Archive | November, 2014

A model for thanks giving

A model for thanks giving

Posted on 20 November 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebAs Thanksgiving approaches, I anticipate being in New York, visiting with my sister, her daughters and her grandchildren. I haven’t been there in a long time, and the ending of a year that hasn’t been the kindest to me seems the right time.

I began serious anticipation of the holiday earlier this month at a quiet Celebration of World Thanksgiving in Dallas’ Biblical Arts Museum. Because of the city’s iconic Thanks-Giving Square, which opened in 1977, those closely affiliated with it (and prominent among them is our Jewish community’s own Rosie Stromberg) hold this thoughtful, intimate event annually to make a formal Declaration of World Thanksgiving. They recall the First Convocation of World Thanksgiving in 1981, at which Franz Cardinal Koenig of Austria put forth the challenge that’s been repeated here every year since: “Thanksgiving is a healing and uniting power in human life. This power can unite people, can bring different nations closer together.”

Thirty-three years later, it seems as if world nations are more divided than ever. Still, Peter Stewart, founder of this local Center for World Thanksgiving, was present at the 2014 Declaration to share some hopeful history. The Thanksgiving Square Foundation is the Texas nonprofit corporation that funds the Center’s efforts, both nationally and internationally as well as right here. While visitors from around the world come to see architect Philip Johnson’s stunning Chapel of Thanksgiving, the Center sponsors seminars and holds meetings across the globe, all dedicated to spreading the powerful potential of gratitude.

“As the world becomes smaller,” Cardinal Koenig said, “the points of contact become more numerous; social and economic interests intertwine; and people of different creeds, races and cultures become neighbors. If we thank together, regardless of barriers, we will be prepared to listen to thoughts of peace.” He concluded, “The more thanks giving becomes a social event, the more people will learn to diminish enmity and hatred. To the cancer of the world’s pessimism, universal Thanksgiving is the optimistic alternative.”

The 30 or so people present to hear the Declaration heard these few potent sentences read aloud by five individuals representing at least that many races, religions, cultures and points of personal origin. And I was lucky enough to be one of them. A sheet given to each attendee included the Cardinal’s text, centered by a reproduction of the color photo taken in 1996 at United Nations New York headquarters that shows then-Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali reading the same Annual Declaration of World Thanksgiving. In it, he is backgrounded by an array of religious and civic leaders, all standing in front of a huge mosaic version of famed Norman Rockwell’s multicultural illustration called “The Golden Rule.” In fact, it was the local Center that made it possible for the United States to present this artwork as a gift to the U.N. in 1985, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

Truth is, the uniting of nations seems like the impossible dream to many of us today; the shining hope at World War II’s 1945 end has much dimmed. But as we approach the U.N.’s 70th birthday, the Center for World Thanksgiving keeps on trying. It has sent a delegation to Barcelona, Spain, to make a presentation before the Parliament of World Religions on the mesmerizing architecture of Thanks-Giving Square. And it has brought to a gathering of the same organization’s in Melbourne, Australia, a powerful proposal that Dallas might one day host its international meeting here.

Earlier this year, the Rockwell mosaic was rededicated at U.N. headquarters. If you haven’t yet seen it there, a version awaits you at the park that is Thanks-Giving Square. And do visit the incredible spiral chapel with its inspiring stained glass windows. This would be a very good place to give your own thanks next Thursday, on Thanksgiving Day. From New York, my thoughts and prayers will be with you. All said, I still have much to be thankful for.

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Dallas JWV hosts Thanksgiving meal for homeless vets

Dallas JWV hosts Thanksgiving meal for homeless vets

Posted on 20 November 2014 by admin

The Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 of the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) hosted its 18th Thanksgiving lunch for 250 homeless veterans at the VA Resource Center Thursday, Nov. 13.

The feast began at 11:30 a.m. after a brief ceremony that included reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem, along with the JVW Color Guard. Members of the JWV and the JWV auxiliary served the meal.

This year’s menu included 50 turkeys, 35 pumpkin pies and all of the fixings like mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls and gravy. The group raised $2,500 to put on the meal and volunteers organized the entire event.

Members of the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 of the JWV serve a Thanksgiving meal to homeless veterans for the 18th year in a row Nov. 13. | Photos: Rachel Gross

Members of the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 of the JWV serve a Thanksgiving meal to homeless veterans for the 18th year in a row Nov. 13. | Photos: Rachel Gross

Serving food at the luncheon are, from left, Howard Weinberg, Jeanie Tolmas, Sunny Schor, Jean Jacobs, Shelley Byers, Ellen Feibel and Past Post Commander Dick Leathe.

