Archive | July, 2014

A special reunion

A special reunion

Posted on 31 July 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebIt all started when my cousin attended a college fraternity reunion where discussion turned to graduation 60 years ago. Two of the wives, my sorority sisters ‘way back then’, asked him about me. “She’ll be in town in just a couple of weeks,” he said. What happened was like a rolling snowball in July that culminated in a very special reunion of our own.

In those “olden” days, it was common for young Jewish women to attend a local school — in our case, the University of Pittsburgh — while living at home under parental roofs.

It was also common for women to major in education, marry the nice Jewish boys they met in college, teach until the children came along, then resume their careers when their own kids started school.

But I went to graduate school, found a nice Jewish man from out of town, and moved away after marrying him. Teaching was not for me; writing was. I did it first at home, after the children came along; when they started school, I was firmly planted in a newspaper office. And the years scampered by…

On a recent Monday, six of us came together for the first time in as many decades. We sat in a fancy restaurant at a round table covered in fine white cloth, a tribute to what had been a major emphasis in our college education as young women of the ‘50s: “Gracious Living.”

Of my five companions, two still live in the community where they grew up; the other three have homes in nearby suburbs. They have never, as I have, moved away from that early comfort zone.

Gilda was the only one I recognized instantly; I would know her even if I passed her while running for a plane in a crowded airport.

Three of the others came into focus more slowly; Hannah has snow-white hair, Marlene’s is silver; Joan is much fuller of face.

Marian — I refrained from asking who she was, and eventually I knew, but this heavy-set woman with a cane bore no resemblance at all to the girl I had known so well so long ago.

Hannah speaks Pittsburgh patois like a native, even though German was her first language; her parents had taken her away when Hitler was rising to power, over the pleas of family who said he would lose the next election and everything would go back to the way it had always been. Those were never seen again.

Joan still sounds like the Brooklynite she originally was; her family moved to this city after her high school graduation. These two, and Gilda, are retired teachers, Joan from a Yeshiva school. Marlene has taught as well, but in later life she’s forged a new, part-time career as founder of a community volunteer program for seniors.

They didn’t recognize me at first. I am much more outspoken now, and much thinner than I was then, changes caused by experience and genes: the longer my father lived, the slimmer he became.

We began by reminiscing, then came into the realities of who we are now. And we like each other even more than we did when we were occupied with school academics and sorority activities. Now we have real lives to share.

So we’ll do this again in October, when I’ll return to Pittsburgh for our 60th college homecoming. At least two others who were unable to make this first reunion are saving the date in advance so we can crowd around that same white-clothed table and talk about our lives.

None of us is remarkable, but none of us is ordinary, either. Our stories were born in our long-ago commonality, but have gone far beyond it.

Next time, we’ll take a picture to send to our sorority’s headquarters for publication in its quarterly. “This is what the Class of 1954 looks like today,” we’ll say. And we’ll all be smiling.

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Around the Town

Posted on 31 July 2014 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I was humbled recently when Tammy Richards, CEO of the Volunteer Center of North Texas, shared that the TJP will receive The Volunteer Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award at its first Big Hearts of Fort Worth Breakfast, Oct, 8, at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel. In addition to the TJP, Donna Arp Weitzman will receive the award.

In addition to being overwhelmed, I was relieved to confirm that Oct. 8 is a Wednesday, so we will stay on schedule in TJPland. It is rare that we are recognized for our work, nor do we seek out the limelight. Ours is a labor of love, commitment and service to the Jewish and larger communites with a dash of carrying on the family legacy to boot.

Founded in 1971, the Volunteer Center of North Texas is one of the largest and most active volunteer centers in the country. It works to make volunteerism a part of everyday life.

We will share more with you about the Lifetime Achievement Award in a future issue. In the meantime for more information about the breakfast, please contact Kathi Wenrich, or 214-818-9843.

