Archive | April, 2009


Shalom from the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 15 April 2009 by admin

Dear Families,

Passover is over but the story doesn’t end — the three pilgrimage holidays are all connected and we are “walking” toward Shavuot. However, between Passover and Shavuot, we have a few “new” holidays. Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is on April 21, followed by Yom HaZikaron, Day of Remembrance for those who died defending Israel, on April 28 and then Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, on April 29. These are all important dates that teach us that remembering our history is crucial to our survival as a people.

Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, is the day of lots of celebration. This year, we hope everyone will be at the JCC to celebrate with all the Jewish organizations in town. There will be something for everyone plus food, music and fun! It is definitely an afternoon for the entire family, so come to the J from 4:30 to 8 p.m. and be ready to celebrate Israel.

Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron are both somber times, yet we remember that the state of Israel was born out of the horror of the Shoah and through the fighting of the Israeli soldiers. Events in our community for older children and teens with their families give us a wonderful opportunity to talk with our children about Israel.

For very young children, it is difficult to conceive of another country far away — most do not even understand Dallas or Texas or the United States. It is important, however, to build that connection to the land of Israel for our children. There is a wonderful story that I remember each year at this time: There was a little boy out in the field holding tightly to a string that went way up into the clouds. He kept his eyes looking up and his hands on the string pulling gently. A man came by and asked what he was doing. The little boy answered that he was flying a kite. The man asked how he could know since he could not see the kite in the clouds. The little boy answered, “I know because of the tug.” Israel is far away but we can always feel that tug at our heart to know it is there.

We sing “Hatikvah” together and the words and music touch our hearts. For many of us the words in Hebrew simply connect us to a land that speaks a language we are not conversant in, so here are the words in English — remember the yearning and the hope!
“As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,
“With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
“Then our hope — the 2,000-year-old hope — will not be lost:
“To be a free people in our land,
“The land of Zion and Jerusalem!”

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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DJHS Andres event will make history come alive

DJHS Andres event will make history come alive

Posted on 15 April 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross
A good picture may be worth 1000 words, but don’t ever discount the value of good words!

The Dallas Jewish Historical Society has thousands of them, comprising more than 200 oral histories amassed from 1971 to this year. At first, individual interviewers took notes with pencil and pen. Later, they used tape recorders. Now, everything’s done with video.

And every one of those interviewees, including those who are no longer with us, will be honored on Sunday, April 26, when the Society presents its Andres Family Event, “Making Dallas Jewish History Come Alive.”

A noon luncheon at the Westin Galleria Dallas will be followed by a dessert reception and special program presentation highlighting the Society’s collection of pictures as well as words: Some of its treasured photographs will be seen in “A Dallas Jewish Journey,” local filmmakers Allan Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell’s new documentary made especially for DJHS. It will premiere at the event and be available later for personal enjoyment and community education.

Dallas Jewish history actually began in the mid-1800s, but the Society itself didn’t start until more than a century later. In 1970, Ginger Jacobs was watching the razing of the old Temple Emanu-El in South Dallas. Suddenly she realized, “That’s my history they’re tearing down!” and quickly took up preservation of precious memories as her cause. She enlisted immediate help from the late Ruth Kahn, who “had a sense of history,” Jacobs recognized then, and remembers today.

Spreading the word that “today is tomorrow’s history,” the two women established their forward-looking venture into looking backward with one desk and two file cabinets in a corner of the Jewish Community Center’s library. A dedicated Archives Room was part of the Center’s 1978 facilities enlargement; later, expansion of the growing organization’s scope and purpose was recognized with the name change from Dallas Jewish Archives to Dallas Jewish Historical Society. As part of the most recent JCC remodeling, DJHS moved in 2007 into an expanded new office space that includes state-of-the-art, climate-controlled vault facilities, which both enhance the size of its preservation capabilities and safeguard its collections.

Jacobs’ and Kahn’s oral histories are included, with those of all other interviewees to date, in the Tribute Book that will be unveiled during “Making Jewish History Come Alive.”

“These interviews are a piece of our community’s story, and these people are part of the foundation of what Dallas is,” said Sheryl Fields Bogen, chair of the event. Committee members working with Bogen on the event include Roz Benjet, Lottye Brodsky, Saralynn Busch, Julie Lowenberg, Esther McKenna, Barbara Rose and Sue Tilis. Michael Waldman is current president of the DJHS board of directors, and Mandy Dossey is the Society’s archivist.

