Archive | January, 2010

A down-to-earth, ‘Avatar’ Tu B’Shevat

A down-to-earth, ‘Avatar’ Tu B’Shevat

Posted on 28 January 2010 by admin

By Edmon J. Rodman

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Celebrating Tu B’Shevat this year on an alien moon called Pandora? Why not?

As seen in “Avatar,” the 3-D, billion-dollar-grossing movie, it’s definitely a place where trees are revered.

In the film, bluish people called Na’vi worship ancient trees. Here on earth, a Jewish people who have a navi or two of our own (“navi” in Hebrew means prophet) will celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees, on Friday night and Saturday, Jan. 29–30, expressing in song and seder a kind of tree love as well. Why?

Trees represent a commitment; planting one is just the beginning of a long-term relationship. Isn’t this a kind of love?

Certainly the day has become a rallying point for caring for trees and the environment by Jewish green forces, like the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. But before the greening of the holiday and the fear of rising seas, there was unequivocal, earth-solid tree love. Like the Na’vi, is tree love part of our roots?

Cedars of Lebanon were harvested as building materials to help construct the Temple. For the daily sacrifice practiced there, a secure supply of wood was necessary. Both Iron Age wealth and military might were dependent on charcoal as a heat source for smelting silver and forging weapons.

The Torah includes an edict against destroying trees even in warfare (Deuteronomy 20:19). The love verses in Shir Hashirim, the Song of Songs, metaphorically compare a couple’s young love with the imagery of trees:

“Like an apple tree among trees of the forest,
“So is my beloved among the youths,
“I delight to sit in his shade …” (2:3)

Not a shock, since we are a people whose default metaphor for Torah, for ultimate knowledge and life, is etz chayim, the tree of life.

On Tu B’Shevat, we behold the lovely shekadia, the stately almond tree, and her white blossoms that we praise in song.

Yet tree love aside, how many of us would plant one in front of our homes?

Two years ago I went door to door trying to persuade my neighbors to allow a city-funded group to plant free trees on the parkway in front of their homes. Though many were happy to have the tree, I discovered many others who had a rustling ambivalence toward them.

Some of the objections: Trees need to be watered; their limbs and roots block views and sewer lines; and their leaves and flowers drop sap on cars.

Additionally, trees need to be trimmed, watched over in wind and protected from disease. And, as in “Avatar,” zealous developers see them as obstacles.

So why the love affair? Trees are a lot of work. What do they give us in return?

Shade, fruit, sense of place, cleaner air: We know about all that. Danish modern furniture, olivewood Shabbat candlesticks from Israel: We know about that, too.

Trees give us hope — like the ancient horse chestnut tree that brought Anne Frank some happiness while in hiding from the Nazis. In her diary on May 13, 1944, she wrote about the tree for the last time:

“Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It’s covered with leaves and even more beautiful than last year.”

The tree is now diseased and requires special care, but its descendants, saplings, will be sent out around the world to more than 200 schools and locations, including 11 locations in the United States that showed, according to a piece in the New York Times, “the consequences of intolerance.”

Trees bring us understanding and friendship between neighbors. My parents always had a fig tree growing in their backyard in Anaheim, Calif. In the 1990s, their neighborhood and area progressively saw the arrival of Lebanese and Palestinian households. The local newspapers even began to describe the adjoining commercial area as Little Gaza.

As it turned out, the Lebanese family who moved in across the street planted their own fig tree. My father, Murray, passed away last year, and after his death I discovered that he and the neighbor had a wonderful relationship, exchanging fruits in their seasons and news of their families.

Trees give us a sense of time and a touch of the eternal. Somewhere in the White Mountains, near Bishop, Calif., lives a tree named Methuselah. Named for the oldest living person in the Bible, it’s a bristlecone pine, among the oldest living things on earth.

In the 1950s, the forest service did a core sample of Methuselah and estimated its age at 4,789 years. It was growing long before Moses.

I visited the bristlecones one year; they were gnarled, twisted, ancient. If something can live that long, then so can our traditions and memories.

We love our trees. While we don’t sit around cross-legged and pray to them, like they did in “Avatar,” we do have a bond, a connection to our memories and humanity.

This Tu B’Shevat, sans spaceships and 3-D specs, create your own special effect: Pick up a shovel, dig a hole and plant something that will grow into the future.

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles.

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 28 January 2010 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
If God is understood through his actions, how are we supposed to understand him in the face of the tragedy in Haiti?
Marc S.

Dear Marc,

If your question is why this happened, it is obviously a question I cannot even attempt to answer. In the days of prophecy, when a tragedy befell the people they could turn to the local prophet and hear directly what G-d’s message was. (As I always say, now we’re a non-prophet organization.) In current times, we cannot ever know definitively why any specific calamity transpires. (Perhaps Christian evangelist Pat Robertson feels he’s a prophet to decide this happened because of the Haitian “pact made with the devil” many years ago.)

I understand from your words a different question: What is it about G-d that we need to understand from the events in Haiti? What attribute of G-d is expressed in disasters such as these?

Firstly, we need to put this event into the context of many such events throughout world history. Not so long ago the world was dealing with the devastation wrought by the tsunami. Going back through the human record of history, we find numerous similar tragedies.

