Archive | August, 2011

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 11 August 2011 by admin

Jewish Value of the Week: Listening, Shmiat HaOzen

Shmiat HaOzen literally means “a listening of the ear.” Hearing is a physical act, while listening involves involves understanding, processing, evaluating, giving consideration, heeding, obeying, accepting and concentration. To grow in wisdom and to be a friend, one must be compassionate, understanding and good. It is also important to listen to yourself and to hear your inner voice. The following poem expresses the differences between the physical act of hearing, and listening.

Listen! by Jack Riemer and Harold Kushner

Judaism begins with the commandment:
Hear, O Israel!
But what does it really mean to “hear?”
The person who attends a concert
With a mind on business,
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who walks amid the songs of birds
And thinks only of what will be served for dinner,
Hears — but does not really hear.
The one who listens to the words of a friend
Or a spouse or child,
And does not catch the note of urgency:
‘Notice me, help me, care about me,”
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who listens to the news
And thinks only of how it will affect business,
Hears — but does not really hear,
The person who stifles the sound of conscience
And thinks “I have done enough already”
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who hears the Hazzan pray
And does not feel the call to join in prayer,
Hears — but does not really hear.
The person who listens to the rabbi’s sermon
And thinks that someone else is being addressed,
Hears — but does not really hear.
On this Shabbat, O Lord,
Sharpen our ability to hear.
May we hear the music of the world,
And the infant’s cry, and the lover’s sigh.
May we hear the call for help of the lonely soul,
And the sound of the breaking heart.
May we hear the words of our friends,
And also their unspoken pleas and dreams.
May we hear within ourselves the yearnings
That are struggling for expression.
May we hear You, O G-d.
For only if we hear You
Do we have the right to hope
That you will hear us.
Hear the prayers we offer to you this day, O G-d.
And may we hear them too.

A Story for Shabbat: Light Cargo

— from ‘Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore’ by Rosalind Chaney Kaye

A terrible storm arose at sea, frightening passengers on a ship. Fearing their ship would break apart, the passengers threw their baggage overboard, hoping to lighten the load. Many were merchants who sacrificed fortunes in rugs, furnishings and silver. But even the poorest among them, a great Jewish scholar, tossed over his few possessions.

Mercifully, the boat landed on the shores of a foreign land. The passengers were cast ashore with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and had to beg for everything they needed. This continued for years, and it became clear as time passed, that the merchants were the neediest beggars. Yet the scholar, who was the poorest on the ship, prospered. What was his secret?

Like everyone else, the scholar lost his worldly possessions at sea. The scholar’s true wealth, however, was his knowledge, which weighed nothing and could never be lost.

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

Comments (0)

Around the Town

Posted on 11 August 2011 by admin

As we bake in the record-breaking heat of a North Texas summer, a lot of us are reminded that the cooler 90-degree days of fall aren’t too far off. This is the month during which kids from tots to teens return to school. The next few weeks will be crazy and busy for a lot of families as they prepare for back-to-school. And back-to-school means the High Holy Days aren’t far behind. Mark your calendars now — Erev Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown, Wed., Sept. 28.

From the Beth-El Daytimers …

Barbara Rubin writes that the Aug. 17 Daytimers picnic has been cancelled because Roz Rosenthal is scheduled to have her second carotid surgery the day before. Prayers and best wishes go to Roz for a successful surgery and very speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, the tour of the Genghis Kahn exhibit at the Irving Art Center is scheduled for Wed., Sept. 14. The more than 200 artifacts on display sound pretty neat; they consist of gold jewelry, silk robes, weaponry and mummies, all from Genghis Khan’s Mongolia. The plan will be to meet at the Intermodal Transportation Center at noon, and to ride the Trinity Railway Express and DART bus to the center.

Space is limited to 30 participants, and Barbara says 10 people have already requested reservations. The cost for lunch, transportation and museum admission is $20 ($15 for those who want to brown-bag it). For more information, give Barbara a call at 817-927-2736; or mail your check to Beth-El, 4900 Briarhaven Rd., Fort Worth, 76109, or reserve your spot by logging on to www.bethelfw.org/donations.

