Archive | November, 2018

Are we approaching the final redemption?

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have been both upset, confused and scared by many comments I’ve been hearing about Israel. Often, it seems that Israel is quickly being painted into a corner, or worse, a stranglehold, with no one of significance coming to her defense. That explains my upset and fear. My confusion comes from my belief in God and not understanding what he is trying to do to allow Israel to get into this predicament. Your thoughts would be most welcome.

Charles Z.

Dear Charles,

You can be sure that what you are feeling is being felt by many.

What is truly happening, one would need to be a prophet to know, and, sadly, I’ve never received my degree in prophecy (which would have jeopardized our status as a “non-prophet” organization). I can, however, share with you my personal thoughts and feelings on the issue.

In many Jewish sources, especially those based upon the Kabbalah, the final reign over the world before the coming of Messiah will be that of the offspring of Ishmael. Prophetically, there are four kingdoms who are said to rule over the Jews over the course of world history: Babylon, Persia-Media, Greece and Rome. We presently are still in the midst of the Roman exile, which began with the destruction of the second Temple in 70 of the common era and endures until today.

All the above four share the common denominator that they were defined kingdoms. They occupied a specific, definable area, and their wars and exiles were clearly defined. Ishmael, however, doesn’t have kings or kingdoms per se in the Torah, but chieftains and rulers. This is predicated on the prophecy that “his hand will be upon everything” (Genesis/Beresheet 16:12). This “non-kingdom” of Ishmael, the patriarch of the Arab and Muslim world, will be an undefined one, which will spread throughout the world, causing far greater fear and havoc than all the previous four combined (Kabbalistic writings).

We are beginning to see the fulfillment of this frightful prophecy. I’m sure you’ve seen the recent sobering email that circulated throughout the world about the numbers and percentages of Muslims in Europe today, including many who are radicalized.

To see Israel painted into a corner further prepares the stage for the final redemption. The prophets all foretold of the Jews’ eventual return to God, teshuva. The Talmud explains that this will happen when the Jews profoundly realize they have nobody to rely upon other than God. As long as they feel they can rely on a particular nation, their reliance upon God is not complete.

The Torah says of the Jews, “Behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers/Bamidbar 23:9). I will never forget a full-page New York Times ad that listed on one side of the page all the hundreds of countries of the world allowed full status in the United Nations Security Council, many of which I had never heard of. On the other side of the page was listed all the countries not allowed that hallowed status; the entire list was: Israel. The above verse in Numbers could not have resounded louder.

May we recognize our separate status and existence, and live it to the fullest extent it was intended. That will speed up the time when we will be recognized by all as the Chosen Nation.

Comments (0)

How we can give thanks despite recent tragedies

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

An update: My dining room table is still the repository for newspapers, both secular and Jewish, sent to me by Pittsburgh family in the days following the Tree of Life massacre. Anyone who wants to see the remarkable outpouring of “Love Is Stronger Than Hate,” just let me know.

The Steelers even changed their three-icon stack logo for print, substituting a Star of David for the one on top. And things continue to come in; I don’t know how long this will go on.

But we must go on. All of us. Thanksgiving is upon us. How can anyone affected by such evil as we’ve recently witnessed (and I do not discount the 12 who died soon after the earlier tragedy, also by gunshot, in a California country music bar) — which should be just about everyone in our country — give thanks for anything after such horrors? (Maybe just the selfish thought of personal safety — at least up to this point.)

I found the best answer yet by happy accident when I picked up a random magazine while waiting in a doctor’s office. It was the newest issue of Family Circle, and the message from Cheryl Brown, its editor-in-chief, was right on point — even though it was written well before both these recent tragedies.

She begins by telling how she was running late for work one morning, carrying too many things — including a carton of yogurt and a cup of coffee — and when she saw an elevator door starting to close on its upward way toward her office, she just threw herself in. A man already inside who saw how upset she was helped her get organized, and then he said this: “Hey, things aren’t so bad — you’ve got breakfast and a job. Try to see the positive side.”

What Brown thought was, “He’s absolutely right.” And then she listed her blessings: A roof over her head, with heat. Food. Clean clothes. Health. Family and friends. This started her on some conversations, first with those friends and then with the magazine’s staff, about the necessity for gratitude, the real need for people to be thankful for whatever they have. If they manage to have the things she listed, which most of those who read Family Circle do have and yet likely take for granted: “That makes us rich by almost any standard,” she decided.