Secondly, if you will think deeply enough and remove emotion from intellect, the same question really applies to the tragic death of one innocent child, whether by a car accident or serious illness. Seventy thousand deaths are one death multiplied 70,000 times.

The first known tragedy of the proportion of Haiti, and quite far beyond, was that of the Flood in the days of Noah. Society had sunk to a level of decadence that warranted the Al-mighty to bring the human race to an end. The purpose for which G-d created the world was so flagrantly violated so as to no longer justify the existence of the world. Only one man, Noah, and his family were worthy of life and to be the “pack of seeds” to replant the garden of mankind. What trait did G-d exercise in the Flood?

In the daily Amidah prayer we approach G-d as “Gadol, Gibor Venorah,” the “Great, Powerful and Awesome One” (based upon Deuteronomy 10:17). The rabbis explain that “Gadol/Great” refers to G-d’s trait of loving kindness, or chesed. This is the trait by which G-d created the universe, the purpose of which is ultimately to bestow His chesed upon it. It is the trait by which the Jews were saved from Egypt, the manna fell, babies are born and our hearts beat. This trait was embodied in the first patriarch, Abraham.

“Gibor” is G-d’s trait of strict justice, the attribute of din. This trait corresponds to the patriarch Isaac, who was offered up on the altar. This attribute is the one exercised when events which we perceive as tragedies and calamities befall the world. It is the trait expressed through sickness, loss of jobs and the crash of markets.

“Norah,” which corresponds to Jacob, is not pertinent to the present discussion.

The traits of Gadol and Gibor also correspond to day and night: Day, the time of light and warmth, expresses G-d’s love and kindness. Night, the time of darkness and cold, matches up to the trait of judgment.

Let us draw a loose parallel to Lincoln’s decision to fight a civil war. Although he knew there would be great loss of human life and suffering, he morally justified those losses as the cost of freedom, and today is held in high esteem for that moral judgment.

One difference between the Civil War and Haiti is that we don’t know what the moral reason for doing so is, what judgment is being exacted upon the world for which crime, what the wake-up call precisely is. We must be pained over the tragedy of loss of life and homes and do all we can to help (and be proud of the incredible efforts of our brethren in Israel for all they’ve done). And we need to hear the wake-up call to all, to do something to improve our thoughts and actions and become better people and better Jews.

Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 28 January 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Parents and Children,

It is beginning to feel like winter (finally) and it is Tu B’Shevat — the Birthday of the Trees. Most of us have memories of collecting money to plant trees in Israel at this time of year and we continue to plant especially on this “birthday.” There are so many wonderful ways of teaching our children to appreciate the wonder of nature and to learn that the Jewish people have been ecologists and environmentalists since biblical times — commanded by G-d to care for our earth. Tu B’Shevat is a very special time to remember this!

The Torah tells us how the world was created but then goes on to tell us how to protect and preserve the earth. A very important Jewish law is bal tashchit — do not destroy! The Torah tells us we must not destroy and we must not waste. Take time to talk with your children about the meanings of the various comments from Jewish texts on taking care of the earth. (These are taken from “Listen to the Trees — Jews and the Earth” by Molly Cone: a wonderful resource filled with quotations and stories.)

Before you begin: Do not be nervous if you have never studied a Jewish text. Begin by reading the full text aloud. Ask, “What do you think it is saying?” Then begin to break down the text into smaller pieces. Remember that there is no right answer, but that each of us must find meaning for ourselves (and even young children are capable!).

  • Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai used to say: “If you have a sapling in your hand and you are told that the Messiah has come, first plant the sapling and then go welcome the Messiah.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 31b)
  • It is forbidden to live in a town in which there is no garden or greenery. (Jerusalem Talmud, Kodashim 4:12)
  • When you besiege a city for a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. You may eat from them, but you must not cut them down. (Deuteronomy 20:19)
  • Whoever destroys anything that could be useful to others breaks the law of bal tashchit. (Babylonian Talmud, Kodashim 32a)
  • The whole world of humans, animals, fish and birds all depend on one another. All drink the earth’s water, breathe the earth’s air and find their food in what was created on the earth. All share the same destiny. (Tanna de-Bei Eliyahu Rabba 2)

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

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 28 January 2010 by admin

Legacy residents enjoy menorah lighting

The Legacy at Preston Hollow, a family service-oriented community, celebrated the recent holiday season with a traditional menorah lighting ceremony.

More than 100 residents, their families and members of the community observed the special night with a traditional candlelighting service led by Rabbi Howard Wolk, as well as songs, prayers and refreshments.

“The menorah lighting was wonderful,” said Jerry McDonald, executive director, The Legacy at Preston Hollow. “It was heartwarming to see so many familiar faces from the community along with residents and their families enjoying the celebration.”

The Legacy at Preston Hollow, known as the Dallas Home for the Jewish Aged, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, faith-based senior living residence offering a unique continuum of care that enables residents to stay in place with assisted living, short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing and long-term care.

