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FW’s Levinson leads violin tour

FW’s Levinson leads violin tour

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

Photo: Kim Goldberg
Following a lecture on Bach’s Chaconne, Gary Levinson taught a masterclass for students at Kibbutz Cabri Arts High School.

By Gil Hoffman
Jerusalem Post

Jewish and Arab students throughout the Western Galilee were given the opportunity to learn from and listen to American violinists, who were led by Gary Levinson, the artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth and senior principal associate concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony.
“This may be the one language we can agree on,” Levinson said. “They all want to make music beautifully, and they all listened with bated breath.”
The delegation also included musicians Sarah Price of Fort Worth and Ilana McNamara, as well as Kim Goldberg, who has been chairwoman of arts and community in the Partnership 2Gether consortium. A team led by partnership director Judy Yuda put together their itinerary to maximize their time in Israel.
The musicians performed three concerts while they were in the region. The first paid tribute to supporters of the crowdfunding campaign that the partnership initiated to raise money to bring opinion leaders from consortium communities to Israel to experience the Western Galilee’s diversity and multiculturalism.
In the second concert, Levinson and top musical students from Akko and the Matte Asher Regional Council performed for Western Galilee residents.
In the final multicultural concert in Akko, the visiting violinists performed to celebrate multiculturalism and coexistence in the Western Galilee.
They also led four masterclasses with both Arab and Jewish students in Akko, Matte Asher, Rosh Pina and the Arab town of Tarshiha.
Levinson said the concerts were very different from each other. For instance, the crowdfunding donors were not used to musicians performing in such a small setting.
“They were shocked by what a great experience it was to have an intimate concert,” he said. “It was a great pleasure for me to introduce them to that kind of experience where they can feel the energy.”
McNamara, a 17-year-old high school student in Omaha, said she enjoyed playing with Jewish and Arab kids who are her age from the Western Galilee’s Keshet Eilon Music Center.
“This has been a great experience,” she said. “I have never done an international concert series before. Every time we played, we wished it was for longer. It was so great that I can’t imagine it could be even better.”
But that is exactly what Goldberg and Levinson are planning to do. Goldberg said that after this delegation, they know better what needs to be done and how they can be more effective. They are working on a follow-up trip in October 2019 and a three-year plan, in partnership with the Western Galilee’s municipalities.
“When we come back, we will do what we didn’t have time to do,” Goldberg said. “Now that we understand what our strengths are, we can reach out to more students. The soil is very rich for this.”
The trip was the idea of Goldberg, who decided to match Levinson with Akko conservatory head Danny Yaron.
“When I saw Gary’s passion, I knew when they got him and Yaron together, magic would happen,” she said. “It seemed to be the perfect fit to get Gary here, engaged with students. I’m always thinking of making connections. It most definitely succeeded.”
Price said the highlight for her was getting to perform for different audiences than they are used to having and getting to meet people from different cultural backgrounds.
“We didn’t know what to expect in the Middle East,” she said. “Everyone was so warm and friendly.”
One highlight for all the participants was meeting with Holocaust violinist Amnon Weinstein, the founder and promoter of the Violins of Hope Collection of instruments from the Holocaust. Weinstein let Levinson play the decades-old instruments; he usually performs on a violin that was crafted in 1726.
“The partnership provided a platform for all these connections, which wouldn’t happen without the Jewish Agency putting aside money and allowing connections to happen,” Yuda said.
She pointed out that some 500 people were touched in one way or another over the weeklong tour by the delegation, which was funded by the 14 consortium communities.
Yuda was touched by a quote from Noa Tenne, the head of the partnership community committee, who wrote her after the final concert, “I am astonished every time anew from the opportunities the partnership offers and the possibilities of making connections between the communities.”
Levinson said he enjoyed teaching the children of the Western Galilee how to listen and that hearing and listening are not the same thing.
“They can communicate with different language and a unified goal,” he said. “That’s why I prefer the language of music. I’m not pretending that this visit will make or break the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But we can’t know the answer if we don’t try.”
This article was first printed in the Jerusalem Post and is reprinted with permission.

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Saving lives is Robyn Mirsky’s (heart)beat

Saving lives is Robyn Mirsky’s (heart)beat

Posted on 10 January 2019 by admin

Photo: Deb Silverthorn
Robyn Mirsky trains Emilie Silverthorn, a neonatal-ICU nurse, in advance of renewing her CPR certification.

By Deb Silverthorn

The Talmud says “to save a life is to save the world,” and that is just what Robyn Rovinsky Mirsky does with each student to whom she teaches lifesaving measures. From preschoolers to seniors around the community — individuals, volunteers and professionals — Mirsky’s hands and heart teach others to be ready to save lives.
“What I teach is something I hope no one will ever have to use. But being able to help someone breathe who hasn’t, or to relieve them from choking, or whatever the emergency, it’s very important and so much easier than people think,” said Mirsky, who has been teaching lifesaving techniques for eight years. “When you are the one to save a life — it’s almost indescribable, but it’s amazing.”
Mirsky’s students come from throughout the community; she has taught preschool students about dialing 911 and the basics of CPR, as well as families preparing for the next generation, staffers in medical offices, educational faculty support in schools and more.
“I wanted to be a good ‘bubbe,’ and that came with responsibility. We all needed to be ready,” said Terri Schepps, who brought Mirsky to a family lesson when awaiting the arrival of her first granddaughter. Lena, now 16 months old, was the impetus, but the whole family realized the value in knowing the techniques at any time.
“Between us, there were those who had no clue about how to react in a crisis and others who needed to be recertified,” Schepps said. “And Robyn, through a wonderful family afternoon, was able to support us by providing the tools and the confidence, should an emergency arise.”
For pediatric opthalmologist Zev Shulkin, being licensed isn’t an option for his employees, and he has retained Mirsky to train his staff. Shulkin has known Mirsky for most of his life, with both families ensconced at Tiferet Israel, and the two are medical support partners at many events in the community. It is she that he trusts in handing the teacher reins.
“Robyn is extremely patient, an outstanding teacher and proficient in her skill set,” Shulkin said. “She made the somewhat banal training interesting and fun, and I would strongly recommend her. It’s something we did to stay up to date, and she was very helpful.”
The daughter of Erv and Shirley Rovinsky, sister of Rabbi Michael Rovinsky and mother to Josh and Mollie, Mirsky is a Dallas native. A graduate of Akiba Academy and Richardson High School, Mirsky is a former BBYO Sablosky chapter member and officer.
She is a lifetime member of Hadassah and previously worked as a cosmetologist and in sales and marketing for Garrett Creek Ranch.
In 2005, after witnessing a young athlete go down during a basketball game with no defibrillator on-site, Mirsky enrolled in EMT school the next day. After years of working with Medical City and CareFlite, constantly inspired by the adrenaline and the patients she served, Mirsky refused to drop out of health care after suffering a significant injury during an accident in which she was thrown from an ambulance.
Finding another way to make a difference, she became certified by the American Heart Association. In teaching others how to be prepared, she is the link to saving lives of those she’ll never even meet.
Mirsky, who has been a member of the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off committee since it began, is on the medical team of Dallas Maccabi, JCC Senior Expos and, beginning last year, a support for mourners with the Chevra Kadisha at Tiferet Israel.
“Keeping close to those who have passed is a mitzvah that can’t be returned, and it’s something I never imagined connecting to, but now I can’t imagine not doing. It is all about care.”
Mirsky’s curriculum includes basic first aid, what to do in the event of a shooting, puncture or water accident; how to handle choking; and even resuscitation of animals.
Whether it’s to the staff of the Key Whitman Eye Center, at gun clubs teaching how to handle an accidental shooting, or at the Akiba Academy or Chabad of Plano’s Gan Gani preschools, Mirsky brings it all and lays it out for her students.
“Robyn is a great instructor and while it’s a serious subject she makes it fun and enjoyable,” said Gan Gani Director Rivkie Block. “She has a huge heart, and she was easily able to connect to our teachers, the teens and even our children. Each session has us walking away feeling confident, optimistic and, while we hope we never need to, feeling like we could help someone if the need arose.”
Most sessions last one to two hours, and Mirsky will travel to offices, organization headquarters and homes. She brings all necessary materials and provides certification for those requiring it at the end of the class.
“I love the adrenaline that this career path has brought me,” Mirsky said, “and I love sharing the information so that anyone, literally, can save a life.”
Classes begin at $55/person, and group rates are available. For more information or to schedule classes, email robyn.mirsky@yahoo.com.

