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We caught up with Jonathan Edelman, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy senior, as he was getting ready for the school’s spring formal last Sunday. Edelman said he was honored to be selected as the recipient of the first Head of School Shining Light Award.

“The Hebrew Academy is an extension of my family. When you attend a small school with the same people, from age 4 or 5 through graduation, you end up knowing one another like a brother or sister — it’s one for all and all for one. We can always turn to each other in times of need, just like we would our families.”

Jonathan will receive the Head of School Award at the Academy’s 45th Anniversary Celebration, Everything’s Coming Up Roses, on Sunday evening, April 10, at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center. Maria Devinki and Fred Devinki, of blessed memory, are the recipients of the dinner’s 2011 Civic Service Award. Sponsorships and tickets are available by calling Kerry Cosner at (816) 327-8156.

Howard Haas, HBHA head of school, said Jonathan was the perfect first recipient of the award.

“At HBHA, we are all about our kids! Since our founding families first discussed their vision for a Kansas City Jewish day school, we have focused on preparing students for fulfilling lives as Jews and honorable, contributing citizens. We are proud to say we have graduated hundreds of accomplished students who exemplify the values of Torah, mitzvah and tzedakah. Now seemed like the perfect time to salute one individual who embodies all of these attributes. Jonathan is a dynamic leader and I can honestly say I will miss him.”

Jonathan’s academic career was not always stellar. In ninth grade he struggled with mediocre grades and realized that this wasn’t the person he wanted to be. He sought help from his teachers and turned things around dramatically.

“Jonathan knew what he needed to do and took the steps necessary to achieve his goals,” Haas said. “He sets a terrific example for our younger students.”

Jonathan likens the Shining Light Award to a lighthouse, a beacon of leadership, which reinforces Haas’s comment about the example he sets.

Jonathan is most proud of his involvement in HBHA’s Naarot, Go Green program, which he was instrumental in developing under Elisa Pener’s vision.

“We are accomplishing something good for our environment. The first year, we had 10 people join, then 30, then half of the school. The program was implemented throughout the JCC campus so now we impact our entire community.”

Jonathan also remarked on the importance HBHA places on tzedakah.

“It started in kindergarten,” he said, “when we were encouraged to bring coins to school to put in those little metal boxes. We learned about giving back and it became ingrained in who we are.”

He will attend Clark University in the Fall of 2012, where he was awarded a merit scholarship. It is his Uncle David Sosland’s alma mater and Jonathan plans to follow in Sosland’s footsteps and study photography. But next fall he will participate in a GAP program, called Kivunim. The program is based in Israel but includes regular travel to other countries, including Russia, Morocco and India.

Kansas City native Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg has published the “Rosenberg Holocaust Siddur.” It is currently only available online and can be downloaded for free at http://www.jewishfreeware.org/downloads/YOM%20HASHOAH/.The 143-page book can be downloaded from any computer and copies can be printed anywhere. Prayers are included in Hebrew, Hebrew transliteration and English translation.

Rabbi Rosenberg is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth-El in Edison, New Jersey, and an associate professor at Yeshiva University. He has just been named chaplain of the Edison, N.J., township. The child of Holocaust survivors, he has wanted to do this project for a long time.
“A world without Holocaust survivors is not far away. Yet, very little has been done to create a liturgy to commemorate that most catastrophic event in Jewish history,” Rabbi Rosenberg explained. “I am deeply concerned the Holocaust will be forgotten.”

He believes that without a framework for commemoration, remembrance will not long endure.

“For more than 3,000 years, Jews have been reminded every spring of the Exodus from Egypt, at a date firmly implanted on the Jewish calendar that is observed with seder rituals. Will the Holocaust, like the Exodus, be remembered beyond the generations of our grandchildren’s grandchildren? Very likely not — if no halachic agreement is reached on a specific day for remembrance, with prayers, readings and rituals adapted for the occasion.”

Rabbi Rosenberg, hopes the siddur he has compiled will fill that void. It includes poems, essays, songs and Ma’ariv services.

“Only by linking the Holocaust to ritual will the memory of the Holocaust survive other than just being a mere date in history,” Rabbi Rosenberg believes. “I am doing this now because time is running out as the last of the Holocaust survivors pass away.”

He explains that one may choose any of the numerous readings, poems or essays to incorporate into a seder or Holocaust remembrance service.

“There are so many that it is easy to create numerous different Holocaust programs from the vast amount of literature presented,” he said.

While the book is currently only available online, he is hoping he can publish it in a traditional book format.

“There are pictures of my parents and myself in the Internet version, but no art work. I would love to see art work in a hard-bound edition,” he explained.

The siddur is dedicated to Rosenberg’s parents, who were married in a displaced persons camp and eventually settled in Kansas City to be near other family members in the area.

“My father first opened a fruit store, then worked for Wilson Meat Company. Eventually he went into real estate. My mother worked in the garment industry. I attended public schools and Kehilath Israel Synagogue religious school. Early on, I decided to become a rabbi because of what had happened to my family during the Holocaust. ‘Never Again’ became my mantra. I would do my best to fight prejudice and hatred and prevent another genocide from ever happening again,” he explained.

Camping season is just around the corner. Prime spots at many Jewish overnight camps are already taken. Enrollment is currently underway or will soon begin at the local Jewish day camps. One thing is for certain. If you want your child to be affiliated and stay connected to the Jewish community as an adult, one of the best ways to ensure that is to find a way to send him or her to summer camp.

For years experts have been saying just that. Earlier this month a study on the long-term impact of Jewish overnight camp was released, concluding that those who have attended camp are more Jewishly engaged as adults.

