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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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Community stands together in solidarity with Pittsburgh

Community stands together in solidarity with Pittsburgh

Posted on 01 November 2018 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

The pain felt by the standing-room-only crowd in the Aaron Family Sanctuary was palpable Sunday evening at a community observance in the wake of the slaughter of 11 Jewish worshippers at the hands of an anti-Semitic gunman at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Saturday, Oct. 27.
On the bimah were Rabbi Elana Zelony of Congregation Beth Torah; Reverend Rachel Baughman, senior pastor of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church and vice chairman of Faith Forward; Rabbi David Stern of Temple Emanu-El; Bradley Laye, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; and Rabbi Ari Sunshine of Congregation Shearith Israel. They were joined by Cantors Vicky Glikin and Leslie Niren of Temple Emanu-El, Hazzan Itzhak Zhrebker of Shearith Israel and Cantor Devorah Avery and Cantor Emeritus Don Croll of Temple Shalom, who led the estimated 800 people in comforting and inspirational singing. Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall also addressed those gathered.
A number of themes resonated at Shearith Israel Sunday night. Among them were:
•Every life is precious
•Words matter
•Ending gun violence
•We are not powerless
•God will light the way
Every life is precious
As he opened the program, Laye emphasized the value that Jews choose life over all else. “Our values place human life above anything else,” said Laye, quoting Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson. “We are to live by Torah, not to die by Torah.”
Rabbi Stern spoke the names of each victim. He explained that human nature is to want to know the details and the specifics of the tragedy. He said it’s not as if our grief is calibrated based on the number of people who perished. “We want the facts and figures but the Talmud teaches us a different arithmetic. Every life is of infinite value, every single one,” Stern said.
In his remarks Sunshine said, “We can never stop speaking up and defending the innate and immeasurable worth of every human being regardless of their faith, skin color, gender or sexual preference.”
Words matter
Hateful speech may lead to hateful behavior and the Torah is filled with the idea that words matter. “We have forgotten what our tradition teaches about the power of speech. Forgotten that incendiary rhetoric by national leaders does catch fire. Forgotten our own history,” said Stern.
In her statement from Faith Forward Dallas, Reverend Baughman said, “We hold accountable leaders who use divide-and-conquer strategies and inflammatory rhetoric and then take credit for being supportive of grieving communities of those affected by those who follow by example.”
Laye charged the gathering to take the mantra when you see something, say something to the next level with regard to hate speech. “When you see a racist post on Facebook or Instagram or a tweet on Twitter, say something. When you see a child being indoctrinated with something as simple as an anti-Semitic joke, say something. If you experience a hateful person verbally accosting someone who is in the line at a grocery store or Starbucks, don’t stand by, stand up and say something.”
Rabbi Sunshine said it is each person’s responsibility to respond to hate.
“Whenever the forces of bigotry, hate and evil rise up against us, it is incumbent upon us to walk in God’s path as we respond. We use our voices to speak out against hateful and inflammatory rhetoric and violence perpetrated in its wake and we speak powerfully for the values of kindness, justice, compassion, inclusivity and love.”
Ending gun violence
“I know right now it seems impossible to believe that there will ever be an end to these acts of senseless violence. It’s more tragic each and every day,” said Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall. She expressed her frustration that there are too many vigils and that the police share the Jewish community’s pain. “We hurt and we are angry too … bothered that the level of protection we provide doesn’t seem to be enough.”
Hall pledged that the Dallas Police Department would try to keep the community safe at all costs. “We will continue to fight for the safety for this community and the country as a whole,” she said.
