By Sharon Wisch-Ray
It was great to get a note recently from the Windy City and hear from Gary Weinstein. As most of you probably know Gary was president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas for over a decade. Now he is the vice-president of development and planned giving for the Midwest Region of Birthright Israel.
If you knew Gary well, than you know a large portion of his heart is dedicated to Israel, and from June 1-7, he will staffing the first National Birthright Israel Donors mission. He is hopeful that some of his Dallas friends might join him on the mission.
Gary writes, “Over the years I have taken hundreds of Dallasites to Israel and wanted to give my friends an opportunity to travel with me again if they so choose. The trip is open to anyone who is interested in seeing first hand a Birthright trip up close and personal as we will shadow a young adults trip in progress as well as meet with government leaders, both political and military. I have a VIP itinerary and plenty of sight seeing and free time. It is open to anyone with a donation for Birthright (this could be negotiable).”
The cost is $3,300 per person double occupancy land only. It is being led by Lynda and Conrad Giles. Conrad is the former Council of Jewish Federation’s President, former Detroit Federation Board Chair and currently outgoing Jewish Council for Public Affairs Board Chair. Gary will be the staff member on board.
On a personal note, Gary and Miriam bought a house in Deerfield, Ill. Daughter Tori, 18, joined BBYO and is going to University of Illinois next fall. Shai, 15 is a sophomore on the high school swim team. Both are enrolled at the local high school which is 65% Jewish and they are taking Hebrew as part of the high school language requirements. The Weinstein’s oldest daughter, Avia, 19, is attending Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Brit, 7, is in first grade. The Weinsteins joined the Conservative synagogue, Beth Shalom, in Northbrook, Ill. and are making wonderful new friends.
Gary offices at the Jewish Federation in Chicago, and enjoys a wonderful partnership with them. Last December the Birthright Israel Foundation co-sponsored with the Chicago Federation a Young Leadership event with Jimmy Fallon. The event garnered over 2,600 participants.
Gary says, “In Chicago alone we estimate over 12,000 Birthright alumni. Nationally, Birthright Israel sent over 30,000 participants last year to Israel from North America and some 52 countries. We raised a total of $50 million from 25,000 donors in North America. However, as great as last year was over 32,000 were placed on a wait list due to a lack of funds. This program is this generation’s transformational phenomena. To find out more about the program, or to visit with Gary, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 469-767-3313 or 312-357-4951. Thanks Gary for the great update!
Rafi Cohen installed as Beth Torah rabbi
Rabbi Rafi Cohen was officially installed as Congregation Beth Torah’s rabbi in a warm, emotional ceremony during Shabbat services on March 17.
Rabbi Cohen became Beth Torah’s spiritual leader last July, but the festive installation weekend was postponed to give the Cohens — who became parents for the second time last fall — the chance to settle into their new home.
“This time together and the process of our working together has given us both a chance to learn and better appreciate all that we have going on at Beth Torah and in our greater community,” said Tony Tello, the synagogue president.
In a Beth Torah tradition, Rabbi Cohen was presented with the yad, the ceremonial silver pointer used to read the Torah, as a symbol of his responsibility to the congregation. In a unique twist, the honor of presenting the yad went to Rabbi Cohen’s father, Rabbi Alan Cohen, the longtime rabbi at Beth Shalom in Kansas City, MO.
“Together we will be a learning congregation and a congregation of learners,” Rabbi Cohen vowed to the packed sanctuary. “We will always keep before us the goal to bring us closer to God and our fellow human beings through living Jewish lives.”
Also visiting for the festive weekend were Rabbi Cohen’s mother, Linda, and his friend Jesse Holzer, cantor of the Jacksonville Jewish Center, who led much of the service.
Rabbi Cohen is a graduate of Brandeis University, was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2009 and served as second rabbi at the Jacksonville Jewish Center before coming to Beth Torah. He and his wife Michele have two sons, Benjamin and Tal.
In a congratulatory letter to Beth Torah, Rabbi William LeBeau, dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary, wrote of Rabbi Cohen, “You will certainly find joy in knowing, in an ever-increasing measure, of his love for Torah, his profound commitment to Jewish life, and his compassion and caring concern for your needs.”
Reflecting on the weekend, Rabbi Cohen called the installation “meaningful and memorable. There was a great ruach that filled me, and I hope others, with great energy.”
He thanked his father, Cantor Holzer “and the entire congregation for the welcome I’ve had for the past seven months.
