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Texas anti-BDS bill progressing toward law

Posted on 06 April 2017 by admin

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

The State of Texas is getting closer to solidifying its support for Israel as House Bill 89 and Senate Bill 29 are making progress in the Texas Legislature.
The companion bill would prohibit the use of state public funds for companies that are involved with the organization Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a global campaign attempting to increase political and economic pressure on Israel through boycotts, divestment of investments and international sanctions. One of BDS’ target goals is delegitimizing the State of Israel.
On March 22, Senate Bill 29 was passed by a 25-4 vote and sent to the House. On that same day the House State Affairs Committee heard testimony on House Bill 89 and it was later passed out of committee by a unanimous 10-0 vote.
“We have been thrilled to see the traction that it’s gotten in the Senate and House,” Joel Schwitzer, from the AJC Dallas Regional Chapter, said. “We’re gratified it’s happened like it has. The advocacy on this bill from both parties and from all those who came together has been superb.”
Part of the bill’s success has been the outpouring of support from the community. In February busloads of people went to Austin to stand up for the bill and speak with their representatives.
One of those to speak up was Jesse Stock, the southern regional coordinator for StandWithUs, which works to gain worldwide support for Israel. In Stock’s speech to the legislative committee, he worked to dispel any falsehoods about the bill.
“Opponents of this bill claim it infringes on their First Amendment rights. This is completely false. If a company in Texas chooses to boycott Israel, they are free to do so,” Stock said in his speech. “This bill simply says the State of Texas refuses to do business with those companies that choose to be racist, hateful and target our greatest ally in the region. This bill protects Texas jobs and financial interests. The invaluable partnership between Lockheed-Martin and the Israeli government is just one example.”
There hasn’t been much opposition to the bill, but those who have opposed it have tried to claim it infringes upon First Amendment rights. That is wholly false, and Schwitzer said legislators have recognized that.
“There have been some speaking against it, but there’s been way more support for the bills in both the House and the Senate,” Schwitzer said. “People are noticing this is the right thing for Texas and that it’s important for Texas to stand with Israel.”
And having Texas pass such legislation would send a strong message to the rest of the country.
Other states have already passed similar legislation, but if Texas joins the group it could encourage other states to adopt similar legislation and stand with Israel.
Such a bill would also put pressure on the private sector to support Israel and push for private companies to distance themselves from pro-BDS organizations.
For example, Comerica Bank, which is based in Dallas, has provided an account to pro-BDS organization the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). The IADL aligned itself with Iran’s regime in its criticism of the Jewish state.
State representative Phil King, who is from Weatherford and represents District 61 West of Fort Worth, sponsored the bill in the House and has been encouraged by the progress of the bill.
“Texas will not tolerate national-origin discrimination against Israel, which is precisely what BDS is,” King wrote on his website. “Efforts to inflict economic harm upon Texas’ trading partners weaken our state’s ability to conduct trade, and harm our vital social interests. BDS is not only Israel’s problem, it’s Texas’ problem as well.”

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Points for Peace raises $50K for terror survivors

Posted on 06 April 2017 by admin

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

Score was kept and there was a competitive vibe, but that was secondary to the larger purpose when the 15th annual Points for Peace 3-on-3 basketball tournament was held at the Jewish Community Center on Sunday.


The tournament is put on by Students Against Terrorism, one of Yavneh Academy’s many student-run organizations.
At the end of the day more than $50,000 was raised during the student-run tournament for Operation Embrace, and all the teams — even those that lost every game — had a smile on their face.
“It’s great to come together for a bigger purpose,” said Noah Rubinstein, the co-president of SAT, who also played in the high school division. “Everyone is happy at this tournament. Whether you win or lose, you’re out here having fun and it’s helping a greater cause while making the world a better place.”
Throughout the day more than 70 teams, spread across 11 divisions, put on a show in the half-court setting. Long jumpers and 3-pointers were common, while a couple of dunks were even sprinkled in the high school boys and adult divisions. Some of the teams showed up in custom shirts or jerseys, while many of the participants found the most unique or odd basketball jersey they had in their closet (one team had three players wearing various Dennis Rodman jerseys).
To enter the tournament each team had to raise at least $200 in sponsorships to donate and pay the $30 registration fee. All of the donations will help victims of terror in Israel through Operation Embrace.
Operation Embrace offers assistance to injured survivors — of all races and religions — of terror in Israel. The organization provides both direct assistance and group support through a number of programs and provides a brighter future to those impacted by senseless violence.
And 2017 was one of the most successful events in the 15-year history of Points for Peace, which had raised more than $544,000 to date before this weekend.
Rubinstein and SAT Co-President Rosie Bernstein set a goal of raising $50,000 in donations this year. As of Monday the final tally hadn’t been counted, but Rubinstein said that early returns were encouraging and he estimated Points For Peace raised at least $50,000.
To help reach that number Rubinstein and Bernstein got creative with their finances and tried to cut costs as much as possible. They reached out to local businesses and endeavored to secure prizes through donations, and it worked.
“Anything we spend we have to take away from the donation,” Bernstein said. “So we really wanted to make sure we didn’t have to spend a thousand dollars on prizes or anything like that. In the end we didn’t have to spend a single cent on prizes thanks to donations, which I think is a first, and we were able to donate even more to a great cause.”
The organizers also worked on growing the number of teams. In 2016 there were close to 55 teams, this year the number reached above 70.
“We got more active in recruiting and went to a lot of Sunday schools,” Bernstein said. “We looked at it this way. Even if we only get one extra team on a trip to tell people about this, we’re getting at least $230 more for Operation Embrace.”
And, there were teams from all over the Metroplex. In the boys high school division a team drove from Fort Worth. Parking was scarce at the JCC on Sunday as players and fans crowded into the facility.
It was a rewarding experience for Rubinstein and Bernstein, who both started playing in the tournament at an early age.
“I’ve been playing in this tournament since first grade and each year I look forward to playing in the tournament,” Rubinstein said. “I think I was always being groomed to eventually have a bigger role in running it, so this was exciting.”
Bernstein had a similar story.
“When I was a kid my goal on my team was always to raise as much money as possible,” she said. “Each year we’d set a higher goal and we’d try and meet it. Then as I got older I got more involved and it was really special to be able to be in this spot now.”