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Yes, this cookie dough is certified Kosher

Yes, this cookie dough is certified Kosher

Posted on 02 January 2019 by admin

Photo: Theresa Fernandez
Just a few of The Dough Dough’s edible cookie dough flavors.

By Amy Sorter

Sholey Klein, a rabbi and longtime Kashrus Administrator with Dallas Kosher, acknowledged frank skepticism when it came to the consumption of raw cookie dough. “My wife and kids enjoy it,” he said. “But I always looked at them incredulously. Why eat it, when you can bake it?”
But, after assisting The Dough Dough to obtain kosher certification (Dairy), Klein’s views on cookie dough have changed. Kind of. “I still don’t eat cookie dough,” he said. “But I tried some of theirs, and it was surprisingly delicious.”
The Dough Dough, on Forest Lane just off Preston Road in North Dallas has a safe, salmonella-free product offering ranging from old-fashioned cookie dough, to a peanut butter mix, to Nutella washout. The various flavors can be consumed from a container or cone. And, according to company founder and Gina Ginsburg, the move to Kashrut designation was an outgrowth of consumer demand.

The frequent entrepreneur

Ginsburg refers to herself as “non-Jewish, with a Jewish name,” by virtue of marriage to her first (ex) husband, Scott Ginsburg. She is also no stranger to entrepreneurship, having launched, run and sold two previous businesses, The Hair Bar and Diamond Affairs.
When it came to launching a third business, Ginsburg wanted to get her sons, ages 10 and 11, involved. Narrowing it down, a dessert place seemed the ideal way to go. “There were so many yogurt places around,” she said. “I wanted to try something new and unique.”
A trip to New York introduced Ginsburg to the concept of safe, edible cookie dough. When franchising the NYC concept wasn’t possible, she decided to launch her own company. She collected cookie recipes from her great-grandmother and others, then started “a lot of [research and development] for a good six weeks,” as she put it, with her kids as enthusiastic helpers. “This was all done in trial and error, and we did go through a lot of really bad dough,” Ginsburg said.
In the end, Ginsburg put the approved recipes into launching The Dough Dough in August 2017. In the early days, Ginsburg produced her concoctions in a commercial kitchen in Plano. She opened the Forest Lane retail location in March 2018 and currently has a second retail location under construction in Frisco.

Kosher consumer demand

The Dough Dough offers catering, as well as distribution through its retail location. As time went on, Ginsburg saw more requests for kosher treats.
“Growing up in the Preston Hollow area and living here for 20-plus years, I know that the Jewish population here is very high,” she said. “We realized that, with 30 percent of the population keeping kosher, we were tapping into a huge population that wanted our product. The community has been inclusive of me over the years. I wanted to be inclusive of everyone, as well.”
Thus began the six-month process of kosher certification, during which Ginsburg worked with Klein and Dallas Kosher supervisor Rabbi David Shawel. Klein indicated that Ginsburg and The Dough Dough staff were “very agreeable to finding the necessary suppliers,” which wasn’t always easy. Finding kosher marshmallows was a fairly straightforward process. Other ingredients, he pointed out, were not so easy to replace and required a little more research.
Equipment and tools also needed to be replaced and, the day before official certification, the ovens were shut down for 24 hours. The certification ceremony itself took six hours and involved blessing the equipment, tools and ingredients.
In the end, The Dough Dough was able to retain most of its core ingredients, with all but one product designated kosher. The one exception, Dog Dough, is made with non-kosher Milk Bone dog biscuits. Dallas Kosher worked with the company on a special operating procedure to manufacture the dog-friendly treat, “the first time we are allowing someone to do that,” Klein said.

Expansion, yes; kosher, maybe

The Dough Dough officially obtained certification on Dec. 10. Since then, more kosher-keeping Jews are arriving. “They’ve spread the word,” Ginsburg said, “And we’re very grateful.” She went on to say that she is evaluating whether there is enough demand to designate the Frisco store kosher. “For the time being, we can always produce kosher goods out of the Dallas location and deliver it to Frisco,” she added.
Ginsburg said The Dough Dough is licensed for expansion in all 50 states. Whether those franchisees will be required to seek kosher certification is another issue, largely dependent on location and ownership. “We’re exploring whether or not we can designate certain markets that must be kosher certified,” Ginsberg said.
Cookie-dough skeptic Klein cautioned that, as happy as he is to work with retail operations on kosher certification, it isn’t for all companies. “I tell companies that kosher certification has to be win-win,” he said. “Even if you increase your kosher customers, you might lose others.”
The Dough Dough, however, was fortunate, in that certification hasn’t impacted non-kosher customers. “They were able to keep their core ingredients and products, and to satisfy all of their regular customers,” Klein said. “They were successful in that win-win situation.”

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Keeping the Shabbat roast chicken tradition alive

Keeping the Shabbat roast chicken tradition alive

Posted on 27 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Ronnie Fein
Roast chicken is a Friday-night staple in Jewish homes.