Stern said that the American Jewish community sadly joins too many others who have been in the same position.
“We know it’s happened in other places. To people of other backgrounds. In other houses of worship. In other circles of study and prayer. We know our dead join a list of those murdered in mass shootings, the list that is already far too long. We know that dear friends, leaders of other faith communities know this pain all too well and yet we take a moment to say that these were ours.”
Rev. Baughman’s comments lifted the crowd to their feet.
“We also believe that sensible gun policies should be in place that respect gun ownership but limit weapons of war being put in the hands of those who might turn them on us.”
We are not powerless
Exercise your right to vote. “We must lobby and vote on these issues like our lives depend on it,” said Laye to rousing applause.
“We cannot allow the acts of one person to destroy everyone’s freedom to feel safe and to worship in the house that they choose,” said Hall, encouraging the gathering to stay strong.
Stern prayed, “Thank you for this gathering and the strength it gives us and thank you, God, even for this pain. Never would we wish this upon ourselves or anyone else. But may this pain be our teacher. May it break our hearts open to awareness of the pain and fear our neighbors live with every day. May it awaken us to the preciousness of our own lives, the power of our own choices, help us to guard against forces of violence and hate whatever their source. Help us keep our families safe.”
God will light the way
How is one to recover from the pain of such unspeakable acts? Each of the clergy explained that allowing God to light the way is the answer.
Stern concluded his remarks with this prayer, “Help us, dear God, to lift our sights beyond the shadow of this day in solidarity, in compassion, with commitment and hope; may we keep showing up unafraid for each other, for the Torah we hold close, for the undying values for which we stand for our companions on the path to justice and peace. In these days of darkness, may the Holy One light our way.”
Rabbi Sunshine said many of the answers can be found in Psalm 27, which is recited daily in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah and through the end of Yom Kippur.
“We ask God to teach me your way. Adonai, guide me on the level path in order to confound all those who watch my every move and oppress me.”
He added, “We must also never lose our faith, our strength, our courage and our undying conviction that our world is a good and beautiful place.
“We must continue to shine our light and God’s light upon it to illumine even these darkest of times. Hope in Adonai, be strong, take courage and hope in Adonai.”
Zelony gave the benediction, Psalm 23. After each stanza, she shared her own interpretation.
“God led us to this sanctuary and in this moment we have everything we need.
“We rest and begin to recover our sense that ki tov, the world is still good.
“We are reminded of all the righteous action we can take. We are not powerless.
“When we heard the news shadows fell, but we knew we were not alone.
“With them you will guide us out of this terrible darkness.
“Your children Israel do not hide, we gather tonight with courage.
“Our hearts fill with gratitude for every one of our brothers and sisters not of the Jewish faith who answered our call, who came here tonight, and there are so many of you.
“Goodness and love will catch up with us and restore our sense of security and peace.
“For God, you are Ain Od; there is nothing else but you, eternal in time and space.”
As it began, with song, the service concluded with the cantors leading the gathering in the “Mishaberah” arrangement by Debbie Friedman and “Oseh Shalom.”
“May the one who blessed us with peace also bless us in this time of hurt, in this time of pain; bless those of us who are present, bless those of us who are beyond these walls.
“There is hope for all of us,” concluded Cantor Glikin.
Additional services were held throughout North Texas throughout the week. On Monday, there was a service in Dallas at Ohr Hatorah and at Beth Israel Colleyville. At press time, a Jewish Communal and City-Wide Night of Prayer, Remembrance and Unity was scheduled for Thursday evening at Fort Worth Congregation Ahavath Sholom. Many congregations will be participating in a Solidarity Shabbat Nov. 2-3. For more information, check with your synagogue.

