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How Kavanaugh may affect Jewish issues

How Kavanaugh may affect Jewish issues

Posted on 12 July 2018 by admin

Photo: The White House
U.S. President Donald Trump nominates Judge Brett Kavanaugh, shown with his family, for the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

 

By Josefin Dolsten

(JTA) — President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a Republican establishment favorite who has worked in the George W. Bush administration, has triggered reactions from Jewish groups ranging from furious to relieved.
Progressive groups raised flags about the pick, saying Kavanaugh’s record shows he would be a threat to reproductive rights and separation of church and state, while an Orthodox group said it was happy about his record on religious liberty.
Trump announced on Monday evening that he was nominating Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy upon his retirement at the end of July.
Within an hour of the announcement, the National Council of Jewish Women released a statement saying it was “incensed” by the choice and helped organize an opposition rally in front of the Supreme Court.
Other progressive groups, such as the Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish organization with roots in the labor movement, denounced Trump’s pick, while the centrist Anti-Defamation League said it was wary that the nominee’s judicial record “does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court.”
On Tuesday, Jody Rabhan, who directs NCJW’s Washington operations, said that Kavanaugh, like the other candidates considered by Trump, was “terrible on the issues that we care about.”
“The assumption based on his record and his ruling is that he would further push the court in the direction of using religion as an excuse to discriminate, not to mention the incredible horrors that could be, should he end up on the court, around reproductive health rights and justice,” Rabhan said.
Many on the left are concerned that a Trump appointee could join a conservative majority in taking away abortion rights and overturn Roe v. Wade, which Trump made a campaign promise.
In 2006, Kavanaugh said he would respect Roe v. Wade, but Rabhan said that did not assuage her concern.
“Trump has said that overturning Roe v. Wade is a litmus test for anybody on his shortlist for the Supreme Court, and he has made anti-abortion (views) a litmus test for folks he’s nominated to lower courts,” she said. “We’ve seen it, so we believe him.”
Rabhan and others cited a case, Garza v. Hagan, in which Kavanaugh opposed a detained undocumented immigrant minor’s right to obtain an abortion. In that 2017 case, the government had mandated that the teen could leave her detention center to have an abortion. Kavanaugh vacated the order, postponing the abortion for another week-and-a-half, until a court ultimately ruled in her favor. Kavanaugh dissented, writing that the government had betrayed its “interest in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion.”
Marc Stern, the general counsel of the American Jewish Committee, said most of Kavanaugh’s legal record was “unremarkable,” but that his opinion in the Garza case was “disturbing” and raised questions.
“It’s not clear to us what that means exactly,” Stern said. “Does he believe that immigrants have lesser constitutional rights than everybody else? Does he think that teenagers don’t have a right (to an abortion)? … Does he mean only that the government has a right not to participate and you’re sort of on your own?”
The AJC has not taken a position on the nomination, and Stern said it was studying Kavanaugh’s record, specifically with regard to issues of immigration law, religious liberty, separation of church and state, and reproductive freedom. He said that Kavanaugh’s opinion in Newdow v. Roberts, a case presenting a challenge to prayers at the presidential inauguration and the phrase “so help me God” in the presidential oath, offered “some glimmer of hope” for those supporting separation of church and state. Though the challenge by the plaintiff, an atheist opposing the prayers, was dismissed, Kavanaugh said he did have standing to sue.
Stern does not think Kavanaugh would radically shift the court. Although Kennedy was a swing vote on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, he often was reliably conservative.
“On separation (of church and state) issues, he will read the principle more narrowly than AJC would like,” Stern said. “But from what little he’s written, it doesn’t appear that he’s going to be writing in a whole different vein than where the court as a whole has been — but that’s a guess.”
Agudath Israel of America, a haredi Orthodox organization, has not yet taken an official position on the nomination, but its Washington director, Rabbi Abba Cohen, called Kavanaugh “ a very impressive candidate.” Cohen was happy about Kavanaugh’s rulings related to religious freedom based on an initial overview of the judge’s record. Agudah and other Orthodox groups favor rulings that would exempt religious groups and individuals from generally applicable laws that clash with their beliefs.
“We’re gratified that he’s given due deference to religious liberty and that he has been supportive of a greater involvement of religious organizations and institutions in society,” Cohen told JTA.
Cohen cited Kavanaugh’s opinion in a case relating to contraceptive care exemptions for religious groups, Priests for Life v. HHS. The appeals court agreed that religious employers did not have to provide contraceptives, but had to file a form telling the government they were not doing so. Kavanaugh in his dissent argued that the filing requirement violated the plaintiffs’ religious freedom.
“We support that position, we think that’s giving proper deference to religious rights, and we don’t think that’s in any way a retreat from the rights of others, so that’s one area we are pleased about,” Cohen said.
During his time in private practice, Kavanaugh took on pro bono cases, including that of a Reconstructionist synagogue, Adat Shalom in Bethesda, Maryland, which was facing challenges from its neighbors in constructing a building. In 2000, a U.S. District Court sided with the synagogue, saying a permit issued to the congregation was consistent with the Establishment Clause. The synagogue confirmed to JTA that it was represented by Kavanaugh but did not return a request for further comment in time for publication.
The Reform movement and the Orthodox Union both told JTA that they were studying Kavanaugh’s record before deciding whether to take a position on his nomination.

