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New play pays tribute to DHM co-founder

New play pays tribute to DHM co-founder

Posted on 27 July 2017 by admin

By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP

While growing up, lawyer-turned-playwright-turned-journalist-turned-college-instructor Mark Donald learned bits and pieces about his father’s early life. Donald knew that his dad, Martin Donald, was a Holocaust survivor who also spent time in Canada and Britain during World War II. Donald also knew his father had spent time with British Intelligence, and was in France within days of D-Day, June 6, 1944. And, of course, Mark Donald knew that Martin Donald, who died in 2007, was an important part of the Dallas Jewish community and one of the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s founders.

Mark Donald

Mark Donald

But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the son acquired the complete story about his father. Donald eventually consolidated his father’s notes and wrote a fictional play that is very loosely based on and inspired by Martin Donald’s life. That play, Magnum’s Opus, will premiere as a staged reading on Aug. 7-8 at the Dallas Holocaust Museum.
In the play, main character Magnum Guttmann reaches out to his estranged family by revealing complete details of his early life, which includes coming of age in Adolf Hitler’s Berlin, then ending up as a British soldier and Nazi hunter.
Though Guttmann and Martin Donald are not the same person, there are similarities. Both came of age in Hitler’s Berlin. Both were members of the British forces. Both lost family in the concentration camps. And, both rounded up Nazis after the end of World War II. Martin Donald, in fact, was part of the British military group that arrested German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1945.
But the comparisons end there. Martin Donald ultimately gave up his career in the military, came to Dallas, and raised a family with his wife Ann, also a Holocaust survivor. Magnum Guttmann remains a Nazi hunter for much of his life, pushing away his family in the process. As such, “I used my father’s story as inspiration for the play,” Donald explained. “But, the play is highly fictionalized.”

Martin Donald

Martin Donald

Interestingly enough, Donald himself is no slouch in the “colorful story” department. Raised in Dallas with sister Florence (former Texas Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano who is the current Dallas Holocaust Museum board chair), Donald received his law degree from Southern Methodist University. While working as a criminal defense attorney, Donald took acting lessons at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC). “Even though I was with a small firm, with a lot of work, the most I could get was four or five trials a year,” he said. “It took a while to feel comfortable in the courtroom, so I thought I’d take acting classes to help with presentation.”

Linda Leonard

Linda Leonard

In addition to acting classes, the DTC offered playwriting classes with a couple of professors from Trinity University. “I liked them, I loved the place, and before I knew it, I was halfway to a degree,” Donald said. He ended up with a master’s degree in fine arts at the DTC through Trinity University, during which time he wrote several plays. Donald eventually moved from law to freelance journalism, winding up as editor-in-chief with the Dallas Observer, until 2011. These days, Donald teaches mass communications, law and ethics, news reporting and feature writing at the University of North Texas.
Even as Donald obtained another college degree, changed careers and raised his own family with his wife Esther, father Martin remained mostly silent about his own past. “There are two kinds of Holocaust survivors,” Donald explained. “There are those who tell their children all about their Holocaust stories. Then there are those who are more reserved.”
Donald’s father would tell him intriguing bits and pieces about his background. Finally, Donald decided he wanted to expand on those bits and pieces, “because I wanted his grandchildren to know the story.” To that end, Donald used family summers spent in Sarasota, Florida to delve into his father’s background, and to tape-record it. “Five or six years before he died, I interviewed him, as a journalist would,” Donald said. “I didn’t want the surface answers. We went deep.” After three summers of intense interviews, Donald had his father’s entire story.
When Martin Donald died in 2007 at age 86, Donald reviewed the tapes, typed them up, and gave the written transcriptions to Martin’s grandchildren. That was the end of it. Or, so Donald thought. “The story still haunted me,” he said. “It wouldn’t let go.”
Busy with his stints at the Observer, then as a UNT professor, Donald had to put his father’s story aside for a time. Then, over a three-year period, he crafted the play. Donald said he chose to fictionalize the story on a historical framework, rather than focusing on blow-by-blow historical facts. “Fiction enables you to explore various types of issues with a lot of depth and emotion,” he explained. “It explores what it’s like growing up as a Jewish boy in Nazi Berlin, what it’s like to go from refugee, to vanquished, to victor.”
Donald hosted an initial reading of the play in January 2017, then moved on to the idea of a staged reading. He thought that, because Martin was one of the founders of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, “If I was going to have a staged reading, that would be the best place to have it,” he said.
Donald, who remains plugged into the Dallas theater community, asked veteran Dallas actor/director Linda Leonard to direct Magnum’s Opus. A casting call took place over Memorial Day weekend, and rehearsals are now underway. “The work is in the pioneering stages, and it’s exciting to see it come to life,” Donald said, adding that he’s grateful to the Holocaust Museum for hosting the event. “I’m humbled that Linda is directing it, that the actors in it are taking the time to work with it,” he continued.
Donald, veteran journalist, playwright and writer, acknowledged that Magnum’s Opus is as close to basing a fictional piece on real-life events as anything else he’s created. “Magnum has been fighting the good fight; it was his way of righting the wrongs inflicted on his parents,” he said. “My father had the same attitude.” So, while Magnum’s Opus isn’t Martin Donald’s exact story, “his spirit is strong within the play,” his son said.
Magnum’s Opus takes place Monday-Tuesday, Aug. 7-8 at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 N. Record St., Dallas. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede each night’s reading, with a question-and-answer session following the event. The reading is free, but reservations are required. For more information, contact 214-402-6518 or search Magnum’s Opus Staged Reading on Facebook.

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Rabbis with Texas ties on ‘blacklist’

Rabbis with Texas ties on ‘blacklist’

Posted on 17 July 2017 by admin

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate doesn’t trust list to vouch for engaged couples’ Jewishness

By Rick Press
Special to TJP

In 2017, the notion of a “blacklist” — particularly one involving rabbis — seems almost unthinkable.
And that may explain the howls of complaint surrounding last week’s revelation that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate had compiled a list of 160 rabbis — 66 from the United States and at least one from Texas — who, essentially, would not be trusted to vouch for the Jewishness of immigrants wishing to get married in Israel.

