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Eagle Scout gives back to thank Sharp staff

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment

BENEFACTORS --Zac Lewis, fourth from right, is surrounded by friends and family who helped him produce slide boards. From left they are Markus Unterberg, owner of San Diego Woodworking, brother Ian St. Louis, Andres Sheikh, Kendall Condon, Austin Farmer, Zac, his sister Alice Anne-Carriere, and parents Anne St. Louis and Dan St. Louis

By Sara Appel-Lennon

Sara Appel-Lennon

SAN DIEGO — Last June, University City High School  student Zac St. Louis explored volunteering options for his Eagle Scout Leadership Service  Project, coming upon The Ranchero Fund, which offers medical  equipment to paralyzed patients with no health insurance.

St. Louis learned  that Rebecca and Niel Pollock started The Ranchero Fund after Niel  Pollock became a paraplegic following a surfing accident. In lieu of  wedding gifts, the couple asked for financial donations to the fund.

St. Louis said The Ranchero Fund builds and donates “slide transfer boards” to help spinal cord injury  patients move from a wheelchair to a bed or car. He told his  mother that if he could make 100 slide transfer boards, he would help  100 people.

Last September, St. Louis surpassed his goal by donating 120  slide transfer boards to Sharp Rehabilitation Services. He organized and  led a team of Boy Scouts to create the boards to fulfill the rigors of the Eagle Scout  Leadership Service Project. St. Louis has become an Eagle Scout, the  highest rank in Scouting.

Annually Sharp Healthcare staff honors a  handful of former patients with the Victories of Spirit Awards because  of their courage and strength in volunteering in the community after  experiencing a difficult setback themselves. Dave Brown, System Director  of Rehabilitation Services, will present one of these awards to St.  Louis at the 20th annual event on June 4 at the Hilton San  Diego Bay Front.

“How many 17-year-old kids do this any  more?” asked Brown. “He’s a wonderful example of kids, the power of  kids, and wanting to make a difference. It’s quite remarkable.”

Why St. Louis chose  to volunteer at Sharp Healthcare became clear in an essay he wrote for his Eagle Scout  Leadership Service Project. He wanted to express gratitude to Sharp  staff in a tangible way for the excellent medical care his mother  received after a near-fatal  car accident in 2003. It was caused by a driver who failed to  stop at a red light. St. Louis was in the car along with his mother and  two siblings.

“I had blocked the accident out of my mind. My mom was so close  to dying. It was a crazy time. …This was my only way to give back to  them for helping my mom. You can’t really thank them enough for what  they did,” said St. Louis.
Mom Anne St. Louis added, “I’m smiling. It’s  all good.”

St. Louis devoted last summer to the project so it would not  conflict with school. The work entailed getting quotes from wood  workers, buying supplies, cutting wood, sanding, applying lacquer, the  logo, and creating a template. He managed a team of Scouts working  sanding parties in an assembly line. He did not sign his initials on any  of the boards.

To raise money for the project, St. Louis made presentations to Cabrillo Club and Portuguese Social and Civic Club where he discussed  how he would help people and why he needed the money. Both groups  donated $500. He needed to raise $2,500, and he raised $500 extra.

A patient who  received one of the boards said, “I thought only a ‘wuss’ would use a  transfer board. … For almost 39 years, I never used (one.) I guess time  has caught up with me, now I realize it would have been smart to use a  transfer board before.”

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This article appeared previously in La Jolla Light

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A recap of the Jewish Poets—Jewish Voices program

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Eileen Wingard

By Eileen Wingard

LA JOLLA, California–The season’s heaviest rainstorm descended Wednesday evening, January 20, as fifteen people braved the inclement weather to gather at the JCC Astor Judaica Library for the first of three programs by local poets: Jewish Poets—Jewish Voices.

Yael Gmach, who was scheduled to sing an original song in French, was stranded in the downpour and needed to be rescued. She never made it to the program. Sara Appel-Lennon, the other programmed poet, read an impressive sampling of her work. Two examples follow.

