Archive | May, 2010

Saul Schisler paints his way through Sderot beautifying bomb shelters with street art

Saul Schisler paints his way through Sderot beautifying bomb shelters with street art

Posted on 28 May 2010 by admin

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By Deb Silverthorn

Rainbows from rain is what Allen resident Saul Schisler is creating, leaving his mark on the walls of bomb shelters, restaurants, homes, schools, and public buildings of Sderot, Israel.  An artist who connected with Artists 4 Israel, Schisler’s work joins those bringing a brighter hue to the community.

“I went to Sderot, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem with Artists 4 Israel to paint murals and walls to beautify and spread messages of hope to citizens of Israel and Zionists worldwide. The more money that is raised, the more public work I can do around the city and the more colorful this city will become. I don’t want to leave one ugly yellow bomb shelter unpainted, and I don’t want this city to ever feel neglected or forgotten again,” said Schisler who will return to Sderot from June 4 to July 12. “These people have been under rocket attack from the terrorist organization Hamas for a decade, and the city is full of reminders of their current plight.”

Schisler, the son of Howell Schisler, and Shelley Meyers and Avi Mitzner, is looking to his home community, family and friends to help in raising funds to support his stay with the project.  Through June 1, donations can be made online at  The 2009 graduate of Winfree Academy, who will attend New York’s Pratt Institute, School of Art & Design in the fall, is the eldest brother to Becky, Evan, Leora, Jonah, Sam, Tammy, and Jacquie. A member of Congregation Shearith Israel, Schisler was an involved member of the ZOHAR chapter of United Synagogue Youth.

Schisler’s Israel experience began with the nine-month Young Judaea – FZY Year Course Program Visual Art Track. He had the opportunity to volunteer, study academically, earn college credit, study art and be a part of special arts enrichment such as field trips and meetings with known Israeli artists.

“From the start of the year, Saul has exhibited an artistic passion and drive that was beyond compare. He would stay up nights painting and explore the art scene on his own in addition to participating in the weekly classes and activities the program offered,” said Anna Abramzon, Coordinator of Art Programs for Young Judaea and Federation of Zionist Youth Year Course. “Saul’s commitment and love for art proved to be contagious to the other students and he has been a wonderful addition to the group.”

“Saul was a transformative and vibrant addition to the Artists 4 Israel Murality Mission,” said Craig Dershowitz, president of Artists 4 Israel.  “The youngest of the artists, Saul was selected to join the trip based on his enthusiasm and chutzpah. He stepped into a program full of graffiti legends and accomplished artists and made it clear that his art should also be recognized.  Immediately, we were happy with our decision.”

“Saul’s work, bright plays of color and depth, oftentimes resulting in floral motifs of piercing yet still, somehow, delicate beauty, resonated with the citizens of Sderot,” said Dershowitz.  “He made pieces of utter joy and easily-grasped beauty, heightened and glorified, even more magical by the impossible settings where they were kept. As his work moved to the forefront, literally blossoming before our eyes, so did Saul. He became comfortable with the reporters and cameras and even more comfortable with the people of Sderot. He engaged them as he worked, turning each moment into a chance of one-on-one connection and spiritual upliftment.”

For Schisler, whose first trip to Israel was through USY’s Etgar Outdoor Adventure Summer program, going to Israel for a year was never a question, but a given.  “I remember him telling me not ‘if I go back,’ but ‘I will go back,’” said his mother, herself the art teacher at Ford Middle School in Allen, who is still amazed that her son is able to spray paint the side of a police station.  “Isn’t that incredible?  I’m so excited and proud that he found a way to bring his really incredible talent out, and to do so with the spirit that he has.”

“Saul sent an email thanking me for the sacrifices made on his behalf, that doesn’t happen for many parents,” said Meyers.  “His total heart is in this totally selfless act and I’m so proud of him.”

Schisler who only began seriously exploring his own talents in high school, started by painting and drawing on canvas and paper. He was moved to explore street art, just last year.  “I think street art is all about reactions and I love it when I get positive reactions to my work; people walking by and saying how beautiful it is or thanking me for painting,” said Schisler who says it takes between two to five hours to paint a wall.  “But I also enjoy when someone gets ticked off because of my work. At least they peeled their eyes away from their Blackberries or iPods long enough to notice. Right now, the art I am doing in Sderot is different. The sole reason I am there is to beautify the city.”

