Archive | March, 2016

Russian force ‘withdraw’ step in Putin’s grand plan

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

On March 14, Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, declaring their campaign “a success.”
Within hours, aircraft and crews were observed departing from Khmeimim Air Base, near the northern city of Latakia. Since then, the media has been buzzing with speculation on the reasons for this “unexpected” move. Much of the speculation is dead wrong.
Let me be as clear as I can: There is no Russian withdrawal from Syria, but rather a highly publicized drawdown of a few combat aircraft from the Russian-built Khmeimim Air Base. Putin simply moved a few pieces on the board, without changing a thing.
This gambit is more about perceptions than military reality. It constitutes a political reframing of Russia’s mission in order to solidify Russia’s long-term military footprint in northwestern Syria … while convincing the citizens at home that the campaign is “over.”
Pun’s statement is another successful domestic and international publicity coup, which had nothing to do with how Russia leaves Syria … but rather how it stays — permanently.
In a widely broadcast video of Putin instructing Russian Defense Minister Shoigu and Foreign Minister Lavrov to “start” withdrawal, he orders that Russia’s large existing bases in Tartus (Navy) and Khmeimim (Air Force) will continue to operate at present levels. In addition, Russia’s defense minister is to make sure that they are fully defended from land, sea, and air.
Putin emphasized that the very advanced S-400 long-range anti-aircraft missiles, along with shorter-range systems, will remain in place. Russia’s main military bases will continue operations: with naval cover, a ground contingent for “force protection,” and an unknown number of troops still on the ground advising Syrian forces.
While Russia is withdrawing Su-25 strike aircraft and Su-34 bombers, it’s leaving Su-24 bombers and Mi-24 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, as well as Su-30SM and Su-35 multirole fighters. These aircraft continue to operate over Syria, having conducted strikes in recent days in support of Syrian army efforts to retake Palmyra from ISIS.
According to the Russian webpage “Sputnik”: “Nearly 20 Russian combat aircraft, an air defense system and some 2,000 personnel will stay at Khmeimim air base in Syria, including a squadron of Su-24 tactical bombers that during the main stage of the campaign conducted most of the airstrikes.”
The newest Su-30 and ‘Generation4+++’ Su-35 fighters will also stay at the Khmeimim air base for “aerial protection.”
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov stated that intense combat operations will continue against ISIS and al-Nusra Front, in support of Assad’s advancing troops.
So far, Russia’s naval squadron has shown no sign of leaving the eastern Mediterranean, and there is no evidence of any significant withdrawal of tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers (APCs), troops or support units.
In other words, what is happening is a partial drawdown of forces that were surged into Syria after the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 by Turkey in November 2015.
With Russia keeping control of the Khmeimim air base and continuing to expand and harden the Tartus naval base, the permanent Navy and Air Force military infrastructure is actually expanding. The fighters and bombers that were withdrawn can easily be returned on short notice. Nothing is leaving that cannot come back within days.
So why declare a withdrawal now? Keeping and maintaining equipment and personnel in Syria has never been expensive for Russia. On the contrary, the operation has provided an invaluable training, testing and military hardware showcasing opportunity.
Declaring victory and announcing that (some) Russian forces are going home serves Putin in several ways:
It gives him political leverage with Assad in the current Geneva peace talks: Putin wants Assad to accept a compromise at the talks, and abandon any ambitions to reconquer all of Syria. If Syria breaks the cease-fire, or obstructs negotiations, Assad cannot know for certain that Russia will support him.
Since his domestic Russian audience is even more important to Putin than Syria’s future, he had to cash in politically on Russia’s recent military ”successes” before any further complications can occur. By declaring victory and calling an end to the operation, he locked in his gains in both domestic and international public opinion, regardless of what comes out of the cease-fire or peace negotiations, bumping his approval ratings at home.
Putin is using this declaration to recast the military operations in Syria as a “traditional” military “presence,” thus “normalizing” it for his domestic audience. Putin said it in plain Russian: The military presence moving forward will be considered Russia’s traditional footprint in Syria, and not an ongoing operation.
Putin’s March 14 announcement was never about how Russia leaves Syria, but rather about how it stays to secure its Middle East interests. Putin is betting that Russian voters and the international community will accept Russian permanent military presence in Syria as the new “normal.” … And that is Putin’s “Long Game” in Syria.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: gil@swjc.org.

