Archive | Featured

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

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

By Jacob Kamaras
JNS.org

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


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

Global expansion

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

An Israeli perspective

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Shepton sophomore known  for ‘making world better place’

Shepton sophomore known for ‘making world better place’

Posted on 16 February 2017 by admin

Staff report

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

Samantha Sacks

Samantha Sacks

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (2)

Dallas, soldiers can ‘Stand Together’

Dallas, soldiers can ‘Stand Together’

Posted on 16 February 2017 by admin

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

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

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

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

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

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

Quarter-century of service

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

Visiting area schools

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

BBYO IC comes to North Texas

BBYO IC comes to North Texas

Posted on 09 February 2017 by admin

By Aaron Greenberg
Special to the TJP

Delegates from last year’s North Texas region traveled to Baltimore to participate in the last international convention.

Delegates from last year’s North Texas region traveled to Baltimore to participate in the last international convention.

DALLAS — BBYO is coming to town in full force.
BBYO’s 93rd International Convention will take place downtown from Feb. 16 through Feb. 20, with more than 2,500 teenagers arriving, as well as huge numbers of staff, volunteers and guests. It will be the largest conference in the program’s history.
“We will transform the Hyatt so that it will look like BBYO headquarters,” said Sherrie Stalarow, senior executive regional director for the North Texas/Oklahoma region.
It is the fourth time the area is playing host; the previous years were 2007, 2010, and 2014. This year’s will be considerably larger, with about 750 more youths. About 200 teenagers from the Metroplex and Tulsa will represent the host region.
“Dallas is an ideal location for us as an international convention for a lot of reasons,” said Ian Kandel, vice president of AZA/BBG and the Teen Movement. “It is a hugely historic BBYO town with many three-  or four-generation members.”
“It’s great for our community, and we’ll have a lot of community leaders there,” Stalarow said. “It opens a lot of people’s eyes over what we’re doing and that we are here.”
The Global Pre-Week starts Feb. 9, with about 200 international guests arriving and staying at local homes.

Submitted photo The 2016-2017 IC Board, which includes Grand Aleph Shaliach of Dallas Jed Golman (last on right)

Submitted photo
The 2016-2017 IC Board, which includes Grand Aleph Shaliach of Dallas Jed Golman (last on right)

“It’s not easy to ask someone to host somebody for five days,” Stalarow said, crediting the community for stepping up with enthusiasm. “Our families have always felt so strongly about that.”
A number of summits will also be held in advance of the official opening, including executive meetings and a Membership Growth Summit. Then the rest of the teens and staff will pour in from around the country, about 5,000 people total.
One local teenager, Isabel Middleman, talked about how much she enjoyed being in the IC band last year.
“At opening ceremonies, teens from all over the international order are chosen to perform pop songs as the regions enter,” she said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life. I attend Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where I major in voice, so combining two things I am passionate about (music and BBYO) was very special for me.”
Region presidents ran out onto the stage with their region’s colors and mascot during the ceremonies, which was another thing she enjoyed.
After the opening ceremonies, the large scale of the event continues in different ways, allowing the organization’s members to address or work on big things together.
It includes a leadership training day Friday with more than 40 seminars spread out through the city. That includes the Dallas SPCA, Yavneh Academy, the AT&T Center, the IBM innovation center, Watermark Church, the Old Red Museum, Jewish Family Services, the North Texas food bank, and more.
“The last time we were in Dallas, we did one combined direct service program Friday,” Kandel said. “This year, there are 40 different paths toward leadership training or skill development. We are using the Dallas community far, far more than last time.”

Submitted photo A community service project in which teens participated in Baltimore

Submitted photo
A community service project in which teens participated in Baltimore

The Shabbat experience has also been expanded significantly, with several forms of services to make sure everyone is comfortable. Among those doing the planning is local teenager Jonathan Nurko, a student at Yavneh Academy and the 2015-2016 North Texas Oklahoma AZA president. He said he sees it as a way to give back after attending two conferences previously.
“I am sure that seeing these services impact so many people will leave me with a great capstone in BBYO and inspiration to continue serving my community in the future,” Nurko said.
On Sunday, many of the teens will engage in the elections process.
“I think it is so cool that we as teenagers have the opportunity to either run the organization on an international level or just partake in the election process,” Middleman said. “I love listening to the candidates’ speeches because everyone is so passionate about the organization.”
For those who choose not to partake in the elections, there are Maccabiah games at the Dallas JCC and sightseeing at places like the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Legoland Discovery Center, the Dallas Zoo, the Perot Museum of Science and Nature, the Fort Worth Stockyards, and Texas Motor Speedway.
Alumni will also be able to take part. A 50-year reunion will honor members from 1967 to 1970, and a young alumni event will be held Saturday night.
A number of major speakers and musical artists will be announced closer to the conference. There’s always a lot of anticipation and speculation ahead of time, Stalarow said, noting it plays into the whole atmosphere of the event.
“They want to be wowed off the bat, inspired and motivated,” she said.

Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, was a featured speaker and recipient of the STAND UP award.

Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, was a featured speaker and recipient of the STAND UP award.

Teenagers who can’t make it to the actual convention have the opportunity to follow online and virtual reality glasses have been sent to 6,000 potential members.
A massive amount of work is done by the international organization to put on the conference.
“It’s sort of like built up in the air and landed gently in the community we are having it at,” Kandel said. “We want the community to continue to have a robust experience — conventions and meetings and service projects. We don’t want it to be a distraction.”
The host community is counted on to spread enthusiasm, to provide volunteers to assist the 350 staff members, and to host the international delegates. Stalarow said they will provide the eyes and ears.
Some of the local teens, including Middleman, are involved with planning. Last year, as regional president, she planned regional conventions and helped with some of the planning for hosting international teenagers at this year’s international convention. Once the convention starts, she’ll help host the alumni reunion.
“I think everyone will be impressed by our ‘Southern hospitality’ and how much Dallas has to offer,” she said.
When it comes to selecting locations, Kandel said BBYO looks at a city’s culture, business and industry, tourism, culinary education and academia. Dallas scores high on those, as well as its geography.
“The Jewish community is amazing,” Kandel said. “The institutions play so well together, and value the teen experience. So many have children in BBYO or are innovative in engaging Jewish teens. It is a real blessing any time we get to work with the Dallas Jewish community.”