Certainly professionals who specialize in both formal and informal Jewish education be an essential part of a Jewish child’s life.

“Children who attend Jewish day or residential camp are comfortable being immersed in Judaism,” said Karen Gerson, director of informal education for CAJE, the education arm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. “They thrive in these summer environments and as adults look toward friendships and associations with other Jewish people and organizations.”

It’s hard to say exactly how many Jewish children in the area attend Jewish camps, but Gerson said the number could be around 350. It’s been difficult for some families to afford the luxury of sending a child away to camp in the downward economy we recently experienced, but scholarships are available for those who search for them. The deadline has already passed for the Gershon Hadas Guardian Society for Children scholarship. However Gerson said money is still available from the Federation and The Foundation for Jewish Camp for a One Happy Camper grant.

“It is a $1,000 incentive for those who are attending Jewish residential camp for 19 days or longer for the first time,” said Gerson, who said more information is available on the Federation website, www.jewishkansascity.org.

Wider Jewish world

Marcia Rittmaster, Congregation Beth Torah’s religious school and youth groups director, knows the value of camp from both a parental and an educator’s standpoint. Her children attended day camp. She has attended overnight camp along with many of her students during the last 10 years.

“Without hard data, I can tell you that I’ve seen exactly those results since I became involved in promoting Jewish summer camp,” said Rittmaster, who has attended Goldman Union Camp Institute in Indiana as a staff member.

“The kids who had the opportunity to attend a Jewish camp are more likely to be involved in youth group and later in Hillel, marry Jewish, raise Jewish children, become religious school teachers, adult volunteers in Jewish organizations and even become rabbis,” Rittmaster said.
She thinks residential camp is especially important for Midwest students because it widens their Jewish world.

“I can’t tell you how often I hear that young adults are still friends with people they met at camp. They run into them in college and the business world. At camp they don’t really think about being Jewish, they just are. Their days and weeks are governed by Jewish cycles (praying before and after meals, a set time for daily worship and most particularly the way Shabbat is totally set aside and different,” she said.

She attends camp for many reasons, one being it makes the Beth Torah parents comfortable she’ll be keeping an eye on their children for a couple of weeks.

“I go because I love seeing our kids grow as individuals and become comfortable in the camp culture. I go because it gives me a special bond with the kids (and families) that go with me. I go because I, too, have made camp friends with other faculty members and we study, learn and work together in a manner that can’t be duplicated at a weekly or monthly get together,” Rittmaster said.

Staying at home

Bridey Stangler, the interim director of Jewish Community Center camps, was both an overnight and a day camper and is sold on the importance of both in a child’s life.

“Camp creates this long-term Jewish identity. I’m proof of that. I have friends who are proof of that. Everybody I was on the board with at KU Hillel all have Jewish camping experiences,” said Stangler, who attended Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, a Reform camp in Wisconsin for five years.

"I think sleep-away camp is particularly important because having time away from your parents gets you the opportunity to create your own beliefs and your own opinions about Judaism."

She’s spent more than a dozen summers as a counselor or programmer at various JCC camps. She notes this year the JCC alone offers six different camping options for children in preschool through middle school. Other local options include preschool camps offered by Congregations Beth Shalom and B’nai Jehudah as well as a camp for children in kindergarten through eighth grade put on by The Torah Learning Center.

Stangler said the JCC is hoping to recreate overnight camp as much as possible at its day camps, without the actual cabin and bunks.

“Day campers aren’t living, breathing and sleeping with the same people for weeks. But here our kids are grouped into sub groups and we do everything we can to make their own communities,” she said. “It’s a little family by the end of the summer.”

Regardless of what camp a child attends at the JCC — it could be Barney Goodman (general), sports, theater, art or even outdoor adventure — Judaism is infused in every way possible.

“Jewishly we do Shabbat every week no matter what camp they are in,” Stangler said. “I think that’s the one time of the week when the kids feel more separate from the everyday hubbub of camp and I think that’s the most like overnight camp.’

“We also incorporate gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness) and try to exemplify Jewish values in every way possible,” she continued.

Stephanie Katzif, who served as the director of all JCC camps for 22 years and will work with several specialty camps this summer, truly believes in the importance of any kind of Jewish camp. On a personal note, one of her daughters married a man who she met at overnight camp. And she points out that two of her former staffers — Jay Lewis and Kim Davidow Lewis — met while working at Barney Goodman, eventually married and both work as a Jewish communal professional.

She’s proud that the JCC has taken steps to expand on what it offers its campers and their parents — such as daily access to camp photos online, adding more field trips and more part-time options — while retaining the camp’s tradition of excellence.

“We know the experiences of overnight camps make people more likely to join synagogues and stay involved in the Jewish community,” Katzif said. “I think that we do the same things in day camp by showing that saying the motzi is a natural thing, that giving tzedakah is a natural thing and always thinking of others is important.”

The camp is full of counselors who were once campers, and during interviews Katzif said those prospective counselors always mention how important the camp was to them.

“Working at a camp as a counselor is important, too. It keeps them connected with the Jewish community as well, and now with all the social networking these counselors really do keep in contact with each other long after the camp session ends. It’s all a part of Jewish geography.”

Maggie Herman is a diminutive teen, yet she’s strong enough to train younger girls in the art of horseback riding. She’s very social, too. As a senior at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, she’s on the staff of the student newspaper and yearbook and is Student Council vice president. But she’s also a Girl Scout “troop of one” as she puts it. She’s athletic — playing varsity basketball and running cross-country in track — but academics are her priority and she maintains a 3.92 GPA. She says, “I have high expectations of myself,” but also knows she “wants to help people.”