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Tribute to ‘Our Boys’

Tribute to ‘Our Boys’

Posted on 30 March 2017 by admin

Ahavath Sholom to honor Fort Worth’s contribution to World War I

Submitted photo Landscaper Bob Sumien, a Catholic and Air Force veteran, works to restore the tribute.

Submitted photo
Landscaper Bob Sumien, a Catholic and Air Force veteran, works to restore the tribute.

Tablet, photo by Ellen Appel, #1 - Copy

The restored World War I monument

The restored World War I monument

By Hollace Ava Weiner
Special to the TJP

The marble tablets, etched with the names of 81 Jewish doughboys, impart lessons about monuments, memory and changing perceptions of the Great War waged a century ago.

Private Shady Sankary

Private Shady Sankary

Unveiled in Fort Worth with fanfare on Armistice Day 1920, the 10-foot-tall, World War I Tribute To Our Boys was embedded in a lobby wall at the Hebrew Institute, a recreational and educational center that was part of Fort Worth’s Ahavath Sholom decades ago when the Jewish community was centered downtown on Taylor Street. The war memorial, with its two Stars of David and a pair of American flags, expressed ethnic pride in a patriotic context and added layers of meaning to the building.
On April 1, Ahavath Sholom plans to invite families and descendants of the soldiers listed on the honor roll to a special Sabbath morning service. More than 20 of those listed have family or descendants living in Fort Worth.

 

Isaac Sturman

Isaac Sturman

 
Yet in 1951 when the Hebrew Institute closed, there was no designated space for the monument in the synagogue that replaced it on Eighth Avenue. The honor roll was dismantled and its marble slabs stacked in a storage room. Forgotten for the next three decades, this piece of public art was rediscovered in the autumn of 1980 as the congregation readied to move into its next building at Hulen and Briarhaven. Overjoyed at the discovery, Building Chairman Al Sankary, whose father’s name is on the monument, opted to frame the four marble tablets and hang them in a landscaped courtyard at the entrance to the synagogue.

Private Samuel Sheinberg

Private Samuel Sheinberg

Amid the excitement, no one realized that part of the original montage was missing — a fifth marble tablet inscribed with the name of its sponsors, the Ladies Auxiliary to the Hebrew Institute. Inexplicably, an element of community history acknowledging efforts of women on the homefront had disappeared. Nonetheless, the newly framed-and-arranged marble roster looked artistic and dignified in its outdoor setting. The veterans’ names, etched in black, were visible from afar: Adelberg, Cohn, Gernsbacher, Jacobs, Levy, Katz, Rosenthal, Sturman. Descendants of these soldiers still lived in Fort Worth. The monument conveyed continuity, l’dor vador, from generation to generation.
But, with exposure to sun and rain, the dark ink highlighting each veteran’s name faded. In the past year, as America readied to commemorate the April centennial of the country’s entry into the First World War, the Fort Worth Jewish Archives began researching the soldiers named on the tablets.
A call for World War I memorabilia reaped vintage photos of Pvt. Shady Sankary, Pvt. Eph Rosen, Sgt. Byron Gernsbacher, Pvt. Sam Sheinberg, Pvt. Isaac Sturman, and others, along with mess kits, helmets, bayonets, binoculars and keepsakes. These are on display in special exhibits at Ahavath Sholom and Beth-El.
Most important, Ahavath Sholom’s landscaper and cemetery caretaker, Bob Sumien, a Catholic and an Air Force veteran, volunteered to restore the monument. Throughout the summer, fall and winter, he inked in the 81 names, installed lighting, and returned the marble honor roll to visibility.
“They deserve it,” Sumien said, explaining why he and employees at his company, Professional Irrigation, spent countless hours bringing the memorial back to prominence. Many congregants have asked if this work of public art, with its red-white-and-blue flags and blue Magen Davids, is brand-new.
At the Ahavath Sholom ceremony, Rabbi Andrew Bloom plans to call them to the bimah and lead memorial prayers in front of the honor roll. Soldiers Tablet, Ft. Worth, 1920
Ahavath Sholom’s doughboy monument has been added to the map of First World War sites created by the Texas and U.S. World War I Centennial Commissions. Art historian Mark Levitch, who is on a quest to inventory every World War I monument in America, has documented damaged, vandalized and crumbling statuary nationwide. He is pleased at the restoration work completed in Fort Worth.
“In our country, we give most attention to World War II and the Civil War,” says Levitch, who lives in Washington, D.C. “World War I is very much overlooked.”

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Chai Force basketball team grows closer

Chai Force basketball team grows closer

Posted on 30 March 2017 by admin

By Josh Bernstein
Special to the TJP

The Chai Force basketball dynasty was developed in recent years through the efforts of two local fathers, Dusty Eber and Dr. Arbe Cohen, to allow both shomer and non-shomer Shabbat kids to play competitive basketball together.
And this past weekend, Eber and Cohen succeeded in organizing the first ever Chai Force Shabbaton. Thirty boys, ranging in age from fourth grade to eighth grade, spent an  amazing 25 hours together observing Shabbat and bonding. For some of the boys it was their first time having a “Shabbat Experience.”