By Ronnie Fein

There’s no rule that says Jews are required to eat chicken on Shabbat — that is, no rule was ever handed down from a rabbi or written in the Torah. But it is a long-standing practice for many Eastern European Jewish families to serve roast chicken on Friday night.
Why did it become the iconic Shabbat dinner? Probably because meat is considered a luxury, and therefore a fitting centerpiece for the most sacred meal of the week. While chicken may not have the cachet of beef or lamb, maybe that’s the point: It is sumptuous, and yet much more affordable and more widely available than other kinds of meat.
A family in the shtetls might own a cow, but who would ever think to slaughter an entire cow and the precious source of milk and cheese? On the other hand, there were always a few chickens clucking around the yard. Chickens mature and reproduce quickly, assuring an ample supply of eggs and also a plump bird for a Shabbat dinner.
There’s this, too: Chicken is flavorful but mild. It takes to almost any seasoning. It’s hard not to like because you can cook it so many ways. The great Julia Child — who could cook anything — said it was her favorite dinner. “Roast chicken has always been one of life’s great pleasures,” she said.
But how do you make perfect roasted chicken? It is one of those deceptively simple recipes, not elaborate or difficult, and more about what not to do. You can season it the way you like, stuff it or not, baste it or not, make gravy or not — just don’t overcook it. Overcooked chicken is dry and chewy — “a shame,” according to Child.
First, begin with a plump, at least 4-pound, preferably kosher chicken (because they are brined and immensely flavorful). Keep it whole, because that helps keep the meat moist. There is such a thing as a true “roasting chicken” — which is an older, more flavorful bird — but most markets simply sell a whole chicken. It could be a broiler-fryer or a roasting chicken and you simply can’t tell. A good butcher will know the difference between a roasting bird and others, and you can always ask.
Rinse the bird, discard any debris inside the cavity, and remove the package of giblets (which you can cook with the chicken or save for stock).
Next, dry the surface, rub the skin with vegetable oil or olive oil, and season it with spices of your choice (my master recipe keeps the seasoning simple). You can stuff the bird if you wish, but if you do, increase the cooking time. I don’t bother trussing the legs together. That may make finished chicken look better, but it keeps the dark meat from cooking as quickly and the white meat may dry out before the dark is done.
To help keep the skin crispy, use a pan that holds heat well: metal, ceramic or Pyrex, as opposed to disposable aluminum. In addition, place the chicken on a rack. A rack allows all surfaces to be exposed to the dry heat and also prevents the chicken from sitting in its own rendered fat. If you have a vertical poultry roaster, use that.
Start the roasting at 400 (F) degrees, which helps set the skin to proper crispness. Turn the heat down after some initial cooking, otherwise the meat can dry out too quickly.
Basting isn’t necessary; it doesn’t make the meat moister, but it does add flavor. Use whichever basting fluids suit your fancy (stock, wine, fruit juice). Let the bird cook for about 20 minutes before the first basting, so the seasonings will stay on the skin, then baste every 20 minutes or so until about 20 minutes before you expect the bird to be done. Basting after that point will make the skin soggy.
Roasting time for chicken depends on the bird’s weight. I suggest using a meat thermometer to be sure the chicken is fully cooked. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the inner thigh. The USDA recommends cooking chicken to 165 degrees (F).
To lock in the bird’s delicious natural fluids, let it rest for 15 minutes before you cut it into pieces.

Roast Chicken

For the master roast chicken:
1 whole roasting chicken, 4-6 pounds
1-2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
Salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika
1 cup liquid such as stock or juice

For the lemon-oregano roast chicken:
1 whole roasting chicken, 4-6 pounds
1/3 cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Master Recipe:
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the plastic bag of giblets from inside the bird. Wash the giblets if you want to roast and eat them. Put them in the roasting pan.
3. Wash the chicken inside and out; dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on a rack in the roasting pan.
4. Rub the surface with the oil. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Place the chicken breast-side down on the rack.
5. Put the chicken in the oven. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Roast for 30 minutes, basting once or twice during that time with stock or juice. Turn the chicken breast-side up. Continue to roast the chicken for about 45-60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees (F), or when the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with the tines of a fork. Do not baste for the last 20 minutes of roasting time. After you take the chicken out of the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes before you carve it.
For the Lemon-Oregano Roasted Chicken:
Follow the roasting procedure directions for roast chicken, but do not prepare the chicken with vegetable oil and spices and do not use the stock, white wine or juice. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil and salt and pepper in a bowl. Either marinate the chicken for at least one hour before cooking or pour over the chicken when you put it in the oven and use the pan fluids for basting.

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Centenarian’s secret: Good wine, cigars and cognac

Centenarian’s secret: Good wine, cigars and cognac

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Barnett Family
Lou Barnett at 100

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

The secret to long-life is simple, Fort Worth’s Lou Barnett said a few days before his 100th birthday Nov. 22.
“Good wine, good cigars and good cognac,” he explained with a twinkle in his eye.
Barnett is not your average 100-year-old. He reads almost a book a day often into the wee hours of the morning (He was making his way through John Grisham’s “The Reckoning” at the time of the interview). He lives in the home he built with his wife in 1950. His has been a full and rich life
Born on Nov. 22, 1918, and raised in Malden, Massachusetts, to Molly and Max Barnett, his parents were first-generation Americans and his father worked as a “warehouse man and shipping clerk,” according to Barnett’s autobiography.
The Great Depression hit the family hard, and they struggled. In high school, Lou worked on a government student program for low-income people and made about $12 per week. His mother did piecemeal sewing work from home.
When it was time for college, Barnett was offered a half-year semester scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, because he wasn’t sure how he would pay for future tuition — or food, for that matter — he enrolled at Northeastern University in Boston. He augmented his Northeastern education by taking “as many chemistry courses around Boston as I could.” Ultimately, he graduated from Northeastern with a double degree in engineering and management.
Barnett was drafted into the National Guards of Massachusetts in October 1940. His time in the Army was short, as he developed an ulcer and was discharged. He began to contemplate a career in plastics.
In the early ’40s, he met the love of his life, Madlyn, of blessed memory.
“My cousin called me. He was dating Rowena Kimmel and he said, you’ve got to meet this girl [Madlyn], and that was it. We had a telephone romance and she came up to visit me. We had cats and dogs, and she got fleas, and then she asked me to marry her, so I did.”
They married on May 5, 1946. Theirs was a love affair that spanned 66 years and was filled with family, fun, hard work and philanthropy.
“It was great luck. We had a lot of mazel,” Barnett said. “God moves in mysterious ways; we had a hell of a ride.”
At the time, General Electric was the only plastic company in the Boston area. Initially, he wasn’t able to work in the plastics division because he hadn’t finished his degree yet. He took a job as an expediter for the division that made turbines and other power trains for ships and submarines.
Barnett would frequently visit the plastics group in building No. 75, hoping a job would open up. Finally, one did in the engineering group and laboratory. There, he learned how to run machine tools, lathes and milling machines, and also how to run a plastics press and to operate laminators.
The Barnetts moved to Fort Worth in 1946 to join Madlyn’s family there. They started their family, first Laurie, then Eliot, followed by Rhoda.
By 1952, Barnett’s sister Ruthie and husband Milton Hammil, and brother Stanley and wife Myra also had moved to Fort Worth — as did his parents.
Barnett started his business, Loma (for Louis and Madlyn), in 1948 with one rented model of a molding machine. His first order was for plastic fishing lures. In that first year, Loma’s profit was slightly over $1,000, according to Barnett’s autobiography. In 1962, the company was producing 157 plastics articles and using more than 1 million pounds of raw plastics each month.
By 1965, Loma had grown by leaps and bounds, and Barnett had many firsts to his credit. They were:
• Plastic roll-top bread box.
• Plastic wax paper and paper towel dispenser.
• Oval-shaped wastebasket.
• First wastebasket to incorporate “feet.”
• Wastebasket with decorative imprinting embossed on it.
• Plastic picnic basket including dinnerware and eating utensils.
• Plastic clothes hamper.
• The first polyethylene “boat-like” baby bath, followed by a complete line of stylized nursery accessories including the covered diaper pail.
• The first plastic outdoor trashcan.
Many members of the Fort Worth Jewish community worked at Loma, including the late Irv Levine, Barnett’s childhood friend from Malden, who became Loma president after Loma was sold to Standard Oil of Ohio in 1966. Milton Hamill, who was married to Barnett’s sister Ruthie, moved to Fort Worth and worked for the company. So did Barnett’s father and his brother Stanley.
Barnett attributed his success to those friends and family who supported him.
“You don’t do anything by yourself. The self-made man in my book is not in my vocabulary. People help you,” he said
Barnett reminisced about some of his favorite memories over the years.
“You look back, my God, I don’t know what happened,” when discussing how fast his life has gone by
He is known for a number of unique hobbies, and he talked about a few of them.

