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The Jewish Herald-Voice newspaper is the only recognized source of Jewish news in Houston, Texas, the Houston area and along the Texas Gulf Coast, in print and online. Distinguished as being the oldest (since 1908) Jewish newspaper in the Southwest.
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Ohio man arrested for planning deadly attack on synagogue

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 2:04pm
....A 21-year-old Ohio man was arrested for planning an attack on a Toledo-area synagogue. Damon Joseph of Holland was charged Dec. 10 in U.S. District Court in Toledo with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. He told an undercover FBI agent that he was inspired by the gunman who shot up a synagogue building in Pittsburgh, killing 11. "I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually," Joseph told the agent, according to the Department of Justice. "I can see myself carrying out this type of operation." Joseph told the agent that he wanted to kill a rabbi, the Toledo Blade reported, citing an FBI affidavit. He also said, according to the FBI, that "Jewish people were evil and deserved what was coming to them." He sent a plan for his attack on one of two Toledo-area synagogues to the agent earlier this month with a request for weapons and ammunition. He took possession of the weapons, two AR-15 rifles, on Friday from the agent and was then arrested, according to the newspaper. The FBI said that law enforcement became aware of Joseph earlier this year though his activities on social media. He pledged his allegiance to ISIS and made videos to encourage others to join the jihadist group. He expressed hatred for Americans - singling out gays, Christians, Catholics and Jews, according to the FBI. If convicted, Joseph faces up to 20 years in prison. The Secure Community Network, a national Jewish community initiative, praised the FBI "for their ongoing and thorough work on behalf of the safety and security of the Jewish community," noting that Joseph had been under surveillance for nearly a year before his arrest. Michael Masters, SCN's national director, said in a statement that there is "no known ongoing threat against the Jewish community" related to Joseph's actions. He called Joseph's plans "highly calculated and inspired by hatred." Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said Monday in a statement: "We cannot tolerate hate directed toward people of Jewish faith, or of any other religion, and last month's mass-killing at a Pittsburgh synagogue is a reminder of just how real this threat is. As Hanukkah concludes this evening, all Toledoans should reflect on the holiday's themes of liberation, identity, and most importantly, freedom from religious persecution."

Baby delivered after West Bank drive-by attack 'fighting for his life'

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 10:45am
JERUSALEM (JTA) - A baby delivered after his mother was shot multiple times in a drive-by attack outside a West Bank settlement is "fighting for his life," doctors said. The boy was delivered in surgery at 30 weeks at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem to save the life of his 21-year-old mother, who was shot in the abdomen and pelvis during the Sunday night attack at a bus stop near the entrance to Ofra. The baby's father also was among the seven people shot, including two 16-year-old girls. "During the night, the baby's condition deteriorated at the NICU, and he was put on a ventilator. There's concern of brain damage," Dr. Alon Schwartz, a senior trauma surgeon at the hospital, told Ynet. "He's undergoing imaging tests now, and we're fighting for his life." The baby's mother reportedly regained consciousness on Monday morning, but Yonatan Halevy, Shaare Zedek's medical director, told reporters that she and her baby "have a long way to go before they are out of danger." Shots were fired from a passing car on Sunday night into a crowd of people waiting at the bus stop. Israeli soldiers responded by firing at the vehicle, the Israel Defense Forces said, but the vehicle and its two passengers got away. The attack was captured on security camera video. The search for the white car and its passengers entered its second day on Monday in the West Bank, including in a Palestinian town near the site of the attack. "Praying for the recovery of those injured in the despicable terrorist attack, including the young mother who brought life to the world from this hellish scene," President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement. "I hope those injured recover soon and am sending my unreserved support to the security forces who are relentlessly pursuing the terrorists." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on Monday called the attack "monstrous." He said that all Israelis were praying for those wounded in the attack and for the doctors working to save the baby's life. "There are, of course, cries of joy," Netanyahu said, referring to Hamas praise for the attack, which it called "heroic," but did not claim credit. "I think it is too much to expect a condemnation from the Palestinian Authority. They only contribute to incitement here. Our security forces - the Shin Bet security service and the IDF - are pursuing the murderers. They will capture them. We will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law and settle accounts with them." Hamas spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou called the attack "an affirmation of our people's choice and legitimacy in resisting the Zionist occupation and its settlers." He also wrote that the attack "proves that any attempt to condemn the Palestinian resistance will fail in the face of the desire and valiance of our Palestinian people," a reference to the vote Thursday in the United Nations that failed to pass a resolution condemning Hamas and its attacks on Israel. White House special international negotiator Jason Greenblatt in a tweet condemned the failure of the resolution in light of Sunday night's attack. "@UN this is what you defended last week when you failed to condemn Hamas. Hamas praises yet another terror attack. You had the ability to help fight against terror. Is this what the UN wants its legacy to be?" The Jewish Home party, a coalition partner headed by Naftali Bennett, called for the legalization of the Ofra settlement in response to the attack. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the party's No. 2, said that a draft law has been prepared that would make the necessary changes to the settlement's master plan in order to legalize the homes said to be built on Palestinian-owned land, Haaretz reported. Ofra was established in 1975 on an abandoned Jordanian military base, approved by then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres. The original settlement was built on state-owned land but expanded to include land claimed to be owned by Palestinians in a neighboring village. Nine homes in Ofra were demolished in March 2017 on orders of Israel's Supreme Court after it was determined that they were built on Palestinian land.

If I had a hammer, I'd build a menorah

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 9:50am
....The rain stopped long enough on Thursday, Nov. 29, for more than 150 children to hammer and sing their way through building their own chanukiot at Home Depot in Southwest Houston. The "Menorah Building Workshop," at the store's Westbury Square location, was one of several across Houston, that took place before Chanukah began. Being able to build a menorah gave youngsters an opportunity to increase their own light this holiday season. Across town, in The Woodlands and in Bellaire, Camp Gan Israel and Chabad centers arranged for what has become an annual event. Due to the size of the crowd at the Westbury Square location - 170 children, accompanied by one or more adults - construction tables were moved outside to the front sidewalk. Kesem Mia Hetsrony, camp director of Camp Gan Israel of Houston, told the JHV that the children came from many schools and preschools to build menorahs. "We have public school kids, we have kids who go to Beren Academy, in Torah Day School, in YTE [Yeshiva Torat Emet] and probably a bunch of other schools," she said. "We're under the banner of Camp Gan Israel. Our camp caters to kids of all backgrounds - we're all about the fun, the safety, and when you know that it's safe, you're ready to embrace your Judaism. That's our goal." Kesem Mia co-directs the camp with her husband, Rabbi Yoni Hetsrony. The two also teach at Torah Day School. The rabbi added a sweet ending to the workshop: 200 homemade sufganiyot! The menorahs kits came from Home Depot's corporate office. The wood pieces included either candle-looking "sticks" or washers, to hold real candles, and nails, and the store supplied dozens of hammers. When finished, the children could bring their chanukiot home to paint and decorate. Speaking above the hammering and chatter, Meka Baker, Home Depot No. 0578 workshop captain, told the JHV, "We've been planning this for two months. It is absolutely free. We ordered 200 kits. ... They are shipped to us, and we go from there." The kits are supplied to stores across the country and Canada and made available to groups who wish to have menorah-building workshops. Once a child - with a parent's or grandparent's help - finished his/her menorah, Kesem Mia handed out little dreidels, and the rabbi's freshly made sufganiyot were available for purchase.