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Traxler pedaling through Northeast for AIDS cure

Traxler pedaling through Northeast for AIDS cure

Posted on 12 July 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Jordan Traxler
“You could feel his passion and care and want to help all along and it was so much more than an activity – his heart is in this fight to end AIDS and I couldn’t be more proud by his side,” said Steffani Bailin of her son, Jordan.

By Deb Silverthorn

Jordan Traxler is spinning his wheels, and every push is one toward finding a cure for AIDS. From Sept. 21 to 23 Traxler will hit the road for the 24th Northeast AIDS Ride Cycle for the Cause, with a personal goal to raise $10,000.
“AIDS isn’t the death sentence it once was, but there’s no reason for HIV to still be around; it’s not easy. Helping, raising money, raising awareness — that is easy,” said Traxler, now training with his team, Team YL (Young Leaders), beginning with early morning rides. The group is preparing for the September event by participating in smaller charity rides, including New York’s June 10 Pride Ride.
“We’ll ride 275 miles from Boston to New York, passing through more than 50 cities, and during every mile I know I’ll be thinking about the people we are helping,” Traxler said about the Northeast ride. “To know that my hometown is behind me again, helping me push through, is absolutely appreciated.”
Cycle for the Cause is a program of the New York City-based The Center: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, for which Traxler serves on the Young Leadership Council. Funds raised provide HIV testing, programming, care and support to those who are HIV positive. With more than 1.2 million Americans living with HIV and an estimated 50,000 more to be diagnosed this year alone, it is hoped the 2018 ride will raise enough money to prevent more than 78,000 HIV transmissions.
Traxler, who joined the ride three years ago as a crew member, took away “best dressed” honors and raised almost $8,000 last year, his first on the road. “I hadn’t been on a bike since I was 10 years old, but I trained for weeks, for hours at a time,” he said. “The experience is physically challenging but emotionally unbelievable.”
At the finish line, with arms wide open, was his mother, Steffani Bailin.

 

“Every dollar helps. Bunches of $5, $10, or $50 donations help,” said Jordan Traxler who is raising funds by riding in the 24th Northeast AIDS Ride Cycle for the Cause to help find a cure for AIDS. “I want to make a change, and there’s no such thing as a small change in this fight – every bit makes a big difference.”

“Seeing Jordan come in from the ride, especially the 100-plus miles of the second day, was incredibly emotional. You could feel his passion and care and want to help all along, and it was so much more than an activity. His heart is in this fight to end AIDS, and I couldn’t be more proud by his side,” said Bailin, who will return to cheer on her son in September. “This kid, my kid, has cared about people all his life and always wanted to do good, something we started together when he was very young. Now he’s a man, a professional, and it’s awesome to watch the mature Jordan still finding ‘doing good’ a priority. L’dor V’dor.”
That generation-to-generation resolution is important to the younger Traxler, “Guncle Jordan,” as he sets the example now for his niece and nephew, Lily Mae and Oliver Lee, children of his sister and best friend, Meghan.
Memories flood as both Traxler and his mother recall bringing food to Jewish Family Service’s Food Pantry and serving sandwiches or handing out coats to homeless people in downtown Dallas. On those occasions, the son would remind his mother to “look everyone in the eye, see the people we’re helping,” she said.
Traxler credits Congregation Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Stefan Weinberg with a lesson that still rings in his heart and mind. “He taught us that everyone is one decision away from being homeless, and the scary part is the decision might not be our own. I’ve never forgotten those words.”
Celebrated as the first bar mitzvah at Anshai Torah’s Parker Road location, where as an Eagle Scout he made it his project to build a retaining wall, resurface a playground and construct park benches, Traxler now makes New York City’s Central Synagogue his place of worship.
Traxler is an alumnus of Plano West Senior High School and a former member and president of BBYO’s Eamonn Lacey chapter. He graduated in three years from SMU’s Cox School of Business and made New York home — the “perfect place for me. The city is alive 24-7 and you can taste the energy,” said Traxler, who works in a senior marketing position for the Safilo Group.
“Jordan has always been driven to seek out projects and activities that would challenge his leadership skills as well as provide his peers an experience that would prove impactful,” said Traxler’s father, Ron. “I believe in my heart the influences by Jordan’s mom and family unit assisted in making him a fine citizen and a true friend to community. He is a loving, caring, compassionate family man who understands the value of giving of himself to society.”
“I’ve met so many people and everyone has a story — a mother, brother, sister, or cousin who has died. Every dollar helps. Bunches of $5, $10, or $50 donations help,” said Traxler. “I want to make a change, and there’s no such thing as a small change in this fight. Every bit makes a big difference.”
To support Traxler in his mission, visit support.cycleforthecause.org/jtraxy.