The elevator encounter turned out to set the theme for the entire issue of Family Circle that I was holding in my hands, with its focus on how all people can and should give back, in appreciation for what they already have. The suggestion is that doing things to help others — no matter how little those things are — becomes the building blocks of both family and community.

Brown ends her monthly editorial column with this timely — and humorous — personal touch: “Every year I’m thankful I have somewhere to go for the Thanksgiving holiday meal,” she begins. “This year, I’m also thankful I’m not doing any cooking, only some bringing.” To finish, she gives an additional thank-you for the great bakeries in New York City, where she works and lives, and where she can pick up something good for the “bringing.”

I continue to wonder what the bereaved families in both Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks can manage to give thanks for this year. Is it possible that this year will be a strange Thanksgiving without thanks? The brutality of those sad days took away loved ones and replaced that take-away with nothing but sadness, longing and those haunting “what if?” questions: Why them? Why there? What if they hadn’t been wanting to pray, or to hear some favorite songs? These are the questions without answers.

But at our own tables this year, how about all of us saying a prayer and singing a song in their memory? Making memories of those we didn’t even know might be our own “giving back.”

Comments (0)

Yavneh: 25 years of Jewish education — and more

Yavneh: 25 years of Jewish education — and more

Posted on 27 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Yavneh Academy
The Class of 2008

By Amy Sorter

Alex Radunsky decided to attend Yavneh Academy of Dallas for one reason: Most of his Akiba Academy of Dallas friends were going there. Radunsky would graduate in 1998, Yavneh’s first graduating class, though at the time, he was unaware of whether, or if, the school would survive.
“At the time, we didn’t have a clear sense of trajectory of the school as an institution,” said Radunsky, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Global Health at Harvard University. “Those first two years, things were a little haphazard, but I didn’t mind it at all. I enjoyed it. It was fun and empowering to help set the tone of the institution.”
Twenty-five years after its launch in a small building on the campus of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, Yavneh has grown into a well-respected, highly acclaimed preparatory Dallas-area Jewish high school.
The school’s focus is that of modern Orthodox study, combined with stringent secular education. Yet, Yavneh’s overall goal is to “appeal to the entire Jewish community, regardless of observance or denomination,” said David Radunsky, Alex’s father and a member of one of Yavneh’s founding families.
Added Rabbi Howard Wolk, who led Congregation Shaare Tefilla at Yavneh’s founding and is now community chaplain for Jewish Family Service of Dallas: “Yavneh allowed Jewish kids to continue their Jewish education, and for them to be with other Jewish kids.” Wolk, one of Yavneh’s founders and among its first teachers, sent his three sons to Yavneh.

Keeping Jews in DFW

While Deena Zucker was attending seventh grade at Akiba during the early 1990s, parents Michael and Karen Zucker faced a difficult decision. The family would have to send their eldest child out of town for a Jewish high-school education. This dilemma prompted the Zuckers to join other families interested in forming a local Jewish high school.
“I didn’t want to send her out of town,” Michael Zucker said. “I didn’t want my child being raised by someone else.” Deena and her siblings Sara and Arye ended up attending and graduating from Yavneh. Meanwhile, the Zuckers’ youngest, Nachi, will graduate in 2019.
The Radunsky family faced a similar issue, though at the opposite end of the familial lifecycle. The three Radunsky children attended Akiba, with the older two ending up at a secular private school. However, Alex, the youngest, had “become taken with Orthodoxy,” David Radunsky said. “Our family had, by accident, turned into one of those in which we had to decide to send our kid away to school.”
Yavneh allowed both families, and others, to keep the children home, while keeping other Jewish families anchored to the region. Wolk commented that one of the school’s main benefactors, Oscar Rosenberg, had a strong sense that, without a Jewish high school, families not wanting to send their children out of town would leave. “Yavneh helped us hold on to important families in the community,” he said.
Furthermore, many Yavneh graduates return and become active in the Dallas Jewish community. Said Wolk: “The ones I know are all active in their congregations and community; many have served on the Yavneh board. The community continues to reap the benefits.”

Photo: Sharon Wisch-Ray
From the TJP file: Ecstatic to break ground on the Schultz-Rosenberg Campus on May 9, 2004 were, from left, the late Marcus Rosenberg, Ann Rosenberg, Howard Schultz and the late Leslie Schultz.