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The 12 tribes of Camp Chai

The 12 tribes of Camp Chai

Posted on 31 July 2014 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2Every camp has traditions and Camp Chai at the J has a long standing one of naming our groups by the 12 tribes. Here is part of the blessing that Jacob gave to each of his sons who later became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel (they are listed in the order by grade that we give to our campers. The first six are our boys and the second six are our girl tribes:

Reuben: the eldest who showed a deep sense of responsibility. He convinced his brothers not to kill Joseph. Later, he offered the lives of his own sons if he should fail to bring Benjamin back to Egypt. His symbol is the mandrake, the flower he brought to his mother Leah.

Gad: means “good fortune” and though “raided by raiders, he shall raid at their heels.” The symbol is camp tents, standing for prowess in battle.

Joseph: was noble and distinguished; he was Jacob’s favorite. Joseph’s sons were given a blessing from Jacob because of their father’s honor. The symbol for Joseph includes the bull and the unicorn for his two sons.

Benjamin: “a hungry wolf who eats in the morning,” produced fine soldiers and gave Israel its first king. The symbol is the wolf.

Dan: means “to judge” and Dan would “judge his people.” But Jacob also said: “Dan shall be a serpent in the way.” The symbol is the serpent and scales of justice.

Judah: was a “young lion,” declared Jacob. “Rulers will descend from him.” Judah’s descendants include King David and King Solomon. The symbol is the lion.

Naftali: was alert, nimble and a good speaker. Jacob said he was “a deer let loose; he gives goodly words.” The symbol is a deer, still used by the Israel Ministry of Posts.

Simeon: the descendants of Simeon would be scattered among the tribes. The symbol is the Gates of Shechem, which was a city where the tribe of Simeon lived.

Zebulon: would “dwell at the shore and be a haven for ships.” The symbol is a ship with the breeze blowing and the white foam flowing.

Asher: means “happy,” and he would be “rich in oil.” The tribe of Asher grew olive groves and provided the Temple with oil. The symbol is the olive tree.

Menasha: Joseph’s sons were adopted by Jacob for a special blessing. “By thee shall Israel bless, saying: ‘G-d make thee as Ephraim and Menasha.’” The symbol for Menasha was the unicorn.

Levi: the tribe that served the Kohanim and the Temple. The symbol was the hoshen mishpat — the breastplate of judgment. On the plate were 12 jewels, each with the name of a tribe.

Now if that is too much to remember, here is a song we sing — it is to the tune of “Catalina Magdalina” (some verses are a little tricky) but the same message is given:


CHORUS: Jacob had 12 sons but they came from different moms.

Each became a tribe in Jewish history.

Reuben was the oldest but he didn’t have much spine

so he got the basic blessing but without the bottom line. CHORUS

As for Simeon and Levi, their families got mixed.

Due to what occurred in Shechem, their blessing was nixed. CHORUS

All honor goes to Judah the ancestor of David the King.

His tribe would win back the Promised Land and praises would ring. CHORUS

Zebulon got the seashore and Issachar got the land.

In looking at the blessings, these two were very grand. CHORUS

The task of judging all the folks was given to Dan.

But for eloquence in speech, Naphtali was the man. CHORUS

Gad will be a raider with a winning warrior band.

And Asher will lead the traders and bring delicacies to the land. CHORUS

Benjamin was the baby but he led a wolf-like tribe.

First he takes the goodies and later he will divide. CHORUS

Joseph was the favorite but we all know that.

He got the longest blessing plus the coat upon his back. CHORUS

Ephraim and Menasha were Joseph’s pride

They got Grampa Jacob’s blessing as they stood side by side. CHORUS

Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Makom, Intown Chabad co-sponsor fundraiser for Israeli children

Makom, Intown Chabad co-sponsor fundraiser for Israeli children

Posted on 31 July 2014 by admin

By Rachel Gross Weinstein

The message rang true last week that young Jewish adults stand with Israel. Nearly 200 gathered to show their support for the State of Israel and its people.

Community member Alex Molayem, along with Makom and the Intown Chabad, which both serve young adults, hosted “BBQ for a Cause” July 23 at the Intown Chabad. The evening included food and music, writing letters to members of Congress and more.

Molayem got the idea for the event last week with the plans coming together in three short days. Having visited Israel several times in the past, he knew something needed to be done to make a difference.