Cooking and Entertaining

Barnett explained how he became a gourmet cook and author of two cookbooks. It started out of necessity.
“When we got married, we moved to Boston. When Madlyn burnt water. I knew I was in trouble, so I started to cook. Grandma Brachman sent her to Fannie Farmer’s cooking school; it didn’t help. So, in order to survive, I had to start cooking.”
He has several favorite recipes, among them his sought-after salami.
“There’s one recipe that everyone in the family still makes that I never wrote down, and that was salami. You cut the salami in eighths. You dip it in soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Make an extra one, because they’ll eat ‘em up.”
His great-granddaughter, Mia, started eating them at age 2.
“It was easy and, Oh My God, if I made two they wanted four, and I used to serve them before a meal.”
As a New Englander, fish also was a mainstay.
“I also made a poached salmon and cucumber. To make good fish, leave it alone. Good fish in itself is excellent,” he advises.
There have been cooking mishaps from time to time. For one party, Barnett served peanut soup.
“Oh boy. I’ll never hear the end of that. I made some peanut soup, which was atrocious. We had a big crowd of people around. Everyone spilled it on the grass. And a few days later, the grass died.”
He and Madlyn loved to entertain their family and friends.
“We had a couple of hundred sometimes at a party around here. It was wild, and the kids came along and we had a ride with them….It goes by fast.”

Wine and cognac

It’s no secret that Barnett has always enjoyed wine and cognac. He partially attributes reaching 100 to the pair. He is a member of the distinguished Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the order that has 12,000 Chevaliers worldwide.
He explained that he learned about wine while traveling to France on Loma business.
“I was in France an awful lot. I had a guy who must have been a German Jew, and he was in Paris and I would report to him as the Loma representative, and I got into the wines pretty quick.”
Barnett keeps a wine cellar in his home office. He likes to drink Pinot Noir. “It’s a good wine and goes with everything,” he said.
He also enjoys cognac.
“I like to drink cognac. I drink it with everything. I’ve drunk enough to float a battleship.”

Going to the Dogs

With his constant companion, yellow lab Casey, 10, at his side, Barnett explained he was always a dog lover, He developed a passion for raising, showing and judging them.
“I always had dogs. I took it as an escape hatch. It was wonderful to get away from the business, the family and the kids That was my real escape: judging dog shows all over the world.”
He also raised dogs both as pets and for show. “I’ve had some great ones,” he said.
His German Shorthaired Pointer Columbia Rivers Jeep was a six-time Best in Show champion.
The family’s first pet was a German Shepherd named Prince Rex King.
“We went to Leon [Madlyn’s brother] and Faye’s, and my daughter Laurie was afraid of dogs. I said, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to have a kid who’s afraid of dogs.’ Madlyn was not too keen on dogs. Our next-door neighbor had German Shepherds. He got me a German Shepherd pup. I take the pup and ring the doorbell of my house, and Madlyn comes to the door, and I shoved it into her arms and said, ‘How can you be afraid of a little piece of fur like this?’ Laurie named the dog Prince Rex King, who grew into the biggest Shepherd the Barnetts ever had.

Travel

The Barnetts loved to travel, and Lou traveled the world both for business and pleasure.
Among his favorite places to travel were Italy, Acapulco and Israel.
“I love Italy. Spent a lot of time there. Acapulco. Spent a lot of time down there. That was our escape. Acapulco was wonderful in those days.” The Barnetts took active vacations.
“I fished Mexico quite a bit,” he said
Everyone got into the fishing act, especially son Eliot and Madlyn, who caught a huge sail fish in Acapulco.
“We were goers. We didn’t sit. I have a doll from every place we went.”
Often, the Barnetts visited synagogues when they traveled.
“I visited a synagogue in Aruba. It had a sand floor.” He noted that every Jewish community he ever visited had one thing in common. “A Love of God — that’s the concept of all of them. Like Maimonides said ‘If I’m not for me, then who is for me, and if not now, when?’”
Perhaps the place has loved the most is Israel, where he and Madlyn first visited in 1961. Madlyn, like her mother, Ella Brachman, before her, and her children after her, had a passion for Hadassah.
“I’ve been in Israel maybe 50 times. I had a love affair with the country and the people. I set up many clients. Some are still going. There was a Formica-type plant in Israel that I helped start.” Barnett became involved in Israel’s plastics industry, consulting, educating and advising.
During his travels to Israel, Barnett met some of the country’s early leaders.
“Hell, I knew them all. From Golda Meir. She loved to smoke cigarettes. Chain smoked.
“She was quite a lady, oh boy. She was smart and she was decisive. She was probably the best ‘man’ Israel ever produced.”
Others he met and spent time with were David Ben Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin, Levi Eshkol and Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek.
“Teddy Kollek used to come up to my suite and take a nap. Teddy was a real force,” Barnett said.
In his memoir, Barnett said he probably has spent more than two years of his life in Israel. He loved to walk Jerusalem and was known for walking around the pool of the King David Hotel every morning while he read the Jerusalem Post.
One of his favorite hangouts was a restaurant and bar called Finks.
“They made goulash. It wasn’t too kosher, but it was delicious,” he said.
Barnett said he was proud to have been able to support Madlyn and now his daughters, Laurie and Rhoda, in their passion of Hadassah. The family not only volunteers their time for the organization, but also supports the hospital financially.

Philanthropy

Barnett has been extremely philanthropic, especially to Hadassah and Northeastern University. His philanthropy seems to always be innovative and have far-reaching effects.
He and Madlyn supported Hadassah in many ways, most recently through the Madlyn Barnett Healing Garden in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. One of the first many years ago was the Ella Brachman Rehabilitation Garden at Mount Scopus campus, also in Jerusalem.
The Barnett institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis at Northeastern University was founded in 1973. “Today, with over 50 scientists and a $8 million endowment, the Institute is recognized internationally as one of the premier centers for cutting-edge research and advanced training in analytical chemistry for biomedical applications,” the Institute’s website states. “The Barnett Institute’s close ties to the Boston medical industrial communities, along with an active program of spin-outs and licensing technology, provides for many ‘real life’ applications of research advances which have led to more than 1000 published papers and 75 patents.”
Barnett is proud of the Institute’s accomplishments. “We have graduates, docs and post docs in 39 countries. We do a lot of work with genomes and have uncovered some interesting bio markers that are being used all over the world in marking the defect of a gene.”
Children, Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren
Barnett’s greatest joys are his children, Laurie and Lon Werner, Sheryl and Eliot Barnett, and Rhoda and Howard Bernstein. “It’s been a wild ride,” he says. The family has Shabbat dinner most Friday nights with his children, their spouses and niece Debby Rice. It’s dinner and “Wheel of Fortune,” followed by a cigar (preferably an Hoyo de Monterrey) for Barnett.
He has a very special relationship with his six grandchildren: Jeffrey and Jason Werner, Matthew and Emily Bernstein, and Nathan and Jessica Barnett
He loved to be silly with his grandkids, and they loved him for it. One favorite tradition was “Downtown.”
For Downtown, he would pick up the grandchildren.
“We’d play Petula Clark’s “Downtown” and go to the Fort Worth Club. We used to steal some bread from the Fort Worth Club, wrap it in a napkin and go to the part and feed the ducks. They would come, and the kids would go crazy.”
His advice to grandparents everywhere:
“You have to go to them. You have to be with them, raise them and do silly things with them.”
Today, his family has grown further and his heart has grown fuller. Grandson Matthew Bernstein married Natalie, and they have a daughter, Maddison. Grandson Jason Werner is married to Jessica, and they have two children, Mia and Blake.
Barnett’s face lights up at the mention of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “The fact that all the kids are coming in is a blessing,” he said. “They’re coming here for my birthday, so I can spoil them a little bit.”

