Archive | May, 2010

Time is money, and 4-year-old Zolomon Kaliser writes about both!

Time is money, and 4-year-old Zolomon Kaliser writes about both!

Posted on 20 May 2010 by admin

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By Deb Silverthorn

Four-year-old Zolomon Kaliser has not only mastered the ABCs and 123s but he’s teaching them to his friends, family and fans of his recently self-published “The Book About Money” and “The Book About Clocks,” which he wrote and illustrated.

“My books teach people about all kinds of coins — the presidents on them, what the coins are worth and what they are made of,” Zolomon said. “Then they can learn about kinds of clocks and how to tell time. I want people to learn.”

The son of Kim and Merrill, and younger brother of Victoria and Mikayla, Zolomon took to writing his own books when he wasn’t interested in reading anyone else’s. The Akiba kid from Gail Mabel’s pre-K/Chaverim class, who is also home-schooled in math, language arts and science, took a simple assignment beyond expectations when presented to him by Mom and his home-school tutor, Jodie “Rose” Wyffels.

“Since he was 18 months old we knew Zolomon had ‘something’ and he’s using that ‘something’ now,” Kim said. “He loves to learn, he really can’t get enough and so we’re always looking for new ways to keep him challenged, to keep him interested. He goes from the instructional DVDs to educational computer programs but we’d hit a moment where reading and writing wasn’t something he wanted to do any more.”

Prompted to write his own story, Zolomon said he didn’t like working in a journal and he wanted to make his own book — and not one, but two. “I want people to read the books and think it’s amazing, but don’t tell me if it isn’t,” said Zolomon, who does like to read the stories of “Sammy the Spider” and “The Gingerbread Man.” “I think they will be surprised that a kid did it.”

“He loves to learn, it’s endless,” said Jodie, who has a master’s in education. “He is adding and subtracting numbers to four digits, he’s borrowing and carrying numbers, and he really grasps the concepts. He’s a master decoder and I really enjoy our time together. This project is far beyond what we planned, but very exciting!”

Printing the books on Mom’s computer was just the start for this future possible Newbery Award recipient. Coming from a family steeped in the concept of education and mitzvot, Zolomon has taken the books to Akiba to help raise funds for the school’s Discovery program. Forty-one copies were sold at a fundraiser on May 7; the books will also be sold, with all proceeds donated, at the program’s end-of-year fine arts exhibition, “Bloom,” on May 26, which will feature displays of artwork by every Akiba student from the youngest preschoolers through the graduating eighth-graders.

“Zolomon is so sweet and so proud of his work. The books are adorable,” said Shari Handler, director of Akiba’s Discovery, which provides primarily afterschool programming of sports, including soccer and T-ball; music, including choir and instruments; Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Mishmar, additional Torah study. “We have a wonderful campus with incredible potential and our program broadens the depth of learning for our students, bringing the finest of extracurricular programming right here. It’s wonderful how he’s helping our program and how he brought his classmates in to help him sell.”

“I love the Discovery classes and want to make it even better,” said Zolomon, who also studies Hebrew with a private tutor and attends Chinese school on Sundays with his two sisters. “I learned a lot about giving to other people and I want to help.” In response to a friend who told him “We’re gonna be rich” after the Akiba fundraiser, he replied “Nope. It’s a mitzvah and we’re giving it to Discovery.”

Zolomon’s books have also caught the eye of Candace Williams, owner of The Toy Maven and Kids Cooking Company, who has ordered 40 copies. Williams invited Zolomon to be featured with a book signing at the Preston/Forest toy store on June 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Zolomon is so enthused and excited about what he’s doing and we’re excited with and for him. I love that he wants to help others.”

“The books are really cute, really very charming, and I think they will touch a nerve for our clients,” said Candace, who has a master’s in education and believes she responded so strongly in part because of her many years as a teacher. Of the books he’s sold to The Toy Maven, Zolomon plans to donate 20 percent of the proceeds to PBS, distributor of his favorite television programming: “Sid the Science Kid,” “Super WHY!” and “Between the Lions.”

“I’m thrilled my children are interested in learning and giving,” Kim said. She has supported the pursuit of projects for her daughters that have been incorporated into the Akiba classrooms of Liz Morris and Lorre Degani. These include a pen-pal program with children in Uganda and a fundraising project where students made bracelets with proceeds helping the children of Uganda, Haiti and The Chiapas Project, an organization that supports microfinancing programs for women in poverty.

Reading, writing and arithmetic, Zolomon Kaliser has pencil in hand, ideas in mind. If “time is money,” than this young author has both in the bag — his pencil bag.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 20 May 2010 by admin

Bennett Greenspan: discovering Jewish history through the lens of DNA testing

The Dallas Jewish Historical Society will present another offering of its “Harold A. Pollman Lecture Series,” with acclaimed speaker and DNA expert, Bennett Greenspan.  The program will accompany the Dallas Jewish Historical Society’s Annual Meeting and board installation at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 26 in the Zale Auditorium of the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road, Dallas.