Submitted photo The Chai Force basketball team held the first-ever Chai Force Shabbaton this past weekend.

Submitted photo
The Chai Force basketball team held the first-ever Chai Force Shabbaton this past weekend.

The weekend began with Friday night services and a beautiful dinner at the home of Rabbi Meir and Sarit Sabo, beloved teachers of many of the Chai Force kids at Akiba, who also have a son on the second-grade Chai Force team. As Israelis, the Sabos’ home is always open to the community and full of love, spirit and amazing food, and hosting the Chai Force boys was no different. Former Yavneh basketball superstar Gavi Wolk spoke to the kids at the Friday night Shabbat dinner about ambassadorship and sportsmanship on the court and about how we represent all Jews when we are on the court. For example, Wolk explained, when the Yavneh varsity boys traveled to Abilene recently for the state basketball championship, that may have been the first time people out there had experiences with Jews, highlighting the importance of displaying proper behavior both on and off the court for all to see.
For the Friday overnight, Marni and Graeme Rael hosted about 10 seventh- and eighth-graders, Amy and Dusty Eber hosted about 10-15 sixth-graders, and Bat Sheva and Gary Schwartz hosted about  10-15 fifth-graders. Out of respect for the kids and host families that keep Shabbat, all participants were asked to refrain from using their cell phones from Friday drop-off to Saturday after Shabbat. Although this may have seemed like a tall order at the outset, the togetherness of the Shabbat experience actually allowed the boys to unplug with very little effort.
Saturday morning Shabbat services were held at Congregation Shaare Tefilla. Exemplifying the unity the group developed, Park Hill seventh-grade Chai Force player Micah Bernstein shared, “When we were all together saying the Shema arm in arm in a big circle, it didn’t matter where we were from, we were all one.” Following services, the Ebers hosted a giant Shabbat lunch for all participants. Yavneh junior varsity basketball coach Zach Pollak gave an inspiring talk to the boys at the Shabbat lunch about the two steps to becoming a great basketball player — persistence and resilience.
Shabbat afternoon, the boys enjoyed a few hours of sports, activities and just hanging out. Shabbat ended with a spirited Havdallah service at the Eber home, led by Rabbi Sabo on vocals and Graeme Rael on the guitar. Once again, Rabbi Sabo could hardly contain his awe and Jewish pride upon seeing the boys arm in arm singing and bringing Shabbat to an end together. Eli Levine, a sixth-grade Chai Force player from Chandler Elementary who had not participated in a Shabbaton before, was given the honor of holding the Havdallah candle in the middle of the circle of 30 boys.
The Chai Force philosophy is one of inclusion, where shomer and non-shomer kids play together in competitive basketball leagues at Sportsplex at Valley View, with a guarantee that no regular season or playoff games will take place on Shabbat, and no child is turned away due to skill level or for any other reason.
For information on joining a Chai Force team, please contact Dusty Eber or Arbe Cohen at ChaiForce18@gmail.com.

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A&M Corps holds Jewish Warrior Weekend

A&M Corps holds Jewish Warrior Weekend

Posted on 30 March 2017 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

The Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, along with AIPAC, Texas A&M Hillel, Jewish War Veterans of America and the Jewish Welfare Board, will host the first Jewish Warrior Weekend: Aggieland, April 14-16, in College Station. Sponsors hope it will become an annual event.
“The military is a small world, and our Jewish community is also small but mighty. We are excited about sharing skills and military leadership from a Jewish perspective,” said Plano native Dan Rosenfield, a strategic communication major at Texas A&M University. The son of Andi and Stuart Rosenfield, Congregation Anshai Torah member, and a Plano West Senior High School graduate, he is set to graduate in May. “All of our guest speakers have received numerous military awards and decorations, and we are honored by their contribution to this weekend.”
The event, open to any Jewish ROTC or military cadet in the nation, including those from military academies and individual Jewish cadets from ROTC programs, will host a welcome from Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets. Shabbat services and a kosher for Passover Shabbat dinner and evening will be held. Hillel and Shabbat morning services and lunch will be at Rohr Chabad Jewish Center. The weekend will include a campus tour, speakers on leadership, and a visit to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Participants will be housed in dormitories. In addition to Shabbat dinner all meals will be kosher for Passover, and there is no charge for the Jewish Warrior Weekend beyond travel (and personal expenses). For those in need, there are travel subsidies available.

Submitted photo Texas A&M Aggie cadets (left to right) Lt. Marc Wolf, USN (TAMU 2000); 2nd. Lt. David Feibus (TAMU ‘15); Dan Rosenfield ‘17; and Wyatt Kamin ‘17 traveled to West Point for their Warrior Weekend, the impetus for the April 14-16 Jewish Warrior Weekend to take place in College Station. There is no charge for the weekend (other than travel and personal expenses), and travel subsidies are available.

Submitted photo
Texas A&M Aggie cadets (left to right) Lt. Marc Wolf, USN (TAMU 2000); 2nd. Lt. David Feibus (TAMU ‘15); Dan Rosenfield ‘17; and Wyatt Kamin ‘17 traveled to West Point for their Warrior Weekend, the impetus for the April 14-16 Jewish Warrior Weekend to take place in College Station. There is no charge for the weekend (other than travel and personal expenses), and travel subsidies are available.

