Dallas Doings

Beth Torah reaches out to interfaith families

Congregation Beth Torah, in the vanguard of Conservative Judaism’s effort to “welcome strangers into the tent,” has laid the foundation for a Greater Dallas Keruv group. “Keruv” means to come closer and that is the exact description of efforts to welcome interfaith families and actively include them in synagogue life.
Statistics tell the story. More than one-third of American Jews are married to non-Jews. Close to one-half of recent “Jewish” marriages are between a Jew and a non-Jew. Of all the Jews who are cohabiting today, over 80 percent of these partnerships include individuals of non-Jewish origin.
With nearly half of all Jews marrying a non-Jew, there are few people in Conservative congregations who do not have an intermarried family member. Yet until recently, the issues surrounding intermarriage were rarely acknowledged in Conservative synagogues. At Congregation Beth Torah, the Keruv programming provides opportunities for people to explore issues relating to intermarriage in a safe and supportive environment. Intermarried families are welcome to join a forum to discuss their concerns and emotions and are invited to cross the synagogue threshold to discover acceptance and support.
Couples searching to find a community both to support raising Jewish children and to help husbands and wives grow as intermarried couples can now explore what is available right on their doorsteps. Rather than imposing preset programming, it is by meeting one another, the congregation, rabbi and educators that the families themselves guide what they need in order to feel comfortable at, and a part of, Beth Torah.
Known for its warmth and inclusiveness, Congregation Beth Torah and its dynamic spiritual leader, Rabbi Adam Raskin, have set a major goal to provide opportunities for interfaith families to participate in specially designed programming with no pressure to convert, change or do anything different in their lives except to raise their children in a Jewish household and to observe Jewish rituals as best they are able.
All too often, interfaith living is a lonely state. By providing opportunities to meet one another and to be warmly included in greater synagogue life, it is the intention of the congregation to strengthen interfaith families by developing and deploying a spectrum of specifically designed programming that provides connections into the main synagogue offerings.
Liz Cox, one of the Keruv leaders, continues to experience the acceptance, the vibrancy, the bonds she and her non-Jewish husband have found at Congregation Beth Torah. “This shul is exceptional and unique in how non-traditional families can become integrated in and integral to synagogue life. That is why I am excited about us serving others who are searching for a religious home. In other times, the Jewish people grew by having children. Today we must supplement that growth by embracing those who have cast their lots with us, by embracing those who help raise our Jewish children with us.”
Congregation Beth Torah, located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson, invites all interested people to join them from 9 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, July 10 for a summer Keruv luau. The plan is to have fun and meet others with similar interests and needs over dessert and finger foods. Please RSVP to keruv@congregationbethtorah.org to find out the specific location in the Frankford-Hillcrest area or call Carren Carpenter at the synagogue office, 972-234-1542, Option 3, for more information.

Looking for high school history teachers

Recognizing the national influence of Texas in the textbook adoption process, Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS) based in California, and the JCRC of Greater Dallas became partners in a five-year project called the Public Education Initiative. PEI seeks to guarantee historical accuracy about Jews, Judaism and Israel in the Texas standards (TEKS) and the textbooks that will ultimately be adopted for use in Texas classrooms.
PEI achieves its goals through local outreach and Austin-based advocacy. Pat Epstein, who lives in Austin, has closely monitored the Texas standards revision process for the past year and has developed strong relationships with members of the SBOE and the Texas Education Agency, along with other key stakeholders, to achieve PEI goals. To date, this project has had tremendous impact. The vast majority of recommendations in the form of edits to the TEKS have been accepted and incorporated into the final TEKS which were approved in May 2010.
For the next phase of its work, PEI is looking to build relationships with Dallas and Fort Worth area Jewish history teachers at the secondary and high school level, Jewish parents who are active in their school districts at the PTA and Council of PTAs level, and school administrators. The help of the organized Jewish community is needed to identify such Jewish individuals.
If you can help, please contact June Penkar, outreach liaison, at jpenkar@jfgd.org or at 214-615-5233.

Kids: Take the Tycher challenge!

The Tycher Library, in cooperation with the J summer camps, is offering a special program to encourage summer reading called “The JCC/Tycher Library Summer Reading Challenge.” They are inviting all children to read or be read to.
Participants will log their own minutes weekly, and the library will offer incentive prizes for reaching certain goals: 500 minutes, coupon for an ice cream at Gooey’s; 1,000 minutes, coupon for a slice of pizza from Café Fino; 2,500 minutes, discount coupon for Half Price Books; 5,000 minutes, Tycher Library Summer Reading Challenge T-shirt.
The program is open to all young people, both JCC campers and others. While families are encouraged to include selections from the Tycher Library’s extensive collection of Jewish-themed children’s books, any books qualify. Stop by the Tycher Library, 7900 Northaven Road, to register or call Joan Gremont at 214-239-7132.

Sign up for your flu shots

It’s not too early to begin thinking about flu shots for this fall. Adat Chaverim Brotherhood will provide regular and H1N1 combination flu shots on Sunday, Sept. 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., for a cost of $22 per person. The immunizations will be given at Adat Chaverim, 6300 Independence Pkwy., Plano. Please contact Howard Hoffman at brotherhood@adatchaverim.org by Sept. 19 to RSVP.
A night to remember …
at Camp Chai!
Overnights at camp are the very special times; the fun begins when campers usually go home and continues through the next day. Camp Chai’s first overnight of the summer was on Thursday, June 24. A surprise Native American theme turned the overnight into a wonderful adventure. Face painting, headdress making, teepee creations and even archery lessons for older campers made this event a special one. The evening came to a close with a drum circle and naming ceremony. Camp Chai Director and TJP “Shabbat Lady” Laura Seymour says, “Magic happens on every overnight. Not only do we try new things and bond with our friends but our campers grow up right before our eyes. An overnight is truly a growing experience.”

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