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Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program at UTSW important resource for Jews

Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program at UTSW important resource for Jews

Posted on 24 May 2018 by admin

Photos: UTSW
Dr. Theo Ross in her UTSW lab. An oncologist, she wrote the book, A Cancer in the Family.

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

UT Southwestern’s Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program wants to do for pancreatic cancer what colonoscopies did for colon cancer: Catch it before it’s too late. This multi-disciplinary team of gastroenterologists, radiologists, surgical oncologists and geneticists want to help people who are at high risk for the disease. This is of particular interest to the Jewish community, which has a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer than the general population.
The background
It is widely known that people who carry mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers. In fact, 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews, both men and women, carries a BRCA gene mutation — more than 10 times the rate of the general population, according to the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) and Sharsheret (sharsheret.org).
However, what is not common knowledge in the Jewish community are the other cancers influenced by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Among them is pancreatic cancer. Rare, but particularly deadly, pancreatic cancer represents only 2 percent of all cancers. Yet, it is responsible for 40 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, making it the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths each year.
What makes it so difficult to treat is that people often do not feel symptoms of the disease until it is advanced and aggressive.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following reasons:
• There aren’t noticeable signs or symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer.
• The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, when present, are like the signs and symptoms of many other illnesses.
• The pancreas is hidden behind other organs such as the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and bile ducts.”
While having a BRCA1 mutation raises your risk of pancreatic cancer by only about a couple of percentage points (to 1-2 percent), a BRCA2 mutation can increase that lifetime risk to 5-10 percent for people who have the mutation, explained Dr. Theo Ross, a professor of Internal Medicine and the director of the Cancer Genetics Program in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Care Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center. She is a member of the program’s multidisciplinary team as well.
Ross explained that in addition to the BRCA mutation, family history is key. “If you have a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer or two others with pancreatic cancer, such as a cousin… you have a familial risk.” These are the folks who could be screened in the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Clinic for precancerous cysts and followed closely thereafter.
Time to get tested
Ross stresses the importance of genetic testing for all members of the Jewish community. “The number of people that have a BRCA mutation and know they have a mutation is a small percentage,” she said. “Maybe 15 percent of people with the mutation know about their mutation. If they don’t know, they don’t know about the pancreatic cancer risk.” Ross encouraged people to get tested even if it’s with one of the at-home tests to start. One such test is available at Color.com. Color’s BRCA Test sells for $99. The test can be ordered by your private physician or an independent physician belonging to an external network. The company sends you a saliva collection kit and prepaid return label for you to send your sample back in. Ross says the test is solid. However, it’s important to review your results with a genetic counselor. And, she says, just because you test negative for BRCA1 or BRCA2 doesn’t mean you are in the clear. There are many genes that influence hereditary cancer syndromes. If you see patterns in your family, even if you test negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, it’s important to discuss your family history with a genetic counselor.
She became interested in genetics when she was in medical school and started putting two and two together: The number of people in her family who had cancer was alarming. Still, it took years for Ross to ultimately discover she is a carrier of the BRCA1 mutation herself. She discovered this only after she survived melanoma, one of the many cancers enabled by the BRCA mutations. She tells her story in her 2016 book A Cancer in the Family: Take Control of Your Genetic Inheritance. The book, which is now available in paperback on Amazon and from other resellers, is a resource guide for everyone and anyone who is concerned about their cancer risk. Despite the technical topic, it is easy to read.
The program
UT Southwestern’s Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program was launched in 2016. Dr. Nisa Kubiliun, the director of the program, believes it is poised to make a difference in the lives of those who are at high risk for pancreatic cancer. “Back in the day, nobody realized that pancreatic cysts were a significant cause of pancreatic cancer. They were largely ignored,” she explained. Over time, pancreatic cysts can evolve into tumors.
“When we started, we thought there were people who had pancreatic cysts and needed to be monitored,” she said. Kubiliun said that watching the progression of precursors to pancreatic cancer is a relatively new process. She believes that pancreatic cancer probably develops over the course of many years, but people have only been watching cysts recently.
“Our greatest opportunity is to prevent pancreatic cancer in the first place,” she says. By monitoring changes in the pancreas over time, surgeons can remove a cyst or precursor lesions of the pancreas that look troublesome before they actually turn into cancer.
Kubiliun says the program is growing rapidly, much under the auspices of its benefactor Jewish community member Nancy Wiener Marcus.
“I met Nancy shortly after we launched the program. From the minute I met her she’s been a force for really catapulting the program into the next stratosphere. She’s gone to incredible lengths to get the word out to the community. Her energy, her passion and her desire are inspiring.”
Currently the program is seeing about 20 new patients per week. Kubiliun explains what a good candidate for the program is: anybody with a strong family history of cancer; anybody with a history of pancreatic cancer or cysts of the pancreas; and anyone with a known genetic mutation.
A referral from a physician is not necessary. “They can simply go to our website (https://utswmed.org/conditions-treatments/pancreatic-cancer-prevention/) or call (214-645-8300) and say, “I need to be seen, can I be evaluated?” Kubiliun said they have never turned an individual away. “There is no downside for reaching out and asking us to take a look at your medical history,” she says.
One such person who joined the program is glad she did. Suzanne Calibretti, who is BRCA positive, was being screened with MRIs when the team noticed a change in her pancreas over time. “She was at the step right before it becoming cancer,” said Dr. Kubiliun. “Had she not had that operation, had she not had that pretumor removed, it would have been a completely different ball game. I can’t emphasize enough the greatest opportunity is to prevent pancreatic cancer in the first place.”
The mensch
If you’ve ever met Nancy Wiener Marcus, then you know she has a heart of gold. About five years ago, Marcus wanted to do something important for her 70th birthday. “I wanted to give some money toward something to help and I wanted it to go toward pancreatic cancer.” Initially, Marcus gave an endowment in honor of her own UTSW gastroenterologist Dr. Mack Mitchell for a fellowship. “That way it could go toward learning about the pancreas and other GI problems,” she explained.
However, Marcus felt the urge to do more and later was introduced to Dr. Kubiliun over lunch one day.
“What do you need?” Marcus said she asked Kubiliun. “It was pulling at me. I needed to do something else. You have to be doing something to make this world a better place.”
Initially, Marcus was going to provide $5,000 for a freezer for storing cells. “By the time I got home, I’d decided I’d start a fund of about $100,000 to get this thing (the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program) going.
Marcus is passionate about getting the word out about the program. “My goal is to bring awareness and knowledge to our community. Most doctors don’t know this program even exists. And the Jewish community members don’t know that if they have a mother or aunt who had pancreatic cancer, they can go get tested and see where they are on the spectrum, so they can be followed and detect and do something before it gets into full-stage pancreatic cancer.”
Marcus hopes to bring an education program to the Jewish community in November during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
“I keep asking myself, what else can I, Nancy, in my own little way be doing to bring about awareness and knowledge to our community so we can arrest the rapid growth of this disease?”
Marcus emphasized that being able to give the money has been a blessing, but if people don’t know about the program, “What’s the point? We need people to get people to take care of themselves and their family.”
A case in point
Many in the Dallas Jewish community know about Jamie Lambert, now 48. The TJP covered her story in November 2016, 16 months after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and her Team Jamie Facebook page has about 750 followers.
“The cancer diagnosis in July 2015 was not the first health scare. In July 2014, her gallbladder was taken out and she was discovered to have pancreatitis. She never really recovered.
“She went to the doctor a year later, worried when her body started turning yellow. An ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) found something, and led to a biopsy.
“‘(The doctor) comes in the room, and he says, ‘You have pancreatic cancer,’ Lambert said. It was adenocarcinoma. ‘And he walked out of the room. We knew you don’t live when you have pancreatic cancer.’
“She found an oncologist she liked, Dr. Michael Savin at Medical City, who later closed his office in March and moved to Portland. Savin didn’t have good news.
“‘I was given six months, 12 months to live,’ Lambert said.
“Her stage 3 cancer was too far along for a Whipple surgery, a common method for dealing with pancreatic cancers. But it’s hard to find the disease in time. It was a devastating blow.”
The UTSW Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program didn’t exist when Jamie was diagnosed. And in fact, a virtual expert on pancreatic cancer today — as many people become when they are afflicted with a dangerous disease — she didn’t know about the program until the TJP shared it with one of her sisters.
Lambert would have met the criteria to be followed, having had pancreatitis and a mother and grandmother that had breast cancer. Interestingly, neither she nor her sisters tested positive for BRCA mutations; however, as Dr. Ross stated earlier, those are not the only mutant genes responsible and testing genes like PALB2 for mutations is key.
Dr. Kubiliun explains that when someone develops pancreatic cancer so young, at age 45, and has a positive family history of cancer, it’s even more important that her first degree blood relatives are followed by a program like the one at UT Southwestern. Now that they know about it, those wheels are set in motion.
In the meantime, Lambert, who has been living with pancreatic cancer for about three years, is going about living her life with her husband Kevin and their three children. “I take care of my kids, pick them up from school, exercise and try and connect with other people who are going through what I am going through.” Jamie, who undergoes chemotherapy twice a month, lives every day to its fullest. “Life’s too short not to,” she says.