“The locals in Sderot love our work,” said Schisler who has worked with many artists, including Young Judaea mate Dan Solomon.  “Many here feel that they have been forgotten.  When you go up to anyone and tell them you are one of the painters, they tell you how thankful they are, and how much they love what we are doing.”

“I was so impressed when he was accepted by Artists for Israel and invited to join their tour in Israel,” said Abramzon.  “We are so glad this proved to be an inspiring experience for him and I am incredibly proud of him for taking the next step on his own. Saul is such a driven, passionate, and talented young artist, I am sure we will all be saying we knew him when!

“I’m hoping people at home will help me remind the people of Sderot,” said Schisler, “that they still matter and the rest of the world hasn’t forgotten about them.”

Donations can be made online, through June 1, at  After that deadline, donations can be sent to Saul Schisler, c/o 1418 Fieldstone Drive, Allen, TX 75002

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

It’s poppy time for JWV

The Harvey Bloom Post of the JWV will be selling poppies at Sam’s and Walmart as has become a Memorial Day tradition. Says Dick Lethe, “We owe them a debt of gratitude as we are the only organization they allow to do so.” JWV also will be placing U.S. flags at all  cemeteries for our fallen comrades in the Dallas area, and will be involved in the memorial services at Laurerland cemetery and the military cemetery in Dallas. About 50 members will be volunteering at these functions.  “Memorial Day is a very special day for the JWV. We keep the faith with our fallen comrades,” added Lethe.

Special Needs Family Day this Monday

There is still time to register for Special Needs Family Day, May 31 at the JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. Beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 2:30 the day will feature networking, education and fun for the entire family. A highlight of the event will be the keynote presentation by Rabbi Bradley Artson and his son Jacob Artson: “Living with Autism and Not Veing Defined by It.” The talk is scheduled to begin at 9:30.

Breakout sessions will feature the following topics: “Sights and Sound – OH MY!!  Our Daily Dose of Sensory Overload” with Carolyn Feder and Emily Kern; “Special Planning for your Child with Special Needs – Understanding the Texas Waiver System, etc,” with  Naomi Duke of K Corporation; “How to be a Father for Someone with Special Needs,” with Rabbi Bradley Artson; “Advocating for your Child’s Participation in Synagogue life A Panel Discussion,” with Rabbi Bradley Artson, Rabbi  Jordan Parr and Dr. Jeff Lichtman; Trust Planning 101” with  Naomi Duke; and “Nurturing your Relationship with your Spouse,” with  Malkie Schick of JFS.

At 1 p.m. there will be lunch and a resource fair. To RSVP, contact  Hanna Geshelin at 214-239-7131. Cost is  $18 per family

Limited number of spots left for Tiferet Choctaw Casino trip

Tiferet Israel will take another casino trip to Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma from 8 a.m. to  5 p.m on June 6. There are only 10 seats left. There will be a tour of the hotel. The $15 cost includes a kosher breakfast and lunch and $10 in casino credit.

RSVPs required. Call Tiferet Israel’s Office at 214-691-3611 to reserve a spot or for more information contact Debby Rubin, at the synagogue office or  at

Tiferet Israel Congregation is located at 10909 Hillcrest Road in Dallas.

Jennifer Sheppard garners National Merit college scholarship

Mazel tov to Jennifer Sheppard, daughter of Iris Young Sheppard  and Andy Sheppard, who has earned a college sponsored merit scholarship from the University of Rochester. Jennifer will graduate from Plano West on June 8 and is a graduate of Levine Academy. She is one of the more than 2,800 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities that were announced this week by National Merit Scholarship.  Officials of each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from among finalists in the 2010 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution. These awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

Jennifer will spend the summer as a senior counselor at the JCC’s Camp Chai before heading off to the University of Rochester for orientation and school at the end of August.  She is planning on studying art, languages (Hebrew and Spanish) and archeology. Jennifer is the sister of Benjamin Sheppard, also a Levine Academy graduate, who attends Shepton in Plano.

5th Annual Kids Tri at the ‘J’

The Dallas  JCC, 7900 Northaven Road, will host its 5th annual Kids Tri. USAT sanctioned, this event is open to kids ages seven to 14 with swim-bike and run distances off 100/200 yards in the pool, 5 km/10 km bike on the residential streets around the JCC and a 1k/2k run on the grounds of the JCC. The terrain is mostly flat. This kids tri is perfect for children of all ages and is broken into four age group categories: 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14. USA Triathlon is sanctioned, managed and directed by professional staff of IronHead Race Productions.

