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Michael Bloomberg preparing to run for president

Michael Bloomberg preparing to run for president

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

By Ben Sales

NEW YORK (JTA) — Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire media mogul, appears to be preparing to run for president.

Bloomberg, 77, flirted with presidential runs in past election cycles before declining to run. As recently as March, he ruled out a presidential campaign this year, writing that he was “clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field.”

But now he is registering to run in the Democratic primary in Alabama, whose filing deadline is Friday, according to The New York Times. Although the filing does not mean that Bloomberg would definitely run, he has called a number of senior Democratic leaders to tell them he is considering a campaign.

If he does enter the race, just 2 1/2 months before the Iowa Caucuses kick off the primary season, it will upend an already crowded Democratic field. Bloomberg is a centrist who was a Democrat before running for New York mayor as a Republican, after which he switched to be independent. He recently returned to the Democratic Party.

Bloomberg’s presence in the race may draw votes away from former Vice President Joe Biden, another centrist. He is the second billionaire to enter the Democratic race after Tom Steyer.

Last year, ahead of the midterm elections, Bloomberg pledged to spend $80 million to help elect Democrats. The ads he paid for focused on issues like gun control and the Republican tax plan. One $5 million ad campaign invoked the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last year. He has been attacked by Republican leaders like Trump and House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, pushing through legislation in City Council so he could run for a third term, which he did successfully. He was a defender of controversial policing practices who also favored charter schools and expanded pedestrian spaces and services for residents in the city.

He founded Bloomberg LP, which would grow to become a business media empire that stood out by providing up-to-the-minute stock information through specialized computer terminals. His net worth is valued at $52.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Following his tenure as mayor, Bloomberg has aggressively advocated for anti-gun violence measures, as well as efforts to combat climate change. In the 2016 presidential election, he endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, saying in a speech at the Democratic Convention that year, “together, let’s elect a sane, competent person with international experience.”

In 2014, he was the inaugural recipient of the Genesis Prize, a $1 million award sometimes called the “Jewish Nobel.” The award honors individuals who serve “as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement along with their commitment to Jewish values and the Jewish people.” He donated the prize money to social entrepreneurs.

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Jewish groups provide emergency help to the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian

Jewish groups provide emergency help to the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian

Posted on 05 September 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The Israel-based humanitarian group IsraAID, B’nai B’rith International, Chabad and JDC are among those pitching in to help the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation, which has killed at least seven people.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of the northern Bahamas,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference Tuesday, adding the “devastation is unprecedented and extensive.”
The hurricane stalled over Grand Bahama Island for nearly two days, leaving whole neighborhoods, as well as airports and hospitals, submerged. At least 13,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.

This GOES-16 satellite image taken Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, at 16:40 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, left, churning over Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian hovered over the Bahamas on Monday, pummeling the islands with a fearsome Category 4 assault that forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passes. (NOAA via AP)


IsraAID, a humanitarian aid agency that responds to emergency crises and engages in international development around the world, said Tuesday that it would send emergency support to the Bahamas.
Its emergency response team will distribute relief supplies, offer psychological first aid and deploy water filters to restore access to drinking water while conducting further needs assessments in affected communities, the NGO said in a statement.
In 2018, IsraAID said its emergency response teams reached 26,300 people with safe water, psychological and community support, and relief following nine disasters in seven countries. The group has opened an Emergency Response Fund to pay for its work.
B’nai B’rith is accepting donations to its Disaster Relief Fund to assist those affected by Dorian. Donations will go to assist local recovery and rebuilding teams, the group said in a statement.
Rabbi Sholom and Sheera Bluming, directors of Chabad of the Bahamas in Nassau, have been in touch with the Jewish community in Nassau, which was relatively unscathed by the hurricane, but have not been able to reach some of those living on Abaco, who still remain unaccounted for, according to Chabad.org.
The rabbi said that about 1,000 Jewish expats have made their home in the Bahamas, and that more than 100,000 Jews visit the islands each year.
The Blumings have joined in the official government relief effort, calling on the Jewish community to help, and is coordinating a shipment of supplies from South Florida that will include food, drinking water and mosquito nets for Abaco.
The JDC, or American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee said in a statement that it would provide emergency medical supplies through its partner the Afya Foundation, and is raising funds for the supplies as well as for recovery and reconstruction initiatives. To tailor its response to the evolving situation on the ground, JDC said it has activated its network of partners and is assessing the situation in consultation with these local and international agencies.
JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. Relief efforts of JDC are coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, the Israeli government and the United Nations, as well as local and international partners.
As of Wednesday morning the hurricane, now a Category 2 storm, remained about 100 miles off Florida’s east coast, lashing it with wind and rain, and moving toward Georgia, with experts saying it could hit the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday and Friday. Storm surge warnings are in place up and down the coast.