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A friendship like any other — surprisingly

A friendship like any other — surprisingly

Posted on 24 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Submitted by JFGD
In Morocco, NYLC members, from left, Dan Zale, Jarrod Beck, Ophir Laizerovich, Sharron Laizerovich, Steven Davidoff, Jonathan Rubenstein, Paul Rubin and Eric Axel

By Jonathan Rubenstein

Sarah is in the 11th grade. She was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco, and when she finishes high school, she wants to move to France so she can study medicine and eventually become a doctor.
Brenda also was born and raised in Casablanca, and she, too, is in the 11th grade. After high school, Brenda wants to leave Morocco and move to New York City to continue her studies.
Sarah and Brenda are the best of friends. They have played together since they were very young. They have grown up together. And now they study alongside each other at the Lycée Maimonide in Casablanca.
On the surface, the story of Sarah and Brenda seems rather ordinary. We see stories about children growing up together and sharing formative experiences with each other many, many times over in Dallas and throughout the United States. But the story of Sarah and Brenda is anything but ordinary.
Sarah is a Muslim. Brenda is Jewish.
Along with 130 friends and colleagues from the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet — including eight of us representing Dallas — I recently had the opportunity to meet Sarah and Brenda in Casablanca, during our Cabinet trip to Morocco and Madrid. Each year, Cabinet takes a trip abroad so we can see firsthand the impact of Federation’s overseas dollars through the JDC and Jewish Agency.
This year’s trip was a fascinating contrast between two Jewish communities on different trajectories. In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain and, for centuries thereafter, there were zero Jews in the entire country. Jewish life is being revived in Spain, though. There are now approximately 50,000 Jews in Spain, and the communities are thriving. The Moroccan Jewish community, partially because of the Jews’ expulsion from Spain, numbered approximately 300,000 at its peak. But once Israel became a state, many people left, leaving only 3,500 Jews in Morocco today.
During our trip, we had tremendous access to politicians and public figures. For example, Cabinet members met with one of Morocco’s foreign ministers in a regal setting near the Royal Palace to discuss Morocco’s relationship with Jews and Israel. We also met with a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Morocco to discuss the historical relationship between the United States and Morocco. Interestingly, Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the United States as an independent nation. And while in Madrid, we had a private meeting with Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra to discuss the shared history and values of Jews and Catholics.
Back in Casablanca, Sarah and Brenda joined us for lunch one day at the SOC Club — the only Jewish social and sports club in Morocco. It was at this lunch, and in particular during the panel on which Sarah and Brenda spoke, that we learned about Morocco’s inspiring religious tolerance.
On the panel with Sarah and Brenda were two of their teachers from the Lycée Maimonide — a school funded in part by our Federation dollars. The school is a Jewish high school, with both Jewish and Muslim students. Historically, Jewish students composed 80 percent of the student body. Now, as the Moroccan Jewish community ages, the population is 80 percent Muslim and 20 percent Jewish.
Our group was excited to hear about their experiences in this unique Jewish high school with such significant religious diversity. The first question came from the panel: “Tell us about some of the challenges you face in the school with respect to the mixed religions.” One of the teachers responded, “There are no challenges.” The other teacher followed suit, “I agree — the same answer as her.”
The room was silent. The answers were not what we expected. We expected to hear a discussion about tensions that exist between Jewish and Muslim students — much like what we are accustomed to hearing on the news.
Surely the next question would spark some discussion, we thought. The moderator asked the students, “Tell us what makes this school exceptional.” Brenda responded, “Nothing really.” Sarah said, “It’s really just like any other school.”
More silence filled the room. It was that uncomfortable, awkward feeling when a live event does not unfold as planned, leaving a lot of dead air to fill. People in the audience were expecting to hear a good story showcasing this Federation-funded school as an example of an exceptional accomplishment in religious pluralism.
And then it hit us. The story was that there was nothing exceptional about a Jewish school in a Muslim country with a predominantly Muslim student body. It was just a school. With kids. Who have friends. They do not see the world divided up by religious lines. These kids just see people for who they are.
And they live in a country that fosters this kind of thinking. Less than a decade ago, King Mohammed VI amended Morocco’s constitution to add language specifically recognizing the Jewish people as an important part of the country’s history and culture. Something unique from a predominantly-Muslim country. This same king, while driving through the streets of Marrakech’s Jewish quarter several years ago, noticed that many of the street signs, which used to bear Jewish names and Hebrew script, had been changed to Arabic names and script. The king ordered that they all be changed back. Morocco’s commitment to preserving Jewish culture and promoting a peaceful coexistence with Muslims is remarkable. And the Lycée Maimonide is a byproduct of that.
The line from our lunch panel that really captured the moment came from Sarah. She said about Brenda, “We have been very close friends since elementary school, and I hope that we can be very close friends for the rest of our lives.”
This small example of religious coexistence can speak to people and communities across the world. There are millions of Sarahs and Brendas out there. If tikkun olam happens one step at a time, this is a great place to start.
Jonathan Rubenstein is a Dallas attorney and member of the Jewish Federations of North America National Young Leadership Cabinet. He participated in the NYLC trip to Spain and Morocco recently.