Serving food at the luncheon are, from left, Howard Weinberg, Jeanie Tolmas, Sunny Schor, Jean Jacobs, Shelley Byers, Ellen Feibel and Past Post Commander Dick Leathe.

Pictured from left are Jule Bovis, Leon Rubenstein and Harry Kabler, members of the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Dallas Post 256 of the Jewish War veterans.

Pictured from left are Jule Bovis, Leon Rubenstein and Harry Kabler, members of the Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Dallas Post 256 of the Jewish War veterans.

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Around the Town

Posted on 20 November 2014 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

‘Two Minutes of Traditions’

Rabbi Andrew Bloom will share excerpts from his new book, “Two Minutes of Traditions,” at a wine and chesse reception at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 20, in the Brachman Parlor at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, 4050 South Hulen Street.

The event is hosted by the shul gift shop and books ($11) will be available for purchase.

To R.S.V.P, call the synagogue office at 817-731-4721.

Art by Soviet émigré on exhibit

An art exhibit featuring the colorful still-life canvases of Izakil Goldin, a Soviet émigré from the détente era, is on display at Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth.

Born in the Berezino, Belarus, 1936, Goldin developed his skills with a paint brush late in life. As a boy growing up in during WWII and amid anti-Semitism, canvas, paints, and even paper were beyond his family’s means. An artist at heart, he wrote Russian poetry and played the mandolin by ear, yet in school his teachers steered him toward science. As an adult, he worked as a lab technician testing properties of cement.

In 1974, the U.S. Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik Amendment which pressured the Soviets to loosen up on emigration. The USSR relaxed its visa policy toward Jews and embraced an era of détente. In 1979, Goldin, his wife, Lora, and their 6-year-old son, Jay, immigrated to the United States, settling in Richmond, Virginia, where they had extended family.

The city’s Jewish Family Services helped Goldin land a job as a lab technician with Philip Morris analyzing tobacco. In his spare time, he began painting landscapes and still lifes. He took art classes at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. His paintings were exhibited in several juried art shows.

In 2011, Izakil and Lora moved to Fort Worth, where their son lives, and joined Beth-El. Goldin’s paintings, which will be on display in the Beth-El board room through Thanksgiving, are for sale, with 30 percent of the price a donation to the Religious School.

The artist describes his style as Realism, showing subject matter truthfully without artificiality or artistic convention. Most of his works feature bright, exhilarating colors. The artist may be reached via email at lora5020@att.net

The tradition of a designated “art space” at the temple dates back to the early 1900s when a corner of the parlor at the old synagogue became a rotating space to showcase fine art by members of the local Jewish community.

Many thanks to Hollace Weiner for submitting the above item.

Ahavath Sholom Showtimes Film Festival will screen ‘The Tailor of Panama’ Sunday

The Ahavath Sholom Showtimes Film Festival will screen its second entry of the season “The Tailor of Panama” at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23. The film is free and open to the community.

A moving and provocative tale of life in another culture, the film is set amid the controversy of the handover of the Panama Canal from America to Panama in late 1999. This espionage thriller follows a seductive British spy played by Pierce Brosnan who has found himself recently banished to Panama. In a tailor shop he meets an interesting guy played by Geoffrey Rush.

The film also features Jamie Lee Curtis, Catherine McCormack, David Hayman, and young Daniel Radcliffe.

Vicky and Sal Mitrani will lead the post-film discussion. They moved to the U.S. from Cuba, and have been through the experiences of living a Jewish life in another culture, then moving on to the United States.

The 2014-2015 SHOWTIMES Series films have been carefully chosen to interest everyone. There is no cost, the films are Ahavath Sholom’s gift to the community and the popcorn and cold drinks are complimentary. A special “Thank You” to the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for supporting our CAS 2014-2015 Showtimes Film Series.

Thank you to the Showtimes committee members Liz Chesser, Hedy Collins, Kim Goldberg, Stephen Karten, Lisa Laudato, Foster Owen, Jane Guzman Pawgan, Debby Rice, Reggie Rog, Jayna Sosland, Jim Stansbury, Sheila Stocker, Roz Vaden, Men’s Club President Sonny Brister and Cong. Ahavath Sholom President Ebi Lavi.

For more information please call Congregation Ahavath Sholom at 817-731-4721.

