison, JFS’ community engagement manager.
The most recent listings posted to JFS’ website are sent to schools, organizations, synagogues, youth ministries, registered volunteers and agencies throughout the community. “We’ve done the research, we save you the time,” said Schwarz. “It couldn’t be easier for people to find a place to find meaning and make a difference — once, once in a while or on a regular basis.”
Visitors to JFS’ Mitzvah Central — bit.ly/2GCK3cs — will find listings with contact information, links to websites and information about each organization and the volunteer opportunities available. Listings also provide details about whether the positions are ongoing, single-time service and age or other requirements, when necessary.
JFS uses the listings internally as well. It makes recommendations to its clientele in many areas, many working through the Career Resource Center making connections. Printed copies of the listings are produced in the winter/spring, summer and fall, and are available at JFS.
Ellie Grant, director of volunteer services at Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship doesn’t always know where her volunteers come from, but knows the trail of many leads back to JFS and Schwarz’ efforts.
“We have volunteers from 12 to 80 years of age, and they come and make this place happen. We absolutely could not do what we do without them,” Grant said. “We count more than 30,000 hours, many more that volunteers have provided to us from JFS and other sources and that literally is worth nearly three-quarters of a million dollars if we had to pay for that time.”
Rain or shine, Grant says Equest’s volunteers prep horses for classes, lead them, assist in the arena, hand out medals and more. “It can be 25 or 105 degrees and Dallas’ volunteer community remains invested,” she said. “That people still answer our need, shows how people respect what we do and how we’ve penetrated the community.”
Equest is just one of the more than 100 agencies available, truly with something, more likely many things, for everyone. A number of the original postings, such as the Dallas Holocaust Museum and the Resource Center, still welcome helping hands two decades later.
“We could not do what we do on a daily basis without the dedicated and consistent service of our volunteers, well over 1,000 of them in 2017 alone, and many from Mitzvah Central over the years. Each one is one is a vital part of our team,” said Rafael McDonnell, communications and advocacy manager at The Resource Center, which serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of North Texas, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS primarily in Dallas County.
“Running this program is a mitzvah in and of itself,” Banta said, “and Barbara is indeed its gift and anchor.”
For the legions putting time into the community, Schwarz says, “you give, and you get. Volunteering is always a gift in both directions.”
For more information, visit bit.ly/2GCK3cs or call 972-437-9950.

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Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program at UTSW important resource for Jews

Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program at UTSW important resource for Jews

Posted on 24 May 2018 by admin

Photos: UTSW
Dr. Theo Ross in her UTSW lab. An oncologist, she wrote the book, A Cancer in the Family.