Houstonians remember President George H.W. Bush: T-shirts, tie bars and a presidential tardy note

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 2:14pm
....After George H.W. Bush left the White House, the Bush family returned to Houston. Michael Wiesenthal's father, Harold, would often run into Barbara and George Bush, when working out at the Houstonian Club. Harold, Michael and his brother, Darryl, were owners of Harolds "in the Heights" clothing store on West 19th Street. "My dad would leave gifts - like warm-ups, a tie or a Harolds T-shirt - in Bush's locker," Michael told the JHV. "When they ran into each other, my father would always say, 'I'm Harold.' Bush would reply, 'Of course, I know who you are.' "That's how our relationship with President Bush started." On Dec. 23, 1995, Harold came to work and told his sons, "I think he's coming in today." Since the Harolds' parking lot was located at the rear of the store, that's where most of the customers entered. "I'm at the front of the store, and a secret service agent comes in," said Michael. "Right behind him was the former president, who was carrying a department store shopping bag." "Where's Harold, Michael and Darryl," Bush asked. Michael introduced himself and paged his dad and brother. Bush stated he wasn't there to shop that day, but he wanted to see the store because he heard so many good things about it. Then, with a Santa-like flourish, he took out gifts for each of the Wiesenthal family members from the shopping bag. Each present was wrapped in presidential paper with name tags. "I asked him how he knew the names of my brother and I," Michael said. "That's easy," Bush replied, "I used to head the CIA." Michael and Darryl received tie bars with the presidential seal. Soon after, Bush became a regular customer. "When he was in town, he'd come into the store," recalled Michael. "I would always wait on him. One day, he handed me the cufflinks right out of his shirt. I remember he was very specific. He wanted two pairs of gray pants. He wore a size 38 waist, 44 long. "We would go to his office on Memorial Drive to make deliveries or to take measurements on jackets and pants. He specifically liked one of our tailors, Javier Cruz. "You'd have to first check in with the Bush Protective Agency. I believe they were government employees assigned to protect him. Then, the receptionist would walk you back to his office. There were two striking things in his office. One was a flag that had come out of the Oval Office that hung behind his desk. The other was a huge red, white and blue chair that was a gift from Mattress Mack." On the occasions President Bush stopped into the store to shop, he was always "charming and warm," said Michael. "Customers would come into the store while he was there and recognize him. He never turned down a request for a photo or autograph if they asked. "One time, President Bush was standing in what we used to call the Presidential Room. There was a gentleman who was looking at a light tan Oxxford suit. The gentleman put on the jacket. But, he was hesitant to purchase the suit because of the price. The president said. 'That coat looks great on you.' "As soon as Bush said that, the customer told me, 'Call the tailor. I'll take it.'" During the Christmas holidays in 2007, Michael took his son, Jared, and his daughter, Alexandra, to visit Bush at his Houston office. "Bush's housekeeper would bake sugar cookies in various shapes that the president put up as Christmas tree ornaments. Although the president was dressed in a jacket and tie, he knelt on the carpet and packed a bag full of these cookies for my kids to take to their classmates at the Beth Yeshurun Day School. "Then, I told the president we had to leave because the kids would be late to school. He took a photo of himself and handwrote a tardy note, explaining that the kids were visiting him and that's why they were late that day." Another time, Michael and Harold were attending Tour of Champions at Champions Golf Course. George and Barbara pulled up close, riding in a golf cart. Naturally, the cart was quickly surrounded by a crowd and the media. "The president saw my father at the edge of the crowd. He stood, opened up his coat, flashed the label and shouted, "Harolds in the Heights." "Bush 41 was instrumental in getting us the honor of outfitting Bush 43 for his inaugural in 2000. Everything that Bush 43 wore the entire weekend of the inaugural was provided by Harolds and Oxxford Clothes." Michael continued, "He was a humble, accessible, charming person. What I learned about him was that he spent the first part of each morning handwriting short notes to the people he had met the previous day. They were simple messages, two or three sentences in length. If we did anything for or with him, we would get a note. "I took up his habit. As busy as he was, if he could take the time to write these personal notes, so could I. "He was a great guy. I'm so lucky to have gotten to know him."

Torah scrolls rescued from synagogue fire

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 9:13am
....A fire broke out in the Sephardic Orthodox Congregation Torah Vachesed, 5925 S. Braeswood Blvd., on Wednesday night, Nov. 28. Classes were going on, and no one was hurt, according to neighboring TORCH Centre Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe, who spoke to the JHV on Thursday morning. Rabbi Wolbe was davening Thursday morning, along with members of Torah Vachesed, who were welcomed into the TORCH Centre. Rabbi Wolbe told the JHV the fire broke out around 9 p.m., and there was a great deal of smoke. All 11 of the Torahs were saved and, this morning, were in safe hands in the TORCH Centre. According to a Houston Chronicle report, firefighters, keeping the synagogue members out, went back into the building to save the holy scrolls. At the time of this report, Torah Vachesed's Rabbi Avraham Yaghobian, who earlier was davening at TORCH, was not available for comment. An investigation as to the cause of the fire is underway. This story will be updated as more details are made available.