 

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Double your shopping at The Resale Shop 2

Double your shopping at The Resale Shop 2

Posted on 16 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Jamie Denison/Jewish Family Service
“We want the shopping experience to be a great one, and it’s just that,” said Laurie McCarty (front, far left), who oversees JFS’ The Resale Shop stores, at the Garland store’s ribbon cutting. “I’m proud of what we’re able to do and the more stores we have, the more we can assist.”

By Deb Silverthorn

It doesn’t get much better than shopping and supporting a great cause, and Dallas’ Jewish Family Service has made that easier by opening the second outlet of The Resale Shop.
Shoppers can now fill their baskets with items to fit every budget at the new Garland location, 3338 Broadway Blvd. The new store and the Richardson shop at 2120 E. Beltline Road, which recently celebrated five years, are open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
“People want to know how they can help, never if,” said JFS’ Chief Operating Officer Cathy Barker. “We’ve received wonderful donations, and the community-at-large is shopping with dollars spent making a difference — many differences for our clients.”
“Five years ago, we had no idea we would be where we are today. We thought the store could bring in some additional funds to support the agency, but it’s so much more,” Barker said at the Garland ribbon cutting last month. “It’s a place to volunteer and give back, a place to work and make lifelong friends, and it’s a place to give back and help others.”
With Hurricane Harvey came countless volunteers, many donating clothing and furnishings to the victims. Even with the crisis’ monstrosity, more items came in than could be used, and pod after pod was filled at JFS. A place was needed for all that couldn’t be shared. That place became JFS’ second 6,000-square-foot store.
One who led the donations, and who is still serving, was Carlos Lopez, who with Mike Lewis owns Mañana Management Company, Inc., which buys furniture from companies that are moving or closing. Lopez put his network into action, collecting dozens of trailers of beds and tables, chairs, sofas and more from across the country. “Everyone wanted to help, and it’s not over yet,” he said. “It’s a long way from over.”
While the immediate need is new or gently used summer clothing for women and children, household goods, men’s clothing, shoes, books, jewelry, accessories, housewares, collectibles and furniture also are appreciated.
Donations, preferred off the hangers and folded, are accepted 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday at the stores; 1-5 p.m. Monday-Friday at JFS; and anytime at a marked bin in the north parking lot at the Aaron Family JCC. Arrangements can be made for large furniture items (no appliances), or for those unable to get to the stores who are within 25 miles of the stores.
It’s recommended that people go through their things before delivery to be certain personal items don’t also get “donated.” While on occasion a few dollars have been left behind, last December a staffer found $17,050 in a coat. Research turned up the widow of the coat’s owner, a relief to management and an opportunity to remind donors to check, and check again, before dropping off.
The Resale Shops provide clothing and shoes, wardrobes for job interviews for those working with JFS’ job assistance and those in other forms of crisis. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, when there’s a crisis — a fire, flood, or other tragedy — people are in need and we now have a way to share,” said Laurie McCarty, who based at the Richardson store, oversees all with Kristina Russell, the store manager in Garland.
“We want the shopping experience to be a great one and it’s just that,” said McCarty, who worked with Goodwill Industries for 20 years. “I came to work for The Resale Shop because I appreciate what it stands for, what JFS does for our seniors, CHAI residents, and for anyone who needs help. I love and am proud of what we’re able to do, and the more stores we have, the more we can assist.”
The stores are manned by volunteers and a combined staff of nearly 20, two of whom are residents of CHAI (Community Homes for Adults, Inc.).
“For many, having a job and learning and earning and realizing one’s self-worth is a big part of having a meaningful life which is what we strive to provide for our residents and clients. When JFS received a grant to partner with us, we were able to put into place the practices that we work toward in providing resume support and job coaching,” said CHAI Chief Executive Officer Lisa Brodsky. “Devon and Josh are just two of our greats who work hard and know they are appreciated. That’s what we all want and our partnership with JFS is very special.”
For more information about the stores, visit jfsdallas.org/resale or email resale@JFSdallas.org.

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Young Jewish actors hope to reap awards

Young Jewish actors hope to reap awards

Posted on 16 May 2018 by admin

Photo: J.J. Pearce High School
Adi Bitton is nominated for her Best Leading Actress performance of Winnie Foster in “Tuck Everlasting.” She said she was emotional and excited to hear her name called as a nominee.