Judaism…and beyond

Though a Jewish curriculum is a highlight, Yavneh also focuses on a rigorous secular program. David Radunsky pointed out that the goal of the school, overall, was to provide an outstanding preparatory school for college and life.
“It’s an opportunity to have an excellent, small private-school experience, which focuses on education and strong student-teacher relationships,” said David Portnoy, Yavneh’s head of school. “College admissions deans have told us they find Jewish high-school graduates very well prepared to take on the workload and time management of college,” Portnoy said.
Daniel Bonner, a 2008 Yavneh graduate, discussed the student-driven environment and the emphasis on self-reliance and independence. “If there was something you wanted to study, you could study it,” said Bonner, now director of Jewish and Israel philanthropy at the Paul E. Singer Foundation in New York. “No question, or opinion, was off limits. Yavneh taught us how to be curious, not anxious, about new ideas.”
Furthermore, the students found a flexibility that might not have been possible in other school settings. Alex Radunsky tells the story of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, with one of the first being a physics class. “But I said I didn’t want to take AP physics. I was more interested in AP biology,” Alex recalled. Yavneh managed to include an AP biology class for Alex and another student. “The institution put a lot of energy into making that happen,” he said.
Yet, at the beginning, Zucker, Yavneh past president, acknowledged the risks in sending his eldest daughter to a school that, in its first five years of existence, relocated at least five times, had a handful of teachers and a series of heads of school.
“Yavneh was fully accredited,” he said. “But no one had ever heard of it when Deena graduated.” Yet all the Zucker children who graduated from Yavneh ended up with outstanding grades and are pursuing meaningful careers.
“I am the proud father of three independent children,” Zucker said, noting that he expects Nachi to be equally independent. “These guys will stay together, build friendships and an extended family you can’t duplicate, outside of the college experience.”
Alex Radunsky pointed out that most of the students in his class of 1998 spent a gap year in Israel following graduation to continue their studies. As a result, “we were positioned to represent ourselves well,” he said. “Even if institutions had been skeptical of our high school, they saw us, saw our applications and what we’d accomplished.”
Bonner agreed, adding that the Jewish day school education offers more than, well, a good Jewish education.
“As you grow up and make your way in the world, it isn’t just about a degree or the title you have, but the kind of person you are,” he said. “Yavneh, by virtue of the fact it offers education rooted in Jewish values, is producing good people in a dark world that needs more of them.”

Polishing the crystal ball

Portnoy and others stress the need for the school to be a self-sustaining entity and to continue being a student-driven school with outstanding instruction. This, in turn, requires continuous funding and endowments, which is why the Pam Hochster Fine and Jeffrey R. Fine Yavneh Academy Scholarship Endowment Fund (see sidebar), as well as other donations and endowments, are so important. Such resources help the school continue recruiting and retaining excellent teachers, Portnoy said.
Still, as Yavneh celebrates its silver anniversary, it is a success. The school has its own campus. Its students graduate and attend prestigious colleges that include Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Texas. On the sports side, the Yavneh boys’ soccer and basketball teams have made it to state and national finals. “We’re on the map now, both in terms of North Texas schools and national Jewish schools,” Portnoy said.
For Zucker, the school’s ability to focus on core values has been very important. “We can’t control how our children decide to practice religion after they leave our care,” he observed. “The best we can do is give them a foundation of our core values.”
Meanwhile, Alex Radunsky now understands the trajectory from Yavneh’s early classes to where the school is today. “It’s wonderful to see how the founding families and new families contributed to this wonderful enterprise,” he commented. “It makes me proud to be one of the early students at this institution.”

Comments (0)

How David Ben-Gurion challenged Dulles

Posted on 26 November 2018 by admin

Dear Friends,

Although I spend my waking hours working at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, I don’t use this column to push programs — at least not too often. However, here is a wonderful free opportunity.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at the J, there will be an exclusive screening of “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue,” with an introduction by and conversations with Doug Seserman, CEO of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. This movie won the 2017 Israeli Ophir Award (Israeli Oscars) for Best Documentary.

Admission is free, but space is limited. RSVP is required by Friday, Nov. 30 — contact szoller@aabgu.org or 646-452-3710.

This reminded me of a special story about founding Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that was shared by his grandson. As you read this story of our people, remember that telling our stories both about our people and even our families is so important.

“In 1954, when Ben-Gurion was prime minister, he traveled to the USA to meet with President (Dwight) Eisenhower to request his assistance and support in the early and difficult days of the State of Israel.