During the program, a plaque was dedicated to the memory of my late  husband, Hal Wingard, who had participated in the inaugural series of poetry readings last year.  I read several of his lyrics and some were sung by our daughter Myla.
    
For open microphone, Michael Horvitz read his work. His performance was so outstanding that he was invited to be one of the featured poets on the third evening. Interestingly, he wrote a poem about Hal, although Michael knew Hal only posthumously, through his poetry. Two samples of Michael’s work are below.
    
The second evening, February 24, featured six student poets from the San Diego Jewish Academy and their teacher, Melissa McKinstry, as described in an article posted previously on San Diego Jewish World.
    
Simon Patlis, a native of Tashkent, opened the third evening of Jewish Poets—Jewish Voices, on March 9, with several selections in Russian. Although just a few people in the audience understood his words, the inflection of his voice and the spirit of his delivery were riveting. He explained what each poem meant and rendered one of the poems in an English translation. Since that evening, he has translated a second poem into English.

Here are six examples from our adult Jewish Poets-Jewish Voices. Another series is being planned for 2011. One of the unique features of these evenings is that on each program, one of the poets writes in a non-English language, spoken by Jews.

Two Poems by Sara Appel-Lennon

Temple of Dreams (inspired by the newly-built Temple Emanu-El)

Embraced by Jerusalem stone walls
Jewish prayer and songs shared by all

Room filled with shofar blasts
Reflections from the stained glass

Rainbows dance across the bima
Divine sense of Shechinah

Donors carry torahs up the aisle
Six hundred thirteen commandments
adorned in style

Respect, pride, and hope fill our souls
Feeling connected, we feel more whole

Judaism enhances our life and our views
Standing tall, we’re proud to be called Jews.

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Mourning

When there is a death                    
Breathe deep, you have breath

Fitting to feel grief
Robbed, taken by thief

Life has its sorrow
Time can’t be borrowed

Weeping bitter tears
Breathe deep, you’re still here

Burning, red hot mad
Missing what you had

Lonely, scared, sad, blue
Faith will see you through

When there is a death
Breathe deep, you have breath.

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Two Poems by Michael Horvitz

  Hal Wingard Came By

I never knew you, Hal.
But maybe
  I know you

I saw your name
  like so many
  among
    e-mailed announcements

I searched the Internet
  through and around
  endless trappings,

and you were there,
but you were not there.
The “Information Highway”
  goes on and on

but where? and for what?
Then,
visiting some
  real place

I found your verses
  dressed smartly
like a young beau
  still courting
dancing
  within your wife’s voice

You were familiar
the way a man who loves
  his wife
  and the world
feels warmly familiar
as something we’ve always
  longed for

You knew
as a poet must know,
that death
  stops
  only
    the uninitiated,

that love
  in its form
touches
  into
    the unknown.

So, Hal,
while some may wish you
  rest in peace
I’m not so sure
  you seek that rest.

What poet rests?
He does not own
  that right

He is obliged
  to seek out
to carry
  human emotion
beyond his own
  mortal life

into a restless
  eternity
  in which
    he feels privileged
      to partake.

And there
  among
  the deathless voices
does he find
  his peace.

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Body of Verse

For Carole:

Body of verse
Body of woman
There are words that come to me
    solid and weighty
        as the Live Oak

Everything rises from the earth
    everything dreamed of carries
        sounds and mysteries

Cradling
     In my ears
        a new knowledge

Words–the substance
  of verse–my nourishment

You–the substance
  of woman–nourish me

Let all the verses
    sing
          to me until I die,

As I equally
    explore the accents
        of your flesh

All the sounds and scents
    tastes and touch
        all that is beautiful

All that I desire…
    In life…In you…
        all that keeps me alive…

Body of verse
    Body
        of my
             woman…

Two Poems by Simon Patlis

A Speck of Dust

I smashed up a galaxy in the heat of pursuit –
A little speck of debris parked itself on my boot.
I at once shook it off – and it vanished from sight,
And a new little star in the sky went alight.