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Heritage revealed, speaker to discuss self-discovery

Heritage revealed, speaker to discuss self-discovery

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

Zsuzsa Fritz

By Ben Tinsley
bent@tjpnews.com


DALLAS — Zsuzsa Fritz, whose family in Hungary concealed her Jewish identity until her father’s death when she was 16, has an amazing story to tell.
Fritz will be the March 29 guest speaker at the Lion Pomegranate Lunch ’n Learn event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
Growing up, Fritz’s family kept her heritage a secret — even from her — for many, many years. They worried she could never advance in communist Hungary if openly Jewish.
But then her father died, and she realized at his highly traditional funeral that she was, indeed, Jewish.
This realization would sweep her away into an adventure of education and self-discovery. She would eventually become one of the founding board members of the Haver Foundation, which provides education about Judaism and the Holocaust in public schools across Hungary.
The March 29 program during which Fritz will speak is titled “Jewish Revival Inside Budapest.”
Fritz’s ascent to leadership in the Hungarian Jewish community is said to be reflective of the story of Hungarian Jewry since the fall of Communism.
Laurie Judson, a co-chair for the event, said the guest speaker’s reputation precedes her.
“I have heard she is fabulous,” Judson said. “People who have heard her before say she is phenomenal. We are really excited to have her.”
The special luncheon takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 29 at the home of Wendy Stanley, 7403 Midbury Drive. The cost is $18, which includes lunch and program.
According to biographical information provided by Lisa Shaoul, the director of Women’s Philanthropy at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Fritz traveled to Israel and became swept away in a lifelong career in informal Jewish education after her discovery of her heritage.
Hungary now is home to 120,000 Jews and the largest Jewish community in central Europe.
The Balint JCC at which she works is a focal point for Jewish life in Budapest. She also is educational director of the JDC-Ronald S. Lauder Camp in Szarvas, Hungary.
Fritz’s compelling story should be thrilling to hear for the donors who contribute to the Jewish Women’s Philanthropy Center, event organizers said.
Event Co-Chair Cathy Brook said it is gratifying to offer this program for those donors.
“We’re so excited to offer the special programming,” Brook said. “It has been a really fun, successful way to reach these women through the Jewish Women’s Philanthropy Center.”
Another of the co-chairs, Carol Kreditor, chair of Federation’s Jewish Women’s Philanthropy Center, agreed.
“The event is our way of giving something back to our larger donors,” she said. “We get a nice group of women together and share a unique experience.”
The JWPC donors contribute thousands of dollars in Dallas a year. About 146 special donors are dubbed “Lions of Judah,” and almost 200 “Pomegranates.”
Together all donations make up an annual campaign of more than $860,000 a year.
Kreditor said between 24 and 40 people are expected to attend this upcoming luncheon event.

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Dallas Doings: Wow Factor, DATA of Plano, Beth Torah

Dallas Doings: Wow Factor, DATA of Plano, Beth Torah

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

Webb Youth Lounge dedication Beth Torah Rabbi Elana Zelony speaks at the dedication of the Marcia Fisher Webb Youth Lounge at Congregation Beth Torah. Behind her are Marcia’s husband, James Webb, and their two sons. More than 150 people celebrated the dedication of the Marcia Fisher Webb Youth Lounge at Congregation Beth Torah Sunday. The family of Marcia Webb, a beloved congregant who died several years ago, funded the renovation of a large second-floor space at the synagogue into a place for young people to meet, play and hang out. Rabbi Elana Zelony affixed the mezuzah, while James Webb spoke of the legacy of his late wife.

 

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

March 26 promises a WOW Factor!

One of the largest collaborations among the Dallas area’s Jewish youth groups is set to happen Saturday, March 26 as BBYO, USY, NCSY, NFTY, JSU, Greene Family Camp and more are set to come together for one night only at the Dallas JCC.
From 8:30 to 11 p.m., teens will be treated to a night with Eric Dittelman, a comedic mind reader, seen on The Ellen Show, America’s Got Talent and more! You don’t want to miss this chance to see your friends who might not be in the same youth group as you or to meet new friends. Seeing Eric Dittelman firsthand will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
“A few teens from each of the youth groups have been working hard to produce this event, and they all came into it not knowing each other, but now they all know and love working with each other,” said Sam Shane (sophomore).
“Working on the WOW Factor event has been an amazing experience because I got to be a part of everything behind the scenes,” one of the night’s co-chairs, Vanessa Tanur (sophomore), said. “I had so much fun working with teens from other youth groups and collaborating to plan such a cool event!”
Registration is open, so get your ticket at bit.ly/wowfactordallas. The cost for the evening is $18. Questions? Contact Alex Null at alnull@urj.org.
This event is made possible by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and BBYO.