Under the Category of “A Good Problem to Have … ”

Congregation Ahavath Sholom tells us that, due to the overwhelming response during religious school registration, new teachers are necessary to teach grades from pre-kindergarten through confirmation, beginning Sun., Sept. 11. CAS is actively recruiting individuals for salaried positions. People who are knowledgeable in Judaism, who attend synagogue on a regular basis and who enjoy working with children are welcome to apply by calling 817-731-4721. Though teaching credentials are desired, CAS’ religious school staff will be happy to chat with you if you have no credentials, but teaching experience.

Beth-El Retreat …

I’m in favor of Jewish retreat on general principles, but an upcoming retreat mentioned on the Beth-El website caught my eye. This organization’s “Blast from the Past” retreat Fri.-Sun., Sept. 16-18 at Greene Family Camp will allow participants to “explore the foods, languages, traditions and stories that shaped our families as they traveled from the old world, to Ellis Island, to Fort Worth,” according to the activity’s description. I like the idea of this retreat, especially because my ancestors flocked to the United States. from a variety of points in Eastern Europe (most notably, Romania, Russia and even Hungary). Anyone out there who might be interested in participating should call the synagogue at 817-332-7141.

And finally, a shout-out to another Johnson County “outlier” …

“So that is why there are never any jars of matzah ball soup in the Burleson H.E.B.? I thought I was the only Jew in Johnson County!” writes Kerry Dolan, a member of Congregation Ahavath Sholom who lives in Burleson. I’m with Kerry, actually — as a North Dallas transplant, I was spoiled with all the great kosher sections at the Tom Thumb stores. These days I’m happy to see a few rogue boxes of matzah at the local H.E.B. during Pesach.

At any rate, no, Kerry, you are clearly NOT the only Jew in Johnson County! Furthermore, Kerry’s communiqué had my husband Dave making the comment that we might have enough Johnson County Jews to start a chavurah.

And what a good time of year to begin something like this. The month of Elul will soon be upon us. Elul, to me, is synonymous with “preparation” — in other words, preparation for the High Holy Days. Any takers out there in Johnson County (or even in the far southern reaches of Tarrant County) for such a chavurah? Let me know.

Also, anyone who lives in other outlying areas or who has RELATIVES who live in outlying areas (and not just Johnson County, either), drop me a line. I’m interested in knowing how you stay connected. Thank you all for responding and keep those cards, letters and e-mails coming, folks!

Until next time …

Comments (0)

Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 11 August 2011 by admin

New Jewish Longhorns welcome at Texas Hillel

From left, Simcha McIntosh (Dallas), Jackie Anderson (Houston), Jessica Goodman (Dallas) and Arielle Levy (Waco and Dallas) enjoy a Texas Hillel welcome barbecue.

Timed to coincide with the new student orientations at The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Hillel hosted six festive barbecues on the patio-pavilion this summer. Student intern Brooke Novy was at every orientation organizational fair to make sure that new students and their families know about Hillel. Brooke’s work involves finding and connecting with the hundreds of new Jewish students coming to Austin.

“It is the regular influx of new people and their ideas and interests that keep Hillel dynamic,” said Executive Director Rabbi David Komerofsky. “We’re always looking to find students and get them engaged with their search for community and meaning. Jewish life on campus is fun and enriching because there are so many interesting young people, each with his or her own story.”

The first four big events of the 2011-2012 school year are aimed at reaching large numbers of students so that they can make new friends and find their place among the wide variety of engaging opportunities through Texas Hillel.

The Welcome Back Brunch will take place Aug. 21, followed by the First Shabbat of the Year on Aug. 28, Labor Day Barbecue on Sept. 5 and Freshman Chill on Sept. 8.

New students, returning students and their friends and families are encouraged to check out the Texas Hillel website at www.texashillel.org and to sign up for the e-newsletter and get involved.

Florence Shapiro named top legislator

Texas state senator Florence Shapiro (R-District 8) has been named one of the most outstanding legislators of the past decade by Austin-based Capitol Inside, a publication which closely follows Texas politics. Shapiro was named to the Texas Senate 2000’s list and is one of only 10 members to be selected.