By Shari Goldstein Stern

 

The curtain will rise on the seventh annual Dallas Summer Musicals (DSM) 2017-2018 High School Musical Theatre Awards Thursday, May 17, at the Music Hall at Fair Park, and several Jewish students are in nominated shows — two in lead or featured roles.
According to DSM President Kenneth T. Novice, “Patterned after Broadway’s Tony Awards, the DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards (HSMTA) celebrate the power of the arts and its ability to significantly improve all areas of education. As the second largest program of its kind in the country, the DSM HSMTA recognize artistic and educational achievements of North Texas and Oklahoma students and their high school programs.”
Adi Bitton from J.J. Pearce High School has been nominated for Best Leading Actress for her performance of Winnie Foster in the school’s performance of Tuck Everlasting. She will also walk the red carpet Thursday with the cast of the school’s Les Misérables, which is nominated for Best Musical. She played Cosette.
“I loved how Cry-Baby was so adventurous and magical,” she said. “It opened my eyes to a completely different type of musical as well as challenged me as an actor.”
The actor has been doing musical theater since junior high through high school; she sang in choir her first three years of high school, and before that, she sang in junior high.
Adi said, “I was absolutely thrilled about the whole DSM experience last year, so when I found out I was nominated again this year, I couldn’t hold back my excitement. Musical theater has become one of my passions and influenced me to study the subject in college.”
She continued, “I am going to attend Texas State University in the fall and hope to pursue the major of production and performance. I would love to begin working in the professional work of theater in New York and start auditioning for shows and getting helpful internships.”
Adi said she always loved singing and was introduced to musical theater around eighth grade while seeing one of the musicals at Pearce. “I knew what my dream was, to be up there on that stage,” she said. “I’ve been taking dance classes as well as vocal lessons and I’m working on character envelopment at school.” She added, “DSM is so cool because although it is a competition, it’s also a time to make friends and, most of all, have fun.
“Being Jewish and an actor really influences my character and outlook on theater. Judaism taught me to always be respectful and humble, and it has also shaped me into the performer I am today,” she added.
Meanwhile, Greenhill’s Cry-Baby earned 10 nominations, and had four Jewish students in the cast: Lindsay Jade Feinstein, Kate Franklin and Leah Fradkin were in the ensemble.
Jeffrey Harberg played a member of the barbershop quartet, The Whiffles. The young actor said, “Joining the musical my freshman year was one of the best decisions I ever made. I went out my comfort zone and joined a group of people I was not close with. Over the course of that year, I fell in love with the feeling of being onstage, the feeling of creating a story with other people.
“I had the privilege of learning acting and dancing from very skilled and knowledgeable teachers, and I became close friends with people who I had never talked to before. I had a bigger role than last year, and I was excited to have the opportunity to show my talents onstage,” he said. “Learning the songs, dances, and lines was fun because I was surrounded by people who love theater as much as I do,” he added.
Jeffrey started singing in the middle school choir in fifth through ninth grades, and music continues to be a big part of his life. He watched his older siblings, Max and Samantha, perform in musicals. Both are gifted with musical talent and are an inspiration to their brother.
“I watched Max play the lead in the Greenhill musical. He was skilled, passionate and determined when it came to theater. I knew, watching him on that stage, that I wanted to do that someday because he really seemed to love what he was doing, and he made it look fun,” he said.
Max and Samantha performed together in The Addams Family and Jeffrey gained an understanding of how much of a bonding experience the theater really is. “Every person you perform with becomes your best friend during the musical.” Although the young thespian doesn’t describe himself as a triple threat yet, he has taken piano lessons and vocal training and seems to be on the musical theater tr

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‘CHAI Life’ scores with event at The Star

‘CHAI Life’ scores with event at The Star

Posted on 16 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy CHAI/Community Homes for Adults, Inc.
Those who live the “CHAI Life” will be honored with a special lineup introduction at the June 3 CHAI Life at The Star event benefiting Community Homes for Adults, Inc. “It’s an evening of fun and joy that will help so many — how better to spend a night out?” said Beverly Goldman, CHAI’s board development chair.

By Deb Silverthorn

Community Homes for Adults, Inc. (CHAI) is bound to score big with its CHAI Life at The Star event at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 3, at the Cowboys’ Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.
“To know CHAI is to love what all who are connected stand for and accomplish, making all our community members feel like full and contributing members of our society by giving their residents and clients every chance to reach their full potential to live the ‘CHAI life,’ said Kevin Cooper, event team captain with Julie Goodman.
“It’s the donors bridging the gap between government sources and what residents’ families are able to contribute toward CHAI’s premier services.”
Cooper’s sister, Lisa, has been a CHAI resident for almost 20 years, and he said the residents and staff are Lisa’s lifelong best friends. They have helped her find work, coached her and helped her live as independently as possible.
CHAI was formed to provide programs and services enabling adults with intellectual disabilities to live as independently as possible, enriching their lives with opportunities to meaningfully participate in the community.
“My Peeps was one of the greatest mentors in my life and was always so proud of CHAI,” said Goodman. Her passion for the organization follows that of her grandfather, Milton P. Levy Jr. of blessed memory, who, with Carmen Miller Michael, founded CHAI in 1983. Levy later served as board president and, with his wife, Marjorie, donated the Levy House. “It’s meaningful to me, to my parents, siblings and many family members to be part of something with such connection.”
Goodman, who volunteers and supports CHAI at many community programs, makes it a monthly priority to bake cookies with residents, also giving them manicures. “The CHAI Life at The Star is going to be something Peeps would have loved, and I’m excited for what I know will be a great event.”
The Kickoff Ceremony, featuring CHAI’s Starting Lineup and special guest Cantor Don Croll, will be emceed by Cowboys radio announcer Brad Sham. Cowboys executive chef Rachid El Yamani will prepare a dairy menu of stadium fare, with beer and wine served, and live music will be performed by Bob Rosen and Jim Rosenthal as R&R and Rusty Cooper, Joel Futterman, and Rob Shrell of the Mazik Bros.
Tours of the Dallas Cowboys’ headquarters (additional $25/person) will begin at 5 p.m. (check-in at 4:45 p.m.) and 8:45 p.m.
“We’ll have giant Jenga and Connect 4, a Text-to-Give Football Challenge Game, Operation Kindness Puppy Bowl and adoptions, a punt-pass-kick competition and many prizes,” said Director of Development Patsy Goodman. “We’ve had incredible support for what we know will be a great party with awesome spirit. CHAI enriches lives — it changes lives — and this night to continue that greatness is one people will talk about long after.”
Goodman and Cooper are joined in leading the event’s planning by Katherine Albert and Beverly Goldman, CHAI’s CEO Lisa Brodsky, Patsy Goodman and Board President David Romick, with home field advantage given to committee members: Melissa Ackerman, Laurie Barenblat, Elise Donosky, Dena Frankfurt, Elizabeth Gomez, Marcy Helfand, Greta Herskowitz, Ashley Lindsay, Staci Mankoff, Dave Millheiser, Terri Rohan, Betsy Rosen, Beverly Rossel, Laura Schindler, Ricki Shapiro, Ruthie Shor, Lonna Rae Silverman, Marian Spitzberg, Jenya Teplitskaya, Sophie Zuckerman and a host committee of nearly 90.
“Our residents are happy people and CHAI enhances the meaning of their lives as well as everyone who becomes a part of this ‘family,’” said Beverly Goldman, who has been associated with CHAI for nearly 10 years. She and her husband, Joe, lead the Leo and Rhea Fay Fruhman Foundation that donated the funds to purchase the Toub House, in memory of Rhea Fay’s sister and Beverly’s mother, Lois Toub.
The Toub House joins Bauer (donated by Katherine and Herbert Bauer), Levy, Miller 1 and Miller 2 (donated by the Henry S. Miller family), Todd (donated by the Nanny Hogan Boyd Trust and Dorothy Todd), and Yale houses in providing security, safety and support for CHAI’s 27 residents.
“CHAI has our support across the board and we’re thrilled about the CHAI Life at The Star event. This will be a night like no other and I hope the community will come out to support this incredible organization and all who benefit from it,” said Goldman, CHAI’s board development chair. “It’s an evening of fun and joy that will help so many — how better to spend a night out?”
For more information or to RSVP, visit chaidallas.org, call 214-373-8600 or email
pgoodman@chaidallas.org. Sponsorships are available beginning at $1,080, and individual ticket sales are $180.