“We don’t want anyone unable to attend due to travel so I hope cadets will reach out to us as soon as possible so we can try to help,” said Rosenfield. He is coordinating the event with fellow Aggies Wyatt Kamin and Doug Mendelsohn, Texas A&M Hillel Executive Director and Campus Rabbi Matt Rosenberg and Project Advisor and Director of Fundraising, New York Region for the Navy Seal Foundation Marc Wolf (a 2000 A&M graduate). Upon graduation, Rosenfield will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and move to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, pursuing a career in public affairs.
“Jewish Warrior Weekend: Aggieland is sure to be a powerful and immersive Jewish experience not only for the visiting cadets but also for our Jewish Aggies and I am truly inspired by the leadership of the cadets who have pulled this amazing event together,” said Rabbi Rosenberg. He noted that the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M is the largest source of officers in the U.S. military, outside of branch academies. “This event is bringing together future Jewish military leaders from all branches of service, to learn about military leadership and to develop relationships with future colleagues. Since the percentage of Jews in the U.S. military is so small, only about 0.3 percent, it behooves future officers to meet and interact.”
Rabbi Rosenberg is proud of the involvement of the Jewish community at Texas A&M, albeit a small group of close to 200. On a typical Friday night, between 40 and 50 Jewish participants will celebrate Shabbat together, with many calling Hillel “home,” spending many hours during the week for both study hours and socialization.
Former Deputy Surgeon General Maj. Gen. David Rubenstein (U.S. Army, retired); Air Force Chaplain Maj. Sarah D. Schechter; and former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, USAF (retired) will address the cadets during their stay.
Rubenstein is an A&M graduate returning for the program. Now clinical associate professor of health administration at Texas State University, Rubenstein recalls his time as a cadet from 1973 to 1977, as a positive experience where Hillel was active.
“The most important part of this weekend will be Jewish cadets from a variety of military and civilian universities realizing there are other Jewish cadets, soon-to-be-officers, whom they can connect to, call and rely on. This is about building relationships, which is key, given the few number of Jews in our military forces.”

Rubenstein

Rubenstein

Rubenstein will speak about being Jewish in the military, leading oneself in order to best lead others and how American Jewry has an impressive record defending the nation’s security.
“As President Roosevelt wrote in 1938, American Jews ‘have played a great and commendable part in the defense of Americanism.’ One can be Jewish and practice a Jewish lifestyle while also serving as an American warrior,’ he said. “These cadets will soon be officers, leaders, in our armed forces, and to excel as leaders they need to first lead themselves,” he added. “I applaud the Jewish cadets at West Point for starting the Jewish Warrior Weekend series in 2001 and I applaud Cadet Rosenfield, Rabbi Rosenberg and Brig. Gen. Ramirez for the expansion now to the civilian university setting.”
Schechter is the branch chief of plans and programs at the Air Force Academy. She is the rabbi and chaplain to the dean of faculty, and the first female rabbi in the Air Force. She directs the largest religious respect-training program in the Air Force, advises leadership and ensures the free exercise of religion for cadets and Academy personnel.

Schechter

Schechter

“Jewish Warrior Weekends have existed for many years and I think they are absolutely wonderful. Kudos to Texas A&M for hosting it and for all the hard work and effort they have put into a phenomenal-looking program,” Schechter said. “The Warrior Weekends have two positive outcomes: On a personal level, it’s great for Jewish cadets to widen their pool of Jewish cadet friends as it’s nice to get away and meet new people with whom you share cadet and religious bonds, and secondly, on a professional level, these weekends help cadets learn more about the different military branches. It’s hard enough to master one’s own service, all the more so the other services are mysterious and these weekends create those cross-service connections.”
Schechter served as chaplain to the 89th Airlift Wing/Air Force One and will speak about how she became a military rabbi. She notes that comprising separate branches, the military is a joint team relying on the skills and technology of each other, and a frustrating situation can quickly become demystified and resolved by picking up the phone, calling a friend that one made at such an event and asking for help. “On many levels, these weekends are wonderful and easy to justify to leadership why cadets should attend them,” she said. “On behalf of myself and the seven USAF Academy cadets who are attending this event, thank you Texas A&M.”
Schwartz has served for more than 40 years, during which he was the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training and equipping of 680,000 active-duty forces serving in the United States and overseas, and was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, functioning as military advisers to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and the president.

Schwartz

Schwartz

“The Jewish community and our Jewish student community has grown continuously over the 10 years we’ve been here and this program is, I’m sure, going to be a great experience,” said the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center’s Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff, who regularly hosts 80 students for Shabbat dinner and also has learning and social programs that are well-attended throughout the week. “We are thrilled to welcome the cadets for Shabbos Pesach davening, lunch and celebration — to share some Yiddishkeit — and to honor this wonderful group of leaders.”
For more information or to register, email JWWAggieland@gmail.com.

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Gift bags soothe sting of patients’ procedures