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

UT Southwestern’s Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program wants to do for pancreatic cancer what colonoscopies did for colon cancer: Catch it before it’s too late. This multi-disciplinary team of gastroenterologists, radiologists, surgical oncologists and geneticists want to help people who are at high risk for the disease. This is of particular interest to the Jewish community, which has a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer than the general population.
The background
It is widely known that people who carry mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers. In fact, 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews, both men and women, carries a BRCA gene mutation — more than 10 times the rate of the general population, according to the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) and Sharsheret (sharsheret.org).
However, what is not common knowledge in the Jewish community are the other cancers influenced by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Among them is pancreatic cancer. Rare, but particularly deadly, pancreatic cancer represents only 2 percent of all cancers. Yet, it is responsible for 40 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, making it the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths each year.
What makes it so difficult to treat is that people often do not feel symptoms of the disease until it is advanced and aggressive.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following reasons:
• There aren’t noticeable signs or symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer.
• The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, when present, are like the signs and symptoms of many other illnesses.
• The pancreas is hidden behind other organs such as the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and bile ducts.”
While having a BRCA1 mutation raises your risk of pancreatic cancer by only about a couple of percentage points (to 1-2 percent), a BRCA2 mutation can increase that lifetime risk to 5-10 percent for people who have the mutation, explained Dr. Theo Ross, a professor of Internal Medicine and the director of the Cancer Genetics Program in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Care Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center. She is a member of the program’s multidisciplinary team as well.
Ross explained that in addition to the BRCA mutation, family history is key. “If you have a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer or two others with pancreatic cancer, such as a cousin… you have a familial risk.” These are the folks who could be screened in the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Clinic for precancerous cysts and followed closely thereafter.
Time to get tested
Ross stresses the importance of genetic testing for all members of the Jewish community. “The number of people that have a BRCA mutation and know they have a mutation is a small percentage,” she said. “Maybe 15 percent of people with the mutation know about their mutation. If they don’t know, they don’t know about the pancreatic cancer risk.” Ross encouraged people to get tested even if it’s with one of the at-home tests to start. One such test is available at Color.com. Color’s BRCA Test sells for $99. The test can be ordered by your private physician or an independent physician belonging to an external network. The company sends you a saliva collection kit and prepaid return label for you to send your sample back in. Ross says the test is solid. However, it’s important to review your results with a genetic counselor. And, she says, just because you test negative for BRCA1 or BRCA2 doesn’t mean you are in the clear. There are many genes that influence hereditary cancer syndromes. If you see patterns in your family, even if you test negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, it’s important to discuss your family history with a genetic counselor.
She became interested in genetics when she was in medical school and started putting two and two together: The number of people in her family who had cancer was alarming. Still, it took years for Ross to ultimately discover she is a carrier of the BRCA1 mutation herself. She discovered this only after she survived melanoma, one of the many cancers enabled by the BRCA mutations. She tells her story in her 2016 book A Cancer in the Family: Take Control of Your Genetic Inheritance. The book, which is now available in paperback on Amazon and from other resellers, is a resource guide for everyone and anyone who is concerned about their cancer risk. Despite the technical topic, it is easy to read.
The program
UT Southwestern’s Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program was launched in 2016. Dr. Nisa Kubiliun, the director of the program, believes it is poised to make a difference in the lives of those who are at high risk for pancreatic cancer. “Back in the day, nobody realized that pancreatic cysts were a significant cause of pancreatic cancer. They were largely ignored,” she explained. Over time, pancreatic cysts can evolve into tumors.
“When we started, we thought there were people who had pancreatic cysts and needed to be monitored,” she said. Kubiliun said that watching the progression of precursors to pancreatic cancer is a relatively new process. She believes that pancreatic cancer probably develops over the course of many years, but people have only been watching cysts recently.
“Our greatest opportunity is to prevent pancreatic cancer in the first place,” she says. By monitoring changes in the pancreas over time, surgeons can remove a cyst or precursor lesions of the pancreas that look troublesome before they actually turn into cancer.
Kubiliun says the program is growing rapidly, much under the auspices of its benefactor Jewish community member Nancy Wiener Marcus.