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Sessions, Allred spar at Temple Shalom debate

Sessions, Allred spar at Temple Shalom debate

Posted on 24 October 2018 by admin

Photos: Lisa Rothberg
Temple Shalom Rabbi Andrew Paley and Colin Allred, Democratic challenger for the District 32 seat

By Dave Sorter

About the only things that U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Colin Allred, his Democratic challenger for the District 32 seat in the Nov. 6 election, agreed on during Sunday’s debate at Temple Shalom was that this year’s midterms are about more than Republicans and Democrats, and that the U.S. embassy in Israel should be in Jerusalem.
But even on that issue, they disagreed on the process by which it got there.
The candidates discussed numerous topics in their last face-to-face encounter before early voting started Monday. The debate was organized by Temple Shalom, AJC Dallas and the Jewish-Latino Alliance, with Sam Baker, host of KERA radio’s “Morning Edition,” serving as moderator.
About this year’s move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Sessions voiced his full support. “It was a very bold move by the president (Donald Trump), by the (then-) secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and by (United Nations Ambassador) Nikki Haley,” the 11-term incumbent said. “I have been supportive of this for years.”
While Allred agreed that “we all recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he believes the embassy move “should have been done as part of a comprehensive two-state solution that moves us closer to peace,” he said. “When you do something unilaterally in a way that can be provocative, you can see the kind of reaction it can cause.”
Both candidates also expressed opposition to the BDS movement that has spread worldwide, with Allred, a Dallas lawyer and former Baylor and NFL football player who worked in the Obama administration, also using this point to advocate for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“I oppose efforts to boycott, divest and sanction,” he said. “Israel is the only nation in the region that shares our commitment to human rights. We must continue to provide aid for Israel to defend itself.”

District 32 incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, Republican, his wife Karen Sessions and Temple Shalom Rabbi Andrew Paley

Said Sessions: “BDS is a realization that there are those who oppose Israel. Nikki Haley has spoken very clearly about this. I have worked repeatedly with the Jewish community, with young people, with the State of Israel and the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The distance between Collin County and where we are here (North Dallas) is the distance between Israel and its enemies to the north, to the east and to the south. This is why Republicans have funded the Iron Dome.”
Sessions, in his opening statement, criticized Allred for opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.
“My opponent, in the Dallas Morning News, unequivocally opposed any effort against the Iranian nuclear deal because he felt it could unravel our agreement with North Korea,” he said. “He’s for giving billions of dollars’ worth of cash for them to do with as they would choose. He’s for the Iranians, the people who shout, ‘Death to America, Death to Israel.’ I’m for America, the Americans and for our ally, Israel.”
Allred conceded that “the Iran deal is not perfect. What it was, was a diplomatic solution to an extremely difficult problem. We had two choices: We could go down the road to diplomacy…trust, but verify…like President Trump is doing with North Korea. Now, we have given Iran the ability to pursue nuclear weapons, which would increase the threat to Israel.”
The candidates also had many differences on topics not related to Israel.
On health care, Sessions touted his health-insurance proposal, which would allow people to keep insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), or choose another avenue “that moves someone up. The kind of insurance someone at AT&T, or Mary Kay, or Southwest Airlines has” and would cover pre-existing conditions. There would be no mandate.
Allred said “it’s times like these I’m thankful for Google” because he learned that Sessions voted more than 50 times to repeal the ACA, including eliminating requirements for covering pre-existing conditions. He supports a single-payer system and accused Sessions of playing “cynical politics” for advocating a plan “that has never gotten a vote.”
The two also disagreed on the need for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Sessions said that “people who live on the border have unanimously asked for protection. We need to have operational control of our border.”
Allred responded, “That is the wrong solution, a waste of money, ineffective and a sign and a signal that will hurt our international standing. We do need to secure our border, through a bipartisan solution that would provide a high-tech means for security, and open a pathway to citizenship for those who are here. There are too many hardliners in Congress unwilling to work with those in their own party.”
Sessions, in response, said for the first of many times in the debate that Allred was “trying to have it both ways. He’s ignoring the men and women on the front lines begging for us to secure the border. Sixty days ago, we had two bills…both had pathways to citizenship, and not a single Democrat voted for either of them.”
The candidates also had their differences on:
• Sexual assault and the #MeToo movement in the wake of the hearings concerning Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Allred said Congress needs to take action to clean up its own house. Sessions, without mentioning the names of Kavanaugh or his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, decried the process that took place and Sen. Dianne Feinstein for keeping the accusation to herself.
• Social Security: Allred criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for intimating that the budget deficit was caused by the Trump tax cuts and would be made up for by tapping into Social Security and Medicare reserves. Sessions said his opponent was wrong, that McConnell said ways must be found to secure Social Security and Medicare, and that the tax cuts added 4 million jobs that are enriching the Social Security trust fund.
• Gun violence: Sessions said programs that address mental health and opioid abuse are the answer, while Allred said the answer is universal background checks and closing loopholes that allow people who, for example, are on the terror watch list to buy guns.
The debate was co-chaired by Adam Lampert for AJC, Edward Retta for JLA and Mike Hirsh and Larry Schoenbrun representing Temple Shalom. The co-sponsors were joined by a broad range of community partners that helped promote the debate, mostly from the Jewish and Latino communities, in addition to a number of non-Jewish houses of worship.
Early voting continues through Friday, Nov. 2, with most locations open this Saturday and Sunday. Election Day polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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2018-2019 JCC BookFest; A Real Page Turner

