Archive | October, 2011

Sukkot: A holiday of ushpizin

Sukkot: A holiday of ushpizin

Posted on 13 October 2011 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Being Jewish means enjoying great holidays with a lot of great “stuff.” At the J Early Childhood Center, we have been blowing the shofar with abandon, but now we get the best fun — building a sukkah! Children love forts and the sukkah is such a special one to share with family and guests. The important Jewish value of hachnasat orchin — welcoming guests, is practiced at Sukkot in a very special way. The tradition of ushpizin (guest) began in the 16th century and involves inviting a different biblical guest each night of Sukkot using special words of welcome to honor the visitor.

According to the Midrash, the shelter of the Sukkot was available to the Israelites during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness solely as a result of Abraham’s offer of hospitality centuries before to the three strangers who appeared to tell Abraham and Sarah they would have a child. That is a great explanation but the real message is we should always show kindness and proper hospitality to others.

Here are biblical ushpizin for each night and a topic for family discussion:

Abraham was told by God to take his son Isaac and bind him to a sacrificial altar. Have you ever been asked to sacrifice something that was very dear to you?

Isaac had to choose which of his two sons would receive his inheritance. Have you ever had something that couldn’t be shared that required choosing between your friends?

Jacob wrestled with God’s Angel, and the following morning changed his name to Yisrael. What new name would you call yourself if you could?

Joseph received a beautiful coat from his father that made his brothers very jealous. Have you ever been jealous of something a friend had? Has some one ever been jealous of you?

Moses was convinced of God’s presence by the Burning Bush. Did something unusual ever happen to convince you of something you weren’t sure of before?

Aaron was the brother of Moses, the Jewish people’s greatest leader. Do you ever feel you live in your brother’s or sister’s shadow?

David was chased by King Saul, who thought that David was after his throne. Have you ever been bothered by someone who thought you wanted something they had?

Now that you know the biblical guests to invite, think of others you would like to invite into your sukkah and the questions you might ask them.

Laura Seymour is director, Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalit’s release appears on the horizon

Shalit’s release appears on the horizon

Posted on 13 October 2011 by admin

By Uriel Heilman

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was 19 when he was taken captive in a cross-border raid on the Israel-Gaza line on June 25, 2006. | Photo: Shalit Family

(JTA) — If captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is freed in the prisoner-exchange deal with Hamas that prompted an emergency Israeli Cabinet session, it will raise two immediate questions: Which side finally acceded to the other’s demands after years of fruitless negotiations since Shalit was captured in a June 2006 raid along the Israel-Gaza border, and what took so long to get here?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered some hints about the first issue in a hastily called news conference shortly before going into the Cabinet meeting late Tuesday night.

This deal, he suggested, was the best Israel was going to get, so if Israel was ever going to recover Shalit, it had to happen now.

“With everything that is happening in Egypt and the region, I don’t know if the future would have allowed us to get a better deal — or any deal at all for that matter,” Netanyahu said on Israeli television. “The window appeared following fears that collapsing Mideast regimes and the rise of extremist forces would make Gilad Shalit’s return impossible.”

The prime minister added, “If all goes according to plan, Gilad will be returning to Israel in the coming days.”

The deal reportedly was signed by the two sides on Oct. 6 in Cairo following years of negotiations and mediation via the Egyptians. News of the deal was first reported by the satellite TV station Al Arabiya. Its exact contours remain unknown at press time.

Shalit’s release would mark a remarkable end to a five-year saga that has transfixed the Israeli public, frustrated two successive Israeli governments and spanned two wars.

Then a corporal in the Israeli army, Shalit was taken captive at age 19 on June 25, 2006, and almost immediately his family launched an incessant public campaign to free him. The crusade included vigils, marches, meetings, statements by world leaders, celebrity endorsements, bumper stickers, congressional resolutions, songs and a protest encampment opposite the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.

Shalit’s plight struck a chord in the Jewish state and the Jewish world, and Israelis and Jews from all walks of life and political camps took part in activities calling for his release.

It’s not clear whether this public campaign helped usher in the deal announced Tuesday or whether it hindered an agreement from being reached.

Shalit’s family believed that it had to keep up the public pressure on the Israeli government to seal the deal. At the official state Independence Day ceremony last Yom Ha’atzmaut, in May, Shalit’s brother Yoel darted onstage with his girlfriend and a banner reading “Shalit is still alive.” Instead of getting arrested for the stunt on national television broadcast, he got an audience with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

But some analysts warned that all the public clamor to free Shalit only made a deal more difficult by increasing the price Hamas demanded for his release. Indeed, for years Israel insisted that the price was too high.

On Tuesday, Time magazine reported that the exchange would include as many as 1,000 Palestinian prisoners – first the 450 named by Hamas, and then 550 named by Israel. The prisoners “will include as many as 315 men convicted of killing hundreds of Israelis in terror attacks,” Time Foreign Editor Tony Karon wrote.

Critics of prisoner-exchange swaps warn that such deal merely encourages Israel’s enemies to capture more Israelis.

Such criticism followed then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decision in July 2008 to trade five Lebanese prisoners — including notorious murderer Samir Kuntar — and the bodies of 199 others in exchange for the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two Israeli soldiers captured in the border attack by Hezbollah that sparked the 2006 Lebanon War.