Awards, Honors and Organizations

Barnett has been feted numerous times. With his wife, he received the Prime Minister’s Medallion for dedicated effort on Israel’s behalf, and the B’nai B’rith Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism. He was named Jewish Man of the Year by the Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith.
Texas Christian University has awarded him an honorary doctor of science, and Northeastern awarded him an honorary doctor of engineering. He is a past president of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Congregation Ahavath Sholom, where he celebrated his second bar mitzvah at age 83.
He has served on numerous boards within the Jewish community and the community at-large on local, national and international levels.

What’s the Secret to a Great Life?

When asked what the secret is to a great life like his he replied,
“The word is LIVE a great life. Do things. Don’t sit on your butts and wait for them to come to you. Just go out there and do as best you can. No matter how much money you have or whatever, go out there and do something. We all can to the extent of our capabilities, so why not do it instead of letting someone else do it? Do it yourself.”
His thoughts about being 100? “It’s old,” attributing his milestone to “great luck, mazel and genes.”
He added, “If you’re lucky, you get there; if you’re not lucky, you don’t get there. It’s a relative term. It’s a measurement of what? Your Life? OK…Would I do it over again? You bet. Why change what ain’t broke?”

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Plaskoff creates podcast launching pad

Plaskoff creates podcast launching pad

Posted on 13 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Kevin Porier
On-Air Media’s podcast studio

By Leah Vann

Melissa Plaskoff never thought her “Carpool Talk” show would lead to her being a local podcast sensation. But now, she’s helping others like her dip their feet into podcast media.
“I never thought it was possible,” Plaskoff said. “I’ve tried a lot of things and this is definitely my path, and if I were to go back and talk to myself 20 years ago, I would’ve said, ‘It’s OK, you got this.’”
Plaskoff, a lifelong Dallasite, grew tired of looking for something entertaining to listen to in her endless carpool commute as a mom with three kids, so she started “Carpool Talk” in 2015 as something all parents could listen to while waiting for their kids in what seemed like a monotonous daily routine.
Plaskoff’s podcast grew in both popularity and guest appearances. With that, networks came calling, but she wanted the freedom to dictate the direction of her podcast. She had meet Chris Jagger, former 102.1 The Edge host with experience in both radio and film industry through CBS and Warner Bros.
Both found out that the only way they could foster their own and others’ creativity was to start their own media company, On-Air Media.
On-Air Media would find its permanent home in a 12,000-square-foot facility outside the Dallas design district this summer, complete with two studios professionally equipped with four part-time production and sound engineers with editing experience.
The studios are soundproof with green screens, professional microphones and cameras. One has a 4K camera, while the other features an HD camera. There’s even a lounge with Kombucha on tap, where professionals can collaborate freely with people looking for ideas.
“We’re creating this environment where everyone is in it together, we can all win,” Plaskoff said. “We won’t have to charge a fortune and have our hands in everyone’s pocket.”
On-Air Media offers monthly memberships that include a package of four shows a month. The company keeps costs down with only three full-time employees and four part-timers. It streams every show live on Facebook, YouTube and On-Air Media’s website simultaneously, enabling it to keep the space affordable. Livestreaming cuts post-production costs, and all shows are stored away to stream on-demand via iTunes. The company is also leasing extra space in the building to other companies.
“We wanted to keep in mind there’s a number of different types of people that use it,” Jagger said. “Hobbyists, they have an idea for a show, want to do something that is interesting and entertaining, looks good and sounds good and has sound elements, that looks like it’s not embarrassing shooting out of your home somewhere. We also knew that professionals would want to come in.”
When new clients come in with an idea for a show, they first meet with Plaskoff and Jagger to find direction before launching. They can also schedule additional consultations. Jagger said that while it’s a freely creative environment, they’re able to balance the guidance.
“There’s a lot more freedom here,” Jagger said. “One of the things I ran into later in my career, at iHeartMedia, CBS Radio, you had program directors who tried to control everything because they were trying to be told what to do. Radio started to contract, eliminating a lot of jobs, fewer people involved in making decisions; it turned out to be a bad thing because they were just handing down edits. It became so restrictive, it was ridiculous; it continues to be that way. With what we do, anything goes at this point.”
And he adds that Plaskoff is a natural talent at pointing people in the right direction when starting or struggling with a show.
“She’s a natural-born producer,” Jagger said. “I tell her, ‘You should’ve been working for Oprah.’ She has the natural instincts. Had she been in that circle of people, she would’ve. You can’t teach that. I was like, ‘OK, you have a lot to learn, but you have great instincts, and if I’m not with you at some point down the road, you’ll fully understand what’s going on here.’”
Some of those instincts include which ideas resonate with an audience and how to execute those ideas in the best way possible.
“The way we structure the onboard of a new show is highly organized,” Plaskoff said. “Everyone knows their role and everyone knows their part.”
On-Air Media has produced an array of successful shows, including “The Benet Embry Show,” an unbiased progressive podcast that talks about today’s current issues while also promoting local artists in the R&B, neo-soul and hip-hop genres.
All podcast shows own their own content and can monetize if they choose. Sometimes, if a podcast needs help getting its feet off the ground, On-Air Media has professional co-hosts waiting in the wings with years of experience for consulting. They include former WFAA anchor Alexa Conomos, Dallas Observer and Pressboxdfw journalist Richie Whitt, KSCS voice Jasmine Sadry and Dallas blogger Julie Fisk.
It also provides an avenue for city business owners to try to get their messages out. Plaskoff and Jagger often meet with companies on how they can produce video and content professionally and how to spread it on social media.
Whatever the goal is, Plaskoff hopes that she’s providing a platform that helps people pursue their media dreams the way that she and Jagger have.
“It gives me so much energy,” Plaskoff said. “I love hearing the different stories people come in and tell me every day. No two are alike.”

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Remembering President George H.W. Bush

Remembering President George H.W. Bush

Posted on 05 December 2018 by admin

Photos: Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images
President George Bush poses for photographers following his Oval Office address to the nation, Sept. 27, 1991.