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County judge briefs Jewish leaders on many issues

County judge briefs Jewish leaders on many issues

Posted on 12 July 2018 by admin

Photos: JCRC
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins stands with members of the Jewish community and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

 

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins updated a group of Jewish community leaders about family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, early childhood education, health care and fighting poverty during a June 26 meeting.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas was host to the event.
“As Jews and as people of moral conscience, we understand the importance of treating all people with dignity and compassion. We are well aware of the humanitarian concerns along our borders and applaud Judge Jenkins’ efforts to meet the needs of children and keep families together,” JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin said to open the meeting. Rubin acknowledged Jenkins’ efforts in promoting quality early learning for all children. Leadership from various Jewish organizations were present at the briefing, including the Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Shalom, Congregation Anshai Torah and others.
“We are grateful that Judge Jenkins is an avid advocate for quality early learning,” said Rubin. “He appreciates the long-term effects this can have on a child’s growth and development, and how this serves as an important part of alleviating poverty and supporting a vibrant economy in our county.”
Since taking office in 2011, Jenkins has led the responses to public health emergencies, has made efforts to increase health coverage in Dallas County, and serves on many multi-agency boards and commissions, including Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas and the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce. Jenkins spoke about various initiatives in the county, including Dallas County Promise, a transformational effort between school districts, colleges, universities, workforce and communities to increase college completion.
The campaign guarantees tuition-free college to graduates of Dallas County high schools who apply for federal financial aid, regardless of income or GPA. The campaign is part of a national, nonpartisan initiative to build broad public support for funding the first two years of higher education for hard-working students, starting in America’s community colleges.
“More than 9,300 students are currently engaged with the Dallas County Promise campaign,” Jenkins said. “Completing all steps of the pledge, including filling out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms, means their tuition for college can be underwritten, and they will graduate debt-free. This helps them start their career with the best chance for success. What we want to do, ultimately, is help lift people out of poverty.”

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Cinema Emanu-El begins Tuesday, July 10

Cinema Emanu-El begins Tuesday, July 10

Posted on 05 July 2018 by admin

There’s nothing better during the summertime than a good flick. Temple Emanu-El will present its popular film series, Cinema Emanu-El, at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, July 10, 17, 24 and 31, in the Tobian Auditorium. This year there will be a bonus film “Spielberg,” on Aug. 7. A discussion will follow each July movie.
Ticket options are $50 for a reserved seat for each film, $18 for a four-film season pass and $5 for individual screenings. The Aug. 5 film will screen at no charge. To RSVP for the program, visit participate.tedallas.org.cinema. For more information, contact Becky Slakman, 214-706-0000, ext. 125.
Here is this year’s thought-engaging and thought-provoking line-up.

Tuesday, July 10 | Maktub

Discussion led by Cantor Vicky Glikin

After criminals Steve and Chuma become the sole survivors of a terrorist attack at a restaurant in Jerusalem, they decide to change their ways and become flesh-and-blood angels. They go on a journey of fulfilling wishes for people who write requests on paper and put them between the sacred stones of the Western Wall.