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.www.jasondixson.com

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.www.jasondixson.com

There are close to 1,000 teenagers in the host region, with the overwhelming majority — about 900 — in Dallas. The city has a long history with BBYO, going back to an AZA chapter in 1935. Originally, the Texoma region included all of Texas and Oklahoma. It split into Lone Star and North Texas/Oklahoma in 1984.
These days, local teens have their own weekly sports leagues, relationships with organizations like JFS and CHAI, and the Sweetheart-Beau dance. There are also special programs, like election-related programming for 2016.
Stalarow’s connection to the program, like many others in the region, is intergenerational. Her father was in a Dallas AZA chapter. And when she visits Jewish organizations or Federation meetings, the faces are familiar.
“I step in the room and see these were all teens in the program,” she said.
Stalarow has been involved in leadership since becoming an advisor in 1982. She advanced to assistant regional director in 1992 and regional director in 1996. She also ran CLTC, a summer leadership program, in Wisconsin for 19 years and has led BBYO’s involvement in March of the Living since 2000.
Stalarow said one of the reasons BBYO has succeeded is the way it opens itself up to all kinds of Jewish youth.
“Number one, we don’t adhere to any one form of Judaism. We’re everything,” she said. “We have teens who have never been affiliated and teens who are very observant.”
Her charges also have very different interests, but are able to explore and express their interests. She called watching them blossom “gratifying.”
“It’s a place where they feel comfortable. They can create their own personalities and not be judged for it,” Stalarow said.
Aside from local programming, there are also summer camps and global travel. Middleman said her favorite program has been the International Leadership Training Conference she went to over the summer. There was an exercise where people were asked to rate their happiness, then write a letter to someone they admire. Then they were asked to call that person and read them the letter.
“Everyone’s ‘happiness level’ went up, and the lesson was that making other people happy can make you happy,” Middleman said.
Nurko said the summer programs have helped him connect to Jewish teens from all over the country and the world, and that “I will always have a home in any city across America.”
That makes the nature of this month’s event all the more special to him. He attended the last international conference in Dallas, but was new to BBYO at the time, and not as involved.
“I saw the excitement, fun, and bonds that Dallas teens made with international teens. I have been looking forward to IC this year so that I can finally be a part of this exciting time,” he said.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Missing college student’s remains found

Missing college student’s remains found

Posted on 08 February 2017 by admin

Staff report

Brewster County and Alpine law enforcement confirmed Monday remains found in a shallow grave were those of Zuzu Verk, the Sul Ross State University student who has been missing since Oct. 11.MissingWomanWEB
Before identifying the remains, the police arrested Verk’s boyfriend Robert Fabian on Friday. Fabian, 26, faces a charge of tampering with evidence by concealing or hiding a corpse, a second-degree felony. Fabian’s bail was set at $500,000 on Monday. Additional charges are expected, Alpine police said.
“It’s a sense of relief, and sadness, sorrow, horror, you know … a lot of emotions run through and they’re opposite of each other in many ways,” Glenn Verk, Zuzu’s father, said to WFAA.
Chris Estrada, a friend of Fabian’s who, according to Alpine police, exchanged several phone calls with Fabian the night of Verk’s disappearance, was arrested in Phoenix on Monday on a similar charge. He had relocated to Phoenix after an unrelated DWI charge last month and is facing extradition back to Brewster County.
A Border Patrol agent found Verk’s remains in a shallow grave Friday near Alpine. A forensics lab matched Verk’s dental records to the body.
“To think that in such a shallow grave, that the animals or something wouldn’t have eventually dug the body out — (the suspects) weren’t thinking,” Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said.
Verk, 21, was studying biology at Sul Ross State, and was a member of Congregation Kol Ami in the Coppell-Keller area.
According to the Alpine Police Department, Verk had gone on a date with her boyfriend the night of her disappearance, but further details weren’t clear. Fabian and Estrada were “uncooperative” in describing the events of that night, an Alpine police spokesman said, and only responded when legally forced to do so.
Sul Ross State planned a memorial service for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9. The family’s plans for a funeral were not available at press deadline.
Dodson said there are still people of interest in the investigation, including many in Fabian’s family.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Concern, fear as US changes refugee policy

Concern, fear as US changes refugee policy

Posted on 02 February 2017 by admin

With history in mind, Jews join airport protests of Trump’s directive

DULLES, VA - JANUARY 28: J.D. People protest and welcome arriving passengers at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, January 28, 2017. The protest follows the executive order of President Donald Trump to bar all refugees coming to the US and Muslims from seven countries. (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

DULLES, VA – JANUARY 28: J.D. People protest and welcome arriving passengers at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, January 28, 2017. The protest follows the executive order of President Donald Trump to bar all refugees coming to the US and Muslims from seven countries. (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Ron Kampeas
JTA