Ken Roseman

Ken Roseman

Itim, the immigrant advocacy group that filed a freedom of information request to acquire the names, dubbed it a “blacklist,” and the group’s leader, Rabbi Seth Farber, said it reflects the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate’s distrust of Jewish communities beyond Israel’s borders.
“It’s telling 160 Jewish communities around the world ….your rabbi is not a rabbi,” Farber told the Associated Press. “The baseline assumption is that no one can be trusted.”
Kobi Alter, a spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate, was in full damage-control mode Wednesday, insisting that the list was not an attempt to delegitimize the rabbis but rather was a reflection of requests that were rejected in 2016 because of  missing documents or technicalities.
“Every case has a different explanation,” he told NPR.
Reactions from rabbis who made the list were mixed: some were perplexed, some defiant, others outraged.
Rabbi Kenneth D. Roseman, rabbi emeritus at Beth Israel Congregation in Corpus Christi, said he was unsure why he made the list but he viewed his inclusion with “a wry smile” and “contempt for the corruption in the Haredi,” the ultra-Orthodox sector of Israeli society that controls the rabbinate.
“The publication of this list will only alienate even more diaspora Jews who want to support Israel,” said Roseman, who served as senior rabbi at Temple Shalom in Dallas for 17 years before moving to Corpus Christi. “Too often, they go through traditional motions, but ignore the essential ethical values of Judaism.”
Roseman was in prominent company. Rabbi Adam Scheier of Montreal, who is close with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was on the list. So was Daniel Krauss of Kehilath Yeshurun Synagogue in New York, where U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, were congregants. (Another former Texas rabbi, Alberto Zeilicovich, was also on the list. The Argentine-born leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, was formerly rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth.) Also, on the list was Houston’s beloved Rabbi Joseph Radinsky of United Orthodox Synagogue.
“I have received a number of congratulatory letters from colleagues, many asking how they could have the ‘honor’ of being on the list,” said Roseman in an email. “When I announced my listing to the congregation (Friday) night, there was applause and approbation.”
A group of 13 California rabbis even sent a letter to the Rabbinate asking that their names be added to the list, as a show of solidarity.

Rabbi Alberto Zeilicovich of Congregation Ahavath Shalom in Fort Worth photographed July 1, 2008. (Photo/ Richard W. Rodriguez)

Rabbi Alberto Zeilicovich of Congregation Ahavath Shalom in Fort Worth photographed July 1, 2008. (Photo/ Richard W. Rodriguez)

Rabbi Brian Zimmerman of Beth El Congregation in Fort Worth was not on the “blacklist,” but he believes the fallout surrounding it should be a cautionary tale.
“We’ve always known that our decisions would be challenged by a very small group in Israel. But ultimately this is about power. It’s not about religion,” said Zimmerman. “This is why you should separate synagogue and state.”
The Chief Rabbinate has sole jurisdiction over many aspects of Jewish life in Israel, including marriage, divorce and burials. And the ultra-Orthodox group has rejected thousands of requests from international rabbis in recent years.
Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said in a letter of apology that “the list’s intention was not to invalidate rabbis, God forbid, but rather to invalidate letters that raised doubts and questions.”
But Roseman and many others weren’t buying that explanation.
He said, if asked, he wouldn’t hesitate to write another letter on behalf of a congregant.
“I’ll tell the truth,” he said, “and if some Haredi in Israel doesn’t like the way I dot my “I” or cross my “t,” that’s too bad.
“The Chief Rabbinate may want to hold the line in opposition to the modern world,” he added, “but that strikes me as effective as if a peewee football team were to play the Dallas Cowboys. They will eventually disappear from power; their days are numbered. as they should be.”

Zeilicovich had an opinion on the matter as well.
“It’s clearly a dividing policy, and it’s very, very sad that the State of Israel is telling a huge part of the Jewish people you are not recognized here,” said Zeilicovich. “I have more religious rights in a non-Jewish country, like the United States, than in my own Jewish country.”
Zeilicovich returned from Israel on Monday and he said tensions were running high iafter the blacklist was released. Conservative and Reform Jews were making their voices heard.
“There was a huge outrage. The fact that rabbis are being discriminated against by the Rabbinate, it is very concerning. And it’s not just the rabbis it’s the Conservative movement. They disenfranchise Jews,” he said. “And who are they, who gave them the power to do that? They’ve got political power. This is a political problem, not a religious problem.”

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Va. mayor to talk career, Congressional shooting

Va. mayor to talk career, Congressional shooting

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

Allison Silberberg and her parents Barbara and Al, at the future mayor of Alexandria, Virgina’s graduation from American University. “I absolutely hear my parents belief in me,” said Mayor Silberberg. “They set the example for a life of doing good.”

Allison Silberberg and her parents Barbara and Al, at the future mayor of Alexandria, Virgina’s graduation from American University. “I absolutely hear my parents belief in me,” said Mayor Silberberg. “They set the example for a life of doing good.”

Dallas native Silberberg guiding DC-suburb Alexandria

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

Dallas native Allison Silberberg, the mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, recently made a comment that defines the translation of l’dor v’dor — from generation to generation.
“Only together can we preserve what our ancestors left to us,” she said. “We are all the temporary stewards of this national treasure called Alexandria.”
Silberberg will share her story at 3 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at The Legacy at Willow Bend.

“Life is all a mitzvah project, a chance to live the tenet of tikun olam, repairing the world,” said Dallas native Allison Silberberg, the mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, who will speak at The Legacy at Willow Bend July 20.

“Life is all a mitzvah project, a chance to live the tenet of tikun olam, repairing the world,” said Dallas native Allison Silberberg, the mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, who will speak at The Legacy at Willow Bend July 20.

Silberberg’s city quickly gained the national spotlight after June 14, when a gunman shot Republican lawmakers at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park. Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, Congressional Aide Zachary Barth, Capitol Police Special Crystal Griner, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika and Representative Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, all were injured during the attack. The gunman, James Hodgkinson, died in a shootout with police.
“This has been a shocking time but Alexandria responded with action,” Silberberg said. “We continue to pray for the wounded. To our first responders, who saved the lives of many, there aren’t enough thanks, and to our strong residents, who came out for days offering cool drinks, baked goods and their hearts. You can’t manufacture ‘community,’ and Alexandria has it overflowing.”
Silberberg, a Hillcrest High School graduate with a B.A. from American University and a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of California, Los Angeles, is the daughter of the late Al and Barbara and sister of Dana and Susan. She grew up at Temple Emanu-El and was a second-generation member of BBYO’s Jennie Zesmer chapter.

(left to right) Dana, Susan, and Allison Silberbergs’ futures were in bloom long before their futures were known. Today, Allison is the mayor of Alexandria, Virginia.

(left to right) Dana, Susan, and Allison Silberbergs’ futures were in bloom long before their futures were known. Today, Allison is the mayor of Alexandria, Virginia.