So who is this 17-year-old and what is it about her that qualifies her as this month’s Salute to Youth honoree?

According to Todd Clauer, college guidance director at HBHA, “Having known Maggie Herman for nearly seven years, there is little doubt that the grace and humility with which she has demonstrated each year has been a unique honor to witness. Maggie’s kind, attentive and happy exterior contributes to every situation she enters, while her fierce internal determination has helped her grow into an outstanding thinker and leader.”

Soft spoken, Maggie articulates her goals and passions. It’s not that she downplays her achievements — Girl Scout Gold, Silver and Bronze Award Winner, President’s Volunteer Service Award — four years in a row, National Honor Society, International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program Certificate of Completion, academic letter and Wellesley College Book Award — she’s aware that it doesn’t tell her whole story.

Helping people is at the top of her list, which is why she applied to universities with strong pre-med programs. She also wanted schools that were “academically challenging, but not overwhelming.” She’s looking to “find the balance” between academics, maintaining a Jewish life on campus and yes, having fun! College applications, she said, were “the hardest thing I’ve ever done so far.” Since Maggie is close to her family — parents Mark and Vicki Herman and younger sister, Sarah, a sophomore at HBHA — the thought of going away to school next fall does concern her.

She loves KC and her grandparents live nearby — in Jefferson City, Mo., and Lincoln, Neb., “I don’t think there’s another community like it,” she says about Kansas City. “It’s close-knit and supportive.” But her ultimate goal is to become a doctor, so even though she’s been accepted to universities out of state, she hasn’t ruled out coming back to KC for additional training and a medical career.
Maggie also applied to schools that have large Jewish populations and strong Hillels, because her family’s involvement in Judaism is personally important to her. If she has any advice for her younger sister, who accompanied her on recent tours of college campuses, it’s this: “Take the opportunities presented to you. “You never know when an organization will help you learn more about what you could do in your future.”

She’s been to Israel three times — once with her extended family when she was in sixth grade, again on the HBHA ninth-grade trip and then on March of the Living, a trip that combines a week of Holocaust education and visits to concentration camps in Poland, followed by a week in Israel.

Despite the difficulty of seeing the camps and hearing horrific accounts from survivors, Maggie said the week in Israel was the “most fun” she’s ever had. Being there on Yom HaAztmaut (Israeli Independence Day), she could see that “everyone around me was happy. It was one of the most joyous events I have ever participated in,” she adds. “I don’t think I have even been prouder to be a Jew.”

She’s been at HBHA since first grade and an active participant at Beth Torah, where she was confirmed and still volunteers as a madricha (teacher’s assistant). “I like the support from students and teachers at HBHA,” Maggie notes, “Judaism is so important in my life and I enjoy learning about it.”

Maggie also feels great support from her family, and sees her mother as a role model. “She is one of the hardest working people I know. She knows how to get things done, but she does so with such grace. Watching her has really had an effect on the person I am today. She is also a great motivator and throughout the years has always pushed me to get involved and try new things.”

Because Judaism is so important to her, she makes going back to Herzl Camp year after year a high priority. Maggie had to choose between the Girl Scout’s Winding River Camp, where she’s been volunteering for years, and Herzl. While she’s no longer earning badges, she has served as a “wrangler in training” teaching safety around horses to younger Scouts, and then as a riding instructor, helping Scouts learn “horse skills.”

She’s been everything at Herzl — camper, OZO, C-I-T, and now counselor before she begins college. “I’ll be supervising a group in Tzofim — girls going into seventh and eighth grade,” she explains. Maggie says she’s also looking forward to “hanging out with my friends” from Herzl, Twin Cities girls she now considers “life-long friends.”

A lot of North American Jewish men and women fought to help establish the state of Israel. The American Jewish Historical Society will honor these people at its annual Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award Dinner in New York City on May 4.

“We have quite a list of these people to honor,” said Toni Young, a vice president of the AJHS board. In fact two on the list are from the Overland Park area — Robert Klapper and Bill Waldberg.

The story of the “overseas volunteers,” (in Hebrew “machal”) is one of outstanding courage and commitment. At the time of their participation, many of these individuals had been only recently decommissioned from service in World War II.

They chose again to risk their lives, not to mention their citizenship, by piloting the ships that illegally transported thousands of Holocaust survivors to Palestine in the face of a determined British naval blockade. Subsequently, the “machalniks” joined all branches of the military that fought to make Israel a living reality. It was principally machalniks who created the future Israeli navy and air force; principally machalniks who transported vital arms and hardware from Czechoslovakia to the fledgling and embattled state; and principally machalniks (not just from North America but from the world over) who provided crucial air support to fend off the invading armies engulfing Israel.

Young said that while AJHS knows that approximately 1,500 American and Canadian Jewish volunteers fought in Palestine and for the newly created state of Israel from 1947-1949, they know they don’t have a record of all their names. So AJHS is asking anyone who was either a machal or is a relative of a machalnick and has information to share to contact If people want additional information, they can email Rachel Lobovsky at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“We hope that people from all over the country will participate in this awards dinner in recognition of the fact that people from all over the country were part of creating the state,” Young said.

“Part of this story is really still unfolding. The truth is that no one has really talked about this story and a lot of the people who volunteered came back to their North American communities and didn’t talk about it because they had done something illegal. And only now are people really coming out so it could be really interesting,” Young said.

Young said these volunteers made a significant contribution to Israel, yet their achievements remain largely unheralded even to this day. The machal veterans themselves long hesitated to tell their stories for fear of endangering their legal status in their home countries, while the government of Israel was more eager to tout the deeds of its own native and adopted sons.