DULLES, Va. — The Israeli-born high-tech millionaire gathered his family after turning on CNN. The rabbi who leads an interfaith group got a text from a Muslim friend. The corporate lawyer was tracking a pro-bono email list she’s on.
Within a few hours, all of them had descended on Dulles Airport, about 25 miles outside of the nation’s capital.
They were among the thousands of Americans who met at major international airports across the country Saturday to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries. In the plight of those refused entry, many Jews saw something akin to what their forebears endured as they attempted to flee Nazi-occupied Europe.
Some noted cruel irony in the president’s order coming down Friday, which was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum responded to the president:
“As part of our mission, we host an annual commemoration for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the UN to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,” a press release read. “We appreciate the comments of the president to remember the 11 million who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi regime in the Holocaust, but we believe it is critically important to recognize and acknowledge that, at its core, the Holocaust was a genocide against the Jewish populations of Germany and those countries and territories occupied by the Nazis.”
Trump’s directive blocks for 120 days all refugees from entering the country, with an indefinite ban on those from Syria, and prevents for 90 days entry into the United States by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Chava Brandress, a corporate lawyer, said she belongs to a pro-bono legal listserv, and her email “began exploding” Saturday afternoon with tales of foreign nationals being detained after landing at Dulles.
“I felt, ‘I can’t understand how this is happening again,’” said Brandress, 36, recalling how Jews, fleeing Nazi persecution, were turned away from U.S. shores.
At Dulles and the many other major airports where crowds gathered, protesters sang and chanted. They erupted in cheers when a New York judge placed a temporary stay on Trump’s refugee ban — a ruling that prevented scores of refugees and other foreign nationals held by U.S. passport control in the wake of the executive order from being deported.
Hundreds also came together outside the Brooklyn Federal Court House, where Judge Ann Donnelly granted the emergency stay, with some chanting “Never again” and holding signs that read “Never Again! Never is Now!” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case, said afterward that he had never seen such a public show of support in his two decades in the field.
At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, protesters packed sidewalks and a parking structure outside Terminal 4. They carried placards slamming the executive order and chanting slogans such as “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.”
At the international terminal of Los Angeles International Airport, Rabbi Suzanne Singer of Temple Beth El in Riverside, California, voiced opposition to the executive order with hundreds of others. She traveled some 70 miles to be there.
“It’s an absolute outrage that we are keeping people from coming here for refuge,” Singer said. “My mother was a survivor from Auschwitz. As Jews, we know what it’s like to be persecuted.”
“It’s certainly not Jewish values; it’s not American values” to ban people based on religion.
Also at the Los Angeles airport protest was Gabriel Lobet, 18, who just hours earlier had been teaching a Hebrew school class about a Torah portion in which Abraham welcomes a stranger in his midst.
“A core value of my Hebrew school years, and being a bar mitzvah, is that we were strangers, immigrants in a new land,” Lobet said.
“The Dallas Holocaust Museum remembers a time when the United States and other countries denied entry to Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis,” the museum said in the previous statement. “While recognizing today’s different circumstances, we call on our elected officials and citizens to remember that many in the Middle East, both Christian and Muslim, seek refuge because they are targeted by their regimes, ISIS and other actors for persecution and in some cases elimination.
“The ongoing refugee crisis requires the U.S. to balance the security of its citizens with the expectations of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants to be treated with compassion and respect as they seek refuge in the United States. The U.S. government has a vetting process to make sure that citizen security remains paramount. We encourage our government to complete the vetting of all refugees as quickly and efficiently as possible to minimize their suffering as they seek a better life in the United States of America.”
At Dulles International Airport, Tal Zlotnitsky’s sign read “Our Jewish family stands with Muslim refugees and Muslim Americans.”
Zlotnitsky, 43, his wife, Miri, and their son, Jacob, 14, had seen the protests at Dulles on CNN and joined. He said he came to the United States from Israel when he was 12. He overstayed his visa and now ran a data analysis firm.
“If we give up our core ideals,” he said, “that’s how the terrorists win.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Dawn of Trump era: 2 Jewish tribes descend on Washington

Dawn of Trump era: 2 Jewish tribes descend on Washington

Posted on 26 January 2017 by admin

Photo: White House press release Donald Trump giving his inauguration address at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 20

Photo: White House press release
Donald Trump giving his inauguration address at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 20

By Ron Kampeas
JTA

WASHINGTON — “Cantor Kaufman!” Rabbi Jonah Pesner shouted across the intersection of 3rd and D in Washington’s Northwest quadrant, packed sidewalk to sidewalk with women in pink pussycat hats and their male friends. “A song!”
Jason Kaufman, the cantor at Beth El in Alexandria, Virginia, draped in a rainbow tallit and in the middle of telling a joke, cocked an eyebrow and pivoted gracefully from the guy hanging with his buddies at Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington to the religious leader ready to, well, lead.
Kaufman’s rich tenor soared above the foggy chill and soon found company. The song was a natural for hundreds of Reform Jews waiting at the junction to join with hundreds more organized by the National Council of Jewish Women and other liberal Jewish groups.
“Hinei ma tov umanaim,” they sang, quoting from Psalm 133. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”
The Reform marchers, organized by the movement’s Religious Action Center, which Pesner leads, ultimately never met up with the NCJW marchers — Washington’s streets and the National Mall were crammed to the point of claustrophobia the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president. The sternest shouted entreaties by group leaders could not keep the Jewish marchers from disappearing into the sea of humanity highlighted by the pink hats that were the marchers’ badge of honor.

Photo: Ron Kampeas (From left) Adam King, Chaya Israely and Chaya Illulian at the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Ron Kampeas
(From left) Adam King, Chaya Israely and Chaya Illulian at the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.

Still, at around the same time, Nancy Kaufman, the NCJW CEO said, the marchers she was leading from the historic synagogue at Sixth and I streets broke into the same song.
It was not the first time that King David’s words soared over the nation’s capital. Psalm 133 also made an appearance Friday, in Trump’s first speech delivered as president.
“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” Trump said. “The Bible tells us, ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’ We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
Rather than unity, the twin uses of Psalm 133 on Friday and Saturday signaled a nation deeply divided, and within it two Jewish tribes deeply at odds over its future. To the smaller tribe, solidly Republican and disproportionately Orthodox, the inauguration weekend was a time to celebrate Trump for bringing Israel closer to the U.S. bosom. For the other, larger one, which votes reliably Democratic and tends to support a progressive domestic agenda, it was a time to stand as one against what it sees as Trump’s crusade to cleave Americans from one another.
Those glad of the Trump ascendancy say it will be a relief from a U.S.-Israel relationship still stinging from the toxicity between former President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Their ranks include Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and his wife, whose spending on pro-Israel causes is outmatched only by their spending to keep Democrats from power. On Friday, they were seen grinning on the inaugural dais — a rare, if not unprecedented, place of honor for donors. Trump said later that their combined giving to his campaign and to the inauguration reached $125 million.
Perhaps a half a football field across from them, six or so Jewish Trump supporters from Los Angeles huddled on the mall in layers a little too thick for the mild mid-Atlantic chill. They were close to tears as Rabbi Marvin Hier took the stage to deliver the benediction — one that cited another psalm, 137, “If I forget you O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.”
“That’s my rabbi!” one yelled out.
After the speeches were over, the group enthused about why they had made the journey cross-country.
“We had a chill” as Hier spoke, said Chaya Illulian, 22. “God wants us to stand for the truth!”

Photo: Ron Sachs Supporters of National Council of Jewish Women and other Jewish organizations come together for the Women’s March on Washington.

Photo: Ron Sachs
Supporters of National Council of Jewish Women and other Jewish organizations come together for the Women’s March on Washington.