— Submitted by Tracey Davis Levi

Why the Jews?

DATA of Plano will present “Why The Jews?” at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 31 at DATA, 3251 Independence Pkwy. in Plano.
Anti-Semitism is a hatred that defies time and logic. Just as we thought that this terrible concept would fade away, it has come roaring back. Anti-Semitism today has a different flavor to it that in the past but it is just as real and equally dangerous. This presentation will explain the roots and reasons for this ongoing danger.
The presentation will be given by Rabbi Ken Spiro. Ken Spiro’s quick-paced, humorous style catches and keeps an audience’s interest; his ability to explain deep concepts clearly makes an impact that lasts long after the presentation.
Rabbi Spiro is a senior lecturer and researcher for Aish HaTorah’s Discovery Seminars and the JerusalemU. In addition, he is a licensed tour guide from the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
He has appeared on numerous radio and television programs such as BBC Radio and TV, The National Geographic Channel, The History Channel, Channel 4 England and Arutz Sheva-Israel National Radio.
He is the author of WorldPerfect — The Jewish Impact on Civilization published by HCI books and Crash Course in Jewish History.
Born and raised in the U.S., Rabbi Spiro has lived in Israel since 1982. In addition to being a rabbi he also served in a combat infantry unit in the IDF.
Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. To register or sponsor the event, email nzakon@dataofplano.org. Sponsors are invited to join for a private dinner with Ken before the event.

— Submitted by Rabbi Nathaniel Zakon

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Miracles may not be revealed right away

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

Dear Rabbi,
I always have trouble feeling joyous on Purim. That salvation happened thousands of years ago, and we have had so many troubles since then; and we have scores of problems now, here at home and in Israel. Any suggestions?
— Martin W.
Dear Martin,
The miracle of Purim was one of a great reversal. What was going to be our destruction became our redemption.
When Haman thought he was going to the king to have Mordechai deposed, he became the one who was ordered to lead Mordechai through the streets of the capital with the greatest honor. The enormous gallows he erected to have Mordechai hanged was the very same gallows he, himself, was hanged upon. The date that the Amalekites had decreed to kill every last Jewish man, woman and child became the very same date that Israel’s enemies were destroyed. The Megillah of Esther calls the month of Adar “the month that was reversed, from sorrow to rejoicing, from mourning to festival” (Esther 9:22).
The precedent to this phenomenon was the episode of Balaam, the Gentile prophet who, by employ of the wicked Balak, sought to curse the Jewish people into decimation (Numbers Ch 22-24). Instead, all of his curses were reversed into blessings. “But HaShem, your God, refused to listen to Balaam, and HaShem, your God reversed the curse to a blessing for you, because HaShem, your God, loved you” (Deuteronomy 24:6).
This happening is actually a sine-qua-non for much of Jewish history, and truth be told, for the Jewish outlook on life. The Talmud speaks of a pious man nicknamed Nachum Ish Gamzu. He was called that because his motto in life was “Gam zu l’tova,” or “This is also for the good.” No matter how negative a situation he found himself in, he would utter with complete faith and trust in God’s goodness, “Gam zu l’tova.” Only later would the others around him see how the seemingly horrendous situation was actually the best circumstances they could have found themselves in. Through his remarkable trust in God he lived a life of reversals.
I once read an account of a group of German Jews who had gained transport on a British ship to escape Nazi Germany to England at the outset of the war. They were treated very roughly by the British crew, who stole all of their valuables. Their hearts sank when they passed England, obviously rerouted to another undisclosed locale.
During the long trip they were harassed, the remainder of their belongings stolen from them. All they had left were their pictures and letters from their loved ones, their final vestige of humanity. Then the British confiscated from them that final remnant of their past, and they cast the Jews’ letters into the sea. At that point the Jews sank into depression, and felt that with that final loss all was lost. As soon as they disembarked in South Africa and the ship returned to the high seas, it was blown up by a German submarine. After the war the commander of that submarine was interviewed and asked to explain why he blew up the ship full of Jews only after they disembarked.
He explained that they were about to sink the ship when it left England’s waters, but suddenly they noticed the sea was full of papers. They pulled the papers onto the submarine, and, although were very blotted and impossible to read, they could at least tell that the letters were written in German, making them realize the British ship was full of German nationals.
They decided then to guard the ship, rather than destroy it, until they were sure that the Germans on board had gotten to safety. Little did they imagine they were protecting a ship full of Jews!
What those Jews had thought was their destruction, their loss of their beloved memorabilia, was actually their salvation!
The reversal of Purim is a Jewish paradigm. We need to rejoice in God’s love for us and look for the reversals in our own lives today. A joyous Purim to you and all the readers!