Built in 2001, the community features 41 assisted living apartments, 113 skilled nursing beds and a state-of-the-art Medicare unit. The Legacy at Preston Hollow is a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. The community is open to people of all faiths. For questions regarding admissions, please call 214-363-5100 or visit

The Legacy Senior Communities, Inc., parent company of The Legacy at Preston Hollow, is also the parent organization of The Legacy at Willow Bend in Plano, the only Jewish-sponsored life care retirement community in Texas. For information about The Legacy at Willow Bend, please visit

JFGD offers Tri-Teen summer program to Israel and Hungary

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas is offering a unique “Tri-Teen” program for teens this summer.

Young people, ages 15–18, can have an amazing experience at a summer camp in Budapest from July 9 to Aug. 1.

They’ll have the opportunity to travel to Israel and Budapest. The strong emotional journey will provide new Jewish friendships and a chance to expand their global perspective. It’s a positive challenge and a chance to make a difference in someone’s life.

Three groups of teens — one from Budapest, a second from the Central Area Consortium communities and a third group from Israel’s Western Galilee — will be brought together for this program. Each group will have 12 young people aged 15 to 18 (and a minimum of one chaperone).

The $3,800 fee covers all costs.

For registration or question, please contact Deborah Fisher at or 214-615-5250.

Meyer Bodoff to be new DJCF head

The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF) has announced that Meyer Bodoff has accepted the position of executive director/CEO. He will assume the position on Feb. 8.

Bodoff’s background includes many years of professional leadership in Jewish communal work, with broad experience in annual and planned giving. He spent eight years as the president of the United Jewish Community of Las Vegas, where a national award for campaign excellence was achieved several times. During his tenure, Las Vegas was defined by the UJC as “the fastest growing Jewish Federation in North America.” Prior to that, he was executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts; executive director of the Jewish Federation of Southern Maine; and executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Central New York.

He has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa., and has completed graduate courses in social work, psychology and public administration.

Bodoff has a long history of leadership, management and the implementation of creative, quality, revenue-building programs in the communities where he has served. The motivation and interpersonal qualities that he displayed during his recent interview in Dallas demonstrate that he will be an excellent addition to the DJCF staff and to the community.

Kosher wine tasting at Sigel’s

A kosher wine tasting will be held at Sigel’s, 15003 Inwood Road, Addison, on Thursday, Feb. 18, 5–7 p.m.

Joe Hurliman, winemaker and enologist for Royal Wine Corporation, will lead participants through a tasting of his current vintages. Including in this tasting will be a number of wines from new estates imported and produced by Royal Wine Corp. that have never been available in Texas. Special discounted prices will be available for all of the kosher wines in stock after the tasting.

With over 20 years in the wine business, Hurliman has established his reputation as one of California’s finest winemakers. After starting his career at Edna Valley Vineyard in 1985 and including stops at Sine Qua Non and Stolpman vineyards, he spent eight years as assistant winemaker at Alban Vineyards, helping to create Alban’s legendary lineup of Rhone varietals. He now oversees production of the entire Royal Wine Corp. lineup of kosher wines.

‘Sounds to Sentences’: Learn about children’s speech development

Sheryl B. Ambers, M.S., CCC-SLP, Jewish Family Service speech-language pathologist, will present “Sounds to Sentences,” Monday, Feb. 8, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Ambers will discuss: At what ages do children usually say certain sounds or words? What is the typical timetable for speech and language development? Why do you know exactly what your child is saying, yet no one else can understand her? What are the real “red flags” in language development?

Find the answers to these and many other questions about speech and language.

Please RSVP or send questions to Sheryl Ambers,

Jewish Family Service is located at 5402 Arapaho Road, one block east of the Dallas North Tollway. There is no charge to attend the program, and it is open to all.

Beads of opportunity: Akiba students learn and loan

Upon their return from winter break, Akiba Academy’s enterprising group of third-grade students began the industrious task of hand-beading very special keepsakes for a wonderful cause.

Picking up where last year’s third-grade classes left off, the students had already committed to designing, constructing, packaging and selling bracelets that would inspire those who wear them with “Wisdom,” “Shalom” (peace), “Be Green,” “Strength” and “Liberty.”

Teacher Lorre Degani also wanted them to explore how the dollars they raised could go farther than ever before, so she introduced to her class the concept of micro-loans.

“Last year, my students made beaded bracelets and the proceeds were sent to Uganda, since that class had been pen pals with the children in this village since kindergarten. When we decided to make bracelets this year, we explored how to make an even greater difference.”

Microfinance loans enable women in poor families — who typically live in countries where they earn less than a few dollars a day — to earn a higher income by buying and selling livestock, planting fruit-yielding trees, purchasing grinders to make and sell tortillas at the market or buying fabric to create and sell crafts. Loan repayment rates are a remarkable 98 percent. Women are able to save for the future, invest in their children’s education and raise families in healthier environments.

With the help of Akiba mom Sari Raskin, Ms. Degani invited representatives of The Chiapas Project, a nonprofit organization founded by Dallas business and civic leaders to support micro-financing programs for women in poverty, to visit the classroom and explain their organization’s goals and objectives.