Get your Mah Jongg card and help Hadassah in the process

Barbara Weinberg tells me that she has begun taking orders for 2015 “mahj” cards. Proceeds from the sales will benefit Hadassah. Last year, $285 was raised from the sale of cards.

Regular cards are $8 and large print are $9. Please send order and a check payable to Barbara at Barbara Weinberg, 4600 Westlake Drive Fort Worth, TX, 76132. Deadline for orders is Jan. 15, 2015.

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Dallas Doings

Dallas Doings

Posted on 13 November 2014 by admin

By Linda Wisch Davidsohn

Szyk exhibit opens at DHM/CET

When Hitler invaded Poland, caricaturist and activist Arthur Szyk was drawn to action. His pen became a weapon against hatred and injustice.

Szyk was a proud Polish-Jew and later, became a proud American. He was an incredibly talented artist who could create finely detailed and elegant “medieval” Jewish art as well as political and satirical caricatures — which he produced the moment Nazi boots stepped onto Polish soil. He expressed his feelings with an energetic palette of dramatic color and the use of exaggerated features to humiliate the people he despised and to glorify those he wanted to portray as heroic or powerful.

“Art is not my aim; it is my means,” Szyk proclaimed. His artwork became his way of participating in the war against the Nazis and the Axis powers. He was on a mission, literally, “to alert and inform the Americans about the gravity of the situation in Europe.” Eleanor Roosevelt described him as “a one-man army” for the Allied cause.

Ever an activist, his later artwork allowed him to become a voice against Jim Crow, the KKK and lynching.

The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance will inaugurate the Szyk exhibit with an opening reception at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. The reception is entitled: “Drawn to Action: The Life and Work of Arthur Szyk.”

RSVPs are required and there is still time. Please contact rsvp@dallasholocaustmuseum.org.

Presenting partners of the exhibit are Kathy and Harlan Crow and the Gregg and Michelle Phillipson Collection and Archive. Gregg Phillipson will share his thoughts about the collection following the reception. The exhibit will be on display at the museum through Jan. 31, 2014.

Congregation Beth Torah’s 40th birthday celebration

Good wishes to Congregation Beth Torah as it celebrated its 40th birthday Saturday night, Nov. 1 with a party at the Richardson synagogue. Mark Kreditor, who is Beth Torah’s artist-in-residence, set the tone for the evening with a bravura performance combining nostalgia, hilarious song parodies and enthusiasm for the next 40 years.

Rabbi Elana Zelony and Congregation Beth Torah President Alan Hoffman at the synagogue’s 40th anniversary celebration Nov. 1. | Photo: DSPN photography/David Duchin

Rabbi Elana Zelony and Congregation Beth Torah President Alan Hoffman at the synagogue’s 40th anniversary celebration Nov. 1. | Photo: DSPN photography/David Duchin

A crowd of more than 300 attended the celebration. Rabbi Elana Zelony unveiled another talent as she accompanied Kreditor on the harmonica. Entertainment by Paul Utay’s jazz band kept the crowd dancing well into the night.

Shearith’s Weitzman Family Religious School helps wounded Israeli soldiers

Sixteen-hundred soldiers were wounded in operation Protective Edge, or Tzuk Eitan as it is called in Hebrew. Most of the soldiers have returned to their daily lives; however, many are still fighting to rebuild. Fifty-four soldiers have not been released from hospitals and many others attend daily rehabilitation sessions at various hospitals.

During the summer, when the operation was in progress, families from the Shearith Israel religious school responded generously to an appeal to donate money for packages to send to the soldiers. Since the war was over before there was chance to send anything, an observation was made that for many of Israel’s wounded soldiers a different “war” was still taking place. A decision was made to help those rehabbing.

Rosh Hashanah cards from Congregation Shearith Israel’s Weitzman Religious School students cheered wounded Israeli solidier Nimrod Mugzach. | Photo: Courtesy of Dina Eliezer

Rosh Hashanah cards from Congregation Shearith Israel’s Weitzman Religious School students cheered wounded Israeli solidier Nimrod Mugzach. | Photo: Courtesy of Dina Eliezer

Religious School Director Dina Eliezer and her team reached out to Nimrod Mugzach, a paratrooper in a commando unit, who fought in Chan Uness in Gaza and who was seriously wounded. Eliezer said that “Nimrod is the son of a childhood friend of mine, and throughout his three weeks’ ICU stay, I followed his progress daily.” Nimrod lost his commander and two other friends in that battle, is in rehabilitation and in touch with other soldiers from his unit and other units as well.