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Congregation Ohev Shalom eager to dedicate Sefer Torah

Congregation Ohev Shalom eager to dedicate Sefer Torah

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

Almost 200 expected for March 27 gathering

By Ben Tinsley
bent@tjpnews.com

Submitted photo Charlotte Bernstein and her husband, Don


DALLAS — The enthusiasm in Dr. Don Bernstein’s voice was evident Sunday night as he discussed “the Hineini Torah Project” he and his wife Charlotte launched with a financial donation to Congregation Ohev Shalom.
The master scribe is expected to complete this new Sefer Torah at a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 27, at the home of Ivan and Melanie Sacks in the 6700 block of Hyacinth Lane.
After the inscription is complete, it will be delivered by parade procession — dancing and singing — to Congregation Ohev Shalom, 6821 McCallum Blvd.
“It finally just hit home this weekend as we were making all the plans — the Torah will be here in three days,” Dr. Bernstein said Sunday. “We will get it by Purim, Tuesday or Wednesday. It’s very exciting for us right now.”
Dr. Bernstein practiced medicine for 50 years and retired from his medical career this past year. He and his wife — longtime members of the synagogue — believed that providing the Torah was the right thing to do.
“My wife and I felt it was time to give back — it was good timing for us to do this kind of thing,” Dr. Bernstein said. “So we will dedicate the Torah and are very excited about it. It’s the blueprint God gave us for our lives.”
Rabbi Aryeh Rodin of Congregation Ohev Shalom said as many as 200 people are expected to attend the dedication. From the home where the dedication takes place, all in attendance will walk to the synagogue in a parade procession.
“It’s a very exciting thing,” the rabbi said. “The Torah is the most precious gift we have ever received and to dedicate one is a tremendous opportunity. The Bernsteins have been tremendous with their generosity.”
In literature distributed about the dedication, Rabbi Rodin explained the origins of the Torah project title.
“Our holy Torah records that when our Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, were challenged to rise to the occasion and perform majestic feats they answered with the Hebrew word ‘Hineini’ — ‘I am prepared to do what Hashem wants,’” Rabbi Rodin wrote.
The rabbi said this response of “Hineini” should reverberate from generation to generation and be the battle cry as people face personal opportunities to come closer and bring others closer to serving Hashem.
Rabbi Rodin said the new Torah — only the third to be dedicated in the synagogue’s history — would be flown in from New York.
Dr. Bernstein said this is an exciting time and his entire family is coming in from New York and beyond to attend the dedication.
The idea of the Torah arose during a discussion Dr. Bernstein had with his wife.
“We were talking about what we could do and suddenly she says, ‘How about getting a Torah? We need one.’” Dr. Bernstein said. “I was kind of shocked but very happy and pleased and excited. I turned to her and said, ‘Yes.’ ”
However, Dr. Bernstein wanted to emphasize the simplicity of his role in this matter — all things considered.
“It just takes a big check,” he said with a chuckle. (A Torah scroll can cost many thousands of dollars, plus hundreds more to ship it overnight.) “It is quite an endeavor and we were very fortunate to be able to do that.”
Rabbi Rodin agreed that attending this dedication would be a chance like few others.
“It’s the opportunity to participate in the Torah — the most precious gift the Jewish people have ever received,” the rabbi said.
Dr. Ian Neeland, president of the shul, said the last Torah was dedicated roughly 10 years ago.
“This is a very rare occurrence in a synagogue,” Dr. Neeland said. “… It’s a linchpin in building the shul and shows our growth and our commitment to expanding. … Also, it is an opportunity for the community to participate in both finishing and dedicating the Torah — and also dedicate it to honor loved ones.”
Marcy Rhoads, head of projects for the shul, said the last of the 613 mitzvos is the responsibility of each person to write their own Sefer Torah.
“Our sages explain that one who fulfills this mitzvah, it is as if they received the Torah at Mount Sinai,” Rhoads explained in an email. “Our sages also explain that if a person is unable to write their own Sefer Torah, they can fulfill this obligation by participating and contributing to a community Sefer Torah campaign.”
Rhoads said the Bernsteins, one of the founding members of Ohev Shalom, decided to fulfill this mitzvah by commissioning a Torah and allowing the congregation to participate.
Rhoads said the Bernsteins brought in a sofer, or Torah scribe, to write it, a process that typically takes a year.
“Then right before it is ready we set up a big celebration to finish it,” Rhoads said. “The scribe will come to Dallas and he will finish the Torah in front of all of us. … Then after we will carry the Torah from the home where it was finished and take it under a portable chuppah — like a wedding — all the way to the synagogue.”
And that will be quite a procession, Rhoads said.
“We hired a DJ who will be on a truck and we will dance with our new Torah all the way there,” she said. “The kids will have flags and candy and there will be refreshments also. It will be a very happy occasion and a very nice celebration for the entire community.”