Tuesday, July 17 | Joe’s Violin & Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas

Discussion led by Cantor Leslie Niren

The short film Joe’s Violin follows a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor’s violin donation during an instrument drive that changes the life of a 12-year-old girl from the Bronx.
Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas is a musical documentary about the amazing story of a group of Jewish songwriters who wrote the soundtrack to Christmas.
Join Temple’s g2g group for a special dinner at 5:45 p.m. Cost is $14. Visit https://participate.tedallas.org/g2gcinemadinner to RSVP.

Tuesday, July 24 | Forever Pure

Discussion facilitated by Rabbi Daniel Utley

Follow the Beitar Football Club in Jerusalem as it deals with racist outrage from fans in 2012 after signing two Muslim players.

Tuesday, July 31 | Remembrance

Discussion facilitated by Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman

A Polish man rescues a Jewish woman during the chaos of World War II, but they become separated until a chance encounter over 30 years later in New York reunites them. At 5:45 p.m., feel free to B.Y.O.D. (bring your own dinner). Emanu-El will provide the wine and beverages.

BONUS FILM: Tuesday, Aug. 7 | Spielberg

This documentary follows the life and career of director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is a bonus film to the 2018 Cinema Emanu-El lineup and is free of charge.

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Federation celebrates past year’s successes

Federation celebrates past year’s successes

Posted on 27 June 2018 by admin

Photo: Lara Bierner
From left, awardees and those that presented the awards, Robert Feldman, Sharron Laizerovich, Marilyn Schaffer, Larry Steinberg, Brett Lazarus, Jon Ross and Bob Weinfeld. Not pictured: Neil Beckerman

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Everyone was all smiles as members of the Greater Dallas Jewish community gathered in the Stern Chapel at Temple Emanu-El June 7 for the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ annual meeting.
Board Chair Mark Kreditor and CEO Bradley Laye addressed the room, and annual awards were given to Larry Steinberg (Helen Gross Leadership Award), Neil Beckerman (Bob Weinfeld Campaigner of the Year Award) and Brett Lazarus (I. Zesmer Young Leadership Award) and Sharron Laizerovich (Bess Nathan Young Leadership Award). Laizerovich and Lazarus were given unique works of art created by Dallas sculptor George Tobowlowsky.Keynote speaker Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson wrapped up the evening with a talk about divisiveness in the Jewish community regarding Israel.
Board Chair Mark Kreditor welcomed everyone and highlighted the Federation’s accomplishments — which were many — over the past year.
They included:
•Formation of the Outreach and Engagement Committee led by Ynette Hogue and Jim Tolbert, leading to an allocation for an outreach and engagement program. “This new service will directly impact and help every Jewish organization, synagogue, and partner agency by convening and connecting the newcomer to all the wonderful services our community offers. Dallas is and will continue to be a great place to live and be Jewish,” Kreditor said.
•The addition of Robert Caltabiano, a full-time security director, who is helping each Jewish organization review and enhance their security and safety plans.
•Another record campaign (which officially closes June 30) allowing for funding of 100 percent of core allocations to partner agencies of almost $5.1 million. An additional $1 million was allocated toward short- and long-term grants to various Jewish community organizations.
• A record 850 new donors to the annual campaign.
“I envision a community where every Jewish resident realizes supporting Federation through their meaningful gift is one of the greatest mitzvahs they can do for themselves and their family,” Kreditor said. “What kind of community would we have without all the good we get to do together?”
Laye echoed many of Kreditor’s remarks and acknowledged two of his Federation predecessors who were in the audience: Moe Stein, 92, and Walter Levy, who was planning to celebrate his 96th birthday in two days.
Laye, who two months earlier announced that he would step down as Federation CEO at the end of June 2019, added the community’s extraordinary response to Hurricane Harvey in Houston to the list of successes.
While the national Federation system has donated about $23 million to date to rebuild Houston’s Jewish infrastructure, the Dallas Jewish community was instrumental in providing 50,000 kosher meals over a monthlong period that included Rosh Hashanah, Shabbats and Sukkot.
Among the area businesses that were crucial toward this effort were Simcha Kosher Catering, A Taste of the World, Texas Kosher BBQ, Dallas Kosher, Stephens Transport, Chain Link Services, Jewish Family Service, The Aaron Family Jewish Community Center and a host of area synagogues.
Laye and JCC president Artie Allen transported more than 168,000 items to Houston that were collected locally and through an Amazon campaign spearheaded by the Federation’s National Young Leadership Cabinet.
“This is the power of Federation,” Laye said. “You support us, volunteer with us and bolster our Federation because, simply put, you can’t build it just for when you need it.”
Keynote speaker Artson, the Abner and Roslyn Goldstine Dean’s Chair of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, addressed the growing concern in Jewish communities of hostility among Jews when it comes to Israel and partisan politics.
“There’s an upside and a downside to the kind of partisan passion that we are now living in. People care a lot and therefore we can’t talk to each other anymore. We can find both in our tradition as well.”
Artson outlined three areas of concern for the Jewish people:
•Trump versus Obama (not necessarily the people, but the partisan politics).
•The negative fallout for rabbis whenever they talk about Israel in public.
•Beating each other up along denominational lines, specifically among the Orthodox and non-Orthodox Judaisms and the indifferent.
Perhaps Artson’s strongest comments regarded what talking about Israel has come to for rabbis. He called it “the greatest obscenity in contemporary Jewish life.”
“The one subject rabbis can’t talk about publicly is Israel. How is it possible a generation after what is arguably the greatest miracle in 2,000 years of Jewish existence? In the shadows of the worst disaster of the past 2,000 years, the greatest slaughtering of our people, the Holocaust, is followed by the greatest miracle the ingathering of our people in our ancestral homeland, the establishment of a democratic state, and we can’t talk about it?
“A rabbi that wants to give a sermon about Israel is courting disaster, no matter what they say. And so the vast majority of rabbis, unless they are in a congregation that is uniform in their opinion, either say nothing or say very bland generalities.”
Artson suggested several solutions to the aforementioned problems. He cited the fact that there are 5,000 arguments in the Talmud and only 50 solutions. “That wasn’t an accident,” he said, “That was deliberate, because questions open us up. Answers shut us down.”
Artson explained that there is a difference between unity and uniformity.
“If we can remember that we are united with each other even though we are far from uniform, then maybe that will open the door just a crack to be able to converse about areas where that lack of uniformity.”