Commented Debbie Tobias, DJHS’s executive director, “We are thrilled to bring together the honorees and families whose histories have added a unique layer to the Dallas community. The careful preservation of our oral histories speaks to the very core of this agency’s mission: to save the precious past as a living legacy for the future.”

“Making Jewish History Come Alive” is the most ambitious project yet attempted by DJHS, a nonprofit under the umbrella of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas that draws most of its funding from memberships and contributions. All profits from the event, which is open to the public, will be used to further the Society’s ongoing archival and educational efforts.

“I’m proud to be associated with this little agency that said ‘I could,’” Tobias continued, with special thanks to Bogen as event originator and driving force: “The upcoming community-wide recognition of those who came before us, and whose contributions resulted in the growth and strength of Jewish Dallas, is due to the highly motivated group of volunteers led by Sheryl, whose vision and resourcefulness have brought us to this point. Undertaking this major project was the right thing to do, and I’m glad we said we could do it!”
Prime movers in making this event, its film and Tribute Book into realities are the Dave and Ruth Andres Family, the Sam and Ruth Ann Wolfson Family Endowment Fund (established by Rebecca Bruder, Patricia Fagadau and Linnie Katz to honor the legacy of their parents) and Waldman Brothers.

In the past, DJHS has presented three major events, two years apart, recognizing several individual community members in honor of the legacy of Ann Sikora, the local Federation’s first woman president and a founder of national MAZON, A Jewish Response to Hunger. After “Making Dallas Jewish History Come Alive,” the agency plans to resume its biennial schedule of fundraisers that include Sikora Awards presentations.

And, according to Bogen, “At that next event there will be another Tribute Book. Since our oral histories are ongoing, nobody should worry about being left out! But now, ‘Making History Come Alive’ is a stepping stone for our agency, and we’re hoping people will come out to support it.”

For those interested in attending: Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Westin Galleria, 13340 Dallas Pkwy., for the noon luncheon ($154 per person). The community dessert reception ($36 per person) will be at 12:30 p.m., followed by the program and film screening. Copies of the Tribute Book and DVDs of “A Dallas Jewish Journey” will be available for purchase at the event ($20 each, or both for $35).

To make reservations, call Sheryl Fields Bogen at 972-392-7957. Reservations can also be made by credit card by calling the DJHS, 214-239-7120. For more information on the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, visit or call 214-239-7108.

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Matzah Covered

Posted on 09 April 2009 by admin

Children around the Dallas area experienced making matzah in preparation for Passover in recent weeks. At Levine Academy, all grades participated in the school’s annual matzah factory. The students, paired with their buddies from other classes, donned bakers’ hats and got busy cranking out the unleavened bread.
Rachelle Weiss Crane, at the Aaron Family JCC, told the TJP, “The youth wing at the J received a liberal dusting of flour between March 23 and 29 as more than 300 children learned to make shmura (guarded) matzah according to the traditional recipe. Chabad of Dallas and the JCC collaborated to bring this hands-on learning experience to the community. Levi Dubrawsky and Rabbi Meir New taught how to carefully combine water and whole wheat flour to produce matzah in under 18 minutes. The matzah bakery hosted school groups and individual families. The groups included: Akiba Academy second grade, Congregation Agudath Jacob Religious School, Congregation Anshai Torah Preschool, Congregation Beth Torah Preschool, Temple Shalom Preschool, the J Early Childhood Center and Yavneh Academy freshmen and sophomores.
“My kids had a wonderful time at the matzah bakery. My little one, 3 years old, raved about it at school, so maybe next year that teacher will arrange a class trip!” exclaimed one mother.

Those who participated made both matzah and Jewish memories. The latter will last a lifetime.

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Here comes the sun

Posted on 02 April 2009 by admin

Jewish groups gear up for rare ritual

By Ben Harris
NEW YORK (JTA) — As sunrise broke over New York City on the morning of April 8, 1981, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi — at the time he was known just as Zalman Schachter — stood on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and sounded the shofar.

For more than two hours after, Schachter-Shalomi led some 300 mostly young adults in an obscure Jewish ritual known as Bircat HaChamah, or blessing over the sun, a prayer recited once every 28 years when, the Talmud says, the sun reaches the same spot in the firmament as when it was created.