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Toras Chaim awaits court ruling

Toras Chaim awaits court ruling

Posted on 16 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Submitted by Rabbi Yaakov Rich Congregation Toras Chaim in Far North Dallas

By Amy Sorter

In 2013, Rabbi Yaakov Rich established his small Orthodox shul, Congregation Toras Chaim, in a home on the 7100 block of Mumford Court, a Far North Dallas residential neighborhood. Less than two years later, trouble began between the small congregation and its neighbors. Many of the issues have been reported in the media and through court filings, with the most recent action focused on parking spaces, and a resulting lawsuit.

Back-and-forth paperwork

As the Texas Jewish Post and The Dallas Morning News reported last week, First Liberty Institute and Winston & Strawn LLP filed suit on behalf of Toras Chaim against the City of Dallas and the Dallas Board of Adjustments in Collin County (where the property is located). The lengthy May 3 filing requested that the court:
1) Issue a temporary restraining order “to prevent enforcement of an unlawful decision” passed by the city of Dallas’ Board of Adjustments April 17.
2) Hold an evidentiary hearing to reverse the above-referenced decision.
No hearing date has been set.
The Board of Adjustment’s decision focused on whether Toras Chaim qualified for an exemption — also known as a variance — from the city’s off-street parking rules. Such rules mandate that the synagogue develop 12 off-street parking spots. But Toras Chaim, as previous reports noted, believes the six it has are plenty. Still, the board denied the shul’s request.
The congregation’s attorneys said in the suit that the BOA’s decision is imposing “burdensome parking regulations on CTC.” This, in turn, the suit states, violates city, state and federal laws allowing for use of the property for religious purposes. Putting it simply, the suit alleges religious discrimination.
Chelsey Youman, First Liberty Institute counsel who is leading the team handling the suit, indicated the Board of Adjustments gave no reason for the denial. In fact, she noted, Toras Chaim worked tirelessly with the City of Dallas to ensure the building and property are in compliance with municipal regulations, including parking. “The city asked us to obtain that parking variance, as we’re not using the spaces,” she said, adding that the shul did everything it was asked to do, including obtaining a shared parking agreement, if necessary, with nearby Torah Day School.

They Said . . . They Said

BOA administrator Steve Long confirmed that the Toras Chaim variance application had been denied, though declined further comment, due to pending litigation. He did refer the TJP to the board’s April 17 agenda. The agenda listed the BOA staff’s suggestion that the variance application be denied because the applicant failed to establish that:
• Granting the variance “will not be contrary to the public interest.”
• The variance is necessary due to property restrictions.
• The hardship the variance would relieve wasn’t self-created or self-imposed on the property.
However, the lawsuit against the City of Dallas and its Board of Adjustments noted that with the first point, “it is never in the public interest to violate religious liberty rights . . .” as the neighborhood zone in which the shul resides “specifically provides for religious use.” The second point, the suit noted, can be refuted, because the property does have certain restructures, such as an adjacent homeowner association wall.
Then there is the third point, that Toras Chaim actually brought the issue on itself, by selecting the building in the first place. The suit alleges the fallacy of the argument, noting that that Toras Chaim never did anything physical to the property to bring “an otherwise conforming property into non-conformance.”

Struggles of a Congregation

Meanwhile, the argument over parking baffles spiritual leader Rich. “We never have more than two cars in the front, and maybe three or four parked in the back,” he said. “That’s the maximum, morning and evening, and it’s been like that for months and months.” On Shabbat, as has been reported before, there are no cars on the street, as congregants walk to worship. And, when it comes to special events, such as the High Holidays, “we ask our members not to park on the street,” Rich said.
Furthermore, he went on to say, the shul invited the HOA’s board to meet for brunch inside the synagogue to talk about how the neighborhood, in general, could be better. “We want to be good neighbors,” Rich added.
If Toras Chaim members aren’t parking cars on the street, then where are the cars coming from? “There are other homes in the neighborhood, residential homes being used for non-residential purposes,” Youman said, echoing points made in the BOA lawsuit. During the summer, for example, swim classes meet at one of the houses, packing the street with parked cars for hours at a time. “There are zero complaints by the neighbors,” Youman said. “The homeowners association hasn’t made a peep about it, Dallas has never enforced it, and has never made those residents jump through hoops.”
Yet residents have made it clear they don’t want a synagogue, or any religious institution, for that matter, operating on their front doorsteps. There have been plenty of neighborhood allegations over the years, one in which a woman remarked how fire truck and ambulance drivers once remarked how many cars were marked on the small street. Furthermore, a specific comment from a neighbor indicated that all houses of worship should be forbidden because “neighbors have a right to enjoy their properties as homes within a specified zoning class.”
The next question, perhaps, might be why the shul continues to remain at its current location. Rich is adamant that Toras Chaim can’t simply pick up and relocate.
“When we determined where to put this shul in the first place, we looked at a location in the neighborhood that would have the least intrusive effect,” he explained. “It had to be within walking distance of those in the neighborhood, and close proximity to where people live.” Relocating the shul, he added, would force congregants to sell their homes and buy new ones, if possible, that would be close to the new location. Relocating, Rich noted, would be highly disruptive, and could lead to “dissolution of the entire synagogue and its membership.”
Right now, Toras Chaim and its representatives are waiting on the district court decision. “We believe the law is on our side,” Youman said. “We’ve met the objective standards for parking variances and hope it can be resolved in the courts. We hope it can overturn the BOA’s decision.”