Frum families not immune to drug and alcohol addiction, experts warn

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 11:45am
....The auditorium was packed with women in modest dress and men in kippot. A tall man with a full beard and tzitzit stood up, faced the audience and spoke into the microphone. "I struggle with addiction everyday," said the man, who belongs to Houston's frum [Orthodox] community. "My wife asked right before I came here: Is there anything that would help? Joking, I said, ya, a line of coke." The man shared his story of addiction in front of hundreds of people, who filled Torah Day School's auditorium at the Chabad Lubavitch Center on Monday evening, Nov. 26. Led by the Jewish addiction recovery organization, AMUDIM, the program's aim was to break the stigma surrounding addiction within the Jewish community. Presenters offered a variety of perspectives on addiction, including those from clinical and law enforcement experts, as well as personal stories. The opening speaker explained that he consumed an eight ball of cocaine and a gram of speed every day for five years. Although his addiction did not prevent him from having a successful career, he admitted that everything in his life became secondary to his drug use. He decided to seek help after enduring a four-day-long cocaine and speed-fuelled high. He was invited to watch a championship football game with corporate bosses in the company's executive box. Three times during the first quarter, alone, he excused himself to go to the restroom to take another hit. After doing a line that "was so big it should have killed me three times over," he gazed into the mirror. "What am I doing?" he asked himself. "These are people who are interested in my life and want to help me [advance in my career], and here I am; the drugs are more important to me than me." The man thanked G-d for giving him "that moment of clarity," and the man has been in recovery ever since. "I have been in situations where there were people using," he said. "I had to walk out. I can't see those people again, because I know if I ever try this again, I will die. It'll take over my life." He said he fights addiction every day. "It's a hard thing to do, and it's a hard thing to realize that, even though I'm not using, thank G-d, this still has a grip on me and it always will," he said. Assuring the audience that drug use and addiction is a problem in the Jewish community, the man explained that he was approached by a dealer at a gas station near his shul. It was erev Shabbat and the man was dressed in traditional Shabbat attire. Asked why the dealer approached him, the dealer said he sells to the man's friends. Houston's Rabbi Dovid Goldstein helped organize the Nov. 26 "addiction awareness" program - the first event of its kind, specifically geared toward Houston's frum Jewish community. Rabbis and members from every local Orthodox congregation, organization and school, and others, were in attendance. The gathering was organized, Rabbi Goldstein noted, in response to a growing national crisis of addiction-related deaths. "There's a false assumption that Orthodox people live a sheltered life and therefore are immune to issues such as drug use and addiction," Rabbi Goldstein told the JHV. "Nothing could be further from the truth. "Drugs have a way of finding you," he said. "They don't care what shul you go to." De-stigmatize AMUDIM is helping to lead the fight against addiction within the Jewish community. The New York-based organization's founder, Rabbi Zvi Gluck, said there have been more than 350 fatal drug overdoses in the frum community, nationwide, since January 2016. Houston is among the growing number of communities that has lost members, including many young adults, to drug overdose. Rabbi Gluck warned that more deaths will follow if communities don't acknowledge and confront the problem of addiction. "As long as it's stigmatized in our community, we cannot accept it as a reality, we're not able to get to the next step [toward recovery]," Rabbi Gluck said. "Addiction is all around us - friends, neighbors, family members," he said. "We need to understand that addiction is a disease." Stigma prevents people who suffer with addiction from seeking help, the rabbi explained. If someone has cancer or another bodily disease, that person is offered empathy and help. However, if someone has an addiction, that person often finds him or herself isolated by those who fear that addiction is "contagious." Stigma, Rabbi Gluck said, makes addiction harder to fight. Explaining how damaging stigma can be, Rabbi Gluck told the story of a mother who stated that she'd rather die from her opioid addiction than go to rehab and risk others finding out. Why? Because the mother feared that public knowledge of her addiction would prevent her children from getting married. "The No. 1 reason why people [in Jewish communities] don't get the help they need is fear of how it will it affect a shidduch," the rabbi said. Rabbi Gluck called on parents to talk to their children, at an early age, about drug and alcohol addiction. "How are we expected to educate our children if we are scared to bring up the topics?" asked the rabbi, noting that education leads to prevention. "The No. 1 place to start with education early is in our schools," he said. "The earlier the better. Kids are not going to become addicts because you're teaching them about alcoholism." 'Very preventable' Dr. David Stern said that treatment for substance related disorders, such as alcohol and drug addiction, is "far inferior" to prevention. Addiction, he said, can be "very preventable." He said there are two main approaches to prevention: increase protective factors, and decrease risk factors. Discussing risk factor, Dr. Stern said there's a strong connection between mental illness and substance use disorders. Someone who has a mental illness is far more likely to use drugs and alcohol, according to research. Doing so can make mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, worse, while causing harmful changes to one's brain circuitry, he noted. "Someone who has developed a substance use disorder does not have the same brain that they did before," Dr. Stern said. "This may persist beyond intoxication, particularly among those with severe disorders." He added, "When someone has a substance use disorder, they're not in full control of what they do, what they say and what they think. Their brain is different and that requires a lot of empathy on our parts to understand that." Protective factors that lead to prevention include strengthening family bonds and limiting access to alcohol at home and at shul, Dr. Stern said. Rabbi Gluck urged a change in the status quo for kiddusim. He suggested that when making a l'chaim, if someone declines an offer of alcohol, don't offer alcohol to that person again. Moreover, if celebrating a simcha, have one table with alcohol and have a designated shomer for that table, who can prevent underage and excessive alcohol consumption. The rabbi said parents set examples for their children. "Children watch what we do and act based upon how we act," he said.

Jewish CultureFest set for Dec. 9 in Levy Park

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 1:53pm
....With live music, Judaica, specialty foods, art and mitzvah projects, the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston will hold a jam-packed, fun afternoon at its second Jewish CultureFest, on Sunday, Dec, 9, from 1-6 p.m., at Levy Park. The festival is free and open to the public. The event complements Houston's long-standing festivals celebrating Greek, Polish, Italian and other cultures, and will showcase the diversity of Jewish culture. This year's Levy Park event, 3801 Eastside St. (between Richmond Avenue and the Southwest Freeway), features an impressive lineup of local and internationally acclaimed Jewish musicians, in addition to engaging activities for all ages. After a fantastic turnout in 2017, an extra hour was added to make time for even more performers and activities. "Last year's inaugural Jewish CultureFest was a great success," said Rabbi Samantha Safran, director of the J's Bobbi & Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning, and the CultureFest organizer. "It was so special to see everyone come together to sing, dance, eat and play, and it was a much-needed antidote to Hurricane Harvey. This year, we are excited to harness the energy and enthusiasm from last year, and bring it to a new level and a new location." The event's main stage will feature nearly five hours of live music, with the Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas kicking off the festival at 1. The band's spirited performance of Jewish folk songs will bring audience members to their feet. Congregations Beth Israel and Emanu El will showcase their youth choirs together at 2, followed by Mike Mason on guitar, performing family music. The Beth Yeshurun Day School Choir and HaZamir Houston Teen Choir also will sing. Guests will be invited to join an all-ages drum circle at 3:20. Internationally acclaimed American/Israeli rock group, Moshav, performs at 4, followed by cantor and jazz vocalist Magda Fishman, who has entertained audiences across Europe, the U.S. and Canada, at venues including The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Fishman also will lead the audience in a menorah lighting for the last night of Chanukah. The festival will provide several opportunities to engage in community projects, highlighting the value of tzedek, or social justice, in the Jewish tradition. Act Now Houston will offer passersby the chance to make "Welcome Home" cards for those returning to their homes after Hurricane Harvey, and Undies for Everyone, a nonprofit that provides clean, new underwear to those in need, will facilitate a project to write and color cards that will be inserted in underwear packages. Children, particularly, will have a variety of activities to choose from at CultureFest. A Hanukkids Tent will feature Chanukah activities and crafts for children up to 5 years old. J Camps, Camp Young Judaea and Greene Family Camp will host a Summer Camp Fun Tent, again this year, complete with activities including s'mores, the always popular gaga pit and more. Jewish artists will be on site selling their wares, including Jewish Family Service's Celebration Company, a social entrepreneurial program for adults with disabilities. Food vendors will offer a variety of Jewishly influenced foods. The event will be emceed for the second year by EZ Bar Mitzvahs, which is donating its services. "Houston is the most diverse city in the country," Rabbi Safran said, "and we hope our festival will offer a taste of Jewish culture to both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, alike." For more information on Jewish CultureFest, visit erjcchouston.org/culturefest or contact Rabbi Safran, [email protected] or 713-595-8163. Volunteer opportunities also are available; contact Sylvia Dauber, [email protected]. Learn about other J programs and services at erjcchouston.org or Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Women's March co-founder calls on current organizers to resign, saying they 'allowed anti-Semitism'