“John Foster Dulles, who was the then secretary of state, confronted Ben-Gurion and challenged him as follows:

“‘Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister — who do you and your state represent? Does it represent the Jews of Poland, perhaps Yemen, Romania, Morocco, Iraq, Russia or perhaps Brazil? After 2,000 years of exile, can you honestly speak about a single nation, a single culture? Can you speak about a single heritage or perhaps a single Jewish tradition?’”

“Ben-Gurion answered him as follows:

“‘Look, Mr. Secretary of State — approximately 300 years ago, the Mayflower set sail from England and on it were the first settlers who settled in what would become the largest democratic superpower known as the United States of America. Now, do me a favor — go out into the streets and find 10 American children and ask them the following:

• “‘What was the name of the Captain of the Mayflower?

• “‘How long did the voyage take?

• “‘What did the people who were on the ship eat?

• “‘What were the conditions of sailing during the voyage?

“‘I’m sure you would agree with me that there is a good chance that you won’t get a good answer to these questions.

“‘Now in contrast — not 300 but more than 3,000 years ago, the Jews left the land of Egypt.

“‘I would kindly request from you, Mr. Secretary, that on one of your trips around the world, try and meet 10 Jewish children in different countries. And ask them:

• “‘What was the name of the leader who took the Jews out of Egypt?

• “‘How long did it take them before they got to the land of Israel?

• “‘What did they eat during the period when they were wandering in the desert?

• “‘And what happened to the sea when they encountered it?

“‘Once you get the answers to these questions, please carefully reconsider the question that you have just asked me.’”

Comments (0)

Are we approaching the final redemption?

Posted on 26 November 2018 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have been both upset, confused and scared by many comments I’ve been hearing about Israel. Often, it seems that Israel is quickly being painted into a corner, or worse, a stranglehold, with no one of significance coming to her defense. That explains my upset and fear. My confusion comes from my belief in God and not understanding what he is trying to do to allow Israel to get into this predicament. Your thoughts would be most welcome.

Charles Z.

Dear Charles,

You can be sure that what you are feeling is being felt by many.

What is truly happening, one would need to be a prophet to know, and, sadly, I’ve never received my degree in prophecy (which would have jeopardized our status as a “non-prophet” organization). I can, however, share with you my personal thoughts and feelings on the issue.

In many Jewish sources, especially those based upon the Kabbalah, the final reign over the world before the coming of Messiah will be that of the offspring of Ishmael. Prophetically, there are four kingdoms who are said to rule over the Jews over the course of world history: Babylon, Persia-Media, Greece and Rome. We presently are still in the midst of the Roman exile, which began with the destruction of the second Temple in 70 of the common era and endures until today.

All the above four share the common denominator that they were defined kingdoms. They occupied a specific, definable area, and their wars and exiles were clearly defined. Ishmael, however, doesn’t have kings or kingdoms per se in the Torah, but chieftains and rulers. This is predicated on the prophecy that “his hand will be upon everything” (Genesis/Beresheet 16:12). This “non-kingdom” of Ishmael, the patriarch of the Arab and Muslim world, will be an undefined one, which will spread throughout the world, causing far greater fear and havoc than all the previous four combined (Kabbalistic writings).

We are beginning to see the fulfillment of this frightful prophecy. I’m sure you’ve seen the recent sobering email that circulated throughout the world about the numbers and percentages of Muslims in Europe today, including many who are radicalized.

To see Israel painted into a corner further prepares the stage for the final redemption. The prophets all foretold of the Jews’ eventual return to God, teshuva. The Talmud explains that this will happen when the Jews profoundly realize they have nobody to rely upon other than God. As long as they feel they can rely on a particular nation, their reliance upon God is not complete.

The Torah says of the Jews, “Behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers/Bamidbar 23:9). I will never forget a full-page New York Times ad that listed on one side of the page all the hundreds of countries of the world allowed full status in the United Nations Security Council, many of which I had never heard of. On the other side of the page was listed all the countries not allowed that hallowed status; the entire list was: Israel. The above verse in Numbers could not have resounded louder.

May we recognize our separate status and existence, and live it to the fullest extent it was intended. That will speed up the time when we will be recognized by all as the Chosen Nation.

Comments (0)

How we can give thanks despite recent tragedies

Posted on 26 November 2018 by admin

An update: My dining room table is still the repository for newspapers, both secular and Jewish, sent to me by Pittsburgh family in the days following the Tree of Life massacre. Anyone who wants to see the remarkable outpouring of “Love Is Stronger Than Hate,” just let me know.