“Chiapas Project emissaries Bradley and Buke did an awesome job explaining how loaning even a small amount of money can make a big difference in one woman’s life in poor areas of Mexico,” Degani said. During the presentation, students were engaged and curious, asking very insightful questions. Thankful for their own good fortune, the students embraced the approach while acquiring new knowledge of a different financing concept, happy to have found a way to truly make a difference.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 28 January 2010 by admin

Kornbleet Scholar Haynes speaks at Beth-El

Dr. Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C., wowed the crowd at the recent Larry Kornbleet Memorial Scholar-in Residence program. The annual event, sponsored by the Jewish Federation with financial support from the Kornbleet Scholar-in-Residence Fund and the Molly Roth Endowment Fund, is a gift to the community by Marcia and Stan Kurtz in memory of their loved ones.

Dr. Haynes began his talk by contrasting the reception of the first Jews to arrive in New Amsterdam in 1654 with the welcome the group received from Roger Williams in Rhode Island four years later. The group that arrived in Rhode Island was given citizenship, the right to own land and the right to build a synagogue. The Jews in New Amsterdam were treated as second-class citizens with few rights, least of all the right to practice their religion. Those same religious freedoms are under attack today by well-meaning people who believe that the U.S. Constitution established a Christian nation.

Dr. Haynes answered questions about the Supreme Court’s recent decision on corporate political spending and the clamor by the religious right to put creationism into the public school curriculum. He explained that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limited states from enforcing laws contrary to the First Amendment. He also mentioned previous trips to Texas concerning First Amendment lawsuits in the Plano and Katy school districts.

At the reception following the program, Dr. Haynes was peppered with questions from audience members who explained some of their personal problems with First Amendment violation, especially in their local schools. Honored guests included Pat Hardy, State Board of Education member from District 11, and Dr. Ron Flowers, a national board member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Dr. Haynes, an accomplished speaker, was certainly an asset to the Scholar-in-Residence program and well worth hearing.

CAS film series continues

Once again, Ahavath Sholom screened a movie that awed members of the Fort Worth community. “Praying with Lior,” shown at Zale Auditorium on Jan. 17, was the second installment in the synagogue’s “‘Til 120 and Beyond” Jewish film series. Undaunted by the Cowboys’ defeat, viewers were treated to a heartwarming film that touched the hearts and souls of all those in attendance.

The third film in the series, “Orthodox Stance,” explores the conflict between professional sports and religious observance. Fans of boxing will find this film to be engaging and exciting. “Orthodox Stance” will screen on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 3:30 p.m. The doors will open at 3 for those who want to come early for a good seat.

Films, popcorn and lemonade are free. Cold drinks and candy bars are on sale with the proceeds going to CAS’ Fort Worth United Synagogue Youth organization.

Thanks to the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for generously funding the film series. Come and enjoy and be a part of Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s “‘Til 120 and Beyond” experience.

Mother and Daughter Bat Mitzvah Program

Added thanks to the generosity of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for a special course titled “Mother and Daughter Bat Mitzvah Program,” now in progress. The program was created in Israel by the MaTaN Institute, a women’s institute for Torah studies. The facilitator of the course is the multi-talented Batya Brand and the participation is overwhelming. Each session is devoted to an important woman in Jewish History, starting with Rebecca and ending with Hannah Senesh. The lessons include study groups, chevrutah, skits, songs, dances and discussions. The goal is to afford the opportunity for mothers and daughters to explore and discover the contribution of Jewish women who left their mark on our people. We cry and laugh together, we act and dance together — but most importantly, we leave with pride in discovering the long list of Jewish women leaders.

For more information on the MaTaN Program, please contact Ilana Knust, 817-332-714, who said, “I know it’s too late for this session, but it is a wonderful program to consider for next year.”

To ensure your space, it would be wise to plan early registration.

Texas Boys Choir comes to perform for ‘Daytimers’

In its history, the Texas Boys Choir has traveled to Australia, Japan, England, Mexico, Latvia and Germany. They have sung for the pope, the president, kings and heads of State. They have appeared numerous times on national television and on radio broadcasts. As part of a recent tour, the choir had a major appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York, and next month the choir will sing for the “Daytimers,” Feb. 17 at noon at Beth-El Congregation.

The Texas Boys Choir was founded in 1946 by George Bragg to provide any boy, regardless of socio-economic or ethnic background, a structured environment for the development of his singing gifts, creating a world-class performing choir of boys. In addition to singing a wide variety of music, the Texas Boys Choir is unique in another very important way. Only a few boy choirs in the United States are trained while attending their own school. Any student, male and female, regardless of race, religion, disability or income, who wishes to study the fine arts along with a challenging academic curriculum, can attend the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. The school offers classes in music, visual arts, theater, dance and instrumental music, completing the whole experience of performing and visual arts for each student.

Its high level of performance has earned the Texas Boys Choir two Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, three George Washington Honor Medal Awards from the Freedom Foundation, a Bronze Award from the International Film and Television Festival of New York and a gold medal in Mixed Boys’ Choirs at the 2004 Choir Olympics in Bremen, Germany.

Lunch will be catered by Ol’ South Pancake House, and guests have a choice of kosher salami on rye, turkey on whole wheat, or tuna salad on rye. Lunch is $9, or guests may attend the program only for $4.