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Former Neo-Nazi now fights white supremacism

Former Neo-Nazi now fights white supremacism

Posted on 10 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Dallas Holocaust Museum
Christian Picciolini with Rosian Zerner, a Holocaust survivor

By Ben Tinsley
btinsley@live.com

Christian Picciolini was a very young Chicago teen when he first was recruited into what he describes as America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead group.
Picciolini was only 14 at the time. By age 16, he had already risen through the ranks of that gang to the level of group leader. He also joined a hate-rock band.
Picciolini was a member of the neo-Nazi movement for eight years. He extracted himself and escaped that life at age 22.
“There wasn’t a single day in those eight years I was in the movement that I didn’t question what I was doing,” he said. “I wasn’t led to the movement by racism or ideology. I wasn’t brought up that way. I did it because I had felt marginalized for 14 years. … I left because everything fell into this inner explosion I couldn’t ignore anymore. So I walked away.”
That was decades ago.
Now nearly 45, Picciolini has pledged his life to helping others escape the white supremacy movement — out of the clutches of those who approach the disenfranchised and offer them friendship and camaraderie and then drag them down into a world of hate, ignorance and violence. And as someone whose very words and actions helped the neo-Nazi movement move forward when he was a member, Picciolini feels he has much to make up for.
During a May 3 presentation at the Communities Foundation of Texas, 5500 Caruth Haven Lane, Picciolini — now an acclaimed author and TED Talk Speaker — discussed how he has essentially spent the better part of two decades making amends and helping others escape that life. The audience was packed to overflowing.
“I planted a lot of really awful toxic seeds many years ago — many seeds of which I have pulled up today,” Picciolini said. “I am trying to replace what I am pulling out with something more positive.”
Since he left the white power movement, Picciolini founded the peace advocacy/counterextremism group “Life After Hate” in 2010. This group studies the traps that lure people into lives of extremism. Picciolini also regularly visits schools and speaks with community groups.
The road Picciolini walked to where he is now has been both rocky and precarious. For instance, Picciolini said, he didn’t leave the movement fast enough for his ex-wife. So, she took their children and left him.
Leaving a white supremacist life that included being kicked out of six high schools, the former ne’er-do-well spent the next five years in a depression, trying to figure out how to move forward. Life for Picciolini became a matter of treading water — both emotionally and developmentally.
It was at this point, he said, that a good friend came forward and encouraged him to apply for a job at IBM.
At first, Picciolini was incredulous.
“I thought, ‘There is no way they would hire an ex-Nazi with no college experience who had been kicked out of high school,’” Picciolini said. “But my friend said, ‘Just go.’ and I did. And I got the job. I learned how to network computers and install desktops for business and school districts.”
That is when Picciolini came face-to-face with his past: His first assignment for IBM was at one of the high schools he had been kicked out of twice.
And one of the first people he ran into there was a black security guard he had spent much of his high school career tormenting.
So Picciolini said he did the only thing he could: He approached the guard, identified himself, and asked for forgiveness.
“The guard was right there on my first day and I went up to him and told him, ‘I’m sorry.’ I really didn’t know what else to say, But he forgave me and encouraged me to tell my story to others.”
It turns out applying to IBM was the smartest move Picciolini ever made. The company paid for his college. (He got a degree in international relations.)
“All of a sudden, life was like living in Technicolor instead of black and white,” he said.
When Googling Picciolini’s name these days, you are as likely to find the listing of him as a professional musician next to accounts of his efforts to extract people from white supremacy.
The momentum of his new life led Picciolini to become a valued speaker. He has been featured as a contributor on numerous media programs, including CNN and CBS Evening News.
in 2016, he won a Regional Emmy Award for Exit USA’s “There is life after hate” campaign, for which he served as director and executive producer.
In 2017, Picciolini released a memoir titled White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement and How I Got Out (Hachette Books).
As the years go by, Picciolini’s efforts to extract others from the white supremacy movement continues to be his central mission of redemption.
He considers himself very fortunate that his demonization of other races transformed into illumination.
But he still holds himself responsible for helping build the white supremacist movement while he was a member.
“I have essentially spent the past two decades trying to people disengage from the movement I helped build,” he said. “People say this is a timely topic because of the rise in hate crimes that we are seeing. This is something that happens all the time and has happened throughout history.”
Picciolini discussed the Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. He noted that similar rallies happen elsewhere quite a bit, but do not garner as much attention as this one did.
Heather Heyer, who championed civil rights issues on social media, was killed there when a car “plowed into a crowd of counter protesters gathered to oppose a ‘Unite the Right’ rally of white nationalist and other right wing groups. Nineteen others were injured in the incident,” according to CNN.
“A young innocent woman was murdered that day, and the people behind that rally have not yet been held accountable,” Picciolini said “I have been to Charlottesville several times since then and spoken with the woman’s mother.”
Picciolini said despite the way her daughter died, Heyer’s mother has been very open to people trying to disengage from the white supremacist movement.
“She is so empathetic to others,” Picciolini said of Heather Heyer’s mother. “The fact she can do so after losing her daughter to someone who could have been part of that (hate) group is pretty incredible.”
In an issued statement, Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, said the presentation gave audience members the opportunity to explore the depths of racism through the lens of someone who spent years within the movement and as one of its most ardent supporters.
“Our hope is that Christian’s testimony will inform and touch the community in a lasting, impactful way so that future generations do not make the same mistakes that generations before them have made,” she said in the statement.
Picciolini said he will continue to reach out to people who “were just like me” and offer them a way to disengage and gain a new perspective on the people they think they hate.
He said he intends to spend the rest of his life making amends for his participation in the white supremacist movement.
And he’s not so sure he’s even worthy of the title “Upstander.”

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CJE leader Denn, family headed to Israel

CJE leader Denn, family headed to Israel

Posted on 10 May 2018 by admin

Photo: Meyer Denn
The family will spend the next year in Israel on sabbatical, living and loving the land in person.