As the publication noted, its criteria for the “all-star roster for the most recent decade is based on [their] Best of the Legislature series selections for the past five regular sessions and two landmark special sessions on school finance and taxes in 2005 and 2006.”

Shapiro said of her selection to the list, “It is an honor to be recognized in this way, but this is much bigger than me. I have had the privilege of working with many wonderful colleagues over the past decade who’ve shared the same goals of improving and reforming public education, establishing the conditions that make Texas a jobs-creation center, and reining in runaway government spending by supporting programs that work and eliminating those that don’t. This has been a team effort.”

Camp Shemesh teaches students to honor nation’s military

Camp Shemesh, one of Levine Academy’s summer programs, added an exciting new element to this summer’s curriculum. In addition to the camp’s dynamic programming, the kids at Shemesh learned to respect and honor our nation’s military. The highlights of the July session, United We Stand, included reading books that portrayed the military lifestyle, making individual survival kits and going on a “flag fact” scavenger hunt.

The session culminated in the adoption of a soldier based out of Tallil Airbase in Baghdad. Pre-K and Kindergarten campers made lists of items the soldier and his company might appreciate.

After two weeks of collecting and card making, six giant boxes were filled. The toddlers and twos cluster made a giant Texas. The threes made eagle cards, and the Pre-K/K hand-packed the boxes and wrote individual words of praise and encouragement. Levine campers took time out of their summer to do a mitzvah for the men and women protecting us far away from home.

Texas Rangers Summer Academy visits Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Holocaust survivor Mike Jacobs and participants in the Texas Rangers Summer Academy

Every summer, the Texas Rangers Foundation hosts the Summer Academy. This summer, 150 children from the Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth participated in the Texas Rangers Summer Academy presented by the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.

Now in its 13th summer, the goal is to minimize the learning loss that can occur during summer break with activities that integrate educational objectives with real life experiences.

The Summer Academy is free for the students and spans the entire month of June with activities planned across Tarrant County.

In previous years, children have had the opportunity to participate in unique experiences such as fishing, a behind the scenes visit at Fox Sports Southwest, visits to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the Fort Worth Zoo and an etiquette lesson.

Among the sites children visited this year was the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

News and notes

Mazel tov to the Jacoby family who’s photo of the Grand Canyon is one of 10 finalists for the Best Vacation Ever Photo Contest sponsored by Starwood Vacation Network.

You can vote for the photo (#4), taken by son Austin, soon to be a freshman at Yavneh between now and Aug. 22 at http://www.starwoodvillas.com/?page_id=8342. The picturesque scene features Karla and Rick Jacoby sitting in a rock hole in the Grand Canyon. “It was just breathtaking,” wrote Karla.

Chabad of Dallas will offer a free Hebrew crash course starting Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Six one-hour sessions are planned. To RSVP or for more information on the course please e-mail info@chabadofdallas.com or call Rabbi Naparstek at 972-818-0770.

Comments (0)

Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 04 August 2011 by admin

Rabbi Stephen Fisch joins Shir Tikvah as spiritual leader

Rabbi Stephen “Steve” Fisch has joined Shir Tikvah, Frisco’s reform congregation, as the spiritual leader. A native of Tyler Texas, Rabbi Fisch received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Texas in Austin, and attended Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati where he was ordained as a rabbi. Rabbi Fisch has served congregations in New Orleans, Corpus Christi and was chairman of the school board of Solomon Schechter (now Levine) Academy. He also served on the board of Congregation Shearith Israel and as vice president of Jewish Family Service in Dallas.

Rabbi Fisch is excited about becoming a part of the Shir Tikvah community and is eager to let everyone in the Frisco area know about the unique aspects of the congregation.

Shir Tikvah proudly brings a “Song of Hope” to the families and community of Collin County. The congregation inspires a love for lifelong learning, the celebration of living a Jewish life and a commitment to honoring the beautiful traditions of the Jewish heritage. Shir Tikvah embraces and celebrates all families and provides a loving and compassionate family for all who come to be inspired.