“I met Nancy shortly after we launched the program. From the minute I met her she’s been a force for really catapulting the program into the next stratosphere. She’s gone to incredible lengths to get the word out to the community. Her energy, her passion and her desire are inspiring.”
Currently the program is seeing about 20 new patients per week. Kubiliun explains what a good candidate for the program is: anybody with a strong family history of cancer; anybody with a history of pancreatic cancer or cysts of the pancreas; and anyone with a known genetic mutation.
A referral from a physician is not necessary. “They can simply go to our website (https://utswmed.org/conditions-treatments/pancreatic-cancer-prevention/) or call (214-645-8300) and say, “I need to be seen, can I be evaluated?” Kubiliun said they have never turned an individual away. “There is no downside for reaching out and asking us to take a look at your medical history,” she says.
One such person who joined the program is glad she did. Suzanne Calibretti, who is BRCA positive, was being screened with MRIs when the team noticed a change in her pancreas over time. “She was at the step right before it becoming cancer,” said Dr. Kubiliun. “Had she not had that operation, had she not had that pretumor removed, it would have been a completely different ball game. I can’t emphasize enough the greatest opportunity is to prevent pancreatic cancer in the first place.”
The mensch
If you’ve ever met Nancy Wiener Marcus, then you know she has a heart of gold. About five years ago, Marcus wanted to do something important for her 70th birthday. “I wanted to give some money toward something to help and I wanted it to go toward pancreatic cancer.” Initially, Marcus gave an endowment in honor of her own UTSW gastroenterologist Dr. Mack Mitchell for a fellowship. “That way it could go toward learning about the pancreas and other GI problems,” she explained.
However, Marcus felt the urge to do more and later was introduced to Dr. Kubiliun over lunch one day.
“What do you need?” Marcus said she asked Kubiliun. “It was pulling at me. I needed to do something else. You have to be doing something to make this world a better place.”
Initially, Marcus was going to provide $5,000 for a freezer for storing cells. “By the time I got home, I’d decided I’d start a fund of about $100,000 to get this thing (the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program) going.
Marcus is passionate about getting the word out about the program. “My goal is to bring awareness and knowledge to our community. Most doctors don’t know this program even exists. And the Jewish community members don’t know that if they have a mother or aunt who had pancreatic cancer, they can go get tested and see where they are on the spectrum, so they can be followed and detect and do something before it gets into full-stage pancreatic cancer.”
Marcus hopes to bring an education program to the Jewish community in November during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
“I keep asking myself, what else can I, Nancy, in my own little way be doing to bring about awareness and knowledge to our community so we can arrest the rapid growth of this disease?”
Marcus emphasized that being able to give the money has been a blessing, but if people don’t know about the program, “What’s the point? We need people to get people to take care of themselves and their family.”
A case in point
Many in the Dallas Jewish community know about Jamie Lambert, now 48. The TJP covered her story in November 2016, 16 months after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and her Team Jamie Facebook page has about 750 followers.
“The cancer diagnosis in July 2015 was not the first health scare. In July 2014, her gallbladder was taken out and she was discovered to have pancreatitis. She never really recovered.
“She went to the doctor a year later, worried when her body started turning yellow. An ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) found something, and led to a biopsy.
“‘(The doctor) comes in the room, and he says, ‘You have pancreatic cancer,’ Lambert said. It was adenocarcinoma. ‘And he walked out of the room. We knew you don’t live when you have pancreatic cancer.’
“She found an oncologist she liked, Dr. Michael Savin at Medical City, who later closed his office in March and moved to Portland. Savin didn’t have good news.
“‘I was given six months, 12 months to live,’ Lambert said.
“Her stage 3 cancer was too far along for a Whipple surgery, a common method for dealing with pancreatic cancers. But it’s hard to find the disease in time. It was a devastating blow.”
The UTSW Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program didn’t exist when Jamie was diagnosed. And in fact, a virtual expert on pancreatic cancer today — as many people become when they are afflicted with a dangerous disease — she didn’t know about the program until the TJP shared it with one of her sisters.
Lambert would have met the criteria to be followed, having had pancreatitis and a mother and grandmother that had breast cancer. Interestingly, neither she nor her sisters tested positive for BRCA mutations; however, as Dr. Ross stated earlier, those are not the only mutant genes responsible and testing genes like PALB2 for mutations is key.
Dr. Kubiliun explains that when someone develops pancreatic cancer so young, at age 45, and has a positive family history of cancer, it’s even more important that her first degree blood relatives are followed by a program like the one at UT Southwestern. Now that they know about it, those wheels are set in motion.
In the meantime, Lambert, who has been living with pancreatic cancer for about three years, is going about living her life with her husband Kevin and their three children. “I take care of my kids, pick them up from school, exercise and try and connect with other people who are going through what I am going through.” Jamie, who undergoes chemotherapy twice a month, lives every day to its fullest. “Life’s too short not to,” she says.