“I didn’t want to organize a political rally, but just wanted something people would get on board with that would improve the lives of others,” he said. “Israel has a special place in my heart and this is the least we can do to help the country and its people when they are hurting. Having something like this shows that Dallas cares. There is no excuse to not do something when we can.”

Jack Stone and Michelle Joffe proudly show their support for Israel at the barbecue. | Photos: Courtesy of Rabbi Zvi Drizin

Jack Stone and Michelle Joffe proudly show their support for Israel at the barbecue. | Photos: Courtesy of Rabbi Zvi Drizin

So far, about $10,000 has been raised from online donations and the event itself, and contributions are still being accepted. The funds benefit International Young Israel Movement (IYIM – Israel), whose mission is to help Israelis living in areas most vulnerable to rocket fire through social welfare programs, education, trips for children and other activities.

Rabbi Zvi Drizin helps Matthew Prescott lay tefillin as a way to honor the security of Israel.

Rabbi Zvi Drizin helps Matthew Prescott lay tefillin as a way to honor the security of Israel.

During the barbecue, guests took photos with signs that read “Together we win, we support the IDF” and “I stand with Israel, Am Yisrael Chai.” Close to 50 men laid tefillin as well, which is a way to honor the security of Israel, according to Rabbi Zvi Drizin who runs the Intown Chabad.

Drizin said he was pleased with the attendance and that it’s very telling of how the younger generation feels about Israel.

“Young Jewish people care really passionately about Israel,” he said. “Everyone came together and it was really beautiful to do it with Makom. We need to be the people who model the love of every Jew and especially in times of crisis, we need to come together. Everyone understands that Israel is ultimately protecting us and people feel that on a deep level.”

Elana Lavi, who cares deeply for Israel, said it was unbelievable to see so many people unite for a meaningful cause.

“It was amazing to see the support of so many young Jewish adults wanting to help Israel at this horrific time in history,” she said. “Gathering with so many like-minded Jews reminded me that it’s important to help our fellow brothers and sisters in Israel and that it’s possible to do so from anywhere in the world.”

Supporting Israel is even more significant to Drew Alyeshmerni right now. The executive vice president at the Southwest Jewish Congress lived in Israel for several years and served in the IDF.

“It was heartwarming to see so many people of our generation come out to support Israel,” Alyeshmerni, said. “It shows there is a genuine desire to be connected.”

For more information about IYIM and to donate, visit

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Finding ways to bring comfort

Finding ways to bring comfort

Posted on 31 July 2014 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Readers,

friedforweb2These past weeks we have been focused, if not fixated, on the events unfolding hour by hour and at times minute by minute in the Land of Israel. We also are in the saddest period of our history and of the Jewish calendar.

This is the period referred to as the “Nine Days,” beginning with the Hebrew month of Av and culminating in the day of Tisha B’Av, or the Ninth of Av, which begins this year the eve of Monday, Aug. 4 and ends the following night.

This period and especially that day is a time of national mourning for the destruction of both holy Temples in Jerusalem, leading to our first and our present exiles. All the tragedies that have befallen us during our long period of exile trace back to the original calamity of the destruction of the Temples; most directly affecting us is the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE as we are presently enduring the exile subsequent to that destruction.

It is important to note that the present situation in Israel is another sad outcome from that destruction and symptomatic of the widespread anti-Semitism which brought about the Holocaust and other destructions of Jewish communities both before and after that dark period.

As we discussed last week, the Talmud cites idle hatred among Jews as the final straw that broke the back of the Temple. The Divine Presence, or Shechina of G-d, which is the lifeblood of the Temple left that edifice and returned heavenward when there was strife among the Jewish people.

G-d only rests His Presence among us when we live together in the spirit of brotherhood and mutual respect and love for one another. Acts of love and kindness between Jews, which fulfill the mitzvah to “love your brother as yourself” cause G-d to reassess the situation and reconsider returning us all to our homeland together with His presence.

We can all learn a very moving, meaningful and important lesson from another side of the coin of what is presently transpiring in Israel, in the words of a soldier stationed at the Gaza border:

“What’s happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond comprehension, not rationally, not emotionally and begs the imagination.