To register visit,

For more information about this race, contact Jon Mize, Sports and Fitness director at, or 214-739-2737.

Balkins to celebrate golden wedding anniversary in Big D

Mazel tov to Esther Raboff Balkin and Burton E. Balkin of Philadelphia. They will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in Dallas with their children Jackie and Michael Hoffman of Dallas and Harris and Leslie Balkin of Albuquerque, along with their four grandchildren Jake, Aaron and Rebecca Hoffman and  Megan Balkin.  Esther and Burt were married on May 29, 1960 at the Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia.  These days, they can often be found in Dallas attending numerous events in which their grandchildren are involved or in support of  local organizations including Levine Academy, where their grandchildren attend school, or  the Vogel Alcove.   The couple will be in Dallas to celebrate, followed by a family gathering in San Antonio.  Mazel Tov!

Business Scene:

Spark Communications, a Dallas agency founded in 1999 with an emphasis on copywriting, has changed its name to Alacrity Creative. “Alacrity means eager responsiveness and cheerful speed,” says Doug Davidson, Alacrity founder and principal. “It does a great job capturing our focus on results-driven creativity and outstanding client service.” The new name marks the start of the firm’s second decade in business and a five-year shift in its focus and services. “Early on, 90 percent of our business was copywriting,” Davidson says. “But around 2005, clients began to ask us for more—communications strategy, graphic design for web and print, and total project management. We still love to write copy; we’ve just added to the mix.”

Alacrity uses a virtual agency approach to create project teams that are focused and efficient. “Our network of writers, designers and programmers spans from Dallas to Wisconsin, Canada and as far way as Moscow,” Davidson explains. “Email, Skype and Google Voice are a big part of how we do business— sharing information, collaborating and building a real sense of teamwork.”

Alacrity today is a full-service creative marketing communications firm with corporate and agency clients in Dallas and across North America. Clients include the American College of Emergency Physicians, the City of Arlington, Clever Pear, Cooper Aerobics Center, Crescent Real Estate Equities, the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health, Eisenberg and Associates, Executive Women of Dallas, 5Gstudio_collaborative, Flexx Systems, Flying Start, Hahn & Bowersock, Insite Interactive, JFT Engineers, Lavabit, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PhaseWare, Salvo Real Estate Solutions, Slingshot, SMU Cox Executive Education, SMU Cox School of Business, Sofitel Hotels and Resorts, TractorBeam, Trisul Group, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Zachry Associates and Zielinsky Design Associates. Alacrity launched a new website——to mark the name change and is celebrating with a special “Hat and a Hand, Hooray” promotion for current and new clients. “Through July 1, clients who hire us for new project will receive an Alacrity ball cap,” Davidson says, “plus $100 donated in their name to one of five outstanding not-for-profit organizations—Americares, Best Friends Animal Society, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, Habitat for Humanity International and ProLiteracy.”

Save the Date: July 1 Israel Scout-Tzofim Friendship Caravan

The  Israel Scout-Tzofim Friendship Caravan, a highly-talented energetic and enthusiastic group of Israeli teens that travel throughout the U.S. and Canada, will give a citywide performance at 7 p.m. on  Thursday, July 1st in Tobian Auditorium of Temple Emanu-El, 8500 Hillcrest Road, Dallas.

The  Israel Scout-Tzofim Friendship Caravan is well-known for bringing Israeli culture and a message of friendship through song and dance.

The event is sponsored by the Israel Committee of Temple Emanu-El.

For more information, contact David Abrams at 214-669-3033 or Linda Kahalnik at 972-867-7780.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

Who will be this year’s BB Jewish Person of the Year?

One of the most anticipated events on the Cowtown calendar is right around the corner. On June 6, B’nai B’rith will hold its annual Awards Dinner. The Jewish “Person of the Year,” will be named. The persons of the year are known for giving generously of themselves for the betterment of Fort Worth and Jewish life. Last year’s awardee was Laurie Werner. Laurie joined her grandparents Sol (1953) and Ella (1954) Brachman; parents Lou (1960) and Madlyn (1971) Barnett and husband Lon Werner (2001) as Person of the Year honorees. Laurie will be presenting the award to this year’s surprise winners.  Two scholarships will be given out, a BBYO Participation Scholarship and a Tarrant County Jewish Community Scholarship for highest GPA with consideration for extra curricular activities. Past recent scholarship honorees for Academics were Andrew Eric Cobert (2006); Jacqueline Erin Mintz; Michael Neal Lavi and Matthew Scott Nover (2007); Stanislav “Steve” Gershengoren (2008); and Steven Mathis Silverberg (2009). Past BBYO participation awardees were: Brett Moses(2006); David Lee Spiegel (2007); Ace Factor (2008); and Sara Lavi (2009).