The Steelers even changed their three-icon stack logo for print, substituting a Star of David for the one on top. And things continue to come in; I don’t know how long this will go on.

But we must go on. All of us. Thanksgiving is upon us. How can anyone affected by such evil as we’ve recently witnessed (and I do not discount the 12 who died soon after the earlier tragedy, also by gunshot, in a California country music bar) — which should be just about everyone in our country — give thanks for anything after such horrors? (Maybe just the selfish thought of personal safety — at least up to this point.)

I found the best answer yet by happy accident when I picked up a random magazine while waiting in a doctor’s office. It was the newest issue of Family Circle, and the message from Cheryl Brown, its editor-in-chief, was right on point — even though it was written well before both these recent tragedies.

She begins by telling how she was running late for work one morning, carrying too many things — including a carton of yogurt and a cup of coffee — and when she saw an elevator door starting to close on its upward way toward her office, she just threw herself in. A man already inside who saw how upset she was helped her get organized, and then he said this: “Hey, things aren’t so bad — you’ve got breakfast and a job. Try to see the positive side.”

What Brown thought was, “He’s absolutely right.” And then she listed her blessings: A roof over her head, with heat. Food. Clean clothes. Health. Family and friends. This started her on some conversations, first with those friends and then with the magazine’s staff, about the necessity for gratitude, the real need for people to be thankful for whatever they have. If they manage to have the things she listed, which most of those who read Family Circle do have and yet likely take for granted: “That makes us rich by almost any standard,” she decided.

The elevator encounter turned out to set the theme for the entire issue of Family Circle that I was holding in my hands, with its focus on how all people can and should give back, in appreciation for what they already have. The suggestion is that doing things to help others — no matter how little those things are — becomes the building blocks of both family and community.

Brown ends her monthly editorial column with this timely — and humorous — personal touch: “Every year I’m thankful I have somewhere to go for the Thanksgiving holiday meal,” she begins. “This year, I’m also thankful I’m not doing any cooking, only some bringing.” To finish, she gives an additional thank-you for the great bakeries in New York City, where she works and lives, and where she can pick up something good for the “bringing.”

I continue to wonder what the bereaved families in both Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks can manage to give thanks for this year. Is it possible that this year will be a strange Thanksgiving without thanks? The brutality of those sad days took away loved ones and replaced that take-away with nothing but sadness, longing and those haunting “what if?” questions: Why them? Why there? What if they hadn’t been wanting to pray, or to hear some favorite songs? These are the questions without answers.

But at our own tables this year, how about all of us saying a prayer and singing a song in their memory? Making memories of those we didn’t even know might be our own “giving back.”

Comments (0)

Tarrant shuls plant daffodils, remember Holocaust victims

Tarrant shuls plant daffodils, remember Holocaust victims

Posted on 15 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Ahavath Sholom
Ahavath Sholom religious school students plant bulbs as part of the Daffodil Project, Nov. 11. They marked their bulbs with decorated stones.

Last year, the TJP shared the story of Grace Goldman. The then-Fort Worth Country Day Senior who brought The Daffodil Project to her school to honor the memory of her great-grandmother Blanche, who survived Auschwitz and the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.
This year, Goldman’s grandmother Rachel Goldman (Blanche’s daughter) and Debra Rosenthal helped the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County underwrite the project to include all Tarrant County congregations.
The bulbs were supplied and purchased through Am Yisrael Chai, an Atlanta-based Holocaust education and awareness organization.
On Nov. 11, the project came to fruition when Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El Congregation, Congregation Beth Israel and Congregation Beth Shalom planted the bulbs.
“We are grateful to the leadership and financial support of Rachel and Michael Goldman for making this special project possible and we are proud to have partnered with them. Thanks to their leadership, many of our community organizations are participating and this will be a wonderful ongoing teaching tool to help our children understand the horrors of the Holocaust and to remember the 1.5 million children who perished,” Federation Executive Director Bob Goldberg said.
At Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington, 40 Sunday school children and congregants gathered to plant 500 yellow daffodil bulbs.
In Colleyville, a member of the congregation working on his Eagle Scout project coordinated the synagogue’s efforts, according to Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.
Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Congregation Ahavath Sholom was pleased his synagogue participated.
“The Daffodil Project that Ahavath Sholom, along with a multitude of other local and national synagogues, participated in reminds me of a quote by Elie Wiesel, which states, ‘For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.’ It was in this light that we planted the daffodil bulbs, for their planting by our children and the care that will go into them binds our students in a real and concrete manner with the perpetuation of memory and continuing education of the Holocaust in a real and meaningful manner.”