Bennett Greenspan will discuss researching Jewish history through the lens of DNA testing. His presentation will show the overlap between Jewish DNA found in Ashkenazi/Mizrachi and Sephardic populations and will shed light on the amazing stories that non-Jews who have found a Jewish ancestry share with him on a weekly basis.  Plus, Greenspan will discuss the newest test for finding Jewish relatives out to 4th or 5th cousins.
Since its founding in 2000, Family Tree DNA has become the largest non-medical DNA testing company in the world.  As an entrepreneur and life-long genealogy enthusiast, Greenspan turned his hobby into a full-time vocation and his effort and innovation created the burgeoning field of genetic genealogy.  Family Tree DNA is associated with the Arizona Research Labs, led by Dr. Michael Hammer, one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of Y-DNA genetics. Renowned scientists serve on its advisory board. With over 255,000 records, Family Tree DNA has the largest database of its kind in the world.  Family Tree DNA and other cooperative ventures, including the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project and, now comprise the world’s largest non-medical DNA testing program.
A native Nebraskan, Greenspan received his B.A. from the University of Texas and spent years investigating the ancestors of his maternal grandfather, an obsession which led to the founding of Family Tree DNA.  His business career has spanned photographic equipment and supplies, real estate, the pro-college website, Family Tree DNA, and is now involved in, a new medical genetic testing company.  A limited number of DNA testing kits will be available for purchase after his talk.
This program is part of a continuing series graciously sponsored by Harold Pollman for the purpose of bringing to Dallas national experts on topics of interest to the Dallas Jewish community.  Admission is free and the program is open to the public.  For reservations, call 214-239-7120 or   e-mail the Society at
The Dallas Jewish Historical Society serves as a repository for artifacts, personal papers, and records of individuals, organizations and businesses, documenting the contributions and growth of the entire Dallas Jewish community.

Akiba will be in bloom next Wednesday, May 26

Akiba Academy will hold its first Fine Arts Festival, “Bloom,” sponsored by Discovery, Akiba’s new after school enrichment program.
Designed for students in preschool through 8th grade, the Discovery philosophy offers children the chance to explore their interests, develop skills and tap into talents with best-in-class specialists in fine arts, athletics and language and learning.
Whether children are experiencing a variety of artistic media in Akiba’s state-of-the-art visual arts studio, exploring movement, vocal technique and creative, dramatic games as part of the theater troupe, developing an appreciation and skill in music and performance in choir and instruments, or in developing technique and style in ballet, Discovery’s Fine Arts department stimulates creativity and celebrates sharing and learning.
It is with this spirit that Akiba presents the “BLOOM” Fine Arts Festival which has been inspirational to students and instrumental in allowing children to discover who they have been, who they are and who they yearn to be.
Every aspect represents more than 120 students involved in Akiba’s Discovery Fine Arts including a visual arts gallery filling Akiba’s hallways, performances by the choir; bells and recorders; Origami and Latin art created by Akiba’s Mandarin and Spanish classes. Theater Troupe and ballet dancers will entertain. For more information, call Akiba at 214-295-3400.

Erwin Waldman golf tournament set for June 7

The Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas is proud to announce the 23rd annual North Dallas Bank & Trust Co./Erwin Waldman golf tournament. It will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, June 7 at the Coyote Ridge Golf Club in Carrollton. Proceeds will benefit camp and preschool scholarships at the JCC. The tournament consists of morning and afternoon rounds with breakfast and lunch for golfers and volunteers, culminating with an awards banquet announcing winners of the day. For player and sponsorship information, contact Kerri Aikin at 214-239-7103 or by e-mail,

Families will enjoy Music Together at grand opening on May 23

It will be the biggest “Hello Song” ever sung as Gila Vinokur, director of Music Together of Dallas, opens her new North Dallas studio with the bang of a drum and the sound of families singing from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 23.
To celebrate, Ms. Vinokur has invited local children’s entertainers Julia Geffen Rogers, Beyond the Pale and Razzle Dazzle the Clown to entertain while families sing, dance and play in a “musical instrument petting zoo.” All in the community are welcome to enjoy the grand opening with a free concert, face-painting, complimentary food and drinks, prize drawings and other fun for the whole family, including the opportunity to star in a music video of “The Hello Song.”
Vinokur’s passion is guiding children and families to express and develop their natural musicality.
“You are your child’s favorite singer,” Vinokur said, emphasizing the point that parents who give infants and young children informal music time tend to bond deeply.
“Enjoy it!” the South African native encourages parents and grandparents in her classes. “Sing in the car! Sing in the park, sing at the store and while you’re doing things around the house. Especially sing lullabies at bedtime.”
In addition to the feel-good reasons to make music, Vinokur points to academic studies that validate other benefits of song.
Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University, author of the bestselling books “Frames of Mind” and “Ways of Knowing,” classifies musicality among the multiple intelligences humans possess.
Gardner suggests that children with musical intelligence tend to learn and perform well in school because their comfort with and aptitude for auditory processing predisposes them to acquire knowledge through sound. Musically intelligent children can more easily follow directions and pay attention to people talking. Language skills are typically highly developed in those whose base intelligence is musical. Musically intelligent children are inclined to learn well from lectures and perform well on standardized tests.
According to The Total Learning Initiative research project conducted in Bridgeport, Conn., test scores and self-confidence are measurably higher among children who are provided with early exposure to music.
“Look at them, smile, listen to your children singing and join in,” Vinokur said. “There is no happier moment for a child than making music together with an adult.”
Music Together Dallas is located at 17404 Hillcrest Road, Dallas, at the southeast corner of Hillcrest and McCallum. For more information, contact Judy Safern, 214-432-0899 or