The festivities, held this year Beth El Congregation, begin at 6:30 p.m. and will conclude by 10 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by the Texas Gypsies. Cost for the evening, is $25 per ticket and includes a barbecue dinner and dancing. Dress is cowboy chic. To purchase tickets contact, Harry Kahn, 817-926-6566; Marvin Beleck at 817-921-2438; Alex Nason, 817-346-3991, or Rich Hollander 817-294-4354

Mazel tov to the Bernsteins

The marriage ceremony of Linda Melanie Bernstein and Jeremy Nicholas Ragan will take place on Saturday May 29, 2010 at The Fort Worth Club, in Fort Worth.

Linda is the daughter of Dr. Basil Bernstein and the late Elaine Joy Bernstein formerly of Cape Town, South Africa.  She is the older sister of Michael and Jamie Bernstein who reside in Dallas, and New York City respectively.

Linda is a graduate of Fort Worth Country Day School, TCU and St. George’s Medical School.  She completed her residency in OB/GYN at the prestigious Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She is currently practicing Obstetrics and Gynecology through her father’s office and specializes in laparoscopic surgeries.

Jeremy is the son of Jimmy and Maria Ragan of Fort Worth.   He is also the grandson of Lou Ellen Ragan of Fort worth and Colonel and Mrs. Jerry Disharoon of Medford, Oregon.

Jeremy graduated from All Saints, and UT Arlington and is a partner BlueThread Technologies, a national IT company.

Expected at the wedding are family and friends from as far as Melbourne Australia, New York, Oregon, Arizona, Chicago, Boston, California , Pennsylvania and Washington State.

The couple will honeymoon in Tahiti and reside in Southwest Fort Worth.

Lag B’Omer celebrated at Lil Goldman Preschool

The children at the Lil Goldman Early Learning Center and the Fort Worth Hebrew Day school celebrate Lag B’Omer, with outdoor fun in the sun. The morning began with an outdoor Shabbat celebration followed by team sports including, bean bag toss, relay race with oversized tubes the morning concluded with a picnic lunch.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Once upon a long time ago, I ate the best brownie ever at a friend’s home. I asked for the recipe; when she gave it, I was startled to see that its name was “Swear-on-a-Bible Brownies.” I immediately thought, “Hey! There’s a story here!” And there was:

When my friend asked for the brownie recipe, the baker refused, saying she never gave it to anyone. But my friend is the essence of persistence and has no shame. She said, “Give it to me, and I’ll swear on a Bible that I’ll never give it to anyone else.” She’s been handing it out, under her own title, ever since.

I remembered those Biblical brownies as our recent Women’s League for Conservative Judaism’s Dallas conference wound down. Many locals had graciously baked for our hospitality room: mandelbrot, lemon squares, brownies (but none as good as you-know-which). At the end, I thought our out-of-towners might want the few leftovers for their trips home, but they all asked for the lace cookies, which were long gone.

“I’ll find out who made them and get you the recipe,” I promised. Rashly, because a Shearith Israel woman spoke right up: “Those are Susan Ehrlich’s cookies. She brings them every time she’s asked to bake for something, and she won’t give the recipe to anyone.” “We’ll see,” I said, thinking about those brownies. But the speaker went on: “She’s giving the recipe to one good friend. One ingredient a year….” Well, I do recognize a story when I run into one!

When I contacted Susan, she thought it hilarious that her cookies could make a column. But she stressed that she would not divulge the much-sought-after recipe, although “I’ve considered putting it in Shearith Sisterhood’s upcoming cookbook,” she said. “But so far, I haven’t submitted it.” So don’t hold your breath.

Susan got the recipe from a friend many years ago, and now they’re her own special cookies, which “always seem to be a hit,” she says. She’s happy to make them for any occasion, from upbeat ones like our conference to shiva minyans. But she’s a realist: “I figured that if everyone had the recipe, they wouldn’t be special.”

Susan has announced that she’ll be leaving the recipe, in a sealed envelope, with the lawyer who has her will, and he can share it with anyone and everyone when she’s no longer around to bake herself. But then, Susan adds this bit of anticipatory caution: “He loves the cookies, too. So I haven’t yet given him the envelope….”