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 8:59am
....Women's March co-founder Teresa Shook called on its current organizers to step down Monday, saying they "allowed anti-Semitism." In a Facebook post, Shook said Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez "have steered the Movement away from its true course." "In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs," Shook wrote. The controversy surrounding the Women's March arose from Mallory's ties to anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Earlier this year, Mallory was criticized for not speaking out after she attended an event during which Farrakhan said "the powerful Jews are my enemy" and accused "Satanic Jews" of having a "grip on the media." The organizers later said Farrakhan's statements "are not aligned with the Women's March Unity Principles," but also defended Mallory against criticism. Farrakhan has a history of making anti-Semitic, homophobic and transphobic statements. Last month he was widely criticized, including by Chelsea Clinton, for a tweet that compared Jews to termites. Following the 2016 presidential election, Shook created the Facebook event that eventually turned into the Women's March on Washington. She became one of several Women's March co-founders, including Bland, Vanessa Wruble and Evvie Harmon. Wruble recruited Sarsour, Mallory and Perez to serve as co-chairs of the movement, alongside Bland. Earlier this month, actress Alyssa Milano cited the organizers' stance on Farrakhan as a reason she won't speak at the next Women's March. Sarsour, a Palestinian American, has come under fire in the past several days for appearing to criticize American Jewish liberals for putting their support for Israel ahead of their commitment to democracy. Some said her comments echoed charges that Jews have divided loyalties. "Accusing Jews of dual loyalty is one of the oldest and most pernicious antisemitic tropes," the American Jewish Committee wrote in a tweet.

BYDS starting new infant program

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 9:48am
....Beth Yeshurun Day School is launching a new infant program. In nine short months, families with babies 3 months through 15 months can join BYDS. In a cozy, warm environment, the school will foster and nurture children's social, emotional and physical development. BYDS' Infant Program will feature individualized education, designed to help children achieve new developmental milestones. It will include a five-day program with low teacher-to-child ratios, a strong Jewish foundation, and age-appropriate activities to stimulate the children's development. For example, there will be music, paint, sensory play and more. Learn more at byds.org.

Friendship Circle Walk promotes 'truefriendship'

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 12:21pm
....David and Renee Cohen and their children were among hundreds of participants in The Friendship Circle of Houston's Friendship Walk on Nov. 11, to raise funds and awareness for persons with disabilities. Learn more about the impact of the Friendship Circle:

Rabbi saves 4 Torah scrolls from California wildfires

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 2:50pm
....The death toll and damage continue to rise in California in the wildfires ravaging the state. More than 6,400 homes have been damaged and at least 31 people have been killed. Like other Californians, Jewish residents are evacuating their homes and dealing with the devastating fallout of the fires. Synagogues, camps and a day school all have sustained damage. At 3 in the morning, Friday, Nov. 9, a neighbor roused Rabbi Barry Diamond from sleep to let him know that their Southern California neighborhood had been given a voluntary evacuation order. About 20 minutes later, the rabbi arrived at Temple Adat Elohim, the Reform synagogue in Thousand Oaks where he works, to see fire surrounding the area by the building. "There's a hill right across the street from our temple - it was fully engulfed - and there was a raining down of sparks onto our property," he said. But, that didn't deter Rabbi Diamond, 56, from dashing into the synagogue to save his congregation's holiest objects. Setting off an alarm, he entered the sanctuary and grabbed two of the congregation's Torah scrolls: One had survived the Holocaust, the other was dedicated only six months earlier. He then ran in a second time and, with the help of the synagogue president, Sandy Greenstein, brought out the remaining two scrolls, as well as the Book of Esther scroll, traditionally read on Purim. "I would say I was a cross between nervous and determined to get these out," Rabbi Diamond said. "Sometimes, you just have to put your head down and do the work and worry about your feelings later." As he loaded the Torahs into his car, Rabbi Diamond looked back and saw that plants behind the sanctuary were ablaze. A photo taken of the rabbi shows a wall of red-tinted smoke behind a nearby stand of trees. Rabbi Diamond and his wife, as well as most of his congregants, have had to evacuate their homes. As far as he knows, no one has been hurt, but the synagogue has sustained damage. The fires hit the community at an especially trying time: Only a day earlier, congregants learned that a deadly shooting at a nearby bar left 12 people dead. Rabbi Diamond said two congregants were at the bar at the time of the shooting and know people who were killed. The rabbi is trying to be there for congregants affected by either or both tragedies. "There are people who lost their homes, there are people who are displaced, and we have to acknowledge and recognize them and be there and support them," he said. "And, there were a number of families who just suffered terribly because of this horrible act, and I don't want their pain to be eclipsed because there's a broader disaster that we're living through."

More than 100 rockets from Gaza rain down on southern Israel, hitting a bus and homes

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 10:57am
....JERUSALEM - More than 100 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza rained down Monday evening, Nov. 12, on southern Israel, including one that hit a bus, seriously injuring a young man. The Israel Defense Forces responded by launching attacks on Hamas sites in Gaza. The man, 19, was standing next the bus when it was hit by a mortar. He was evacuated to Beersheba's Soroka Medical Center. At least 11 other Israelis have been were injured by shrapnel and flying glass, the public broadcaster Kan reported. Rockets directly hit a home in Netivot, and homes were hit in Sderot and Ashkelon, where the house caught fire. A gas leak in Sderot next to a corner supermarket was ignited by a rocket and firefighters were working to put out the fire. Several of the rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Extra batteries had arrived in the area earlier in the day following clashes on the border after an Israeli army special forces operation was exposed on Sunday night. The rockets set off Code Red sirens throughout southern Israeli communities, including for the first time in decades in Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea. The rockets began falling at 4:30 p.m., with more than 100 fired by 6. The Israeli army called on residents of Gaza border communities to remain in place in their bomb shelters and safe rooms, and on the residents of the northern Negev, including Beersheba, to remain near their shelters.

Community Calendar

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 11:44am
....<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?> CommunityCalendar Upcoming

Send event listings to [email protected], including contact person's name, phone number and email address. THURSDAYS: NOV. 8, 15

Learn about &quot;Jewish Superheroes and Beyond&quot; at 11:15 a.m. at the Merfish Teen Center, taught by the JCC's Nomi Barancik. Register at erjcchouston.org

THURSDAYS: NOV. 8-DEC. 5 Introduction to Bollywood Workshops, ERJCC, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd. Our NEW five-week introduction to Bollywood Class begins Nov. 1. Round up some friends and join us from 7-8 p.m. for a fun and energetic dance class. It's great exercise and a great time. No experience necessary. Contact Maxine Silberstein, 713-551-7217, by email at [email protected] or erjcchouston.org/dance. WEDNESDAY, NOV. 7

Becker School will hold an open house, 9:30 a.m., for prospective students, ages 15 months-5 years old, 1500 Sunset Blvd. More at emanuelhouston.org/beckerschool.