“We’re excited for the change,” chimed in Chaya Israely, also 22.
“To see Rabbi Hier up there, it means we’re equal,” said Adam King, 33.
The evening before, clumps of middle-aged out-of-towners, red Make America Great Again hats covering their kippahs, clustered around tables at the Char Bar kosher steakhouse. The most common topic of conversation: Would Trump’s Orthodox Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, set to assume a role as a top adviser, make it out of their parade limos the next day in time for Shabbat? (They did: The limos pulled up to the White House 30 minutes before.)
Earlier Thursday, a select group of Jewish Trump supporters attended the exclusive Republican Jewish Coalition reception, which featured Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House majority leader; and Tom Rose, the conservative Jewish talk show radio maven who is close to Vice President Mike Pence.

Photo: Ron Kampeas Josh Weinberg, the president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, attended the march with his three daughters. When asked about Trump’s use of Psalm 133 in his speech, Weinberg said “OK, it’s a nice line ... but forgive my cynicism.”

Photo: Ron Kampeas Josh Weinberg, the president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, attended the march with his three daughters. When asked about Trump’s use of Psalm 133 in his speech, Weinberg said “OK, it’s a nice line … but forgive my cynicism.”

On Friday night, they gathered on the lower floors of the Marriott Marquis at “The Inaugural Shabbat,” sponsored by the Israel Forever Foundation. The hotel is connected to the Washington Convention Center, where, as the Shabbat dinner got underway, Trump took his first dance with his wife, Melania, mouthing the words to Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
Or they were at the American Friends of Lubavitch headquarters near Dupont Circle, where Friday night services were packed with visitors. Rabbi Levi Shemtov’s sons squeezed between worshippers with trays bulging with tiny plastic cups of sweet Kiddush wine.
The sense of a homecoming, of relaxed and happy banter, was natural, said Matt Brooks, director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“At the end of the day, I think there’s a huge sense of relief,” he said. “This last eight years we have seen a significant weakening of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Things are going to be very different.”
And Trump’s quotation of Psalm 133? A natural, Brooks said.
“His presidency is going to be about the people, it’s going to be about holding government accountable, rebuilding infrastructure, restrengthening alliances, taking care of the middle class,” he said. “Judaism is predicated on making sure we take care of all people, and we look out for people who are less fortunate.”
If Trump was intent on caring for the less fortunate, the message didn’t reach the thousands of Jews who joined an estimated half-million protesters in Washington the next day — not to mention the marchers in other American cities and around the world.
Josh Weinberg, the president of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, had read Trump’s speech but did not notice the president’s Psalm 133 citation.
“OK, it’s a nice line,” said Weinberg, who gently guided one daughter in a stroller through the crowd, carried another on his back and had a third clutching his hand. “But forgive my cynicism.”
Jewish marchers who had picked through Trump’s speech said they discovered intimations of exclusion: a rejection of prejudice that was conditioned on opening “your heart to patriotism,” a dystopian vision of “American carnage,” of inner cities in flame and children lost to broken schools.
Most striking for these marchers was Trump’s rallying cry. “From this moment on, it’s going to be America first, America first,” Trump said, an echo of the isolationist and anti-Semitic movement Americans rejected as they entered World War II.
“I’ve been disappointed before,” said Leslie Shapiro, a retired paralegal from Gaithersburg, Maryland, recalling past elections. “I’ve never been afraid.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Highlighting hunger in America

Highlighting hunger in America

Posted on 19 January 2017 by admin

Submitted photo Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey and Shirley Davidoff in front the Mazon traveling exhibit at the Aaron Family JCC. Rep. Veasey, who represents the 33rd District, accompanied Fort Worth Beth-El religious school students to the exhibit Sunday.  Davidoff is the chair of MAZON’s national board and first vice president of Congregation Shearith Israel.  “It becomes more real,” Davidoff said. “The photographs, and the way this truck was designed is novel, innovative.”

Submitted photo
Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey and Shirley Davidoff in front the Mazon traveling exhibit at the Aaron Family JCC. Rep. Veasey, who represents the 33rd District, accompanied Fort Worth Beth-El religious school students to the exhibit Sunday.
Davidoff is the chair of MAZON’s national board and first vice president of Congregation Shearith Israel.
“It becomes more real,” Davidoff said. “The photographs, and the way this truck was designed is novel, innovative.”