According to an account of the service in the New York Times, participants raised their hands in prayer, asked for healing for individuals and the earth, and released 70 balloons. At the conclusion, some worshippers joined in the singing of a Hebrew version of “Let the Sun Shine In” from the rock musical “Hair.”
The rite, Schachter-Shalomi told the Times, “helps us renew our relationship with the solar system and increase our awareness of the sun as a source of energy.”

Twenty-eight years later, Jews across the denominational spectrum are gearing up again for the observance with a range of planned celebrations, many of them environmentally focused. The sun prayer will be said, as it will several times in the 21st century, on April 8, which this year falls on the eve of Passover.
In the northern Israeli city of Safed, an eight-day festival is planned featuring several environmentally and kabbalistically inspired events, including the ceremonial burning of leavened bread on the morning before Passover by concentrating the sun’s rays through an optic lens.

“Over the last 28-year cycle, we have suffered from pollution and the depletion of natural resources,” said the festival founder, U.S.-based artist Eva Ariela Lindberg, in a news release. “Let us use this extraordinary opportunity to co-create the next cycle by seeking alternative solar energies and a purer environment, recharging ourselves and learning how to honor the earth, our neighbors and ourselves. This is a time to renew, and bring fresh blossoms to our world for the next 28-year cycle.”

In the United States, 14 Jewish organizations have joined to launch, a Web site with links to various educational materials and ideas for April 8 activities. The site asks users to sign a Covenant of Commitment in which they “pledge to hasten the day of environmental healing, social justice and sustainable living for all.”

Five of the groups also are sponsoring an art competition for works “interpreting aspects of the sun and exploring the relationship between Judaism and the environment.” And the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism has designed a 68-page study text on the prayer emphasizing environmental themes.

“Growing up, there was almost a fear in recognizing that our holidays and calendar are indicative of an earth-based religion,” said Nati Passow, co-founder of the Jewish Farm School, one of the groups behind BlessTheSun. “That doesn’t necessarily mean idol worship or earth worship, but it means that the calendar and the cycles were a reflection of people who lived with a greater awareness of natural cycles than we have now. And so any time you can teach people about elements of our tradition that are earth-based, and especially the ones that are hidden and not as well known, it’s a way of bringing people into Judaism.”

The prayer, whose origins lie in the Talmud, blesses God “who makes the work of creation” and is the same blessing said over other rare natural phenomena, like lightning or a meteor.
Its Talmudic origins mean that the sun blessing is hardly the sole province of liberal Jewish environmental groups.

ArtScroll Publications, an Orthodox publishing house, has reissued an updated version of Rabbi J. David Bleich’s seminal 1981 book “Bircas HaChammah,” probably the most definitive English-language treatment of the subject. And Canfei Nesharim, an Orthodox environmental group, is working on a number of initiatives. One was a sun-themed mishloach manot, the food baskets traditionally given on the holiday of Purim, which fell about a month before the date of the sun blessing this year.

Bleich’s book includes a rigorously detailed discussion of the evolution of the Jewish calendar and the complex calculations of lunar and solar cycles that determine the dates of Jewish observances.

“The blessing on this occasion, it would seem, is evocative rather than responsive,” wrote Bleich, a professor of Jewish law and ethics at Yeshiva University. “It is designed to arouse man from his lethargy, to force him to reflect upon this cosmic phenomenon, to summon him to contemplation. Marking yet another solar milestone in the calendar of eternity, the occasion calls out to man: Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?”

Despite the complexity of the Talmudic discussion, the determination of April 8 is almost certainly inaccurate, Bleich told JTA. But the sages of the Talmud ordained the blessing not as a precise astronomical commemoration, Bleich said, but as a pedagogic device to impress upon future generations God’s continuing role in sustaining the universe.

Asked about Jewish groups that want to infuse the blessing with an environmental message, Bleich said, “I wish them luck.”

Many congregations around the Metroplex will be blessing the sun. Check with your synagogue or temple for info.

DFW residents to recite once-in-28-years blessing on sun
By Rabbi Peretz Shapiro
Hundreds of Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex residents from all walks of life will gather at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at synagogues across the Metroplex to perform the rarest event on the Jewish calendar. They will gather together, peer upward toward the sun and recite a benediction known as “the Blessing of the Sun.”

Local participants will join millions of others across the globe who will perform the outdoor ritual at synagogues, schools, beaches, public parks and private homes. This year’s worldwide ceremony, which occurs only once every 28 years, is expected to be the most diverse and best-attended one ever recorded in history.