Silberberg says her love for service was taught by her parents, rabbis and a caring community that she calls very special and it’s her parents’ encouraging voices that she feels in her heart. Her mother’s volunteering at her schools, working on political campaigns, including those of Adlene Harrison and Ann Richards, and her appointment to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission set the bar. Barbara Silberberg also shared her example through active membership in both National Council of Jewish Women and the family’s synagogue. Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Kimberly Herzog Cohen says Silberberg lives the heart of her heritage.
“Mayor Silberberg exemplifies that value of service we seek to cultivate as Jews, here at Temple and beyond,” said Rabbi Herzog Cohen. “We’re inspired by and grateful for the ways she pursues tzedakah, charity that helps those in need, and tzedek, justice, at the heart of systemic change.”
Silberberg’s career began as a writer and photographer — which could easily be the focus of a chapter in her book, Visionaries in Our Midst: Ordinary People Who Are Changing Our World. The Society for Women’s Health Research commissioned Silberberg to co-author a book and she created a bound legacy in her commissioned memoir And Life Will Be a Beautiful Dream: A Book about Peggy and Alvin Brown. Her writing appeared on PBS.org in conjunction with Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s The War and David Grubin’s The Jewish Americans. Her talents broad, she’s written for politicians and an episode of Mama’s Family.
Silberberg’s career includes an internship with Senator Edward Kennedy; her role as chief editor and chief research assistant for Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen; being the founding leader of Lights, Camera, Action! — a nonprofit to mentor youth as well as grant making to nonprofits; serving on the World Bank’s community outreach grants committee; and serving on the City of Alexandria’s Economic Opportunities Commission, also as its chair.
While leading a monthly community service group called the Film Biz Happy Hour, which she founded to make contacts, have fun and make a difference all at once, more than $50,000 was raised for nonprofits. When she asked to run for office, it was an idea whose time had come. After being Alexandria’s vice-mayor, she was elected to lead Nov. 3, 2015. This April, she was a panelist at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, regarding vacant and abandoned properties and issues of aging.
“It’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting work done, and it’s the work that matters,” said Silberberg. “It’s an honor to see what’s possible, and to be a part of making the possible happen.”
For Bob Weinfeld, who has interviewed more than 50 guests at The Legacy, hosting Silberberg is an honor.
“It’s absolutely a genuine honor to interview Madame Mayor,” said Weinfeld, who will spend the day of Silberberg’s visit celebrating his 91st birthday. “She’s lived a fascinating life and it seems to be more so every day. Our community should be, and we are, so proud of her.”
Weinfeld’s daughter Brenda Bliss, one of many hometown friends with whom she’s close, echoes her father’s esteem of Silberberg.
“Allison is loyal, honest, objective and a good listener. She’s open to ideas while strong in her convictions and committed to the causes that matter to her,” said Bliss, whose friendship with Silberberg spans teenage tennis court matches and BBYO experiences, as well as the years they both attended graduate school in Southern California.

(left to right) Sally Waxler Oscherwitz, Caryn Statman Kboudi and Allison Silberberg, now Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, when the threesome were BBYO best friends.

(left to right) Sally Waxler Oscherwitz, Caryn Statman Kboudi and Allison Silberberg, now Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, when the threesome were BBYO best friends.

“Allison has been interested in politics for as long as I’ve known her and she is successful because she wants to fix things and make them better. She’s always wanted to problem solve,” said Bliss. “She’s always been a great friend and I’m so proud of all that she has accomplished.”
For Silberberg, what she’s accomplished, and what she continues to pursue, all of which her friends, family and supporters are proud of, is giving her heart, talent, expertise and dedication each day, serving in a life that she says “is all a mitzvah project, a chance to live the tenet of tikun olam, repairing the world.”
For more information about the July 20 program at The Legacy at Willow Bend, or to RSVP, email robert.weinfeld@tx.rr.com.

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Weinsteins’ business in perennial bloom

Weinsteins’ business in perennial bloom

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

Petals & Stems celebrates 45 years of flower service

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

For Dotty and Lew Weinstein — and their son Brad — their business has smelled sweeter with every prepared bouquet during the past 45 years.
“The business of Petals & Stems is about special moments — we’ve been a part of thousands of memories. What an incredible business this is,” said Lew, the Weinstein patriarch who opened the doors to Petals & Stems in June 1972.

Submitted photo (From left) Lew, Dotty, and Brad Weinstein have a blooming business in Petals & Stems florist, celebrating 45 years this summer. For most of those years, the family has run their business from the same Montfort Drive storefront.

Submitted photo
(From left) Lew, Dotty, and Brad Weinstein have a blooming business in Petals & Stems florist, celebrating 45 years this summer. For most of those years, the family has run their business from the same Montfort Drive storefront.

With a strong business sense and experience, but a business partner who wilted and left him sole owner, a budding legacy was created.
Always in the same Montfort Drive shopping center, resettling a few doors away at one point, Petals & Stems has a history, and client list, that is lasting. They’ve delivered customer service and stunning floral artistry for generations of families — from baby celebrations to bar mitzvahs and boutonnieres, from weddings to funeral arrangements. Each customer, each posy: precious.
“On countless occasions Petals & Stems made my tables look and smell so beautiful,” said Carol Gene Cohen, whose family has been listed in the Weinsteins’ Rolodex for years. “They did the flowers for four bar mitzvahs, two weddings and more celebrations and dinners. Every arrangement has been stunning.”
Dotty and Lew are the parents of Brad (spouse Keri), Jeff (Ava), and Lori (Grant), and grandparents of Ansley, Ari, Brice, Gabe and Jill. The family’s best vacations, to Colorado, Lake Tahoe, and this year to San Francisco, are for tables of 13.
In 1997, Brad joined his parents, and for the last two decades the generations have worked hand in hand. With more than 20 employees, and a business that continues to blossom, Lew takes care of the bills, receivables, and payroll while Brad handles the day-to-day operations.
“I grew up riding with deliveries, never thinking the store would be my future, but I’ve loved working with my parents. They’re great people, great business owners, and great examples of working hard and providing exceptional care to their customers,” said Brad, noting the family business also included his grandfather Arthur, who was an important part of the team for many years. “Believe me, your florist knows everything — and we love being there for our clients’ every-things.”
When the store opened, the Weinsteins couldn’t get flowers from Europe; now, many are in the store 36 hours after they’ve been cut. From Israel, one of the top 10 floral exporters, the Weinsteins order the popular Gerbera Daisy.
Petals & Stems has weathered grocers, 800 numbers and the internet — all offering flower sales — finding new clientele by providing an online catalogue and partnering with the Teleflora network. Their Rolodex has morphed into email contacts, sharing specials and contests — during this anniversary month they gave away 45 bouquets.
“Service and family always come first,” said Dotty, a former teacher, recalling her children would be in the truck while the couple would clean up after celebrations. “Lew gave birth to the store and has devoted so much to the service part of the business. Local Jewish caterers took us under their wings and wanted to give him the business.”
The Weinsteins’ professional design team has decorated Metroplex homes, hotels and headquarters. During a 1995 Jewish Federation trip to Israel, with 400 Dallasites, Lew and Dotty couldn’t get over how many people recounted the occasions that Petals & Stems had serviced.
Keeping calendars for their clients, reminding them of birthdays and anniversaries, is a touch to success. Carol Gene Cohen made notes of calls she’s received before she had a chance to order. Brad says clients take care of them as well, with cookies and other treats showing up for the floral team on Valentine’s Day and other occasions. Dotty recalls many husbands who’ve called with “thanks for keeping me out of trouble,” also remembering Southwest Airlines bringing lunch to the store. “Imagine the customer buying us lunch,” she said.
Wanting to give back to the ever-grateful community, for almost 15 years the Weinsteins have donated 10 percent of $30 minimum sales, for deliveries, phone orders, simchas, and arrangements picked up at the shop to synagogues purchasers designate. They also hold floral decorating contests with prizes donated to charities chosen by winners.
“Brad keeps bringing new inspiration, vitality and spark to the business,” said Lew, proud that some in the next generation are stepping in to help out too. “He’s tripled our business and, like all of our kids, made us proud. To know that Petals & Stems is where it is, because our family has worked together, is very special to us.”
Never losing the personal Weinstein touch, either Brad or Lew, or both, are always at the store, located at 13319 Montfort Drive. To place an order, call 972-233-9037 or visit petalsandstems.com.