This a unique opportunity to hear the Texas Boys Choir on our own turf. Don’t miss this opportunity. They not only are indeed extremely talented, but they present a unique performance.

For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109.

The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

JWI to present two informative programs

It’s worth being an early riser if you haven’t had the good fortune to hear one of Fort Worth’s top professionals. Here’s your chance! Jewish Women’s International will present Dr. Carole Rogers on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 9:30 a.m. at Temple Beth-El. Dr. Rogers will speak on “Healthy Relationships.”

Back by popular demand, Watchdog Dave Lieber will speak on Wednesday, March 3, at 9:30 a.m. at the Temple about his new book “How to Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong.”

Press notes

Happy birthday greetings to the Beckerman team, Greta and David, sharing January birthdays. Good news: Brother and sister, Leon Brachman and Madlyn Barnett, are recuperating at their respective homes. While we are all blessed with wonderful children, special accolades to Suzie Herman for the love and care she gives to her mom, Gerry Brown. Dr. Javier and Dina Smolarz will be missed when they move to their new home in Israel after the High Holy Days.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 28 January 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

It’s astounding how, as we get older, the past keeps coming back to live with us again. Not that we’re living in the past ourselves; more that the past, living within us, is forever resurfacing as part of the present. And some of those enduring memories have amazing relevance today.

My latest case-in-point: Hannah Rosenthal, who fills Barack Obama’s new position as “special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism.” She’s a feisty woman who has been having something of a bad time of late since her very public disagreement with Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, over the matter of J Street and what effect this brash young U.S. lobbying group might be having, or will have, on the Jews of Israel.

Although the J Street controversy is much in the present, its principal player has thrown me back into the past, because I not only know what Hannah Rosenthal is doing today, I have some suspicions as to why.

I’m afraid I paid little initial attention to her presidential appointment. Hannah Rosenthal is perhaps not an uncommon name for a Jewish woman; there must be at least a few of them throughout the United States. But I’ve learned that she’s the one who grew up in Chicago’s south suburbs, my home for many years. She’s the daughter of Frank Rosenthal, once that area’s senior, most esteemed and respected, rabbi.

When I left there almost 30 years ago, she was a young aspirant to the rabbinate herself. But times change, and goals change with them, although Hannah Rosenthal’s desire to further Judaism never wavered.

Let me tell you something about her father. Born, educated and ordained in Germany, he was one of the young rabbis who survived Hitler’s concentration camps, then brought his giant intellect and all that went with it to our quiet little corner of the United States. He was a brilliant scholar, superb at sharing his scholarship with others, along with his passion for Judaism.

I did not belong to Rabbi Rosenthal’s temple, Anshe Sholom, which was far too big for me, affiliating with one of the nearby smaller congregations. I studied with him, and as a columnist and feature writer for the local twice-weekly community paper, I had frequent contact with him on many other matters. He was occasionally rigid, more often didactic, but always worth speaking with and listening to. I respected him and revered him. So did everyone else.

When he died (sadly, of colon cancer; it was said that he, like so many “macho” men then, ignored symptoms until it was too late), the Union of American Hebrew Congregations sent the esteemed Morris Kertzer, an author-educator rather than a pulpit rabbi, to help the temple through its terribly tough transition. I had often used Rabbi Kertzer’s best-known book “What Is a Jew?” in teaching my own temple’s teenagers; when he had come earlier to serve us during our rabbi’s sabbatical, we became friends. I invited him to my home for dinner after his first day at Anshe Sholom, and he announced his arrival with a weary, heartfelt “Oy,” wondering aloud how that towering, beloved figure could ever be replaced.

(This was a very practical matter, according to Kertzer’s assessment: A young rabbi would probably not be up to the challenge of handling such a large congregation, especially one expected to be in mourning for a long time; an older, more experienced rabbi, already settled down in a satisfying pulpit of his own, would probably not want to uproot himself and his family for what would have to be the impossible task of filling unfillable shoes.)

But the temple survived, engaged another rabbi and has even had one or two more since. It’s become much smaller over the years as the area’s Jewish population has diminished, but while other congregations have merged, Anshe Sholom still retains its independence. It has never again risen to the heights of those Frank Rosenthal glory days. Hannah Rosenthal lived through that, and maybe made her non-rabbinic decision because of that.

Rabbi Rosenthal always remembered his German roots and their aftermath, the whys and hows that determined his life’s direction. His daughter must be much like him. Why else would she have said, when asked if she could get over her clash with Ambassador Oren, “Yes. But I don’t forget anything”? Knowing her father, I have to believe her. Let’s see where her own remembering takes her in navigating issues of American and Israeli Jewish relations as well as anti-Semitism.


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Dallas Doings

Posted on 21 January 2010 by admin

Neshama Carlebach to perform at Congregation Shearith Israel

The evening will be singable, danceable and unforgettable when the famed Neshama Carlebach is presented in concert by the Shearith Israel Music Committee. The popular and much-looked forward-to event is part of the Small/Waldman/Cohn Signature Series, a spectacular series of musical performances.