Comments (0)

Adoption attorney helps build families

Adoption attorney helps build families

Posted on 15 November 2018 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Amber Shemesh
Family attorney Amber Shemesh Waks and her daughter and husband David know and live the importance of family, their dream to expand their own — including through adoption.

By Deb Silverthorn

Moses was adopted and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah, and Queen Esther was raised and adopted by her cousin Mordechai. Dallas native and family attorney Amber Shemesh Waks wants the community to know that November is National Adoption Month, and that any day, every day, is the day to bring children to couples — to create families.
For the 442,995 minors in domestic foster care as of September 2017, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, they hope every day is their day.
“Many people think adoption is cost-prohibitive, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Shemesh Waks, who has handled more than 150 cases. “There are many children available, of all ages, and it’s possible for the process to cost in the low thousands, much less than the cost of one or many attempts at IVF (in vitro fertilization), something that couples try over and over. The cost there is not just economic, but physical and emotional as well.
“Looking into the eyes of the children I meet, they are meant to be someone’s children,” Shemesh Waks said.
There are many avenues to adoption, including stepparent adoptions, children who are in foster care and international adoptions. There are open adoptions; semi-open, in which adoptive families direct the relationship; and closed adoptions, with ties severed once the adoption is complete.
For Norma, adopting her son, Martin, was “the best gift God ever gave me. We got the call, and when we picked him up, he was 16 days old. I’m telling you, from the moment I looked into his eyes, he was the most beautiful thing ever and he was my son, and I’ve never felt different for a moment. I’m secure in his love.”
The process to adopt wasn’t two days — but closer to nine or 10 months, with caseworkers following the prospective parents readying for an impending arrival. Norma said that “adopting my son was the most wonderful thing I’ve done. I wanted to be a mom and he fulfilled absolutely everything in me.”
Said Martin, now an adult: “My parents always loved me, and they raised me well. I never felt ‘rescued,’ only loved and cared about, and while it’s not a ‘dramatic’ story, I’m thankful they were open to adoption.”
While there are newborns needing to be placed, there are many older children in need of homes, guidance and care. They all need families. For those who adopt older children, the state provides support in the areas of emotional counseling, health and education expenses.
“In most cases, the child will live with the adoptive family on a trial basis for six months, with a temporary conservatorship awarded,” said Shemesh Waks, who opened her own practice, Law Offices of Amber Shemesh, PC, earlier this year. She specializes in family law, with 15 to 20 percent of her practice adoption-related. “During that time, background checks are completed and the legal signatures and notices to all parties are made and finalized.”
For Jewish couples adopting, the process requires the extra, albeit not intricate, step of conversion.
“The majority of children adopted are not Jewish and therefore require conversion which, according to halacha, means a bris must take place for a boy and, for a boy or girl, immersion in a mikvah is required under the supervision of a beit din (a group of three rabbinic authorities),” said Rabbi Howard Wolk, the community chaplain at Jewish Family Service, who has assisted in many adoptions and who is available for counseling. “The Talmud states that it is a big mitzvah to adopt a child and that adoptive parents are considered like the child’s real parents, assuming responsibilities for providing necessities to the child, including a Jewish education.”
Shemesh Waks, the daughter of Dollie Smith and Sonny Shemesh and the sister of Colby, Gali, Liat, Nathan and Nevin, was raised at Congregation Shearith Israel. She attended Akiba Academy and graduated from Berkner High School, the University of Texas and St. Thomas University School of Law. She is married to David Waks and the mother of 8-month-old Jordan. The family are now members of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.
“Family is everything to David and me, and there is definitely a place in our family to welcome a child through adoption,” Shemesh Waks said. “He is a firefighter and EMT-paramedic who sees the conditions and situations some children are in. Every day, I’m in contact with many needing homes. We hope to grow our family — once Jordan is sleeping through the night, that is — and to open our hearts, and home, to a child waiting.
“Both the children and prospective parents have so much love to give, and receive, and being a part of the process is incredibly fulfilling,” said Shemesh Waks, who provides free consultations, “I hope we can find some kids a forever home, and prospective parents the children they were meant to love.”
To reach Rabbi Howard Wolk for counseling, call 972-437-9950 or email rabbiwolk@jfsdallas.org.