“Almost every hour a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, backgammon and more. They’re coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from prisons, Charedim and settlers, from Tel Aviv and even Saviyon.

“Every intersection on the way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but by residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation wasn’t organized and everyone is coming on their own without coordination between the folks coming.

“They’re writing letters and blessings, how they’re thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they’re as perfect and comforting as possible.

“Of course representatives of Chabad are here to help soldiers put on t’fillin and distributing Cha’Ta’Ts (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya) for every troop transport and Breslov are showing up to the border and dancing with the soldiers with great joy.

“The Charedim are coming from their yeshivot to ask the names of the soldiers with their mothers’ names so that the whole yeshiva can pray for them.

“It should be mentioned that all of this is done under the threat of the terrorist tunnels and rockets in the area.

“Soroka Hospital (in Be’er Sheva) today looks like a five-star hotel. A wounded friend who was recently discharged told us how the Master Chef truck is parked outside and is preparing food for the wounded.

“It goes without saying the amount of prayer services that are going on. On the religious front as well, there are lectures and Torah classes, all the food is obviously kosher. Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv with Sifrei Torah. They’re giving out tzitzit and Tehilim by the hundreds. It’s become the new fashion! The Rabbi of Maglan [special forces unit] told me that almost the entire unit has started wearing them, because the Army Rabbinate has been giving out tzitzit that wick away sweat. They’re gaining both a mitzvah and a high quality undershirt. We’ve started calling them “Shachpatzitzti” (a portmanteau of the Hebrew term for body armor and tzitzit). We’re having deep conversations late into the night without arguments, without fights and we find ourselves agreeing on most stuff.

“We’re making lots of jokes at Hamas’s expense and without politics. There’s lots more to add but my battery is running low and the staff has been requesting someone give a class on Likutei Moharan (Breslov).

How happy is the nation that is like this.”

May we all learn a lesson from this letter to find ways to bring comfort, happiness and joy to other Jews (even our families and our spouses), and may that be a merit for the Jewish people to end this exile soon and all return speedily to our beloved homeland, and Tisha B’Av should become a day of celebration for all time.

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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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 31 July 2014 by admin

By Linda Wisch Davidsohn

Dr. Jaime Davidson to receive 2014 Bnai Zion Distinguished Humanitarian Award

Plans are underway for Bnai Zion Foundation’s forthcoming major 2014 annual gala, which is scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Westin Galleria.

The esteemed endocrinologist, Dr. Jaime A. Davidson, will be the recipient of the Bnai Zion Distinguished Humanitarian Award. Jaime and his wife, Ana, are the parents of two sons, Aaron and Maurice.

Nationally syndicated talk show host, best-selling author and veteran film critic Michael Medved will be the featured speaker who will augment this event, which by all accounts will be sold out.

Diane Benjamin, president of the Texas Region of Bnai Zion, tells us that she is delighted that community volunteers, spearheaded by co-chairs Janice Pullman and Ynette Hogue, are already engaged in the ‘behind the scenes’ preparations.

The Bnai Zion Foundation’s various programs are vital to the well-being of Israel’s medical needs that are felt globally.

For more information about the event please contact Avrille Harris, executive director, Bnai Zion Texas Region at 972- 918 -9200 or visit

Pictured from left, preparing for the Bnai Zion 2014 annual gala, are Avrille Harris, Ana Davidson and Diane Benjamin.

Pictured from left, preparing for the Bnai Zion 2014 annual gala, are Avrille Harris, Ana Davidson and Diane Benjamin.

New faces at the Federation and JCRC

Jordan Weber has joined the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas as its community outreach and legislative affairs manager.

Originally from Colorado, Jordan was reared in Fort Worth where he went to Southwest High School. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in International Relations with a specialty in Human Rights and Social Justice.

Jordan’s interest in Jewish identity and civil rights advocacy led him to work with the Anti-Defamation League’s Austin office as an education intern. As part of a “Campus Leaders Mission,” he also traveled to Israel with ADL, and shortly thereafter moved to Paris to study abroad, where he conducted independent research on Anti-Zionism and contemporary anti-Semitism in French society.