Goldwasser and Regev were thought to have been killed in the attack or shortly thereafter, but until the coffins with their bodies arrived on Israeli soil, Israeli officials said they could not know with certainty that they were dead.

Shalit’s case has been a little different. In a video released by his captors in October 2009, a frail but otherwise healthy-looking Shalit held a current newspaper and read a message asking Israeli authorities to conclude an agreement for his release. In all his years in captivity, Shalit was allowed no international or Red Cross visitors.

As Israel’s Cabinet debated the deal late Tuesday night, the heads of the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad and the Shin Bet internal security service all reportedly expressed support for the deal.

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Two days are better than one

Two days are better than one

Posted on 13 October 2011 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

In a recent article, a writer expressed the sentiments of many who had returned from a year of study in Israel. These individuals prefer to identify with the Jews in Israel, during which one day of Sukkot and one seder are observed.

I come from a strong Conservative background and have always observed a second day seder and a second day of Yom Tov.

I empathize, however, with the sentiments expressed in the article, as I have felt the same way myself in the past after returning from a two-year stint in Israel.

Why do we not just have the whole world be like Israel and observe one day holidays and one seder in the Diaspora?

— Nicole R.

Dear Nicole,

You struck a nerve, especially as I wrote a book about this subject. It’s called “Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchaso,” and it discusses your question as well as the myriad halachic questions that arise when Israelis visit the Diaspora or vice-versa for the holidays and other related issues.

Though I fully appreciate the emotional attachment to Israel and the desire to observe its customs, a deeper appreciation of the second day of Yom Tov will reveal that the way to remain attached to, and to appreciate Israel is through the observance of a second day in the Diaspora, to punctuate the mundane state of the Diaspora vis-à-vis the holiness of Israel.

The Talmud addressed this question more than 1,500 years ago. The reason for the original decree of two days’ observance in the Diaspora was that those living a far distance from Jerusalem would not be able to find out when the High Court sanctified the new month to know which day was Pesach or Sukkot. Therefore two days needed to be observed to erase all doubt. If only they had e-mail!

The Talmud asks, once the calendar was established and all knew which day was the holiday, why still keep two days?

The Talmud answers that the rabbis enacted in those places distant from Jerusalem which had observed two days until that time, should continue that custom, lest a decree would be issued by the anti-Semitic Romans or other rulers to discontinue the use of Jewish calendars. If this would happen the Jews would again be in doubt as to the day of Yom Tov and potentially desecrate the day (Talmud, Beitzah 4b).

As with all rabbinical decrees, the Talmud offers the halachic justification, but seems to hide the deeper meaning behind the rabbis’ decrees. It is a fascinating study to delve into the deeper meanings of these decrees, as is revealed in the Zohar and other Kabbalistic sources.

In regards to second days of holidays, the inner meaning is based upon the more profound meanings. Besides celebrating an historical event, such as the Exodus from Egypt, the holidays are a time of profound spiritual connection to the Almighty. The Torah instructs the entire Jewish people to “make aliyah” to Jerusalem three times a year, on the three Festivals, to visit the Temple and receive the “countenance of God,” (Deut./Devarim 16:16).

Although we don’t have that opportunity today, we still mention this in the Musaf prayer, as the basic concept still applies. A holiday is a time during which God reveals an inner light which, if one is in tune with it, can illuminate our souls, uplifting and permeating our very being with joy and connection.

The Kabbalists explain that this “light” shines brightest in Israel, which is the land God chose for us to experience the greatest spiritual connection to the Almighty. Therefore, in merely one day of Yom Tov or holiday, a Jew can internalize all the illumination inherent in the day.

In the Diaspora, however, that light must go through all types of spiritual filters until it reaches us, and dims in comparison to the light shining in Israel. Therefore the Sages enacted two days of Yom Tov in the Diaspora, as it takes twice the time to receive that same spiritual connection. Anyone who has spent time in Israel and has tuned in to its spiritual side can attest to the special uplifting feeling and exuberance one feels during a Jewish holiday there.

To observe two days in the Diaspora is to recognize the special nature of Israel. The way to identify with Israel is to pray, both days, for the opportunity for us and all Jews to return to our Holy Land, speedily and with peace, and with that unique connection to the Almighty which only Israel can provide.

May you and all the readers have a joyous two-day Sukkot holiday, and may it be a peaceful and joyous holiday in Israel and for Jews throughout the world.

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.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 13 October 2011 by admin

TDSD students experience holidays with chesed

A sample of a Rosh Hashanah card made by TDSD students for Fort Hood’s Jewish soldiers.

Becky Udman, Early Childhood director at Torah Day School and TJP columnist tells us Torah Day School students were very busy getting ready for the holidays.

Classes learned all of the laws and customs of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. There were apple cakes made, experiments with pomegranates, and of course the shofar could be heard daily during Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah.

Students went to Jewish Family Service to help make packages for those who would otherwise not be thought of during the holidays.

It is clear that one of the most meaningful activities for the students was making holiday cards for our servicemen and women in Fort Hood, Texas.