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Around The Town: Showtimes, Daytimers

Around The Town: Showtimes, Daytimers

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Showtimes Film Series Will Screen The Last Mentsch

Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Showtimes Film Series will continue at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 27 with its fifth installment, The Last Mentsch.
The Last Mentsch is a piece of historical fiction following a man who denied his Jewish heritage all his life. After surviving the horrors of Auschwitz, he sought to forget the trauma by creating a new identity for himself in Germany, one without Jewish friends or ties. Now faced with his own mortality, he suddenly decides he wants to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. The Last Mentsch is a powerful emotional journey.
As usual, 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 CAS’ 2015-2016 Showtimes Film Series.
Showtimes committee members are Liz Chesser, Hedy Collins, Lisa Laudato, Posy McMillen, Foster Owen, Arthur Pawgan, Jane Pawgan, Debby Rice, Reggie Rog, Naomi Rosenfield, Rena Seiden, Jayna Sosland, Jim Stansbury, Robin Stein, Sheila Stocker, Roz Vaden, Barbara Weinberg, Dianne Young, Stephanie Zavala, CAS President Ebi Lavi, and Michael Linn, CAS executive director.
For more information please call Congregation Ahavath Sholom at 817-731-4721.

— Submitted by Debby Rice

Daytimers Get up Close with Chagall Lithographs

Submitted photo Gail Granek spoke on the high points of Marc Chagall’s life and the methodology behind his lithographs.

Marc Chagall lithographs were on display for the Beth-El Daytimers to view and enjoy as they gathered for their monthly meeting March 16. After enthusiastically walking through the board room at Beth-El Congregation and viewing the special exhibit, Daytimers went into the Great Hall for lunch and a lecture, presented by Gail Granek. She detailed the high points of Chagall’s life and, in particular, the methodology behind the lithographs in the exhibit.
With 40 Daytimers attending, the Great Hall was filled with conversation about the exhibit. A lively question-and-answer session concluded this event.
Next month,  the Daytimers will meet April 20. This time they are invited to hear and see Paul Anka’s Night of a Lifetime, the historic performance he performed at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The prolific composer, singer, entertainment arranger, author and actor’s career spans almost 60 years.
Paul Anka offers 20 of his best in a 71-minute show. Everyone is welcome to enjoy this free performance.
Lunch is available with a reservation for $5 or you can bring your own and simply enjoy the performance. Lunch will be catered by Ming Wok and offers a choice of  beef chow mein, chicken with mushrooms or veggies with tofu. Egg roll and brown rice is included. As always, coffee, tea and snacks are also offered.
To make your reservation call Larry Steckler at 817-927-2736. He will take your credit card info and reserve a place for you.