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Israel confirms it is banning Tlaib and Omar from entering country

Israel confirms it is banning Tlaib and Omar from entering country

Posted on 15 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., right, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., attend a rally with Democrats in the Capitol to introduce the “Equality Act,” which will amend existing civil rights legislation to bar discrimination based on gender identification and sexual orientation on Wednesday, March 13. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

By Josefin Dolsten

(JTA) — Israel’s deputy foreign minister confirmed that Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will not be allowed to enter the country.
“We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle this is a very justified decision,” Tzipi Hotovely told Israel’s public broadcaster Kan.


The statement came shortly after a Washington Post report claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was weighing banning the two Muslim congresswomen, both supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Under Israeli law, BDS supporters can be prevented from entering the country.
Tlaib, D-Mich., and Omar, D-Minn., are outspoken critics of Israel and both at times have been criticized for relying on anti-Semitic tropes in their criticism. They were scheduled to visit the Jewish state on Sunday.
Shortly after the Post report, President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that Israel “would show great weakness” if it let in the two congresswomen.
Israel’s envoy to Washington, Ron Dermer, said last month that the country would not deny entry to any member of Congress.
The president has repeatedly attacked Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, and Omar, who was born in Somalia, at times invoking rhetoric widely described as racist.

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Legacy Midtown Park construction is progressing

Legacy Midtown Park construction is progressing

Posted on 31 July 2019 by admin

Health care building expected to open summer 2020
Photo: Courtesy The Legacy Midtown Park
Construction is well underway at The Legacy Midtown Park with the first
building slated to open next summer.

Construction is well underway on The Legacy Midtown Park, The Legacy Senior Communities’ Jewish-sponsored rental continuing care retirement community. The new community is a symbol of the nonprofit organization’s commitment to Dallas-area Jewish seniors and their families, and it represents the next step in the organization’s 65-year history of providing vibrant lifestyles and high-quality care for seniors. Recently, the organization celebrated a topping-off of the community’s health care center, which is scheduled to open its doors in summer 2020.
“As an organization, we strive to ensure that our services allow us to best serve Jewish seniors and their families,” said Melissa Orth, president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities. “Through The Legacy Midtown Park, we are creating an environment where residents can thrive with state-of-the-art resources, innovative programming and a deep commitment to Jewish seniors and their families. From the design of the community to the team members brought on board, we’ve taken every step to ensure that The Legacy Midtown Park is a place seniors are proud to call home. We are thrilled to announce each milestone that brings us closer to our purpose of serving Jewish seniors in the Dallas community.”