Traveling MAZON exhibit enlightens many visitors at Dallas JCC

By Aaron Greenberg
Special to the TJP

DALLAS — Just how big is the nation’s problem with hunger, and what can be done about it?
That’s part of the conversation the “This is Hunger” exhibit hopes to bring to the forefront as it travels around the country. And the answers to those questions, according to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger — 42 million Americans go hungry, and advocacy must go well beyond donations.
The exhibit from MAZON, a 53-foot-long double trailer, operates like a state-of-the-art rolling museum. It spent five days last week in the JCC parking lot on a visit sponsored by Temple Emanu-El and the JCC.
“It’s very, very powerful. It leaves a huge lump in your throat,” said Irene Kogutt, who saw the exhibit on its first day here.ThisIsHunger-Activities
The interactive experience combines numerous interviews and recordings of Americans struggling with hunger, taken by acclaimed photographer Barbara Grover, with the latest numbers and analysis from federal data. LED wall projectors, supplemented by projectors from the ceiling and table, add to the immersion experience designed under a team led by Marni Gittleman.
The project took about five years and cost $1.7 million to assemble, curate, and put on the road for 10 months.
“We’ve made that investment because as an advocacy organization, education is a vital component of our mission,” said Michelle Stuffmann, director of outreach. “This is the most powerful effort we’ve done.”
Shirley Davidoff, chair of MAZON’s national board and a former member of the Dallas JCRC executive committee, said the organization decided to take a leap of faith and try something different.
“It becomes more real,” she said. “The photographs, and the way this truck was designed is novel, innovative.”
Up to 30 people at a time can experience the 14-minute opening presentation, where visitors sit at a table and encounter the faces and voices of hunger in America. The way the presentation works, it appears as though some of the speakers are sitting at the table as their words echo.
“The people speaking, they had all they needed, and then they had nothing,” Kogutt said. “I’m in my 80s. I can feel how those elderly people feel. Things happen and it goes away.”
After the presentation, visitors can explore the photos and graphics lining the inside of the truck, try a work sheet to see how they would feed a family on federal assistance (“It’s a lot more than you think it will cost,” Kogutt said), use a social media photo booth, read personal accounts of hunger, sign a petition to protect benefits, or make a donation. ThisIsHunger_trailer (1)
The statistics and graphics give a lot of attention to groups often overlooked when it comes to hunger. One in four veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are hungry or otherwise food-insecure, according to the data. There are food pantries operating at or near every Navy and Marine base in the country. Many military families are actually ineligible for help because of their housing allowance.
“I thought at first she meant the retired, the veterans, and to realize it is ongoing, that was alarming,” said Melanie Rubin, the Dallas JCRC chair.
Just before the tour launched out of Los Angeles, photographer Grover got to see the final product, and was impressed.
“I went to it several times with members of the community, students of different ages, and most people are very moved and also moved to do something about the issue,” Grover said. “And I think the truck gives them some of those resources.
“You have to inform to motivate people, and motivation is what creates activism, and activism creates advocacy. It’s kind of a domino effect.”
Tour facilitator Maya Joshua said she has seen many people moved by the exhibit.
“It is pretty relatable to everyone,” she said. “To some extent, they see themselves in the eyes of whoever they are looking at. It is a personal experience.”
She said one 7-year-old tried to use one of the exhibit’s iPads to make a $1,000 donation per month. But donations aren’t enough, MAZON officials say.
One of the biggest challenges, according to MAZON, is that charity and food banks, while essential, cannot solve the problem on their own. The largest anti-hunger organization’s budget, according to MAZON figures, could feed every hungry American for less than two weeks, even at $1.66 per meal.
Davidoff and Stuffmann praised the work of food pantries on the front line of hunger, but called for a look at the bigger picture.
“What we are looking for is scale, and to stem the tide of people who go to food banks on a regular basis, to shorten the lines at soup kitchens,” Stuffmann said. “Food banks are not a solution, they deal with a symptom, not a cause.
“We need to look at the reasons people are struggling to put food on the table in the first place. From a cost-effective standpoint, it’s pretty darn cheap for a person to call your legislator and as a constituent demand that they provide sufficient funding for SNAP (food stamps).”
One example of what federal assistance can do is even more personal than the striking photographs.ThisIsHunger_table
Craig Schneider, the driver and technician for the truck, is an employee of Mobile X Events. He has been in the business of marketing, especially mobile events, for 40 years. He also went hungry after a heart attack.
“Six months out of work. Where would you be if you were cold flat for six months?” Schneider asked.
He and his family were facing medical bills for years afterward, and had to turn to federal assistance to eat. Now 64, Schneider is back on track, although a few years after he had planned to retire.
“I think I can make an impression and help,” he said. “I did live through it — and I think I am making a good comeback — but I’m not going to retire this year.”
“He was selected based on his experience,” Stuffmann said. “The fact he has something to do with the issue was not known by MAZON until after that point.
“You can never, ever look at somebody and know that they are struggling to put food on the table. He looks like any one of us. He looks fine, like any other guy his age, and yet his backstory is relevant.”

Recognizing the problem

Schneider said one visitor recognized a fellow member of the military in a photo on the truck’s inside wall. And another person whose story is highlighted, Joaquin, has become a well-known hair stylist in Los Angeles.
“A lady in Los Angeles came in and said, ‘What is my stylist doing on the wall?’ ” Schneider said.
The numbers are staggering, and that can be an issue, Stuffmann said.Veasey&Students
“You make it personal, you make it real. These are real people, and it’s a lot harder to ignore, to be dispassionate about. It’s a huge number, and just a number, but these are real lives that have been impacted.”
Grover was commissioned for precisely that reason. MAZON knew it wanted something special to personalize the issue, and she specializes in economic and social injustice.
“I think the challenge was trying to cover the spectrum,” Grover said. “The truth is it could be anybody and everybody. People are dealing with food insecurity even in nice neighborhoods, where they own the house, because they paid for it years ago.”
Grover worked hard to distill the years’ worth of interviews and recordings into a workable presentation.
“Something’s always left out because there’s always another story,” Grover said. “But ‘This is Hunger’ creates what it set out to achieve and creates a sense of who and why people are hungry in America.”
Each location had presentations for the public as well as reserved times for groups, such as schools. There were about 25 public sessions during the Dallas stop.
Davidoff, who is also a board member of Congregation Shearith Israel, noted that Texas has a higher food insecurity rate than the national average, 15 percent to 13 percent. It’s 25.6 percent for children. MAZON has a number of state-specific projects. In Texas, it has helped expand school breakfasts and is petitioning for summer food programs. It has also been trying to combat the shaming of students whose families have low balances for school meals.
“One of our core obligations as Jews is to try to make the world better, and fixing what is wrong is a mitzvah,” Davidoff said. “Being on the MAZON board and now as the board chair, I see an obligation to make an even greater impact.”
The “This is Hunger” tour started in the Los Angeles area in November, and is now on the way to Atlanta. After reaching the East Coast, it will travel through the Midwest and finish in the Bay Area in July. For the complete tour schedule, visit thisishunger.org.
As for what happens next, MAZON officials said that depends on the public’s response. While they would love to see the exhibit continue in some fashion, it is too early to make a decision.
“On some level, I hope the body of work will be kept alive,” Grover said. “People who went to the truck want more. I think the public has expressed interest in seeing and hearing more.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Visiting Israel leaves lasting legacy

Visiting Israel leaves lasting legacy

Posted on 12 January 2017 by admin

‘Energy, excitement’ for many first-time Temple Shalom travelers

Photo: Adam Kaplan The tour group included: Rabbi Andrew Paley; (listed alphabetically) Scott and Brenda Butnick; Jeff Fritts, Debra Levy-Fritts; Josh, Jennifer, Aaron and Julia Goldman; Mark and Ann Goodman; Sander, Julie, Mikayla, Lindsay and Jeremy Gothard; Adam, Trayce, Hannah and Benjamin Kaplan; Irwin and Dawn Kaufman; Steve and Lori Kleinfield; Jim and Ellen Liston; Maury and Judith Marcus; Pat and Penny Sheff; Irene, Tova and Sam Sibaja; Jerry and Lonna Rae Silverman; Keo Strull; and Linda Young.

Photo: Adam Kaplan
The tour group included: Rabbi Andrew Paley; (listed alphabetically) Scott and Brenda Butnick; Jeff Fritts, Debra Levy-Fritts; Josh, Jennifer, Aaron and Julia Goldman; Mark and Ann Goodman; Sander, Julie, Mikayla, Lindsay and Jeremy Gothard; Adam, Trayce, Hannah and Benjamin Kaplan; Irwin and Dawn Kaufman; Steve and Lori Kleinfield; Jim and Ellen Liston; Maury and Judith Marcus; Pat and Penny Sheff; Irene, Tova and Sam Sibaja; Jerry and Lonna Rae Silverman; Keo Strull; and Linda Young.