Gift bags soothe sting of patients’ procedures

Posted on 24 March 2017 by admin

Social media helps thankful woman find thoughtful child

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

The idea that “it’s the thought that counts” couldn’t be more understated than in the expression of a thought that counts 5,354 times — and still is counting! ARI BLUMBERG - BAGS
In just over three weeks Kim Hamilton Hunter’s Facebook post to find and say thank you to 13-year-old Ari Blumberg has been counted — and, at press time liked, loved, or otherwise shared by 2,662 people, and with more than 627 comments — his original mitzvah propelled around the globe.
“I’m going to make this post public in hopes that Mr. Ari (Blumberg) age 13 from the Dallas, Texas area will see this post or someone I know can tell him thank you for me. I want him to know that I appreciated the gift bag during my treatment today! What a kind gesture!,” posted Kim, who, for a gift bag she received, created the thank-you note, and a search for her own local hero, now gone viral.
It was when Kim walked into Texas Oncology-Presbyterian Cancer Center Dallas that her heart first swelled due to the kindness of a stranger. Kim, who is battling metastatic breast cancer which spread to her bones before diagnosis five years ago, makes a monthly, four-hour and 250-mile-plus trek from her home in San Angelo for what she calls “liquid gold,” treatments. She presumed her regular seat was occupied by another patient when she saw a bag on her chair.
There were bags on the next seat and the next so she returned to her chair for treatment, receiving the gift from an unknown heart.
That heart belonged to Ari who wanted to contribute to others — like his Saba (Hebrew for grandfather) Mike Degani — who were receiving chemotherapy treatments. Knowing his grandfather’s trials, Ari wanted to do anything possible to let patients know someone was thinking about them. Ari hand-delivered almost 30 of the 120 bags made to patients, while leaving the rest for later appointments. He received a number of personal thank-yous from recipients.ARI BLUMBERG - kim and family
“I wanted to try to take away some of what makes cancer so terrible,” said Ari. He collected both items and monetary donations to put his gifts together, and with the help of friends and family filled the bags with socks, a notepad and pen, lotion, lollipops, granola bars, a bottle of water, tissues and chapstick. “I wanted them to be comfortable, I wanted to take away the bad taste that chemo can leave in the patient’s mouth and the dryness of their skin. Some of it was just because it would be nice to have.”
“Feb. 23 was a particularly hard day as I didn’t know if my treatments were working. I had been in remission, with ‘no evidence of disease,’ and then I was in terrible pain in my hip. That day I didn’t know where I was with the disease and I was scared,” said Kim. The wife of Matt and mother of 8-year-old Hodge and 5-year-old Holt Allie, she was diagnosed with the disease while nursing her then-10-month old daughter. “I’d had an MRI, and then went to my chair and these bright, beautiful, smiles of bags were everywhere. In my mind, I wasn’t creating a ‘viral moment.’ I was thinking I’d want my kids to do something wonderful like this, and I’d love to say ‘thank you.’”
It took less than 24 hours — and shares and comments from throughout the United States, Israel and beyond — for Kim to connect with Ari, a seventh-grade student at Akiba Academy, the son of Sharon and Marc Blumberg, and brother of Sam and Ayla.
In her Facebook response to Kim’s plea, Sharon explained how she and Ari had delivered the bags the day before while her father was having treatment, also including in her post a photo of Ari and his grandfather.
“Ari is incredibly humble. We’re shocked by the attention because this is just the right thing to do. Ari has learned Jewish, really human, values from school, his synagogue, and his family and he is always about doing the next good thing, taking the energy and building on it, and wanting to help people,” said Sharon, who had many friends from around the globe “sharing” the post to her Facebook page. “Ari’s school is on board about creating a project for the students to help patients at a children’s hospital and there are comments by others who are creating their own projects. Ari’s goodness is the impetus for others to do more on a bigger scale. Any time you can inspire someone to do good, that’s great and if you are doing that at 13, as his parents, we couldn’t ask for more.”
Ari, amazed by the Internet attention brought to his mitzvah project, says he was “just doing what we’re supposed to; it’s now my responsibility as a Jewish adult to live a life of giving to others and perform mitzvot.” Maybe so, but this new teen is taking to heart, and following the lessons of his parents — whose footwear and apparel company Chooze provides training, support, education, and loans to women to start their own businesses — and his brother, whose Paint 4 Peace turned Valley View Mall into a canvas raising money supporting families of victims of terror attacks in Israel. “It’s just what I’ve learned and what I know, but it’s nice to know that it was appreciated and I’m glad other people want to do something good too.”ARI BLUMBERG and Saba
Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky was honored that it was he bestowing blessings over Ari’s bar mitzvah, proud of the young man who spent a year studying to read all of the Torah readings during his service, and proud of the young man who clearly understands the concept of the responsibilities now set before him.
“A mitzvah isn’t a good deed, as it is often defined, but rather a commandment. We are commanded to perform acts of kindness and to sanctify God’s name,” said Rabbi Rackovsky. “Ari’s actions, without his knowing what would come forth, have given so many great feelings. In this time where anti-Semitism is so pronounced, what has happened through his efforts, and literally the sharing of his goodness, is a Kiddush Hashem. He most definitely has sanctified God’s name, and that that is why we are here.”
It may be Ari’s original thought that counts, but it is through his new friend Kim’s push that others know his goodness, and her affinity for him and the Jewish people as a whole keeps getting the counts over and over again. With all the likes and shares, Ari’s story was also shared by JewInTheCity.com and HumansOfJudaism.com.
“I’m not Jewish but I learn Bible and the Old Testament with a friend and I spoke with our pastor’s wife for direction. I’d recently spoken with someone who was raised Jewish who had been talking about how to support Israel and stand with the Jewish community,” Kim said.
That “strength and healing” will soon be something Ari can give through a hug and his in-person charming and genuine smile.ARI BLUMBERG fb post

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Mitzvah made viral

Mitzvah made viral

Posted on 24 March 2017 by admin

Boy’s actions lead to heart-warming moment

BLUMBERG - followup - akibakids

By Deb Silverthorn

It’s almost impossible to describe what the meeting between core souls is like. BLUMBERG followup - families

Those souls, belong to a 13-year-old Jewish boy, and a grown Christian woman, were strangers a month ago. On Thursday morning, March 23, the duo shared a moment at Akiba Academy as seventh-grader Ari Blumberg brought the spirit of a bar mitzvah project to life, and Kim Hunter, one of the recipients of his mitzvah, came to say “thank you.”

As the two first came together, with a brief hug, the assembly of students and faculty on Thursday, March 23,became anything but ordinary. Hunter spoke about her medical experience and how Blumberg’s project caught her at the right moment, in a manner he never could’ve planned.