2018-2019 JCC BookFest; A Real Page Turner

Posted on 26 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Deb Silverthorn
The 2018/2019 Aaron Family JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest are “Twenty-Six Seconds” (10/9), “The Fox Hunt” (10/17), “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” (10/18), “Stakes is High” (11/1), “Irving Berlin – The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing” (11/4), “Husbands and Other Sharp Objects” (11/28), “Promised Land” (12/6), “God is in the Crowd (12/10), “In Broad Daylight” (2/6), “The Lost Family” and “The Lost Girls of Paris” (2/12), “Unconditional Love – A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today” (3/6), and “Memento Park” (4/3).

By Deb Silverthorn

The next chapter of the Aaron Family JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest opens Oct. 9 with events featuring some of 2018’s best new releases and their authors. Unless otherwise noted, all events begin at 7 p.m. and are hosted at the Aaron Family JCC.
“Our visiting authors will educate and entertain audiences with events you won’t find anywhere else,” said BookFest chairperson Liz Liener, in her sixth year as lay leader. “We’re blessed to provide these programs and are honored to once again think of Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer, of blessed memory, to whom BookFest is dedicated, as we devote our efforts.”
This year’s BookFest, which opened on July 23 to a sold-out audience for “The Other Woman” author Daniel Silva, interviewed by Michael Granberry, is partnered by the JCC with the AJC Dallas, Dallas Jewish Historical Society, Congregation Anshai Torah, Shearith Israel, Congregation Shearith Israel’s SISterhood, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, Israel Bonds, JCC Dallas’ Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education, Jewish Community Relations Council and Tycher Library, and the Jewish Book Council.
Leiner; Rachelle Weiss Crane, the JCC’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish living; and a team of volunteers read many titles and participate in a week of introductions to more than 250 authors presenting their books through the Jewish Book Council in New York.
“In addition to our venturing out, Dallas has earned a reputation as a strong festival with great crowds and we now have authors asking to come to us and we are thrilled. Mitch Albom, Nancy Churnin, Martin Fletcher, and Daniel Silva are all returning and we’re happy to welcome them ‘home,’” said Weiss Crane.
Alexandra Zapruder visits Oct. 9 with her “Twenty-Six Seconds.” Fifty-six years after her grandfather Abraham Zapruder captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – on what he thought would be a home movie — the author tells the story of the film and its journey, demonstrating how one man’s unwitting moment in the spotlight shifted the way politics, culture, and media intersect, bringing about the larger social questions that define our age.
On Oct. 17, Mohammed Al Samawi brings “The Fox Hunt” to Congregation Anshai Torah, describing his escape from Yemen’s brutal civil war with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media. To protect himself and his family from death threats, Al Samawi fled to what became the heart of a civil war, his online contacts responding to his appeal, working across technology platforms and time zones, to save him from deadly forces.
Mitch Albom and “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” arrive on Oct. 18. Of this sequel to “Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Albom says it is the “natural story about Eddie going from meeting five people to being one of five for somebody else.” Albom explores the accident that took Eddie’s life, what Annie lost, and how, in the wake of her trauma, she has no memory of the accident.
Pastor, activist, and community leader Rev. Michael Waters, with Congregation Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Adam Roffman, comes to BookFest on Nov. 1 bringing his “Stakes is High,” blending his hip-hop lyricism and social justice leadership. Weaving stories from centuries of persecution against the backdrop of today’s urban prophets on the radio and in the streets, Waters speaks on behalf of an awakened generation raging against racism and fueled by the promise of a just future.
At 2 p.m. Nov. 4, Dallas Morning News writer Nancy Churnin visits with Mark Kreditor to discuss her book, “Irving Berlin – The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing.” The two will provide visual images and live music of the musician, a refugee from Russia forever remembered as the master behind 1200-plus songs including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “A Pretty Girl is Like A Melody,” “God Bless America,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz” and “White Christmas.”
