Dallas Doings
By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I am experiencing a bit of déjà vu. It seems like just yesterday that I had moved to Dallas after college and volunteered to coach in the JCC’s youth basketball league. I’m proud to say that my group of second graders won the championship that year, but most importantly they learned about the values of teamwork and good sportsmanship. Those kids are probably in their early thirties now. Some of them may be coaching their own second graders in the Donsky Gym these days. It’s been fun to see our youngest, Jimmy, also a second grader reap the benefits of JCC sports. I love seeing him learn to dribble with his left hand and love seeing his fellow “Twisters” and all of the young round ballers develop their skills. Kudos to Twister coach Dr. Trayce Kaplan and all of the dedicated volunteers of the JCC Youth Sports programs.

An update on the RAGD

Shirley Rovinsky was kind enough to share an update about the goings on at the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas (RAGD). I was surprised to learn that the RAGD has been in existence as far back as the late ‘70s. Membership is comprised of rabbis with widely different theological and philosophical positions who come together to work for the furtherance of issues of common interest and to provide a public face for the Jewish religious community.

This year’s RAGD leadership includes from left Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, Rabbi Ari Perl, Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger and Rabbi Andrew Paley

As the Jewish community in the Dallas area continues to grow, the RAGD has become more involved. The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) provides funding for a part-time administrative associate; one of the goals being a formalization of RAGD as a nonprofit religious, educational and charitable organization. Status of a Texas nonprofit, 501c3 corporation, was achieved in September, 2009.
Susan Kramer, president and CEO of the JFGD said, “One of the highlights of this Fall was having the opportunity to travel to the Federations’ annual General Assembly with three of our congregational rabbis and community leaders. Our intention was to go as a group representing Dallas, Texas and create a common language to address the synagogue-federation relations in our community. We all returned with ideas of how to grow together to crate a stronger partnership.”
One mission of the RAGD is to promote the interests of Judaism and the Jewish people in greater Dallas by providing guidance and stewardship for community religious life and for supporting congregational life, as well as to provide a forum for the discussion and, when appropriate, resolution of problems relating to Jewish life in the community. The RAGD encourages and promotes rabbinic growth and development through continued and expanded opportunities for study and communal service while strengthening bonds of collegiality among its members.
The RAGD works closely with community organizations both Jewish and other faiths when called upon to provide religious guidance and/or programming. One such group is the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) headed by Marlene Gorin, Executive Director. “The JCRC is very proud of its ongoing relationship with the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas. Through our cooperative efforts, the JCRC and the RAGD have been able to jointly co-sponsor community-wide initiatives, such as bringing attention to and calling for advocacy of Gilad Shalit, co-sponsoring the community commemoration for 9/11, and the annual program to observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The JCRC serves as a reference tool for RAGD members and their synagogues regarding community relations issues and is pleased that we have been able to assist in the development of Social Action and Israel programming in the synagogues.”
February will mark the second annual visit to the North Texas Food Bank to pack food boxes. RAGD also provides a “Calendar of Jewish Observances” inclusive of all Jewish denominations to assist organizations in the planning of their events so as to avoid conflicts with the Jewish calendar. This calendar is sent to the school districts in the greater Dallas area to assist them in the planning of activities with sensitivity to their Jewish students’ observances. RAGD is currently forming a Vaad Ha-Mikvah, an oversight committee, for the community mikvah located at Congregation Tiferet Israel.
RAGD representatives are often call upon to participate in community programs such as Israel Independence Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s Memorial Day, as well as Partnership2Gether, a twinning program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas with communities in the Western Galilee. Additional involvement is in the strengthening of Jewish educational, cultural and religious dimensions at the Legacy Preston Hollow.
Rabbi Andrew Paley, current president, said, “The Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas is a wonderful collegial, supportive and helpful association of rabbis from across our community and across the denominations. To be able to sit together and learn with each other from each other, to share ideas and to discuss the important issues of communal concern and be able to become actively involved in those issues is a real joy.” Serving with Rabbi Paley, through May, 2013 are: Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, vice-president; Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, vice-president and Rabbi Ari Perl, immediate past president. The RAGD office number is 214-239-7192 or e-mail ragd@jfgd.org.

Pitzel Puppet Players

The Pitzel Puppet Players consists of puppeteers Gail Mabel and Naomi Sanit. The 5772 season is underway and you can catch one of their shows at Tiferet Israel. The puppeteers are scheduled for one performance at Tiferet each month during the school year.

Longtime educators Gail Mabel, left, and Naomi Sanit create magic for kids of all ages with the Pitzel Puppet Players.

Themes revolve around Jewish holidays, Torah portions and Jewish middot. These puppet shows are filled with jokes for young and old, puns and impromptu repartee with the audience. Adults often comprise nearly half the audience at each performance. Each play is very interactive as audience members, especially those under bar and bat mitzvah age, are encouraged to participate in songs, answer questions and sometimes even help with the puppets.
The Pitzel Puppet Players have performed at the annual JCC Learning Fest, the Jewish Arts Fest, and at their “resident theater,” Tiferet Israel. The performances are original puppet shows starring Chaim, Sara, and a cast of characters playing various parts in each original production.
Meet some of the performers in this drama company:
Chaim always tries to do what is best. He is a true mensch and along with his best friend Sara, has many adventures.
Sara, along with Chaim, tries to figure out what lesson fits with each new experience. Sara and Chaim often “feel a song coming on” at least once during each performance.
Rooster is a classically trained Shakespearean actor. He has played a wide variety of principal and supporting roles. Whatever part Rooster is asked to play, he acts with finesse and his wide theatrical range shows through. Some of Rooster’s roles have included the dove in Noah’s Ark, Achashverosh at Purim, and Paroah (Pharaoh) at Pesach.
Sock began his, her, er … its career as a minor character actor and soon became featured in many performances. With two striking large eyes, Sock searched for his soul mate in a Tu B’Shevat performance (she/he/it smelled just right — like a gym sock) and has owned many memorable lines in recent performances.
The next performance is Saturday, Jan. 14 at 11:30 a.m. Bring along your children, your neighbor’s children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren) for an entertaining show and stay for Kiddush after Shabbat services.

New networking group at Richardson’s  Beth Torah

Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson is inaugurating a forum to offer advice, networking and fellowship for North Texans looking for new or better jobs. It’s called Business Connections, and the first meeting is set for Wednesday, January 18, at 7:30 p.m.
“While Beth Torah is sponsoring this program, we welcome everyone from the community,” said Lou Kaiser, a past president of the synagogue who helped organize the effort with several other congregation members. “This is a problem that affects all of us.”
The guest speaker at the meeting will be Larry Hastings, director of sales and education for Dillard’s Department Stores. The evening is free, and refreshments will be provided.
Kaiser said the group plans monthly meetings, as well as ongoing efforts to help business owners, professionals and others make connections, prepare themselves for new jobs, and keep their spirits up.
“This is a tough time for a lot of people,” he said. “We think our synagogue can be a place to provide career help and fellowship, and we aim to do both.”
Congregation Beth Torah is located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson. For more information, and to RSVP for event, visit www.businessconnections-at-cbt.com.

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