By Aaron Greenberg

Photo: Adam Kaplan The Temple Shalom group spent time at a chocolate factory.

Photo: Adam Kaplan
The Temple Shalom group spent time at a chocolate factory.

Special to the TJP

A trip to Israel is often cited as the most meaningful physical journey in a Jewish person’s life.
“Once you see it and touch it, your relationship is never the same,” said Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom, who led a group of nearly 40 congregants and their families in December.
The participants gathered in Tel Aviv on Dec. 19 and departed on Dec. 28, giving them a week and a half to explore the Holy Land together.
“It’s fun going with a group because there’s energy and excitement. The Israel they imagine and read about is so often different from what they see,” Paley said.
“I was trying to minimize some of the things I have heard all these years,” attendee Debra Levy-Fritts said. “What was obvious to me, I felt a sense of family as soon as I got off the plane.
“I see Israeli flags all the time, but when I saw it at the airport, ‘Wow. This is really happening.’”
Although Paley has led about 10 congregational trips over the years, this one had an especially high number of first-timers and those who hadn’t been to Israel in decades. They also met with relatives and friends, and had some unexpected heartfelt moments.
“It’s interesting to see what myths are debunked and what becomes clear to them about what Israel is and how it works,” Paley said.
“I knew I would see certain things, taste certain foods, see people who are industrious, creative, prosperous, things of great religious significance, a country of people with a lot of determination to exist as a country,” James Liston said.
“None of that was a surprise. What was so nice was how it all fit together. The whole, total experience, whether it be the reason why kibbutzes started to come into being or the transition to amazing industry there now, or the historical significance from biblical times to the present-day determination of democracy and defense.”

Photo: Adam Kaplan Irene Sibaja (center) and her children Tova (left) and Sam at the Ohpel ruins at the Temple Mount. They received their tallitot for the children’s b’nai mitzvah.

Photo: Adam Kaplan
Irene Sibaja (center) and her children Tova (left) and Sam at the Ohpel ruins at the Temple Mount. They received their tallitot for the children’s b’nai mitzvah.

A family affair

Jerry Silverman knew he had a cousin living on a kibbutz, but didn’t realize it would be the same one the group would be visiting. From there, the opportunities to meet with family multiplied. Another cousin visited the kibbutz, plus they met one in Tel Aviv, and yet another one came down to their hotel.
Jerry’s wife, Lonna Rae Silverman, also had a chance to meet with a long-lost friend after 43 years.
“I attended college in Moorhead, Minnesota and would go to Fargo, North Dakota for Friday night services,” she said. “One evening a couple approached me and told me that they were bringing a young woman over from Israel to teach their son for his bar mitzvah and asked if I would like to be a friend to this woman. We became friends and I brought her to my home in Duluth, Minnesota to meet my family.”
Her friend, Aviva, returned to Israel and they eventually lost touch, but Silverman was able to get her information with the help of Ariela Shargal at Temple Shalom. They reunited in Tel Aviv and had dinner together.
Temple Shalom President Josh Goldman had been to Israel 30 years ago as part of a Dallas Federation trip. He was 16. This time, he went with his family, including his two 16-year-old children.
“I got to watch my kids experience Israel at the same stage of life,” Goldman said. “I have some memory of what it’s like traveling through Israel as a Jewish teen. My kids had an incredible time and found it fun, exciting and meaningful as well.”
The Goldmans also got to spend time with Josh’s in-laws, who live in Florida.
“It was meaningful to get the six of us to meet together in Israel as family and with the congregation,” Josh Goldman said. “It was a chance for my in-laws to spend time with their grandkids and daughter uninterrupted for several days.”
Adam and Trayce Kaplan went with their children Ben and Hannah.
“My best experience was being at the Western Wall with our kids on Shabbat,” Trayce said. “Just watching them experience the holiness in that place and seeing them feel it. They were very emotional. I think that was even more of an experience for me, to watch them and be part of that with them.
“For them to join us as a family to go together and have other kids their same age and activities in the outings geared toward kids that age was one of the reasons we chose to go at this time.”
The Gothard family also traveled together. Julie and Sander Gothard had a chance to catch up with Israeli relatives and friends. Children Jeremy and Mikayla both cited the Dead Sea and Western Wall as among their favorite parts of the trip, with Mikayla also mentioning Masada. Their daughter Lindsay went as well.
“We met relatives who are reserves in the IDF or still work for the IDF,” Sander Gothard said. “It means more than words can express that they are defending the Jewish homeland.”
Irene Sibaja and her children also traveled together. The family recently moved to Arkansas, but went with their former congregation. Shortly after the return to Dallas, Tova and Samuel had their bar and bat mitzvahs at Temple Shalom.
Another former congregant also spent time with the group. Patricia Robinson Washington, who converted during her time at Temple Shalom, made aliyah over the summer. She met with the travelers in Tel Aviv, and later in Jerusalem.
“The highlight was not just seeing the rabbi and my community, but seeing Jeremy (Gothard), one of my students,” she said. “I said one day I would see him in Jerusalem.”

More than just rocks

Paley wanted to make sure the trip didn’t just hit common tourism spots or museums.

A 2016 trip to Israel

A 2016 trip to Israel

“One thing we try to do is tell a story of Israel, not just about rocks and stone walls and an artifact here, but what makes it so beautiful and vibrant are the people — brothers and sisters in our family,” he said.
Playing a big part in that was guide Doron Wilfand, a 21st-generation Israeli, whose family came over from Spain in 1492.
“He interwove Masada with the perspective of Yad Vashem and ‘this shall not happen again’ and inspiration for the Zionists,” Jeff Fritts said.
The congregants said Wilfand provided a detailed perspective from various viewpoints and times in history.
Among the adventures the group had during their trip were a Shabbat dinner with three soldiers who have no family in Israel, packing food for the less fortunate, a trip to the Roman ruins of Caesarea, a chance to see a chocolate factory, a waterfall, and an archaeological dig of a town conquered by the son of Simon Maccabee.
“We were able to dig for a while,” said Tracye Kaplan. “Somebody found a bone and a tooth from thousands of years ago. Everybody enjoyed that very much, even adults.”
And, of course, there was the food.
“I lost three pounds and ate like a pig because they eat real food,” Fritts said.
“It’s not just food on a plate. It’s a sensory experience. It’s a lot of the same stuff, but everyone makes it a little differently,” Levy-Fritts said.
Liston said the Machane Yehuda market was one of his favorite places. He also noted that probably everything in the hotel breakfast buffet was made in Israel.