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Rabbis get firsthand look at border conditions

Rabbis get firsthand look at border conditions

Posted on 27 June 2018 by admin

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
A boy from Honduras is shown being taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border near Mission, Texas, June 12.

By Dave Sorter

Even after President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending the policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the U.S.-Mexico border, local rabbis and other Dallas Jewish community leaders involved in finding solutions to the immigration crisis agree that much work remains to be done.
While families are now being detained together after being arrested because of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings, another apparent softening of the policy took place Tuesday. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was no longer handing illegal immigrants over to prosecutors because it did not have enough detention space, seemingly returning to the Obama administration’s “catch and release” protocol. Trump administration officials maintain that zero-tolerance remains in effect.
Trump issued his executive order on June 20. One day later, Dallas-area rabbis David Stern (Temple Emanu-El), Nancy Kasten and Elana Zelony (Congregation Beth Torah), along with local Anti-Defamation League regional director Cheryl Drazin, joined a national interfaith delegation that traveled to McAllen to see firsthand the conditions at the border. The national Religious Action Center and the Central Council of American Rabbis (of which Stern is president) helped organize the trip, which was initiated by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
And this group may have been prevented from visiting a detention center because of first lady Melania Trump’s visit there the same day.
Then, on June 22, Congregation Kol Ami Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis traveled to McAllen with a group organized by LULAC, the Latino civil rights organization.
Both Zelony and Kasten were struck by the inclement South Texas weather they encountered, especially flooding. They saw it as a metaphor for the suffering the separated children are experiencing.
“It made me realize people are literally sweating their way to the border,” Zelony said. “And people aren’t going to stop coming to the United States for a better opportunity. All I could think about were immigrants camped on the Reynosa side of the river.”
Added Kasten: “We were in a big coach. The bags were under the bus, and the water was 3, 4 feet deep. When we got to dry land, the bags were soaked; some people lost their computers. Cars were stranded in the middle of the road. The one thing I was thinking was that this separate-at-the-border policy is just one of many indicators that this administration doesn’t care.”
Trump and other administration officials have defended the zero-tolerance policy as a way to keep drugs and criminals out of the country and to uphold the law against illegal border crossings.
The June 21 group first visited the Catholic Charities Respite Center, which takes in people who crossed at the legal checkpoint and who are seeking asylum. It’s also too small for the current level of activity.
“They process up to 200 people a day,” Zelony said. “There are two showers and two toilets. The building is clean and efficiently run, but woefully inadequate. They need a larger facility.”
Some of the group, including Zelony, attended a federal court proceeding, where all of the about 50 immigrants whose cases were heard pleaded guilty to crossing the border illegally. Then, they attended a news conference, where people “quoted scripture and warned us to remember our world history,” Zelony said. “It was also pointed out that this wasn’t the first time we had separated parents and children. Slavery was mentioned, and I would add Ellis Island.”
After the news conference, the group tried to visit the detention center — which they were scheduled to do earlier but were bumped because of the first lady’s visit. However, the Border Patrol turned them back.
“That seems like it’s pretty typical down there,” Kasten said.
“All I could think about was what it must feel like to be an immigrant and make a long journey, to stand at the border only to be refused and told to return home,” Zelony said.
Dennis’ group didn’t get in either, but protesting from the outside, he did see conditions he did not like.
“It was indeed a neighborhood of faceless, windowless warehouses, and the facility holding hundreds of children isolated from their families was no different,” Dennis wrote. “…These children are being warehoused in a storage building designed for tires and floor tiles, now repurposed to store children.”
Then, it hit home. A bus neared the facility.
“At first, I thought it was another protest caravan,” Dennis wrote. “But then its features came into focus. We saw bars on the windows, with a cage wall behind the driver. A dozen heads, hands and faces of children and teens could be seen inside this rolling jail, built to hold felons and convicts.”