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday, was a one-term president whose public grappling with Jewish leaders made headlines while his private interventions helped bring tens of thousands of Jews out of danger.
Bush, 94, died at his home in Houston, his family said, less than a year after the passing of his beloved wife of 73 years, Barbara.
His failed 1992 re-election bid marked a low point in relations between Republicans and the Jewish community. Bush scored just 11 percent of the Jewish vote in that contest, one-third of what he garnered four years earlier in his 1988 victory over Michael Dukakis.
The Bush presidency was marked by tensions both with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and the American Jewish leadership.
In 1991, Bush lashed out at pro-Israel activists who had flooded Congress in response to the president’s reluctance to approve loan guarantees requested by Israel to help absorb hundreds of thousands of Jews from the just-collapsed Soviet Union.
Bush called himself “one lonely guy” battling “1,000 lobbyists on the Hill.” Jewish leaders resented the insinuation that the pro-Israel community was possessed of a power sinister enough to unsettle the leader of the free world as borderline anti-Semitic.
The “one lonely guy” comment haunted Bush thereafter, with even Republican Jews apt to use the first Bush presidency as a signifier of how far they had traveled in attracting Jewish support.
Yet, that was hardly the whole story. Less remembered was how, as Ronald Reagan’s vice president, Bush quietly helped engineer some of the pivotal moments in the effort to bring Jews out of the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia and Syria.
“When you add up the Jews he saved, he will be a great tzaddik,” Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s former national director, said in 2013, using the Hebrew word for “righteous man.”
Bush was deeply involved in foreign policy as vice president, and Jewish leaders said he helped orchestrate the dramatic Seder hosted by Secretary of State George Schultz at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1987.
He also ignored advice from much of his national security team in 1991 — the very period when he was in the throes of his most difficult arguments with Jewish leaders — and approved American overtures to the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia that resulted in Operation Solomon, which brought 15,000 Jews to Israel. Among other things, Bush secured a “golden parachute” for Mengistu Haile Mariam, the dictator who was already plotting his escape to luxurious exile in Zimbabwe.
Bush also was instrumental in persuading Hafez Assad, the Syrian dictator, to allow young Jewish women to leave Syria for New York so they could be matched with men in the Syrian Jewish community.
Some of these actions were secret at the time, and Bush was averse to claiming responsibility even in subsequent years.
“He was a man who was old school,” said Marshall Breger, who was the liaison to the Jewish community under Reagan and Bush. “With him, you had the sense of him being private about his feelings and sensitive to the notion that he might be seen as vain and saccharine towards other with overstatements.”
Breger recalled traveling in the backseat of a car with Bush to dedicate the new quarters of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in 1984. Part of the dedication included the affixing of a mezuzah, and Breger attempted to hand Bush a yarmulke. Bush wouldn’t take it.
Breger pointed out that he had secured a camouflage yarmulke for the occasion, but that seemed to make matters worse.
“I said, ‘You’ll need to wear one of these.’ And he said, ‘They’ll think I’m pandering.’ It was very much against his code to pander,” said Breger, now a law professor at Catholic University.
“I said, ‘First of all, they’ll think you’re appropriate, and second of all, they’d love you to pander,’” Breger recalled.
Bush reluctantly donned the yarmulke, but Breger noticed he had removed it before the ceremony concluded.
Bush’s intense privacy came across as stiffness and allowed his rivals to portray him as patrician and distant. Two moments in the 1992 election helped alienate the public from the president, whose masterful handling of the first Persian Gulf War helped bury post-Vietnam War ambivalence about the military.
His apparent surprise at supermarket scanner technology suggested that he was unfamiliar with the mundane chores of average Americans. Though the story was debunked — Bush was familiar with the device, but was amazed at a new generation scanner on display at a grocery convention in Florida — the image stuck.
At a town hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, during the primaries, looking at notes, Bush read out aloud, “Message: I care,” not realizing it was advice from one of his aides. The phrase became an emblem of his awkward inability to connect.
Public service was a natural draw for George Herbert Walker Bush, whose father, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. senator from Connecticut. In later years he would recall how natural it seemed to enlist in the Navy after graduating from the elite Andover Academy in 1942. He became a bomber pilot and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after the Japanese shot down his plane in 1944.
A year later he married Barbara Pierce and, like his forebears, attended Yale University. Seeking to make his own way in life, he declined his father’s offer of a job at an investment banking firm and headed to Texas, where he plunged into the oil business. First, he sold supplies, and within years he was an oilman.
But Bush couldn’t resist the call of public service, and by the end of the 1950s he was active in the state Republican Party. In 1966, he was elected to Congress — a signal achievement at that time for a Republican from Texas.
In Washington, he soon forged friendly ties with national Jewish groups. Appointed ambassador to the United Nations by Richard Nixon in 1972, he made headlines when he canceled an appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show” after Jewish leaders asked him not to lend legitimacy to another Cavett guest the same evening. The guest was Meir Kahane of the Jewish Defense League, whose radical and at times violent advocacy had alienated the Jewish establishment.
Bush wrote Cavett at the time that he had checked with “certain responsible, highly respected leaders of national Jewish organizations” who convinced him that “any move by me that would have even the slightest appearance of giving recognition or credence to Kahane would damage the serious productive and legal efforts that they and thousands of their fellow Jews have been making to alleviate the suffering of their brothers.”
At the United Nations, Bush made Soviet Jewry one of his signature issues, and the Jewish community organized a tribute dinner for him in 1973 after he left his post.
His concern for Israel and its relationship with the United States was evident again in 1976, when he was director of the CIA. Bush was furious that CIA officials had estimated in a semi-public forum that Israel had 10-20 nuclear weapons ready for use. Since the 1960s, the joint U.S.-Israel protocol had been neither to confirm nor deny Israel’s alleged possession of nuclear weapons.
In a statement that year to JTA, Bush would not address the apparent revelation, but added: “To the degree that any classified information might have been mentioned, I accept full responsibility. I am determined it will not happen again.”
Bush ran a contentious primary against Reagan in 1980, then accepted his offer as running mate. He assumed critical foreign policy roles under Reagan, but the two men never grew close. Reagan barely stumped for Bush in 1988.
Still, the departing president did his successor a favor in early 1989, giving the go-ahead for low-level U.S.-Palestine Liberation Organization relations. Bush would have faced a political firestorm had he initiated such ties, but he needed them to pave the way to one of his grand ambitions: corralling the Middle East cats into a new world order of peace, led by what was fast becoming the world’s only superpower.
Bush’s patrician lèse-majesté irked Israeli officials, especially Prime Minister Shamir, whose rough youth as the child of parents murdered by their Polish neighbors, and then as a prestate terrorist, could not have contrasted more with Bush’s upbringing.
In “A World Transformed,” the recounting of his presidency that Bush wrote with his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, Bush commended Shamir for making the unpopular decision not to strike Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War despite the raining of missiles on Israeli cities.
Just pages later, Bush wondered why Shamir was unenthusiastic about joining the Madrid peace conference that the United States had convened after the war. Bush wrote that he expected a degree of gratitude from Israel for protecting it during the Gulf War — apparently not realizing that it was precisely this unwanted protection that stirred resentment among Israelis fiercely committed to protecting themselves.
The diplomatic clashes did not abate. In June 1990, Bush’s most trusted adviser, James Baker, appearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, asked for a little “good faith” from Shamir.
“When you’re serious about peace, call us,” Baker said, addressing a virtual Shamir, and gave the number for the White House switchboard.
In March 1992, Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor, wrote that Baker had dismissed concern about Jewish anger, saying “F*** the Jews, they don’t vote for us.” Baker adamantly denied it.
Fred Zeidman, a Houston-area businessman and Republican fundraiser who is friendly with the Bush family and with Baker, said the remark has long been misunderstood. Baker was aiming his ire at another Cabinet member, Zeidman said, and intended it as a joke.
By mid-1992, with his presidential campaign underway, Bush seemed irreparably wounded in the eyes of the Jewish community. The strong primary performance by Pat Buchanan, a culture warrior known for meandering occasionally into Jew-baiting, didn’t help. Nor did Buchanan’s apocalyptic keynote speech at the convention that summer.
Jewish leaders have said that in encounters with Bush since his presidency, they endeavored to make clear to him how dear to the community he is. Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, recalled meeting with Bush not long after his “one lonely guy” remark.
Bush had tears in his eyes, Hoenlein said, and insisted he never intended offense.
“I led my whole life differently,” Bush told the delegation.
Bush rarely interacted with Jewish leaders after his presidency, and he never knew the adulation his son would earn in some Jewish quarters for his devotion to Israel.
His son, former President George W. Bush, seemed in some ways to directly contradict his father’s policies. One of the elder Bush’s first acts was to set in motion the process that would eventually welcome PLO leader Yasser Arafat into the American sphere. The younger Bush decided from the outset of his presidency to isolate Arafat, whom he reviled as an unrepentant terrorist.
Foxman said Jewish history would judge Bush kindly.
“I believe he will go down in Jewish history as the president who was engaged in more initiatives to save more Jews in countries where they were being persecuted,” he said.