The urban and contemporary retirement community will be part of the thriving Midtown Park development in North Dallas between Meadow Road and Royal Lane near North Central Expressway. The community will have 184 independent living apartments and the highest quality of care in 51 assisted living apartments, 36 memory care residences, and 54 suites for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care. Construction for the project is being overseen by The Belaire Group, which serves as the project’s Owner’s Representative. The Belaire Group has provided consulting services for The Legacy Senior Communities since the initial planning phase in 2014. The project team for The Legacy Midtown Park also consists of Brian Schiff & Associates (development consultant), StudioSix5 (interior designers), D2 Architecture, and Talley Associates (landscape architects), who are all working to make The Legacy Midtown Park a reality. According to Marco DePalma, president of The Belaire Group, The Legacy Midtown Park has been designed to go above and beyond in providing an efficiently designed community for seniors with access to the high-quality services that The Legacy Senior Communities is known for.
“The uniqueness of the project is that it was designed with extreme attention to detail when it comes to an elegant and contemporary design, all while being functional for residents,” said DePalma. “The Legacy Senior Communities has worked to provide a community for future residents that is more than just a place to call home, but a place where residents are able to live active and vibrant lifestyles. Construction is moving along, and we’re pleased to have recently completed the roof on our health care center. Additionally, the first floor for the Assisted and Memory Care building was placed following the Fourth of July holiday, and we anticipate a new floor being poured in each building every 10 days. We’re pleased to see the community taking shape and look forward to seeing the finished product.”
Construction on the three different buildings is occurring concurrently across The Legacy Midtown Park campus. The community expects to open the health care center building, offering short-term rehab and long-term skilled nursing services in summer 2020. Following the opening of the health care center next summer, the assisted living and memory care building is anticipated to open shortly after, followed by independent living in the first quarter of 2021. Located on 10 acres in the Midtown Park development, The Legacy Midtown Park will be the only Jewish-sponsored rental retirement community in Dallas. The development will offer security and peace of mind for people of all faiths who will call the community home. With multiple dining options including kosher kitchens, a full-service pub with a billiards table, a golf simulator, underground parking, fully equipped fitness, aerobics studio and aquatic center, as well as many other cutting-edge amenities, The Legacy Midtown Park will create the lifestyle desired by seniors today and for years to come.
The Legacy at Home, the organization’s not-for-profit home health care and hospice agency, will also provide home health care, personal assistance, and hospice services for both residents of The Legacy Midtown Park and seniors in the surrounding area. The services provided through The Legacy at Home will act as an extension to further the continuum of care offered at The Legacy Midtown Park.
“As construction moves forward, we couldn’t be more excited to witness The Legacy Midtown Park becoming a reality,” said John Falldine, executive director of The Legacy Midtown Park. “The Legacy Senior Communities has a long-established reputation of excellence for serving Jewish seniors and their families in North Texas, and through The Legacy Midtown Park we will be able to continue that dedication to high-quality service in the heart of Dallas. In addition, as a rental model without an upfront entry fee, our community will offer seniors the opportunity to enjoy the active lifestyle of an urban setting, all while maintaining the privacy and comforts of a close-knit community.”