On Nov. 28, at Shearith Israel, Marilyn Rothstein talks about her “Husbands and Other Sharp Objects,” the story of Marcy Hammer readying to get herself unhitched – while everyone else is looking for a commitment. Her boyfriend wants to get serious and her soon-to-be ex-husband wants to reunite. When her daughter announces her engagement, Marcy finds planning the wedding while seeing her divorce through a trial – and trying to make everyone happy, proving seemingly impossible.
The Tycher Library Community Read, Martin Fletcher’s “Promised Land,” presents Dec. 6. The story is the saga of two brothers and the woman they love, a triangle set against the tumultuous founding of Israel.
Tal Keinan and “God is in the Crowd” come to BookFest on Dec. 10. Keinan’s book analyzes the threat to Jewish continuity. He writes of the Jewish people concentrated in America and Israel, having lost the subtle code of governance that endowed Judaism with dynamism and relevance in the age of Diaspora.
On Feb. 6, Father Patrick Desbois introduces “In Broad Daylight – The Untold Story of How the Murder of More Than Two Million Jews Was Carried Out.” Debois’s book documents the murder of 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine during World War II and how nearly a decade of his team’s efforts, drawing on interviews of 5,700 neighbors to the murdered Jews, and visits to more than 2,700 extermination sites, wartime records and the application of modern forensic practices to long-hidden grave sites.
On Feb. 12, Dallas’ Andrea Peskind Katz, of the Great Thoughts Great Readers website, will interview both Jenna Blum about “The Lost Family” and Pam Jenoff about “The Lost Girls of Paris.” Blum’s novel creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family and the haunting grief of World War II. Jenoff’s book shines the light on the heroics of the brave women of the war and their courage, sisterhood and the strength in surviving its hardest circumstances.
On March 6, Jane Isay brings “Unconditional Love – A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today.” Drawing on personal experience, dozens of interviews and the latest findings in psychology, Isay shows how grandparents can use perspective and experience to create lasting bonds that echo throughout a grandchild’s life.
The Tycher Library Spring Read closes out April 3 with Mark Sarvas and his “Memento Park,” a book of family and identity, art and history, and the unanswerable question of ‘how to move forward when the past looms?’ Sarvas’ Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting he believes was stolen from his family in Hungary, during WWII. To recover it he must repair his strained relationship with his father, uncover family history, and restore his own connection to Judaism with a narrative as much about family history and father-son dynamics as about the nature of the art.
Liener, who has loved to read since childhood, says chairing the BookFest is a gift to her – the chance to read books and meet authors she might not otherwise as well as giving her the the opportunity to bring them to the Dallas audience.
“BookFest introduces the best of the best to our community and introduces attendees to a diverse group of authors and styles,” she said. “We remain the only festival in the area focusing on Jewish authors and books with Jewish content, and every year our schedule is filled with especially wonderful events – this year, we raise the bar again.”
Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door except for the Dec. 6 “Promised Land,” Feb. 6 “In Broad Daylight,” March 6 “Unconditional Love” and April 3 “Memento Park,” which are free; and the Oct. 18 “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven,” which is $30 in advance and $40 at the door, including a signed copy of the book. For more details or to order tickets, call 214-739-2737 or visit jccdallas.org/special-events/bookfest/.

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Crafting Sukkot memories – literally

Crafting Sukkot memories – literally

Posted on 20 September 2018 by admin

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

By Deb Silverthorn

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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Some special gifts for your Rosh Hashanah hosts

Some special gifts for your Rosh Hashanah hosts

Posted on 07 September 2018 by admin

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

By MJL Staff

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

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