THURSDAY, NOV. 8

Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, 801 Bering Dr., will host the second session of a two-part series with Houston Jewish Funerals, 10:30 a.m., covering spirituality, grief and loss, Jewish burial rituals, including tahara and shomer. Sign up with Melissa at 713-782-4162 or [email protected].

Holocaust Museum Houston opening reception of &quot;In the Country of Numbers, where the Men have no Names,&quot; 6-8 p.m. The exhibit tells the story of 6,000 Jewish men, most from Berlin, who were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen following Kristallnacht. Prof. Jason W. Levy, grandson of Julius Nathan, a Kristallnacht survivor, will speak. RSVP at bit.ly/CountryPreview.

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Greater Texas Region is hosting Prof. Simon Barak to speak on &quot;Desert Research that's Changing our Future,&quot; 7:30 p.m. Includes dessert reception, Four Leaf Tower-West Party Room, 5110 San Felipe St. RSVP by Nov. 5 to [email protected].

FRIDAY, NOV. 9

Opening exhibit for &quot;In the Country of Numbers, where the Men have no Names,&quot; Holocaust Museum Houston's newest exhibit tells the story of 6,000 Jewish men imprisoned in Sachsenhausen following Kristallnacht. Runs through May 27 at HMH, 9220 Kirby Dr. Ste. 100. For more information, visit hmh.org.

Congregation Emanu El will hold a Heritage Shabbat, commemorating the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, 6 p.m. The community is invited.

SATURDAY, NOV. 10

NCJW Greater Houston Section annual gala, &quot;Saturday Night Fever&quot; (theme) will be held at 7 p.m., at The Revaire, 7122 Old Katy Rd. Tickets at ncjwhouston.org or email [email protected].

ERJCC presents &quot;God of Vengeance,&quot; 8 p.m., 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd., Houston, TX 77096. Staged reading of Isaac Goldberg's 1918 English translation of Sholem Asch's controversial Yiddish play, &quot;God of Vengeance,&quot; whose initial 1923 Broadway run was closed due to charges of obscenity, and whose story inspired the Tony Award winning play, &quot;Indecent,&quot; by Paula Vogel, Lisa Gutkin will perform her compositions. For more information, visit erjcchouston.org/theatre or contact Amy Rahmani at [email protected].

Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, 801 Bering Dr., 4:30 p.m. Kids, what if there is one night a year when you can come to HCRJ wearing your favorite pajamas? This night exists at HCRJ, and it is called Havdallah in Pajamas! Join us for a craft activity, Havdallah service led by Rabbi Gross and breakfast for dinner for families with kids age 10 and under! Please contact Justin at 713-782-4162 or [email protected] to sign up. The deadline to sign up is Thursday, Nov. 8.

SUNDAY, NOV. 11

Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism will hold a free vendor fair for Bar/Bat Mitzvah students and parents. Call 713-782-4162 or email [email protected] for more information.

The Emery/Weiner School is hosting a middle school open house &ndash; for prospective students and their parents, 1-3 p.m., 9825 Stella Link Rd. Contact EWS for more information, emeryweiner.org or 832-204-5900. Walk with The Friendship Circle of Houston during its annual fundraising event, Friendship Walk, to raise awareness for children and adults with disabilities. Congregation Beth Yeshurun, 4525 Beechnut St., 1:30 p.m. registration, 2 p.m. walk begins. Register at houstonfriendshipwalk.com or call 832-857-0770.

The Ellen Boniuk Early Childhood School, 1120 Dairy Ashford, is excited to present a Fall Festival, 2-4 p.m. It includes an afternoon of family fun for the entire West Houston community. Bring your kids to enjoy face painting, bounce houses, crafts and more. Tours of the preschool will be provided. Contact Rene Kariel at 281-556-5567, email: [email protected], or website: erjcchouston.org/preschool/ellen-boniuk-early-childhood-school.

TUESDAY, NOV. 13 Holocaust Museum Houston lecture, 6-8 p.m., &quot;Guatemalan Migration to the U.S.: Transnational Challenges,&quot; by Dr. Nestor Rodriquez, professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn about the escalation of social unrest in Guatemala in the late 1970s and early 1980s that marked the beginning of large-scale Guatemalan migration to the United States. RSVP at bit.ly/HMHRodriguez. THROUGH TUESDAY, NOV. 13

Ann and Stephen Kaufman Jewish Book &amp; Arts Festival will take place at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd. More to come in the JHV or go to erjcchouston.org.

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 14 Holocaust Museum Houston's 2018 Guardian of the Human Spirit Luncheon, noon-1:30 p.m., honoring Texas A&amp;M University Corps of Cadets and Aggie Liberators of World War II. 20,229 Aggies served during the war, generating seven Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Keynote speaker will be Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense, 2006-2011. RSVP at hmh.org/SpiritLuncheon.shtml. THURSDAY, NOV. 15

Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate Luncheon will honor recipients of this year's Walter Kase Teacher Excellence Award, noon-1 p.m., at Hotel Derek, 2525 West Loop S. Email [email protected] for tickets.

Friends of Beth Israel's Margolis Gallery will hold a Menorah Show and Sale, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at a private home, 1534 Kipling. Artist Janis Ross will speak at 7. RSVP to [email protected].

&quot;Orange Is The New Black&quot; &ndash; Former female inmates tell all for Anne Frank Hadassah, 10:30 a.m., at United Way Community Resource Center, 50 Waugh Dr. For more information, contact Betty, [email protected] or 713-417-5185. Deadline is Nov. 9.

FRIDAY, NOV. 16 Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, 801 Bering. Join us for our 5th Annual Deli Shabbos. We will be welcoming Ziggy Gruber (owner of Kenny &amp; Ziggy's) to the pulpit. The theme of this year's Deli Shabbos experience will be food from Poland. Ziggy is preparing a very special Shabbat Dinner followed by a sermon about the history of the food that we will share. Please contact Justin to RSVP at 713-782-4162 or [email protected]. The RSVP deadline is Monday, Nov. 12. Services will follow the dinner at 7:15 p.m. FRIDAY-SATURDAY, NOV. 16-17 Installation Shabbat Celebration of Senior Rabbi Brian Strauss, 6 p.m., Friday, followed by Shabbat dinner, at Congregation Beth Yeshurun, 4525 Beechnut St. Register at RabbiStraussInstallation2018.eventbrite.com. Saturday Shabbat service, with scholar in residence Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shvit Artson, 9:30 a.m., followed by complimentary Kiddush luncheon. RSVP for catering purposes to eventbrite, above. SUNDAY, NOV. 18

Join Congregation Beth Rambam for Family Fun Day in Godwin Park, 5101 Rutherglenn Dr., 12:30 p.m. There will be barbecue, sports and music. Call 713-723-3030 for tickets.