Business scene: Windsor Senior Living welcomes Amanda Bachman

Amanda B. Bachman has joined Windsor Senior Living as director of Sales & Marketing. Prior to joining Windsor Senior Living, Amanda honed her skills in the extremely competitive Texas and Northeast real estate market.
Amanda’s success is a direct result of her hands-on management style. She has a talent for recruiting, developing, motivating and leading productive sales teams. She also enjoys guiding families and being considered an expert in senior housing. Her ability to improve individual and team performance through incentives, skills training and coaching is invaluable.
Amanda is gym enthusiast; where she maximizes her networking skills. She has a passion for giving back to the Jewish community and is involved in numerous civic organizations. Proud of Amanda’s success is husband, Brian.
You can visit Amanda at the newly licensed Windsor Senior Living ; Independent, Assisted Living and Memory Care TODAY for a complimentary lunch in their private dining room.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 20 May 2010 by admin

Federation Annual Meeting, June 3

The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County will hold its Annual Meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 3rd at Beth-El Congregation.

Featured speaker will be Jacob Dallal, director of PR and Marketing for the Jewish Agency for Israel in North America. Dallal holds the rank of Major in the Israel Defense Forces and was a career officer in the Spokesperson’s Unit.  He has appeared on CNN, Fox and the BBC.  He will explain the wonderful work of JAFI as well as update the current situation in Israel.

New directors and officers for the Federation board will be voted on.

The 2010-2011 Board Nominees for directors  are Jeff Hochster, Linda Hoffman (2nd term), Karen Kaplan, David Nudleman (2nd term), Jeff Rothschild (2nd term), Len Schweitzer (2nd term), Ron Sivernell. Nominated as officers are: Barry Schneider — President (2nd term), Marilyn Englander — Vice President , David Nudleman — Vice President, Len Schweitzer — Vice President, Jeff Hochster —Treasurer, and Linda Hoffman — Secretary.

Continuing as elected members of the board of directors are:  Karen Anisman, Dr. Sam Kleinman, Roz Micklin Kenneth Baum, Rick Klotz, Melissa Morgan Larry Brunell, Alan Luskey, , Rich Morris Patty Garsek and Shayne Moses

The Nominating Committee included Chair Eddie Feld, Arnie Gachman, Alan Luskey, Harvey Micklin and Lon Werner.

Bruce Cohen Returns to “Daytimers”

“Daytimers” enjoyed Bruce D. Cohen’s presentation this year just as much as last time he spoke for the group. His new project, “Jews in the Middle Ages,” was an interesting and fascinating look at this often-overlooked time in Jewish history.  The presentation featured stories and pictures illustrating the wide variety of experiences and cultures that Jews created and lived in during the centuries between the expulsion from Judea and the Renaissance.  Cohen, an attorney, is taking a full year off from his profession to be a full-time history student.  He was introduced by Kenneth Baum.  Edythe Cohen was the emcee for the day; Fanette Sonkin and Rosalie Schwartz greeted the guests at the door, and Sylvia and Al Wexler made sure everyone got the right lunch. The next “Daytimers” will be a wonderful opportunity for the group to bring their grandchildren to lunch.  “Kids Who Care” is coming back with an all new show, “District XI – Believe in Me,” at noon on Wednesday, June 9, at Beth-El.  Lunch will be catered by Jason’s Deli. 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 Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76109.   The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

Fort Worth Hadassah Community Wide Womens Event for next fall

Remember how Dr. Maria Sirois wowed the crowd last November at Temple Beth-El in Fort Worth? Well, the Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah and Federation has plans to bring Maria back for a follow-up community-wide encore event.

Interested persons are invited to a planning committee meeting on at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 26 at at the home of Debby Rice, 3720 Autumn Drive, Fort Worth. Contact her at

If you missed last year’s event you can go to Dr. Sirois’ website at and see why everyone was wowed. Stay tuned!

News and notes

At its dedication in the last week of April, Liberty House, a transitional facility for homeless veterans in Fort Worth recognized the contributions of the members of JWV 755, Fort Worth. Both Past Commander George Sepp and current Commander Julian Haber serve on the organization’s advisory board. JWV members and their wives who attended opening ceremonies included Barry and Delores Schneider, Tom and Linda Collins, Julian and Marian Haber and Ron Sivernell.  Several members will serve as mentors to the residents as well.
Gordon England, past Deputy Secretary of State, twice past Secretary of theNavy and past president of General Dynamics,Fort Worth,  will be the guest speaker for Memoral Day services conducted by JWV 755 at the Kornblet Chapel on May 30,  at 10 am.
State Senator Wendy Davis, will be the guest speaker for JWV 755 at their annual installation breakfast at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June13, at 10 in Beth El Congregation’s great hall.

Senator Davis will be given an award for co-authoring the veterans lottery as well as authoring the veterans court.