On Rosh Hashanah, Shearith students sent greetings to Nimrod and his friends and with the money collected over the summer, were able to contribute to the creation of a recreation center at The Levinstein Hospital — a rehabilitation center located in Ra’anana. The rehabilitation center is a unique one in Israel and one of the leading rehabilitation centers in the world that serves Israeli soldiers who were wounded in the last operation and other wars as well. Funds collected from the religious school families will go toward purchasing video game equipment and a billiard table.

After receiving the cards, Nimrod sent a message to Shearith students:

“Shalom Dina and students,

Thanks for your Encouragement letters. It warmed our hearts. It was our duty to protect our country and citizens. I feel better now as you may see in the picture. I will pass the letters to other soldiers in my unit.

Nimrod — paratrooper commando unit.”

Temple Shalom annual charity golf tournament reports

The Temple Shalom 13th annual charity golf tournament “Fore The Kids” definitely had luck on its side since a day that began as a dark, rainy morning with skies filled with lightning and thunder turned out to be not only a beautiful day, but also perfect golf weather. More than 100 players joined together for an afternoon of golf, Monday, Oct. 6, followed by a special award ceremony and cocktail reception. Congratulations to first place team winners: Bo Bond, Larry Silverman, David Lynn and Mark Fishkind!

“As Co-Chair with my friend James Bier, we were really pleased with the turnout and the beautiful day of golf at the Honors Golf Club. Both James and I appreciate the dedication and hard work of our committee members and volunteers who helped make this day so successful. We would also like to express our appreciation for our sponsors who helped raise funds for Temple Shalom youth and for Snowball Express. What a wonderful organization run by a great group of selfless people,” exclaimed Co-Chair Ken Braswell. This was the second year that Temple Shalom partnered with Snowball Express, and the partnership is getting stronger each year.

“I think the golf tournament is a great example of what is so special about Temple Shalom; namely that even and perhaps especially when we are having fun, we make sure we are thinking of others in our midst who need a little bit of help,” explained Rabbi Andrew Paley. “I am proud that Temple Shalom has endeavored to work with Snowball Express to help the children and families of veterans to give to them the support they need after giving so much to all of us. I am thankful to the dedicated volunteers for making this happen in such a profound and important way.”

Sponsors making this day event possible were: Platinum Sponsors — Decker Mechanical, Gardere, Paul and Raelaine Radnitz; Gold Sponsors — American Airlines, Apollo Staffing, EandJ Gallo Winery, Elbit Systems, Funk Construction, Ed and Janet Ostrovitz, RM LLC;Silver Sponsors — Barry and Paddy Epstein, McGlinchey Stafford, Munn and Morris Financial Advisors, Stromberg Stock, Harv and Jolene Weisblat; Bronze Sponsors — Arbitrage Funds, Bob and Robbe Epstein, David Weekley Homes, Frost Bank, Kenny Goldberg, Janus Funds, Pioneer Funds, Thornburg Investment Mgmt., Waldman Bros; In-Kind and Other Donations — Caesars Entertainment, Cantrell and Associates, Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, Gray Jones Insurance Group, Herrada Printing, JPMorgan Funds, Lord Abbett, Oppenheimer Funds, Randy Goldman, SEL Sportwear, Sewell, Debbi and Ralph Sorrentino, SPG Vending, Texas Jewish Post, Touchstone Investments, and Transamerica.

Plans are already in the works for the 2015 tournament. If you would like to be a sponsor or volunteer, please contact Ken Braswell at kbraswell1@sbcglobal.net.

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Around the Town

Around the Town

Posted on 13 November 2014 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Now that our No. 1 son is a sophomore in Aggieland, I feel as though I am a veteran of the college shopping process. We were fortunate that Benjamin had many choices. As he mulled over his decision on where to matriculate, a chief consideration was the strength of the Hillel on campus.

Regardless of where your child goes to school and the number of Jewish students on any particular campus, a Jewish gathering place and reference point such as Hillel is vital.

This weekend, the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with financial support from the Dan Danciger-Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation will present a Hillel High School Fair at 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16 at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road.

Among the schools participating are University of Texas at Austin, University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M University, University of North Texas, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Houston, Rice University and Texas Christian University. For more information visit tarrantfederation.org.