SUNDAYS-WEDNESDAYS THROUGH NOV 21

Rohr Jewish Learning Institute begins new six-week course on &quot;Wrestling with Faith&quot; at 5 area Chabad locations. For a schedule and locations, go to MYJLI.com.

THURSDAY, NOV. 29

Emma Lazarus Hadassah: Dena Marks, Associate Director of Southwest Regional office, Anti-Defamation League will speak on &quot;The Recent Rise of Anti-Semitism&quot; 7-9 p.m. at The Medallion Jewish Assisted Living Residence, 6262 N. Braeswood Blvd. RSVP to [email protected].

The Jewish Studies program at UH will host a panel of award-winning chefs, who will speak on &quot;Black, Brown and Kosher: Conversations about Food, Culture and Identity&quot; will take place 6 p.m., at the African American Library at the Gregory School, 1300 Victor St. Featuring Jewish chefs: Fany Gerson, Pati Jinich and Michael Twitty. Free and open to the public. RSVP: [email protected] or call 832-393-1526.

Ongoing

Mommy &amp; Me Tot Shabbat on the first and third Shabbat (Saturday) morning of each month, 11 a.m.-noon, in Meyerland Minyan Synagogue Kid's Room. For children, infants-4 years old. For more information, email [email protected] or call 713-398-1566.

Weekly mah-jongg game, Mondays, 1 p.m., City of West University Senior Center, Rice Blvd. at Auden. For information, contact Eileen Barrett at [email protected]

Congregation Shaar Hashalom's Rabbi Stuart Federow hosts free, open to the public, discussions about Judaism or religion in general, on the second Thursday of each month, Victor's 1425 NASA Pkwy., Houston 77058 (next to the &quot;space&quot; McDonald's), at 7 p.m.

Line By Line With the Prophets sessions, guided by Rabbi Federow, are conducted on Sundays, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., at Congregation Shaar Hashalom, 16020 El Camino Real, Houston.

Israeli folk dances are held at Congregation Shaar Hashalom on Mondays, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sessions will take place on March 7, 14, 21 and 28.

For information about sessions, contact the synagogue office, 281-488-5861, or at [email protected]

TOPSoccer, a community-based soccer skills training and team program for special needs youngsters, takes place every Sunday, 5-5:45 p.m., at the ERJCC, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd., inside the indoor gym. Volunteers are needed. For information, contact Mark K., parent volunteer, at [email protected]

Big Tent Judaism announces that local Jewish institutions will host public-space programs to help those interested in starting the New Year with a fresh start. Contact Elise Passy at 832-779-1564 or [email protected]

Senior ladies' poker, daytime, twice weekly, Monday and Thursday, at homes in the southwest and Stella Link areas. More players are sought. email [email protected], or call 713-560-9494.

Bellaire Jewish Center Tuesday Lunch n Learn, noon. Contact bjchouston.org. Rabbi Gavriel Jacknin, 832-971-3781.

Holocaust Museum Houston's exhibition, &quot;Life: Survivor Portraits,&quot; began during HMH's 18th anniversary. The series by local artist Kelly Lee Webeck includes 18 portraits by local survivors of the Holocaust. For information, go to hmh.org, email [email protected] or call 713-527-1640. &quot;Life: Survivor Portraits&quot; will remain on view through Oct. 12.

CLASSES AT CHABAD OF UPTOWN, 4311 Bettis Dr., 713-419-3960, chabaduptown.org.

SUNDAYS, 9 A.M.
BLT &ndash; Bagels, Lox &amp; Tefillin
Boost your week by laying tefillin and enjoying
Torah study over a delicious breakfast.

WEDNESDAYS, 8 P.M.
Contemporary Themes &amp; Social for Young Professionals Exploring Torah's view on the modern world, over dinner. Topics posted at chabaduptown.org/youngadults.

THURSDAYS
Lunch hour, Thursdays, noon-1:15 p.m.
Evenings: Thursdays, 8-9 p.m.

SATURDAYS
Tanya &ndash; Jewish Mysticism. 9 a.m.

The J on the Go ... 60-Plus

J RIDE
Provides safe, reliable, non-emergency transportation for Jewish adults age 60 plus and special needs adults.

Sign up Now for Art and Mah Jongg Classes

Contact Esther Bethke at 713-595-8186 or
[email protected].

&nbsp;

Results in Tuesday's races that matter most to Jews

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 5:57am
....Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections held Tuesday, with Jewish Congress members poised to take key leadership roles. Republicans looked to increase their majority in the Senate. Five Jewish Democrats are set to chair key House committees, including three representatives from New York: Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee; Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs; and Nita Lowey, Appropriations. Adam Schiff of California will head the Intelligence Committee and John Yarmuth of Kentucky will lead the Budget Committee. Democrat Jared Polis will be the first Jewish and first gay governor of Colorado, and J.B. Pritzker, a Jewish Democrat, will be the next governor of Illinois. And two Jewish military veterans won upset Democratic victories in House races: Max Rose in New York and Elaine Luria in Virginia. Here are more results in races of significance to Jewish voters: House of Representatives In Michigan, Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, handily won her race in District 13. Tlaib favors a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has opposed U.S. aid to Israel. She will also be one of the first Muslim women in Congress, along with Ilhan Omar, who won in Minnesota. Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin, who was raised on a farm and worked for the CIA, won a seat in the House of Representatives by 49 percent to 48 percent for sitting Republican Rep. Mike Bishop. The district had previously been considered a lock for the Republican party. Bishop conceded in a phone call at about 1 a.m. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive millennial from New York City who won an upset primary win earlier this year, will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez has criticized Israel's West Bank occupation and called its clashes with protesters in Gaza a "massacre." Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic House candidate who wrote a book sharply criticizing Israel, lost her race in Virginia. Republicans who charge that the Democratic Party has departed from its pro-Israel bona fides pointed to Cockburn, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez and Omar as proof. Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in the House, fended off a challenge in his New York district by a Jewish Democratic challenger, Perry Gershon. The race on Long Island pitted Zeldin, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, against an opponent who reviled the president. The two Democratic military veterans flipped Republican districts. Rose, 31, who won medals for his service as an Army officer in Afghanistan, unseated Republican Rep. Dan Donovan in the New York City borough of Staten Island. Luria, a Jewish former Navy commander, won her race in a coastal Virginia district that encompasses the Norfolk U.S. Navy base. She once organized a Passover seder on an aircraft carrier. Dean Phillips, a Jewish Democrat in Minnesota whose father was killed in the Vietnam War before he was born, won his race in a Republican district. Susan Wild, a Jewish Democrat in Pennsylvania, flipped her Republican district. She became involved in Jewish activism after her son urged her to join a local synagogue. She is on the local Jewish federation's board of directors. Lena Epstein, a Jewish businesswoman who invited a defrocked Messianic rabbi to address a rally headlined by Vice President Mike Pence, will lose her House race in Michigan. The result is a Democratic pickup of a House seat. Epstein, a Republican with roots in the suburban Detroit Jewish community, chaired Trump's 2016 presidential campaign in Michigan. In North Carolina, Democrat Kathy Manning, a philanthropist and longtime Jewish organizational leader, lost her House race. She was the first woman to chair the Jewish Federations of North America and was a founder of Prizmah, an umbrella association for Jewish day schools. Arthur Jones, the neo-Nazi who won the Republican nomination on Chicago's South Side, lost his race, as expected. He had won his nomination unopposed and was repudiated by his party. And Steve King, the Iowa Republican who has made headlines recently for his associations with and support of white supremacists, won reelection in a close race. The National Republican Campaign Committee had said it would not support him. Senate Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic pro-Israel stalwart, is projected to win. He voted against the 2015 agreement on Iran's nuclear program, going against President Barack Obama and his own party. Menendez had been hampered by a corruption trial that ended in mistrial last year. In Nevada, Democcratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, a former synagogue president and former software developer, defeated sitting Sen. Dean Heller. In a speech to the Nevada state GOP convention in June, Trump coined the nickname "Wacky Jacky" for the freshman congresswoman. Prior to her successful congressional run last year, Rosen's only elective experience was as president of Ner Tamid, a Reform synagogue in suburban Las Vegas. Governors' races and ballot initiatives Pritzker handily won the governor's race in Illinois, unseating Republican Bruce Rauner. Pritzker, a centrist Democrat, is a billionaire venture capitalist. Polis, 42, a former tech mogul, will succeed John Hickenlooper as governor of Colorado. His campaign has focused on renewable energy, education and income inequality. In Florida, Republican Ron DeSantis narrowly beat Democrat Andrew Gillum for the governorship. DeSantis, a close ally of Trump, was a leading voice urging the president to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He also accused Gillum of being anti-Israel, and Israel featured prominently in one of their debates. An anti-Semitic group also ran a robocall on behalf of DeSantis, which he denounced. In Florida, voters passed a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to 1.5 million former felons, which could work to Democrats' advantage in future elections. Jewish groups led the charge to pass the initiative.