For more information, contact Julian Haber 817-346-1902 or

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

AIPAC dessert reception May 23: Make your reservations today!

There is still time to join AIPAC for its 2010 Annual Dessert Reception featuring Dr. Daniel Gordis, senior vice president of the Shalem Center, where he is also a senior fellow. The event will be held Sunday, May 23 at the Westin Galleria. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler Rabbinical School at the University of Judaism, the first rabbinical college on the West Coast of the United States. He joined Shalem in 2007 after spending nine years as vice president of the Mandel Foundation in Israel and director of its Leadership Institute.

Since moving to Israel in 1998, Dr. Gordis has written and lectured throughout the world on Israeli society and the challenges facing the Jewish state. His writing has appeared in magazines and newspapers including the New York Times, the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, Moment, Tikkun and Conservative Judaism. His latest book, “Saving Israel: How the Jewish State Can Win a War That May Never End,” was published by Wiley last year. He is presently at work on a volume about 19th- and 20th-century rabbinic responsa on conversion, which he is writing together with Rabbi David Ellenson of the Hebrew Union College.

Dr. Gordis received his B.A. from Columbia College (magna cum laude), a master’s degree and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Elisheva, and three children.

Cost of the event is $36 per person. Tables of 10 can be purchased for $360. For more information, contact Drew Berliner at 214-741-6759.

Bagel Run this Sunday

The 24th Annual Bagel Run – 5K/10K/Kid’s K will be held this Sunday at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. Race day registration begins at 7 a.m. Races begin at 8 a.m. with the Kid’s K. Awards will be held at 9 a.m. Race day fee is $25 and $8 for the Kid’s K. For more information, call 214-739-2737.

‘Standing with Israel’ at Temple Shalom

On Tuesday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m., Temple Shalom will host a panel discussion on “Standing with Israel: Exploring Her Future in the 21st Century,” centering on Jerusalem. The panel will include Charles Pulman, Dr. Elizabeth A. Oldmixon and Ronnie Porat, JNF Israel emissary to the Southern and Florida zones.

Dr. Oldmixon (Ph.D., University of Florida) is associate professor of political science at the University of North Texas. She also teaches courses on Israel in association with UNT’s Jewish Studies Program, the only such program at a public university in the DFW metropolitan area. Dr. Oldmixon was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Ireland this fall. She was formerly a fellow at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University (2008), an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow (2001–2002) and chair of the APSA Religion and Politics section. She is a UNT Honor Professor and winner of the 2007 Paul J. Weber Award the Best Paper in Religion and Politics. Next month, she will serve as part of a UNT delegation to Israel, with the goal of forging cooperative relationships with Israel’s top-tier universities.

Ronnie Porat served in both the IDF and the Israeli Foreign Service. In recent years, he became one of the Israeli military experts in Israeli Arab affairs. During his diplomatic career, Ronnie served as the Israeli consul in Cairo, Egypt (1991–1994) and was deeply involved in the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Peace process. In December 1994, he was a member of the advanced team that established and opened the Israeli Embassy in Amman, Jordan, and became the first consul in Jordan. His wide experience as a strategic analyst in the intelligence branch as well as in the Southern Command Military Headquarters (Intelligence Department) in Beersheva, combined with his diplomatic (Arab) experience, made him one of the first-line analysts within the IDF and the Foreign Service.

This event is free and open to the public.

JWV speaker, Maj. Gen. Eugene Fox

Speaking at the May 23 meeting of the Jewish War Veterans will be Major General Eugene Fox. General Fox retired from the U.S. Army in 1989 after 33 years of service. He commanded Field Artillery and Air Defense units from the platoon to brigade level. His experiences include manager in the Department of Defense weapons acquisition program. He was chief of the Missile Division in the Office of Research and Development and an executive on the staff of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research, Development and Acquisition.

Fox has published numerous articles about his specialty, missile defense. He and his partner, Dr. Stanley Orman, are currently consultants to various companies and government agencies.

The general is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, holds an M.S. degree from the University of Arizona and attended the National War College.

The meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. As always, the public is invited. A brunch will be served for which there will be a modest charge.

Laura Matisoff receives youth award

Laura Matisoff, a May 2010 undergraduate psychology major from the University of Arizona, in Tucson, receive the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona College Youth Award today. This award is presented annually to a Jewish college senior from the University of Arizona who exemplifies outstanding leadership skills and dedicated community involvement, in addition to being an active member of Hillel.

Laura is an intern for the Tucson Jewish Federation’s community relations council. She is also a facilitator for Divorce Recovery, leading support groups for children of divorce. In addition, she is a mentor for ATLAS (Applied Tailored Leadership Adventure for Success), guiding college students and the community, through workshops and counseling, on principles of leadership.

She has served as assistant to the director and as a group leader for A-Town, a social justice diversity program for college students. Laura is secretary for the Alpha Phi Omega Service Co-ed Fraternity, where she received the President’s Award for outstanding qualities in leadership, friendship and service.

She is a member of the University of Arizona’s Hillel board of directors, and has served on the student board as Holocaust education chair and coordinator of college senior programming.

Laura is the daughter of Linda and Ed Matisoff of Plano, and they are members of Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson.