“Michele, Benjamin, Tal and I feel very much at home at Congregation Beth Torah,” he said. “I am fortunate to be the rabbi of CBT and look forward to the many blessings the future holds.”
ATID Open House
Academy of Torah In Greater Dallas (ATID) will hold an open house this Sunday at Ann and Nate Levine Academy from 10:15 a.m. to noon. ATID is a Jewish education program open to 11th and 12th graders in the Dallas area. It is under the auspices of the Conservative movement (Congregations Anshai Torah, Beth Torah and Shearith Israel), but all Jewish teens are welcome to participate.
The Open House, like all ATID Sundays begins with a breakfast from 10:15 to 10:45 p.m. and will be followed by a Teenage Communication Theatre presentation for teens, while parents can visit with ATID director Gail Herson, a longtime Jewish educator. One of the ATID rabbis will also lead a hot topic discussion.
Former and current ATID participants will tell you that the Sunday morning program is time well spent, hanging with fellow Jewish teens and furthering their Jewish education. They also love that there is no homework. For more information, call Gail Herson at 972-740-6751.
Kol Ami’s Lion of Judah program
Thirty minutes before Hebrew School, a student walked into Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis’ office at Congregation Kol Ami. He was ready to earn his Lion of Judah badge.
Rabbi Dennis had been testing students for badges through CKA’s new Lion of Judah program since September. The program rewards 3rd to 7th grade students for engaging in in-depth Torah learning beyond the normal scope of Religious School. Students earn badges for knowing about and performing mitzvot, for learning about Torah, Mishnah, and Israel, and for learning about Jewish customs. The program includes ten badges the students can earn on their own.
The 11th badge — the Lion of Judah award — is special. A student cannot receive this badge until s/he has received all 10 of the other badges. To earn the Lion of Judah, the student must then help three classmates to earn badges as well, thus demonstrating not only proficiency in learning Torah but also proficiency in teaching Torah.
The students at CKA embraced the program whole-heartedly and with the competitive spirit one would expect from this age group. Students began earning badges almost immediately after the program was introduced. The students attach their badges to a satin sash they wear at school like a tallit. The sashes will be used as wimples for their B’nai Mitzvah.
It takes time to earn them all, though, and the coveted Lion of Judah seemed a long way off for most students.
On this day in January, though, the first student, 6th grader Nathan Fripp, was ready to earn his award. He had earned all his badges and assisted his classmates to earn 3 more. Nathan was not the only one, though. Ten minutes after he earned his Lion of Judah, 5th grader Miriam Sand walked into Rabbi Dennis’ office to earn her Lion of Judah award.
Congregation Kol Ami was proud to present Nathan and Miriam with their Lion of Judah awards in January.
Levine Academy’s ‘Kindergartener for the Day’ program helps Pre-K students transition to the next level
By the spring of their Pre-K year, students are ready for new challenges. Levine Academy has developed a new educational initiative created to provide an easy and successful transition to Kindergarten for their Pre-K students.
When given a chance to experience Kindergarten, students are eager to meet the challenge. As “Kindergarteners for the Day,” Pre-K students know that they are in the Kindergarten classrooms with their own cohort, but participating in K activities. Students get the chance to express their knowledge and competency at the Kindergarten level in a safe and nurturing environment with their own peers.
During their time as Kindergarteners-in-Training, students also get to meet their future teachers. Debbie Perlstein, Brenda Hirschowitz, Jeresa Darnell and Janet Herson all take the learners by the hand, and lead them to the next level through some of the group and individual activities that they will encounter in Kindergarten.
According to Levine Academy Early Childhood Center Director, Sheryl Feinberg, “Pre-K children are already filled with excitement about entering Kindergarten next year. Our Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers are working together to make the transition more fluid and natural. The Kindergarten teachers are teaching valuable lessons and visiting with the Pre-K children. The children are getting to know the Kindergarten teachers and they soon will be visiting their classrooms. This is a holistic approach to prepare our children and make a smooth entry and celebrate their first steps to Kindergarten!”
And, how do the students react to these special days? They love it! Says one Pre-K student when asked, “I can do this!”
AEPi lunch bunch will meet April 4
Arthur Wechsler alerted us to the AEPi Brothers lunch bunch gathering for April. It will be held next Wednesday April 4, 11:30 a.m. at Gio’s Deli (12817 Preston Road) in Preston Valley Shopping Center, the Southwest Corner of Preston and 635.
It is open to any brother of AEPi. For more information contact Arthur Wechsler at email@example.com.