Jordan shared that he is excited to be working with the Dallas Jewish community and the JCRC where he will be able to apply his passions working on a variety of interfaith, social justice, legislative and Israel initiatives.

Laura Silvis has joined the Federation as the Young Adult Division (YAD) manager.

Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Laura grew up in Plano and attended Plano East Senior High School. She graduated from the University of North Texas, majoring in Sociology.

At UNT, Laura sought out the Jewish community and found Hillel, where she realized her passion for inspiring other young Jews to become involved and create a Jewish social life. Laura was the Hillel president and served on the board during her college career.

In 2008, Laura participated in the Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) Short Term Service Program. She traveled to Argentina to help repair the Jewish community. This life-changing experience opened Laura’s eyes to the global need for the involvement and care of Jewish individuals everywhere.

The one-on-one involvement inspired Laura to become a preschool teacher at the JCC. Once there, she realized that she needed to do more to help the community on a larger scale.

As the new YAD manager, Laura says that she is inspired and excited to have the opportunity to apply all of her passions working with the young adult Jewish community.

Dallas Area Sjogren’s Syndrome Support Meeting, Saturday, August 2

Cathy Ingles, support group leader and national board member of the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation, informed us of a luncheon meeting at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 2 at Blue Mesa Grill, 14866 Montfort Drive in Addison.

Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that most commonly affects the eyes, mouth and other mucous membranes in the body.

Featured on the program is Dan Sullies, DC, and DACNB with Applied Neurology Health Center who will facilitate a Q&A session. RSVPs are required by 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 1.

For additional information, or to reserve a spot for the event, contact Cathy Ingles at 972-948-8606 or

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Dallas-Fort Worth Stands With Israel

Dallas-Fort Worth Stands With Israel

Posted on 26 July 2014 by admin

Join the community at an Israel Solidarity Rally

Wednesday, July 30 | 4-5 pm
City Hall Plaza, Downtown Dallas

Join with us to show our communal support of Israel’s right to self-defense and in solidarity with our Israeli brothers and sisters living under daily threats of missiles fired by Hamas.

Tips & Suggestions:
1. Bring water, sunscreen, and a hat. No chairs allowed.
2. Arrive early, as we expect a large crowd.
3. Wear blue and white to show your support!
4. In the event of a counter-demonstration, we ask all participants to not engage but to focus on our peaceful show of support as our community comes together.

Parking Information:
There is a large parking lot located behind City Hall, in addition to city parking garages and street parking.

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Benji Lovitt: not afraid to say what’s on his mind

Benji Lovitt: not afraid to say what’s on his mind

Posted on 24 July 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebFor today, I wanted to write something “sweet” about a former local who’s now prominent in Israel: Benji Lovitt, 39, son of Bob and Zelene Lovitt of Dallas. His mother says he’s “an internationally award-winning blogger and lecturer…an all-around Renaissance man.”

Well, mothers are always proud, aren’t they? But after a few back-and-forth emails with Benji, I had to agree. He’s made his name as both a stage comedian and a serious print commentator. He’s funny, and he makes folks think.

Then, before I could tell you any of this, three Israeli teens had been brutally murdered by Arabs, and a young Arab similarly slain by Israeli Jews. And even before it had been determined that the latter was indeed an act of revenge, Benji expressed some potent, not so “sweet,” opinions about this very real possibility. These are his no-minced words of July 2:

“…Within minutes, the talkbacks of the Times of Israel were filled with defensive comments telling us not to rush to judgment…Apparently the idea that Jews could be responsible was too much to consider…”

As this blog entry’s preamble, Benji quoted Rabbi Daniel Gordis: “We say we’re better than this. The test will be how hard we look for the Jewish perpetrators…” To which he responded: “It’s clear that many Jews have already failed the test. I am sick and tired of the total inability of too many people to look in the mirror… How does someone miss the irony of claiming that ‘we are a people of love, not hate,’ in the same breath as ‘let’s kill them all’?