In step with Josh Goldberg

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Josh Goldberg, son of Cyndi Heller and Marshall Goldberg, will perform two original songs on WFAA’s “Good Morning Texas” on Tuesday, May 18, between 9 and 10 a.m. Over the summer, Josh will be songleading at the URJ’s Greene Family Camp. He will sing the national anthem at the Frisco Rough Riders Stadium on Aug. 12. Josh is currently a senior at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He was recently accepted into University of Southern California’s prestigious Popular Music Program as a singer and songwriter, and will attend in the fall.

As a result of a generous grant from the Goss-Michael foundation, and in honor of the opening of the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, Josh was recently chosen to perform his original arrangement of John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the same piano Lennon used to compose the masterpiece in 1971. He was also one of the first recipients of the BTWHSPVA Advisory Board’s Songshop Scholarship, which allowed him to write and produce a song with nationally acclaimed recording artist, Cary Pierce. The resulting song, “Fly,” is now available nationally on iTunes, Zune, Amazon and Rhapsody. More information on this project is at

Josh has been a member of Booker T’s prestigious Midi Ensemble for two years, contributing his vocals, piano and original songs, and shared a Downbeat© Award with them in 2009 for best Blues/Pop/Rock Group. Josh was a finalist in the Dallas Songwriters Association 2008 Song Contest, and has performed for their Crossroads Songwriting Festival multiple times.

Other performance highlights include: Frisco Rough Riders, The Deep Ellum Arts Fest, opening ceremonies of the Maccabi International Youth Olympics, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s Holiday Celebration, Arts Fest at the Meyerson Symphony Center, Gala at the Wyly Theatre, Aga Kahn Foundation Annual Partnership Walk, One Arts Plaza Block Party, No Tie Dinner (benefiting AIDS Services of Dallas], Texas Rangers’ Foundation Dinner, Lightcatcher Winery, The Door Dallas, Save Darfur Benefit Concert, American Cancer Society Benefit Concert and numerous appearances at coffee shops, corporate events and private parties.

In addition to his musical endeavors, Josh is deeply involved in school and community life; he serves as president of the student council and the creative writing club and is the religious and cultural vice president for the Dallas Area Federation of Temple Youth. He is a National Merit Commended Student, AP Scholar, National Hispanic and is in the top 10 percent of his graduating class.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Isgur family gets together

Recent guests at the home of Rebecca and Stuart Isgur were their children and grandchildren Jeremiah and Lesley Isgur, 23-month-old twins Elijah and Leia and 6-month-old Jonah. Jeremiah is the marketing director for Wizards of the Coast, a world leader of hobby games. The company known may be best known for producing Magic Cards and Dungeons & Dragons, and according to Rebecca, Jeremiah is working at his dream job. Lesley is a scientist with Bio-Rad. The company manufactures and supplies life science research, health care, analytical chemistry and other markets with products and systems used to separate complex chemical and biological materials and to identify, analyze and purify their components. A highlight of the visit was a Mother’s Day brunch at the home of Shoshana and Benjamin Isgur and their children.

Weiners enjoy their grandchildren

Jerry and Sylvia Weiner have been enjoying being the best grandparents ever to grandson Ethan, 5, and triplets Alex, Ben and Cameron, 2-1/2. The boys are the sons of Jennifer Weiner Rosser and Rob Rosser of Benbrook.

Congrats to the grads!

Scott Shtofman, son of Debby and Michael Shtofman of Dallas and grandson of David and Idelle Luskey of Fort Worth, will graduate from the University of Texas Law School on Saturday, May 22. He took the bar this spring and passed with flying colors. He is now working on the CPA exam.

Kevin Shtofman (same family as above) is graduating from SMU with his MBA this Saturday, May 15. Kevin graduated from UT a few years ago, went into the working world and then decided to pursue his master’s. He will begin working full-time at the Carlyle Company in Dallas in June.

Cantor Sheri and Dr. Richard Allen have much to celebrate. Their son Jeremy is graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in art and graphic design from USC (University of Southern California). He is moving to New York City, where he will begin an internship in the art department of Interview magazine.

Their daughter, Rebekah, is graduating from Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. Although graduating a year early as a junior, she is ranked No. 1 in the class. She will attend Columbia College Chicago on a full scholarship, where she plans to major in musical theater and also study at Second City, Chicago’s improv/comedy troupe. Emily, a junior next year, was just elected the first straight executive director of the GLBTA at USC and will spend her summer in Nashville, where she has landed an internship at the YWCA, creating programming for children of battered women.

Added congratulations to Ely Erez, son of Dr. Eldad and Ruth Erez. Ely, who will be graduating from Paschal High School. He was recently named a National Merit finalist, earning him a $2,500 scholarship award. National Merit $2,500 scholarship winners, chosen from finalists in each state, must have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies. They are selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors. These scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university. Prior to attending college, Ely will head to Israel to serve in the IDF.