The children were able to envision what it would be like to spend the holidays away from family and this helped them to understand the self-sacrifice that these men and women do for our country.

“I know that it would be hard for me if my father had to be away on Rosh Hashanah,” said one first grader.

Matti Friedman, who was the guest, shared the impact that the TDSD students made. “I’m sure I’m speaking on behalf of all of the attendees at the Fort Hood shul this past Yom Kippur — it was so heart-warming to get the beautiful cards from your students to the soldiers! What a nice idea! It put a smile on everyone’s face, and was so appreciated!”

TDSD headmaster Rabbi Yerachmiel Udman said, “These opportunities for the children to see how much one small act of chesed (kindness) can go so far are as important as any lesson that they will learn in school. Our hope is that these small acts of kindness are planting the seeds for always looking for opportunities for chesed.”

Yasher koach to everyone at TDSD.

Senator Florence Shapiro to address CREW

State Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano will speak to Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Dallas about “How Legislative Issues Affect You.” The open-to-the-public luncheon is Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Park City Club, 5956 Sherry Lane.

Shapiro began her career in the Texas Senate in 1993. Her issues, while serving in the Senate, have been many. As a champion of children, she passed Ashley’s Laws, which protects them from sexual predators. In 1999, she became chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee and committed herself to the issue of transportation, creating the first fund for Texas mobility.

Shapiro has served as chair of the Senate Education Committee since 2003, addressing issues such as school accountability and improving teacher development — including teacher pay raises and the first-ever incentive pay program. During this most recent legislative session — in a time of significant budget cuts — she led an even-handed approach to education funding, making sure fair treatment was shown to both wealthy and property-poor districts.

During her time in office, the senator has been the recipient of numerous awards recognizing her legislative accomplishments and wide-ranging contributions to North Texas and the entire state.  Most recently, she was named by Austin-based Capitol Inside as one of the most outstanding legislators of the past decade.

“The timing of the luncheon may be of particular interest because of Senator Shapiro’s recent announcement that she will not seek re-election next year,” said Vicky Gunning, CREW president and partner with Locke Lord LLP. “CREW members are fortunate to have Senator Shapiro give us an update on how developments from the most recent legislative session will affect not only commercial real estate, but the region and state in general.”

The cost for the luncheon is $50 for pre-registered guests and $55 for walk-ins. For more information, contact Kim Hopkins at 214-890-6490 or email khopkins@crew-dallas.org.

VistaCare hospice responsive to Jewish needs

Anyone who has ever had to face the painful experience of caring for a loved one near the end of their life knows that there are many difficult decisions to make. Understanding these options within a Jewish framework can further complicate matters.

VistaCare Hospice is making this process easier for Metroplex-area Jews. Rabbi Howard Wolk and Jan Gartenberg, RN/Clinical Liaison, are now part of the VistaCare team according to Elise Power, VistaCare’s executive director.

VistaCare Hospice is the first hospice organization in Dallas to receive accreditation from the National Institute of Jewish Hospice (www.nijh.org).

More families are turning to hospice organizations when seeking advice, assistance and counsel. VistaCare Hospice of Dallas provides such caring and compassion from a Jewish perspective. Their caregivers are well-versed in Jewish culture, customs and traditions.

The clinical and support staff are able to meet the physical and emotional needs of Jewish patients by working with Rabbi Wolk who offers spiritual support and guidance in navigating through these life transitions. He works closely with patients and families, discussing end-of-life issues with family members and assisting them with making informed decisions.

The blessing of living longer brings many difficult challenges which families are facing on an increasing basis. VistaCare Hospice can help support members of our community who are looking for assistance in caring for their loved ones.

For additional information, please contact Elise Power or Jan Gartenberg at 214-231-3914, or visit www.vistacare.com.

Covenant Church welcomes Bnai Zion members

Bnai Zion members and Covenent Church clergy from left, Maura Schreier-Fleming, Carolee Blumin, Diane Benjamin, Fran Eisenberg, Pastor Kathy Hayes, Pastor Mike Hayes, President David Eisenberg, Virginia Shepherd and Dr. Tim Shepherd.

Last week in the TJP, you may have read about Pastors Mike and Kathy Hayes of the Covenant Church in Carrollton who will be honored by Bnai Zion next month. The pastors recently hosted a gathering of Bnai Zion members at their well attended church services.

Attendees included Bnai Zion Foundation’s Texas Region President and newly elected National President David Eisenberg; Mrs. Fran Eisenberg; Vice President Diane Benjamin; Carolee Blumin; Dr. Tim and Virginia Shepherd; and Maura Schreier-Fleming.

At the other Covenant Church sites, Bnai Zion board members and volunteers, including Carole Wolanow, Dr. Harvey Wine, Gail Wine, Martin van Brauman, Sara Spraggins, Sara Dekelbaum and Norman Dekelbaum and others participated and witnessed the incredible outpouring of love for Israel and the Jewish people.

Pastor Hayes devoted all five Covenant Church sites to this salute to the Bnai Zion Foundation and support of the State of Israel.