“We clamor for the Palestinians to take responsibility for their actions, to bring terrorists to justice, to condemn perpetrators of horrible crimes. [But] when Jews are in Jerusalem chanting ‘death to Arabs’ and attacking innocent bystanders, they must be condemned. If it turns out that the Arab boy was killed in an act of revenge, it must be condemned. Not only by the government, but by all of us. On Facebook. In Shabbat dinner conversations. In our minds. It doesn’t matter that they killed three of ours, an unspeakable, horrible tragedy. It doesn’t matter that Arafat said no in 2000 at Camp David. It doesn’t matter that Hamas are rejectionist animals. Those have nothing to do with the killing of a boy. It doesn’t make us weaker or compromise our values to be human and acknowledge suffering when it exists on the other side.

“We claim to be better than they are. Are we? If we can’t take responsibility…admit that we are also capable of terrible things, admit that our actions contribute to making things worse, then are we sure? This is not the time to answer ‘yes’ and point out all the ways we are better. It’s not always about them. It’s about us, too. It’s about who we want to be…

“When I am no longer frustrated by the situation here, either we’ve made peace or send me back to America, because I don’t want to live here any more….”

Benji does want to live in Israel. He made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh back in 2006, during the second Lebanon War. One of the many things he writes that make him well-known and respected there is his annual May 14 list of “Things I Love About Israel,” all new every year, the number matching the country’s age. Ironically, Number 30 of this year’s 66 was “I love that you can pick up a hitchhiker holding a gun and not think twice about it.”

Benji’s words aren’t all “sweet.” But he’ll be back stateside in late August for a nephew’s bar mitzvah and a major comedy tour, so maybe we can get him to share a few of them with us here. In the meantime, let’s follow him at And you can read his 2014 tribute to his homeland, a compilation both sweet and bittersweet, at

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Native Texan among IDF soldiers killed in action

Native Texan among IDF soldiers killed in action

Posted on 24 July 2014 by admin

Sean Carmeli, z’l: Kaddish for a Texan who gave his life in Gaza

By Ben Sales

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The soldiers walk past us, two single-file lines between the gravestones, their blank, sunken faces barely visible in the darkness. The coffin appears, hoisted on their arms and wrapped in an Israeli flag. We follow in its wake.

Within minutes, some 20,000 people have massed around the final resting place of Sean Carmeli, Texas native, IDF soldier, soon to be declared a Hero of Israel.

We stand silent as the rabbi chants verses of psalms begging for mercy. We shrug off official instructions on protocol should a siren sound.

Then a broken, crying, panting voice comes over the loudspeaker. Word by impossible word, Sean’s father is saying Kaddish. We say amen, and it hits home: a 21-year-old boy is dead.

“We all lost a brother today,” Carmeli’s friend, Elior Mizrachi, says in his eulogy. “He was my role model, my best friend.”

Mizrachi exhales. Across the crowd, people begin to sob.

Thirteen soldiers died Sunday, July 20 in a fierce battle in Gaza, but for Americans living in Israel, Carmeli and Los Angeles native Max Steinberg stood out. They were like us, kids who grew up in the U.S. but moved here for a feeling, an ethereal connection. Both were far from their families but, as Raanana Mayor Ze’ev Bielski said in his eulogy of Carmeli, they felt they had “got to the right place.”

Many of the tens of thousands who came to Haifa’s Sde Yehoshua military cemetery on Monday night were spurred on by social media, Israelis calling on each other to attend the funeral of a lone soldier who had little family here. Maccabi Haifa, Carmeli’s favorite soccer team, asked its fans on Facebook to “accompany him on his final road and represent us as one family.”

The eulogies they heard told a story many American Israelis could recognize: Carmeli’s high school principal recounting how he worked especially hard to catch up to his Israeli classmates. Mizrachi recalling how Carmeli would describe his parents in America to his friends in Israel, and his friends in Israel to his parents in America. Carmeli’s brother-in-law telling the crowd about how his house had become Carmeli’s second home, so far from the first.

And then there was the story’s sad ending.