Before dear friend Gail Mizrahi’s very special birthday last fall, “I was trying to think of something meaningful to give her,” Susan recalls, “and I thought of the recipe, because she loves the cookies so much. And then I decided to make the gift go on until her next big birthday. So I prepared labels with a portion of the recipe for every year for the next nine years, too. I made a little board for her to place each sticker on. And by the time she gets the entire recipe, she will have to take over my baking responsibilities.” (Susan admits to being a decade older than Gail.)

At the time she puts the last lace cookie puzzle piece into place, Gail will probably be ready to stay home and bake, because she’s “on the ladder to be president of Shearith Israel,” Susan says, and will have completed her two years of top congregational leadership by then.

Susan has shared her precious recipe with just three other people, and that was a long time back — before she moved to Dallas 15 years ago. Many of her local friends know she’s giving Gail this special gift, and are getting a kick out of the idea, but Susan acknowledges that she’ll have to share the recipe with everyone once her friend’s is complete. So the lace cookie baker is already considering hedging her bet: “I may get cold feet and start giving the stickers every other year….” Don’t you love it?

You can contact me for the Swear-on-a-Bible brownie recipe if you like. I’ve never baked them. I don’t bake much of anything, so I’m not panting for Susan’s recipe myself. But I was very busy during the conference, and didn’t have a chance to taste her lace cookies before they were all gone. So she’s promised to save a few for me the next time she bakes them. And these — I promise NOT to share with you!


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I’ve heard all the jokes about the bar mitzvah being more bar than mitzvah, but what is the actual meaning of the term “bar mitzvah?”

Joey C.

Dear Joey,

I hope with this we’ll set a new “bar” in your understanding of bar mitzvah.

The word “bar” is an Aramaic word meaning “son,” hence bar mitzvah means the “Son of Mitzvos.” This describes the state a young man has become in Jewish thought and law. A bar mitzvah is not simply the celebration of coming of age, of becoming an adult. It is the celebration of the responsibility and eligibility to partake in the mitzvos as one who is obligated to do so, not as one doing so as merely a trainee. From this point on, the young man’s mitzvos become complete, with the minimum level of true understanding and concentration deemed necessary as an adult, thinking Jew. One more soldier has been inducted into the Army of G-d, performing his (or her, on the occasion of a bas mitzvah) unique role in Klal Yisrael.

When we discuss a young man with his father and praise the boy as being “his father’s son,” we mean he’s following in his father’s footsteps. We recognize the father’s good qualities, maturity, compassion, good nature and often his mannerisms and sense of humor in his son, “a chip off the ol’ block.” This type of praise brings the father much nachas. Similarly, when we call a boy a “bar mitzvah,” the son of the mitzvos, this means that, besides his father, this young man is following in the footsteps of the mitzvos, learning from their compassion, depth, direction and understanding of the world and his part in it.

On one level, this coming of age happens whether the boy did something to prepare for it or not, like any other birthday. The obligation to fulfill mitzvos falls in place whether the boy was called to the Torah, said a speech, or not. Hence, the term “to be bar mitzvah-ed” is not entirely accurate; one is “bar mitzvah-ed” automatically on becoming thirteen and one day.

On another level, however, the affect of the bar mitzvah is profoundly connected to the extent the boy prepares himself. The Kabbalistic sages explain that a bar mitzvah is the boy’s spiritual bris milah, circumcision. When a male baby is eight days old, he enters the covenant of Abraham by undergoing his bris. It is performed on the eighth day, as the number eight in Judaism represents a transcendent state of being (going one beyond seven, which symbolizes nature, i.e. seven days of the week).

A bris is something that others perform upon the baby boy; he did nothing to participate in this mitzvah from the perspective of his own choice, consciousness and understanding. The foreskin, or orlah, represents the “foreskin upon the heart” spoken about by the prophets, which seals off the heart with its impurity. The first stage of removing that layer from the heart is the bris.

It is incumbent upon the boy himself to complete this process. During the next 13 years, he is taught Torah and performs mitzvos. With each word of Torah and mitzvah he is striking at the “spiritual foreskin” upon the heart, the Orlas Haleiv, weakening it with every blow. If the boy worked hard at that process, on the actual day of the bar mitzvah, the day he becomes 13 and a day, the Orlas Haleiv is dealt its final blow and is removed, the spiritual side of the original bris now complete. At that point the “evil inclination” which seeks to block the heart is cut away, leaving the boy free and complete to begin his growth unbridled, to develop into a pious, scholarly and righteous Jew. This is especially appropriate as we celebrate our beloved son Shlomo’s bar mitzvah this weekend. May all Jewish boys experience that profound spiritual ecstasy, enriching themselves and the entire Jewish people!