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CJE leader Denn, family headed to Israel

CJE leader Denn, family headed to Israel

Posted on 10 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Meyer Denn
The family will spend the next year in Israel on sabbatical, living and loving the land in person.

By Deb Silverthorn

It’ll be a fond, albeit emotional, farewell for Meyer Denn and family at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at the Aaron Family JCC’s Mankoff Center.
Fulfilling a dream, Denn, outgoing director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education (CJE), and his family will take a Sabbatical year in Israel — following their hearts to share the land, lore, and links to their heritage. With careers of teaching the core of the Jewish people at the core of this couple, Denn and his wife, Marni, look forward to having history come to life for their children Sydney, Jordan and Xander.
“We’ve wanted this gift for our children, and we’re so blessed to live in a time of miracles when the Jewish people have returned and are prospering in our country,” said Denn, who hopes to work in Diaspora affairs, education and engagement, and also share the country with tourists (“Come on Texans,” he says).
Denn was born in Wharton, Texas, and raised in Bay City. An involved Young Judaean in his youth and active in communal politics from early on, as a high school senior Denn ran for and won a seat on the city council. With a Bachelor of Arts in history and Judaic studies from UT Austin, he moved to Los Angeles where he served as executive director of the Pacific Jewish Center.
In 1997 he moved to Israel, working for the Jewish Agency and as a licensed tour guide. After returning to Los Angeles, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in literature, a master’s degree in education and an MBA in nonprofit management from the University of Judaism, he reconnected with Marni, and his future was solid.
Since Denn’s arrival in Dallas, the then JED, Jewish Education Department of the Federation, has transformed into the center of our community, now the CJE.
“Meyer has brought together all walks of Jewish life, making what everyone cares about, something everyone cares about. He’s given the Federation a new credibility and a relationship with every institution in town,” Jaynie Schultz said. “Learning has become bigger than only for our children — education has become accessible and joyful for all ages.”
Ten years ago, Denn told the Texas Jewish Post that “as I’m meeting with rabbis, heads of school, teachers and lay leaders of the community, I’m finding an enthusiasm that is contagious and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s beautiful.” Ten years later, that sense of community and his commitment to understanding and enhancing it is his legacy.
“My role is to promote all types of Jewish education: day school, congregational, through organizations and agencies, and to bring crisp and new ideas through which we can partner,” Denn said.
“There was enough happening in our Mankoff space before Meyer, and he has brought it to life,” said Joy Mankoff. “Ron and I wanted more than a ‘room,’ we wanted learning, and a spirit for learning, and from the first time we met Meyer there was a click. He’s made that spirit contagious.”
Federation President and CEO Bradley Laye credits Denn with significant contributions. “The CJE has become the central convener and leader of major Jewish educational initiatives,” said Laye. “Meyer’s vision, creativity and of course his sense of humor, along with a stellar team of professionals, has made the CJE successful.”
Brought to Dallas as an enthusiastic and passionate visionary with the sharing of a new breadth of Jewish education and Jewish life, he’s opened many doors to help members of the community explore their Jewish identity.
Denn helped formulate numerous professional development opportunities for the community’s educators including the attendance of 200 early childhood educators at the National NAEYC Conference, bringing the Conscious Discipline philosophy to the community, sending 24 educators to Israel as part of the Schultz Israel Educator Fellows to teach Israel in the classroom, and the funding of scholarships for three community educators to receive master’s degrees from the Simmons School of Education at SMU.
Almost 2,300 children receive free books through PJ Library and thousands participated in LearningFest programs. The Night to Celebrate Jewish Education events hosted several distinguished speakers, all of whom also addressed area day schools.
The CJE supported strongly the growth of the Special Needs Initiative into becoming the Special Needs Partnership at Jewish Family Service and through Incubator Incentive Grants, CJE invested nearly $100,000 to seed new and innovative programs.
Technology grants for early childhood educators, Shabbat Scholars-in-Residence and this spring’s 13 Reasons Why NOT: Turning the Tide of Teen Suicide are additional examples of the impact Denn and his department has had on the community — the full list able to fill pages.
“I’m most proud that we’ve created an environment for every Jewish perspective in our diverse community to have a seat at the table of Jewish educational discussion and vision and that they show up and participate,” said Denn. “Today, our institutions engage and collaborate in impressive and meaningful ways and there’s a respect and trust that’s been built which continues to develop between our communal institutions.”
Denn believes his staff and all he’s worked with are positioned to maintain the department’s strengths. “We’ve constructed an educational landscape and brought the community’s leadership to understand how to serve its constituents,” he said.
“Meyer helped build up and promote those here who teach, those who support education, and those who want to learn,” said Helen Risch. “He’s upped the scale and helped us realize what we can achieve. We owe him and with his guidance, and the understanding, talent, and experience that we now hold, we’ll only continue to grow.”
Denn and his wife moved to Dallas in 2008 with their daughters and with the imminent debut of their son that fall. Akiba Academy, where Marni taught for years, has been their children’s academic home. With Sydney now headed for high school, the season was right for a family adventure of a lifetime.
“We’ve asked our kids to learn what they can about Judaism and to learn Hebrew, to have diverse experiences, and develop meaningful relationships,” said Denn. “We’ve been blessed here and we’ll never lose touch of our Dallas family. Learn Jewish. Think Jewish. Do Jewish. It’s what we’ve taught, what’s been learned, and it’s the key to goodness for everyone within Jewish Dallas’ grasp.”
Given that home is where the heart is, the Denns will always be home, wherever they go. Shalom y’all — it’s just the beginning.
The goodbye is co-chaired by the Mankoff, Risch, and Schultz families and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education.
There is no cost to attend, but RSVPs are requested by email to kschlosberg@jewishdallas.org. Anyone wishing to share stories, photos or well-wishes should email them to jaynie@jaynieschultz.com, and anyone wanting to share in a donation to the family can send such to the Denn Fund at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, 7800 Northaven Road, Dallas, TX 75230.