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Helping people find healthy harmony

Helping people find healthy harmony

Posted on 06 July 2017 by admin

Suzy Harmon has written Hungry for Health, Starved for Time, providing the busy person’s guide to harmonious health. Photo: Deb Silverthorn

Suzy Harmon has written Hungry for Health, Starved for Time, providing the busy person’s guide to harmonious health.
Photo: Deb Silverthorn

Harmon’s book provides clarity for ‘whys’ of health

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

Dallas resident Suzy Harmon is taking a big bite out of life — a healthy bite — combining her talents and expertise as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and author of Hungry for Health, Starved for Time, with advice on how to live a harmonious life.
“I want to know the ‘whys’ of my clients: why do they want to lose weight, why do they want to be healthy, and why do they want to live,” said Harmon, a New York native who made Dallas home in 1996. A former accountant who traded in financial spreadsheets for cookie sheets with healthy treats, she is now making a healthy lifestyle one to enjoy.
“People want to be healthy. They just think it’s much more difficult, expensive, or time-consuming than it really is.”
The wife of Andy and mother of Bradley, Zach and Lindsay, Harmon spent more than two decades as a CPA. Looking back, she notes that she and those around her were more worried about their financial health than their personal health. When her father passed away in 2008, she gained weight, couldn’t sleep, had hair and skin issues and needed medicine to focus and sleep. An online search brought her to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and, with a “click,” she signed on for a class and up for a life change. That move would enhance her world, that of those around her and for many she’d never met.
Harmon decided to make a difference — believing the dream of a career involving health, nutrition, and overall wellness was within her grasp. Becoming a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Harmon created a curriculum that provides her clients guidance in the areas of positive nutrition, lifestyle, relationships, career goals, financial concern and reaching their fullest potential.
Believing and living the mantra “your greatest wealth is your health,” Harmonious Health support comes through in her book, blog, recipes, classes, grocery store tours, lunch and learn events, food demonstrations, and corporate training programs.
“I wrote the book to expand my audience and the response has been incredible,” said the first-time author. “I love the one-to-one working relationship I have with my clients but I also wanted to reach further.”
In Hungry for Health, Starved for Time, an easy read of 143 pages — chapters that are easy to pick up independently — Harmon breaks down the habits of healthy living into five categories related to home environment, eating, body care, cooking, and the mind. It isn’t about homing in on one area that brings success, but respect for caring for one’s total self.
Her website, SuzyHarmoniousHealth.com, teases taste buds with delicious recipes on her blog, guaranteed to ignite the healthy spirit. From Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Meat Sauce to Homemade All Natural Snack Bars, and Green Chile Chicken to Dessert Date Bars, Harmon provides the possibilities that make getting healthy easy, delicious, and a “want to,” rather than a “have to.”
The planning, shopping, and creating is part of the process — memory making she shared first in the kitchens of her mother and grandmother. “There’s nothing wrong with reaching for food for comfort, but there’s everything right in finding it through the act of creating the food, cooking it, and knowing what’s in it,” said Harmon. “Truly, we are fed by aroma, by a beautiful display of a meal, by the prayers that come from us in appreciation for what we have. You won’t find true comfort in a bag of chips — or in a second. My goal is to get more people to enjoy being in the kitchen, cooking real food and showing them how simple it is with a little planning.”
Her approach isn’t focused on just diet or exercise but on an overall education of wellness. “Many of us take the time to read the ingredients of the foods we buy, but how many take a look at what goes into our soaps and lotions, shampoos and other body products?” she said — noting that our skin is one of our largest organs, absorbing all that it’s exposed to.
“We need to know not just what we’re ingesting, but what we’re absorbing, through our skin into our bloodstream.”
In addition to her individual coaching sessions, Harmon has addressed high school students and seniors with the keys from her book and experience, talking to students about how to make healthy tasty choices in the dining hall and the dorm room, and reduce stress, while leaving the “freshman 15” on the table.
“I never expected to discuss many of the issues that come up during my health coaching sessions with clients, but in examining health and nutrition, many deep and personal issues surface that answer many of the questions about happy and fulfilling lives,” said Harmon.
“I’ve become passionate about how healthy living can add vibrancy to our lives. What feeds us, feeds our souls and it’s important to learn how to make the connection for success in our careers, relationships, and our purpose in life.”
For more information about Harmon’s programs or to register for classes, for recipes, or to order Hungry for Health, Starved for Time, visit SuzyHarmoniousHealth.com, email harmonioushealth@sbcglobal.net, or call 214-293-7768.

