Removing barriers, birthday bash, diaper drive

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Beth Torah’s inclusion initiative opens doors — literally

They’re just doors, but they mean so much more.
For the first time, visitors to Congregation Beth Torah who couldn’t open the front door — or the bathroom door — by themselves don’t need to wait for help.
As part of the synagogue’s inclusion initiative, a special fundraising campaign raised money to install automatic electronic doors at the entrance and two bathrooms in time for September’s High Holiday services.

Photo: Alan Koenigsberg Fern Gerstein wheels her husband Dave through the new automatic doors at Beth Torah.

“Our goal is to remove barriers so people can feel welcome in our synagogue,” said Zelene Lovitt, who chairs the inclusion committee. “Not all barriers are physical, and we are working on lots of things, but this is an important symbol of what we are determined to do.”
Earlier this year, Beth Torah became one of 16 Conservative synagogues across North America selected for a new effort to make Jewish communities more welcoming to people with special needs. The project is a partnership between the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Ruderman Family Foundation.
The first step was a survey of members to identify people with special needs and solicit ideas from the congregation to raise awareness and change attitudes, in order to form an action plan and set priorities.
Beth Torah is also partnering with Community Homes for Adults, Inc. (CHAI), which serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in what both hope will be an ongoing relationship. The synagogue has hosted CHAI residents and led services at one of the organization’s group homes.
CHAI residents are also volunteering at the Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship Oct. 25, which is being organized by Beth Torah’s Men’s Club. Some of the event’s proceeds are being donated to CHAI.
But the first big goal was handicapped-accessible doors. Beth Torah’s Chai Lights group, a service and social organization for people over 55, jumpstarted the project with a hefty contribution, while the synagogue and individual members covered the rest.
“We’re very thankful and very proud,” Lovitt said. “But this is just the beginning.”

PJ Library Birthday Bash

PJ Library will hold its fourth annual Birthday Bash from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 18 at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center. It will feature train rides, a petting zoo, bounce houses, carnival games and more. The event is free to the community. PJ Library pillowcases will be given out to the first 500 children.
The PJ Library is a program that provides free Jewish-themed books and CDs once a month to children (age 6 months through eight years) in the Dallas area who are being raised in the Jewish tradition whether affiliated, unaffiliated, intermarried or non-traditional. This program is made possible by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and is a gift from the Center of Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas through a generous grant from the Mankoff Family Foundation.
“PJ Library brings Jewish values and traditions into homes providing developmentally appropriate books for children ages 6 months to eight years. These free books provide a springboard for families to talk about Judaism, celebrate holidays and live Jewishly,” said Jennifer Charney, PJ Library Ambassador co-chair. “Attendees can also participate in the PJ Library mitzvah project by bringing pajamas, which will be donated to Sweet Dreams for Kids, which is an organization that donates new pajamas to seriously ill children in children’s hospitals around the country. In addition to collecting PJs, we will collect peanut butter and jelly to be donated to the food pantry at Jewish Family Service.”
“It is exciting to celebrate PJ Library’s fourth Annual Birthday Bash.” said Dan Prescott, board chair, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas “We are so thankful for the generosity of the Mankoff family’s support which allows 1,900 Jewish children in the Dallas area to receive Jewish-themed books and music CD’s. PJ Library provides the opportunity for parents to enrich their children’s lives with Judaism starting from a young age and is a fantastic way to connect the next generation to their Judaism.”
To RSVP for the Birthday Bash, please email To register your child for the PJ Library program, visit

Distinguished professor Birkelund to speak

Omer Bartov

Omer Bartov, John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Professor of German Studies, will be the featured speaker at the UTD Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies Burton C. Einspruch Lecture Series 2015.
At 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 18, Bartov will speak on “The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood: The Murder of a Town in Eastern Galicia.” At 9 a.m., Monday, Oct. 19, the topic will be “Investigating Genocide on the Local Level: Challenges and Benefits.” Both lectures will be held in the Alexander Clark Center.
Born in Israel and educated at Tel Aviv University and St. Antony’s College, Oxford, Omer Bartov’s early research concerned the Nazi indoctrination of the Wehrmacht and the crimes it committed in World War II, analyzed in his books, The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, and Hitler’s Army. He then turned to the links between total war and genocide, discussed in his books Murder in Our Midst, Mirrors of Destruction, and Germany’s War and the Holocaust. Bartov’s interest in representation also led to his study, The “Jew” in Cinema, which examines the recycling of anti-Semitic stereotypes in film. His last monograph, Erased, investigates interethnic relations in the borderlands of Eastern Europe. As a framework for this research, he led a multiyear collaborative project at the Watson Institute, culminating in the co-edited volume, Shatterzone of Empires. Bartov is currently completing a major monograph, The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood: Buczacz, Biography of a Town.
For more information, visit

Diaper drive underway

For the fifth year, JFS is holding a diaper shower benefiting the community.
On Sunday, Nov. 1, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Jewish Family Service Food Pantry, you can drop diapers off for this important cause.
The Diaper Shower collects items such as diapers and wipes from newborn to adult sizes for families in our community who are in need. One in three families struggles to afford diapers. Safety net programs such as WIC and SNAP (food stamps) do not cover the cost of these items. An adequate supply of diapers can cost families well over $100 per month. With 39 percent of Dallas residents living in asset poverty, this can be a devastating cost to a family.
Last year the JFS Diaper Shower collected more than 45,000 diapers and 48,000 wipes. In addition, financial donations were made so that JFS Food Pantry can purchase items, such as fresh milk, fruits and vegetables, for the 120-plus families they serve each week.
You can simplify the process by buying online and having the items shipped directly to JFS at 5402 Arapaho Road, Dallas, TX 75248, Attention: Robin Raxlin.
Preshower drop off locations are: Congregation Anshai Torah Preschool; JFS (front lobby); Akiba Academy of Dallas-Early Childhood School; Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center at the JCC; and Congregation Beth Torah. For more details, visit
If you prefer not to shop, monetary contributions will be accepted. You can also send a check to JFS or visit its website to make a donation.
Just make sure you denote “DIAPERS” with your donation.
Cathy Glick, Julie Liberman and Beverly Rossel are Diaper Shower event chairs.

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