— Submitted by Larry Steckler

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To have friends, be a friend

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
Friendship — Chaverut is an important value in Judaism because friendship helps us to become the best person we can be. We learn from, through and with our friends. The rabbis insisted that study be done in pairs called chevrutas, because they knew this was the best way to learn. It says in Pirke Avot (1:6), “Acquire for yourself a friend.” We can have many people with whom we spend time, but a true friend is unique. A true friend is a partner, one who shares our journey.
The rabbi asked his students how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun. One said, “When you see an animal in the distance and can tell if it is a horse or a cow.” “No,” said the master. Another said, “When you look at a tree in the distance and can tell if it is a fig tree or a peach tree.” “Wrong again,” said the master. “Then when?” asked the students. And the master replied, “When you look at the face of a man or woman and see that he is your friend. For, if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is by the sun, it is still night.”
Rabbi Wayne Dosick writes, “In every friendship, you can see and reflect a vision of hope for the entire world: the time when billions of individual people will seek each other in kinship and friendship, and weave a multihued fabric of respect, goodwill, and affection.”
Here are some great discussion starters to have with your children. They learn so much by hearing our thoughts as well in a discussion so give your ideas too:
What does it mean to be a friend? Talk about your friends and why each one is so special to you.
Have you ever been “left out” by friends? How does it feel? Have you ever not included someone else?
How can you be a friend to yourself? Why is this important?
Talk about the meaning of this special song: “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend, and together we will walk in the ways of Hashem.”
Try this with older children: Many Jewish prayers are written using a form called an acrostic. The rabbis took a special word and each letter of the word was the first letter of each sentence. Write an acrostic poem with the word “FRIEND” as the key word.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Respect my beliefs and I’ll respect yours

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

The other day, I pulled a package from my mailbox that contained a book: The Case for Christ. It was sent to me from Mesa, Arizona, by a first cousin. Her husband has always been a devout evangelical Christian, and some time after she married him, she chose to become one herself.
Barbara should know better by now. I thought I’d put the lid on this issue a few years ago, when I received a very Christian-religious card from her at Hanukkah time. I had already sent out my greetings, which never vary: Hanukkah cards to my Jewish friends, Merry Christmas cards to my devoutly Christian friends (one retired Presbyterian minister among them, someone I’ve known since high school), Happy Holiday cards to everyone else. So the next year, since she’d made her religious preference very clear, I sent Barbara one of the very Christian cards. What I got back was a similar one, with a note asking if I had also converted! I thought my response was clear enough: Certainly not, but I like to send cards appropriate to the beliefs of the people I’m sending them to. And the issue seemed to rest after that, at least for several years.
Last year, however, I got another one of “those” cards: Wise Men and Shepherds Trekking Across Desert Sands Under a Stylized Star. And the other day, I got this book. Its author is Lee Strobel, billed on the front cover as “a New York Times bestselling author.”
Its subtitle is A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, which I suppose is why Barbara figured this might have special appeal for me — maybe even her desired results. But The Times touts too many “best-selling authors” these days, and the publisher is the religious Zondervan; this book can be bought at any one of its many brick-and-mortar shops, or found online as one of its ebooks.
My cousin’s enclosed note reads: “Harriet — Don’t know what you’ll think of this book, but I hope you’ll at least find it interesting. Anyway, feel free to keep it, pass it along, or donate it as you see fit…”
The book is a hefty 300 pages, not including its index plus many citations and author’s notes. Yes, it may make interesting reading, but for now it’s at the bottom of one of several tall piles I have of volumes already seeking — or demanding — my attention.
The irony in all this is that the night before I opened my mailbox to find this book, I had stayed up late to watch a film on the life of Edith Stein; born to an orthodox Jewish family in Germany in 1891, she ended life as a converted nun, becoming a saint of the Catholic church in 1998 — 56 years after her death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. I saw this on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), a Catholic channel that broadcasts 24/7 to the faithful, but also makes available lots of valuable learning for inquisitive people like me. Her life was fascinating — conflicted in many ways, yet unwavering in others; I’ll return to her story here in the near future. But now, I have to address my cousin, who also left her religious roots, then keeps on annoying and insulting me by attempting to dig up mine, something that Edith Stein never found it necessary to do.
My message to Barbara is the same one I send at least once a year to other persistent souls trying endlessly but fruitlessly to turn me into a Christian: I know you are sincere in your beliefs, but please be secure enough in them to know when to stop proselytizing others who are already sincere, secure, and — like you — completely satisfied with theirs. Please treat me as I treat you, with respect and restraint. Thank you.
I have not yet decided what to do, ultimately, with this book…

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2K support AIPAC Dallas at annual event