TOP LEFT: Tot Shabbat at Congregation Beth Israel TOP RIGHT: Havdallah at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Shira and Rabbi Zimelman BOTTOM LEFT: Saturday morning at Congregation Beth Shalom, Shira and Cantor Sheri Allen BOTTOM RIGHT: Havdallah at Congregation Ahavath Sholom

TOP LEFT: Tot Shabbat at Congregation Beth Israel
TOP RIGHT: Havdallah at Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Shira and Rabbi Zimelman
BOTTOM LEFT: Saturday morning at Congregation Beth Shalom, Shira and Cantor Sheri Allen
BOTTOM RIGHT: Havdallah at Congregation Ahavath Sholom

ShirLaLa entertains

Last weekend, the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County hosted Shira Kline as the artist in residence for the community. Shira, aka ShirLaLa, traversed Tarrant County, making appearances at Beth Israel, Beth Shalom, Ahavath Sholom and Beth-El.

An award winning New York-based performer and Jewish music educator, The Jewish Week recently selected Shira as one of 2011’s “36 Under 36, The New ReEngineers” of Jewish life. She travels across the country and internationally delivering a dynamic, interactive program of joy and spirit, story and song.

Raised in the world of Jewish music and the tradition of Torah, Shira has worked for over a decade with a diverse array of Jewish communities to enliven rituals, holiday celebrations, and love for Jewish life and prayer. She blends words, story, and music to create a rich experience for children and adults alike.

This event was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with financial support from the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation.

B’nai B’rith annual senior luncheon, 11 a.m., Nov. 20

Don’t forget next Thursday is the annual Thanksgiving luncheon sponsored by the Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith. RSVP to 817-569-0898.

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Whole Foods Preston Forest: Take a whirl around for expanded kosher offerings

Whole Foods Preston Forest: Take a whirl around for expanded kosher offerings

Posted on 13 November 2014 by admin

By Rachel Gross

Whole Foods market has always had a wide array of kosher items from snacks, to cheese, lox, vitamins, wine and much more. Through a new partnership with Dallas Kosher, it is expanding its offerings for the community.

All DK certified items are designated with a sticker. | Photo: Richard Rodriguez

All DK certified items are designated with a sticker. | Photo: Richard Rodriguez

The partnership is underway with the Preston Forest location in North Dallas, which is in a heavily Jewish area at the border of the South eruv. There are now blue labels around the store signifying which products are kosher. In addition, there is an assortment of kosher pre-sliced fruits and vegetables and fresh juice.

Store Team Leader Russell Husted, who recently took on this position, said part of his plan is to highlight the kosher products.

“We wanted to reach out to the community the best we could,” he said. “We have a lot of Jewish guests and I wanted to make sure this would be a one-stop shop for them. The blue kosher labels are part of our marketing strategy. We wanted to highlight not only the products that are kosher, but also put our standards in place, which are value and not having fats or preservatives in our food.”

Preston Forest Whole Foods Store Team Leader Russell Husted and Dallas Kosher Executive Director Miranda Winer display some of the new fresh kosher offerings at the store. | Photo: Rachel Gross

Preston Forest Whole Foods Store Team Leader Russell Husted and Dallas Kosher Executive Director Miranda Winer display some of the new fresh kosher offerings at the store. | Photo: Rachel Gross

And there is much more this location plans to do, Husted said. In addition to the Whole Foods 365 brand that’s already kosher, he hopes to soon have a kosher coffee bar, along with getting prepackaged poultry and meat products, challah and an expanded bakery. They would also like to host different kosher events at the store.

Husted believes there is potential in many areas and is excited to work with Dallas Kosher to continue developing the kosher market. This location is the only one in the region currently working with Dallas Kosher in this way.

Dallas Kosher board member Carole Wolanow helped champion this partnership. She said she is pleased with how quickly everything has come to fruition, along with the willingness of Husted and the rest of the team to make it happen.

“I will do more shopping there now because of the relationship with the management,” she said. “They have bent over backward and are so excited about the partnership; they are proud of what they have done. This is such big news for the community. It’s been a real blessing and mitzvah for me to step forward and help with this. Even with all of the kosher food that’s been there for a while, it’s been a secret and that secret is now out of the box.”

There are myriad fresh cut-up fruits and vegetables available. | Photo: Richard Rodriguez

There are myriad fresh cut-up fruits and vegetables available. | Photo: Richard Rodriguez

Education has been a vital part of this entire process too, according to Miranda Winer, executive director of Dallas Kosher. There were training sessions with the Whole Foods staff and Dallas Kosher rabbis, a standard operating procedure was developed to inform the team and new equipment was purchased so the kosher fruits and vegetables can be prepared on-site.

All of the Whole Foods staff members are equipped with Dallas Kosher symbol cards so they can help customers in that area when needed.