By Deb Silverthorn

It’ll be a fond, albeit emotional, farewell for Meyer Denn and family at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at the Aaron Family JCC’s Mankoff Center.
Fulfilling a dream, Denn, outgoing director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education (CJE), and his family will take a Sabbatical year in Israel — following their hearts to share the land, lore, and links to their heritage. With careers of teaching the core of the Jewish people at the core of this couple, Denn and his wife, Marni, look forward to having history come to life for their children Sydney, Jordan and Xander.
“We’ve wanted this gift for our children, and we’re so blessed to live in a time of miracles when the Jewish people have returned and are prospering in our country,” said Denn, who hopes to work in Diaspora affairs, education and engagement, and also share the country with tourists (“Come on Texans,” he says).
Denn was born in Wharton, Texas, and raised in Bay City. An involved Young Judaean in his youth and active in communal politics from early on, as a high school senior Denn ran for and won a seat on the city council. With a Bachelor of Arts in history and Judaic studies from UT Austin, he moved to Los Angeles where he served as executive director of the Pacific Jewish Center.
In 1997 he moved to Israel, working for the Jewish Agency and as a licensed tour guide. After returning to Los Angeles, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in literature, a master’s degree in education and an MBA in nonprofit management from the University of Judaism, he reconnected with Marni, and his future was solid.
Since Denn’s arrival in Dallas, the then JED, Jewish Education Department of the Federation, has transformed into the center of our community, now the CJE.
“Meyer has brought together all walks of Jewish life, making what everyone cares about, something everyone cares about. He’s given the Federation a new credibility and a relationship with every institution in town,” Jaynie Schultz said. “Learning has become bigger than only for our children — education has become accessible and joyful for all ages.”
Ten years ago, Denn told the Texas Jewish Post that “as I’m meeting with rabbis, heads of school, teachers and lay leaders of the community, I’m finding an enthusiasm that is contagious and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s beautiful.” Ten years later, that sense of community and his commitment to understanding and enhancing it is his legacy.
“My role is to promote all types of Jewish education: day school, congregational, through organizations and agencies, and to bring crisp and new ideas through which we can partner,” Denn said.
“There was enough happening in our Mankoff space before Meyer, and he has brought it to life,” said Joy Mankoff. “Ron and I wanted more than a ‘room,’ we wanted learning, and a spirit for learning, and from the first time we met Meyer there was a click. He’s made that spirit contagious.”
Federation President and CEO Bradley Laye credits Denn with significant contributions. “The CJE has become the central convener and leader of major Jewish educational initiatives,” said Laye. “Meyer’s vision, creativity and of course his sense of humor, along with a stellar team of professionals, has made the CJE successful.”
Brought to Dallas as an enthusiastic and passionate visionary with the sharing of a new breadth of Jewish education and Jewish life, he’s opened many doors to help members of the community explore their Jewish identity.
Denn helped formulate numerous professional development opportunities for the community’s educators including the attendance of 200 early childhood educators at the National NAEYC Conference, bringing the Conscious Discipline philosophy to the community, sending 24 educators to Israel as part of the Schultz Israel Educator Fellows to teach Israel in the classroom, and the funding of scholarships for three community educators to receive master’s degrees from the Simmons School of Education at SMU.
Almost 2,300 children receive free books through PJ Library and thousands participated in LearningFest programs. The Night to Celebrate Jewish Education events hosted several distinguished speakers, all of whom also addressed area day schools.
The CJE supported strongly the growth of the Special Needs Initiative into becoming the Special Needs Partnership at Jewish Family Service and through Incubator Incentive Grants, CJE invested nearly $100,000 to seed new and innovative programs.
Technology grants for early childhood educators, Shabbat Scholars-in-Residence and this spring’s 13 Reasons Why NOT: Turning the Tide of Teen Suicide are additional examples of the impact Denn and his department has had on the community — the full list able to fill pages.
“I’m most proud that we’ve created an environment for every Jewish perspective in our diverse community to have a seat at the table of Jewish educational discussion and vision and that they show up and participate,” said Denn. “Today, our institutions engage and collaborate in impressive and meaningful ways and there’s a respect and trust that’s been built which continues to develop between our communal institutions.”
Denn believes his staff and all he’s worked with are positioned to maintain the department’s strengths. “We’ve constructed an educational landscape and brought the community’s leadership to understand how to serve its constituents,” he said.
“Meyer helped build up and promote those here who teach, those who support education, and those who want to learn,” said Helen Risch. “He’s upped the scale and helped us realize what we can achieve. We owe him and with his guidance, and the understanding, talent, and experience that we now hold, we’ll only continue to grow.”
Denn and his wife moved to Dallas in 2008 with their daughters and with the imminent debut of their son that fall. Akiba Academy, where Marni taught for years, has been their children’s academic home. With Sydney now headed for high school, the season was right for a family adventure of a lifetime.
“We’ve asked our kids to learn what they can about Judaism and to learn Hebrew, to have diverse experiences, and develop meaningful relationships,” said Denn. “We’ve been blessed here and we’ll never lose touch of our Dallas family. Learn Jewish. Think Jewish. Do Jewish. It’s what we’ve taught, what’s been learned, and it’s the key to goodness for everyone within Jewish Dallas’ grasp.”
Given that home is where the heart is, the Denns will always be home, wherever they go. Shalom y’all — it’s just the beginning.
The goodbye is co-chaired by the Mankoff, Risch, and Schultz families and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education.
There is no cost to attend, but RSVPs are requested by email to kschlosberg@jewishdallas.org. Anyone wishing to share stories, photos or well-wishes should email them to jaynie@jaynieschultz.com, and anyone wanting to share in a donation to the family can send such to the Denn Fund at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, 7800 Northaven Road, Dallas, TX 75230.