“We miss you so much,” said Carmeli’s brother-in-law. “It will take awhile not to imagine you coming through the door, throwing your bags on the ground.”

So much of Israeli life is about remembering the fallen — the sirens on Yom Hazikaron, the monuments across Israeli cities, the shells of tanks on the road to Jerusalem. But we constantly push it out of our minds, focus on day-to-day life, return to our routines minutes after bomb sirens ring out.

“I always thought we’d grow up parallel to each other forever,” Mizrachi said. “I didn’t know forever would be cut so short.”

By time the honor guard fired the final salute, the crowd was already filing out of the cemetery, back to life in Israel.


Sean Carmeli and Rabbi Asher Hecht, of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, met in the Old City of Jerusalem in 2012, before Carmeli went into the army.

Sean Carmeli and Rabbi Asher Hecht, of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, met in the Old City of Jerusalem in 2012, before Carmeli went into the army.

Rio Grande Chabad rabbi remembers Sean Carmeli

By Vicki Samuels Levy
Jewish Herald Voice

The Jewish communities of both Lone Star States lost a treasure Sunday, July 20. IDF Sgt. Sean Carmeli, of South Padre Island, Texas, was killed in heavy fighting in a Gaza City neighborhood. Max Steinberg, a Los Angeles native who joined the Israel Defense Forces in 2012, also was killed during the same clashes with Hamas. The two were among 13 in the Golani Brigade who died.

“We lost a gem!” wrote Rabbi Asher Hecht of Sean Carmeli, in an email to the JHV. “We are devastated. The entire community is devastated,” the rabbi of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley Texas wrote. “Sean’s parents love for him knew no bounds. They were so proud of him.”

Rabbi Hecht spoke to one of Sean’s friends Sunday, who told the rabbi, “He was my older brother, my best friend, my everything. Sean wanted to live, he loved and appreciated life more than anyone. I need Sean now more than ever.”

“I share this sentiments,” wrote Rabbi Hecht, “and know that all who knew him feel the same.

“Our hearts go out to his parents, our dear friends, Alon and Dalya, and their dear daughters, Gal and Or. They lost their only son today. Their only brother. The vacuum left by this tragedy will never be filled. All we can do pray that G-d brings comfort to his family and all who mourn him.

“Sean will never be forgotten. He is a hero of the Jewish people. His legacy will live on in the good deeds, Torah and mitzvot that are done in his righteous memory.”

According to Rabbi Hecht: “Sean was a smart boy, very warm, compassionate and loved by all. He was a proud Jew. Sean attended our Chabad overnight camp, Camp Gan Israel-South Padre Island, from its first summer and all the summers following until he was too old for the program. He was such a great kid and a wonderful example to the other campers. He had a strong love for Judaism and for his fellow Jews. He had great energy, yet had a kind and gentle soul.

“Sean’s parents made the decision to move back to Israel, where he completed high school and went on to join the IDF, where he served with honor and distinction in the Golani Brigade.

“Growing up on South Padre Island, Sean did not have the opportunity to attend a Jewish school, yet just before it was time for him to enter the army, Sean made a decision to spend some time in a yeshiva. On a visit to Israel, my wife and I met up with Sean in the Old City of Jerusalem where he was studying, and he expressed to us just how excited and happy he was to be able to dedicate this important time in his life to study Torah, hoping that it would open his horizons and give him the right perspective before starting his army service and influence his life as a proud Jew.

“Alon and Dalya Carmeli are proud Jews and Israelis — loved by all in their community and beyond. They are supporters of Jewish life and education. They were involved with Camp Gan Israel-South Padre Island from its very beginning and went on to support the work of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley and the Jewish community of Shoova Israel on South Padre Island. Alon Carmeli purchased the community’s first Torah scroll and dedicated the synagogue in memory of his father-in-law, Nissim Buganim, after whom his son was named.”

Rabbi Hecht further described the Carmeli family: “It is a close and loving family. They have a warm and open home. Community is very important to them. On South Padre Island, they would host large Shabbat and holiday dinners for the whole community in their home. They also opened their home to Chabad’s Roving Rabbis and to myself and my wife in our first summers on the island.