Comments (0)

Family mourns lifelong friends killed in Pittsburgh

Family mourns lifelong friends killed in Pittsburgh

Posted on 14 November 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Cheryl Weitz
“We had so many connections and years of love and being a community of a family, that watching from here was impossible,” said Cheryl Weitz, whose family has been connected to that of Tree of Life Congregation shooting victims Cecil and David Rosenthal for three generations. This photo of Cecil and David stood at Temple Rodef Shalom, site of their funerals.

By Deb Silverthorn

If home is where the heart is, then since Oct. 27, the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh has become home to most of the world. For Cheryl Weitz; her mother, Florence Kramer; and her brother, Jeffrey Kramer, going home was true, heartbreaking and heart-filling all at once. A 48-hour blink, to hold close to memories, and people of their past, will never be forgotten.
While the world awaited news of the safety of those inside Tree of Life Congregation, so did the families. Texting with lifelong friend Diane Hirt, one of two sisters of Cecil and David Rosenthal, Pittsburgh native Cheryl held her breath, hoping for good news. “Thinking of you my dear, dear old friend, thinking of you and your family, I love you,” she wrote.
Back from Diane, “Love you too — I am so sick.” Moments later Diane replied that they’d heard both of her brothers had been shot and died immediately. Then came the wait for the FBI to complete their investigation, for her brothers’ bodies, and the other nine, to be released.
And then they were. And then the next long days ensued.
“When I spoke to my mom, she said, ‘We’re going home,’” Weitz said. “We had so many connections and years of love and being a community of a family, that watching from here was impossible.”
Weitz and Florence Kramer flew out on Oct. 29, meeting New York resident Jeffrey and staying with Florence’s brother and sister-in-law, Louis and Sandy Kushner, and their son, Jason, and his family. They are all members of Tree of Life, safe that day except for broken hearts. That night, they went to the home of Michele Rosenthal, Cecil and David Rosenthal’s younger sister, consoling the family and themselves with memories and good thoughts — the only kind possible.
While they were at the house, the Squirrel Hill Fire Department arrived, the chief and three firemen in formal dress. They were there to let the family know that Cecil and David would always be part of their team, and to deliver two badges, uniform hats and siddurim.
On Oct. 30, the family arrived early to Temple Rodef Shalom, site of the funeral, where there were already lines of mourners — 2,000-plus by the time services began.
Diane and her husband, Michael, both provided eulogies, with Tree of Life Emeritus Rabbi Alvin Berkun; his son, Rabbi Jonathan Berkun, now of Aventura, Florida; and Tree of Life Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers also participating in the service. At the end of services, it was announced that donations in Cecil’s and David’s names would be appreciated to Tree of Life Congregation, “which was their home, and to ACHIEVA, the group home where they slept,” said the rabbi.
The Kramer family — Florence and the late Larry, with children Cheryl and Jeffrey — lived just doors away from the Rosenthals — Joy and Elie, with children Cecil, David, Diane and Michele. Florence’s parents, Mildred and Morris Kushner, and Joy’s parents, Becky and Herman Fineberg, also had been best friends.
“We spent lots of time at each other’s home, and even when we were young, we knew to take care of Cecil and David,” said Weitz, who moved to Dallas with her family when she was 12. “My mom was a special ed teacher, and she was great with them and they loved being with her. I learned a lot, even when I was young, about how every person should be treated, and those are lessons I still live today and they helped teach me that.”
Memories flood for Weitz, just one of many in Dallas’ Jewish community with direct ties to Squirrel Hill. The grandparents had left the cold for warmer winters, buying condos next door to each other in their retirement. She recalls her parents putting her and her brother on a plane and the Rosenthal parents doing the same with their children, the six traveling to Florida each winter break, vacations extending in the summer through Cheryl’s college years.
“We’d go to the pool and the boys would wait for us on the balcony. Cecil’s and David’s grandfather had a special relationship with them, and they’d spend time with him,” said Weitz. “We’d go to dinner and we’d all laugh because ‘dinner’ meant getting ready at 3:30 to make the earlybird specials.”
Weitz said Cecil was the friendliest person ever. Once he met you, forever after he’d greet you by your name and ask how was your family. David was somewhat quieter, but you always felt his love and his absolute goodness.
“I absolutely feel a responsibility to share how these beautiful men were the best. They were happy. They were loving. They knew everyone and everyone knew them and it was always that way,” said Weitz, who lit a memorial candle in honor of her friends at Congregation Anshai Torah’s #SolidarityShabbat service on Nov. 2. “I can’t believe their smiles and hugs are something no one will ever share again.”
Perhaps not in the touch of arms, but with the stories of their lives, and those of Joyce Fienberg, Dr. Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger, their smiles and hugs, and lessons of friendship toward everyone, will indeed be shared over and over — and their names, and their lives, will indeed always be for a memory.