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Yavneh: 25 years of Jewish education — and more

Yavneh: 25 years of Jewish education — and more

Posted on 27 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Yavneh Academy
The Class of 2008

By Amy Sorter

Alex Radunsky decided to attend Yavneh Academy of Dallas for one reason: Most of his Akiba Academy of Dallas friends were going there. Radunsky would graduate in 1998, Yavneh’s first graduating class, though at the time, he was unaware of whether, or if, the school would survive.
“At the time, we didn’t have a clear sense of trajectory of the school as an institution,” said Radunsky, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Global Health at Harvard University. “Those first two years, things were a little haphazard, but I didn’t mind it at all. I enjoyed it. It was fun and empowering to help set the tone of the institution.”
Twenty-five years after its launch in a small building on the campus of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, Yavneh has grown into a well-respected, highly acclaimed preparatory Dallas-area Jewish high school.
The school’s focus is that of modern Orthodox study, combined with stringent secular education. Yet, Yavneh’s overall goal is to “appeal to the entire Jewish community, regardless of observance or denomination,” said David Radunsky, Alex’s father and a member of one of Yavneh’s founding families.
Added Rabbi Howard Wolk, who led Congregation Shaare Tefilla at Yavneh’s founding and is now community chaplain for Jewish Family Service of Dallas: “Yavneh allowed Jewish kids to continue their Jewish education, and for them to be with other Jewish kids.” Wolk, one of Yavneh’s founders and among its first teachers, sent his three sons to Yavneh.

Keeping Jews in DFW

While Deena Zucker was attending seventh grade at Akiba during the early 1990s, parents Michael and Karen Zucker faced a difficult decision. The family would have to send their eldest child out of town for a Jewish high-school education. This dilemma prompted the Zuckers to join other families interested in forming a local Jewish high school.
“I didn’t want to send her out of town,” Michael Zucker said. “I didn’t want my child being raised by someone else.” Deena and her siblings Sara and Arye ended up attending and graduating from Yavneh. Meanwhile, the Zuckers’ youngest, Nachi, will graduate in 2019.
The Radunsky family faced a similar issue, though at the opposite end of the familial lifecycle. The three Radunsky children attended Akiba, with the older two ending up at a secular private school. However, Alex, the youngest, had “become taken with Orthodoxy,” David Radunsky said. “Our family had, by accident, turned into one of those in which we had to decide to send our kid away to school.”
Yavneh allowed both families, and others, to keep the children home, while keeping other Jewish families anchored to the region. Wolk commented that one of the school’s main benefactors, Oscar Rosenberg, had a strong sense that, without a Jewish high school, families not wanting to send their children out of town would leave. “Yavneh helped us hold on to important families in the community,” he said.
Furthermore, many Yavneh graduates return and become active in the Dallas Jewish community. Said Wolk: “The ones I know are all active in their congregations and community; many have served on the Yavneh board. The community continues to reap the benefits.”

Photo: Sharon Wisch-Ray
From the TJP file: Ecstatic to break ground on the Schultz-Rosenberg Campus on May 9, 2004 were, from left, the late Marcus Rosenberg, Ann Rosenberg, Howard Schultz and the late Leslie Schultz.

Judaism…and beyond

Though a Jewish curriculum is a highlight, Yavneh also focuses on a rigorous secular program. David Radunsky pointed out that the goal of the school, overall, was to provide an outstanding preparatory school for college and life.
“It’s an opportunity to have an excellent, small private-school experience, which focuses on education and strong student-teacher relationships,” said David Portnoy, Yavneh’s head of school. “College admissions deans have told us they find Jewish high-school graduates very well prepared to take on the workload and time management of college,” Portnoy said.
Daniel Bonner, a 2008 Yavneh graduate, discussed the student-driven environment and the emphasis on self-reliance and independence. “If there was something you wanted to study, you could study it,” said Bonner, now director of Jewish and Israel philanthropy at the Paul E. Singer Foundation in New York. “No question, or opinion, was off limits. Yavneh taught us how to be curious, not anxious, about new ideas.”
Furthermore, the students found a flexibility that might not have been possible in other school settings. Alex Radunsky tells the story of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, with one of the first being a physics class. “But I said I didn’t want to take AP physics. I was more interested in AP biology,” Alex recalled. Yavneh managed to include an AP biology class for Alex and another student. “The institution put a lot of energy into making that happen,” he said.
Yet, at the beginning, Zucker, Yavneh past president, acknowledged the risks in sending his eldest daughter to a school that, in its first five years of existence, relocated at least five times, had a handful of teachers and a series of heads of school.
“Yavneh was fully accredited,” he said. “But no one had ever heard of it when Deena graduated.” Yet all the Zucker children who graduated from Yavneh ended up with outstanding grades and are pursuing meaningful careers.
“I am the proud father of three independent children,” Zucker said, noting that he expects Nachi to be equally independent. “These guys will stay together, build friendships and an extended family you can’t duplicate, outside of the college experience.”
Alex Radunsky pointed out that most of the students in his class of 1998 spent a gap year in Israel following graduation to continue their studies. As a result, “we were positioned to represent ourselves well,” he said. “Even if institutions had been skeptical of our high school, they saw us, saw our applications and what we’d accomplished.”
Bonner agreed, adding that the Jewish day school education offers more than, well, a good Jewish education.
“As you grow up and make your way in the world, it isn’t just about a degree or the title you have, but the kind of person you are,” he said. “Yavneh, by virtue of the fact it offers education rooted in Jewish values, is producing good people in a dark world that needs more of them.”

Polishing the crystal ball

Portnoy and others stress the need for the school to be a self-sustaining entity and to continue being a student-driven school with outstanding instruction. This, in turn, requires continuous funding and endowments, which is why the Pam Hochster Fine and Jeffrey R. Fine Yavneh Academy Scholarship Endowment Fund (see sidebar), as well as other donations and endowments, are so important. Such resources help the school continue recruiting and retaining excellent teachers, Portnoy said.
Still, as Yavneh celebrates its silver anniversary, it is a success. The school has its own campus. Its students graduate and attend prestigious colleges that include Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Texas. On the sports side, the Yavneh boys’ soccer and basketball teams have made it to state and national finals. “We’re on the map now, both in terms of North Texas schools and national Jewish schools,” Portnoy said.
For Zucker, the school’s ability to focus on core values has been very important. “We can’t control how our children decide to practice religion after they leave our care,” he observed. “The best we can do is give them a foundation of our core values.”
Meanwhile, Alex Radunsky now understands the trajectory from Yavneh’s early classes to where the school is today. “It’s wonderful to see how the founding families and new families contributed to this wonderful enterprise,” he commented. “It makes me proud to be one of the early students at this institution.”

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Tarrant shuls plant daffodils, remember Holocaust victims

Tarrant shuls plant daffodils, remember Holocaust victims

Posted on 15 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Ahavath Sholom
Ahavath Sholom religious school students plant bulbs as part of the Daffodil Project, Nov. 11. They marked their bulbs with decorated stones.