“Sean Carmeli is a hero of the Jewish people. Like Rabbi Akiva before him, he gave his life to protect the survival of the Jewish people. G-d, please continue to watch over our soldiers and send us Moshiach!”

Rabbi Hecht’s email closed: “Sean, we will miss you forever — but, we will make sure that your sacrifice will never be forgotten. Baruch Dayan Emet — may G-d comfort the family.”

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United we stand

United we stand

Posted on 24 July 2014 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Please explain the period of the “three weeks” and what we’re supposed to learn from it?

I understand we’re supposed to be mourning over the Temple, but I feel pretty removed from what happened so long ago and need something concrete to work on in the here and now, if you know what I mean.

I appreciate any input you have on the matter.

— Marc

Dear Marc,

friedforweb2I understand what you mean, and I’m quite sure many Jews observing this period would share your sentiments. It is quite difficult, to say the least, to connect to a calamity that befell our people some 2,000 years ago. If today’s younger generation is feeling removed from the Holocaust which happened just more than 70 years ago with survivors still among us, how much more so would it be difficult to feel any connection at all to that which transpired so long ago!

In past years I have addressed similar questions with suggestions to read stories of the Holocaust, with the understanding that the destruction of the Temple was the predecessor of all future calamities of Jewish history. That is still valid, but I would like to make another suggestion.

The Talmud says that the second Temple and subsequent exile was in retribution for the sin of “sinas chinam,” or baseless hatred from one Jew to another. The Shechina, or Divine Presence of God, would not rest among the Jews when they are fighting with each other. The numerical value of the last word of the Shema: “Echad” is 13, the number of tribes of the Jews. God reveals himself to us as “Echad” when all 13 tribes are Echad: together, unified as one. When we split apart, the Echad of God, His Presence, eludes us.

As I wrote in the past two columns, an incredible awakening of “Echad” has transpired among the Jewish people in Israel since the kidnapping of the three boys. This unity has continued in many ways throughout the present campaign against the onslaught of missile attacks by the terrorists in Gaza. One need not look as far back as Temple days to connect to the Jewish nation being attacked simply for being Jews in their Homeland! Although it is unfortunate that sometimes it takes us being attacked to pull together, the fact is that the reaction of the Jewish people was and is to find our common denominator and unite as “Echad.”

I would like to share with you the following story:

“I work as a resource room teacher with children who have learning disabilities. A few years ago a young boy began taking lessons in my resource room. I could not figure out what had brought him to seek my help. He clearly had no difficulty with his lessons and did well on all his tests. Yet, time after time he consistently came to my resource room for his lessons. I was determined to find his area of weakness but, as hard as I tried, I could not find any type of learning disability or difficulty. Finally, out of frustration, I took him aside and told him I could not continue giving him lessons. It was a waste of his time and his parent’s hard earned money and he clearly did not need any sort of remedial help. The boy turned to me and said, ‘I will tell you why I am here but I am asking you not to tell anyone else. I have a friend with a learning disability. Our teacher told him that he needed remedial classes in the resource room. He was so embarrassed to be singled out as having to go to your classes. I told him that it was no big deal and that I also take remedial classes. That is why I come to you — so that my friend will not be embarrassed.’

“The boy who came to my class so as not to embarrass his friend was Gilad Shaar, (one of the 3 boys recently martyred). He was 10 years old at the time.

As we enter the difficult period of the three weeks, let us be inspired by Gilad and the other pure neshamas (souls) to look at those around us with an ayin tova (with a “good eye”) — to go out of our comfort zone to help others and to give that little extra of ourselves to bring joy to our fellow Jews.” Barbara Stern Hurwitz M.A., SAS, SDA, Special Education Instruction

Let us learn this invaluable lesson from Gilad ob’m and apply it to our own lives. Let’s come out of ourselves, showing unconditional love for our fellow Jews. This is what we should focus upon during these three weeks. If this would indeed happen, this may very well be our final three week period of mourning; it will become a time of rejoicing as we return to our Homeland with our final redemption!

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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