A unique, yet familiar, identity

Traveling through Israel meant seeing not only the different cities and towns, but the way they make up Jewish history and the young nation’s identity.
“There’s something about Jerusalem as a holy city that in many ways connects us with the ancient past,” Paley said. “That it still thrives and has that religious fervor and passion and still works. Tel Aviv is the antithesis of that, and yet is part and parcel of what Israel is about.”
And in some ways, visiting Israel sheds light on what the Diaspora’s role has been.
“Everything we have done for 2,000 years, our synagogues and schools, allowed this to happen,” said Levy-Fritts.
For many of the travelers, their first experience was the coastal cities on Shabbat.
“There is something about living in Jewish time, around Jews just living, as opposed to making it happen,” Paley said.
“Everybody was out, doing stuff, people playing music on the shore,” said Levy-Fritts.
“What you really see, it’s a day off for everybody. Even if you aren’t Jewish, the weekend is set up for it,” Fritts said.
“You are visiting a place where people look like you, in many ways act like you,” Liston said.

Standing at the Wall

Because of the timing, the Temple Shalom group spent most of Hanukkah in Israel.
“We wove the story of Hanukkah, especially in Jerusalem, into our daily narrative, the things we were seeing,” Paley said.
They were able to be near the Temple Mount while celebrating the liberation and rededication of the Second Temple under the Maccabees. The Western Wall is usually a busy place on Shabbat. During Hanukkah, it was especially energetic.
“We went as a group and were out on the plaza on Friday night and did Kabbalat Shabbat knowing our congregation was celebrating Shabbat in Dallas, and we were a temple family on the plaza,” Goldman said.
One of Jeff Fritts’ favorite moments took place there.
“I decided to stay in that partitioned area to walk around and hear all the different people chanting to themselves,” he said. “There was a group of 20 to 30 Orthodox young men, and I was standing next to their group as they danced in a circle, and they pulled me in.”
“What struck me was the energy,” Liston added. “All these people, all these Jews just singing, dancing, rushing to the wall.”
Many other notable experiences were in the Old City, and several travelers cited their excursions underground and the Temple-era ground level, which is lower than the plaza. Liston was one of those to explore the area.
“At one point, Ellen (Liston’s wife) says, ‘That’s the Wall.’ We’re underground and your other arm reaches another wall. I say, ‘No, it’s not. Look how straight these cuts are.’”
He wasn’t the only one stunned by the craftsmanship. Fritts was also taken aback.
“Going through the wet tunnels and seeing the ingenuity of people 2,500 years ago and to see what they built, it’s very impressive,” he said.
The Wall and Temple Mount were perhaps the most memorable places for the travelers.
“It was the most strange combination of solemnness and joy in one place simultaneously,” Fritts said.
“The intersection of three world religions in one place, how awesome that is and how divisive that is,” Levy-Fritts said. “I feel it is more a reason for rejoicing than so much hatred.”
The birthplace of independence
“For some, being at the site of the declaration of independence in Tel Aviv was real profound,” Paley said.
The group went to Independence Hall on their second day together. Levy-Fritts was familiar with the story, but still struck by the importance of visiting the site.
“The whole attitude and faith they had over decades to do what they did was tremendous,” she said.
Another place where that story was told was the Ayalon Institute, a secret factory where bullets were made during British rule.
Liston said he was impressed by “the intelligence, ingenuity and will.”
“They built it within a few hundred feet of a British base,” Liston said. “They thought of everything.”
The factory was built under the kibbutz washing machines to hide the noise. A bakery was created to mask the smells.
“It’s a great story, and it wasn’t on our itinerary,” Goldman said. “My wife and Julie Gothard went last year and said we had to see this. We got up early and everybody said that was worth getting up for.”

Yad Vashem

“Going to Yad Vashem meant a lot to me,” said 15-year-old Mikayla Gothard. “I knew about the Holocaust, but seeing the museum taught me a lot about what led up to the terrible events.”
There are few places that bring home the horrors and lessons of the Holocaust the way Yad Vashem does. For some of the Temple Shalom visitors, the journey was personal.
“Yad Vashem absolutely made more of an impression on me than anything else we did,” Liston said.
His mother left Berlin in 1936, when she was 16.
“I knew my mother didn’t like to talk about it that much,” he said. “I knew there were difficult things that happened in school. I learned from the exhibits about what was going on in Germany in the 1930s. It filled it in for me. Ellen and I were very moved. It got us to the core.”
For Josh Goldman, the museum started out feeling like other top Holocaust museums. Then he saw a familiar name, that of his great-uncle.
“There’s an entire room devoted to the displaced persons camps,” he said. “The opening had a huge quote on it from Abraham Klausner, a Reform rabbi who served as a chaplain in the liberation of Dachau. To see his name being honored there was personal for me.”
Goldman noted how the museum has changed since he last saw it 30 years ago. For Fritts, that change was very important. The old story, he said, was “Why did this happen?”
“The new museum makes the assumption it happened because of the hate. It dismisses any old legacy of ‘What did we do wrong?’” he said.
He noted that the persecution was based on ethnicity, not religion.
“We don’t think of it as an ethnicity. To think these people were persecuted whether they were religious Jews or not, I know that was part of it, but did not realize that was it.”
“Rabbi Paley held a little service after Yad Vashem. He said you cannot walk through something like this and be the same,” said Levy-Fritts.
Masada and the border
“Yad Vashem, one of the things that struck me, I kept thinking of the Syrian refugees,” Jeff Fritts said.
Part of the trip included the Golan Heights, territory that belonged to Syria before 1967. From those hills, amid the ruins of old Syrian bunkers, they were able to see a portion of the countryside, including a U.N. base.
It was familiar territory to their guide, who grew up in a town bordered by Lebanon on three sides.
“One of our guides shared his experiences as a young boy when he and his family had to hide for a month because of all the shelling that was taking place near their home, and how this has affected his life,” Lonna Rae Silverman said. “This made me realize how important it is for us to support Israel and ensure that others can live a life of peace and freedom.”
Liston said it was notable how, despite the danger, they thrived. But looking over the Syrian border was sobering, he said, thinking of how they were just 30 miles from Damascus as Aleppo was falling to the Syrian regime.
Masada was more uplifting.
“Being on top of Masada and the story of fierce Hebrew revolutionaries who put up a last stand and kept the great Roman army at bay, that was pretty cool,” Goldman said.
The travelers were especially impressed by the cisterns. And it was a special day for Tracye Kaplan, who took her Hebrew name in a ceremony at the synagogue there.
“I approached the rabbi about taking a Hebrew name,” she said. “We are an interfaith family, but I thought being in Israel, being on Masada with my family, moved me to want to be a little bit closer, so I chose a Hebrew name with my initials.
“I chose Tova Leah. One of the girls on the trip was Tova (Sibaja), and I love that name. Rabbi was kind enough to help me experience that. Then everybody shouted my name off the top of Masada, echoing.”