Yet because of the advanced age of most of these veterans, few opportunities still remain to give them a just recognition. This is why AJHS, which recently became the permanent home of the machal archives (including letters, diaries, official documents, photographs, and objects), has seized this moment to tell their story.

The AJHS intends to develop the archives so the story of the machalniks can be widely studied and grow into to an exploration of other aspects of North American involvement, like the raising of funds for the war and smuggling arms. The AJHS believes that the archives will contribute to a fuller, more accurate understanding of the truly international character of Israel’s birth.

Dan Rather will serve as master of ceremonies at the May 4 dinner. The veterans will be honored collectively and in the person of Dr. Ralph Lowenstein, the individual who painstakingly collected and preserved the historic records of their accomplishments. Previous recipients of the prestigious Emma Lazarus Award include such notable figures as George Schultz, Elie Wiesel and Beverly Sills.

On first glance, the title resembles the beginning of a vaudeville joke. Rather than generating laughs from the punch line, you hear gunshots and explosions in the background. Philadelphia playwright Seth Rozin’s dark comedy “Two Jews Walk Into a War” is set in the recent past during the Taliban regime’s final days in Afghanistan. The title characters are accountant Ishaq (Jim Korinke) and carpet salesman Zeblyan (Robert Elliott), who are the last two surviving Jews in Kabul. The only thing that binds them together is that they hate each other’s guts. The play, directed by Cynthia Levin, made its Kansas City premiere last weekend and continues through March 20 at the Unicorn Theatre on the more intimate Jerome Stage.

The entire play takes place inside a dilapidated old synagogue in which the walls are crumbling, the stained glass window is broken and the ark is empty. The play opens with the death of a third person who kept the peace. Ishaq and Zeblyan are now forced to confront each other. Their loathing stems from the fact that Ishaq’s parents convinced Zeblyan’s family to leave the refugee camps after surviving the Holocaust and come to Afghanistan rather than the United States, Canada or Israel.

Ishaq tells Zebylan that they must declare a truce and stop hurling insults at each other. He believes the future of Afghan Jewry depends on them. He hatches a plan to repopulate the Jewish community in Kabul. They will find two Afghani women of child-bearing age, convert them to Judaism, marry and impregnate them. This will double the Jewish population in nine months. However, a conversion ceremony requires a rabbi. A rabbi will need a Torah. Ishaq happens to be a Torah scholar. He has memorized the Torah including all the punctuation marks. Since he is more than two decades older and his hands are unsteady, Ishaq dictates the passages and Zebylan serves as the scrivener. They kvetch, argue, debate and bounce ideas off each other in a verbal game of ping pong.

Their hilarious odd couple pairing finds Ishaq in the role of straight man to Zebylan’s questioning, smart-aleck jokester. The play consists of brief sketches, many lasting no more than a few minutes, followed by a blackout and Middle Eastern music. It closely resembles an episodic sitcom. While loosely based on a true story, this thought-provoking play points out how fragile religious freedom truly is. We too often take for granted our religious institutions that serve as the beacons for preserving our faith and the meaningful traditions passed down from our ancestors.

Levin is to be congratulated for bringing this play to Kansas City. She deftly handles a serious situation with doses of comic relief. Her Conservative Jewish background comes in handy in guiding these two talented non-Jewish actors through their paces. She gets a valuable assist from Jewish scenic designer Evan Hill for his masterful recreation of the synagogue which acts as a vital unifying linchpin. These two demanding roles pose a real challenge to the actors. Korinke and Elliott have a winning chemistry that allows for a believable give-and-take kibitzing. Elliott is very refined with a nuanced performance. He uses his physicality to bring out his character’s mischievous behavior. Korinke is simply amazing in overcoming a monumental memorization challenge. He gives subtle hints of the age disparity between the characters. His feebleness is demonstrated by taking pills and a bad back. He is convincing in his devout beliefs and stubborn adherence to the text being the literal word of God. The play effectively mixes the modern with the ancient and hints at the disparity between Orthodox and Reform Judaism.

The play is very generic with very few ethnic words and will appeal to all religious denominations. The Kansas City version is the first to include an intermission to break the 90-minute length in half. I give this uniquely intimate experience a solid grade of B.

For tickets or more information, call (816) 531-7529, ext. 10, online at www.unicorntheatre.org or in person at the box office.

High school athletes in the Jewish community are having a good year. In the last few weeks alone, one has won a state championship, another led her basketball team in scoring and the third signed a letter of intent to play college soccer. Read on to learn more.

Wrestler three-peats as state champ

Zack Tanenbaum capped off his Blue Valley North high school wrestling career in grand fashion Saturday night, Feb. 26, when he won his third straight state championship. He did so in dominating fashion, with his closest match being a 14-2 victory in the finals of the 135-pound weight class. This win makes Zack the first three-time wrestling champion in BVN history.

Zack was undefeated his entire senior season, compiling a 40-0 record. He hasn’t actually lost a match in more than a year. His last defeat came in the early part of his junior season on his quest to become the Kansas State 6A wrestling champion in the 135-pound weight class. As a sophomore he was the 119-pound state champ.

Zack said it’s “an awesome feeling,” to be a three-time champ. He credits his success to a lot of hard work in the practice room.

“There’s definitely been a lot of sweat and a lot of early mornings working out at the Jewish Community Center before school,” he said. “It all definitely paid off.”

Working out twice a day isn’t the norm for wrestlers, or many other high school athletes.

“I think it’s more of a me thing. I haven’t really heard of any other athletes working out before school,” he said.

Zack has committed to wrestle at Brown University, an Ivy League school located in Providence, R.I., in the fall. A 4.0 student, he chose the school based on its great academics.