Cynthia and Harry Labovitz to celebrate their 32nd

As Cynthia and Harry Labovitz gear up for their 32nd anniversary on May 28, they have been kvelling in the joy of grandparenthood. Sheldon Miller, son of Darcy and Steve Miller, is already 14 months old. (Sheldon is named for his beloved grandfather, Shooky Labovitz). Their son Eric graduated from St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio and passed the Texas State Bar last November and is busy on the job hunt. Daughter Jill Labovitz is the new director at the Playhouse Academy, now entering its 11th year, while her sister, Darcy, is the director of curriculum.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Sometimes there are contests for naming things, with great cash prizes or at least some recognition. And sometimes there are non-contests, when people put out a call for free help. Here’s one of the latter, which has the potential to put your recommendation of a name up in lights sometime in the future — although probably the far-too-distant future. Let me give you the background:

My oldest and dearest friend, who has been that since the day I moved in as her next-door neighbor more than 47 years ago, has a granddaughter who’s always loved to cook. Her inspiration for cooking came from this same person, my friend and her grandmother, who has always been the superwoman of the stove. Her stuffed cabbage (she calls those wonderful meat rolls “prakas,” which is a different culture from mine, but no matter!) are to die for. Her rugalach melt in your mouth — literally. And for the first 17 of those 47 years, until I moved a thousand miles away, I was privileged to break the Yom Kippur fast at her table, with her blintzes. Need I say more?

My friend is the mother of two daughters and a son. This granddaughter, the cooking-lover, is the child of her son, who married a woman who did not love to cook. But she has more than made up for her mother’s kitchen omissions: She is now the executive chef at a major San Francisco hotel. However, she has another dream, that of someday replicating commercially the Jewish cooking she learned from her paternal grandma. She recently shared this ambition with my dear friend, who has shared it with me and given me permission to pass it on to you. Here is Erica’s letter embodying the ultimate hopes for her own culinary future, and asking for a special kind of help:

“Dear Grammie,

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my deli and what it will be when it grows up, which probably won’t be for a few years. I can see it in my mind, though: a white-tiled space with a long counter that stretches the length of the space. I would have smoked fish, shmears, seasonal salads, house-smoked and roasted meats, a few sausages, my pastrami, some breads and a few select cheeses. Then a slicer and seasonal condiments, mostly handmade ones.

“I want a few wooden wine barrels, one for sauerkraut, one for kosher pickles and one for house-made vinegar, which I would sell by the ounce. I also want to do a good dinner-to-go business, with rotisserie chicken and roast meats, meatloafs, soups — a nightly-changing dinner that you could pre-order and take home with you.

“Grammie, I was wondering if you would help me name my deli. I want the name to be something that helps to reflect the seasonality of California and the bounty that is available to us. Also something that invokes an old nostalgia, a handmade quality, but without being ‘cheesy.’ I wondered if there was a word or two in Yiddish that would be accessible and easy to pronounce. I want a name that means something — but if people don’t know what it means, that would be OK, because it won’t matter. Does that make sense?

“I thought maybe you would help me with this because I love you and want you to always be a part of my life and my future….”

My old friend is the one who’s always first to volunteer to bring wonderful desserts for events at her synagogue, who never arrives anywhere without a gift of something edible and homemade. But reality says this cannot go on forever. She is now heading toward her 83rd birthday. Her granddaughter is working hard in the incredible kitchen she supervises, saving to have that dream deli of her own, but my friend may not see the dream herself when it is finally realized. Still, her legacy will live on in the foods prepared there, and in the name of the place, which my friend has asked me to help her find. And I’m asking you, the readers, for suggestions.

Something in Yiddish that evokes the fluffiest matzah balls floating in the most flavorful chicken soup, the crispiest latkes topped with some just-perfect home-cooked apple sauce. Something to convey the “tam” of a special Boubby, a name that will draw people into a deli bound to be filled with love and memories as well as wonderful food. Any ideas?

(How do you say “Help!” in Yiddish?)


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

In your last column [May 6, p. 26] you mentioned that an incident happened while you were in Israel that inspired you to begin giving classes on prayer which lasted 10 years and transformed your own prayers. If it’s not too personal, I would be fascinated to hear what kind of incident would inspire someone to take on a project of that magnitude! Could you please share that story?

Very Curious

Dear Very Curious,

I’ll tell you the story, but it first needs a bit of background to be able to understand it, so I’ll try to fill you in:

Maimonides, the classical authority on Jewish law (Spain/Egypt, d. 1204), makes the following statement referring to the silent Amidah prayer: “Any prayer which is missing kavanah (concentration) is not a prayer.” This statement is referring to the entire Amidah prayer. In a different chapter of his work, Maimonides seems to contradict himself by saying “the lack of kavanah disqualifies the Amidah if it is missing in the first blessing.” The commentaries question the meaning of his statements; is it the first blessing or the entire prayer that the lack of kavanah disqualifies?

The accepted answer is one offered by Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (popularly known in yeshivot as “Reb Chaim”), that there are two concepts are included in kavanah: the understanding of the meaning of the words, and the cognizance that one is uttering those words while standing before the Presence of the Shechinah. The first is important, but only disqualifies if missing in the first blessing. The second is the “cheftzah of tefillah” or the essence of prayer itself. To utter words of prayer without realizing one is speaking to the King is to rob the prayer of its very spirit; it is not a prayer at all.