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Chessed in Action

Chessed in Action

Posted on 03 May 2018 by admin

Staff Report

The young women of Mesorah are demonstrating the essence of chessed, lovingkindness, with Project Shay (www.projectshay.com), a program the students developed to support Brooke and Barak Krengel, whose daughter Shayna, 2½, was diagnosed in May with Rett Syndrome.
According to Rettsyndrome.org, “Rett Syndrome is a rare non-inherited genetic postnatal neurological disorder that occurs almost exclusively in girls and leads to severe impairments, affecting nearly every aspect of the child’s life: their ability to speak, walk, eat and even breathe easily. The hallmark of Rett Syndrome is near-constant repetitive hand movements while awake.” Overwhelmingly, Rett Syndrome is found in girls.
When they learned of Shayna, the Mesorah students — with chessed always top of mind — “adopted” the engaging little girl. Mesorah junior Tehilla Rosenberg wrote recently, “The Krengels have shown great strength in dealing with their challenging situation. In an interview with students from Mesorah, the Krengels described their reaction to the diagnosis. ‘It was hard to get such heavy news, but if all we did was ask ‘Why us, why Shayna?’ …We are her parents, and we must be her cheerleaders, so that she can continue to advance. Shayna is so strong and rarely complains. She deserves the absolute best, and that’s what we are striving to give her. We have gained a lot from this experience: patience, trust, faith, love, determination, to name a few. Look, we don’t understand why this is happening, or why something so difficult was put on our innocent daughter, but we trust that everything happens for a reason. We are learning that we are a lot tougher and stronger than we thought we were. We know that Shayna is so special and positively impacts everyone she comes in contact with; she is our inspiration. Shayna’s positive upbeat attitude is what keeps us going, and we try to apply this to our lives every day.’’
The Mesorah girls go to the Krengels’ home. They play with Shayna, read to her and give her lots of hugs. This allows the Krengels to do necessary chores around the house and provides some respite.
The Krengels have been touched by the students, and the students have gained insights about themselves and their classmates as well.
Sophomore Moussa Shapiro is inspired by the Krengels’ fortitude, optimism and honesty. “It’s such a special family. They are putting their story out there and they want to inspire other people and show that it’s OK to have these challenges.”
“Project Shay represents what our school is all about,” says senior Rachel Dykman, “being a family, being here for one another.”
Junior Shira Michaels adds, “It has taught me so much about being grateful for what I have and for the people in my school because doing this project really brought so many of the girls together.”
To help raise awareness for Rett Syndrome and to help support the Krengel family, the Mesorah girls have produced a CD, Libeinu. Cut in a studio, the CD, which was released today, May 3, is available at projectshay.com for $15 or you can download the music for $10.
Many girls mentioned the hard work involved, and how rewarding it has been to see each girl use her unique talent to contribute to the project.
Freshman Tova Kam says, “We put a lot of work into this for a higher purpose.”
“This whole journey has been truly incredible… I feel so connected to more girls now because of it. It’s just really been a unifying experience,” added senior Leah Esther Broodo.
To download or purchase the CD and to learn more about Project Shay, visit projectshay.com.

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Chai times at Mesorah High

Chai times at Mesorah High

Posted on 03 May 2018 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn

As the Class of 20-Chai (2018) prepares to graduate from Mesorah School for Girls, its seniors leave with the honor and grace that has defined the school for its chai, its life, its 18 years.
In 2000, Rachel Leah and Shelly Rosenberg’s second daughter was bound for high school and, having already sent their oldest to Baltimore, Rachel Leah Rosenberg wanted an alternative for girls in the Dallas community. Together with a founding group that included Karen and Larry Kosowsky, Aviva and Oscar Rosenberg, and Leah and Jeff Secunda, a dream became a reality.
“There was no alternative to bringing a girls’ school to Dallas. Our parents wanted it, our girls needed it and we as a community were growing and to continue to inspire families to come here, we had to do it,” said Rachel Leah, whose daughter Yocheved is graduating this year, four of her sisters preceding her. “It’s meant a great deal to our families, and I’m very proud of what’s come of the school and its graduates.”
Mesorah students complete Judaic and secular studies, take Advanced Placement courses and partner with Richland College to earn high school and college credit. Many receive local and national academic and merit-based scholarships.
“We’re a college preparatory school with Torah at the forefront, and much more as the backdrop of a very full academic, social and extracurricular education experience,” said Mesorah’s Headmaster Rabbi Avraham Zev Kosowsky, the father of two graduates and one on the horizon. “Our students are immersed in a curriculum designed specifically for them and taught by teachers who are not just experts in their fields, but experts at educating young women. They learn in a joyful environment that develops critical thinking and leadership in its many forms.”
Kosowsky’s first year featured six graduates and 19 students. Today, there are 61 students. While growth is a good “dilemma,” there are hopes to begin a building campaign. The campus is now in an office building at Park Central.
“Mesorah provides not only ‘book learning,’ but learning of life built on relationships,” said Kosowsky, who taught at Akiba Academy before joining Mesorah’s administration in 2003. While now 10 times its initial census, Mesorah’s students and teachers share special bonds in and out of the classroom through Shabbatons, before- or after-school support and late-night phone calls for academic or personal connections. “Our faculty makes itself available at any time, and the friendships last long after our young ladies graduate.”
The tenet of tikkun olam is not taken lightly by students, who yearly amass over 6,000 chessed hours helping in their synagogues, babysitting, tutoring, visiting the elderly and infirm, mentoring others and more. They volunteer for CHAI/Community Homes for Adults, Inc.; Dallas Jewish Community Foundation; Dallas’ Friendship Circle; the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; Israel Bonds; Od Yosef Chai; Yachad; and other organizations. They’ve used their talents to produce CDs helping others and promote health-issue awareness. They baked 2,000-plus challah rolls during Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
“Mesorah has been a draw for those looking to move to our community, which has grown significantly, and single-gender academic institutions — religious or secular — have significant benefits,” said Rabbi Yerachmiel Udman, director of development, who also teaches in the classroom. “We have done a great job of recognizing the uniqueness of each student and building their strengths through a Jewishly-centered absolutely strong academic practice.”
The school’s Dedicated Day of Learning Campaign has been filled with tributes of “in memory” and “in honor,” “in the merit of good health” and general congratulations.
“This campaign has members of the community near and far supporting us while recognizing individuals close to them, honored truly by educating others,” said Udman, previously the founding rabbi and headmaster of Torah Day School and director of Judaic studies at Akiba Academy, the father of two Mesorah graduates, one this year and four in the future. “The priority is educating our ladies always keying in on how we can build each student with concern for the whole person, teaching them to think globally and scholastically, but also to think for themselves.”
Mesorah’s first graduating class of six (in 2004, Rebecca Levy Chastain, Tsippi Fried Gross, Yulia Dykman Hill, Miriam Lachterman, Malkie Rosenberg Ozeri and Rachel Secunda Sasson) and its 104 other alumni remain connected. Mesorah’s graduates are now lawyers, doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, homemakers and more. They have graduated from schools ranging from Bar-Ilan University to Columbia Law School. Reunions have taken place in town, New York or Israel — where many have studied or made homes over the years.
On June 10, Leah Esther Broodo, Rachel Broodo, Rachel Dykman, Shani Epstein, Rachel Evans, Chaya Rochel Jager, Chasida Lurie, Rivke Notelovitz, Yocheved Rosenberg, Laya Udman and Tehilla Yachnes-Dear will turn their tassels, becoming alumnae as well.
“We were the first, but the impact the school made on all of us was huge,” said Ozeri, now an art teacher at Torah Day School of Dallas. “While the school has grown, the approach to connect with each individual remains. It’s not about schooling four grades of students, but about each student at the right level. There is a mix of students in many classes and from that comes friendships that last.
“The older we get the more about our identity we have to discover. Who each of us will be comes from asking questions and being with those who set examples,” Ozeri added. “Mesorah has always allowed a freedom of expression and helped its students develop a love for learning.”
For more information or to make a Day of Learning dedication, visit mesorahhighschool.org.

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