The highly-anticipated ritual — called Bircat HaChamah in Hebrew — is performed only once each 28 years, on a specific Wednesday morning in the spring when it is calculated that the sun returns to the same position in the sky it occupied, and at the same time of the week, as it was at the time of Creation, 5769 years ago.

The focus of the service is to thank G-d for “re-enacting the works of creation,” and includes a brief selection of Psalms and other texts. A second blessing expresses one’s gratitude for having “granted us life, preserved us and enabled us to reach this moment.” During the course of the program, Rabbi Peretz Shapiro will deliver a short address on the significance of this event.

Although the liturgy is brief, the novelty of the Blessing of the Sun is expected to draw men, women and children from all walks of life, and all levels of religious practice, to join in the Metroplex’s ceremony, along with millions of others at points throughout the globe. Individuals from as far away as Arlington and Fort Worth plan to participate in the event. A sampling of the worldwide locations is browsable at

“More Jews in more places will participate in this rare opportunity than ever before,” noted Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky, director of Chabad of DFW. “From Jerusalem to New York, Dublin to Dallas, this unique ritual will connect people in always remembering the Divine miracles of daily existence.”
According to local Dallas congregant Greg Schwartz, “Our children are really excited to wake up early and make the blessing over the sun.

“Some Jewish observances are accessible each moment, others only once a year. This rare ritual is something my children will tell their children about, please G-d,” Schwartz noted.
In his address, Rabbi Shapiro will share a teaching from the late Lubavitcher rebbe about lessons that the sun can teach us in our everyday lives.
The short event will culminate with the completion of a Talmudic tractate as well as with light refreshments.

‘Year of gathering people’

“The world has changed drastically since the last time this blessing on the sun was recited,” observed Rabbi Zvi Drizin of Chabad of Intown, citing the creation of the World Wide Web and the breakup of the Soviet Union as examples. “But blessing G-d for His natural wonders reminds us to reflect on the miracles and blessings in our daily lives, to focus on the fact that G-d continues to sustain our universe.”

In his remarks, Rabbi Shapiro will also discuss the significance of global participation in this rare ritual. This year, being the year following a Sabbatical year, is also known as a year of hakhel, or gathering, during which Jews throughout the world commemorate an ancient unifying pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by convening gatherings focused on study and good deeds.

Web site launched; class scheduled

In preparation for the rare event, and as part of its ongoing communal education efforts, Chabad has launched a comprehensive Web site at about the Bircat HaChamah. The section contains an overview of the ceremony and the text of the Blessing of the Sun ceremony in Hebrew and English, as well as in-depth information on the astronomical calculations involved in calculating the date. The Web site also maintains a global directory of classes and events relating to Bircat HaChamah. On the morning of April 8, the Web site will host a live Webcast of Bircat HaChamah ceremonies around the world — from New Zealand to Hawaii.

Passover tie-in

This year, the Blessing of the Sun will be performed on the very morning before the Passover seder. While there is no overt ritual connection between the blessing and Passover — in fact, this is only the second time in over six centuries that the Blessing of the Sun has coincided with the eve of Passover — Rabbi Shapiro will talk about the connection between the two, and will also facilitate people’s final opportunity to prepare for Passover by disposing of leavened foods or selling them for the duration of the holiday. (Leavened foods, such as bread and pastries, are prohibited throughout the Passover holiday, from late morning of April 8 through April 16 at nightfall.) Handmade shmurah matzah will also be available.

Background on blessing the sun

According to the Talmud, Bircat HaChamah is recited every 28 years, on a Wednesday, the day of the week on which G-d set into orbit the sun, moon and all the heavenly bodies. Each solar year begins 365 days and about six hours after the prior year started, which is 52 weeks and about 1-1/4 days. Thus, it takes 28 cycles for the solar year to start again at the same point of the week. It is at this point when we recite the Bircat HaChamah.

Due to the fact that this solar/week alignment is rare — occurring only every 28 years — the ritual is highly anticipated and the blessing is customarily recited amid large public gatherings. Indeed, this occurred only three times in the 20th century (in 1925, 1953 and 1981).
(Please note: The Blessing of the Sun is a prayer to G-d thanking Him for the sun, NOT a prayer to the sun. Jewish tradition absolutely forbids worship of, or prayer to, any entity other than the one G-d.)

For more information, contact Rabbi Peretz Shapiro at 972-818-0770, e-mail or visit

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