The performance to be held this Sunday night, Jan. 24, from 7 to 9 p.m., will also feature ­Carlebach’s special guests, the Rev. Roger Hambrick and members of the Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir. Carlebach and Hambrick collaborated on her seventh CD together.

Neshama Carlebach, one of the leading superstars in Jewish entertainment, continues the legacy established by her late father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. His deep spirituality and his love of all humanity filled every song he wrote and touched every person he encountered as he changed the face of music. Like her father, Neshama’s talent and charisma captivate and endear her to all people of all ages and backgrounds as she performs in cities all over the world. Together with producer/pianist David Morgan and her incredible band, she continues to both deeply move and entertain as she sings her father’s incomparable melodies and inspiring original compositions. This event with Neshama will uplift you and bring you the gift of memorable songs.

Advance tickets are $12 for adults; seniors and students, $10. At the door, adult tickets are $15 and seniors and students, $12.

For more information, contact Shearith Israel, 214-361-6606.

Echo Hill Ranch to hold reunion

Echo Hill Ranch will hold its annual Dallas area reunion this Sunday at the home of Sharon and Alex Ray, 7319 Elmridge Drive, Dallas, from 2 to 4 p.m. Alumni and prospective campers are encouraged to come and meet with Steve Samet, associate director, who many may remember from their summers at the ranch. Steve and Head Wrangler Chuck Hart will provide all the details you need to know about a super fun summer at Echo Hill. The camp, heading into its 58th summer, was founded by Dr. Tom and Min Friedman and is still family-owned by the Friedmans’ children, Politico Kinky Friedman, Dr. Roger Friedman and their sister, Marcie. Roger Friedman, Ph.D., and his wife, Roz Beroza, MSW, have served as the camp’s directors since 2002. Both mental health professionals, Roger and Roz have continued the mission of Tom and Min, making the camp child-centered and emphasizing teamwork within the framework of Jewish values and ideals. Among the highlights of Echo Hill is a special one-week session for first-time campers ages 6–9. For more information about the reunion, call Sharon Wisch-Ray, 214-507-2662.

All interested parents and their youngsters are invited to attend. Films of the camp will be shown and refreshments will be served.

An impromptu mitzvah in action

This week Levine Academy third-graders Sam Eisenberg (son of Dana and Dr. Dennis Eisenberg) and Shahar Sandhaus (son of Haggit and Eran Sandhaus) had a playdate together at Shahar’s house. What transpired at the playdate should make all parents of Jewish day school kids proud. Mom Dana Eisenberg explained, “When I arrived to pick Sam up, my eyes widened and the biggest smile came over my face. For there were two of the sweetest kids operating a ‘lemonade’ stand (without lemonade). They had a little table and two small chairs and they were selling a variety of treats. The beautiful thing of all is that all of the dollars raised, they informed me, will go to the people of Haiti.”

Yasher koach, Sam and Shahar, on a mitzvah well done.

ArtCentre Theatre offers classes on Jewish principles

The ArtCentre Theatre will offer classes that cater to the Jewish family and its beliefs. “Hershell and Gershon’s Monster Jar of Foolish Goblins” is just one of many in the coming months that are aimed toward attracting families whose roots are planted in the Jewish faith. The classes focus on a series of books written by Eric Kimmel, a prolific children’s author. The children will take one of his stories each week, learn it and act it out under the direction of the theater’s staff. Once they have acted out all five of the target stories, they will work together to combine them into one cohesive original script and present it as a production for their peers, friends and parents. Among the books the classes will spotlight are “Gershon’s Monster,” “Hershell and the Hanukkah Goblins,” “The Jar of Fools” and “Why The Snake Crawls on Its Belly.”

“We, at the ArtCentre Theatre, have seen a gap in the North Texas theater community that does not address the various religious perspectives that exist here for this age group [4–12],” said Jamey Jamison, president of Teatro Delle Muse / ArtCentre Theatre. Jamison added, “There are all sorts of dramatic opportunities for children who are of the Christian faith, but how often do you hear of a widely publicized play about Chanukah or even Purim? In the coming year we will be doing similar classes for persons of other faiths as well. We want the ArtCentre Theatre to be seen as a mecca for all people to come and be a part of a larger community picture.”

Classes will begin on Feb. 1. For more information, contact Jamison at 214-505-9378.

North Dallas Women in Business Networking Group

Robyn Carafiol of Virginia Cook Realtors is starting the new North Dallas Women in Business Networking Group. The group will meet the fourth Thursday of every month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The location will vary from month to month. This month, the group will meet on Thursday, Jan. 28, at the Forum at Park Lane, 7831 Park Lane in Dallas.

“I’m so excited to offer this opportunity to the businesswomen of the North Dallas area. Networking is a great way to get more prospects, make more contacts and build relationships,” Carafiol said.

There is no cost to attend these events, and no membership is required. Please RSVP to Carafiol at or 214-908-5958, or contact her if you have questions. Be sure to bring plenty of business cards to the event.

Levine Academy Family Fun Day on Jan. 31

Levine Academy invites the community to a Family Fun Day at the Academy, 18011 Hillcrest Road, on Sunday, Jan. 31, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An entrance fee of $15 per person includes one bingo card, one 18-hole round of golf, carnival admission and a hot dog or hamburger meal. Additional rounds of golf can be purchased for $3 each; additional bingo cards are $3 each. Snacks or additional food items are available for sale.