Shir Tikvah’s next Shabbat service is Friday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. at the C3 complex located at 7700 Main Street in Frisco.

To learn more about Shir Tikvah, visit www.shirtikvahfrisco.org.

JWV Auxiliary presents grants to military veterans

Pictured at the Fisher House: (left to right) Jo Reingold, LuAnn Bergman, Lonna Rae Silverman, Jean Garmon, Fran Bergman, Ruth Swaab, Ellen Feibel, Diane Benjamin and Marcy Kramer-Kahn (pictured, but hidden).

Diane Benjamin was kind enough add to her report on the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary, published last week. Diane and husband Jerry will be traveling to Jacksonville, Fla. this month for the national convention of the JWV and the JWV Auxiliary. Jerry is the Department Commander for four states. Diane said, “The Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary Post #256 volunteers recently visited the Veterans Administration Hospital in Dallas and the Fisher House to present the ‘Grant A Wish’ gifts to deserving U.S. military veterans. Our JWV Auxiliary is as good as its volunteers. The JWV Post #256 and its auxiliary are ever vigilant to make certain that military soldiers receive the best medical care, and the best volunteers to show our gratitude to those who helped to preserve our freedoms, and our American way of life.” The JWV Post #256 and its auxiliary are actively seeking new members. For membership information to the JWVA, contact LuAnn Bergman at 214-320-3712.

Market Street joins a ‘Berry’ good cause

As we were going to press Tuesday, we received an urgent call from Lauren Davidoff about a late-breaking fundraiser for Peter, Aaron and Willa Berry, the survivors of the horrific car accident last month that claimed the lives of their parents, and left Peter and Aaron wheel-chair bound. Lauren told us, “Come cool off and shop August 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Market Street grocery store 1929 Preston Road in Plano and help the Berry children. The store will host a lemonade stand and balloon sale benefitting the Berry kids. Blue ‘Berry’ balloons will be on sale for $1.”

If you can’t make it out, you can still donate at www.showyourhearts.org and www.theberrychildren.org.

Cohen’s College Connection welcomes Lindsey Singleton

Lindsey Singleton has joined Cohen’s College as an educational consultant. A Dallas native and Richardson High School graduate, Singleton, has a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Houston, and a master’s degree in Secondary Education from Houston Baptist University. A former middle and high school mathematics teacher and computer science training consultant, Singleton brings many skills to the clients at Cohen’s College Connection.

“I realize the benefits we can provide to our students, and how that support can help them achieve their dreams,” said Singleton. “Hindsight is 20/20 and, after my own college experiences, and working in the community, I now know what the priorities in the process should be. I’m excited about working with students, helping them avoid making the same mistakes.”

“Lindsey is a natural,” said Carol Gene Cohen, president of Cohen’s College Connection. “She has a great sense of humor and the relationship she creates with our students is great. Applying to schools is stressful and Lindsey is able to keep the calm, extending a relaxed focus.”

“Carol Gene, who has visited more than 200 schools, is a wealth of knowledge and an incredible mentor,” said Singleton, speaking of Carol Gene Cohen, who leads a group including Application Specialist Joan Ungerman; Essay Specialist, Sheila Runnels; Career Planner Alyssa Fiedelman; and Office Manager Kitty Keefer. Cohen’s College Connection has assisted students in gaining acceptance to colleges and universities for the last 25 years, and also supports students in applying to private programs in preschool through high school, college and post-graduate studies. It is located at 4950 Keller Springs Road, Suite 160, in Addison. For more information, call 972-381-9990, visit cohenscollegeconnection.com, or email carolgene@cohenscc.com.

Blake Eltis forms real estate group

Blake Eltis is on the move! He has branched out and started his own real estate team, the Carroll/Eltis Real Estate Group at Allie Beth Allman & Associates. The lifelong Dallas native has been selling residential real estate in Dallas since 2002. In 2009, Blake moved over to Allie Beth Allman. With the formation of his team with business partner, Aaron Carroll, two agents have already joined the team. He plans to recruit several more agents. The team plans to focus their business in the North Dallas area from Frisco to Downtown and in East Dallas.