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Tabit of Israel sets up U.S. shop in Dallas

Tabit of Israel sets up U.S. shop in Dallas

Posted on 25 July 2019 by admin

Dallas-headquartered company streamlines restaurant process
Photo: Deb Silverthorn
“Shelly (Matityahu) came in and trained us until we were confident and clear,” said Jordona Kohn, co-owner of The Market on Preston Road, shown here using the Tabit system. “When we’ve had an issue, they have in-person, or remotely, met our needs without delay.”

By Deb Silverthorn
B’tayavon, the wish to enjoy your meal, is being granted around the country, around the world through the Israeli-founded company, Dallas-headquartered Tabit. Bringing good taste to the dining experience, through the company’s U.S. offices, are Alex Abeles, Dror Ben-David, Tyler Dillon, Melissa Gipson, Shelly Matityahu and Tal Spirer.
Being used in high-volume full-service restaurants, and small cafés, Tabit is a point-of-sale and table-side ordering system that streamlines restaurant operations and extends sale opportunities. Tabit reports a 15 percent increase in average check total and 12-15 minutes’ decrease in table turn time, providing an ultimate growth of 15-25 percent in revenues.
“Our local team comes of strong roots with customer service in their bloodstreams and we know great things are going to happen,” said Nadav Solomon, the company’s COO, who co-founded Tabit with CEO Barry Shaked. “Dallas, with the most independently-owned restaurants in the States, is the city to be in. The Metroplex is home to so many great restaurants and we have people here who know the market and how to serve it.”
Tal Spirer, general manager of the Dallas business unit, brings his own talent to the company, but does so in the spirit of dor v’dor — of generation to generation. The son of Ruth and Eli Spirer, he follows his father, who, in 1996, opened the Dallas office of Retalix, another of Shaked’s companies, and his mother, who built a career as an event planner providing premier hospitality service.
“I’m both excited and proud to be carrying on the tradition of manning the U.S. base for an Israeli company — these both started by Barry Shaked, whom I’ve known all of my life,” said Spirer, who comes to Tabit after also working with Retalix. “My parents set the bar for excellence and you can be sure that Tabit will follow. It really is like the circle of life.”
Married to Colette, and the father of Ari and Liam, Spirer was born in Israel and moved to Dallas with his family when he was a teen. He is a graduate of J.J. Pearce High School and University of Texas-Dallas.
“When I was first showed the product, I was impressed right away. The user experience flow is incredible. Designed by those who’ve been in the business, it realizes how industry users think and work,” Spirer said. “Tabit runs with the spirit and enthusiasm of a startup, but the backup and background of a seasoned company.”
With more than 500 locations using Tabit in Israel, and now more than 20 in the Dallas area, there are plans to expand to Los Angeles, Miami and beyond.
“In this business, success is a lot about word of mouth. I knew Tal’s mother and she said she thought Tabit would be a great tool for us. That’s the understatement,” said Jordona Kohn, an owner of The Market on Preston Road. “From the beginning it’s been great and it makes our whole business run more efficiently. In the new age of technology, Tabit has the answers, helping our waitstaff get orders in faster and more clearly, and then lets our customers check out.”
Kohn appreciates Tabit’s system approach, which has prompts to guide the waitstaff to upsell. If a customer orders a tuna sandwich, it spikes what sides, bread varieties, and other choices the staff can offer. For returning customers, a reminder of previous orders is provided.
Each week The Market receives an email with sales and trending items, what sold well and what less so. It allows drink orders and appetizers to be prepped while the waitstaff collects the rest of an order, and “the check” can be split in a second for parties sharing meals. For Kohn, the “how to” support has been ace; before the restaurant’s Wi-Fi was set up, Tabit created a hotspot providing services.
“Shelly (Matityahu) trained us until we were confident. When we’ve had an issue, they have in-person, or remotely, met our needs without delay,” Kohn said.
Matityahu, the daughter of Liat and Odi, is a Plano Senior High School and UT Dallas graduate, involved with Chabad at Legacy West, which hosts programming for Plano’s young Jewish adults. Being part of a team responsible for customer success serves her well.
“Being out in the field, in-person with our customers, is what I love most,” Matityahu said. “Helping with implementation, training, and helping the customers determine what they need, and how best to provide it, is the best way to spend my days.”
Yehuda Alali, owner of Meat Point on Campbell Road, and Solomon had mutual friends in Israel. Introduced, the two were a match and Alali has been thrilled with Tabit’s implementation.
“Tabit allows me to follow the restaurant’s menu performance, online monitoring of service performance and much more, enabling real-time changes and improvements,” Alali said. “The ability to monitor and change, even when remote, keeps me up-to-date with Meat Point’s activities without ever missing a beat.”
Tabit has a small but mighty team. Matityahu said that the company’s inherent belief in the product serves their customers, because they connect.
“We’re able to customize the program to meet individual needs and the feedback is incredible,” she said. “Tabit is a boutique service. If a site has an issue at 11 p.m., they won’t get an 800 number, they get one of us. Tabit was built by developers, restaurant management and the service industry’s best. We know what is needed and how to make it happen.”
For more information, visit tabit.cloud or call 833-822-4887.

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Leadership team grows at newly merged Akiba/Yavneh

Leadership team grows at newly merged Akiba/Yavneh

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy of Akiba/Yavneh Academies
Rabbi Yaakov Green is the new head of school at the newly merged Akiba/Yavneh Academies.