“It’s all about intention at Whole Foods. The shoppers are intentional and come to Whole Foods for a reason,” Winer said. “Kosher is all about intention too, so that’s why this is such a good matchup. This store is definitely unique. This partnership is useful for this store because they are in the Jewish neighborhood and for our kosher consumers, this is a very central location. This is an incredible partnership and the staff at this store has been so willing and excited to do this. There is a real buzz.”

Kosher vitamins are also designated. | Photo: Richard Rodriguez

Kosher vitamins are also designated. | Photo: Richard Rodriguez

Winer said this is the beginning of something very exciting for Whole Foods and the entire Jewish community. She is looking forward to seeing what else can be done.

Both Winer and Husted have received positive feedback from people about the changes. Listening to the community is part of what has made this partnership so successful from the beginning, Husted said, and is what will continue to elevate Whole Foods’ service.

According to Husted, serving customers is the ultimate goal and assisting the Jewish community in this way is an added bonus.

“This partnership with Dallas Kosher is what sets us apart and makes us special,” Husted added. “As the competition has tried to catch up with us, we have always tried new and innovative ways to stay on top and this is another way we will continue to do that. We want to give the best service we can and this is that step in the right direction. We are very excited about this and so is the Jewish community. That’s what makes this partnership such a good fit.”

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Telushkin delivers in person at Bookfest

Telushkin delivers in person at Bookfest

Posted on 13 November 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebBefore our Jewish community’s BookFest presented Joseph Telushkin Nov. 4, I talked with several people who had already read the esteemed rabbi/writer’s “Rebbe,” detailing the life and teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, who led Chabad Lubavitch to today’s worldwide prominence. All gave it praise, although some were disappointed in what they felt was a dearth of warm-and-fuzzy anecdotal material, a sort of missing “tam” in this compilation of almost 600 pages —massive as books go today.

But Telushkin, a masterful speaker on all subjects, brought this important one to life in his local appearance, evoking rapt attention accompanied by much laughter. What might have seemed cold between covers came across as a human love-fest, and while we listened we could all feel the great Rebbe’s concerns and kindnesses.

As a journalist and writer, I was especially attuned to Telushkin’s emphasis on the importance that Schneerson always attached to individual words. Most especially, and an excellent example of this concern, was the Rebbe’s refusal to call the time limit on anything a “deadline.” That, he believed, connoted actual death. His preferred term was “due date,” which we all know is ever looking ahead, in anticipation of new life. His attitude always encouraged forward movement, and this was reflected in the Rebbe’s way of speaking. “Where never was heard a discouraging word” could refer in solid fact to the Brooklyn enclave that was this powerful man’s headquarters, just as well as — perhaps even more so than — that ephemeral, musical “Home on the Range.”

Whoever said that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me” was wrong (Dead wrong, although the Rebbe would certainly not have put it just that way). Name-calling is at the heart of today’s epidemic of bullying in schools, and whole campaigns have been organized to stop it. The Rebbe just wanted each person to be the best of whatever he or she could be, and to be accepted as such; a successful street-sweeper’s work was as satisfying to him as an eminent scholar’s academic output. He would sometimes refuse to grant approval of something for which one of his followers sought permission, but his way of saying “no” was never demeaning or hurtful. He personalized, truly seeking the path to maximum accomplishment and self-fulfillment for every individual.

I was glad that Telushkin mentioned another great rebbe of our time, Abraham Twerski, who is also a practicing psychiatrist with emphasis on — and great success in treating — young substance abusers. In his office, there is no wastebasket. He’ll often hand a new patient a candy bar and encourage the boy or girl to eat it. Then comes the crumpling up of the wrapper and the inevitable question: “Where should I put this?” To which Twerski will say, matter-of-factly, “Why not eat it?” Just as inevitably, the youngster is shocked by this reply, but Rabbi Dr. Twerski always explains, just as matter-of-factly, “You know you are too good to eat that. So why don’t you realize that you’re also too good to put that [insert here whatever substance is the problem] into your body?” The lightbulb that goes on illuminates the path to healing.

Twerski is my all-time favorite Jewish writer, and his “Generation to Generation,” about growing up in the house of his father, a dynastic rebbe in the Schneerson mold, is my all-time favorite Jewish book. It’s a personal memoir shot through with stories from our tradition as well as those originating in Twerski’s own family. I am rereading its far less than 600 pages as I simultaneously read Rabbi Telushkin’s newest book, where I’ve already found many newly revealed insights.