Some in the group surrounded the bus, trying to impede its progress. Those at the sides of the bus were waving at and shouting words of encouragement to the youngsters. Those at the front and back were angry. Guards, local police and a SWAT team converged. Negotiations took place, Dennis and others urged the crowd to step back, and the situation returned to that of a peaceful protest.
No one was prepared for any of that, Dennis wrote. His group was not prepared to see the children caged in the bus, and the guards at the facility were not prepared for the uprising. It was part of the chaos that struck Kasten one day earlier.
“There was a lack of clarity of who’s responsible for which aspect of the border crossing,” Kasten said. “But the chaos is just a distraction from the main issue: How does the wealthiest nation in the world harness its resources to help these children? It doesn’t seem people are interested in a long-term solution.
“We need ‘We the People’ to deal with the issue, but it’s been they and them and theirs.”
All those who took the trip understand more work needs to be done. Ensuring that families are reunited — which Trump’s executive order does not address — is the primary issue. Zelony wants to try to raise more money for the Catholic Charities Respite Center, by donating to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. She’s even thinking of asking the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas to include the agency among its allocations.
Kasten, meanwhile, received a calling to educate and advocate — and to empathize.
“What I got from the trip was that when you go to a place that’s different from your day-to-day life, you feel a sense of connection and empathy from other people,” she explained. “You come face to face with people who are reflecting God’s image in a way I never would have experienced had I not gone.”
She added that she wants to “go out and meet people and talk to them without preconceived notions. That’s something we all need to do.”
In fact, just two days after visiting McAllen, Kasten was heading for Washington for the last day of the Poor People’s campaign.
“I’m trying to find ways to educate people about the unintended consequences of systems the country has in place,” she said. “I’m starting to see patterns and gain a broader understanding.”

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AJC increases advocacy on immigration issues

Posted on 27 June 2018 by admin

By Dave Sorter

While several rabbis and others were visiting McAllen to see for themselves what is happening to separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border, AJC Dallas Regional Director Joel Schwitzer and others are working with Latin American advocates to reunite families and lobby for changes to the Trump administration’s stringent policies to prosecute illegal border crossers.
Schwitzer and his staff traveled to Austin on June 21 to participate in a working group organized by the Mexican American Legislative Council (MALC). Schwitzer was invited after he testified to MALC leaders about the AJC’s opposition to the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy and support of “humane” immigration reform. President Donald Trump’s June 20 executive order ended the separation of families at the border, instead detaining families together.
“The big takeaway was that there’s still a great deal of work to be done,” Schwitzer said about the meeting. “The executive order doesn’t give a lot of detail on how to reunite families. And without additional legislation, the families being held will be separated again after 20 days.”
He is referring to the Flores settlement, in which a court ruled children can’t be detained for more than 20 days.
The local AJC is working with the Jewish/Latino Alliance and the national AJC has established a Jewish Latino Leadership Council to continue efforts to change policy and law.
“The advocacy efforts need to continue, and we need to hold elected officials accountable for what is happening at the border,” Schwitzer said.
The AJC is advocating for passage of two bills currently before Congress:
• The Help Separated Children Act, filed by Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., which would allow children of detainees to be placed with foster families while their parents are detained and let children visit their detained parents.
• The Keep Families Together Act, filed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which would outlaw family separations, except in cases of abuse.
Meanwhile, a delegation from the Jewish Latino Leadership Council is in McAllen today to see conditions and advocate for change.
The national AJC and the Greater Dallas Section of the National Council of Jewish Women are among the almost 350 signatories to a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen opposing the zero-tolerance policy.
“This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people,” the letter states. “As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression, we believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants, and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.”
The local AJC chapter will also continue its efforts. It is already planning a congressional candidates’ forum in October.
“The midterms are very important,” Schwitzer said about the Nov. 6 election. “We’re looking to give people an opportunity to hear candidates from key congressional races.”