2K support AIPAC Dallas at annual event

Posted on 24 March 2016 by admin

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

AIPAC Event in Dallas TX. Photo by Grant Miller

By Ben Tinsley
bent@tjpnews.com

DALLAS — The success of the AIPAC Dallas’ annual event at the Winspear Opera House Feb. 28 was the result of effective, long-term planning that started almost a year prior, two chairpersons explained.
Kenny and Sherry Goldberg and Mike and Lori Cohen all shared chairperson duties, and together welcomed guests to that event — discussing with them the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
All four were attending the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. Monday, although only Sherry Goldberg and Mike Cohen could be reached to discuss the successful Feb. 28 event.
As many as 2,000 Israel supporters from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex attended. This was one of the biggest crowds in AIPAC history and rivaled much larger communities across the United States.
“We almost had the largest event nationwide,” Sherry Goldberg said. “New York City was the only city that outdid us, but of course, you can’t compare New York to Dallas! Although we came very close. … Just 100 people under them. And no city has ever had their event in an opera house as we did! We set the bar high and feel very good about it.”
Mike Cohen — interviewing from the Washington, D.C. conference Monday by phone — said he and his fellow chairs all volunteered for the Feb. 28 event as early as they could, working diligently from the end of last year to this year.
“We had a goal early on,” Cohen said. “We wanted to get away from the traditional meal or dessert at the hotel and we wanted to have a venue like the Winspear. We wanted to get 2,000 people there. That was our goal.”
Cohen said making this happen took a lot of phone calls.
“I would suggest to you that the key to our success was working the phones every single day,” he said.
During an email interview, Co-Chair Sherry Goldberg said the important part about the event to her was raising considerable awareness about AIPAC in the community.
“AIPAC is the only organization of its kind,” she said. “Its mission is to educate our members of Congress — as an advocate of Israel — to create an understanding of Israel’s position in a bipartisan manner, as the only democracy in the Middle East and why they are important.”
One highlight of the event was when Lillian Pinkus discussed her vision as president-elect of AIPAC national.
The keynote speaker was Rabbi Daniel Gordis.
Also at the event:

  • Staff Sergeant Robert Bartlett, retired, a veteran who was wounded in Iraq in 2005, discussed his support of Israel; and
  • AIPAC Dallas Council Chair David Veeder moderated a brief  bipartisan congressional roundtable, which included Eddie Bernice Johnson, Pete Sessions, Kenny Marchant, Marc Veasey, Louie Gohmert and John Ratcliffe.

Overall, Sherry Goldberg said, the event held great significance.
“Our goal was to make this event memorable, which is why we moved it to the Winspear,” she said. “We wanted to bring our community together in a way that had never happened before, and we wanted to do it for Israel.”
Sherry Goldberg and Mike Cohen both agreed it is too soon to know right now how much money was raised by the event.
“There’s a lot of follow-up and with the Policy Conference this week, it will take some time to compute,” she said.
Mike Cohen said that calculation takes place at the end of the year.
The response so far has been great, Sherry Goldberg said.
“We’ve brought in so many new people and that’s the most important aspect,” she said. “As a result, Dallas took the third largest delegate group nationwide to this week’s AIPAC Policy Conference in D.C. That says a lot about Dallas, Texas and makes me very proud.”
Mike Cohen said he became a committed AIPAC member to ensure a safe and secure Israel.
“But as I continue to stay in AIPAC, I realize that a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is also important,” he said.
Sherry Goldberg said she is committed to AIPAC because she is the child of two Holocaust survivors who met in a concentration camp.
“If Israel had existed, my parents would have had much different lives,” she said. “My entire family was killed in that war. My parents were the only survivors in each of their families. That alone created a different path for me as I grew up.”
Sherry Goldberg said she knew about the importance of Israel from the moment her parents told her their background.
“I have always looked at life differently from my friends who didn’t have the same backgrounds,” she said. “I appreciate Israel and my heritage so much. It has made me the person I am today. This generation needs to be constantly educated about Israel and why they must exist. Our survivors are dying out. Soon there will be no one left to remind future generations. It is my duty and others’ to keep educating. We must keep the memory strong. We must never let anyone forget.”