This fall, three senior educators will join Akiba/Yavneh Academies, a Modern Orthodox day school for infants through high schoolers.
Rabbi Yaakov Green will serve as the head of school. Most recently, Green led the HF Epstein Hebrew Academy of St. Louis, Missouri, where he was instrumental in re-accrediting the school; balancing the budget; hiring and supervising principals, teachers and staff; fundraising; and building relationships within the larger community.
As the new general studies principal for Yavneh, Donna Hutcheson will draw on her 30 years of experience in the public-school sector, most recently as assistant principal at North Garland Math Science and Technology Magnet.
“I am most passionate about kids. They are the world-changers, the new innovators and the future,” said Hutcheson. “I believe that the biggest part of my job is to create and nurture the most optimal environment for students to challenge themselves and succeed at their highest levels.”
Hutcheson will partner with Yavneh’s longtime principal, Rabbi Maury Grebenau, to support Rabbi Green.
Amanda Stubbs will join the educational leadership team to serve as director of the Ma’alot Learning Platform, a new initiative that will provide students with diverse learning needs the opportunity to realize their full potential. Stubbs brings with her more than 10 years of experience working with children from diverse learning backgrounds in the Denison Independent School District. Her responsibilities there included developing curriculum, mentoring new teachers, serving as a lead teacher, developing and sustaining after-school programs, and staff training and development.
These new hires will join an experienced and successful leadership team already in place.
This year, K-8 Principals Rabbi Chanania Engelsman and Danielle Gershon implemented computer-adaptive standardized tests, the first eighth-grade class trip to Israel, a new reading program, 21st-century classroom seating and new technology for teachers and students. Rabbi Engelsman came to Akiba from SAR Academy in Riverdale, New York; Gershon worked at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago.
Early Childhood Director Jordana Bernstein has grown the Akiba early childhood program to include popular Parent & Me classes, parenting seminars and a robust summer camp. Additionally, the Jewish Theological Seminary chose Akiba’s Early Childhood Program as one of five schools in the United States — and the only school in Texas — to be part of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Research Collaborative.
“We have a strong and talented team in place to elevate our school next year and beyond,” said Bernstein, an alumna of Akiba who has served as the early childhood director for 13 years. “We can’t wait to get started.”

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Netanyahu: Gaza battle ‘not over’ despite cease-fire

Netanyahu: Gaza battle ‘not over’ despite cease-fire

Posted on 06 May 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

A building that was damaged by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 5. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

By Sam Sokol

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Despite Monday morning’s cease-fire, which ended two days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the “campaign is not over,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

“Over the last two days we struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force,” Netanyahu said. “We hit over 350 targets. We struck at terrorist leaders and operatives and we destroyed terrorist buildings. The campaign is not over and it demands patience and sagacity. We are prepared to continue. The goal has been – and remains – ensuring quiet and security for the residents of the south. I send condolences to the families and best wishes for recovery to the wounded.”

Over the course of the weekend, Hamas launched nearly 700 rockets at Israel, killing four people and injuring many more. As of Monday, 25 Palestinians were reported dead by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

According to The Times of Israel, Hamas also vowed to continue the conflict, asserting that “this round is over, but the conflict will not end until we regain our rights.”

During Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu had announced that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces to continue its “aggressive attacks” against Hamas, noting that the army was reinforcing its forces surrounding the Gaza Strip. Several members of the Cabinet vowed not to show any restraint because of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest being held May 14-18 in Tel Aviv, which will bring thousands of spectators and media from across Europe. It is widely believed by Israelis that Hamas was attempting to disrupt the event in order to harm Israel.

The decision to agree to a cease-fire was harshly criticized by Netantahu’s political rivals, with Likud Knesset member Gidon Saar saying that “timed intervals between rounds of violence directed at Israel and its citizens are getting shorter, while Gaza’s terror organizations are getting stronger. The round of fighting has been delayed rather than prevented.”

Likewise, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, head of the opposition Blue and White party, called the cease-fire “another surrender to the blackmail of Hamas and terrorist organizations.” Israel, he alleged, had lost its capacity for deterrence.

Moshe Yaalon, another former chief of staff politically allied with Gantz, also attacked Netanyahu, calling him on Twitter a weak leader only interested in his own political survival.

Conflict with Hamas can be politically dangerous for Netanyahu. While nearly 70 percent of Israelis approved of Netanyahu’s decision not to launch a large-scale operation in Gaza in late 2018, a Midgam poll conducted in November showed that nearly three-quarters of Israelis initially expressed disapproval of the prime minister’s handling of that escalation.

The latest round of conflict resulted in significant damage. According to Haaretz, out of 690 rockets launched from Gaza, 240 were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

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Top Israeli highlights of 2017

Posted on 02 January 2018 by admin

Israel in Houston posted this video to Facebook of the top Israeli highlights of 2017:

 

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New life for everlasting light at Nishmat

New life for everlasting light at Nishmat

Posted on 02 November 2017 by admin

Dallas woman’s 4-decade struggle to restore ner tamid finally rewarded

By Aaron Greenberg
Special to the TJP

PLANO — A piece of pre-Holocaust German Jewry is about to be given new life at Congregation Nishmat Am after a Dallas woman’s persistence over four decades finally paid off.
Sunday’s ceremony will mark a new chapter in the history of a ner tamid, the sanctuary lamp hanging over the ark. Jeanette Augusta Rashti, who first saw it in a German-American home in the 1970s, knew right away it was likely looted during Kristallnacht.