Many years ago I was praying in a very special service in Jerusalem known as a vatikin minyan, one which is exactly timed so that the Amidah begins at the moment of sunrise. There was a famous rabbi at the front, one known for his piety and scholarship, a Holocaust survivor, who was praying with a fervor, concentration and love unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I resolved to approach him upon the conclusion of the service and ask this sage how one achieves such an elevated level of prayer.

I went over to him immediately after the service; his head was already buried in a book, and he did not notice my presence for a while. When he finally looked up, I asked him, in Hebrew, how does one merit to kavanah in tefillah. When he fully understood what I was asking him, his entire body began to tremble. He looked at me with penetrating eyes and loudly exclaimed with great emotion and trembling: “To have kavanah in tefillah! That’s the Reb Chaim! Standing before the King! That is the essence of tefillah!”

I sort of crawled out of the shul with my head between my legs, realizing how far I was from where this man was holding. I thought that I needed to do something drastic to even have a chance to get anywhere near that rabbi’s level. That’s when I resolved to begin a weekly class on prayer in a neighborhood yeshiva. The preparation for that class became the greatest joy of my week; I spent many hours on each prayer. I began at the beginning of the siddur (prayer book), and after 10 years got up to Kabbalat Shabbat. (It ended at that point; that’s when I moved to Dallas and became too busy with DATA to find the kind of preparation time I had invested in Jerusalem to go further.) My dream is to continue one day, redo the notes of those 10 years and publish them as a commentary to the siddur. Mainly, I still hope, one day, to achieve the level of that rabbi in his prayers!

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 13 May 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

The end of school is fast approaching. Kids are excited and so are the teachers. However, before school ends we must take the time to thank our teachers, who give so much to our children. Here are a few texts to think about as you thank your teachers:

• Atah chonen l’adam da’at, um’lamed le’enosh binah. Chaneinu me’itkha de’ah binah v’haskel. Barukh atah Adonai chonen hada’at. You graciously endow us with intelligence, teaching wisdom and understanding. Grant us knowledge, discernment and wisdom. Praised are You, G-d, who graciously grants intelligence.

• Blessing for your teacher: May you be blessed and strengthened as you have blessed and strengthened your students. My you have peace, grace, kindness, mercy, long life and everything you need. (from Kaddish D’Rabbanan)

• A new word of Torah which comes from the mouth of a teacher ascends to the heavens and adds glory to G-d’s crown. — Zohar

• One who is concerned about the coming year, plants wheat;

one who is concerned about the coming years, plants trees;

one who is concerned about the coming generations, teaches young people.

For those teachers out there, here is a prayer for you. I teach many classes as well as run around doing a million other things. Before I enter a class, I must clear my mind of all the other things and focus on my students. I use this blessing to help me:

May my love for teaching continually inspire me to enrich and develop my skills. May I have the strength of heart, the purpose of mind and the gentleness of soul to educate, nurture and guide those in my care. May the daily challenges I face become opportunities for personal growth. As I share knowledge and experience, may I remain open to continually learn from my students.

Remember, school may be over for the year, but learning never stops. Make summer a time to learn something new and different.

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

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Visiting the alef garden on Shavuot

Visiting the alef garden on Shavuot

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

By Edmon J. Rodman

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Like to stay up late and party all night? Do I have a Jewish holiday for you!

Shavuot, literally “weeks,” is the festival marking the end of the seven-week period of the counting of the omer that began the second night of Passover. The two-day festival, which begins this year at sundown May 18, is celebrated as the giving of the Torah.

An increasingly popular custom is the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, “repairing the eve” of Shavuot, an all-night study session on the holiday’s first night. According to a midrash, at Mount Sinai the night before receiving the Torah, the Jews slept and needed to be awakened with a shofar. So now we must make repairs by showing we are awake and ready.

Think of it as a lack-of-slumber party. Many sessions begin late in the evening and run all night, straight on till morning. It’s a Torah all-nighter that leaves you refreshed and reconnected.

Traditionally, a group tries to cover as much Jewish textual ground as possible, studying the Torah and the Talmud.

Untraditionally, I have organized several group study evenings based on the idea that on Shavuot, in the time of the Temple, Jews would travel to Jerusalem to offer their first fruits. Participants present things created or accomplished that year: work finished, classes completed, Jewish books that were read and enjoyed.

Many of us already pull all-nighters for all sorts of things — mostly work, sometimes play. So what about pulling an all-nighter on Shavuot, with your first fruit being taking an hour or two to study Hebrew?

You know, Hebrew, Ivrit, that foreign language elective for which you received an “incomplete.”

On Shavuot, does receiving the Ten Commandments need to be like seeing a foreign movie? Wouldn’t you like to lose the subtitles?

As teenagers, many of us gave Hebrew a good try; we have the confirmations and bar/bat mitzvahs to prove it.

What happened?

According to my friend Cheri Ellowitz, education director at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, Ohio, and author of “Mitkadem” (URJ Press), a self-paced program for learning Hebrew, the issue of students retaining Hebrew is a matter of lack of context.

“If they don’t do Jewish things out of their classrooms and they don’t go to services and use the skills we’re teaching them,” she wrote to me recently, “then there’s no relevance to the material.”

As an adult, are you still digging for a context? Searching for that relevance?