On stage, and viewed through streaming at all Covenant Church sites, was a video of Pastor Hayes’ entourage at their recent summer visit to Israel. The video was a lovely tribute to the members of the Covenant Church with appreciation from Bnai Zion Medical Center CEO, Dr. Amnon Rofe, and Dr. Michael Kafka, chief of the Emergency Division of the hospital.

Pastor Hayes gave a riveting sermon that captivated more than the 5,000 attendees at his Covenant Church site.

According to Diane Benjamin, his entire sermon was dedicated to the Bnai Zion Foundation; citing from Exodus, and Jeremiah all in praise of the Jews.

Pastor Hayes stressed to his congregants how vital it is for the Christians to protect God’s chosen people and the State of Israel.

At the conclusion of the three morning services, eager congregants came by the Bnai Zion reception tables in the church lobby, to make reservations for the Nov. 6 Gala honoring Pastors Mike and Kathy Hayes and Dr. Jerrold Grodin, Lt.Col. U.S. Army.

Pastor Hayes’ eloquence and dramatic appeal has earned him a following that is spellbinding. The Covenant Church claims a special partnership with the Bnai Zion Foundation and is especially grateful for this “match made in heaven,” by Dr. and Mrs. Tim Shepherd, past gala honorees and Bnai Zion board members.

Diane Benjamin, chair of the November gala at the Westin Galleria and a past Bnai Zion honoree, said, “It is incumbent upon all not to desist from our work in supporting this outstanding 100 year plus, medical facility in our spiritual homeland and to cultivate those who are such valuable assets to our cause and to our people … Christian Zionists as well as Jewish Zionists — all!”

For further information on the Bnai Zion Gala, contact Avrille Harris-Cohen, director Texas Region Bnai Zion Foundation at 972-918-9200 or avrille.harris-cohen@bnaizion.org.

Learn about Medicare

Irv Munn and Ed Morris of Munn and Morris Financial Advisors will lead a luncheon seminar Tuesday, Oct. 18 on “What You Need to Know about Medicare,” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Maggianos in Plano. Attendance is free but reservations are required. To RSVP or for more information, contact Susanne Gray at 972-692-0909.

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Around the Town

Posted on 06 October 2011 by admin

As this issue arrives in your mailbox, the Kol Nidre service, the gateway to Yom Kippur, is less than 48 hours away. Two years ago at this time, our son was a bar mitzvah — and yes, he decided to lead services, and read Torah, on Shabbat Shuva.

As such, I find it impossible to go through the Days of Awe and into the Day of Atonement without recalling the wonder and emotion of hearing our son’s chanting Parshat Ha’azinu, and feeling the closeness of friends and family around us, followed almost immediately by worship requiring an accounting of our sins and prayers for forgiveness and repentance.

The good news here is that, if we are sincere in our prayers and actions, we are forgiven by God. This is something I take into every Yom Kippur with me: The idea that sincerity is at the root of repentance.

As we head into our holiest day of the year, I wish each and every one of you an easy fast, and a day of cleansing, prayer and reflection to truly start this year off right.

Opportunities to perform mitzvot …

One way to improve oneself is to give of oneself to others through acts of charity and/or volunteerism. Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County is offering a plethora of such volunteer opportunities throughout 2011 and into 2012.

If you’re interested in any of the following activities, contact Angie Kitzman (with your volunteer activity of choice) at the Federation: 817-569-0892 or a.kitzman@tarrantfederation.com.

Oct. 30: Community Thank You Program — Amy & Andra concert/Congregation Ahavath Sholom. Volunteers are needed to help backstage and to organize a small reception.

Nov. 20: PJ Library Family Activity. This is a new program that, according to the Federation, is “geared toward our littlest citizens and their families.” Have ideas? Join the committee!

Jan. 20, 2012: Kornbleet Scholar in Residence. Be a part of bringing an informative and engaging speaker to town.

Feb. 5, 2012: Community Tu B’Shevat Program at Beth-El Congregation.

March 2012: Women’s event —ideas are welcome.

March 4, 2012: Community Purim Carnival, Congregation Beth Israel.

April 15, 2012: Yom Ha’Shoah, Congregation Beth Shalom. Help be a part of this moving program.

April 25, 2012: Yom HaZikaron, to honor Israel servicemen and servicewomen. Beth-El Congregation.

April 29, 2012: Yom HaAtzmaut at Congregation Ahavath Sholom — Israeli Independence Day!

News from the Jewish Veterans …

Last June Jewish War Veterans Martin Hochster Post 755 installed new officers at a brunch at Congregation Beth-El. The new officers were: Rich Morris, commander; Ron Sivernell Sr., vice commander; Peter Levy Jr., vice commander; Jose Siegel, judge advocate; Arthur Pawgan, quartermaster; Constance Siegel, adjunct; Michael Bumagin, historian and Rabbi Marc Ben-Meir and Rabbi Sidney Zimelman, chaplains.

An award for service to veterans was presented to Judge Brent Carr (U.S. Marines Ret.), Chairman of VetCo and founder of the Veterans Court. Beth-El Brotherhood prepared a wonderful brunch.

The group has also donated DVRs (for patient and staff training) and a refrigerator to the Fort Worth VA Clinic. Twenty-five clock radios, an outside metal table and chairs, an American flag and toiletries were donated to Liberty House, a residential rehabilitation facility for homeless veterans. Scholarships to ROTC students were also provided.