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Wende Weinberg’s sefer Torah comes home

Wende Weinberg’s sefer Torah comes home

Posted on 03 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Amy Palmer Gogan
(clockwise from front) Wende Weinberg’s sister Debbe Waterman Katz, Larry Elkus, Jefry Weinberg, and Laureen Waterman carried the chuppah while Steve Berman carried Wende’s Torah down Parker Road in Plano. More than 300 people made the journey from the Weinberg’s home, to Anshai Torah, where another 200-plus Anshai friends and family members awaited the Torah’s arrival.

By Deb Silverthorn

“This isn’t just an ordinary day,” Congregation Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Stefan Weinberg said, and April 15 wasn’t, as the congregation welcomed its Project 613 Torah, dedicated to its beloved Wende Weinberg, of blessed memory.
“It’s Rosh Chodesh Iyar, in which we celebrate the 70th birthday of the State of Israel. We all know who would be leading that celebration,” the rabbi said, speaking of his late wife, who loved Israel, celebrations and everything with a Jewish turn. “This is a unique day, a day of sanctity like none else. This sefer Torah, the source of everything we are as a people, is literally our eitz chayim hee. It is our tree of life. We cherish it, we embrace it, we respect it and we admire it.”
More than 70 percent of Anshai Torah’s membership, as well as members of the community at large, participated in the Torah’s writing. Fulfilling the 613th commandment, young and old felt the touch of the quill, the touch of the sofer (scribe).
“I’ve worked with many congregations in the past 25 years, and at Anshai I experienced something special,” said the sofer, Rabbi Zerach Greenfield.
“This was the love for a rabbi and his family, and a rabbi’s love for his congregants. I observed caring and warmth generated not only to the synagogue, but from the congregants to each other,” Greenfield added. “I experienced that warmth personally as I felt I became a part of the synagogue family, and I thank everyone for the experience. I hope this encourages and inspires many to a love of Torah and mitzvot.”
The Torah’s cover is embroidered “Hanoch l’naar al pi darko” (educate a child in such a way that he or she will thrive).
“Today we mark the completion of the Torah that was written in Wende’s memory, in honor of her legacy of being a teacher; of using those words of the Torah to teach children, to inspire adults, and to perpetuate our Jewish tradition,” Weinberg said, the message embodying everything about his wife, the mother of Adina, Danielle (Gilad) and Jordana, and the grandmother of young Ariel Zev. “There couldn’t have been anything more appropriate than to have begun our procession at our home from which we walked, together, to the synagogue every Friday night and Saturday.”
The journey to the ark was made by hundreds, with Steve and Judy Berman, Larry Elkus, Debbe Katz, Lauren Levin, Bruce Waterman, Laureen Waterman, Alla and Jefry Weinberg, and Marcy and Sandy Wohlstadter carrying the chuppah and the Torah. Once arrived, Michael Pincus served as master of ceremonies. Anshai Torah’s past presidents, Harry Benson, Richard Berry, Andy Cohen, Rusty Cooper, Andrew Farkas, Barney Goldberg, Debbie Katz, Philip Leibowitz, Michelle Meiches, Cindy Moskowitz, Howard Rubin, Warren Rubin, Neil Rubinstein, Josh Socolof, David Stanley and Carl Uretsky, led the next steps of the procession.
Gerry Romanik, escorted by Noah Feldman, Janet and Robert Behringer, Dot and Basil Haymann, and Nicole and Michael Roy, carried in Anshai Torah’s existing Torahs, while Levi and Nadav Kushnick brought in the Torah’s crowns. With the grace and strength of their mother, Adina and Jordana Weinberg carried in Wende’s Torah under a chuppah carried by Marcy Kahn, Jay Post, Andrew Silver. Barrett Stern and David Balis, and Alisa and Shayna Rubinstein served as Hagba’ah and G’lilah, lifted and dressed the Torah, as the Levine Academy Show Choir and Anshai Torah’s a cappella choir Kol Rina sang.
Eli Davidsohn’s musical ruach provided the backdrop for hearts bursting in song, dance and pure joy.
“From inception, our goal was to get as many people to participate in writing this Torah as possible and as we looked into the crowd of over 500, we knew that we succeeded,” said Nicole Post, who co-chaired Project 613 with Pam Goldminz. The committee also included Mojgan and Farzin Bakhshian, Jaime and Michael Cohen, Jonathan Goldminz, Jeanette and Michael Pincus, Jay Post and 72 honorary co-chairs.
Post and Goldminz joined Greenfield, Marcy Kahn, Gerry Romanik and Weinberg in sharing their hearts, memories and blessings on the occasion. “This experience will have a lasting impact on us as a committee, and Anshai Torah as a congregation,” said Post.
On April 28, Jasmine Herlitz’s voice rang out for the first reading of Wende’s Torah. “Wende was beautiful and so is her Torah,” said the bat mitzvah. “It was an honor to be the first to be able to read from what will always be a part of her.”
It was as though her blessings truly reached the heavens — and delivered right back.