As a member of the Jewish community, Blake has served on the Jewish Federation of Dallas’ board of directors two times, chaired the Jewish Federation of Dallas’ Young Adult Division, The Network, sat on Congregation Shearith Israel’s board of directors and many other leadership roles with various organizations.

In his free time, he likes to waterski, travel and spend time with family and friends. He can be reached at 972-207-6060 or blake@blakeeltis.com.

Comments (0)

Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 04 August 2011 by admin

Commemorating the Temple’s destruction …

We’re entering an interesting time in the Hebrew calendar — the month of Av is traditionally considered a time of mourning, most notably because of the destruction of the temples, and the fleeing of Jews to various parts of the earth. We commemorate Tisha b’Av through prayer and fasting. Our “services” directory details a variety of services and studies dedicated to this particular event in our history, so take a few moments to see what shul near you might have a service or study session. The Texas A&M Hillel also has an educational session on Aug. 8 to study the Book of Lamentations, along with a special service. The fast of Tisha b’Av starts at sundown, Aug. 8 and ends at sundown, Aug. 9.

My ongoing quest …

In my ongoing quest to find “outlier” Jewish families, I received a lovely message from Janet Snider of Cleburne, Texas. She tells me that her family is a regular at Beth-El, which is good to hear. I’m interested in hearing from more Jewish families who may be on the Metroplex’s outskirts. Anyone out there from Longview, Stephenville, Cleburne, Ennis — or anywhere else — please let me know. I am, as always, at awsorter@yahoo.com.

From the JFS seniors …

Bernice Sandler and Helen Stearns enjoy their museum visit | Photo: Hedy Collins

Hedy Collins of Jewish Family Service tells us that, in late July, Gail Granek was a docent on a tour of the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth. “Her knowledge is amazing and she made the artwork so much more meaningful for us. She asked questions that made the seniors think about the art in different ways,” Collins said. The tour ended with a terrific lunch at Souper Salad.

Another fun event for the JFS seniors was a recent jewelry and purse extravaganza. Once a year, community members donate beautiful new and gently used purses and costume jewelry, and seniors select from these lovely items to accessorize their wardrobes. This is a wonderful way to recycle accessories that are no longer being used.

From the business scene

Mazel tov to Richard Minker whose firm, Minker Trahant and Associates, was acquired in June by Case Commercial Real Estate Partners.

The strategic addition of Minker Trahant and Associates enables Case an immediate expansion in the area of tenant representation and self storage brokerage within one of its core Texas service markets. These services will complement the existing array of leasing and management services already offered through the Fort Worth office.

Minker, formerly chief executive officer of Minker Trahant and Associates, brings over 31 years of experience and specializes in tenant representation, project leasing and self storage brokerage. Recognition by organizations such as the Society of Commercial Realtors with the Charles D. Tandy Realtor of the Year and The Texas Association of Realtors William C. Jennings Lone Star Award for the Real Estate Transaction of the Year have established Minker as a leader in the industry. Prior to the formation of Minker Trahant and Associates and its predecessor firm, The Richard D. Minker Co., he worked with Henry S. Miller Company as a project leasing and tenant representation broker. Minker holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a Juris Doctorate Degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He also holds the prestigious designation of Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM).

“As our client base grew, so did the ancillary services required to meet its needs,” said Minker. “Case provided a solution by offering additional services such as property management, lease administration and construction among others. But more importantly, Case mirrored our company philosophy of having local roots and being invested in the community in which it operates. They offer a mid-size firm atmosphere with large firm capabilities and global reach.”

Tyler Trahant, formerly president of Minker Trahant and Associates, will serve as the managing director and city leader for the Fort Worth office. Trahant specializes in office and industrial leasing, sales and self storage brokerage. He is a CCIM candidate and has a Bachelor of Business Administration in international marketing from Texas Christian University. Trahant serves on the board of governors of the Society of Commercial Realtors of Fort Worth and on the board of directors for the Women’s Center of Fort Worth. He was also a recipient of the Fort Worth Business Press 40 Under 40 Award in 2002 as well as a graduate of Leadership Fort Worth.