Donations for toiletries and snacks were presented to the USO at the Fort Worth Airport for our soldiers returning to combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On Sept. 11, 2011, several of the Post’s members attended and participated in a interfaith ceremony in Colleyville commemorating the events of the 2001 attack on our country. Among those attending the ceremony cosponsored by Congregation Beth Israel and Rabbi Charley Citron-Walker were George Sepp, Barry Schneider, Rich Morris and Ron Sivernell.

The JWV offers military memorial services given at the funerals of all Jewish veterans when requested, and a folded flag provided to their loved ones.

Furthermore, JWV’s book “They Were Soldiers in Peace and War,” volumes 1 and 2 are given free of charge to bar and bat mitzvah honorees throughout Tarrant and Denton Counties. Both volumes contain more than 100 interviews and the early history of Jews in the military in North America. The second volume, incidentally, was partially funded by a grant from the endowment committee of the Jewish Federation of Tarrant County.

Many thanks go to our veterans, both past and current, for all they do to help preserve our freedoms.

Directory Notification …

The Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith is in its last stages of editing on the local B’nai B’rith Community Directory of Tarrant County. Any changes or additions (or deletions, for that matter), need to be in to Alex Nason by Nov. 23. Contact him at 817-346-3991 or alexnason@charter.net.

And a Note to ‘Outliers … ’

There will be a meet-and-greet for Johnson County Jews (and others in the general area south of Fort Worth) on Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. Site is still to be determined, but likely at our house in Joshua, Texas.

I’ve heard from a couple of folks out there, but if you’re interested in coming — or can’t come but are still interested in anything that might come out of this meeting — let me know by emailing me at awsorter@yahoo.com.

Hadassah Happenings …

The Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah will host its “Champagne & Chagall at SiNaCa: A Hadassah Happening!” which will start at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at SiNaCa Studios at 1013 W. Magnolia Ave. in Fort Worth. The cost is $10 per person, $18 per couple.

Contact Debby Rice at 817-346-2944 or debbyb@sbcglobal.net for more information — I’m told invitations will shortly be on their way.

Yasher Koach to JFS …

Jewish Family Services of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has been awarded $2,400 for computer equipment for its Senior Program, which provides emergency groceries and snacks.

The grant was one of 10 announced by Tarrant Area Food Bank at its Partner Agency Conference last week.

Ten hunger-relief charities in six counties served by Tarrant Area Food Bank were presented Capacity-building Grants totaling $25,000 for equipment, information technology and services.

The Tarrant Area Food Bank Capacity-building Grants provide targeted support for organizational development to increase agencies’ abilities to create, deliver, expand, evaluate and modify effective services, according to Lori Pope, agency relations manager.

According to Kay Dillard, director of programs at Tarrant Area Food Bank, 42 partner agencies seeking to expand their capacities to serve clients submitted requests that totaled $40,000. The Food Bank had $25,000 it could distribute.

Reminder from the Daytimers …

Daytimer’s October event will feature author Richard F. Selcer, who will speak about “Hells Half Acre,” the red-light district where the Convention Center is now positioned.

Mr. Selcer will be introduced by another well-known Fort Worth historian, Hollace Weiner.

The event will take place at noon, Wednesday Oct. 12 at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Rd. in Fort Worth. Lunch will be catered by Ming Wok, and choices are beef lo mein, chicken with vegetables or tofu with vegetables; egg roll is included. Cost is $9 including lunch or $4 for program only.

For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or mail checks to Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76109, or make your reservation at www.bethelfw.org/donations.

Chess for a good cause …

Under the category of “good causes,” Isaac Narrett is hosting a chess tournament on Sun., Oct. 15 at Beth-El Congregation to benefit the Jewish National Fund Trees for Israel.

This “non-rated” tournament is Isaac’s bar mitzvah project, and beginners to advanced players of all ages are welcome (sponsors are certainly welcome as well).

Questions? Contact Marcy Paul, 817-921-9204 or Isaac at Isaac.narrett@gmail.com.

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The High Holy Days order does make sense

The High Holy Days order does make sense

Posted on 06 October 2011 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I am 93 years old, and since I was a teenager, have never received a satisfactory answer to this question: If Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment and Yom Kippur the day of atonement, why isn’t the order reversed? Why not first repent and absolve yourself of your sins, and then go to the day of judgment?

I hope I can finally get an answer!

— Tillie K.

Dear Tillie,

I hope you will find this satisfactory for many years to come!

Rosh Hashanah begins the period called the “Ten Days of Teshuvah” or repentance, in which there is a mitzvah of introspection and teshuvah. It ends with Yom Kippur, when we finalize our teshuvah for our wrongdoings.

We must attain a deeper understanding of teshuvah to answer your question.

The Talmud states: “The wicked, even while alive, are really dead; the righteous, even after they die, are considered alive.”

This reflects a profound definition of “life.” Life is not merely defined by one’s eating, breathing, being social and involved in commerce. Rather, life is defined by one’s connection to “Elo-him Chayim,” God, who is the source of true life.