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Zero Compassion, Zero Wisdom and Zero Coherence

Posted on 27 June 2018 by admin

Editor’s note: Rabbi David Stern originally wrote this piece for the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s Rav blog June 21.

By Rabbi David Stern

The mother from Nicaragua stood before our multifaith group of 40 religious leaders this morning in the simple and dignified space of the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, cradling her sleeping infant in her arms. “We are here because my country is no longer safe for my child.”

First Person


By this writing, she is already on a bus to San Francisco, her ticket purchased by relatives there, her safe passage arranged by Sister Norma and the remarkable staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

She, like the other families we met in the Respite Center, is among the lucky ones — who can still cradle their babies, who can still play with their children on the colorful mats in the corner, who were able to take their first shower in weeks, to wash off the mud and cold of passage.
It was some combination of chance, powerful love and spiritual commitment that landed mother and child on that westbound bus. The love and commitment of volunteers and faith communities who share time, supplies, food and medical services; and the luck of a given moment on a given day. I asked one of the staff at the Respite Center how that mother and that child could still be together in the face of the administration’s cruel and draconian requirement that children be taken from their parents at the border, and she shrugged: maybe a compassionate border guard, maybe because the child was just a baby, maybe our prayers worked.
We have witnessed traumatic cruelty in our nation in these recent weeks, and if witnessing it has been traumatic, we can only begin to imagine the pain of those who suffered it directly: the parents and children whose wails tear at our hearts. The name of this policy, “Zero Tolerance,” is Orwellian at best. The practice of ripping children from their parents at the border is not Zero Tolerance. It is Zero Compassion. It is Zero Wisdom, because it deprives security professionals of discretion. It is Zero Coherence because it expends security resource indiscriminately, instead of focusing them on the populations who might put us at risk. It has been a violation of core Jewish values and an affront to the American values of which Dreamers dream.
The president’s recent executive order, while a seeming reversal in the face of public outcry, will not address core injustices. It makes no provision for reuniting the 2,300 already separated children with their families. It offers no change in the fundamental flaws, and smokescreen, of so-called Zero Tolerance. A narrow executive order cannot restore heart to what is heartless.
Our visit today was supposed to conclude with a visit to the Border Detention Center — I had hoped to report to you firsthand about the cages of separation and the conditions there. For reasons not totally clear — some combination of serious flash floods and government bureaucratic confusion — we were not permitted to visit.
So the work of calling for transparency must continue — not only by the 40 leaders on our bus, but by everyone of us who cares about the conscience, heart and destiny of America.
In this week’s parashah, the ruler of Edom earns a reputation for callousness and injustice by uttering two simple words to Moses and the Israelites seeking to pass through his territory: lo ta’avor. Those words have become an emblem in our tradition for blind and simplistic enmity. When our nation speaks an unconditional “lo ta’avor” to refugees seeking safety from violence and pursuing a life of dignity and freedom, when our president uses the word “infest” to describe their presence in a land of freedom, the echoes are more than troubling.
But today in McAllen, we outshouted those echoes with the laughter of children, with songs of hope from Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants, whites and people of color, locking arms and joining forces to bring a sense of solidarity to a border town, a sense of compassion and justice to our nation. We leave McAllen pledging vigilance for the safety of all children and families, and for the protection of the values precious to us all.
Rabbi David Stern is senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

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New Holocaust Museum enters final phase of construction

New Holocaust Museum enters final phase of construction

Posted on 22 June 2018 by admin

Ann and Nate Levine, board members and major donors

 