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75 years ago, a boy escaped a death train

75 years ago, a boy escaped a death train

Posted on 26 April 2018 by admin

Photos: Amanda Harris
Mary Pat Higgins, Linda and Mervyn Sacher, and Veronique and Hylton Jonas

 

By Ben Tinsley
btinsley@live.com

Seventy-five years ago, 11-year-old Simon Gronowski jumped off a Nazi deportation train heading from Belgium to the deadly gas chambers of Auschwitz.
“I jumped and I escaped and I ran all night into the woods,” said Gronowski, now 86.
The 11-year-old barely escaped the Nazis with his life on that day, April 19, 1943. His mother and sister, unfortunately, later died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Last week, on the 75th anniversary of his escape, Gronowski shared his incredible story of survival with several reporters and an audience of about 50 at the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance. Later in the day, he gave a second, museum-sponsored, presentation at Congregation Shearith Israel.
Gronowski, his mother, Chana and his sister, Ita, were apprehended by the Gestapo at their Brussels home in February 1943. Gronowski’s father, Leon, was in the hospital when the Gestapo raid took place, and his presence went undetected. Gronowski’s mother told the Gestapo she was a widow.
Over 1,600 Jews were being transported to Auschwitz on the train on which Gronowski and his mother were placed. (Gronowski’s sister was on a separate transport.)
Gronowski said he still remembers hearing the members of the Belgian Resistance stop the train in an attempt to rescue the Jews on board.
There was a brief shootout before the train started moving again, he said.
The members of the Resistance were unable to reach Gronowski’s boxcar to free the people inside before the train started moving again.
However, heartened by the efforts of the Resistance, the deportees in Gronowski’s boxcar pried open the boxcar door so they could escape. Gronowski’s mother, also heartened, gave her young son 100 francs and urged him to jump from the train and run to safety.
Chris Kelley, a representative of the museum, said Gronowski’s mother was trying to convince him to escape by himself because she had very little chance of joining him.
“It was too far of a jump and it was far more important to her that her son be saved,” Kelley said. “There were 231 Jews who jumped from that train and he is one of the last survivors of the group.”
Kelley said this entire incident stands as one of the best examples of the Jewish people standing up during the Holocaust. It also is said to be the most significant rescue action taken by resistance fighters during World War II.
Only 5 percent of 25,602 deportees from the camp survived the Holocaust. Of the 116 deportees who were freed, Gronowski was the youngest.
“This was an 11-year-old kid who had to go into hiding for the rest of the war — but he survived,” Kelley said. “This is history that comes alive. This is history that moves us forward.”
After Gronowski’s escape from the Nazis, a Belgian police officer helped him return to Brussels.
The child survived the war by hiding.
Despite Gronowski’s tragedies, his story and positive outlook on life visibly moved Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the museum. and members of an audience of 50 listening to his story last week.
“I do not bring to you a message of sadness — but one of hope and happiness,” Gronowski said to the museum audience. “Life is beautiful. Every day matters and I am happy — even more so because I met you.”
Gronowski told the audience he refuses to become jaded.
“Even today, there are people in the world who suffer,” he said. “I am keeping my faith in the future, because I believe in human goodness.”
His comments led to a standing ovation from the museum audience.
After the war, Gronowski became a lawyer and an amateur jazz musician, and was featured in Transport XX to Auschwitz, the only documented rescue attempt of a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust.
He co-wrote a French children’s book about his life experiences, titled Simon The Child of the 20th Convoy. He is also a regular public speaker.
His story is considered to be of great importance at a time that public memory of the Holocaust seems to be fading.
This month, a national survey released for Holocaust Remembrance Day disclosed that many Americans, particularly millennials, do not have basic knowledge of what happened during World War II.
As many as 66 percent of Americans ages 18-34 could not identify Auschwitz when asked. Furthermore, 31 percent of adults and 41 percent of millennials who were questioned thought 2 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, even though the actual number was at least 6 million.
Gronowski, meanwhile, said he has tried his best to live up to his words of hope.
There was one incident that took place in 2003, after Gronowski made public his identity as the 11-year-old who escaped the Nazis.
One of the former Nazi guards at the facility where Gronowski and his mother had been held before being placed on the Auschwitz train approached him begging for forgiveness.
“He heard about him (Gronowski) in the news,” Gronowski’s grandson, Romain De Nys, 24, explained
Gronowski forgave him.