To the extent one is connected to the source of life, he or she is spiritually “alive.” The converse is true too. One can theoretically be very energetically involved in many aspects of the world and even be quite successful by society’s standards while at the same time be spiritually dead, having no connection to the source of life.

How does one go about being connected?

Mitzvot are a connection. The Torah says numerous times that through the fulfillment of mitzvot we are “cleaving to God and therefore alive.”

Sins, on the other hand, cause disconnect. The word “cheit,” usually translated as sin, literally means to “miss the mark” or disconnect. Each wrongdoing causes another short circuit in the grid of our connection to the source of life.

This gives us a new understanding of teshuvah. Teshuvah is not simply repenting for a wrongdoing, and God cleaning our slates of that sin. It repairs the shorted circuit, reconnecting us to the Almighty.

With this we have a new insight to a seemingly strange statement by an early commentary, Rabbi Yonasan Eibeschitz (mid 18th century). In our daily Amidah service, the second blessing thanks God for the promise to one day return the Jewish dead back to eternal life, techias hameisim.

This sage comments that between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when one recites that blessing, he or she should have teshuvah in mind. What is the connection? The answer is that teshuvah, by repairing the circuitry, reconnects us to the source of life and brings us back to life.

What gives us the strength to bring ourselves back to life? Rosh Hashanah! That day coincides with the creation of the first man and woman. The Kabbalists explain that, just as Adam and Eve were created on that day, so too our souls are renewed on Rosh Hashanah.

On Rosh Hashanah our souls receive a complete recharging of our spiritual batteries, at the time of the shofar blast. This gives us the spiritual energy to begin the work of self-renewal within our own lives. We are empowered with the potential to bring ourselves “back to life” by reconnecting to the source of life.

This is done through the process of teshuvah, culminating in Yom Kippur which is the day we complete the process of renewal for the coming year.

If Yom Kippur would come first, we would not have the spiritual strength to embark upon the process of teshuvah, which is the core mitzvah of that day.

That is the beauty and the precision of the order of our High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah first, then the Ten Days of Teshuvah, followed by Yom Kippur.

Wishing you and all the readers an easy fast and a sweet, meaningful and successful New Year with peace in Israel and throughout the world.

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.

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‘Lone Soldier’ sparks interest in Israel among Dallas Jewish students

‘Lone Soldier’ sparks interest in Israel among Dallas Jewish students

Posted on 06 October 2011 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

Jules Kramer went on his first trip to Israel when he was 15 years old, and after a month of touring and volunteering at an army base, he was hooked. He fell in love with the country and knew becoming a citizen was what he wanted to do.

After graduating from high school, Kramer participated in a gap year program in Israel and officially made aliyah when he was 19. The rest is history.

“I felt a strong connection to the people and the way of life in Israel,” the 24-year-old said. “After my gap year, I realized that living in Israel was something I could actually accomplish. I showed up there as a citizen and got my identification card. I spent the first year working, making friends and acclimating and was drafted into the army next year.”

Throughout Kramer’s two and a half years in the army as an explosive and weapons expert in the paratroopers, he was referred to as a lone soldier, someone who makes aliyah and doesn’t have any family in Israel.

During his trip to Dallas, former lone soldier Jules Kramer spoke to 11th and 12th graders at ATID. Shown here from left are Benjamin Ray, Elizabeth Livingston, Daniel Oved, Jules Kramer, Bryna Herskowitz, Benjamin Sheppard, Dillon Shipper and Gail Herson. | Photos: Rachel Gross Weinstein

Kramer recently visited Dallas and shared his story with students at Akiba Academy, Yavneh Academy, the Ann and Nate Levine Academy, Congregation Beth Torah and Academy of Torah in Dallas (ATID). Kramer came to Dallas through a grant ATID received from the Israel @ the Center program. The program is an initiative of the Center for Jewish Education at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) that provides speakers and projects to foster communication with Israelis to increase engagement with Israel.

Gail Herson, ATID education director, said bringing in a former lone soldier like Kramer is a great way to promote Israel engagement. Kramer is the son of Brett and Susan Kramer, who moved to Dallas from Denver in February when Susan became the new JFGD president and CEO. Herson thought this would be a good community tie-in.

“He is a young American guy, just like my teenagers and other kids in Dallas,” Herson explained. “He left a good life because of a passion and desire to be committed to the Jewish homeland; I love that message. All of the kids he spoke to related to him and also got a better connection to Israel.”

One of those kids was Bryna Herskowitz, an ATID 12th grader who said Kramer’s story inspired her to visit Israel.

“It was interesting because he was young and close to our age when he made aliyah,” she said. “He is an American who has a love for Israel and that made me realize Israel isn’t so foreign. I’ve never been to Israel and now I really want to go.”

ATID 11th grader Benjamin Sheppard went to Israel when he was in eighth grade at Levine Academy, but hearing Kramer speak made him miss Israel. He said hearing about Kramer’s story impacted him greatly.

“Not only did [Jules] tell us about his experiences, he allowed us to ask questions,” he added. “It helped us internalize the information much better. Before this, I was already interested in doing a year abroad in Israel, and hearing his experience with that was interesting also.”