We’ve all come to know Joseph Telushkin as our quintessential religious expert since the 1991 publication of his seminal volume, “Jewish Literacy.” I can see from “Rebbe” that he is equally exceptional as biographer of “the most influential rabbi in modern history.”

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Responding to questions about the conversion process

Responding to questions about the conversion process

Posted on 13 November 2014 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Thank you for your very direct and brave response to the sad and ugly allegations against a rabbi in Washington, D.C., and that you didn’t shy away from taking it straight on. There has been a very different, but, I believe, additional response from one of that rabbi’s converts, Bethany Mandel, in which she has drawn up a “Bill of Rights for Jewish converts.” In this piece, she outlines 10 issues which face conversion candidates or those in the process, claiming they are afraid of the rabbis, feel victimized, threatened and judged. I, personally, think she’s right on, and have heard similar claims from women in the process. If you haven’t seen this yet, you can look up her piece and numerous responses online. Are you involved in conversion and what is your opinion on what she claims?

— Brittany K.

Dear Brittany,

friedforweb2As the chairman of the Dallas Conversion Court (Orthodox), and the author of a comprehensive work on conversion to Judaism, I have given much thought to the questions Ms. Mandel raises. I believe her claims are honest expressions of her genuine feelings during her conversion process and also the journeys of those with whom she has spoken. Some of her comments are truly thought-provoking points which should awaken any rabbi involved in this process to re-think how our candidates feel during this very difficult and stressful time. A number of points she raises, such as the feeling of persistent limbo, have been on my mind for years and is an on-going discussion between our rabbis and the candidates. I am saddened by the lack of empathy and level of insensitivity which she describes in certain communities and with certain rabbis, and am glad that much of that, as far as I can see, does not exist or not at that level here in Dallas; although I believe all of us can always do better.

As we are limited by space, I will address this Ms. Mandel’s first point. She complains that during their process prospective converts are not told how long it will take, keeping them in a constant state of limbo in many areas of life. She describes the psychological torture of not knowing if it will take days, months or years and nobody to answer that question, putting lives on hold for dating, marriage, jobs and the like for an indeterminate period of time.

I, personally, don’t know of any reputable conversion court that keeps its candidates in the dark to the tune of not knowing if it will take days, months or years! That is not to say there aren’t some insensitive rabbis out there who may be doing so, which would, indeed, be deplorable. We inform a new candidate that the process will probably take around two years, give or take a few months. Ms. Mandel claims that a candidate deserves at least a rough estimate, and that we do provide. At the same time we also explain to the candidates that they will need to have patience and fortitude, because the candidates will nearly always feel they are ready before the court feels the same.

This is a process that does not lend itself to pre-arranged, specific dates of completion. It is also not a graduation from a course that grants automatic rights to finish the process upon completion of a certain course of study. This goes to the crux of the process and what conversion is in traditional Jewish thought. What is the conversion process?

It is the belief of traditional Judaism that when one converts, he or she is not the same person as before with, simply a new commitment to a new belief system. The traditional sources of Jewish law and thought teach that when a gentile converts to Judaism they actually become a new person and are endowed with a Jewish soul. For this to happen they not only learn the material necessary to conduct themselves in a new way of life, they need to undergo a complete transformation. They need to become a worthy receptacle to be sanctified with a Jewish soul and become linked to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and thousands of years of Jewish tradition. For this reason no two people are alike, no two people study at the same rate or can go through this transformation based on a pre-arranged set time. It needs to be a natural, unpretentious and wholesome process of inner change, and is very individualistic.

All that being said, Ms. Mandel’s point is well-taken, not to change the process itself, but for the rabbis to focus more on communication with the candidates and giving them the opportunity to express their frustrations with the difficulties of being in this state, and providing more helpful and comforting guidance.

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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The gift of dinner together

The gift of dinner together

Posted on 13 November 2014 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2Many who read “The Shabbat Lady” tell me that they have learned much about Judaism and Jewish practice from a practical perspective. The challenge is to integrate our Jewish knowledge and practice with our parenting. We are not Jewish only on Shabbat or holidays or at the synagogue — our Jewish self pervades all parts of our life.

A new book for all parents happens to be written by Jewish author Miriam Weinstein. “The Surprising Power of Family Meals — How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier” is filled with studies and stories of how eating together makes a difference.