Comments (0)

Ben-Gurion’s legacy lives on in the Negev

Posted on 14 November 2018 by admin

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, famously said that “Israel’s future lies in the Negev,” the southern desert region comprising 60 percent of the country, which still today comprises only 10 percent of the population.
Why, 70 years into Israel’s existence, is it important to reflect on the vision of Israel’s first leader and worldly statesman?
Because his prophetic words, “It is in the Negev where the creativity and pioneering vigor of Israel shall be tested,” are being realized today. This is underscored in “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue,” the documentary film based on a recently discovered lost interview with Ben-Gurion that reveals his vision. The film will be screened at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.
The Negev, anchored by Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Beer-Sheva, is the geographical center of Israel and is, by most accounts, uncontested land.
Moreover, this region, once a vast desert, today represents a Zionist rebirth of Israeli pioneering — university scientists, farmers, entrepreneurs, new immigrants and an ever-growing presence of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), all of whom are working to secure Israel’s future. This is Ben-Gurion’s Zionism transplanted and reinvigorated in the 21st century.
Through word and deed, Ben-Gurion spearheaded the nation’s commitment to the region. When he retired from public life, he served as a personal role model by moving to Kibbutz Sede Boqer, a small agricultural community 30 miles south of Beer-Sheva.
Rainfall is scarce in the Negev. In the past, its presence was cause for celebration. Every tree, crop and field was a hard-fought victory, and every drop of water was precious. Ben-Gurion envisioned Jewish Israeli research scientists desalinating the sea and harnessing energy from the sun long before both were a possibility, never mind a reality.
Today, desalination technology developed at Ben-Gurion University is producing a surplus of water for Israel, quenching a parched California and even helping neighboring Arab and African countries where water shortages decimate food supplies and create civil upheaval. In fact, Israel is now the only country in the world that is actually shrinking its drylands due to an unparalleled expertise in water research and technology that is making the desert bloom.
Ben-Gurion’s vision of Zionism, as depicted in the film, highlights how crucial science, education and a moral compass are for the Jewish State, not just for its survival but to be a light among nations. “The State of Israel will prove itself not by material wealth, not by military might or technical achievement, but by its moral character and human values,” Ben-Gurion said.
To that end, 21st-century Zionism in the Negev is also about tikkun olam through community service and outreach. Beer-Sheva has absorbed many of the olim who resettled in Israel. Ben-Gurion University not only shares the late prime minister’s name, but also his vision. Many BGU students volunteer to live among these families to help serve as mentors as part of a community outreach program run by the university.
BGU’s medical school was the first in the world to train doctors to treat the patient holistically and to focus on underserved communities in Israel, in the U.S. and globally — a model that is widely emulated today. And, Israeli environmental research students work in African villages to provide low-tech solutions for farming, irrigation, soil management, and safe drinking water without electricity.
The IDF is moving its elite intelligence groups, including the prestigious 8200 Intelligence Unit, to a high-tech campus adjacent to the university that was once an arid field of dirt and sand. It’s part of an innovation ecosystem that involves a unique collaboration between academia, industry, government and the IDF.
The Ben-Gurion University campus will soon double in size to meet the needs of this unprecedented growth in the region.
Beer-Sheva has become the cybersecurity capital of Israel thanks to BGU. And, global companies are now setting their sights on the Negev to acquire technology and invest in startup innovations. All this is proof today that Israel not only has a right to exist but has proven that it adds value through its existence. The world is simply better off because Israel is in it.
Indeed, the past is prologue in “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue.” “The difficult we do first; the impossible takes a little longer,” Ben-Gurion famously said. His vision in the past ─ of impossible circumstances overcome ─ is a Zionist vision we can embrace today. His dream transcends politics and conflict. It’s a clarion call we can all rally around.
Doug Seserman is chief executive officer of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU). “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue” was made possible when the interview soundtrack was found in the University’s Ben-Gurion Archives. Seserman will introduce the film and lead a talkback at 7 p.m. Dec. 3. RSVP to Sissy Zoller at szoller@aabgu.org or 646-452-3710.

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here