 

*****

Healthy living
Feeling great is as easy as finding the balance by:
Creating a sacred space in your home
Choosing foods that help you feel your best
Stress reduction and pampering
Cooking meals that taste great and curb cravings
Making time to unplug and relax

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Breaking ground in Midtown

Breaking ground in Midtown

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

_DSC1629

First phase underway for new 430-acre Dallas Midtown, which includes demolition of Valley View Mall

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

The much-anticipated Dallas Midtown development broke ground Friday, June 23, at a press event attended by its most enthusiastic backers.
The 430-acre development at the corner of Preston Road includes the site of the shuttered Valley View Mall. It has been in the making since 2009, when then-City Councilwoman Linda Koop brought together various stakeholders to create an urban village linked via existing roads, trails and a trolley system.
Koop is now a Republican state representative whose district no longer is confined solely to Dallas. She was among the enthusiastic officials at the event.
“This development will create a city within a city. With restaurants, shopping, housing and office space, Dallas Midtown will completely redefine this part of Dallas,” Koop said.
Those entertainment destinations include a 183,000-square-foot Life Time Fitness facility featuring residence, working spaces, large aquatic and workout studios. The residential component, called Life Time Living, is a new concept for the health and wellness company. When completed, the Life Time facility will be the brand’s largest in the country. The other anchor is a 10-screen Cinépolis movie theater. The chain is known for its high-quality reclining chairs, full-service bar and gourmet snacks.
Also announced were plans for more than 1,000 apartments, 400,000 square feet of retail, 500,000 square feet of office space and an 18-story luxury hotel. The hotel brand will be announced soon.
The development will ultimately surround Midtown Commons, a previously announced 20-acre park backers call the centerpiece of the development.
“Over 20 acres are being dedicated to create a place for the tens of thousands of people who will be living here as well as our broader community. The Commons will be a place to gather, play, dream, exercise, and learn,” said Jaynie Schultz, a member of the city’s planning commission. “Midtown Commons will be the place for residents north and south to easily and joyfully celebrate the blessing of living in Dallas.”

 Jaynie Schultz spoke at the Midtown groundbreaking. “If we pull together and our corporations and foundations rise to the moment, our children and grandchildren will see Midtown Commons as a second home,” she said.

Jaynie Schultz spoke at the Midtown groundbreaking. “If we pull together and our corporations and foundations rise to the moment, our children and grandchildren will see Midtown Commons as a second home,” she said.

At the groundbreaking was developer Scott Beck, CEO of Beck Ventures, who has been involved since 2012, when his company acquired the Valley View Mall site.
Like others in attendance, Beck noted the project is not just another north Dallas infill site. Dallas Midtown will compete with the city’s northern suburbs, like Frisco and Plano, which are increasingly attracting more corporate relocations.
“We will now have our answer to stop the flight from corporate America to the far outreaches of our northern and western suburbs,” Beck said during the ceremony. “For far too long, city politics have created an environment where instead of encouraging and demanding policy for strong northern and southern sectors of our city, we have enabled and allowed neighboring cities to take away valuable corporate clients from the tax base in Dallas.”
The development also benefits the southern part of the city too. Dallas Midtown is a designated tax-increment financing district, or TIF, a commonly used method for public financing community-improvement developments. The TIF funds a “desperately needed” redevelopment of Southwest Center Mall in South Dallas.
Beck previously told the TJP Midtown would bring billions of dollars of revenue to the region in the next 30 years. Of that, a significant portion will go toward redeveloping Southwest Center.
“Dallas Midtown will become a major economic driver for the city of Dallas. It will strengthen our tax base and help our city lure and retain corporate headquarters. This is an extremely desirable site and this is the perfect way to develop it,” said City Councilman Tennell Atkins, who represents Southwest Center.
The overall impact will not just be the 430-acre development. The entire region will benefit, too. That’s what makes it historic.
“Our family and the Beck Ventures family of companies are honored to be the stewards of Dallas’ most crucial transformational project this century,” Beck said in a statement.

 

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Preserving small-town history

Preserving small-town history

Posted on 22 June 2017 by admin

Corsicana synagogue receives $25,000 grant to maintain 117-year-old structure, p.5

Corsicana spends $30,000 each year to maintain the building.

Corsicana spends $30,000 each year to maintain the building.

By Hollace Ava Weiner
Special to the TJP

The Texas Jewish Historical Society is donating $25,000 to Corsicana’s century-old, onion- domed synagogue, an architectural gem that needs $403,000 to replace rotting wood, upgrade HVAC equipment and install a fire-sprinkler system.

 

Photo: Fort Worth Jewish Archives Corsicana was a thriving city during the first half of the 20th century before urban development soon phased out the town. In its heyday, Corsicana was home to more than 500 Jews, some of whom were familiar with the stained-glass windows.

Photo: Fort Worth Jewish Archives
Corsicana was a thriving city during the first half of the 20th century before urban development soon phased out the town. In its heyday, Corsicana was home to more than 500 Jews, some of whom were familiar with the stained-glass windows.

The city, which has owned and maintained the Moorish revival Temple Beth-El since 1987, is optimistic that the TJHS grant will attract funds from Jewish foundations and individuals, which in the past have contributed little for the landmark’s preservation.
Babbette Samuels, 89, the oldest surviving member of Corsicana’s once-thriving Jewish community, said it was a “miracle” that the TJHS approved the $25,000 grant. “The temple is a monument to Judaism and to this small town,” the octogenarian said, following an emotional discussion and vote at a TJHS board meeting June 11 in Austin. “The city of Corsicana has been taking care of the synagogue all these years and will continue to do so. It just wants financial help.”
The 117-year-old Temple Beth-El is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a Texas Historical Marker. Although repurposed as a city community center, the worship area —with its stained-glass windows, vintage menorahs and wooden pews — hosts Shabbat services once a month, drawing up to 20 people from miles around.
Dallas attorney Bud Silverberg, who grew up in Corsicana, told the TJHS board, “Temple Beth-El is not just a structure. It represents a part of our Jewish heritage and the lives of Jews living in small towns in Texas and across our great country.”
Since 1980, when Temple Beth-El’s congregation disbanded and its exotic building faced demolition, the local Christian community has rallied to preserve the religious landmark. Initially, a Save-the-Temple Committee staged potluck suppers, applied for grants, and hired a preservation architect to restore the building and reopen it as a community center available for weddings, parties and meetings.
The synagogue, located on 15th Street, is within sight of the Collin Street Bakery, known internationally for its fruitcake. Both landmarks draw tourists from around the world, most recently two Israelis representing the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. The website www.Synagogues360.org describes the building as “a fine example of Eastern European wood and Gothic masonry motifs modified for American frontier construction.”
Corsicana (population 25,000), a rural county seat 55 miles southwest of Dallas, budgets $30,000 annually for the temple’s upkeep. Seven years ago it restored the building’s twin onion-domed towers and three stained-glass windows — which some authorities say were crafted by Tiffany.
British-born Judith Steely, a non-Jew and president of the recently formed Corsicana Preservation Foundation, said local residents often wonder why Jews haven’t contributed toward maintaining this landmark. Last year she convened a meeting of Dallas residents with ancestral ties to Corsicana’s Jewish community. The idea to approach the TJHS for funds came from that meeting. The ad hoc committee plans to draft a formal fundraising plan to tap Jewish institutions and individuals.

he city restored three stained-glass windows seven years ago.