“I just had an MRI and I didn’t know if maybe the cancer had spread, and I was scared. I walked in for my treatment and went to my chair, and there was this beautiful bag. At first I figured it belonged to someone else but there were bags on all the chairs,” said Hunter, whose husband Matt, children Holt, Allie and Hodge, sister Stacy Sparagna and niece Skotlynn joined her at Akiba. “The first words on the card jumped at me; ‘You are not alone.’ I can’t explain how immediately it went from a terrible day, to an incredible one.”

Hunter, first diagnosed in December 2012, finished the round of treatment and couldn’t stop thinking about the gift during her return home to San Angelo. Her monthly treatments require a five-hour trip, with additional treatments sometimes in Dallas, and others closer-to-home in Abilene. BLUMBERG followup - meeting

“I kept thinking ‘I want to thank this kid.’ I got home, snapped a photo, made my Facebook post public and went to sleep. I woke up to messages from Israel and around the United States and a friend of mine made the connection in less than 24 hours,” she said, never expecting almost 2,700 shares and over 5,300 likes, “loves” and more.

“I’ve had a lot of people praying for me in the last four years and to know now that people in Israel are praying for me? I knew there was something more to it — that a 13-year-old boy in Dallas took the time to care about me is something I couldn’t ever have imagined. When you are selecting mitzvahs, pray about it and see what’s in your heart because you never know who you might impact and the ripple effect.”

Hunter had never heard of the phrase “mitzvah project,” let alone experienced the benefit. Blumberg, whose grandfather Mike Degani is undergoing treatments at the same Texas Oncology-Presbyterian Cancer Center Dallas, was, in the spirit of his March 4 bar mitzvah, inspired by his grandfather to create a mitzvah project to help other patients.

“I saw how hard it was for my Saba and Safta (Hebrew for grandma and grandpa). He had brought home a smaller bag someone had left for him,” said Blumberg, the son of Sharon and Marc and brother of Ayla and Sam. “I wanted something bigger and fuller and I really just wanted to make it easier for patients and for them to know I was thinking about them. I’m glad Mrs. Hunter appreciated it, and it’s nice that people are learning about doing mitzvah projects, but it’s really just what I do, what we are supposed to do.”

Akiba faculty member Sarah Rosen spoke the words of many in the room telling Hunter that it was she who inspired those present that she wasn’t just receiving the goodness and education of what had transpired, but that she was teaching as well. “These children,” she said, “as they move forward in their mitzvah projects for bnai mitzvah, and beyond as they perform mitzvot all of their lives, they will have in mind the meaning and respect that is felt and appreciated and I’m sure you’re example of appreciation will forever be remembered.” BLUMBERG followup - kim name

Akiba’s principal, Rabbi Avi Spodek, presented Hunter with a tzedakah box like those gifted to students on the occasion of their bar or bat mitzvah. He explained the word tzedakah comes from the word tzedek meaning righteous or justice and that fulfilling commandments is for justice, the right thing to do.

One of Blumberg’s classmates, Noa Terenyo, asked Hunter for her mother’s name, explaining that the students pray daily for those who are ill. “We want to keep you in our prayers and hope you’ll be better soon,” she said. To that, with tears welling, Hunter added her name and that of Gayle Hamilton, to the whiteboard.

“I’ve always been taught to stand with the Jewish people and I know that I was put here to be a voice. I promise to keep learning, talking, and teaching others about how amazing the Jewish people are,” Hunter said. “I know God put me where He did.”

There were tears, they were joyful, and in the middle of the Beit Knesset, there was Blumberg’s mom Sharon, at Hunter’s side — the two women a month ago unknown to one another – now support, now friends, now really a new world of family.

“We struggled with what Ari was going to do for a mitzvah project, wanting something that was meaningful and would deeply speak to him,” Sharon said. “Once my father was diagnosed it became emotional and there was a reason for what to do. We became inspired and Ari ran with it.”

“Kim’s presentation inspired all who listened to her message of faith and understanding. Through the story of her medical treatments and living with metastatic cancer, she conveyed her unwavering belief that everything happens for a reason and all is in God’s hands,” said Akiba Head of School Tammie Rapps. “When we teach how our actions matter, and about our Jewish responsibility to be a light unto the nations, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine what those lessons look like. After our meeting, those lessons looked like a blonde 41-year-old mom who has assumed the mantle of spreading goodness and kindness because she’s been on the receiving end of thoughtfulness and compassion.”

Touring the Schultz Rosenberg campus, Hunter was in awe of all the meaning put into the construction and creation by “spiritual architect,” artist David Moss and others involved in the purposeful design.  “This is a special place and I love that from the youngest of the babies, the influence of good, and beauty and kindness, is here,” she said.  “I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to go to Israel but walking down the corridor, someone explained to me that we were on target with the longitude and latitude to keep walking straight into Jerusalem. I believe in the power of prayer and in the power of healing and I thank you.” BLUMBERG followup - kim & ari

Hunter spoke to the importance allowing others to help when facing a challenge. She had always been on the giving end, helping those in need. When she became ill, she had to learn to receive, to let others in.

Hunter believes wholeheartedly that this experience is not just about an incredible mitzvah project, but the chance for her to take it one step further, and that she vows to educate Christians about the Jewish community. “I absolutely will spread the amazing things you do and how we must stand by you.  I want to stay in touch with you and learn more,” she said, after her talk hugging students and faculty members, many of whom offered baby-sitting and playgroups for her children whenever the family is in town. “I’m really overwhelmed and know that we will forever be entwined. This can’t be explained but I know it is God speaking to me and letting me know I’m not alone on this journey.”