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 27 May 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Parents and Children,

As the school year comes to a close, we look back on how we have grown. With our little ones, it is easy to see the physical changes, and even the intellectual and emotional growth can be observed. How do we “teach” our children to have faith and how can we measure spiritual growth? Talk with your children about wonder and, most importantly, talk about G-d. The ease with which young children talk will strengthen your own faith. Our children are indeed strengthening their roots and are growing strong.

A story is told of a young student who questions Rabbi Akiba about the nature of faith. The rabbi brought the student to a sprout in the ground and said, “Pull it up.” The student does so with little effort. They walk on to a sapling and again Akiba says, “Pull it up.” This took more effort but was done. And then on to a shrub, which took all the student’s strength to uproot. Finally, Rabbi Akiba takes the student to a fully-grown tree and try as he might, the student could not move the tree. Rabbi Akiba spoke, “That is how it is with faith. If the roots of our faith are deep, if our religious views are mature and developed, our faith cannot be uprooted, even by someone trying hard to do so. Always remember that the strength of your faith first depends on the strength of its roots.”

Parents, grandparents and all the adults in our children’s lives must remember the impact we have with every word. Albert Schwitzer said, “There are three ways to teach:  by example, by example, by example.” Let’s us look within and then model the very best that we want our children to see.

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

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Celebrating 50 years, Dallas Chamber Baseball League provides life skills on the diamond

Celebrating 50 years, Dallas Chamber Baseball League provides life skills on the diamond

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

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By Rachel Gross

Since 1960, the Dallas Chamber Baseball League has been an outlet for children ages 6 to 16 to learn about baseball, make new friends and have fun. Each season, these 1,500 kids develop the principles of sportsmanship and team play.

The league consists of a spring/summer season and a recreational fall season, and includes 102 teams of 13 players. There are five divisions: the C League for ages 6 and 7; B League for ages 8 and 9; A League for ages 10 and 11; AA League for ages 12 and 13; AAA for 14 and above; there is machine pitch for kids ages 10 and under.

Jerold Prager, director of operations, has been with the league for 30 years after retiring from the construction business. He said the main objective is for kids to have fun.

“They are looking for something that will fit for them where they can make friends,” he said. “We are flexible and allow them to play other sports. This trick is to get them with us when the are young, at 6 or 7-years old, so they can learn skills and teamwork.”

The regular season begins in April, but teams begin playing games in March, and runs through the end of June. Although a majority of the players are from North Dallas, the league attracts kids from Richardson, Plano and Carrollton as well.

Originally affiliated with the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the league is now funded by registration fees. A typical season costs about $150-200 per player, with each game the price of a movie ticket. There is an optional tournament at the end of each season.

Another unique aspect is how kids are placed on teams. When a parents calls saying their child is interested in playing, Prager gives them the number of a coach for that age group and the coaches build their own teams.

This, along with flexibility and convenience, is a winning combination.

“I have some coaches that try to build the 1927 Yankees, and I have some that want to have a fun team,” he said. “Games are played everyday of the week; it’s convenient and people like that. We are one of the few groups that give kids the opportunity to be flexible with their schedules. We want them to play.”

Prager added that the game of baseball is both mental and physical and he hopes players are able to develop both. He said he most enjoys seeing generations of families play in the league.

“This is a learning process and practicing is important,” he said. “I like seeing these kids. All of my kids played and enjoyed it. There are great parents who have been with me for a long time. People who have played are now coming back with their children and grandchildren.”

Jerold’s son, Howard, coaches the Division B Cardinals and has been coaching for three years. He played in the league as a child as well.

Prager went on to play professional baseball for seven years with the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals. He wanted to coach so he could contribute his knowledge and give back to a league that allowed him to follow his dreams.

He teaches his players the fundamentals of the game and how to think about strategy.

“I try to make them think about what to do once the ball is hit,” he said. “These kids are only 8 and 9-years-old, so I keep it basic and let them have fun. It may make them learn something and want to keep doing it.”

He added that the most rewarding part is seeing their faces after they get a hit or make a good play knowing he has made an impact.