“It shows how eating ordinary, average everyday supper with your family is strongly linked to lower incidence of bad outcomes such as teenage drug and alcohol use, and to good qualities like emotional stability. It correlates with kindergarteners being better prepared to learn to read. Regular family supper helps keep asthmatic kids out of hospitals. It discourages both obesity and eating disorders. It supports your staying more connected to your extended family, your ethnic heritage, your community of faith. It will help children and families to be more resilient, reacting positively to those curves and arrows that life throws our way.”

So what do we take from this into our Jewish homes? We have the perfect model with Shabbat dinner — it has wonderful rituals and it is an evening without rush. However, one night a week may be a great start but it is not enough. Dinner together must be a regular thing for the magic to work and it is easy to put the “Jewish layer” on top of the time together in order to integrate your Judaism and your parenting.

Weinstein explains the importance of ritual and we have wonderful rituals that can be part of the experiences our children take with them when they leave the dinner table. First, our memories of the foods we eat are the first part of transmitting our culture. We can also add a blessing before and after — blessings are an integral part of Judaism that teach the value of being thankful for all we have. Another part of our Jewish heritage is talk — sharing ideas — arguing points of view — respecting the contribution of every person.

It is never too late or too early to start your family dinner habit. I’m sure your family is busy, so begin by making the food part easy — it is the being together that is important. The next step is creating the method for talk — for many of us it comes easy when we take the time, but a simple technique is to have each family member talk about something that happened that day. Everyone gets a turn and everyone is listened to. Do this and it will make a difference to your children. Give the gift of time to your family!

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.

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

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A simple thank you will do

A simple thank you will do

Posted on 06 November 2014 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

grossforwebMy hometown, Pittsburgh, is known for many things, among them — pancakes!

Pamela’s is the place (actually, several locations now); it received the official hechsher when President Obama invited Pamela herself to make her specialty — dinner-plate-size thin, lacy cakes topped with powdered sugar — at the White House.

When I visit, I always meet a cousin for Sunday morning breakfast at Pamela’s. My recent trip was no exception.

Donna was a bit later than usual, so while I waited and looked around at the usual huge crowd, I noticed a couple of elderly men talking over pancakes and coffee at a small table for two. Both were wearing U.S. service caps: one, World War II veteran; the other, Korean War vet.

One of the people I visited with during this recent trip was my last living uncle, my mother’s youngest brother, who is now 92 years old. He has an assortment of caps proudly proclaiming his service in the Army Air Corps — the designation prior to today’s U.S. Air Force.

Another relative I spent time with is a cousin in his late 70s who served in Korea.

So of course I had to walk over to these men and interrupt their breakfast and conversation. (I guess that’s me: no hesitation about approaching strangers. But I think I actually got that from my growing up in Pittsburgh, where people have no hesitancy about such things. Meddling? Maybe. But it’s always sincere.)

I asked the WWII vet in what branch he had served, and where. He said he’d been in the Signal Corps first, later in Infantry, and had seen action all across Europe.

I told him that my uncle was a bomber mechanic, first in Africa, then in Italy. He had even asked for permission, and received it, to fly on three missions over Germany and release the bombs himself; he did this in memory of his grandmother, Brucha Roth, who in the early days of Hitler’s regime had been taken out behind the barn of her family’s little farm on the Austria-Poland border and shot dead by the Nazis, just for being Jewish.

My uncle always wears one of his caps, and as the number of World War II veterans decreases, the volume of thank-yous for their service increases exponentially.

He’s a beneficiary of this phenomenon: every once in a while, he tells me, he’ll go to pay his check in a restaurant and find out it’s already been taken care of by another diner. No name. No fuss. Just a simple, special act of thanks. A tribute to a certain kind of heroism, because every one of those youngsters who served our country and the world and has survived to old age is today’s living hero.

So of course I decided that I’d buy Pamela’s pancakes for these two men. I figured I could just do it quietly, but when I went to the register and told the cashier that I’d like to pick up their breakfast tab, she went over to the vets’ table, literally picked up their check, and handed it directly to me right in front of them.

“Why are you doing this?” one of them asked. And I said, “Because you’ve done a lot for our country. So has my uncle, and he’s lived long enough to do a lot for me. This is sort of my way of ‘paying it forward.’”

Can you guess the response? “Are you Jewish?” was the question I got. When I said yes, both of them were happy to tell me that they are too.

And then I remembered what I’d learned from all my uncles who served, all of whom but one are gone now: that being Jewish in the Army, the Navy, the Air Corps, the Merchant Marine, at that time of overt American anti-Semitism wasn’t always a piece of cake — and certainly not a Pamela’s pancake!

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