Local survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides were recognized June 13 at a special “topping out” celebration as construction of the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum enters its final phase. Ron Steinhart, campaign co-chair; Brad Brown, president of Austin Commercial; Thear Suzuki, board member; The Honorable Florence Shapiro, Holocaust Museum board chair and daughter of Holocaust survivors; and Mary Pat Higgins each addressed the gathering.
A time capsule which included letters from survivors will be placed inside the walls of the new Museum.
Finally, the crowd shouted “Fly the Beam” in unison and watched skyward as construction workers secured it to the three-story structure.
Construction on the new museum commenced on Oct. 10, 2017 and is set to be completed in September 2019. Upon completion of the new 51,000-square-foot museum, Dallas will move to the forefront of 21st-century human rights education with all new interactive exhibitions, state-of-the-art theater and gathering spaces, accessible archives for documents and historical artifacts, and classrooms to accommodate school groups.
The new museum will be unique among the nation’s 21 Holocaust-related museums, featuring an expanded examination of the Holocaust with dozens of video testimonies from Dallas-area survivors, along with new, in-depth technology-enriched exhibits on other genocides, human rights issues and American ideals.

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Breaking ground at The Legacy Midtown Park

Breaking ground at The Legacy Midtown Park

Posted on 22 June 2018 by admin

Photos: Lara Bierner
(L to R) Melissa Orth, president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities; Marc R. Stanley, chairman of the board of trustees of The Legacy Senior Communities; Carol Aaron, co-chair of the capital campaign committee and chair of the board of directors of The Legacy Midtown Park; Marion Glazer, co-chair of the capital campaign for The Legacy Midtown Park; Jennifer Staubach Gates, Dallas City Council member District 13; Michael Ellentuck, director of project development for The Legacy Midtown Park; Fraser Marcus, chair of The Legacy Senior Communities financial oversight committee; and Brian Barnes, chief financial officer and chief operating officer for The Legacy Senior Communities

 

The Legacy Senior Communities, a not-for-profit charitable organization, officially broke ground on The Legacy Midtown Park rental continuing care retirement community in Dallas. The organization celebrated the milestone with board members, donors and invited guests.
“We are embarking on an exciting new chapter for The Legacy Senior Communities. The Legacy Midtown Park will be a state-of-the-art retirement community with independent living and all other levels of care on one campus,” said Marc R. Stanley, chairman of the board of trustees for The Legacy Senior Communities. “North Texas families have been asking us for years to create a rental continuing care retirement community in Dallas, and we are thrilled to respond with this amazing community.”
Once completed, the total project cost of The Legacy Midtown Park will be $175 million, and it will create approximately 350 jobs. The community will have 184 independent living apartments, and the highest quality of care in 50 assisted living apartments, 36 memory care residences, and 54 suites for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care. In an urban, contemporary setting with multiple dining options, a fully equipped fitness, aerobics and aquatic center and cutting-edge amenities, The Legacy Midtown Park will provide the lifestyle desired by seniors today and for years to come. The Legacy at Home, the organization’s not-for-profit home health care agency, will also provide home health care and personal care for residents if needed.
In addition to Stanley, the ceremony included remarks from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins; Carol Aaron, co-chair of the capital campaign committee and chair of the board of directors of The Legacy Midtown Park; Michael Ellentuck, director of project development for The Legacy Midtown Park; Mark Kreditor, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas board chair; Dallas City Council Member Jennifer Staubach Gates; and Melissa Orth, president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities. Rabbi Adam Roffman of Congregation Shearith Israel led the concluding prayer.
“A community is judged by the way it cares for its elders, and it is our responsibility to build a campus that provides a wonderful lifestyle, offers the highest quality of care and meets the needs of the community,” said Carol Aaron. “I am thrilled to reach this historic moment in our organization’s history, and I want to personally thank all of our donors who stepped up to make this community a reality.”
Located on 10 acres in the Midtown Park development between Meadow Road and Royal Lane just off North Central Expressway in Dallas, The Legacy Midtown Park will be the only Jewish-sponsored rental retirement community in Dallas. However, the development will offer security and peace of mind for people of all faiths who will call the community home.
“We are a mission-based organization, and we have a proud history of caring for seniors and their families in Dallas,” said Melissa Orth, president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities. “The Legacy Midtown Park will allow us to continue our dedication to seniors through innovative programming, superior care and exceptional lifestyle options. It is an honor to build this unique community, and we look forward to furthering our commitment to serving Dallas seniors and their families.”
There will be supervised kosher kitchens, and kosher food options will be available.
Project partners include Dallas-based D2 Architecture; Andres Construction Services, StudioSIX5, interior design firm; Talley Associates, landscape architecture; The Belaire Group, development consultant; SunTrust Bank, lead arranger; and Frost Bank.

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