Vainly, though, I sped – still was late in the end;
Of the dreams that I had – never learnt what they meant;
Left behind in the hustle what was mine – all gone by,
Just that speck of a star ever shines from the sky.
  
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Dawn

awe! what a moment:
you, as yet are still asleep;
but the night’s matured and has been like an altar sheep
               already sacrificed to the effulgent god,
     and scarlet droplets of its glowing sacred blood
are being sprinkled on the clouds by a radiant hand,
igniting fires of the dawn that fade the stars and shadows,
and  the world’s prepared for the oncoming mighty surge
of nascent day that’s just about to emerge
from the lethargic still and silent nightly deep…
and you, – remember – as of yet you’re still asleep

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Eileen Wingard is a freelance writer based in San Diego

Benjamin Sprung –Keyser addresses school bullying in one act play

March 6, 2010 Leave a comment

 From  left Kevin Six, Corey King, Nir Mate-Solomon, and Andrew Poole.  Photo  Ken Jacques.

By Sara Appel-Lennon

SAN DIEGO- Charlie asks why Steven always picks on him. “It’s like you’re my prey or something. I’m strong, you’re weak, I make the rules,” said Steven.

How does one get a bully to back off? Is it necessary to bully in return?

Based upon bullying incidents reported in the news, Benjamin Sprung-Keyser, age16, wrote the play, “What All School Children Learn”. His play was one of three scripts chosen from 242 submissions to the 2009 California Young Playwright’s Contest. Anne Tran directed it and professional actors staged it.

The play is “not a lesson in how to bully or how to avoid bullying,” said Sprung-Keyser. The title and the playwright’s most telling line come from the poem, September 1, 1939 written by W. H. Auden.

“I and the public know/  What all school
children learn, / Those to whom evil is done, /  
Do evil in return.”
–W. H. Auden

Auden refers to World War II in his poem. The stanza was a “perfect articulation” of the point of the play. It showed “a small scale version of things that happen in the real world,” said Sprung-Keyser.

The play begins in a middle school when Charlie 11 years old, (Andrew Poole) prepares to eat his lunch. Two older boys Steven 15 years old, (Nir Mate-Solomon) and Cooper, 15 years old, (Corey King) harass Charlie every day at school. Both bullies are bigger and stronger than Charlie. The boys did not know each other before the harassment started.

Every day Steven eats part of Charlie’s lunch and ruins the rest of his food. Steven and Cooper toss Charlie in the trash can, throw his books on the ground, and Steven dangles him by his feet. When Charlie gives orders to Steven to pick up his books, Charlie is forced to pick up his own books while Steven still holds him upside down by his feet.

Charlie asks why he’s being picked on. “It’s like you’re my prey or something. I’m strong, you’re weak, I make the rules,” Steven said.

Charlie uses strategies a kid would use to deal with the bullying. He sobs at home, feigns illness, and admits to his parents he can’t go to school. “It’s too dangerous,” Charlie said.

Charlie’s father, Martin (Joe Salazzo) tries to teach him to fight. But it doesn’t work because of Charlie’s small size and fighting is not his style.

Charlie’s mother, Katherine (Susan Hammons) and his father, Martin then meet with the principal, Mr. Barkley, (Kevin Six), to resolve their son’s torment. The principal complains about and attends to his own aching back but he neglects to watch Charlie’s back.

Mr. Barkley gives excuses for not protecting Charlie. He said there is one teacher per 100 students to watch on the playground. He can’t take care of every child. He insists that maybe Charlie provoked Steven.

Charlie realizes that asking for help doesn’t work. He then handles the matter himself. He uses an unconventional means to defend himself. He finds a chink in Steven’s armor and he uses brains instead of brawn.

“I won’t play by your rules because I can’t win by them,” said Charlie.

The consequences of Charlie’s actions cause him to be ostracized and alienated. He is now called “The terrorist of the playground” and he realizes that “maybe a terrorist makes up his own rules.” In Charlie’s case, the line between right and wrong is blurred.

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” said Sprung-Keyser.