Last year, the TJP shared the story of Grace Goldman. The then-Fort Worth Country Day Senior who brought The Daffodil Project to her school to honor the memory of her great-grandmother Blanche, who survived Auschwitz and the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.
This year, Goldman’s grandmother Rachel Goldman (Blanche’s daughter) and Debra Rosenthal helped the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County underwrite the project to include all Tarrant County congregations.
The bulbs were supplied and purchased through Am Yisrael Chai, an Atlanta-based Holocaust education and awareness organization.
On Nov. 11, the project came to fruition when Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El Congregation, Congregation Beth Israel and Congregation Beth Shalom planted the bulbs.
“We are grateful to the leadership and financial support of Rachel and Michael Goldman for making this special project possible and we are proud to have partnered with them. Thanks to their leadership, many of our community organizations are participating and this will be a wonderful ongoing teaching tool to help our children understand the horrors of the Holocaust and to remember the 1.5 million children who perished,” Federation Executive Director Bob Goldberg said.
At Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington, 40 Sunday school children and congregants gathered to plant 500 yellow daffodil bulbs.
In Colleyville, a member of the congregation working on his Eagle Scout project coordinated the synagogue’s efforts, according to Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.
Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Congregation Ahavath Sholom was pleased his synagogue participated.
“The Daffodil Project that Ahavath Sholom, along with a multitude of other local and national synagogues, participated in reminds me of a quote by Elie Wiesel, which states, ‘For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.’ It was in this light that we planted the daffodil bulbs, for their planting by our children and the care that will go into them binds our students in a real and concrete manner with the perpetuation of memory and continuing education of the Holocaust in a real and meaningful manner.”

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Interfaith crowd prays for Pittsburgh at Ahavath Shalom

Interfaith crowd prays for Pittsburgh at Ahavath Shalom

Posted on 09 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Sharon Wisch-Ray
Rabbi Andrew Bloom

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Approximately 1,100 people attended a communitywide prayer service Nov. 1, at Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth. “A Jewish Communal and City-Wide Night of Prayer, Remembrance and Unity” was framed around “the message of unity, healing and coming together,” explained Rabbi Andrew Bloom.
The sanctuary and social hall of the synagogue were virtually silent throughout the program, which lasted a little more than an hour.
Every Abrahamic faith community was represented — Christians, Muslims and Jews — as well as leaders of the Jewish community. (See box on p. 23 for the full list of participants and their readings.) Bloom carefully curated the program to focus on prayer and healing.
Some highlights of the evening were:
Bloom’s invocation
“First and foremost, I welcome those who have come in the name of God and the name of unity. It’s not only very special that we come together as a community but it’s special that we come together as a community of faith and a community of dedicated citizens,” Bloom said.
“Behind me to my left, to your right, is a very important and sacred Torah. It is a Torah that survived from the Holocaust and it is no longer kosher. We can’t use it, we can’t read from it because it is torn and letters are missing. But we as a community here at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, we take it out at all occasions so that those who were murdered during the Holocaust, their memories will be eternal as the letters of the five books of Moses are eternal.
“Tonight, we take it out not only for those who died and were murdered in the Holocaust, but we take it out for the 11 of Pittsburgh. We take it out for them to let them and their families and the entire congregation in Pittsburgh know that we are one, that we not only stand with them, but they are in our hearts and in our minds.
“And next to that, we have a tallit; the tallit has the 613 fringes, which represent the 613 mitzvot. It has four longer fringes that we put together when we say the eternal words ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.’ We hold them as one to show how unified we are. Tonight each and every one of us are one of those fringes, and we hold it together.
“May God bless each and every one of you for coming out this evening. This evening, we are gathered here as one united community who stands up and says never again, never again to hate, violence and the rhetoric of division that surrounds us in all corners or our community our country and our universe. We come together to say yes, yes to fellowship and friendship yes to respect and reverence, and seeing each person as created in God’s image. We also come together to pray for healing. Healing for those who are physically wounded, and healing for those who emotionally — like all of us who are suffering with doubts — are suffering.”
Brian Byrd, Fort Worth City Councilman District 3
“From the city of Fort Worth to the city of Pittsburgh, by being here en masse and in force tonight, we are saying to the community in that city, we stand with you, we believe in you and we wish you comfort and we pray for you,” Byrd said.
“On behalf of the city of Fort Worth, as I represent the mayor and the other council members here, may the God of peace bring peace to you. May the God of healing bring comfort to those in Pittsburgh who lost their lives in Pittsburgh and their family. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm protect every Jewish community and house of faith all over the world.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price’s letter, as read by Byrd
“We can’t change the past or restore the lives of those so tragically lost. However, we can certainly shape the future for the benefit of both current and future generations. I believe we do this by choosing compassion over hostility and this is not always easy. But I pray that we choose to reject the natural feelings of anger and resentment and instead stand together as a beacon of light in darkness. No matter our beliefs, our politics our ethnicity or other differences, we are all humans created to live in harmony together. Let’s use our power for good. Each of us can take bold action to spread the kind of compassion, humility and forgiveness that will always overcome those things that divide us. Compassion takes many forms, but what matters is that we all get involved and engaged.”
Fort Worth Assistant Chief of Police Edwin Kraus
After reading a law-enforcement prayer, Kraus said, “Faith is the opposite of fear…Faith in that same God will get us through this. It gets us through all the incidents similar to this when we say, what are we supposed to do now? I’m proud to be a man of faith among people of faith and that faith will get us through.”
Pastor George Pearsons,
Eagle Mountain Church
“Tonight, all of our hearts are reaching out to the Tree of Life synagogue congregation. To that congregation, whether you’re a pastor or rabbi, your congregation is very important to you and things that happen to them touch your heart deeply. And when this took place, I felt like it was my own congregation that was attacked. And we prayed for the families, we prayed for the congregation, we prayed for the community and for everyone that has been involved in this attack.
“Our own church congregation, the ministry part of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, we love our Jewish friends and wholeheartedly support the state of Israel. And you know, it’s interesting, someone might ask, ‘Why do you support Israel? Why do you love the Jewish people so much?’ And there are so many different reasons that I can share with you tonight. But just one, and it’s from the scriptures, Zacharia 2-8. ‘He who touches you touches the apple of His eye.’
“We have made as a church and a ministry, we have made the apple of His eye, the apple of our eye. We love our Jewish friends, and we love the Tree of Life congregation.”
Bloom’s message of unity
“What is the most basic part of a tree? It’s the roots. Each and every one of us should be a root of morality. Because if we are a root of morality, then the winds of hate will never blow our tree, never knock it down. But matter of fact, if we come together as the roots of peace of the roots of shalom, then the roots will spread out larger, our tree will become stronger and it will be a tree of life that all of us together grasp onto.
“In quoting President Lyndon B. Johnson, ‘Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.’ We must come together in order to win the future. For tonight, we not only come here to mourn, as we of course do, we not only come here to pray, which we of course do, but we come here to ask how can we plan for the future, how can we win the hearts of each other today in order to bridge the gap and deepen the roots for tomorrow.”
Lillian Biggins
“When I looked at the program, I saw that ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…’ [referring to the line from Psalm 46 at the top of the program]. And I say to this evening, that is where our friends in Pittsburgh are getting their strength, because we have to draw on that in times of trouble.”
Rev. Bruce Datcher, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church
“United we Stand, Divided we Fall. Let us resolve here together this evening that we will feed and nourish each other as one united community.”
A few days after the prayer service, Bloom stressed the importance of keeping the conversation going.
“We take the message of unity, of morality, and we keep the conversation in those meetings going on. I think both the city, the churches and the Muslim community want to keep the conversation going. We want to make sure we remain tight.”

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