Kramer wasn’t much different from Herskowitz, Sheppard or the other students who listened to him in Dallas. Growing up in Denver, Kramer attended Jewish day school, so the importance of Israel was stressed both at school and by his parents. Susan Kramer said though she was sad when she learned Jules was going to Israel, it made her proud to know that he was living his dream.

She believes he is a great example for young kids and teenagers by proving that people can accomplish anything they put their minds to. “Jules has always been passionate about Israel, that neshama (Jewish soul) has always been there, but I have seen a different type of passion and drive in him since he was made aliyah,” she said. “When I heard he was coming to Dallas, I thought it was special because he has a unique story to share; Dallas gave us a present bringing him here. I hope the kids he spoke with can realize that it is possible to achieve greatness and live their dreams.”

Sometimes those dreams involve hardship, however. Kramer said training and being in the army was the most difficult thing he has ever done, but wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

“Going through the army made me realize that it is about the bigger picture, not just myself,” he said. “It was an experience that I will take that with me my whole life. I have great friends that I made in the army who I will have forever. The army also allowed me to understand responsibility, leadership and how to act like a mature adult. I don’t believe I would have been able to get those skills anywhere else.”

Having been out of the army for a little more than a year, Kramer is now helping other lone soldiers. He is the director of strategic partnerships for the Center for Lone Soldiers in honor of Michael Levine, a grassroots organization that helps lone soldiers acclimate to life in Israel. The goal is to bring people together who are getting ready to go into the army, who are currently in the army and who have already served so they can meet one another and share knowledge.

Kramer is also studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and hopes to become a tour guide. He said what he enjoyed most about coming to Dallas was being able to bring Israel closer to kids so they could get a real sense of what it is like to live there.

“Kids learn a little bit about Israel in school, but to many of them, it seems like a far off place on the other side of the world,” he said. “For them to meet someone who grew up in the Jewish community like they did, it brings Israel closer and makes a personal connection, which I don’t believe they can get anywhere else.”

For more information about Kramer’s story or the lone soldier program, e-mail him at jules@lonesoldiercenter.com, or visit www.lonesoldiercenter.com.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 06 October 2011 by admin

As Yom Kippur approaches, many of us are focused on inner reflection — taking stock of our shortcomings and areas in need for improvement. We approach those that we have wronged and ask for forgiveness, and forgive those who have caused us pain. We are keenly aware that at times at the TJP, we make mistakes. Anyone who has ever gone to press with anything is aware of the pain of seeing something in print that was not meant to be. On behalf of the entire TJP staff, we sincerely apologize for all the typos and unintentional misprints that may have been cause for any pain to our readers. G’mar Chatimah Tovah, from all of us. May you all have an easy, yet meaningful fast.

Yasher Koach to future Eagle Mitchell Koenigsberg

When we were first dating, I made the mistake of asking my husband Alex if he was an Eagle Scout. “Still am,” he replied. I quickly learned that attaining this rank in the Boy Scouts of America is an unparalleled achievement. One scout who is well on his way is Congregation Beth Torah member Mitchell Koenigsburg. Michael Precker recently shared with us the following update Mitchell’s stellar Eagle project benefitting the shul.

At Congregation Beth Torah, they had been talking for a few years about refurbishing the Sukkah.

Mitch Koenigsberg finally made it happen.

The 16-year-old Boy Scout, whose family belongs to the Richardson synagogue, spent months planning the task for his Eagle project. On two successive Sundays in September, he pulled it off.

The Eagle project, the pinnacle of a scout’s experience, is designed to teach leadership skills while giving back to the community

“This is something we wanted and needed to do for a long time,” said Alan Hoffman, president of the Beth Torah Men’s Club, which is responsible for the synagogue sukkah. “We’re so proud of Mitch that he took on this responsibility and did such a great job.”

The Richardson Pearce sophomore is a member of Troop 1077, which includes about 65 Scouts and meets at Brentfield Elementary in Dallas. Hoffman, a former Scoutmaster, was also Mitch’s Eagle project adviser.

At Beth Torah, the Men’s Club assembles the sukkah every year, takes it down after the holiday and stores it outside the synagogue. But years of use took its toll on much of the wood and the hardware.

In the first week of his project, Mitch and his team of Scouts, Men’s Club members and other volunteers assessed how much of the walls, frames and hinges needed to be replaced. The answer: a lot.

Eliott’s Hardware in Plano donated the hardware, while the Men’s Club and member Scott Chilton shared the cost of the wood.

In a long, sweaty day of work on Sept. 18, several dozen volunteers, a number of them not Jewish, took out each section of the sukkah and made it good as new. Particularly adept with his power drill was Rafi Cohen, Beth Torah’s new rabbi. The team also cut out large Stars of David in the walls, improving air circulation as well as adding additional religious significance.

By day’s end Hoffman pronounced the sukkah ready for the holiday — Men’s Club will build it on Sunday, Oct. 9 — and Mitch’s Eagle project a resounding success.

“The synagogue is going to enjoy the benefits of this for years to come,” Hoffman said. “And we’ll be thinking of Mitch every Sukkot.”

