By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn
Ladino celebration planned for Dec. 5 in Dallas
The First International Day of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), a “celebration of a living historical Jewish language,” will be marked in Dallas with a special program from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman Life Sciences building, Room 131.
The event is sponsored by the Nate and Ann Levine Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies of Southern Methodist University, and was organized by native Ladino speakers Rachel Amado Bortnick, founder of Ladinokomunita (the online forum in Ladino) and Dina Eliezer, educational director of Congregation Shearith Israel. According to Bortnick, the “multi-media, bilingual, interactive, informative and fun” program will also honor the most senior of the Ladino speakers in Dallas: Edith Baker, born in Bulgaria and Alegra Tevet, born in Greece.
This year the last day of Chanukah was designated in Israel as the date for the International Day of Ladino, which will take place yearly on the same date around the world. The decision came from a committee in the government-supported National Authority for Ladino and Its Culture, whose president is Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president of the State of Israel and a native Ladino speaker.
The largest celebration of the International Day of Ladino will be in Israel, at Bar-Ilan University’s 800-seat auditorium. In addition to Dallas, Jewish communities around the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, will hold special programs to promote knowledge of Ladino and Sephardic culture.
A festival to light pp the darkness at CSI
Over a series of Shabbatot, Dec. 7, 14 and 21, beginning at 9:30 a.m., members and guests of Congregation Shearith Israel will explore together what it means to fulfill the precept Ivdu et Hashem b’Simcha, to “Serve God with Joy: Finding Light in the Darkness.” Through song, study and meditative and musical prayer, attendees will consider the ways in which we might spark a renewed relationship with G-d within ourselves, through expressions of joy. Opportunities for special learning and prayer will be available for every age group, followed each week by a delicious Shabbat lunch. This very special Shabbat series is open to the entire community. For additional information, please visit Shearith Israel’s website at www.shearith.org.
David Taffet receives Raymond Kuchling Humanitarian Award
On Nov. 2, David Taffet, a past president and officer of Congregation Beth El Binah, was awarded the Raymond Kuchling Humanitarian Award by The Black Tie Dinner. The Kuchling Award is presented each year to someone “who has made extraordinary gifts of time and talents on behalf of the LGBT community.”
Beth El Binah was founded in 1989 as an outreach to the Jewish LGBT community and joined the Union for Reform Judaism in 1992. Today, Beth El Binah has a diverse membership reflecting the evolution of our community.
Since its inception in 1982, The Black Tie Dinner has been the largest fundraising dinner for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the nation. Each year, the dinner selects up to 20 North Texas beneficiaries (including Beth El Binah) as well as the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the dinner’s national beneficiary, to receive proceeds from the event. To date, The Black Tie Dinner has raised more than $15 million.
Taffet served on the regional board of the Union for Reform Judaism for 10 years and worked on the host committee for the 1997 URJ biennial held in Dallas. At that meeting, the organization voted to recognize same-sex marriage. Taffet also writes for Dallas Voice and hosts a weekly talk show, “Lambda Weekly”, that has aired for more than 30 years on 89.3 KNON-FM. Taffet’s show is the longest-running LGBT show on the air anywhere in the U.S.
For more than a decade, David served on the board of “The Resource Center,” a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and HIV/AIDS service organization in North Texas. The Center includes the AIDS Food Pantry, Nelson Tebedo Clinic and Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Among the services that were added while he served on the board was the dental clinic at the Tebedo clinic. Today, The Resource Center programs and services serve more than 50,000 people a year.
He served as vice president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the early 90s to help educate voters and political leaders on issues that affect the LGBT community. The city’s first nondiscrimination ordinance for city employees passed during his tenure.
Taffet also served on the board of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now known as Equality Texas). While serving on that board, the organization worked for more than a decade tracking prosecution of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community and pressing for passage of hate crime legislation.
In 2010, Westboro Baptist Church, a “hate group,” came to Dallas to picket the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, Congregation Beth El Binah and several other organizations including The Texas Jewish Post.
At that time, Taffet organized counter protests to divert media attention away from the Wichita-based hate group. More than 300 counter protesters stood in front of the Holocaust Museum and toured it after Westboro left.
Taffet turned the protest in front of the synagogue into a fundraiser that collected $11,500 during Westboro’s one-hour demonstration. That money was used to buy equipment for a hot meals program and provide other services for people living with HIV.
Other awards presented at The Black Tie Dinner went to Zach Wahls who founded Scouts for Equality, actress Fran Drescher and her former husband Peter Marc Jacobson.
Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of the film “Milk,” was the keynote speaker. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis also addressed the gathering. Singers Patti LaBelle and Cheyenne Jackson entertained.
Velevis recipient of 2013 Daniel R. Ginsberg Leadership Award from ADL
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) regional board member Rob Velevis was one of five national recipients of the 2013 Daniel R. Ginsberg Leadership Award, recognizing outstanding young professionals for their leadership in the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of prejudice. The annual award presentation was held Nov. 1 at the ADL’s 2013 annual meeting in New York City.
“Rob’s growing commitment to ADL as part of his civic and philanthropic leadership inspires both veteran and younger board members” said Jeffrey S. Levinger, regional board chair. “It is with great pride that we see the national ADL office acknowledge his efforts and thank him for his commitment of time and energy, which greatly contribute to the success of the League’s mission of fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice in all forms.”
Rob Velevis is an attorney with the Dallas office of Sidley Austin LLP, and previously with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. He is a graduate of the ADL Glass Leadership Institute and is a member of the regional board for the ADL North Texas/Oklahoma Region since 2010. Rob was recognized as a “Rising Star” for Business Litigation in Texas Super Lawyers/Texas Monthly. He regularly handles pro bono matters, including a significant class action against the State of Texas concerning the treatment and institutionalization of people with disabilities. He is a graduate of University of Texas at Austin and Harvard Law School.
ADL has conferred the Daniel Ginsberg Leadership Award to outstanding candidates from around the country who demonstrate knowledge of, and working commitment to the policies and activities of the ADL, as well as those who have the ability to add to the League’s deliberations at the national level since 1995. The award, named in honor of the late Daniel R. Ginsberg, a former New York Regional Board Chairman and ADL National Commissioner, is generously endowed by his friends and family.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
To our readers — do you have a favorite Chanukah or Thanksgiving memory that you would enjoy sharing? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Holidays.