The city restored three stained-glass windows seven years ago.

The city preservation society has also received a $25,000 restoration grant from the Navarro Community Foundation and $1,500 from the Church in the Park, a local Southern Baptist congregation. The Parks and Recreation Department has published a handsome brochure promoting the temple as a unique venue for weddings and receptions.
The distinctive synagogue, with its octagonal towers and keyhole windows, has seating for 150. The main sanctuary has a rose window with a Star of David and two other stained-glass windows depicting matching tablets of the Ten Commandments.
During the first half of the 20th century, Corsicana was a thriving oil, industrial, mercantile and agricultural center. It became home to more than 500 Jews and both a Reform and Orthodox synagogue. During the late-1960s, the younger generation began gravitating to urban areas. Faced with dwindling membership, the Reform Temple Beth-El, unable to afford the upkeep of its landmark building, disbanded in 1980. The Orthodox congregation, Agudas Achim, dissolved in 1999. Its building became a senior citizens center.
Temple Beth-El is the only onion-domed house of worship in the Southwest, and one of a handful across the country. The others include Temple Aaron in Trinidad, Colorado; Congregation B’nai Israel in Butte, Montana; and the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati. The onion dome harks back to the Golden Age of Spain in Jewish history. Its use in Moorish revival architecture reflected optimism that the American Jewish experience would lead to another Golden Age.
Writing in 1990 about Corsicana’s distinctive synagogue, Texas historian Jane Manaster described it as a two-story wooden structure “fronted by a gabled roof and squat twin towers, each exotically topped by an onion-shaped cupola or dome.” Her article in the East Texas Historical Journal deemed the house of worship “a remarkable ecclesiastical heirloom.”
Renovations on Temple Beth-El have already begun, utilizing funds donated to date. According to Charla Allen, director of Parks and Recreation, restoration work is divided into four phases:

  • Remove existing siding and substrate, install new plywood, weather barrier, and wood siding with trim to match original;
  • Seal dissimilar material junctions with urethane sealant; paint new siding and trim with two coats of acrylic latex paint;
  • Refurbish 24 windows and two doors;
  • Install fire-sprinkler system and up-to-date heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.

For further information or to make individual donations, contact the City of Corsicana Parks and Recreation Department, 903-654-4874 or www.cityofcorsicana.com.

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3 generations of volunteering, leadership

Posted on 15 June 2017 by admin

Risch family finds time to give back to Dallas community

By Chris Kelley
Special to the TJP

No doubt there are many families in the Dallas community whose members devote their time and provide support to local organizations. The Risch family is one of them.
Frank Risch was recruited to join the Dallas Holocaust Museum board of directors by fellow board member Tom Halsey and then-President David Bell in the mid-’90s. At that time, the Museum occupied a portion of the lower level of the Jewish Community Center. Risch has been a tireless supporter of the Museum for twenty-three years, watching it outgrow its space at the JCC and move to a larger leased space in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas. His commitment to the Museum’s mission to teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference stemmed in part from the loss of family members during the Holocaust.
Frank and his wife, Helen, are an altruistic team willing to donate their time and contribute financial support to the causes they’ve chosen, even though they have vastly different charitable interests. Helen is on the boards of Levine Academy, Legacy, the Federation’s Jewish Women’s Philanthropy Center, and the Visiting Nurse Association of Dallas. Frank serves on the boards of the Dallas Theater Center, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Communities Foundation of Texas, Carnegie Mellon University-Tepper School of Business, and other organizations in addition to the Museum.
Last fall, Helen was co-chair of the Museum’s inaugural City-Wide Read and Performance, where 12,000 Dallas ISD fifth-graders were treated to pianist Mona Golabek’s musical/theatrical performance of her mother’s story as a Kindertransport refugee. The performances followed weeks of the students reading and discussing Golabek’s book, The Children of Willesden Lane, and learning about the Holocaust. The Dallas Holocaust Museum education team trained Dallas ISD teachers and librarians using age-appropriate curricula for the students. It took six performances over three days to accommodate all the Dallas ISD and Levine Academy students. Helen was there to welcome them all.
Frank was honored as the Hope for Humanity award recipient in 2011 when, in his acceptance speech, he called for the construction of a new museum which could accommodate triple or more the number of visitors as the current small facility. This year, Frank is vice-chair of the Museum’s board of directors, a member of the Executive Committee, co-chair of the Capital Campaign along with Rebecca Fletcher and Ron Steinhart, and a member of the Campaign Cabinet.
He and his fellow co-chairs have been integral in raising funds to build the new Museum. With their leadership, the Campaign Committee raised $45 million during the quiet phase of the campaign, and then took the campaign public last October, increasing donations to $54.5 million. The strong belief of the board is that after serving North Central Texas for 32 years, the Museum should continue to tell the story of the Holocaust along with other genocides, but to significantly larger audiences from all over North Texas and surrounding states.
The new Museum will build from that foundation to include the story of the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II and expand on the advancement of human and civil rights in the U.S.
“The Museum has once again outgrown its space, making constructing a larger state-of-the-art building critical for the fulfillment of its mission,” said Risch. He points to the growing number of active hate groups in Texas — more than any other state. He also cites racial discord and the July 2016 attack on Dallas police officers — the deadliest attack on law enforcement since 9/11.
“The Museum provides an opportunity to the greater Dallas community, and beyond, a chance to better understand differences and create platforms for dialogue, rather than fear, hatred, and prejudice,” he says. “The Museum plays an important role in teaching Upstander versus bystander behavior.”
Jolene Risch, Helen and Frank’s daughter, co-chaired the Museum’s spring fundraisers for the past two years. She admits that fundraising is not her favorite role, but she was monumentally successful, breaking the Museum’s fundraising record with more than $157,000 raised for the Opening Night of Cabaret in 2016 and $150,000 raised at Opening Night of Wiesenthal this past April. “I needed only to think about the anti-Semitism prevalent today and the escalation of similar sentiment in the pogroms perpetrated in Europe. I gained the confidence and momentum to talk to others about the importance of supporting the Museum. I told them our city needs this Museum and the programs it offers.”
Jolene is the president and CEO of a management and executive search firm, Risch Results, helping small- to medium-sized companies find top talent. She now serves with her father on the Museum’s board.
“The new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will build on what the current Museum offers,” said Jolene. “It will extend its content to include other human rights issues and expand its coverage of other genocides. It will continue to inspire visitors to explore the lessons of the Holocaust to understand how the Holocaust, past genocides, and other atrocities are pertinent to contemporary issues. It’s a community museum, and that’s why the capital campaign has been successful.”
Helen and Frank Risch’s grandson and Jolene’s son, Aaron Minsky, is 18 years old. He graduated this spring from Yavneh Academy of Dallas and will start college in the fall at Brandeis University. He intends to pursue a career in community service, business, and politics.
Aaron has served for nearly two years on the Museum’s Junior Board — first as a board member, then this year as chairman of the Junior Board. Aaron says that serving on the Junior Board was not overly burdensome with all the other activities of a student in his senior year of high school. He juggled school and an internship in addition to his duties on the board. “It’s the value of the time I spend with the Museum,” he said. “It is important for me to understand the roles my mother, grandfather, and grandmother have assumed at the Museum. Volunteering to work with staff at the speaker events and spending time with the Holocaust survivors offered me a tremendous value regarding education, volunteerism, and leadership.”
Like his mother and grandparents, Aaron believes it is important that the new Museum provide the space to present a broader range of topics and human rights issues challenging multiple communities, issues that stem from the same root cause as anti-Semitism, in addition to taking a deeper dive into the important lessons of the Holocaust.
In addition to all the activities Aaron has on his plate this year, he participated in the International March of the Living (IMOL). The IMOL is an annual educational program that brings individuals from all over the world to Poland and Israel in order to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance, and hate. “Visiting the camps in Poland was emotionally draining. There is so much darkness, and the light becomes hard to see. Then, you step off the plane in Israel — in a country that was born from the Holocaust.”
Aaron was profoundly affected by the experience and found a deeper sense of understanding at the Yad Vashem Institute and the Book of Names, which contains the names of all the Holocaust victims that the Institute has been able to collect. “In that enormous book,” he said, “I found many victims with the last name ‘Risch,’ including my great-great-grandfather, Nathan Risch. The Dallas Holocaust Museum, now and in its future iteration as the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, is critical for North Central Texas. It will teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference by expanding its content to include a focus on other genocides and advances in human and civil rights in America.”
Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, says, “Three generations of the Risch family serve together to make Dallas better and they are leading by example.”