“They also have a Division I wrestling program, so it’s the best of both worlds,” said Zack, who plans to study biology and hopes to become a doctor.

“They also have a Division I wrestling program, so it’s the best of both worlds,” said Zack, who plans to study biology and hopes to become a doctor.

Since the season just ended last weekend, the all-city teams and other similar honors haven’t been released yet. Already this year 610 Sports Radio has recognized Zack as its athlete of the week and he’s been named an All-EKL (league) Scholar Athlete as well as to the principal’s honor roll.

The wrestling season isn’t quite over yet for Zack. Before he gets a chance to take some time off he will wrestle in the Kansas City Metro Classic, a tournament featuring the best metro wrestlers from both sides of the state line.

“It’s kind of an all-star team,” explained Zack, the son of Kelly Jackson and Dr. Robert Tanenbaum. “After that I’ll take some time off. I need a little break.”

Basketball player climbs scoring chart

Mikayla Davis, a senior at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, was recognized by the Kansas City Star earlier this winter for scoring more than 1,000 points in her career. In fact she ended the season with 1,339 points and now holds second-place on the all-time scoring list for girls behind Abby Sechrist (2005-2008) who scored 1375. She’s also third on the school’s all-time scoring list — boys and girls. The top scorer with 1564 points if Cory Gutovitz (2005-2009, boys), followed by Abby and then Mikayla.

Averaging 17.9 points per game, Mikayla was the Lady Rams leading scorer this year.

A shooting guard, Mikayla is a little surprised by her scoring prowess.

“I didn’t expect to score that many points. When I first started playing high school basketball it wasn’t my goal to score that many points. But it feels really good and it’s a good accomplishment,” she said.

Mikayla had such a stellar season despite getting off to a slow start early in the season. She was recovering from knee surgery she had in July to repair a torn ACL in her left knee.

As one of four seniors on the Lady Rams (Shira Levine, Maggie Herman and Davida Rosenthal are also seniors), she helped the team finish with an 18-7 record.

“I took a leading role on the team and that role was to score the points and help other people to score. I scored most of those points last year and this year but I obviously couldn’t have done this without the help of my team,” Mikayla said.

As soon as Mikayla turns 18 later this year, she hopes to begin playing in an 18 and older league. She also plans to join an all-seniors team after spring break. She doesn’t know yet whether she’ll play in college.

“Since I want to go into physical therapy, I’ll already have so much on my plate for college that I don’t know if I could handle playing basketball as well. But I’ll definitely do intramurals,” said Mikayla, who is considering attending either Drake University or Wichita State University.
She’s said she’s sad her high school career is over.

“But some of my best memories of high school are of basketball, so I’m glad I played,” said Mikayla, the daughter of Debi and Scott Davis.

Soccer player signs with Drake

Pembroke Hill senior Ross Payne signed a letter of intent to play soccer at Drake University during a signing ceremony at the school in February in front of a large gathering of family, teachers and students.

“I’m really excited. It’s something I’ve been working toward and thinking about for quite some time,” Ross said this week.

A four-year varsity starter, Ross, the son of Lisa and Roger Payne, set a school record in career goals with 114. A team captain both his junior and senior years, Ross was named to the All-District and All-State teams all four years of his high school career. His other honors include being named Class I Missouri Player-of-the-Year in 2010.

And also this year, he was one of nine players in Missouri selected to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Regional team. Additionally, he was a two-time Kansas City Star Athlete-of-the-Week and a member of the Kansas City Star’s All-Metro team in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

During Ross’ upper school soccer career, the team won districts each year and made three final-four appearances.

When he’s not playing soccer, Ross has helped to instruct a recreational soccer team of third- and fourth-grade boys, assisted the coach with a Pembroke Hill summer soccer camp and, when time permitted, enjoyed playing baseball and basketball. Ross also created and currently manages his own stock portfolio. He has volunteered with Harvesters and The Humane Society.
High school soccer may be a fall sport, but it actually keeps Ross busy all year.

“I play KCFC club soccer year round. I’ve played club soccer since I was 3 or 4 years old,” said Ross, whose family belongs to Congregation Beth Torah. “We’re just finishing the indoor season and we’re ready to get back outside.”

Through club soccer over the years, he’s actually met some other players from the KC area who will be playing for Drake next year also, and Ross feels good about that. He’s not sure yet what he wants to study, but he plans on it being something in the business school.

Orli Gil, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, will be in Kansas City on Tuesday, April 5, to speak to the community about “Israel’s Challenges in a Changing World.” The event, which is free, is presented by Jewish Community Relations Bureau|American Jewish Committee, Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, and Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.

Because the events in the Middle East are changing so rapidly, she said this week that she can’t say exactly what she will discuss.

“The new developments in the Middle East do carry some chances for new regimes and more democracy but it has a lot of risks with it,” she said in a phone interview from her Chicago office.

She said Israel “used to see Egypt and Saudi Arabia as a balance to the new axis of Iran and Turkey. Now the least radical side of the equation has its uncertainties.

“I don’t know what the future of Egypt will be. I can only guess and hope but certainly I cannot foresee it.”

One thing Israel is concerned about, Gil said, is that Iran will try to use some of these changes for their own benefit “to increase their influence in the area.”

Gil said she plans to talk about some events that haven’t gotten a lot of media attention, such as “the horrible massacre that took place in Itamar,” on March 11. She is referring to the brutal murders of the Fogels, 36-year-old Udi and 35-year-old Ruth and three of their six children — Yoav, 11, along with Elad, 4, and Hadas, 3 months.

A group called the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade of Imad Mughniyeh claimed responsibility for the attack. Israeli forces combed the area after the attack, and the Palestinian Authority agreed to participate in a joint investigation to find the killer or killers.

