Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
Ephraim Weiss, Eagle Scout
Ephraim Weiss, son of Drs. Simma and Shelley Weiss, earned the Eagle Scout award from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) June 3. Ephraim completed the necessary requirements for skills, camping, leadership and merit badges, in addition to focusing on character growth and personal development.
Ephraim’s achievement will be formally recognized at a Court of Honor on Aug. 19.
He earned 45 merit badges and qualified for four Palm degrees beyond Eagle. To supplement his leadership skills, Ephraim attended a National Youth Leadership Training course, developed by the BSA with the U.S. Air Force Academy and various corporate trainers. His scouting peers elected him to the Order of the Arrow, scouting’s honor society, and he completed a Shomer Shabbos Ordeal before formal induction into the Order.
Ephraim’s scouting experience, through Troop 570 (Spring Creek Elementary), demonstrated his accomplishment of scouting goals in the general society, while adhering to his priority of keeping the laws of kashrut and Shabbat. Ephraim demonstrated the value of maintaining his religious practices through all his everyday activities, including scouting. The other scouts — Jews from different backgrounds, as well as non-Jews — supported his efforts and respected his observance.
One requirement before earning Eagle centers on a project to benefit the community. Ephraim built a solid wood shulchan, or table, used to read Torah in the synagogue. The structure incorporated some wood from the old Shaare Tefilla sanctuary (its new building is under construction). It sports a cabinet beneath, and the top can be set at different angles. The shulchan sits in its new home, the brand-new DATA of Richardson shul. This shulchan thus connects two shuls and brings the Dallas Jewish community closer together.
Brian Strauss assumes senior rabbi duties at Houston’s Beth Yeshurun
Rabbi Brian Strauss officially became the senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston Aug. 1. Beth Yeshurun is the largest Conservative synagogue in the United States with more than 2,000 families.
Strauss grew up in Dallas and attended Hebrew school and had his bar mitzvah at Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson. He was the first graduate of Beth Torah to become a rabbi.
Strauss graduated from Berkner High School and graduated from the University of Texas in Austin, where he was the president of the campus Hillel and a member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. Upon graduation, Strauss attended the Zeigler School of Rabbinical Studies in Los Angeles and was ordained in 2001. Upon being ordained, he joined Beth Yeshurun as assistant rabbi.
Strauss serves on the Texas State Commission on Holocaust and Genocide. He is also a member of Rabbis Without Borders, sponsored by the National Jewish Center for Learning & Leadership.
Strauss replaces Rabbi David Rosen, who had been the senior rabbi at Beth Yeshurun since 1996 and, along with Rabbi Jack Segal, will become the rabbi emeritus.
Strauss is married to Lisa Shapiro Strauss, a Plano native and a practicing attorney. They have three children, Joshua, Noa and Ari.
Shearith welcomes back Emily Cobert to Texas
Fort Worth native Emily Cobert, daughter of Scott and Ann Cobert, is spending the summer as the rabbinic intern at Congregation Shearith Israel.
Cobert decided to become a rabbi at age 13, during her bat mitzvah training. She was inspired by her tutor, Cantor Sheri Allen, who showed her how Judaism can be relevant to modern life. During high school, Cobert became an active member in the United Synagogue Youth group, engaging with the Fort Worth and Dallas Jewish communities.
She attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she double-majored in Jewish studies and psychology. She was active at Hillel, working as the Shabbat intern to coordinate creative Shabbat services and meals, and on the student Hillel board to help strengthen students’ involvement and connection to Judaism and the UT Jewish community.
Following graduation, Cobert moved to New York City to pursue her master’s in Jewish education with a concentration in Jewish day school education at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). This gave Emily many opportunities to teach in various Jewish communities.
Cobert recently finished her second year of rabbinical school at JTS. She spent the past year studying in Israel, learning and growing as a future rabbi. At Shearith, she is teaching an adult education class about the Birkat Hamazon (prayer after the meal), leading services, delivering short sermons and observing the rabbis as they officiate lifecycle events. She’s also enjoying spending time with family and catching up with friends at her family’s new home in McKinney.
Cobert will return to New York at the end of August to continue with her third year of rabbinical school.
Wolens re-elected as chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission
Former state Rep. Steven Wolens has been re-elected chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission. Wolens was originally nominated to the Commission by Speaker of the House Joe Straus. The Commission is composed of eight commissioners, four Republicans and four Democrats, all appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house.
The Ethics Commission oversees compliance with laws concerning political contributions and expenditures, political advertising, and personal financial disclosure of state elected officials and employees, judges, certain county and municipal officeholders, and candidates for those offices, as well as lobby registration reports and activities.
Wolens served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives for 24 years, authoring landmark legislation covering partnerships and limited liability corporations, ethics reforms, antitrust laws and electric deregulation. Texas Monthly magazine named him one of the “Ten Best Legislators” in Texas on six occasions.
Steve is a principal in the Dallas McKool Smith law firm representing governments on tax matters and businesses in commercial disputes.
Steve and his wife, former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, have three children and are members of Congregation Shearith Israel.
Farber joins Shalom as youth adviser
Kaelah Farber joined Temple Shalom in June as youth adviser and North Satellite coordinator.
The Wisconsin native will help plan and execute youth-group programs; assist Rabbi Ariel Boxman, the director of lifelong learning; and teach first-grade Sunday school, in addition to facilitating events at Shalom’s new Plano location.
Farber attended Milwaukee Jewish Day School and JCC Rainbow Day Camp for a decade; sang from the Torah for her (and her sisters’) bat mitzvah; and was confirmed at Congregation Beth Israel of Milwaukee.
After graduating from high school, Farber lived in Israel for four years through various kibbutz ulpan programs, volunteering, working and traveling. She moved to Dallas last summer and is enrolled at Collin College to complete her studies to receive a bachelor’s degree in K-6 education.
Farber served as assistant kindergarten teacher at Congregation Shearith Israel during the last school year.