Speaking of Sukkot

We have a great calendar of Sukkot activities on page 13 of this week’s issue. Sunday, Oct. 16 seems to be the busiest day of sukkah hopping. It’s possible to participate in four amazing Sukkot events that day.

A community Sukkot carnival hosted by Torah Day School of Dallas will start things off from 11 a.m. to 3p.m.

From 2 to 4 p.m., a community-wide Sukkot celebration hosted by Akiba Academy and benefitting the Special Needs Partnership of Jewish Family Service will get underway.

Rabbi Menachem Block called me recently to tell me some of the highlights of the Sukkot celebration that will be held at Chabad of Plano from 4 to 6 p.m. In addition to a “Build a Torah Workshop” and some lively Jewish music and snacks, the event will be highlighted by the Chassidic acrobatic duo, “The Famous Twins from France.” The duo has performed for spellbound audiences around the world and this sounds like a treat not to be missed. Cost is $5 per person. Children under 3 are free.

Finally, if you are between the ages of 22-39, you can cap the night off with Salsa dancing in Temple Shalom’s sukkah. Check out all the events on page 13.

Herzl Hadassah October meeting

Members of Herzl Hadassah will gather Oct. 10 in the Senior Assembly room of the JCC to hear “From Baptism to Judaism.” Author Mary Blye Howe, a Hadassah Life Member, share her personal story with members and guests.The program begins at 10 a.m.

Coffee and desert will be served. Those who desire to stay and visit after the meeting are encouraged to bring a sack lunch.

Honorable Menschen

Levine Academy ECC students pose with Baby Shower Co-Chair, Beverly Rossel. Pictured are (Front row l to r): Chloe Walsh, Jonathan Grossfeld, Ben Goldstein, Shelly Barazani, Aviva Goldberg. (Back row l to r): Owen Zimmerman, Seth Sternberg, Sabina Chamoy, Beverly Rossel, Gabi Appel, Guy Stern, Shayna Weinstein. (Not pictured: Alexis Kaganas)

Ann & Nate Levine Academy’s Early Childhood Center (ECC) sponsors a monthly program that they call Mitzvah Mensch. Each month, a class in the ECC is responsible for doing a mitzvah for the local community or Jewish communities around the world. Last month, Barbara Mohl’s and Tobe Goldberg’s Pre-K class participated in the Jewish Family Service’s Baby Shower. Throughout the month of September, they collected baby supplies that went to JFS’s food pantry.

Two cribs were filled with diapers, diaper wipes, soaps, lotions and other baby supplies. Additionally, the class asked that the tzedakah money for the month be donated to the baby shower so that even more diapers and supplies could be purchased. Beverly Rossel and Julie Liberman, co-chairs for the JFS Baby Shower, reported that Levine Academy ECC collected over 2,000 diapers. Over $100 of tzedakah was donated to the event, as well. Kol Ha Kavod to all of the families in the ECC who generously donated.

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Explaining Yom Kippur to kids

Explaining Yom Kippur to kids

Posted on 06 October 2011 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Yom Kippur is a difficult holiday to explain to young children as there are many things to think and talk about. The Jew’s responsibility during this week is to go to those whom he or she has hurt and ask for forgiveness. Sounds simple, in theory. But saying “I’m sorry” is hard for children and more difficult for adults. Judaism helps us out by telling us that we must not only ask for forgiveness but also be willing to forgive.

How do we teach our children about forgiveness? One way is to find children’s books to help us out. A particularly good book along these lines is “K’Ton and the Kitten.” Many times stories can bring home many truths and lessons.

In addition to turning to the literature, we can, and should, take an active part in teaching repentance and forgiveness to our children. First, it’s important to recognize (and to teach) that saying “I’m sorry” on command does not make it true. Our children learn many lessons from us on how to handle mistakes and there is much to learn from the Jewish way of teshuvah. The term, which is often translated as repentance, really means “turning back.” We must realize we have done something wrong and feel bad about it. Children do understand right and wrong even when they cannot always control their actions. But they also need to be taught that paying lip service to apologies won’t do the trick.

When we ask for forgiveness, we must say we will not do the hurtful act again. In Judaism, if you apologize then do the same thing the next day, you have not “turned back.” In fact, the rabbis told us we must face the same temptation to do wrong three more times and not make the same mistake before we have really succeeded. Teshuvah, repentance, is difficult! However, it is an important lesson to teach our children. We must also remember that forgiveness is good for all of us — it hurts us to be angry at another person.

After asking forgiveness of those whom we have sinned against, on Yom Kippur we ask God to forgive us. Since I was a child old enough to read the prayer book, I always wondered on Yom Kippur why, when I hadn’t done half the “wrongs” frequently mentioned throughout the service, why I had to stand up and list all the sins. It took a lot of growing up to realize that I was part of a community. Together, as a community, we ask for forgiveness for our collective sins.

Finally, it’s important, especially for very young children, to keep explanations about Yom Kippur very simple. The concept of forgiveness can be boiled down to apologizing for a hurtful act, then working hard not to do that act again. As children become older and have a better understanding of Judaism, atonement and forgiveness, more sophisticated and deeper discussions about the meaning of this time of year can take place.

May you have an easy fast this weekend, and may we all strive to become better individuals in the coming year.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.

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