Gil may also discuss the seizing of the Liberia-flagged cargo ship Victoria by Israel’s navy on March 14 “which was full of dangerous, advanced weapons to be used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations.”

“These were Iranian weapons that were aimed to reach the Gaza strip and shows that Iran is doing everything it can to help the terrorist organizations operate in this very fragile situation in the Middle East right now,” Gil said.

In a reference to the instability of Egypt, Gil pointed out that “the Egyptian army used to attempt to stop the arming of Hamas. We really don’t know what’s going to happen from September on.”

Gil would also like to remind Kansas Citians that Israel is not only about strategic issues in the Middle East.

“We have a wonderful democracy and culture, literature and high tech. This is actually the essence of Israel, not wars and fears and strategic challenges.”

She points out that so far tourism to Israel hasn’t been hurt by the most current Middle Eastern tension.

“It’s been one of the best years in tourism that we’ve known in 2010 and the beginning of 2011. Right now there are no signs of slowing tourism,” she said.

Let all who are hungry come and eat.

That’s one of the shortest, and most memorable, lines in the Haggadah used in many seders. It was one of the themes of last year’s Community Second Night of Passover Seder sponsored by the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City and held at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah.

The second night seder will once again be held this year at B’nai Jehudah on Tuesday, April 19. (See below for more information.) Last year participants literally helped feed the hungry by preparing food for the needy prior to their own feast. This year the theme is “Experience an interactive journey from slavery through the 15 steps to freedom.”

The seder will be led by B’nai Jehudah’s Senior Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff as well as Rabbi Robert Tobin, Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner, Rabbi Scott White, Cantor Sharon Kohn and Hazzan Rob Menes. As the host congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Nemitoff explained that the community seder is special because it brings people together.

“Seders traditionally are meant to be held in one’s home. We recognize that there are plenty in our community who lack the capacity to either prepare a seder or don’t have other family or, quite honestly, don’t have the energy to do a second or a first seder. This is an opportunity for the community to open up the community’s home,” he said.

It’s rare, Rabbi Nemitoff said, for a person to attend a seder that is conducted by multiple members of the clergy.

“It’s a unique opportunity to learn from all these clergy,” he said.

In the past the community has sponsored two community seders in an effort to encompass various levels of religious observance. This year the only seder will be the one offered at B’nai Jehudah, but Rabbi Nemitoff believes any Jew would be comfortable at the seder.

“It will try to create a balance between an experience that people will recognize as a seder and also be something contemporary, modern and engaging for people,” he explained. “Most members of the Jewish community will find their level of practice and observance accommodated within our seder experience.”

For instance, when last year’s group broke into smaller groups to prepare food for the homeless, Rabbi Nemitoff explained that those who didn’t feel comfortable participating for religious or other reasons were simply able to choose not to participate.

“Our community is remarkable because as a community we recognize everybody’s needs and we do our very best within a communal setting to provide for those needs and at the same time provide a unique and original interpretation of the seder experience.”

One reason the seder has so many interpretations, Rabbi Nemitoff explained, is that while the commandment to observe Pesach, written in the book of Exodus, is very clear, the rest is not.

“The story of remembrance is the same, but the way in which we do it with the meal, with the Haggadah and the elaborate traditions connected to that meal are not in the Torah,” he said.

Those traditions, according to Rabbi Nemitoff, come from the Greco-Roman period. “The Greco-Roman banquet is what the model was for our seder meal. So throughout history we have accommodated and changed, based on both our current experiences and the current necessities,” he said.

Last year many participants commented on the engaging way Rabbi Tobin chose to present the maggid, the telling of the Passover story. He is expected to play that role again this year. The two cantors will pass along the message of Passover through music.

While the details for this year are still being worked out, Rabbi Nemitoff said the goal is for the evening, including the actual meal, to last between two and two and a half hours.

Over the years many have enjoyed the community seder and attend on a regular basis. Comment cards are always distributed to see what participants like and how the event can be enhanced. Last year’s comments were complimentary.

“My kids loved it and had a great time and thought it was the best seder ever so that makes me happy,” wrote one participant. “One theme my family found most interesting is that we take care of feeding all who are hungry. I loved that and thought it was the best message for my kids and for me.”

Many others also enjoyed the mitzvah project and complimented the food, one calling it “superb.”

About the second seder

When: Tuesday, April 19
Where: The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah
Time: 6:30 p.m.

The food will be kosher-for-Passover and prepared under the supervision of the Vaad Hakashruth of Greater Kansas City. The cost for an adult meal (chicken or vegetarian) is $33; $13.50 for children between the ages of 4 and 9 and free for children under 4. Reservations are mandatory and are due by April 11. Financial assistance is available. For more information, contact Annette Fish, administrator/program director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (913) 327-4622, or visit the Rabbinical Association’s website at www.kcrabbis.org.

There are a lot of Jewish CEOs in Kansas City. Local Ukrainian immigrant Regina Sergiyenko can now be added to the list.

Sergiyenko is CEO of PocketBook-USA, maker of one of the world’s top five e-readers. She is responsible for operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel. PocketBook, which sells more than 50,000 devices monthly in countries around the world, is the best selling e-reader in Eastern Europe and ranks No. 3 Western Europe.

“I am pleased to bring our multifunctional e-readers to U.S. consumers so they too can benefit from our lightweight, compact, state-of-the-art products, excellent customer support and value for the dollar,” said Sergiyenko (pronounced sayr jee yehn koh), who left the Ukraine 12 years ago.