“I like seeing excitement on kids’ faces when they’ve done something good, or when they make strides and improvements,” he said. “It’s a sense of accomplishment.”

Marc Andres has coached the AAA Storm. For the past five years, he’s coached 12, 14, and 16-year-olds.

Andres said baseball teaches kids life skills for the future. He believes it’s important for them to learn about morals, ethics and sportsmanship.

“Baseball teaches you how to deal with people and adversity,” he said. “The fundamentals are important, but also the teamwork part of the game and staying positive is crucial. As things get more competitive, it’s easy to forgo the sportsmanship, but we have to remember they are kids.”

He added that with older players, he teaches more about the nuances of the game, since most already know the fundamentals. He hopes his players can implement what they learn and be successful.

“I hope they have a great experience and understand the game of baseball,” he said. “I want them to have a better idea of how it’s played and appreciate it better. This league lets them create relationships with teammates and coaches and they make memories.”

For more information, visit, e-mail, or call 972-738-9900.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 20 May 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

I’m in Israel while you’re reading this!

No, I haven’t written a column here and sent it by e-mail for virtually instantaneous inclusion in today’s paper. I’m not really a fan of such things at a time like this. Here with my husband for a playing-tourist holiday, I’m enjoying the homeland we haven’t visited for far too long, and ignoring anything that smacks of deadlines (except, of course, for connecting with friends and family members here).

I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell you when I get back. But this was written before I left, so I could tell you this in advance.

In my wallet, I have two neatly folded dollar bills. The first was given to me by a local rabbi when I told him about our forthcoming Israel trip. “Let me give you some tzedakah,” he said, opening up his own wallet and taking out a George Washington. No destination specified, and no promise that a single dollar would do much good anywhere, all by itself. But the idea was, of course, that it wouldn’t be all by itself.

I was immediately reminded of Danny Siegel and his Ziv Tzedakah Fund, which started almost 30 years ago in just this same simple way: He was going to Israel, and friends gave him small amounts of money to take and do some good with. A movement came out of that. Today, Danny is a recognized expert on, a spokesman for, an author about, microphilanthropy. A dollar here, a dollar here, can “change the world to a more menschlich place” — a quote that attributes to Mort Meyerson, who also believes that such personalized tzedakah is a tikkun olam force to be reckoned with.

A bit before leaving on this trip, I spent several days with delegates to the Intracontinental Region Conference of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, meeting in Dallas. When I mentioned how soon I’d be in Israel, one of them opened up her purse and her wallet, pulled out a dollar bill and handed it to me. But first, she crumpled it up into a wadded ball.

“Do you know why you should do this when you give money to someone going to Israel?” she asked. I had to admit I was mystified. “That’s to remind you that this bill is for tzedakah, so you won’t spend it on anything else.” I’d never heard that before, but it makes sense. I refolded it as neatly as I could and tucked it into my own wallet with the rabbi’s dollar; it still showed the rumples to remind me that it, and its companion, were destined for a pushke, not some stall in the shuk.

Women’s League has a great project called Mitzvah Yomit — “A Mitzvah a Day” — with many good suggestions for simple ways to live more Jewishly. Under tzedakah, it notes that there are worthy destinations for gently worn clothing and old eyeglasses and cellphones, that schools in low-income neighborhoods will benefit from book donations, that everyone participating gets a healthy personal payoff from walking or running in a charity race. How about parting with your “souvenir” prom dresses, maybe even that carefully preserved wedding gown, giving them new life while bringing joy to indigent schoolgirls and an impoverished bride?

Or maybe you can donate some air miles to bring an inspiring speaker to your club or community — maybe someone like Danny Siegel, to talk about what he’s learned in three decades of small-scale tzedakah that adds up big-time.

As I write this, those two dollars are still waiting, folded in a corner of my wallet where they won’t get mixed up with anything else. And as you read this, I haven’t taken them out yet. There are plenty of places to give here, lots of good causes, many people in need. I’ve been dropping my own dollars into assorted pushkes for a week; we’ll be here a while longer, and I’m saving these for last.

Once, in the Auckland, New Zealand, airport, I dropped all my remaining Australian change into a bin labeled “The Phobic Trust”; I laughed at how peculiar the name sounded in American English, but appreciated the fact that coins collected in that public place go to help some of the mentally ill escape their private hell.

Before we board at Ben-Gurion, I’ll find a worthy collection point for all my remaining shekels. And when I get back, I’ll let you know where those two dollar bills found their happy home.