What did the Playwright intend to say about bullying?  “There is no single message of the play. It is meant to spark discussion,” said, Sprung-Keyser.

Most likely the audience will leave with their own messages and discussions will spark after seeing “What All School Children Learn.”

Sprung-Keyser deserves kudos for addressing this serious topic by showing opposing view points on stage.

Author’s note:
Sprung-Keyser has strong interpersonal skills. “Acting appropriately and being thankful are entrenched in Judaism,” said Sprung-Keyser.

 His father first introduced him to W. H. Auden’s poem while Sprung-Keyser studied the history of World War II.

Sprung-Keyser competed in the Middle East with Harvard-Westlake High School Debate Team in Los Angeles, California, just days before his Opening Night.

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Appel-Lennon is a San Diego-based freelance writer. She may be contacted at  appels@jewishsightseeing.com

“West Bank Story”-a film review

February 19, 2010 2 comments

By Sara Appel-Lennon

LA JOLLA, California–West Bank Story received the Academy Award for Best Short in 2006. Israeli and Arab communities embraced the film. At the International Film Festival in Dubai, West Bank Story screened most often of all the films. Audiences at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem film festivals were fond of it too.

Director Ari Sandel, and screen writers, Sandel and Kim Ray, created this film as part of Sandel’s Master of Fine Arts Degree at University of Southern California. Sandel made certain the film was captivating, funny, and gave a positive message to Israelis and Arabs alike. He clarified that this serious topic needed to be presented as simplistic. “It is a movie about HOPE and PEACE and that is it,” said Sandel.

West Bank Story is patterned after West Side Story. The rivalry between Israelis and Palestinians has elements similar to those of the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story. In both films groups of people fight about land and freedom. Then a love story blossoms between two young people from opposing sides. Sandel and Ray portray a “Middle East Conflict” vignette with humor by using song, dance, and costumes. The singing and dancing served to entertain and evoke emotion. The choreography captured audience attention.

West Bank Story takes place in present day on the West Bank in Palestine. The film starts with a Palestinian snapping his fingers as a signal for the others to join in song and dance. An Israeli motions his group with the same finger snapping much like in West Side Story. The plot centers on competing falafel stands next door to one another . The Israelis have Kosher King; the Palestinians have Hummus Hut. The restaurant uniforms match the colors of their country’s flag and add to the film’s humor.

An Israeli and a Palestinian argue “Your side of the screen is encroaching on my side of the screen.” The complaint symbolizes their fight about land.

David, an Israeli soldier falls in love with Fatima, a Palestinian female “Employee of the Month” from Hummus Hut. Much like Tony and Maria, they know their parents mutual dislike,  yet their love binds them together.

When Fatima runs after a customer who forgot his food, she yells “humus.”  Israeli soldiers stop her with pointed guns. David intervenes by explaining she said hummus not Hamas. Fatima retorts “Do I look like a suicide bomber? Do you think I would be caught dead in this uniform?” pointing to her Humus Hut hat which resembles  skewers of gyros on each side.

The Israelis buy a new piece of machinery which takes up some Humus Hut space. A Palestinian sabotages the Kosher King machinery. The Israelis then build a wall around Humus Hut and start a fire.  Hummus Hut burns. The Israelis cheer. But,  Kosher King goes up in flames too.

Fatima yells in desperation “Is this what you all want? Is this how you want to live your life?’ David then takes a stand to become rejoined with Fatima. Both falafel stands have burned and the customers are hungry. The customers still must be fed and the line grows longer. How will they feed the customers and carry on business as usual?

To find out, see the film. West Bank Story is a film to remember.

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Appel-Lennon is a San Diego-based freelance writer. Her email: appels@jewishsightseeing.com

San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘A Shabbos Mother’

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Sara Appel-Lennon

LA JOLLA, CaliforniaA Shabbos Mother,” written and directed by Inbar Namdar portrays how celebrating Shabbos (Sabbath) brings a family together.