PocketBook has established its U.S. headquarters in Overland Park, where Sergiyenko resides with family. After meeting her husband, Alexey, while he was visiting family in the Ukraine, Sergiyenko moved with him to Israel for a few years before immigrating to Kansas City 10 years ago. She has a stepson, Alexey, age 24, and two daughters, Anastasia, 10, and Catherine, 6.

Sales are good

Under Sergiyenko’s leadership, PocketBook plans to open approximately 20 locations nationwide in 2011. PocketBook opened its first U.S. location at Independence Center in Independence, Mo., in November 2010 followed by a second location in Seattle, Wash.

PocketBook is the first international personal technology company to open a chain of locations across the United States. Her position requires her to travel several times a month to work with her staff as they prepare to open more locations.

She is happy with the sales reports so far, saying figures are good.

“We always want more, however I can’t complain,” she said.

The company currently sells five models of e-readers. In the kiosk here, she is hoping to sell between 100 and 150 units, selling from $150 to $300, per month. PocketBook is currently “close” to meeting those projections.

“We would love to get 5 percent of the U.S. market,” she added. “We hope to get there in two years.”

Sergiyenko said that while the local kiosk didn’t open until November, PocketBook has been sold online in the United States for more than a year.

A perfect match

Sergiyenko has master’s degrees in both engineering and business. When she was just 19 years old, she began a successful business in her hometown of Lvov, Ukraine, in which she arranged to purchase wheat from farmers, had it milled and sold it to bakeries.

PocketBook is a good fit for Sergiyenko’s combination of engineering and business skills. She speaks five languages, including Hebrew, and strongly believes in the benefits of networking. Since moving to the United States, Sergiyenko has held positions with a bank, title company and chemical company.

She joined the company in January 2010 and she “loves it.”

“I like the technology. It’s easy. It’s convenient. It doesn’t take up any space at your house, like books. With this technology it allows you to keep 20,000 books. That’s more than anyone can keep in their home,” she said.

Sergiyenko said PocketBook compares well with Kindle, one of the top selling e-readers in the United States.

“The biggest difference is that we have an open format. With a Kindle you can only go on Amazon.com to buy books. With ours you can buy books on many different websites. We were also the first reader in the world which has the technology to read Hebrew,” she said.

Sergiyenko hopes to get a PocketBook store open in Israel in the near future. Right now PocketBook employs five people in the United States and two in Israel.

PocketBook is the first e-reader capable of supporting text-to-speech in 24 languages. Owners can choose whether they want a book read aloud by a male or female voice, the tone and the tempo. PocketBook also is the world’s first e-reader to include a factory-installed language translation dictionary.

PocketBook offers a wide variety of e-readers that deliver an easy-on-the-eye, no flickering experience similar to reading ink on paper. Since there’s no backlight, screen content is clearly visible in bright sunlight. PocketBook e-readers are available with Wi-Fi, 3G and Android 2.0 technology. With a full-scale Internet browser, it’s simple to wirelessly download books onto any PocketBook e-reader and to surf the Internet. PocketBook currently offers 30,000 free books at BookLand.net and another 300,000 volumes for purchase. Books currently are available in 60 languages.

“This is great for students who need to download books for class,” Sergiyenko said.
E-books from other online book shops also can be easily downloaded and read on PocketBook e-readers.

PocketBook’s electronic reading devices were developed in close cooperation with the global leader in consumer hardware design and production, which also consults with brands including Apple and Sony.

The world’s first e-reader to include a factory-installed language translation dictionary, PocketBook also is the first e-reader capable of supporting text-to-speech in 24 languages.
In addition to being equipped to play music and audio books, all PocketBook models contain an array of games including Battleship, Solitaire, Sudoku, chess, checkers and TankWar.

To an outsider, Nicole Emanuel’s life seems overwhelming. An artist, arts organizer, grant writer, grad student, archivist, documentarian, wife, mother of two, and volunteer, Emanuel juggles a lot of balls in the air.

But to the grandniece of famed photographer Philippe Halsman and symphony conductor Vladimir Golschmann, granddaughter of Latvian, French and South Africans, a grandmother who was an artist in 1920s Paris and another an obstetrician in Johannesburg, it’s not overwhelming; it’s part of her DNA.

This theme keeps reappearing in Emanuel’s art; it resurfaced recently when she won the 2011 ArtsKC competition to design its awards. Based on vintage circus posters and yes, juggling life, the paintings feature men, women & children balancing on globes, in circus rings or flying trapezes — all while holding cell phones, babies, and all the accoutrements of a modern life.
This may be overwhelming to others, but not to Emanuel. In fact, her family history is a rich one, blessed with world famous characters. “We all perform spectacular feats daily,” she adds with a grin.

“I grew up with these people,” she says in a recent interview in her Overland Park home. “My family spoke French and Yiddish and Afrikaans and sat at this dining room table,” she adds, pointing to a glass topped table that once held the parachute silk maps of France her grandfather used in WWII, before his internment in a German POW camp.

“These people” influence her work so much so that her newest project is based on her family history — a potential collaboration with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She hopes to travel to New York City this summer with museum staff to discuss her proposed exhibit with Emanuel’s cousins, trustees of Philippe Halsman’s estate.

Emanuel’s vision includes Halsman family archives — hundreds of letters and documents from her grandfather’s daring escape, as well his POW diary, tapes of her grandmother speaking Russian-accented French and a family genealogy. She also wants to showcase Halsman’s famous photographs as well as the letters written to and from family members during his 1928-30 trial for patricide. In a trip to Austria with his father Morduch (Max), Philippe was arrested for murder after Max’s body was found with head wounds. It became a cause célèbre throughout Europe where the family had moved from Riga, Latvia. Philippe spent two years in prison and was released with the help of Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann on the condition he “never return to Austria again.”