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Jewish teen from Israel charged with making JCC bomb threats

Jewish teen from Israel charged with making JCC bomb threats

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

By Sean Savage
JNS.org

A Jewish teenager with dual Israeli and American citizenship living in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon was arrested Thursday in connection to the wave of more than 100 bomb threats against JCCs and other Jewish institutions across North America since the beginning of 2017.

The suspect, 19, was arrested by Israel’s Lahav 433 police unit in the wake of a months-long investigation by Israeli authorities, who worked alongside the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. Authorities did not release the suspect’s name Thursday. Additionally, police detained the suspect’s father on suspicion that he knew of his son’s activities.

Jewish leaders meet March 3 with FBI Director James Comey and other federal officials to discuss the ongoing wave of anti-Semitic threats and attacks in the U.S. Credit: Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Jewish leaders meet March 3 with FBI Director James Comey and other federal officials to discuss the ongoing wave of anti-Semitic threats and attacks in the U.S. Credit: Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Authorities believe the suspect was also behind a bomb threat against two Delta Airlines flights between New York and Tel Aviv in January 2015, the Times of Israel reported.

The JCC Association of North America said Thursday that it is “gratified by the progress in this investigation” and praised law enforcement agencies’ “commitment and leadership.” But the umbrella organization for the community centers added that it is “troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats…is reportedly Jewish.”

During a raid on the suspect’s home, authorities found an advanced computer lab with sophisticated equipment, including voice-altering technology, encryption methods and a large antenna that he likely used to phone and email bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

According to Haaretz, authorities confiscated five computers, including the large antennas, which police believe allowed the suspect to use other people’s networks to commit the alleged crimes and throw off investigators. But eventually, police were able to create a profile of the suspect and determine the method to find him.

It is believed the suspect has lived in Israel for several years, and that the IDF refused to draft him “on personal grounds after funding him unfit for service,” Haaretz reported.

The suspect was scheduled to be brought before a Magistrate’s Court in the Israeli city of Rishon LeZion Thursday.

Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said this arrest was part of a coordinated international operation to try to find to find suspects behind the bomb threats.

“This specific investigation was complex in terms of the suspect and its nature, and there was a significant breakthrough in the investigation which led us to make the arrest of the suspect, who lives in southern Israel,” Rosenfeld told the Jerusalem Post.

Rosenfeld added that “he was the main suspect behind the numerous amount of threats which were made to different Jewish communities and organizations around the world.” Investigators, he said, will to continue to “see if and how he was connected to the different Jewish communities in the U.S. That directs the investigation to the American connection. We are looking to see if there was an incident which triggered him to carry out threatening those communities.”

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan congratulated police on the arrest and expressed his hope that it would bring an end to the threats against Jewish institutions.

“We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government,” said Erdan.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, said the Department of Justice “is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs. I commend the FBI and Israeli National Police for their outstanding work on this case.”

Earlier this month, U.S. authorities arrested Juan Thompson, a 31-year-old former news reporter from St. Louis, in connection with eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions. At the time, law enforcement officials said Thompson was not believed to be the main suspect behind the threats, an assertion that is purportedly confirmed by the latest arrest.

Following Thursday’s arrest in Israel, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that even though “it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern.”

“No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations [that have occurred in early 2017] or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers,” he said. “JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”

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Kosher Chili Cook-Off names new winner

Kosher Chili Cook-Off names new winner

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

After several runner-up finishes, Litoff finally wins Kosher Chili Cook-Off

Henry Litoff won his first Kosher Chili Cook-Off

Henry Litoff won his first Kosher Chili Cook-Off

By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP

Henry Litoff finally got his chili championship; now he’s going to need a new sign.
Litoff went into the 24th Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off with a string of second-place finishes dating back to 2014. He had always come close, but hadn’t gotten to hoist and celebrate a title until the judges deemed his as the best beef chili Sunday from a group of 44 entered in the category.
Determined in a blind tasting by the judges, Litoff’s chili edged out the entry from second-place Congregation Shaare Tefilla and the third-place winner from Moishe House.
“It’s exciting,” Litoff said, pausing after having a sip of Champagne and celebrating with the trophy. “I make the chili that I want to eat.
“I know I’m going to have 10, 15 pounds left and I got to give some to my teammates, and they are taking it home to enjoy it,” Litoff added. “I basically cook to my tastes, my teammates. There is no secret; my secret is no gimmicks.”
Litoff said it was a similar recipe to the ones that took second in the past, but this year he really took the simple chili philosophy to heart.
“This year was the most pared-down, simple recipe that I’ve made,” Litoff said. “I tried the least amount of gimmicky stuff. I tried to pare it down to what is the most delicious part, and that’s what I did. No gimmicks.”
While Litoff won the beef competition, the team from Whole Foods Market won the veggie chili title, while Jewish Family Services took second. Five teams were entered into the veggie chili category.
Congregation Shaare Tefilla was crowned the people’s choice for the second straight year. Each visitor at the event was given one gold coin and could vote for their favorite chili.
Organizers now turn their attention to the 2018 Cook-off. That will be the 25th annual event, and the 24th more than lived up to expectations.
In addition to the food, the Mazik Brothers performed a mix of ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s music covers while local vendors had stands set up. The kids were also well entertained with inflatable attractions and a woodworking station.
“It was a beautiful day,” Ed Jerome said. “We host this for the Dallas Jewish community. It’s just great for us to be able to host everybody. We had close to 50 Jewish organizations between the teams and vendors. It’s really a great day for the community.”
The 25th Cook-off already has a date, March 18, 2018 — mark your calendar now — and Jerome said that event will be a big celebration and honor the history of the Cook-off.
Of course, Litoff will be back to try and defend his title.
“As a local Dallas Jew, I was born here (in Dallas) and I’ve been coming here every single year since I think the inception of the Chili Cook-off,” Litoff said. “It’s just a great honor to participate in one of the largest, most inclusive community events that we have.”