Become a Seven Acres "Minyanaire"

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 1:01pm
....There is a very worthwhile opportunity for members of the community to become minyan volunteers at Seven Acres. If one is retired or has one or more mornings free, there is a chance to perform a mitzvah for the Jewish seniors at Seven Acres. One can become a minyanaire by helping and participating in Seven Acres' morning minyan in the newly renovated Seven Acres synagogue. Since 1977, when Seven Acres moved to its current North Braeswood location, there has been a daily minyan operating seven days a week, year-round. Seven Acres is one of only a small handful of Jewish Homes across the United States that still offers daily morning services, in addition to regular Shabbat and holiday services. These little known facts about Seven Acres tell a lot about the spirit of mitzvah in the Jewish community of Houston. One of the founders of this minyan, from the early days on North Braeswood, called it the "retired person's minyan," when he organized a group of volunteers to come to Seven Acres every morning to perform this mitzvah for the residents. The original group of volunteers from the community are mostly gone now. One remaining stalwart is Bobby Livitz, who has participated in the minyan at Seven Acres since the '70s. He is now the chair of Seven Acres' religious committee, and has taken it upon himself to keep the daily minyan going along with Seven Acres chaplain, Rabbi Mark Urkowitz. Livitz would like to see a new group of volunteer "minyanaires" join him in bringing residents from breakfast in the dining rooms to the chapel service and back. "We would also like to find a few volunteers who can assist The Medallion residents in coming down to Seven Acres for the minyan. Besides providing assistance to get to services, the residents just really enjoy seeing new faces and visiting with people from the community. That is what makes it a true mitzvah," he remarked. When asked why someone should consider volunteering to assist at the Seven Acres minyan, rather than attending minyan at another location, Rabbi Urkowitz explained, "The beauty of our traditional daily services at Seven Acres is not only the individual dialogue we share with G-d, but it is compounded by the assistance provided to the residents. Our rabbis of old have taught us that there is no upper limit in the performance of acts of loving kindness. Attendance at Seven Acres daily services provides the volunteer the opportunity to explore and expand his relationship with G-d, and to simultaneously interact and grow by being there for someone else." Seven Acres extends the invitation to join with the residents as they worship in the Seven Acres chapel at the daily 8:45 a.m. traditional services. To participate in Seven Acres new "minyanaire" program, contact Sue Cororve, director of Volunteer Services, 713-778-5719, or Rabbi Mark Urkowitz, 713-778-5739.