But Emanuel’s proposed exhibit is not just memorabilia and celebrity photos. Her work is instrumental to the show and will feature large-scale paintings hinged to form a book. “I’m telling a story,” she explains. “The whole idea is to overwhelm you so your intellectual defenses fall.” Her paintings would evoke the feeling of a child reading a book — bigger than life, much like the Halsman family itself.

Emanuel says it’s important for the Jewish community to recognize that “Jews like me are not necessarily connected to the organized Jewish community,” but feel that “we are a piece … with an incredibly strong heritage.” She stares at the old Parisian table that anchors her family in Kansas. “Living with this past is not weird, but if I had not known my relatives, it would seem surreal.”

While Emanuel awaits the outcome of the trip to the Halsman archives, she’s busy working on other projects. She designed a centerpiece sculpture for the March 6 “Once Upon a Time” fundraiser luncheon for St. Luke’s Children’s Spot. She’s also in her fourth year running a local Artsmart Program, hands-on programming at her children’s school. Her kids, 9-year-old Molly and 6-year-old Owen, think art is cool and work with her on projects at home, much like she did as a child visiting her great-uncle “Vova” Golschmann.

“We’d sit on the floor, where he’d conduct art contests,” she recalls. “We all idolized him because he saved the family,” she says, noting that he provided the affidavits needed to bring her grandparents and parents to America. Amidst the Picassos — real ones — in Golschmann’s New York apartment, Emanuel knew at a young age that she wanted to be an artist. And although her husband, Luke McGlynn, works in human resources, it’s for Hallmark, so even he, too, is peripherally involved in the arts. The two met in San Francisco, where Emanuel had planned a two-week vacation and stayed for nine years.

“He’s very supportive,” she says of her husband, showing off the art she’s created all over the house, as well as in her basement studio. It is, however, opposite the washer and dryer, which seems to always return her to this juggling act — like coordinating the second annual “Who Does She Think She Is?” This multi-media exhibit and events featuring local women artists runs from April 1 through May 13 at JavaPort, downtown. In addition to the Halsman family exhibit, volunteer work, and finishing a Master of Arts in liberal studies at UMKC — Emanuel juggles even more.

She draws a line from the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art through Overland Park to downtown’s CrossRoads art district, noting that 50 percent of the KC Artists Coalition membership live in Johnson County. They need a place to work, other than their basements. So she’s currently in talks with the Arts Council of Johnson County, officials in Overland Park as well as the owner of a building.

“Like many other professional artists raising kids in suburbia, I need studio space, proximity to other artists and events nearer to home. We need a satellite-CrossRoads out here, where we can build a critical mass of creative synergy to generate foot traffic, be a cultural attraction and support of local businesses,” Emanuel explains.

“I know many local artists struggling in their homes who are thirsty for this. Imagine: a building with art studios, a cafe, and exhibition space in downtown OP!” she says. Let’s “build a local economic base for our suburban artists who are in the trenches raising kids.”
Still juggling, Emanuel looks at the bookcases from her grandparents’ Paris apartment. Stacked with more memorabilia, she insists that all “this is fun.”

“I want to honor them,” she says of her family, “not compete.” She views her history as a gift, but doesn’t let that overwhelm her. “If you’ve been given something like I have, you’d better have a sense of humor.”

The shofar blast announced the beginning of the celebration, and it was a day to remember for members of Kehilath Israel Synagogue. On Sunday afternoon, Feb. 27, about 325 people filled the sanctuary to witness the final words written in the congregation’s 100th anniversary Torah.

Arnold and Carol Caviar and their family underwrote the project, dedicating the Torah and the mantle, which began more than a year ago as part of KI’s 100th anniversary celebration. Funds raised by the project will support KI activities.

“This day is a result of Arnie Caviar’s vision,” said KI President Steve Osman.

More than 300 people, including congregants and friends of KI in the community, contributed to the project. Dedication opportunities included making donations for letters; aliyot; special sections; parshiot; and books. A few people purchased enough letters to spell a certain word or write a phrase. Donations also paid for the gartel (Torah sash); atzei chayim (wooden Torah rollers); yad (pointer); shield (breast plate); crown; parchment, ink and quills; and torah and mantle.

Contributors “purchased” certain letters, a word, a phrase, a portion of the week, or even one of the books of the Torah. Donors were invited to share in the activities, beginning that morning, by writing a letter in the Torah along with the sofer (scribe) Rabbi Shmuel Miller.

“It is very, very special as we dedicate our own Torah in the second century of our congregation’s existence,” Rabbi Herbert Mandl said.

The scribe added the final words to the Torah while seated on the bimah underneath the chuppah in the sanctuary. The actual writing took place under the chuppah, since a Torah scroll is often considered like “the bride of the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Miller, who has written 27 Torahs, wrote this one on kosher parchment using a quill from a turkey and ink made of berries. If it is unrolled from end to end, its length is approximately the size of a football field. Rabbi Miller said it usually takes six to 12 months to write a Torah and he spends approximately six hours per day writing.

The Torah mantle, a contemporary design of blues, red, greys and plums, has stitched on the outside in Hebrew, “The Torah Will Be Made Great And Glorious.

Rabbi Mandl said this Torah will become the congregation’s main Torah and should be in use beginning this week.

KI chose this project as a way for its members to fulfill the 613th commandment to “write a Torah in one’s lifetime.” Since the Torah is called a “Tree of Life,” the synagogue’s younger members fittingly entertained the audience with that song, as well as several others. Chazzan Jeffrey Shron also entertained.

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