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JFGD transitions leadership at annual meeting

JFGD transitions leadership at annual meeting

Posted on 08 June 2017 by admin

By Judy Tashbook-Safern
Special to the TJP

On Thursday, June 15, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas will pay tribute to members of the Dallas Jewish community at its annual meeting, as JFGD thanks and highlights the work of outgoing board chair, Dan Prescott, and welcomes Mark Kreditor to the senior position. The program will begin at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El, 8500 Hillcrest Road in Dallas.
“Our Federation is unbelievably blessed to have the lay leadership we do on our boards and committees,” said Federation President Bradley Laye. “Our Jewish community is so strong because of the wisdom, energy, passion and commitment of our lay leaders. Personally, I have learned so much from Dan Prescott; there is no better campaigner, and his vision and creativity in growing our community is audacious.”

Submitted photo Mark Kreditor (right) came to Dallas in 1981 and has been a member of the community ever since.

Submitted photo
Mark Kreditor (right) came to Dallas in 1981 and has been a member of the community ever since.

“He’s Mount Rushmore,” Kreditor says of his predecessor. “Dan is the face of the Dallas Jewish community and his community service has been monumental. He’s made an indelible mark during his tenure as board chair and I’m honored to follow him.”
Prescott responded in kind, saying: “Well, if we’re using geographical references, I’d have to say my friend is the ‘Top of the Mark’ because he is quite an entertainer! Mark is universally liked and has been a tremendous resource for many organizations in our community. He will be a great chair.”
Transitions are not always as smooth as this one but Prescott and Kreditor, who have been volunteering together for years in leadership positions at the J, fundraising for the Maccabi Games and at Yavneh Academy, have made this transfer of leadership a strategic and collaborative process.
“So many Federation board members are community leaders I have worked with over the years so we will be able to work well together right away, ideally with a very slight learning curve. Working with this board is like working with family. And with his talent and commitment, I couldn’t be more fortunate than to follow Dan into this important role.
“Building upon Dan’s accomplishments in this area, including hiring a superb security director, this board and I are going to continue and strengthen the Federation’s commitment to community security. We are also going to build upon Dan’s success in leading our community to combat BDS (the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement). Perhaps my largest goal in this position is to follow up on Dan’s survey of the volunteer experience by ensuring we have protocols and the right attitude toward engagement. With a warm embrace of all Dallas Jews, we will find a place for everyone who wants to serve at the Federation or anywhere in our community.”
Encouraging leader
One can’t hear Mark Kreditor speak for more than five minutes without hearing the words “warm,” “welcoming,” and “engaging.” Perhaps because those are the very words people use to describe him. But Kreditor uses those words to describe the Dallas Jewish community of which he has become such an integral member.
“I came to Dallas with a U-Haul in 1981, following the example of my Uncle Lou, who moved here in 1942. He said it was the most wonderful place to live and he was right! I love the fact that the people who greeted Carol and me when we moved here are the grandchildren of the people who welcomed Uncle Lou into the community 40 years earlier. That generational continuity is one of the most significant examples of what makes Dallas unique.”
Statistics indicate that every five minutes someone moves to North Texas. That’s a whopping 288 people a day. If our Metroplex has the same ratio of Jews to non-Jews found elsewhere in the United States, that means our community grows by five people a day.
‘We are absorbing between 1,800 and 2,000 new community members a year,” Kreditor said. “How we welcome and engage them must be at the forefront of how the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas operates in the years ahead. A community that grows as quickly as Dallas presents those of us who live here with tremendous opportunities. That means we need to be a step ahead of the next U-Haul.”
Kreditor’s vision extends far beyond onboarding new citizens. He is fascinated by the “big C” element of the Dallas Jewish Community. “Dallas is distinguished by our achdut — our Jewish unity. We experience community differently than people in New York, L.A., Chicago or Jerusalem. Go to an event here and you see everyone from the ultra-Reform to the ultra-Orthodox, smiling, talking, sharing experiences. We pray together, celebrate together, raise funds together, and together we are repairing the world. I want the young people who leave for college or to pursue professional opportunities to remember that something has happened to them growing up Jewish in Dallas. I want them to take Dallaskeit with them wherever they go and then to come home again and contribute to the beautiful work of previous generations. I always ask people: ‘If not you, who?’ ”
“Mark is beloved by so many in our community, and he and Carol are the absolute role models for why and how people should give — time, money, intellect and energy,” said Laye, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to partner with the new board chair. “By example, Mark will lead so many to do what comes so naturally for him as someone who just lives and breathes the work of our Jewish community so joyously.”