All proceeds will benefit the seventh-grade trips to New York and Washington, D.C. and the eighth-grade trip to Israel. The students look forward to these trips each year.

For reservations or more information, contact

It’s time to start thinking Maccabi

The JCC will hold a Maccabi kickoff meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. This year Team Dallas will travel to Omaha, Neb. Tryouts will run through the month of February. For more information, contact Jon Mize at 214-239-7147 or

JCC Early Childhood Center to host open house

Find out why the J Early Childhood Center is one of the best beginnings possible for your child. The JCC will host an open house on Jan. 27 at the J Early Childhood Center. Drop in between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. or call for a personal tour. Meet and greet parents and teachers, enjoy coffee and cookies and take a tour of the J’s incredible early childhood program. Registration for the 2010–2011 school year is underway. Call Tara ­Ohayon today at 214-239-7157 or e-mail her at

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 21 January 2010 by admin

Call me Pollyanna!

Each morning when I wake up, I thank God for the day ahead and when I close my eyes at night, I thank him for the wonderful day I’ve had. Needless to say, I try to put aside all my aches, discomforts and memory problems, because I’m in Big D now, near my four wonderful daughters, a splendid son-in-law, eight grandchildren and their devoted spouses and eight great-grandchildren. I have my son, Steve, and his fabulous wife, Fern, in Houston; a grandson, Ari, in San Antonio; another grandson, Ethan Davidsohn, and his bride, Emily, in Portland, Ore.; and then there’s another important indispensable blessing in my life, Todd Jordan.

There’s a big void in my heart for my friends in Fort Worth. No one could fill their places. Fort Worth will always be my true home and my heart will always belong to our big daddy, Jimmy Wisch. who filled my life with love, joy and blessings.

My cup runneth over!

Yasher koach to B’nai B’rith!

This year the men of B’nai B’rith cooked and served a Christmas Day meal at the Beautiful Feet Mission. Harry Kahn and company made the day for many at the mission.

Save the dates: JWI programs

Jewish Women International is hosting Dr. Carole Rogers on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 9:30 a.m. at Temple Beth-El in Fort Worth. She is going to speak about “Healthy Relationships.”

JWI will host Watchdog Dave Lieber on Wednesday, March 3, at 9:30 a.m. at the Temple. He will speak about his new book, “How to Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong.”

Melanie Hecht visits

The recent holiday season was exciting for Sonia and Jerry Hecht, who had the added pleasure of having their granddaughter Melanie Hecht in ourtown for several days. Melanie, the daughter of David Hecht and Carrie Satterfield, is a member of the cast of “Christmas Wrappings,” which played at the Theatre at Judson in late December.

Melanie, who has a promising career ahead of her, is an accomplished singer, actress and model.

Originally from Texas, she is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. In the past, she was involved with Royal Caribbean Productions, Legacy Productions of Texas and Casa Manana. Currently, she is associated with Emerging Talent Agency of New York.

Melanie thanks her family for their encouragement and promises there will be more to come.

News ‘n’ notes

Mazel tov to Batya and Jakub Brand, who are just back from Cherry Hill, N.J., where they celebrated the bar mitzvah of their grandson, Jonah Sietz, son of Ephie and Steve Sietz, at Temple Shalom on Jan. 2. Jonah, who did his grandparents proud, was tutored by his grandma, Savta Batya, via Skype, and he truly excelled all through the service. Joining in the simcha were the Brands’ son and family, Max and Naomi Brand; youngsters, Samantha and Gabriel, of Arlington; and good friends, Roberta Clark and Ron and Miriam Honig and son, Nathan, of Dallas.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 21 January 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

There’s always a collection in my inbox: items too interesting to ignore and too good to delete, but not long enough, important enough, relevant enough or immediate enough to stand alone in a column. So today, I’m giving a taste of a half-dozen.

1) The Betsy, a 70-year-old Miami Beach hotel that has been remade into a five-star beauty, reopened to accolades last spring. But not just because of its new look, its food and its amenities — all of which have been most warmly received. Betsy is also on the cutting edge of something new: It has created the position of vice president for philanthropy. Filling this post is Dr. Deborah Briggs, whose work will be to build the Betsy’s business while making the world a better place, according to the hotel’s ownership. Hope we’ll have a one-year report soon on how everything is working out.

2) In a related vein: Jewish Causes of Choice, Inc., a nonprofit out of Needham, Mass., recently inserted itself into today’s social network with the launch of, “designed to foster the next generation of Jewish giving among adolescents.” It teaches philanthropy by showcasing causes and providing an online community where young people can interact with those causes and each other. Founder David Rosenberg says an in-depth study has proved that “young donors want involvement … to understand the impact of their activism, and to be able to dialogue with their peers regarding charitable choices.”

3) Naropa University, an accredited Boulder, Colo. institution of higher learning named for a mystic monk who died in the year 1041, has a proud history of holding interfaith events. Its most recent interreligious dialogue was called “Spiritual Practice and Social Engagement,” and featured Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, a Shambhala Buddhist; Father Thomas Keating, a teacher in the contemplative Christian tradition; and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a leading proponent of Chassidism and Kabbalah.