The film centers on a widow, Miriam, and her three daughters, Yael, Cheli, and Ella. Yael, the oldest sister and radio announcer, shows up for the Shabbos meal just 20 minutes before the lighting of the candles. She goes out on a date at 11:00 p.m. on Friday night after the Shabbos meal. She removes a rubber band from her hair as she confides to her sister, Cheli, her date doesn’t know she lives in a religious neighborhood.

Meanwhile Ella is pregnant and married to Kobi. Ella complains about Kobi, he withdraws. When Ella starts having contractions, Kobi starts to show some concern for his wife. Miriam treats her with favoritism because she is married and pregnant. Miriam disregards whether the marriage is loving.

Cheli has chosen to live according to Orthodox Judaism. She married Dudi, who studies to become a rabbi during the day and cleans synagogues at night. The couple have a loving respectful marriage. They both have feelings of disappointment because Cheli has not been able to become pregnant during the past year despite fertility treatments. Cheli confides to Ella that she envies that Ella is pregnant. Ella is envious because Cheli would love to be a mom but Ella fears that she won’t know how to handle a baby.

The story unfolds as Cheli and Dudi discuss whether or not to ask Miriam to borrow money to see a private female physician. Dudi mentions a passage in the Talmud which states whoever gives you money, buys you. 

Yael overhears the couple’s conversation and offers Cheli some money she had been saving to buy a car. Cheli refuses the offer.

The mother criticizes Cheli’s chosen lifestyle. During one Shabbas weekend she finds fault with her daughter in many instances. The mother does not understand why Celli and Dudi walked to her house instead of calling to get a ride. Cheli brought home-made challas, which everyone likes. Miriam tells her “You shouldn’t have bothered. We have enough food.”  In response Cheli turns to her husband, Dudi, and says “I told you she’d say that.”

Cheli asked her mother to leave the light on so Dudi could study. The mother neglected to fulfill her daughter’s request. Tension mounts as Miriam inspects the glass Cheli has already washed. Cheli then examines the lettuce leaf Miriam has washed.

Cheli takes a stand about how her mom has been picking on her all weekend.

“Why can’t you understand me? Why can’t you look at me? See who I am?” said Cheli… “You don’t even want my challahs. You criticize me all day long. Nothing I do is good enough.”

After Ella gives birth, Miriam notices the baby has her late husband’s nose.

It is as if his soul lives on in the new grandchild.

Miriam then softens toward Cheli and Dudi because she realized the couple helped Ella and Kobi through the delivery.

 The film concludes with Yael saying “They say Shabbos embraces a new soul.”  Maybe this time it will.

“A Shabbos Mother” will play on Monday, February 15th at AMC la Jolla 12 at 4:00 p.m.

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Appel-Lennon is a San Diego-based freelance writer. She may be contacted at appels@jewishsightseeing.com

‘The Mikveh Monologues’ makes its San Diego debut

February 8, 2010 Leave a comment


By Sara Appel-Lennon

LA JOLLA–The Mikveh Monologues, written by Anita Diamant and Janet Buchwald, directed by D. Candis Paule, is a play composed of nine staged readings focusing on various experiences of going to a mikveh. The play was underwritten by Laura Galinson and Jane Fantel.

The purpose of the event at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center was to inform the audience of the plans for building a mikveh in San Diego, California, which will be at the base of Cowles Mountain  near Tifereth Israel Synagogue. The San Diego mikveh will be modeled after the Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh in Newton, Massachusetts. 

 The play served to raise awareness of these plans and promote funding by showing why building a community mikveh is a worthy cause.

The Mikveh Monologues educates the Jewish community about the purpose of a mikveh and when it is used. A mikveh can be used by men and women, young and old. There are specific prayers and rituals depending upon the reason for the ceremonial immersion.

It is common among the world religions to treat water as holy. This is not surprising when one considers that the human body is primarily composed of water–anywhere from 55% to 78%. In ancient times, a mikveh had such great importance that in order to finance the building of a community mikveh, a synagogue was permitted to be sold.