 

*****

Cynthia Feldman

Cynthia Feldman

Kim Velevis

Kim Velevis

Stan Rabin

Stan Rabin

Steven Davdioff

Steven Davdioff

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas will host its 106th annual meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15 at Temple Emanu-El’s Tobian Auditorium. The event will serve as a celebration and wrap-up of the 2017 campaign year for the organization.
This event will honor key volunteers and lay leadership of the Federation with the presentation of the following awards:

  • Bess Nathan Young Leadership Award: Kim Velevis
  • I. Zesmer Young Leadership Award: Steven Davidoff
  • Helen Gross Award: Stan Rabin
  • Bob Weinfeld Campaigner of the Year Award: Cynthia Feldman

The evening will also allow the Federation to pay tribute to its outgoing board chair, Daniel J. Prescott, while also installing its new board of directors, including Board Chair Mark Kreditor.
A crowd of 300 or more is expected, including professionals, elected officials and community leaders.
Cost is free, but registration is required for table seating arrangements. Light food will be served.
RSVP to Linda Montgomery at lmontgomery@jewishdallas.org.

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Add this YouTuber to Pokemon playlist

Add this YouTuber to Pokemon playlist

Posted on 01 June 2017 by admin

Submitted photo Lee Steinfeld (right) stands next to Veronica Taylor, the original voice of Ash Ketchum from the Pokemon anime show.

Submitted photo
Lee Steinfeld (right) stands next to Veronica Taylor, the original voice of Ash Ketchum from the Pokemon anime show.

Steinfeld’s channel sees major growth from nostalgic anime subscriber base

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

Lee Steinfeld has turned a trip down memory lane into an opportunity to help others through the power of Pokemon and YouTube.
Steinfeld grew up with Pokemon, which became an American cultural phenomenon in the late 1990s after its debut in Japan.
Like many others close to his age, he watched the Pokemon animated television series. He played the video games on his Game Boy, opting to use Squirtle as his starter Pokemon in the original red and blue versions, and he was big into the Pokemon trading card game.
Almost two decades later, Steinfeld, now 30, is still opening packs of Pokemon cards. But instead of looking to build the best deck for a battle, he’s opening them up on his YouTube channel, named LeonHart (channel address: youtube.com/leonhart54), for a subscriber base approaching 158,000 and growing daily.
It’s a seemingly catch-all channel for Pokemon fanatics, both young and old.
Steinfeld tracks down and opens packs of cards on the channel. He does dramatic readings of Pokemon comic books. He recently built a stuffed animal Charmander at a Build-A-Bear workshop. And when Pokemon Go — the interactive smartphone game to catch Pokemon in real life came out, Steinfeld taught his subscribers how to catch a Pikachu as their starter Pokemon. He also has giveaways, ranging from Pokemon toys to cards, which have become popular with his subscribers.
Steinfeld started his YouTube channel in 2014 as a general gaming channel. He did a little bit of everything within that realm. He looked at classic and retro games, talked about current games, and of course Pokemon was part of the conversation.
“I followed much bigger personalities on YouTube and saw how they did things to raise money for charity and stuff,” Steinfeld said. “And I wanted to do that.”
Eventually Pokemon superseded the rest of Steinfeld’s channel. It was the most popular part of his channel, and for a kid who grew up trying to Catch ’Em All, it was also the most fun.
“I was really passionate and loved the nostalgic factor of it,” Steinfeld said. “It turned into Pokemon cards and games, and everything. And it really just blew up and became really successful.”
Steinfeld has experienced a real boom in subscribers over the past nine months. He had close to 20,000 subscribers last October and at that time he started putting more effort into the quality of his videos and interacting more with his viewers.
It worked.
He was up to 80,000 subscribers by the end of 2016, and the channel continued to grow each month.
As his channel grew, which has the slogan “more than a channel, it’s a community!” on the home page, Steinfeld has found ways to give back and raised funds for local charities.
That includes almost $4,000 for the Grant Halliburton Foundation on Mental Health and Suicide. Steinfeld has also raised money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Heart Association.
“That was the main reason I started it, not just to interact with fans and be entertaining,” Steinfeld said. “I tried to do that early on, and we tried, but you can only do so much as a smaller channel. So it wasn’t until this January when I hit 100,000 subscribers when I was able to raise $4,000 for the Grant Halliburton Foundation with the help of my fans.”
That donation is a big point of pride for Steinfeld. He went to school with Halliburton at Plano West High School, and not long after high school graduation Halliburton committed suicide.
“One thing I’ve always wanted to do was always give back to his parents and their foundation, but to everyone else that is suffering from bipolar (disorder),” Steinfeld said. “It wasn’t up until I built that community up that I was able to create that type of ($4,000) donation.”
In a day and age where YouTube has evolved into a real career opportunity, Steinfeld isn’t making a dime. All of the money he makes from the channel, including hundreds of dollars in ad revenue, goes back into the channel or to support charities. He has also donated thousands of Pokemon cards to Toys for Tots and the Children’s Hospital of Plano.
He’s also having a great time and Steinfeld, who is a licensed attorney in Dallas, helped kick-start a campaign within the Pokemon community to help reunite Veronica Taylor with the Pokemon franchise.
Taylor was the original voice of Ash Ketchum, the main protagonist in the English-language dubbed Pokemon animated series. The voice actor was replaced in the Pokemon franchise in 2005.
Earlier this month Steinfeld met Taylor at a comic book shop in Plano and they opened packs of Pokemon cards on video.
“I had this great idea and she had told me she wanted to do the voice again,” Steinfeld, who also has done voice-over work, said. “And the Pokemon 20th anniversary movie is coming out in Japan in July. And we used that video to start a campaign to let the Pokemon company know that Veronica Taylor should be the voice of Ash Ketchum again.”
The video already has close to 260,000 views and has sparked conversation on other social media channels. Steinfeld has encouraged viewers to tweet at the Pokemon company, and he’s giving away a photo that Taylor signed to one random supporter.
“To be helping out the voice of Ash Ketchum, who I watched on TV all the time as a kid, the nostalgia factor of this is amazing,” Steinfeld said. “And to see a community wanting to help, that’s been great.”

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