4) Eshet Chayil may be the first all-Jewish-girls’ band anywhere playing all-Jewish music; its three Israeli members perform songs that bring Biblical words forward into our time with what they call a blend of spirituality, tradition, rhythm and choreography. The trio’s first album was released in November; one of its songs, “Brighten Our Eyes,” promptly hit the top of the Israeli charts. Their music videos feature Hebrew lyrics, some very fast patter, lots of variety in clothing and hair styles, plus bright lights and much percussion in the background. Find them on YouTube, if you like.

5) Puah, the organization named for a Biblical (Exodus) midwife and billing itself as “your global resource for fertility and women’s health issues,” has issued its first online newsletter, aptly named Conceptions. In 2009, Puah — with headquarters in both Jerusalem and Brooklyn — was named the top-rated international Jewish nonprofit. It provides Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits in courses that cover combinations of professional and halachic learning, and was represented by its founding director, Rabbi Menachem Burstein, on the Knesset commission that drafted legislation governing human egg donation in Israel.

6) University of Manchester, England, scholar Dr. Renate Smithuis has discovered a 150-word fragment of a Jewish exorcism ceremony, most likely from 18th-century Palestine or Egypt. With it, Joseph Moses Ben Sarah tries to rid the widow Qamar Bat Rahma, whom he had either recently married or was about to marry, of a dybbuk — the evil spirit of her late husband Nissim Ben Bunya. This fragment is one of more than 11,000 rescued from a thousand-year-old Genizah at Cairo’s Ben Ezra synagogue; since 2006, the university has been cataloguing them, and will have at least 22,000 high-resolution images available for research and public viewing when the project is complete. This one is “not a story, but a record of a real event … a prayer said in a synagogue in the presence of a minyan,” according to Dr. Smithuis. It is ascribed to Shalom Shar’abi, a prominent Kabbalist rabbi of the time.

The Internet nets some odd and amazing tidbits, doesn’t it? Treasures, all.

Now, here are two important dates to treasure: Last Monday, we honored the memory of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And before we meet here in this space again, we will have observed next Thursday as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The Internet yields serious learning as well as fun facts, so use your computer to bring information on both these historic dates and events onto your desk — or your lap.


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 21 January 2010 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have a question about Leah and Dinah. When Leah heard that she was destined to marry Esau, she prayed and cried to Hashem that she would not have to marry a wicked man, and as a result, she married Jacob. But then, later on, Jacob is blamed for concealing his daughter Dinah from Esau because perhaps Dinah could have influenced Esau to do tshuvah (repent). So my question is, if a woman’s influence on her husband is so powerful, why did Leah not daven that Esau should do tshuvah and become a tzaddik, a righteous man, rather than that she should not marry him at all?


Phyllis L.

Dear Phyllis,

What you are referring to is a rabbinical teaching based upon the Midrash that Jacob hid his daughter Dinah in a large wooden box when he had contact with Esau, lest his evil brother lay his eyes upon her and ask for her hand in marriage. As you mentioned, Jacob was taken to task for doing so and not having his daughter be in a position to influence Esau as his wife.

The obvious question is: Why should Jacob be censured for what he did? What self-respecting father would allow his daughter to enter a home filled with evil and to marry an evil man with the hopes that her piety will trump his evil?! Although it’s possible, it’s unlikely, especially given the power and influence of Esau, who was a mighty ruler at the time and wicked to the point that he attempted to wage a war against his own brother and family. Moreover, his evil hadn’t begun at any recent time; many years before, he had sold his birthright — his future — for the sake of the instant pleasure of a bowl of beans at the moment of his hunger. It would seem more appropriate to censure Jacob if he had allowed Dinah to marry Esau!

A novel explanation of the above episode is offered by the “Baalei Hamussar” (masters of the mussar movement of self-perfection through Torah). They maintain that the meaning of the Midrash was not that Jacob was ever really expected to allow Dinah to marry Esau, for the reasons we mentioned above. In their words, the claim against Jacob was “that he didn’t hide her with a kreptz,” or with a sorrowful sigh. Later mussar greats explained that to mean, “of course he did it with a sigh; the sigh just wasn’t loud enough.”

According to these rabbis, the teaching of the Midrash is as follows: Although Dinah rightfully needed to be protected from this evil, we still need to feel terrible that the person in question, namely Jacob’s own brother, was in fact so evil that he warranted for her to be shielded from him. It is one of the greatest tragedies of world history that Esau sank to a level that he became out of bounds to a righteous woman who might have been his last chance of ever revealing his potential for greatness and piety. This fact greatly troubled Jacob, leading him to sigh in sorrow for this tragedy when hiding Dinah in the box, but perhaps not so loudly — therefore he was censured for not feeling the grief for his brother deeply enough in his heart.

This packs a profound message for us all. We all need to feel the sorrow deeply in our hearts for all those Jews who have distanced themselves from our Torah and its teachings. We all need to “kreptz,” to remember to do it loudly enough and help all who might desire to reconnect with their rich and glorious heritage to do so!

Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at

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