The event began with a showing of the film, Immersed, directed by Mark Lyon. This film portrayed women sharing their mikveh experiences. Although Anita Diamant could not be at the event in San Diego, she appeared in the film and spoke of the importance of a community mikveh.

After the showing of the film, volunteers distributed potpourri to the last person in each row for a Havdalah ceremony. We wrapped our arms around one another warmly as we sang Jewish songs, accompanied by Jewish musicians and cantorial soloists.

The musicians included: Alan Alpert, Arlene Bernstein, Myrna Cohen, Bracha Crayk, Lori Wilinsky Frank, Heidi Gantwerk, Beth Faber-Jacobs, Lori Kornit, Andy Mayer, Craig Parks,  Jeff Wayne, and Myla Wingard.

Rabbi Marty Lawson of Temple Emanu-El, represented the San Diego Rabbinical Association. He made opening remarks about working toward building a community mikveh in San Diego. He mentioned the required mikveh immersion for those becoming a Jew by Choice. As he had not been immersed in a mikveh he decided it was time to try it and “schlepped up to Los Angeles to the nearest mikveh.” He said it was a life changing event for him.

Dr. Lisa Braun-Glazer, the catalyst for the Waters of Eden, came to the stage. With tears in her eyes and a heart full of gratitude, she called her Board of Directors to share the glory as they recited a Shehechianu blessing for the momentous occasion.

Glazer proudly announced that donations in the amount of $1,500, 000 had already been pledged to the $5,000,000 project. Tifereth Israel offered to lease the land to Waters of Eden, San Diego Community Mikveh and Education Center for merely one dollar per year.

The evening progressed as The Mikveh Monologues portrayed nine different characters who all came to the mikveh for different reasons. Mara Jacobs played the part of a Bat Mitzvah girl preparing to become a daughter of the Commandment.

Matt Thompson portrayed a young father coming to the mikveh with his son before Sabbath. It was a weekly ritual he and his son enjoyed and cherished. Thompson’s gestures of spinning his son in the water evoked emotion because his role seemed believable.

Sarah Price-Keating represented a young bride from Generation X. The bride talked about “getting it over with and doing lunch with her friends.” Instead, she asked the mikveh guide to bring her mother. The bride cried and thanked her mother for all she had done.

Jill Drexler played the role of mikveh guide. She talked about an intensive interview and background check. Although the character said the clients thank her, she is the one who feels enormous gratitude to the clients for allowing her to be part of their lives in this way.

Barbara Cole played the role of a breast cancer survivor. The character went in to the mikveh as a symbol of her cancer treatments ending. She was ready to start a new chapter of her life with her head held high.

The other actors included Charlie Rideau in a piece about saying farewell. Deanna Driscoll acted in a scene about adoptions. Phil Johnson was in a skit about replacing the mikveh body-care products with those from his hair salon. Wendy Waddell acted in a scene about Niddah-entering the mikveh after her menstrual cycle before resuming sexual relations with her husband. The actors showed professionalism and their stage credits were impressive.
 
After hearing the readings, I realized going into the mikveh symbolized letting go of the past and immersing oneself in a new life chapter with holiness. Immersing oneself is a way to connect to God.

The words “immerse, emerge, renew” painted on the Waters of Eden bookmarks left a calming impression at the Mikveh Monologues event. These words explain the benefits of building a community mikveh.

Resilliency, renewal and hope came to mind when I reflected upon the Mikveh Monologues and what they expressed. My hope is that all who would like to participate in the mikveh experience will be able to do so regardless of their financial circumstances.

I am reminded of the Father of Zionism, Theodore Herzel, who said:  “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Waters of Eden Community Mikveh is expected to open in late 2012 or early 2013. It will be the first community mikveh built in San Diego in the 21st century. For more information see WatersOfEdenSD.org or call (619)-206-3959

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Appel-Lennon is a freelance writer based in San Diego. She may be reached at appels@jewishsightseeing.com

Fort Worth visit has great Jewish worth

December 23, 2009 4 comments

 By Sara Appel-Lennon

FORT WORTH, Texas–I watched my step-daughter, Erin, make 200 Christmas tree shaped cookies when I found myself saying aloud, “Etz a beautiful tree. How do you say tree in Hebrew? Etz”. Memories of conversational Hebrew lessons danced in my head from my summer camp counselor experience at Camp Tamarack in Brighton, Michigan. My talk of trees reminded me of the Jewish reference to the Torah as a tree of life. I then felt compelled to find a temple in Fort Worth, Texas to observe Sabbath and write about my experience for this article.

