Around town: Radio stars, new sanctuary, mega-mentalist

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Passover is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate with family and friends. We hope that as you gather with your loved ones your spirit is renewed as you retell the story of the Exodus and freedom of the Jewish people from slavery.
Perhaps one of the stories in this week’s TJP will inspire you to integrate a contemporary spin on your Seder. From the TJP family to yours, wishing you and your family a Happy Passover!

Passover National Radio features Jewish Community from Fort Worth and Dallas

Journalist Debbie Nathan’s Jewish parents were civil rights activists in Texas in the 1950s and ’60s. So she was shocked when she recently discovered that, before the Civil War, her Southern Jewish ancestors owned slaves.
Last year Nathan held a family reunion with her Fort Worth and Dallas cousins to reveal the generations-old secret. The resulting story, about how very common it once was for Southern Jews to own slaves — and about how modern Jews react to this skeleton-in-the-family closet — is compellingly discussed in a radio program, “We’ll Be Here All Night: Stories for Passover.” It will air at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 4 on KERA.
Several of Nathan’s DFW cousins appear on the program, including these members of Congregation Beth-El: Mimi Klotz, Fannette Sonkin, Marcie Phillips and Bettye Baccus. Historian Hollace Weiner, also a member of Beth-El, is prominently featured.
In addition are Nathan’s Dallas cousins who belong to Congregations Emanu-El and Shearith Israel: Bonnie Grossfeld and Nonie Schwartz, respectively.
Nathan’s 16-minute segment is one part of the hourlong “We’ll Be Here All Night,” a funny, serious, and entertaining program about Passover produced by Tablet Magazine and the radio syndicator PRX.
In addition to radio transmission, the program is available online.

Photo: Congregation Beth Shalom The front wall of Congregation Beth Shalom’s new sanctuary is constructed of Jerusalem Stone.

Congregation Beth Shalom adapts education building to serve as synagogue

A beautiful yet warm, two-story sanctuary is the centerpiece of Congregation Beth Shalom’s recently remodeled synagogue.
The front wall of the sanctuary is constructed of stunning Jerusalem stone. The ark for the synagogue’s Torahs was custom-built and rests on a raised platform on the eastern wall of the sanctuary, as is customary. Above the ark hangs a custom-made ner tamid, or eternal light, that creates a constant soft glow. A memorial board hangs on the north wall.
The sanctuary seats about 100 people. Stuart Snow, the ritual committee chairman for Congregation Beth Shalom, described the new sanctuary as “haymish,” a Yiddish word meaning friendly and warm.
The remodel effort required to create a two-story space was extensive, but it was important to do that extra work so that the Torahs can be lifted high when they are removed from the ark. “Our prayers can soar toward heaven,” Snow said.
The remodeled building also contains a social hall, a kitchen, a gift shop, education rooms and meeting rooms. The floors of the remodeled building are a rust-colored stained concrete.
Congregation Beth Shalom was organized in 1983. Its mission has been to serve Jewish families in Arlington and the Mid-Cities area, and currently about 90 families are members.
At one time, the congregation was larger and there was a Beth Shalom campus consisting of a sanctuary building and a separate education building. When a synagogue was built in Colleyville, many of the Mid-Cities families joined the Colleyville synagogue and Beth Shalom found itself needing to downsize. Beth Shalom sold its sanctuary building and the education building was remodeled to provide space for all of the congregation’s needs.
Congregation Beth Shalom takes pride in being a diverse group — close to half of its members were not born Jewish — and in being welcoming to all. While the congregation is officially a member of the Reform movement, members sometimes refer to the congregation’s brand of Judaism as “Reconserveadox,” because they try to accommodate all backgrounds. Some services are led by synagogue members and some services are led by the cantor.
Lynda Friedensohn is the president of the congregation, and Sheri Allen is the cantor.
Congregation Beth Shalom is located at 1212 Thannisch Drive in Arlington. Services are held at 7:30 Friday nights and begin at 10 on Saturday mornings.
Here is the website. The phone number is 817-860-5448.
For more information call the synagogue at 817-860-5448 or call Stuart Snow at 817-235-1728.

Save the date: April 12

The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth & Tarrant County will host its annual Community Campaign Event at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 12, at Colonial Country Club. This year’s event features Mega Mentalist and best-selling author Sidney Friedman. Friedman, from Chicago, has performed for more than 100 Federation communities. Myriad press sources report, “Friedman is a wizard,” “Friedman will blow your mind,” and “He has telepathic talents, extraordinary ESP, and other mind-blowing abilities.”
This year’s Community Campaign Event, co-chaired by Irwin and Lea Ann Blum and David and Elisa Nudleman, is sure to be a blast and one to remember. Call the Federation office at 817-569-0892 to reserve your spot today. There will be a decadent dessert reception and your cost to attend is just to make your 2015 Annual Campaign pledge by the end of the program.
Beth Shalom White Elephant fundraiser rescheduled
Arlington Congregation Beth Shalom’s White Elephant fundraiser was among the casualties of the  Feb. 27 ice and snow.
The event has been revamped and slated for 7:30 p.m., April 18 in the Beth Shalom Social Hall. Stay tuned for more details in a future column.

Hillel Academy to hold thrift sale

Photo: Hedy Collins The Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith held its annual Senior Seder at 11:30 a.m., March 25 at Beth-El Congregation. Harry Kahn and company whipped up traditional Passover fare for the Jewish Family Services Senior Program participants and others to enjoy. Pictured from left: Seder chefs and volunteers Alex Nason, Rochelle Beckerman, Christine Posnock, Debbie Goldsmith, Lisa Moses, Linda Moses, Marvin Beleck and Harry Kahn

Tarrant County’s Hillel Academy will hold its first thrift sale April 26. The day school is currently looking for donations large and small: clothing, books, small appliances, toys, furniture and other items.
Your generous donations will go to support the children that attend, and the children that will attend, a quality Jewish education and an extended Jewish community that stretches across Tarrant County.
For more information or to arrange for a donation pick-up contact Sierra Hanft at

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