The ner tamid is shown before restoration.

The ner tamid is shown before restoration.

“I feel relieved that a religious item out of a synagogue that was destroyed is back where it should be, in a synagogue, not a trinket in a German home,” Rashti said. “But I never really thought I would get it after that second ‘no.’ ”
She acquired the lamp from the Florida couple over the winter, and offered it to Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen for his congregation’s sanctuary.
Dr. David Patterson, a Nishmat Am congregant and expert on the Holocaust, found photos of the synagogue in Lörrach, Germany burning, as so many others did on that November 1938 evening. The survival of an item that wasn’t of great monetary value was surprising.
“I’ve seen remnants of Torah scrolls saved, at times restored and put back into use. Those are very rare,” he said. “I’ve never heard of something like this. It borders on the miraculous. It’s a really remarkable thing to come to our community, not just Nishmat Am, but the Jewish community at large.”
Patterson, the Hillel A. Feinberg chair in Holocaust Studies at the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at UT-Dallas, called it “a light that survives the darkness and continues, l’dor vador (from generation to generation).”
The dedication ceremony comes just ahead of the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass Nov. 9 and 10, 1938), and will double as a remembrance of that night. The program at Nishmat Am, located at 2113 West Spring Creek Pkwy., will begin Sunday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy and reverence that this thing is going to be in my synagogue, and that it’s come full circle,” Rabbi Cohen said.
Rashti’s part in the story begins in the early 1970s. Her close friend Viv lived in Texas in the 1960s, but later moved to Florida. Viv’s family came to America from Germany in the 1920s. Her father sponsored the arrival of his nephew, Wolfgang, and Wolfgang’s wife, Ute, in 1968.
A few years later, Rashti was visiting Viv in Florida, and they went to Viv’s cousin’s home.
“They were showing me the house, and in the living room was a lamp with two Stars of David on both sides,” Rashti said.
“‘Oh yeah, it came out of a synagogue in Germany,’ he said, casually,” she related. “It upset me.”
Wolfgang wasn’t terribly friendly, she thought, and perhaps he got it from his father, who lived under the Nazi regime, unlike Viv’s father. As much as it troubled Rashti, she didn’t want to upset her friend.
“I never told her, because I didn’t want to hurt her and there was nothing she could do,” Rashti said. “I didn’t point out how much it bothered me. I have a feeling (Viv’s) father’s youngest brother might have been 22, 23 when the war broke out. I think he was one who helped destroy that synagogue in Lörrach, Germany.”
Viv’s parents had given up on speaking German after they came to this country, but the family was still targeted during the war — “it’s interesting how prejudice goes both ways,” Rashti said.
Viv, her friend of 50 years, died in 2001, but Rashti kept in touch with Ute and didn’t give up on the idea of buying the ner tamid, which was eventually used as a kitchen lamp. If anything, she was more determined as time went on and she became more connected to the Jewish community.
“I got more concerned when I joined Shearith Israel in 2007,” she said. “Then I began to feel really badly about it.”
Twice, she asked to buy it, and both times Wolfgang said no. Then, in December, Ute wrote a letter. When Rashti called, she found out Wolfgang was on dialysis.
“She said ‘I’ll sell it,’ really fast,” Rashti said.
Rashti paid more than $100 for shipping, but it arrived undamaged.
Although she has attended Shearith Israel over the past decade, she felt Cohen’s congregation could use the gift.