From the yellow pages I chose Ahavath Sholom. Walking toward the temple doors, I discovered it was a Conservative temple of 29 years. It is located next to a public library at 4050 South Hulen in Fort Worth, Texas. I had seen it two years ago when I visited Erin and her family. I remembered the large menorah on the lawn which was not yet displayed.

Upon entering the temple, the ark drew my attention because of a wooden carving of the tree of life. The Torah cover displayed a menorah with flickering candle lights, which shined brightly. I noticed that only two women wore prayer shawls, and I wasn’t sure whether a pink one served as a prayer shawl or a fashion scarf. Only men made an aliyah to the Torah although women did approach the bima to read, sing, or receive a blessing for a special occasion.

 This Shabbat morning Rabbi Alberto (Baruch) Zeilicovich recognized three birthdays and an anniversary. One congregant, Lou Barnett, celebrated his 91st birthday; another celebrated his 85th, and Murray Cohn, a member of the Board of Directors celebrated his 45th.  A Cuban couple gave an aliyah in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. After each honor the rabbi gave each person a blessing to reach 120 years.

Rabbi Zeilicovich spoke about the four matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael, and Leah. He asked if all four were pious women and noted that Rachael was envious of her sister, Leah since Leah bore children and Rachael did not. Rachael died in childbirth. Rabbi Zeilicovich asked why that would happen. Furthermore, Rachael told her husband, Jacob, that if he did not help produce for her a son, she would die.

The Rabbi pointed out that envy is destructive and prevents us from enjoying what we have. The Yiddish term which he used was groisse oigen translated as big eyes. He gave an example of having groisse oigen if he is envious of someone with a Ferrari.

The rabbi talked about a magician’s words, abra cadabra. Translated from Hebrew it means “so may it be done.” The rabbi said that words have energy and our words can become reality. Therefore he encouraged us to watch our words closely because our words may produce results much like those of Rachael’s.

Later, the rabbi kvelled as he told about some of the accomplishments of fellow congregants. One gentleman discovered the idea of business telemarketing and another developed eye droppers.

 After services, I attended the catered luncheon in honor of Barnett’s 91st birthday. I approached Cohn, the director who celebrated his 45th birthday. I mentioned that I noticed the temple announcement showed that the film Lemon Tree would be screening in the temple the following day. I shared that I saw the film and wrote a film review which I had published in my column. His eyes grew wide but not because of envy. Instead he asked if I would kick off their Jewish Film Festival by talking about the film before the screening. Cohn said that I was there by the hand of God. The timing truly was an example of  serendipity.

Thanks to my Toastmaster training, I felt delighted to give a speech.

On Sunday I addressed 75-100 people in the social hall prior to the film’s screening. I gave a brief summary of the film and I encouraged the audience to watch the film from a humanist not a political perspective. 

After a film discussion, I made some closing remarks about the film. I learned that one of the spectators had worked for Copley here in San Diego. She knew Don Harrison when she was single. Her name was Tobi Eiferman.

After my visit to Fort Worth, I returned home briefly before I departed for Cleveland, Ohio to visit my mom for Hanukkah. When I boarded the plane in Cleveland for my connecting flight to Dallas Fort Worth, I noticed the flight attendant wore an intriguing necklace which resembled a tree. When I asked her about it, she replied that it was the tree of life.

 Author’s note: Since pecan trees are plentiful in Fort Worth, Texas, I started a healthy habit of snacking on pecans. Care to join me?

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Appel-Lennon is a San Diego-based freelance writer. Her email: appels@jewishsightseeing.com