If it’s any consolation, there have been generations of Jews, especially since Roman times, who spoke no Hebrew; they used Aramaic. During that period, Hebrew remained a language of holy texts and correspondence, but it was not the language of the street.

Hebrew’s revival as a spoken language didn’t happen until the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the determined work of teacher and journalist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who is known as the father of modern Hebrew.

So are you ready for a Hebrew revival on your street? Do you finally have a context? Like wanting to attend synagogue, but finding those “trenzleeturayshuns” are not really helping. Or on a trip to Israel you’re dying to know what it says on the protest signs.

Some days I feel Hebrew is in the air. I get a buzz when I see Hebrew letters on a sign, shirt or even bumper sticker.

Kabbalists for centuries have claimed that Hebrew letters have their own energy. Somewhere between the second and third centuries, an unknown author wrote the “Sefer ­Yetzirah,” called either the book of formation or creation. A short but powerful text, it’s about the formation of the universe — how God used the energy of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet to create it.

The text reveals how each letter has its own spiritual power that God combines and focuses to create planets and stars, the cosmos, even time.

“Twenty-two letters he carved them out, he hewed them and formed them with life of all creation,” the “Sefer ­Yetzirah” says.

As we accelerate atoms to unimagined speeds, crashing them together, it’s humbling to discover that centuries earlier this text already imagined the power created by simply combining alefs, bets and gimels.

What if there’s some energy to be gained by pushing a few letters together on the first night of Shavuot?

The idea that a creative force inhabits each letter is a concept we recall from the story of Rabbi Loew and the Golem of Prague. In one version of the folk tale, the lifeless human form of clay is brought to life by writing the word “emet,” truth — spelled alef, mem, tav — on the Golem’s forehead.

As I approach Shavuot, after weeks and weeks of omer counting, there are days when I feel just like an emet-less version of the Golem: listless, unformed, just lying around. How then to stay up all night on Shavuot and study?

You could try sticking a few Hebrew letters on your forehead. Or for even better results, hold them about 10 inches in front of your eyes.

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

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J-Serve 2010: Dallas teenagers unite for a day of community service

J-Serve 2010: Dallas teenagers unite for a day of community service

Posted on 06 May 2010 by admin

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By Rachel Gross

April 25 is a date that will be etched in the minds of Dallas teenagers forever. That was the day that sixth- through 12th-graders from all facets of the community and the country blended together for J-Serve, a national day of service.

Locally, 250 teenagers participated in various service projects at the Ann and Nate Levine Academy and nonprofit organizations. They serviced Grace Unlimited, Vogel Alcove, the Veranda Preston Hollow, Echad, Sunrise Senior Living, Children’s Medical Center, Jewish Family Service, Tiferet Israel Garden, Mosaic and Child Protective Service.

J-Serve started in 2005, and this was the first year Dallas participated. BBYO Program Associate Tracy Davis, who coordinated the J-Serve projects, said BBYO has done community service similar to this before, but it never included the entire community. She believes it was significant to reach out to teenagers from different organizations.

“It’s important for teenagers to start learning about mitzvot and show the value they have as Jews,” she said. “Getting to know each other and learn about different parts of the community is beneficial. Not only did they see what was going on around them, but [they] did it together.”

J-Serve was locally sponsored by BBYO, USY, ATID, NFTY, Temple Shalom, Tiferet Israel Congregation, Congregation Adat Chaverim, Temple Emanu-El, Congregation Shearith Israel and the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. It was nationally underwritten by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

In addition to the service projects, Carter BloodCare hosted a blood drive and there was a boys-vs.-girls tzedakah war. The girls beat the boys and the funds collected by both teams, more than $300, will be dispersed by the students of the Jewish Youth Tzedakah Foundation.

Gail Herson, ATID education director, said the objective was to bring a variety of Jewish teenagers from different backgrounds to help a wide range of people. She believes participating in community service will make them better adults.

“They helped people from different sectors of the community — the old, the young, the needy and the homeless,” she said. “Judaism states that we are commanded to give tzedakah and this shows they can have fun doing it. In our small microcosm, we were able to bring them together. They were empowered to take action. An engaged teen is motivated and our goal is to find opportunities for Jewish teens for be involved.”

Merrit Corrigan, a junior at Plano West High School and president of NTO BBYO, was part of a group that had an ice-cream social with residents of The Legacy Preston Hollow. She said she enjoyed talking with the residents and working with other teenagers she hadn’t known before.

“I love working with the elderly and listening to their stories,” she said. “They like our stories, too, and having an ice-cream social with them made their day better. I knew I was making a difference, and sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.”

Mitchell Bradley worked on-site at Levine Academy painting flowerpots for Mosaic, a nonprofit community-based organization that provides services to refugees and immigrants who are victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. “The best mitzvah is the anonymous one,” he added.

The day concluded with everyone writing thank-you notes to the organizations they helped. Plans are already in the works for J-Serve 2011 next April.

Nathan Oved, an 11th-grader at Dallas Academy, said he decided to participate in J-Serve to help the larger community and expand his knowledge.

“Helping others made me feel good,” he said. “The Jewish community came together to help the overall community. It was great.”

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