“He has always been so kind to me and has gone out of his way,” Rashti said. “They’re not a very wealthy synagogue, but are a very caring synagogue.”
Cohen said he met Rashti at the bar mitzvah of one of her friends’ grandsons at Nishmat Am about three years ago.
“She’s a wonderful lady, and we formed a close friendship, and when this came about, she called me with such excitement, and I can understand why,” he said.
Cohen recalled seeing the ner tamid for the first time.
“She was in awe when she unpacked it, and showed it to me,” he said. “The feelings that overcame me, there are no words to adequately describe the feeling of holding such a holy item in my hands. She said, ‘Rabbi, it’s a piece of history.’”
Cohen wanted to see how it compared to other sanctuary lights from that era.
“We actually searched on the internet for ner tamids in Germany in the 1930s,” Cohen said. “We found ones that looked almost exactly like what we had. You can see the exact same style. This was actually an oil lamp. It was converted later on, either in Germany or once it came with this family. You can see the little oil container underneath and where they lit the ner tamid.”
He pointed out that photos of the Lörrach synagogue from Kristallnacht show the sides of the ark, but not where the sanctuary light would be.
“But we know exactly where it came from, that was the synagogue,” he said.
Patterson noted the symbolism of its survival.
“The ner tamid has all kinds of symbolic significance, and the fact that it survived that period has a lot of meaning and significance as well,” he said. “It’s exactly what the Nazis set out to destroy, the eternal light of Judaism and Jewish teaching and tradition.”
It was soldered by one of Rabbi Cohen’s congregants, Jimmy McClintock, who cleaned off a dark coating from perhaps a century of use.
“It needed a little restoring to its old glory,” Rabbi Cohen said.
Rabbi Cohen thought the fixture was black, and Rashti described it as antique gold. But as McClintock cleaned it, he discovered something even more beautiful.
“He says ‘You wouldn’t believe it, the black is coming off,’” Cohen said. “The black, maybe a hundred years, the fumes and everything else, took what was gold and made it black. He washed it in soap and water and the black started coming off. The original color was gold leaf. We have this gorgeous, gold leaf eternal light.”
On Sunday, Rashti will tell her story, Rabbi Cohen will discuss Kristallnacht, and there will be songs, readings, a poem about Kristallnacht and recitation of Kaddish. Children from the synagogue’s school will participate as well. The ner tamid will be lit for the first time in its new home. Brunch will be offered afterward.
For Rabbi Cohen, remembering Kristallnacht and what followed is personal. Both of his parents survived Auschwitz, and lost their siblings and dozens of family members during the Holocaust.
“You think about this one night, the one night about 1,350 synagogues burned to the ground, and this was one of them,” he said. “Thirty thousand Jews thrown into concentration camps, 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed.”
Rabbi Cohen said the ner tamid will serve as a memorial, but also “maybe a little hope for the future that our light should shine bright.
“The eternal light also tells the story of our people,” he said. “This is the perfect example of the eternal light that was supposed to be broken into pieces, but it was not, it represents the eternity of our people. Am Yisrael Chai (the nation of Israel lives).
“There’s a prayer we pray when we return the Torah to the ark, from Lamentations,” Cohen said. “The end is ‘chadesh yamenu k’kedem’ — restore our days as old. What does it mean? Restore the city of Jerusalem and the way it was when the holy Temple was in existence. Restore it to its old glory. And I think this is a perfect example of restoring something to its old glory.”