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The story of second-graders and the two bears

The story of second-graders and the two bears

Posted on 05 April 2018 by admin

Every little girl dreams about her dream wedding. The beautiful flowers, perfect dress, a room full of friends and the perfect delicious cake. Of course, they dream about the perfect partner too — big brown eyes, a cute button nose, perfect white fur and 12 inches tall. Well, when you are a teddy bear planning your wedding at Temple Shalom Religious School, that’s what you dream about.
Earlier this year, second-graders in Tamara Farris’ class got to plan, organize and throw what organizers believe is the biggest teddy-bear wedding of all time — at least at Temple Shalom. Some kids dressed in their finest clothes. Others came in their favorite pajamas — since it was also monthly spirit day at Temple Shalom.
Boys and girls worked with Farris and her Ozrim assistants to write an original ketubah with all the “important rules of marriage:” Live a happy and healthy life, celebrate birthdays, take care of each other when sick, stay together, take care of the kids, be kind and honest, and use money wisely. These second-graders seem very wise at such a young age.
After writing the Ketubah was finished, it was time for the party planning. Hanging decorations, coloring beautiful doilies for the chuppah, decorating cupcakes for all the guests and even learning the traditional bottle dance from “Fiddler on the Roof.” The entire class stayed focused and on task all morning.
Rabbi Ariel Boxman and her assistant, “Rabbi Bear,” officiated the special ceremony. After both bears exchanged vows, it was time for the breaking of the glass. The wedding party and guests all practiced crushing plastic cups and even discussed the meaning of this symbolic tradition.
“The kids had such a good time making a ketubah, decorating their own wedding (cup)cakes, and designing their own chuppah,” Farris said. “As usual, I learned more from them than they learned from me.”
After the ceremony, it was time to hit the dance floor. Guests danced to “Love Shack” and a variety of other love-themed songs, as they practiced the bottle dance and showed off their best dance moves. Of course, the wedding party and guests had to pose for photos with the bride and groom, and then it was time for the highlight of the afternoon — the wedding cupcakes.
When the kids were asked if all the planning was worth it, they all shouted “yes!” What was their favorite part? You guessed it — the cake.
“The second-graders are having a wonderful time this year learning about Jewish lifecycle events,” Boxman said. “Even though it will likely be years before they have their own Jewish wedding, they now have an idea of what it may be like. The learning was joyful, experiential and memorable.”

— Submitted by
Lisa Rothberg

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