The impact

Each visitor offered a different set of reasons why they came away with a new understanding of Israel and its people.
Jeff Fritts talked about how the kibbutz movement was started with socialist ideals and driven by persecution more than faith. He said he also understands better how relevant the history of Israel is to current issues.
Levy-Fritts noted the way Israel adjusted from the kibbutz system when so many socialist-based economies of that era fell apart.
“You look how Israel took this idea and put people on the land, an organizing force, and then when it started to fail, looked to fix it, is amazing to me,” she said. “Look how many countries have failed. Israel doesn’t have just one way to work things out.”
Jim Liston spoke about the way the land’s geology, along the Syrian-African Rift, has been in conflict as much as the peoples. He also was struck by how Israeli soldiers are protecting their homeland, as opposed to how American ones often are sent to faraway lands.
Goldman was also struck by the youth of the soldiers, just a few years apart from his own children.
But he said his son and daughter also got to see how for Hanukkah in Jerusalem “on every corner there is a giant menorah, Jewish teens and people of all ages singing and dancing and celebrating Hanukkah with such joy.”
Goldman also noted that the growth of the nation has been so impressive.
“To drive through Tel Aviv and see every major technology company having a laboratory or mega facility,” he said. “One of our drivers made a joke that the national bird of Israel is the crane because the crane is everywhere.”
Kaplan also noted the changing nature of the country.
“I was surprised at how modern the city of Tel Aviv was. I didn’t have an image of what it would be, not the hustling, bustling city it is. The change of terrain is amazing. In parts green and lush, and then dry and arid. That contrast was remarkable.”
The Silvermans were taken aback by the fast pace of everything. Jerry Silverman said that one part of that hustle and bustle really stuck with him.
“I personally enjoyed seeing and being in the different marketplaces with their narrow passageways and small shops. You see pictures and even events like those in movies, but living it for real was quite an experience.”
For all the individual takes, it was agreed that the communal trip was a great choice.
“One of the wonderful things about going with members of our congregation, we’re going to keep our conversation going about it,” Levy-Fritts said.
Goldman advises that anybody going on a first trip to Israel go with a group.
“Sharing with the congregation, family, Federation, a Jewish organization, makes it more meaningful,” he said. “You need nine or 10 days to get a real feel for the place.
“You have to experience Israel with your feet, and we did,” Goldman said. “You walk everywhere and climb things. You walk in the midst of these cities and experience the culture.”
Temple Shalom will be featuring the reminisces and views of the tour group on Feb. 12 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Radnitz Social Hall. Breakfast will be included.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

India trip helps Schwartz become ‘global citizen’

India trip helps Schwartz become ‘global citizen’

Posted on 05 January 2017 by admin

Allyson Taylor Schwartz snapped this photo during lunch at the Ginger Restaurant in “Jew Town,” Cohchin.

Allyson Taylor Schwartz snapped this photo during lunch at the Ginger Restaurant in “Jew Town,” Cohchin.

Schwartz pauses for a picture in front of a window. Schwartz traveled to India in September with the JDC.

Schwartz pauses for a picture in front of a window. Schwartz traveled to India in September with the JDC.

 In Cochin, in front of Chinese fishing nets

In Cochin, in front of Chinese fishing nets

Group shot of participants with staff members from the JCC in Mumbai

Group shot of participants with staff members from the JCC in Mumbai

Weeklong JDC journey provides connection with subcontinent

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

Allyson Taylor Schwartz didn’t realize everything she would see when she traveled to India in September with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).
Schwartz expected to see a new country, travel and learn about Jewish life in India. But the Fort Worth resident, who recently moved to Texas from Los Angeles, was surprised how much she was able to learn in just a week.
“Sometimes on a short trip you can miss out and not learn some of the things you should,” she said. “But, the biggest takeaway for me was, we had several young adult members of the Jewish community in India traveling with us, and it allowed us to keep asking questions.
“It created a sense of belonging,” Schwartz added. “To be able to talk to someone and not feel like a tourist. You feel at home for a little bit and you really get to know the people.”
It helped Schwartz better understand life for Jews in India and gave her an expanded look at what it means to be a global citizen.
“They go through many of the same things,” she said. “Many of the same thoughts and worries, things that we have in common that you don’t even think about. I think it’s important that we understand that and it helps give you a better picture of the world we are in.”
Schwartz said India overall was a very interesting culture. The group toured museums, ate traditional Indian food, and watched a traditional martial arts demonstration that dated back to the Middle Ages during the weeklong trip.
“It was busy for sure; it’s one of those trips you wish could have been longer,” Schwartz said. “We saw a lot of things, and I think there was even more we could have seen if we didn’t have to take time to sleep.”
It was also a work trip for the group, but the JDC didn’t make it feel like work as Schwartz and the rest of the travelers helped make connections between Jews in two very different, but similar, countries.
“We talked a lot on the trip about why we were there,” Schwartz said. “What our goals were and how we were connecting with the people over there. We saw one of the oldest active synagogues, visited many from the community and exchanged thoughts and ideas. It really gave new perspective.”
It was an experience that has helped Schwartz’ transition to Texas. After living in California she relocated to Fort Worth last year, and has been working on getting involved with the Jewish community in the area.
“It’s been a soft landing (in Texas),” she said. “The people here are very friendly and the community is one that is very welcoming.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here