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Musical Shabbat gift from scholar-in-residence

Posted on 17 March 2016 by admin

By Ben Tinsley
bent@tjpnews.com


RICHARDSON — Joey Weisenberg has been described as the greatest Jewish music educator on the planet.
Weisenberg, author of Building Singing Communities and creative director of the Hadar Center for Communal Jewish Music, will conduct a musical Shabbat as part of the Mark A. Siegel Scholar-in-Residence Weekend April 1-3 at Congregation Beth Torah, 720 W. Lookout Drive.
“I’m going to come here and meet people and we’re going to sing,” Weisenberg said during a Monday night phone interview. “I do not know how many there will be — just that it will be the right number.”
At Congregation Beth Torah, the multi-instrumentalist musician, singer, and composer will be leading services, leading singing, and teaching classes about the power of music — in partnership with Rabbi Elana Zelony and the shul.
Weisenberg is the author of Building Singing Communities, a how-to guide that focuses on unlocking the power of music in Jewish prayer.
He has performed and recorded internationally with dozens of bands in a wide variety of musical styles.
He’s also a huge fan of the imperfectly beautiful music of regular people singing together.
Working to empower communities around the world, Weisenberg strives to unlock their musical and spiritual potential. This way, he hopes to make music a lasting presence in shul and in Jewish life.
“The goal is to have the beautiful Shabbat of singing together,” he said. “I am always working with communities to help everyone sing. The goal is that through singing we learn how to listen to each other more carefully. And by listening to each other more carefully, we learn how to listen to the divine.”
In a June 2013 story in Tablet, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, co-founder and executive director of Mechon Hadar, a New York institution with a traditional egalitarian yeshiva and a mission to empower Jewish communities nationally, observed with great wonder the effect Weisenberg has on groups of people when teaching them to sing.
People were enthralled. Kaunfer said: “I think he is the greatest Jewish music educator on the planet.”
Drawing on his extensive experience with the wordless melodies of nigunim, the prayer chants of nusah and other musical styles, the Brooklyn-based Weisenberg works with others to bring music to life by focusing on beautiful old melodies that may have been lost by history, as well as his own compositions.
“The music brings us together, and we need to come together now more than ever before,” he said. “We are living in a highly fractured society and there is a large deal of solitude and alienation from one person to the next. Music is a spiritual tool that reminds us of our interdependence. … Let’s listen to the oneness of the world around us.”
He said the basic concept of his presentation is that nigun has the potential to transform people in their communities if they allow it.
“I always look forward to people being in their song and prayer and I am particularly excited to see how we can mix this in with that Texas flavor.”
This will be his second journey to Texas. His first was in Austin a few years ago working in a factory making guitars.
But the legend of Texas — and its heroes — had already preceded that into his life, he said.
“One of my musical heroes is Stevie Ray Vaughn, who died when I was eight,” Weisenberg said. “ … He poured his heart and soul into his music.”

 

*****Musical Shabbat gift from scholar-in-residence

 

25th annual scholar-in-residence weekend
Friday, April 1
Kabbalat Shabbat
7 p.m.
Joey Weisenberg leads a musically and spiritually uplifting nigun-infused Kabbalat Shabbat.
Program for participants
8 p.m.
Transformation of a Nigun: Based on his extensive experience with nigunim, nusah and other musical styles, Joey Weisenberg teaches how to explore the soul of any melody.
Saturday, April 2
Shacharit Services
9:30 a.m.
D’var Torah about the Architecture of Listening, exploring the interaction between physical space and spiritual music.
Building Singing Communities
1 p.m.
Using ideas from his book Building Singing Communities — strategies for bringing people together to make music a lasting and joy-filled force in shul and Jewish life.
Havdalah
7 p.m.
A “slow leave” of Shabbat with songs, words of Torah, and then dinner. Book and CD signing after Shabbat.
Sunday, April 3
Minyan
8 a.m.
Men’s Club minyan and Collective Prayer Leadership Workshop
9 a.m.
Joey Weisenberg performs for Learning Center.
Cost before March 24 is: CBT members $85; nonmembers, $95. Student price is $18. After March 25, cost is: CBT members, $95; nonmembers, $105. Student price is $20.
Please make checks payable to: CBT, Scholar-in-Residence. Mail to: Evelyn Utay, 7273 Alto Caro, Dallas, TX 75248; phone: 972-980-8228; email, evelynpaul@sbcglobal.net
For additional information and scholarships contact,
Robin Popik, Scholar-in-Residence chair, at Adult_Ed@congregationbethtorah.org

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