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 20 May 2010 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

This year we were invited to an observant family for a meal on the eve of the holiday of Shavuot. We’re sort of nervous since we don’t know much about it, and don’t want to sound ignorant at their table. Is Shavuot a minor holiday? Could you fill us in?

Noah and Sarena W.

Dear Noah and Sarena,

Shavuot is the day the Jewish people celebrate the anniversary of G-d’s giving us the Torah. This year it fell on Tuesday night, May 18, corresponding to the Jewish date of the sixth of Sivan, and we are commemorating the 3,322th anniversary of our nation standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

Shavuot is not a “minor holiday,” but is mentioned in the Torah numerous times. (Just for the record, although it seems to be a common concept, there actually is no notion of a minor holiday in Judaism. There are Torah-mandated holidays, and later, rabbinically-mandated holidays such as Purim and Chanukah, but even those are not considered “minor.” All the holidays, regardless of their theme, are considered of the highest importance and all made it to the “major” leagues.)

Although Shavuot is such a critical holiday — the source of our nationhood by G-d’s presenting us with His mission as a nation — don’t be embarrassed by not knowing much about it. You’re in good company; I have found that many Jews who are very cognizant about Passover or Chanukah have no idea about Shavuot. I think one reason is that the other holidays have some tangible object around which the festival revolves. Pesach has its matzah, refraining from bread, and the entire seder experience. Sukkot has its sukkah, etrog and lulav. Chanukah has its menorah, and Purim has the Megillah and all the joyous festivities which accompany it.

Shavuot, on the other hand, has no such concrete, touchable item or ritual article upon which to focus the celebration. It’s all about a concept: the receiving of the Torah. The rituals of all the other holidays are available even to Jews who may not study Torah. But the main celebration of Shavuot, besides the usual holiday meals and cheesecake, is the study of Torah. It is customary in congregations worldwide for many to spend a portion of Shavuot night, even the entire night, in the study of Torah. The greatest celebration of Torah is Torah!

This custom, together with the cognizance of the holiday itself, fell by the wayside when a large segment of our people were no longer students of the Torah. Sadly, the “People of the Book” closed the book.

It is a well-known adage that throughout Jewish history any community, albeit observant, that did not maintain institutions of Jewish learning assimilated within two to three generations. Less observant communities that remained staunch in their study of Torah always endured; as the rabbis of the Talmud explain, “the light within it [the Torah] will return them to the path.”

One of my mentors once related an incident which transpired when a friend of his visited pre-perestroika Russia. Customs asked him the reason for his visit; he answered, “Tourist.” They opened his suitcases and emptied out the contents: mezuzot, shofars, tallitot, many pairs of tefillin, and books on the Torah. They said, wryly, “Tourist, huh?” They returned all the other religious items to the suitcases, but held back the books. They told him, in effect, “You can have all this stuff, but the books, those are the ‘enemies of the people.’” Those customs officials realized that the strength of the Jewish people comes from their study of Torah. Let us realize it as well, and may this Shavuot holiday be for you and all of us a renewed acceptance of the study of Torah!

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 20 May 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Our sages loved to argue and one thing they often discussed was about the “most important” phrase in the Torah — what tells us the lesson for life? Here is one idea in song which is a great way to learn. In Pirkei Avot 3:18, Rabbi Akiva says, “Beloved is man for he is created in the image of G-d.” This is both a gift and a responsibility. For many, these are the most important words in the Torah. “B’tzelem Elohim — created in the image of G-d” tells us how we should live:

* What does this tell us about how to treat yourself?

* If each individual is “b’tzelem Elohim,” then what does that say about how we look at every person?

* Does this mean we are all the same? What about people who are different than us? Are they “b’tzelem Elohim”?

B’Tzelem Elohim

(e18hteen — Dan Nichols, Mason Cooper and Michael Moskowitz)

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. (2)

We all got a life to live, we all got a gift to give.

Just open your heart and let it out.

We all got a peace to bring, We all got a song to sing.

Just open your heart and let it out.

CHORUS: When I reach out to you and you to me,

We become b’tzelem Elohim.

When we share our hopes and our dreams

Each one of us, b’tzelem Elohim

We all got a tale to tell. We all want to speak it well.

Just open your heart and let it out.

We all got a mountain to climb. We all got a truth to find.

Just open your heart and let it out. CHORUS

Beresheet bara Elohim, all our hopes, all our dream

Beresheet bara Elohim, each one of us, b’tzelem Elohim

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

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