“Both Richard Minker and Tyler Trahant will play integral roles in the growth of our Fort Worth service offerings to clients,” added John Grace, director of landlord services for Case Commercial Real Estate

What are you up to during this long, hot, potentially record-breaking summer? Let me know! E-mail me at awsorter@yahoo.com.

Until next time …

Comments (0)

Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 04 August 2011 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have been troubled by a discussion with an orthodox rabbi about free will. It was stated that one should not be angry at a person who hits you as this action was ordained by God. In addition, it was stated that if you were hit, you were meant to be hit as part of a life lesson. What is troublesome about this paradigm is it could become a rationalization for spousal abuse. Please clarify the Torah stance on this matter.

Richard

Dear Richard,

You have struck a Jewish philosophical nerve. Vast amounts have been discussed on this  question.

Though a book would better answer your question, I’ll try to give you some food for thought in a story about King David. David’s son Avshalom was attempting to overtake the kingdom and kill his father, causing David to flee the palace. When David arrived at a place called Bahurim, Shimi, a man from King Saul’s family, approached David and his entourage, pelting them with stones and dirt, while cursing David profusely and calling him terrible names. David’s general Avishai exclaimed, “How could this dead dog curse you and we stand back and take it? Let me sever his head!” David retorted that this individual must be cursing him because God feels he’s worthy of being cursed. Perhaps, David added, God would see the tears in his eyes and would deliver a blessing rather than a curse. They continued on their way, with Shimi walking beside them, cursing David and throwing rocks and dirt. (Shmuel II Ch 17: 5-12).

The Midrash says the moment David expressed his acceptance of the Divine will that he be cursed and said “God told him to curse” he became the fourth leg of the Divine throne, (the first 3 legs being Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Through David’s complete subjugation he became the fourth patriarch. It then becomes difficult to understand how on his deathbed, King David commanded his son Shlomo to deliver the death penalty to Shimi for what he did to him (Kings II 2:8-9).

The answer is that one must separate between the perpetrator and the receiver. God would not allow a person to be hurt by another unless there’s a message the receiver needs. King David taught a timeless lesson through his example. When one is hurt or insulted by another, the Torah way is to look inward at why this must be happening, using the situation for self-improvement, rather than to focus on expressing anger at the perpetrator.

This path of acceptance in no way exonerates the perpetrator of the sinful act of insulting or hurting another. In the case of the King, Shimi was liable for the death penalty for what he did. David felt that for him to mete out that punishment would take away from his own introspection and the teshuva it had inspired him to do. He passed on the responsibility for punishing Shimi to his son after his death; what was coming to Shimi was between Shimi and God, and need not involve David.

When I first studied this message a number of years ago it was a life-changing lesson, and I continue to use it as a guide through thorny life situations. Living this lesson can bring about a life of calm, growth and introspection rather than one of anger, retribution and revenge.

This, of course, is no rationalization for spousal abuse or anything similar to it. When one is in an abusive situation the first thing to do is extricate oneself from it. If counseling hasn’t been effective to remedy the situation and one needs to stay away permanently, the abused spouse (or child, etc.) should consider the above lesson as part of their healing process. This can be a very therapeutic phase by taking responsibility in a positive, introspective and spiritual way, paving the way for a more positive future.

This in no way, vindicates the transgressor of his or her actions. They are considered wicked in the eyes of God for choosing to hurt or abuse a fellow human being, even if that same abuse, once it is taking place, may be utilized by God to teach a necessary lesson.

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 yfried@sbcglobal.net.

Comments (0)

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 04 August 2011 by admin

Jewish Value of the Week: Gratitude, Brachot

An old legend teaches that when all the works of creation were completed, God asked the angels what they thought of the handiwork. “Only one thing is lacking,” the angels said. “It is the sound of praise to the Creator.”

The story continues, God created the whisper of the wind, the song of the birds, and the sound of music, and planted a melody in the hearts of children. And it wasn’t long before humans — always eager to imitate God — added their own beauty to the world.