Clear Lake Clergy Show Up In Shabbat Solidarity

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 6:13am
....After sunset on the day of the deadly attack on the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, Temple Beth Tikvah Rabbi Deborah Schloss checked her computer. On her Facebook page and in her emails she found numerous comments from members of her Clear Lake synagogue. She also found a large numbers of posts from non-Jewish religious leaders and lay people asking, "How can we help"? By early Sunday morning, Rabbi Schloss had begun reaching out to the various non-Jewish clergy. These were people that she had formed a relationship with. She asked them to share information with their congregations about an interfaith service of peace that would take place on Shabbat, November 3. She asked her clergy friends to participate in the service. Then asked the participants to send an appropriate reading so she could put together a program. And she put out a press release with the title #ShowUpForShabbat just as Jewish congregations were doing all over the country. On Shabbat, people showed up. Congregants, familiar faces. People who had never been inside a synagogue. Folks who normally don't go to church, as well as church goers. "We attracted more people than we had for High Holiday services," Rabbi Schloss told the JHV. "Of course, we're a small congregation. But to see this kind of solidarity and to know we can come together for a greater cause at a moment's notice uplifted me. "I had been feeling emotionally low after Pittsburgh. The willingness of my colleagues to participate in this service and to continue to work together in the future has made me grateful and humble." During the service, Temple Beth Tikvah ritual director Deborah Nowinski shared her impressions standing in front of the makeshift Jewish stars outside the Tree of Life site. Nowinski and her husband, E.J., were in Pittsburgh to attend a Steelers game as part of his birthday present to her. "We, as Jews, all died a little bit that Saturday", Nowinski said. "Standing in the rain, which I attributed to God's tears, I was hit with the fact that this incident wasn't on foreign soil or something ripped out of a page from the Holocaust. It was Pittsburgh...our country." The #ShowUpForShabbat campaign was an initiative launched by the American Jewish Committee (AJC). In a statement, AJC's CEO David Harris said the murder of 11 congregants during worship services was "not only an assault on the Jewish community, it was an assault on American values." For the clergy who participated in this interfaith service, sharing the bimah with Rabbi Schloss was an opportunity to be an ally of the Jewish community. In personal statements and selected readings during the service, clergy prayed, in the words of Webster Presbyterian Head of Staff Rev. Dr. Keith Alan Uffman, "to free us from insensitivity to our neighbors". After the Shabbat service, the JHV met with the visiting clergy. "An attack on a house of worship or on a school is the most painful," said Clear Lake Islamic Center Director of Academic Programs Shaykh Kamal El Mekhi. "When people come to a place of worship, they are in a peaceful state of mind. There, they are met with the most violent act possible. "I had to be here because I'm next. I have three strikes against me: I'm black, I'm Arab and I'm Muslim. If I don't stand up when it's my turn, who is going to stand up for me? Right now, the majority of hate attacks are against Jewish Americans and Muslim Americans." Ecclesia Clear Lake Elders Lacy Hilbrich and Marla Morris were attending the "Evolving Faith Conference" with Christians from around the world when the attendees learned about the shooting. "We had just listened to a talk on reconciliation, specifically racial healing," Hilbrich said. "It literally took the wind out of thousands of people who had gathered. It took every ounce of hope and witness out of the room in that moment." Morris brought her ten-year-old daughter to Temple Beth Tikvah. "Last year we began talking about the Holocaust," said Morris. "To have that conversation with a 10-year-old. She's here today because we all serve the same God and kids need to see that." When Mattye Reymont, board member of the Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church, heard about the Pittsburgh shootings, her first thought was: when will it end? "And then I prayed to spare my heart from hate because I was really very angry. In some form, I've been aware of this type of discrimination all my life so it was an easy response to stand up." Webster Presbyterian Church Associate Pastor Rev. Helen DeLeon shared a similar thought when she first heard the news: When are we as a people, as a nation, going to stand up and say "no more"? "We have to do something differently in our society," said DeLeon." We have to figure a way out of this very difficult place. It's hard for me to understand how we got to the place where, primarily, young white men who are unhappy or upset or disturbed believe the answer is to go out and shoot people. How did we get there and how do we get back?" Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Rev. Bruce Beisner said the first thought he had was that sinking feeling of "not again". "I thought of several close friends of mine who are Reform rabbis throughout the country and I prayed some blessings for them because, in their leadership roles in their community, this was going to be hard for them. "When Deborah called me, I immediately said yes because I felt I needed to be around some goodness; to see people coming together for myself." Rev. Dr. Uffman was disturbed by what he called "the juxtaposition of violence to people entering worship". "I've been wondering for months: how do you stop a lack of civility when people don't want to be civil? I still don't know what needs to be done." To the question "Will you join me" it was evident the response was "Yes". Rabbi Deborah Schloss told the JHV, "I'm ever so grateful and humbled that I work in a place where the interfaith religious community is there for us in times of need, times of contemplation and times of joy."

Houston Jewish institutions reviewing security policies after Pittsburgh shooting

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 3:36pm
Most of Houston's Jewish institutions have security policies, but an anti-Semitic atrocity like the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 deeply reinforces the importance of reviewing those policies, making sure they're up to date, and training staff and congregants in situational awareness and response. The Jewish Herald-Voice spoke to a sampling of Jewish institutions to see what they had done since the Pittsburgh shooting, and all of them indicated security was an ongoing process for them and a high priority. Congregation Beth Yeshurun's executive director, Andy Burger, said, "We take security very seriously all the time. We do not reveal security details, but rest assured there is security at Beth Yeshurun. Our priority is keeping our congregants safe." Melissa Wolfson, who serves as executive director for Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, said, "We're reviewing our policies and have increased the law enforcement we have present for services and religious school." Holocaust Museum Houston's managing director and director of Public Programs, Tamara Savage, also indicated security was being emphasized more after the Pittsburgh tragedy, although it's an ongoing concern. "We've always been considered a high-risk facility so, for us, security is of paramount importance," Savage said. "We do regular emergency drills with our staff, and we plan to do another one very soon. We've made sure everyone is more vigilant, and we're reviewing our security plan again. Every time there's an event - a bomb threat, an active shooter - we look at our policies and update them. We're constantly on top of it." Houston-area law enforcement officials are on top of Jewish security, also. As soon as learned about the tragedy at Tree of Life, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo sent a memo to the police department directing officers to augment patrols around Jewish institutions and be watchful for any suspicious activity. The rank and file of the police department took that to heart. Numerous synagogues, agencies and even businesses, such as the JHV, were called or visited by an officer in the days after the shooting, to make sure they were all right and staff members felt safe. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez also increased patrols around Jewish institutions in the county, and reached out to the Anti-Defamation League to make sure he was doing all he could to help. The diligence of local law enforcement didn't end there. Houston's police department and the Harris County Sheriff's Office answered the call when they were asked to be extra vigilant for Solidarity Shabbat, a global effort for high attendance at Shabbat services Nov. 2-3, for Jewish communities every to demonstrate their unity and strength. Jewish Federation of Greater Houston's director of Harvey Recovery, Kari Saratovsky, said, "We knew that some members of the community were concerned about security for Solidarity Shabbat, and we didn't want that to impede anyone from coming together. The Federation and ADL reached out to Houston Police and the Harris County Sheriff's Office to ask them to step up patrols around synagogues during Shabbat services this weekend, and they agreed immediately." Going forward, the Federation and ADL are working together to make sure security remains a priority and Houston's Jewish institutions have what they need. "ADL and Federation also are coordinating a briefing for professional leadership of Houston Jewish institutions, focusing on threat levels, threat detection, and sharing best practices. We expect that to happen within a couple of weeks," Saratovsky said.

The Shlenker School names new head of school

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 10:18am
....Congregation Beth Israel formally installed Dr. Michelle Barton as the new head of The Shlenker School on Oct. 19. The service showcased the accomplishments of The Shlenker School, which has served the Jewish community of Houston for more than 30 years. Read the full story right now in our e-edition. Lots of stories and special features are only available in the print and E-editions of the Jewish Herald-Voice. To make sure you are not missing out, subscribe to the print edition or subscribe to and read the E-edition right now.

Headstones toppled at small Jewish cemetery in Texas

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 8:50pm
Headstones were pushed over at a small Jewish cemetery in the Texas port city of Orange. The vandalism at the Hebrew Rest Cemetery, which is more than 100 years old, was discovered on Monday morning by the groundskeeper, who had arrived to mow the lawn, the local CBS affiliate KFDM reported. Permanent vases also were ripped from their bases. Orange Police are investigating the incident as criminal mischief, according to the report. Orange Mayor Larry Spears Jr. praised the city's diversity and said that bigotry and hate will not be tolerated within its borders.

Congregation Beth El's annual shop and schmooze

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 3:10pm
Congregation Beth El will be hosting its annual Shop and Schmooze for Chanukah on Sunday, Nov. 4, from 10-2 at 3900 Raoul Wallenberg Ln., in Missouri City. Vendors will be selling items that are appropriate for anyone on your holiday gift list, as well as Chanukah items for your celebration. If you're planning an upcoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah, business cards for party needs as well as the opportunity to meet some great vendors will be available. Enjoy morning shopping - no lines, no traffic, just a friendly place to browse, buy and visit with friends. For more information, visit Beth El's Facebook page and website, www.betheltx.org.

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