 

 

Photos: Sharon Wisch-Ray

Chili cook-off winners

Beef winner: Henry Litoff
Veggie winner: Whole Foods
Beef, second place and people’s choice: Shaare Tefilla
Veggie runner-up: Jewish Family Services
Beef, third place: Moishe House

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DHM offers 1st look at Wiesenthal

DHM offers 1st look at Wiesenthal

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Museum sponsors opening night viewing of one-man show

By Aaron Greenberg
Special

the TJP

DALLAS — On April 5, Wiesenthal, the award-winning one-man show about famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, will open at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
It’s the latest offering in a partnership between the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and the performing arts center. The museum is sponsoring the four-show run at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, part of the Off Broadway on Flora Street Series, but opening night will be a full event.
“We have exclusive access to the theater and play that night, so it will be a wonderful community experience,” said Mary Pat Higgins, the museum’s CEO.
Opening night festivities include pre-show cocktails for ticket holders and sponsors, and a post-show reception with playwright and star Tom Dugan for sponsors. Single tickets for opening night start at $125 and sponsorships start at $1,000.

Submitted photo Wiesenthal is a one-man show depicting famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

Submitted photo
Wiesenthal is a one-man show depicting famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

“We were looking to do something interesting and relevant to what the museum is about as a fundraising enterprise,” said Mike Richman, executive vice president of revenue for the AT&T center.
“The subject matter, being about the most visible and famous Nazi hunter ever, ties directly into the message and mission of the Dallas Holocaust Museum.”
The one-act show is directed by Jenny Sullivan and runs about 75 minutes. It takes place on the day Wiesenthal retires after nearly 60 years in pursuit of Nazis.
“The concept of the show is that he is with one last group of visitors to his office on the day he is packing away his memorabilia,” Richman said. “It is so poignant, so interesting to see inside the mind of someone who is so single-mindedly motivated to bring these murderers to justice.”
Wiesenthal searched the world for people involved in Nazi war crimes, and tracked down more than 1,000 individuals so that they could be brought to justice. Most famously, he was involved in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust. Wiesenthal retired in 2003, and died in 2005.
“It is a story of seeking justice not just to avenge, really, the tragedy of Jewish lives lost, but so in the future perpetrators would know there would be people who would pursue justice, as a deterrent for future genocides,” Higgins said.
The two organizations teamed up for a fundraiser a few years ago, a chance for the museum to branch out with the arts community. In 2015, a one-woman show by Mona Golabek about her mother’s experience on the Kindertransport was held at the Wyly. Higgins said it was a wonderful experience, and last year the opening night of Cabaret — set when the Nazis were rising to power — was used as a fundraiser for the museum.
“When we found out they had to opportunity to host Wiesenthal, we were very excited,” Higgins said. “We have exclusive access to the theater and play that night, so it will be a wonderful community experience.”
On opening night, cocktails start at 6 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m. Because the theater will be dedicated to the show that night, Higgins sees it as a chance to learn, mingle and support the museum. For the April 6-8 performances, the show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $39. There will be an information booth for the museum at those performances, too.
Dugan, the son of a concentration camp liberator, has performed in numerous plays, movies and television shows. He has written one-man plays about Robert E. Lee and Frederick Douglass as well.
“The play itself has had a long history,” Richman said. “It debuted a few years ago at Playwrights Horizons in New York, a showcase for smaller theatrical works.
“We are constantly scouting shows to bring to the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
“One of our board members saw it previously and recommended we put it on our calendar. I saw it in New York and loved it.”
Similarly, Florence Shapiro, the museum’s board chair, saw the show last year in Richardson. She praised it to fellow board members, and when they heard it might be coming to town, the museum’s leadership reached out to Richman.
It’s seen as an opportunity not only to help the museum with fundraising, but in its mission of broadening knowledge about the Holocaust. Dugan will spend time doing educational outreach while in town, including a full hour on KERA.
There’s also a study guide available online for educators to use.
“It’s a good opportunity to get the message that always emanates from discussion of the Holocaust about tolerance and kindness toward fellow men,” Richman said.
Higgins advises anyone going to the show to visit the museum, whether they are new to studying the Holocaust or not.
“Come to the museum, take two hours and really go through and process and think about it,” Higgins said. “After that experience, there will be things that everyone learns. I have been through this museum with people who have read countless books, and there’s always some new information they glean. For those who haven’t really studied it, they will come away with a very solid, basic understanding. And hopefully they will find what really interested them or compelled them and learn on their own.”
“It just makes sense, if someone comes as a theater fan or is not fully aware of the atrocities of the Holocaust, the museum can help spark further interest and engage with the subject,” Richman said. “That’s a big win for us all.”
In addition to the Holocaust, there’s the broader message the museum focuses on, of tolerance and standing up to bigotry.
“We talk about being an Upstander rather than a bystander, not to turn a blind eye when things are happening to others, and to stand up for yourself,” Higgins said. “Simon Wiesenthal is an amazing example of those who stood up for others, seeking justice after the Holocaust. But he’s also remarkable in that he founded the Wiesenthal Center in 1977, and that center has a mission of Holocaust remembrance, but also fighting bigotry and anti-Semitism, and helping people understand the bigotry and prejudice in contemporary events. That’s our mission as well.”
The theater is at 2400 Flora St., in the downtown arts district. The event’s co-chairs are Jolene Risch, Jen Goldstein and Yana Mintskovsky. For more information on the show, to buy tickets or download the study guide, visit www.attpac.org/on-sale/2017/wiesenthal.

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