Reciting blessings is a way of expressing gratitude to God. Blessings are, in a sense, a “thank you” to God.

The Hebrew word for “thank you” is todah, which means “to admit.” You passed me the salt, helped me in business, changed my tire or raised me from childhood, and I thank you for that. When I thank you; when someone thanks another person, it is actually means “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

When we express our gratitude and thanks through blessings, we recognize our dependence on others and acknowledge the assistance we receive. When dependence is acknowledged through thanks, it facilitates harmony, bonding and freedom.

Teach your children to give thanks in the words of the modern poet Ruth Brin: “… for the blessing You bestow openly, and for those You give in secret…for the blessings I recognize, and for those I fail to recognize … for the blessings that surround me on every side.”

Family Talk Time

  • Make a list the things to which thanks can be given. Start in the morning and continue throughout the day. One of our sages told us to say 100 blessings every day — see if you can come up with 100 things.
  • The Jewish value of Bal Taschit is the command not to destroy. Discuss the importance of environmental protection and ways in which you practice conservation.

Shabbat Discussion

Abraham is told by God that he will be a blessing. What does it mean to BE a blessing?

A Story for Shabbat: David and the Spider

— from ‘Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore’ by Rosalind Chaney Kaye

Long before David was king, he came upon a spider in his garden.

“Lord,” he said, “You have created many beautiful and wondrous things. But what good could a spider be to anyone? Surely you have made a mistake.”

“There will be a time,” God answered, “when this little mistake will be a great use to you.”

And the time did indeed come. King Saul became jealous of David. He ordered his soldiers to follow David into the wilderness to kill him. David slipped into a cave just before Saul’s soldiers came upon him.

As David crouched at the back of the cave, he watched a spider swiftly spin a web across the cave’s entrance. This thin web was enough to keep the soldiers out, even with their knives and swords. How?

When the soldiers saw an unbroken web across the cave entrance, they assumed that no one had entered the cave in many days, and so they didn’t search it. David’s life was saved, and he understood that people depend on all God’s creatures.

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

Comments (0)

Lessons from Norway

Lessons from Norway

Posted on 04 August 2011 by admin

By Ron Kampeas

A poster campaign sponsored in part by the Jewish community’s Security Community Network urges Jews to keep an eye out for suspicious objects. | Photo: Courtesy Security Community Network

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Focus on behaviors common to all extremists: That’s the advice security experts are offering in the wake of the recent attacks in Norway by a perpetrator who appeared to be anti-Muslim rather than an Islamist.

In the United States, the attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utoya are prompting government officials and those advising the Jewish community on security to look for lessons that can be applied to America.

The Secure Community Network, known as SCN and funded by the Jewish Federations of North America, set up a conference call this week for Jewish summer camp officials with a top Homeland Security Department official. Most of the 77 people killed in Norway died in a shooting attack at a youth camp on Utoya.

SCN in its notice to camp officials said the call, scheduled for Wednesday, was to “discuss planning, mitigation and response policies and procedures camps can implement to address the risk, threat and impact of active shooter and other events.”

Anders Behring Breivik has claimed responsibility for the Norway attacks but has pleaded not guilty, saying the killings were justified.

Whether one is a right-wing or Islamic extremist, the telltale signs of a possible attack in the works may be the same, a senior Homeland Security official told JTA.

The likely attacker is “an individual becoming increasingly vocal and visible in their anti-American, anti-Jewish community, anti-government rhetoric” — whatever the provenance of their beliefs, said the official, who spoke on condition of not being named.

That was true, the official noted, of Faisal Shahzad, the Islamist convicted of attempting to set off a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010, as it was of Richard Poplawski, the white supremacist on death row for killing three Pittsburgh policemen in 2009.

Past and current U.S. government security officials laid out three interlocking strategies for prevention: Getting family and acquaintances to report such behavioral changes; getting others in the community to note suspicious behavior around likely targets; and making sure such reports are streamlined so that local and federal authorities are able to coordinate a response.

“We seek through intelligence and information-sharing to better inform local authorities and community members to recognize the behaviors associated with violence,” the Homeland Security official said.