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Film review: ‘The Wedding Plan’ romantic comedy with an Orthodox twist

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

For those who remember Rama Burshtein’s first film, Fill the Void, you’ll want to grab your hat and coat (it’s cold in theaters these days — haven’t you noticed?) and head for a screening of her new film, The Wedding Plan.
Again, Burshtein pulls back the curtain on the Orthodox community and a wedding is the main event, but the similarities end there.
Michal, a charming 32-year-old Orthodox woman, is left at the altar (or more literally at the food tasting for the wedding). What’s a girl to do? She already has the dress. She’s paid for the venue. And moves into a new apartment. If you have faith, like Michal, you continue checking off your list leading up to the wedding, but add one item — a groom. Oy!
We join Michal (a terrific Noa Koler) on a bittersweet journey to find her true love. The only hitch is, the wedding is 30 days away, on the eighth day of Hanukkah. The audience joins her on her pilgrimage to matrimony where you’ll meet some real characters along the way. See if you can figure out who becomes Mr. Right.
And hope for a Hanukkah miracle.
Normally, one doesn’t think romantic comedy when you think of the Orthodox community. But Burshtein skillfully merges comedy with the concept of faith.
I was fortunate to speak with the writer and director of The Wedding Plan, Rama Burshtein, last week.
An excerpt from our conversation follows:
Susan Kandell Wilkofsky: I just have to tell you that I am thrilled to speak with you today. Your last film, Fill the Void, was one of those rare films that displayed such a delicate balance between drama and comedy. From the opening scene in the supermarket — I was hooked! And the same with the The Wedding Plan, a charming film that deftly contrasts drama and comedy. I’m not giving anything away when I say, “Wow.”
(Go see the film and you’ll appreciate that word reference.)
Rama Burshtein:    (with a laugh)    Thank you so much, thank you.
SKW: I want to talk a little about the stories that you tell, basically about women who are strong but are also observant. Does this pose a problem when storytelling?
RB: It’s interesting that you say it as if it’s an opposite thing.
As if “you’re observant and strong” doesn’t mix together. But for me, being observant is (a form of) strength and power.
SKW: Am I correct in saying that just like the main character, Michal, you were both raised as secular Jews and not in an ultra-Orthodox home? And by the way, Noa Koler was just terrific! So real! Any other similarities between the main character of The Wedding Plan and you?
RB: First of all, thank you again for all the beautiful things you say! The film is more of my world in terms of becoming religious. I’m 50 years old now and I became religious at the age of 27, so I have lived more years as a secular person than as an observant (one), so, everything I am, basically comes before I became religious. So we (Michal and I) dress a bit different, we’re not so traditional because we have both worlds living inside us. But the story is not autobiographical.
SKW: I enjoyed sneaking a peek behind the curtain. The Orthodox world is not a place that I would often have access, except perhaps in film. I am also the program director of a Jewish film festival in Dallas, and one of my observations is that the Orthodox rarely attend our films, even if it highlights their community.
RB: That’s right. My films are not for the Orthodox community at all. I actually don’t recommend that they go and see them. My films are for secular Jews and even non-Jews — I’m trying to be that little window and the Orthodox world doesn’t really need that window in terms of getting to know their world. So, they won’t go and see films and they won’t sit in a theater where men and women sit together.
SKW: In researching this film, I learned that it was shown in other countries with a translation of its Hebrew title, Through the Wall, but here in the United States it’s known as The Wedding Plan. Why the change?
RB: After hosting some screenings, Roadside Attractions (the distributors) decided that the word “wall” in an Israeli film sounded very political. And this film was not. And for me, it was OK that they made the change; I totally trust them.
SKW: Just as a side note here — there is a pivotal scene that takes place next to a wall (but not The Wall). Having the word “wall” in the title would then lead the audience to believe that the film heads into a very different direction.
RB: (a little laugh). Ah, I can see how you thought that. Interesting!
SKW: I love how you seamlessly integrated the music into the storyline (again, you’ll have to see it to understand my meaning). This is obviously an important element to you.
RB: Yes, actually the musician, Roy Edri, did both the score and the songs. His music goes very fast to the heart! You kind of listen to it and (right from the beginning), you can almost sing with it. I think he’s extremely talented.
SKW: In this country, Jewish singles use JDate to find suitable matches; does the Hasidic community still rely on matchmakers?
RB: Yes, that’s our JDate! (We both laugh.) It’s actually the same! The JDate is the matchmaker. Absolutely the same, except the big difference is, on JDate, it’s not necessarily for marriage — unless they declare they’re looking for something serious — but for us it won’t be anything but marriage. That’s mainly the difference.
SKW: For those who haven’t seen the film yet, there is a character — Shimi’s mother — who performs certain rituals. What was her title? What is she? Is there a name for what she does?
RB: (little snicker) I don’t think there’s a name, but in Judaism, we do believe in the evil eye. Sometimes you feel you kind of need something spiritual that will help you. If you’re stuck, you go to someone. You have it in the Orthodox world. You have it in the secular world. You go to a coach, you go to people who can help you overcome an obstacle. And she’s the type, when it comes to marriage, girls come to her and she brings them to a very genuine, honest place that starts something new.
SKW: Now I learned something new! What is your next project? What are you working on?
RB: It’s in the very, very early stages, but I think the next project involves television: to do a show, to go into the deeper level of a story. To (tell the story) in 10 hours and not two hours.
SKW: So many Israeli TV programs have been adapted for American audiences: Homeland, In Treatment. I am looking forward to that! Thank you for speaking so candidly with me today. Please keep sharing your stories with us.
RB: It was a pleasure!

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