In reports after the Pittsburgh shootings, friends and family of Poplawski said they had noted, but not made an issue of, his legal weapons purchases as well as his propensity for anti-government, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The Homeland Security official said the department was examining the Norway attacks and assessing the information, just as it had previous attacks.

After an attack, the official said, “we look at events that occurred, what people had observed, whether community members, family members saw something that was present that would have forewarned” of an attack. Those reports are then forwarded to local authorities so “they’re more sensitized to it.”

Another element is educating the target community, said SCN director Paul Goldenberg. The Homeland Security Department’s recently launched “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign in the Jewish community is critical, he said.

Goldenberg said that potential assailants tend to look at previous attacks for inspiration, which is what made Breivik’s assault on the Labor Party youth camp so exceptional. Some of his victims were as young as 14.

“What’s remarkable is that this individual sought to kill children, and that is a wake-up call for our community and any other community to do all they can to ensure that wherever our children gather and congregate would be a potential location for someone who wants to cause direct harm to the hearts and souls of the Jewish community,” Goldenberg said.

The Homeland Security official identified patterns of behavior around synagogues and other Jewish community buildings that merit reporting to the authorities: “multiple instances of appearances” by a stranger “in an entrance or exit area, parked cars that are in places that unusual — places that people walk past as they enter a JCC, an individual trying to monitor activities, maybe photographing security personnel, photographing the building in a way that doesn’t seem typical of someone who’s interested in architecture.”

It is also critical to train staff to know what to do in case of an attack, Goldenberg said. SCN has trained Jewish summer camp personnel to have planned safety routes in the event of an incident, and walkie-talkies planted in strategic places for effective communication.

“Sending our children to camps and overseas and to Israel — that should never stop,” said Goldenberg, a former counterterrorism adviser to New Jersey’s state government, “but we need to be more vigilant and train those who are responsible and accompanying our children.”

So-called lone wolves are an increasing concern for law-enforcement authorities because advance detection of a plot through wiretapping and similar measures is not possible.

“Some people recognize that based on a lot of the plotters and conspiracies that have been foiled, it is more likely you’re going to get caught if you have conspirators,” said Oren Segal, the co-director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “Lone wolf attacks are most concerning, as they don’t fall into one or another movement.”

Groups like the ADL track extremism, particularly on the Internet, which has facilitated the empowerment and exchange of extremist ideas.

“The fact that people are reading ideologies and being influenced online poses a serious threat,” Segal said. “Extremist movements tend to ebb and flow. There have been spikes by those motivated by militant Islam; at other times we’ve seen spikes in anti-government types.”

Breivik’s anti-Muslim extremism “seems to represent a developing ideology,” he said. “It’s not isolated.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center along with Daryl Johnson, a former Homeland Security official, has accused the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations of not aggressively tracking right-wing extremism and instead focusing more on Islamic extremists.

Johnson left Homeland Security after conservatives assailed as an attack on free speech a 2009 report he authored on the increased likelihood of attacks in the wake of the election of the first black president. The department squelched the report and shut down Johnson’s unit.

Heidi Beirich, the research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Breivik was influenced by the online writings of Americans such as Pam Geller and Robert Spencer, who see Islam generally, and not an extremist offshoot, as a threat to democracy and freedom.

“We’re concerned that as the Sept. 11 10th anniversary comes up, someone may attack government buildings or Muslims,” Beirich said. “We understand the threat from Islamists, but there is also a threat from people motivated by anti-government beliefs.”

The Homeland Security official told JTA that the department had not dropped its tracking of right-wing extremists in the wake of the shutdown of Johnson’s unit, and that such monitoring had been incorporated into other departments.

Michael German, the American Civil Liberties Union’s counsel on security and a former FBI agent who infiltrated neo-Nazi and skinhead groups from 1988 to 2004, said that Johnson’s report was useful in many respects, but committed the flaw of tracking ideology instead of extremist activity.

“The way you go about it,” German said, “is focusing on illegal behavior rather than people’s beliefs or ideologies.”

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here