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KC SuperStar finalists include Jewish contestant

KC SuperStar finalists include Jewish contestant

Paris Naster is one of 10 finalists vying to become the next KC SuperStar. This year marked the first time 17-year-old Paris Naster auditioned for KC SuperStar, the Jewish Community Center’s “American... Read more...

Bestselling author, Israeli columnist Ari Shavit to speak at Federation Annual Meeting

Bestselling author, Israeli columnist Ari Shavit to speak at Federation Annual Meeting

Ari Shavit Provocative Israeli columnist and New York Times bestselling author Ari Shavit will bring his views on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Jewish Community Campus on Wednesday,... Read more...

Listening Post

THE SINGING RABBI — Rabbi Larry Karol recently mounted a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to record a third album. The Kansas City native surpassed his initial fundraising goal last week and hopes... Read more...

HBHA expands Jewish studies program, names Rabbi Rockoff Matmidim director

Last year’s first grade Matmidim participants at HBHA — Mendel Tiechtel (from left), Chaya Morgenstern, Zachary Granoff, Rayli Kopelman, Baruch Chaim Mazel, Livia Noorollah and Ari Green — posed... Read more...

Israeli terror survivor to tell courageous story here next week

Kay Wilson Some people may find the difference between a terror victim and a terror survivor to be very subtle. In the case of Kay Wilson, the difference is not subtle. Wilson, who will speak here on... Read more...

Emissaries serve Israel here in K.C. while friends serve on the front lines

Barney Goodman Campers gathered around Israeli shlichim (emissaries) Sapir Davidov (top row, second from left) and Noy Tiram (top row, second from right). Now that camp is over, they will travel a little... Read more...

Balloon Festival features new venue, entertainment and cooking competitions

The Great Midwest Balloon Festival, founded by Robbie and Steve Small, has changed venues for this year’s event. It happens this weekend, Aug. 8-10 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Festival... Read more...

Two Israeli books: one serious, one for fun

“Living Beyond Terrorism,” Zieva Dauber Konvisser, Gefen Publishing, May 2014 It was Aug. 9, 2001. I was in Jerusalem after a 19-year absence to attend a Hadassah national convention and do research... Read more...

Listening Post

L’SHALOM, L’SALAAM, TO PEACE — Sheila Sonnenschein is now involved in Mothers on the Side of Peace, a new grassroots movement for people — you don’t have to be a mother — who side with peace.... Read more...

Soldier tells rally crowd there is no Plan B, Israel must win the fight

Photo by Alyssa Dinberg/Jewish Federation Supporters of Israel filled the Kehilath Israel Synagogue to capacity Monday night for the Community Solidarity Gathering. “The only option is to fight back... Read more...

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Letters to the Editor

Israel is the victim I can’t help but find a correlation between Muslim migration into Europe and other non-Muslim countries and the rising clamor of anti-Semitism in those countries. Hamas instigated... Read more...

The spiritual journey of a lifetime

The spiritual journey of a lifetime

Ten local women participated in the 2014 Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project trip to Israel last month. Posing for this photo at the Decks in Tiberious are Stacy Wright (back row, from left), Patricia... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

We need to combat hate Anti-Semitism is a worldwide problem that is getting worse, especially overseas. Our best protection is education, making living conditions better for others and swift eradication... Read more...

The underlying war: Islamism versus democracy

Are Jews the canary in Western Civilization’s cultural mine? Read more...

Turning 80

During my journey through life, as the years have rolled on, I have discovered that time flies even when you’re not having fun — and suddenly even a watershed event can sneak up on one, as it did me.... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

Why can’t Jews speak Hebrew? How come so few Jews in North America know how to speak Hebrew? Sure a lot of them know how to read Hebrew from Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and there is a flowery English translation... Read more...

Why we’re letting our daughter stay in Israel in wartime

Let’s just say that missiles and bomb shelters were not on the itinerary of our 16-year-old daughter’s pilgrimage trip to Israel this summer. I spoke to her this morning. Yeah, the alarms are unnerving,... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Half-truths and anti-Semitism I was irate after watching the late CNN news on July 10. Anderson Cooper pretended to deliver a factual report about Israel’s bombing of Arab residences, with a slight... Read more...

Amidst turmoil, life in Israel continues to be meaningful

My mother wants me to come home. I’ve been calling her every day, and she wants me on a plane immediately. She has been watching the news and following events as they unfold here in Israel and she is... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Conference gives families hope My husband Harold and I were fortunate to attend the Mucolipidosis Type 4 (ML4) Foundation Family & Research Conference last month in Atlanta. ML4, a relatively unknown... Read more...

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Celebrations

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Buchbinder Birth

Buchbinder Birth

Baree Nottberg and Scott Buchbinder of Overland Park announce the birth June 27 of a son, Theo Everett Read more...

Zwick-Pohlman Engagement

Zwick-Pohlman Engagement

Arvin and Tammy Zwick of Overland Park announce the engagement of their daughter, Heather Ashley Zwick, to Andrew David Pohlman, son of Jeff and Robin Pohlman of Memphis, Tenn. Read more...

Nerman Wedding Anniversary

Margaret and Jerome Nerman will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary on Friday, Aug. 8. They are lifelong residents of Kansas City and have lived in Leawood since 1990. Read more...

Krashin Birth

Daniel and Jacki Krashin of Wilmete, Ill., announce the birth May 20 of a son, Drake Evan. They are also the parents of Madilyn Paige. Read more...

Unowsky Bat Mitzvah

Keri and Daniel Unowsky announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Sarah Beatrice, on Saturday, Aug. 9, at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Memphis, Tenn. Read more...

Weiner-Conley Engagement

Barbara and Jeff Weiner of Prairie Village announce the engagement of their daughter, Rebecca Brooke Weiner, to Jason Robert Conley, son of Randi and Larry Haith and Kim and Bob Conley. Read more...

Bock-Lewis Engagement

Lynne and David Bock announce the engagement of their daughter, Hannah Rose Bock, to Joshua Aaron Lewis, son of Sheryl and Jim Lewis of Deerfield, Ill. Read more...

Chase Bat Mitzvah

Debbie and Jeff Chase announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Talia Faye, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Congregation Beth Torah. Read more...

Passer-Wolkofsky Engagement

Sandy and Steve Passer announce the engagement of their daughter, Emily Passer, to Peter Wolkofsky, son of Michael and Vicky Wolkofsky of Queens, N.Y. Read more...

Zwillenberg 50th Anniversary

Morris and Linda (Fein) Zwillenberg will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, July 26. They were married at Beth Shalom Synagogue in Hartford, Conn., on July 26, 1964. Read more...

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Obituaries

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Rosenberg, Abraham B.

Abraham B. Rosenberg, 93, of Overland Park, passed away Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at Village Shalom. Read more...

Spiegel, Robert Alan

Spiegel, Robert Alan

Robert Allan Spiegel, 76, of Ra’anana, Israel, passed away on Monday, July 28, 2014. Read more...

Wurzburger, Irene

Irene Wurzburger, 94, of Overland Park, passed away on Sunday, Aug 10, 2014. Read more...

Beiman, Melvyn

Melvyn Beiman, 82, of Lee’s Summit, died on Wednesday, July 24, 2014, at the Village House on the campus of John Knox Village. Read more...

Jacobson, Herbert Roy

Herbert Roy Jacobson passed away Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Read more...

Kaplan, Seymour

Seymour Kaplan, 88, of Overland Park passed away on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, after a long battle with cancer. Read more...

Pfau, Gladys Levine

Gladys Levine Pfau, age 86, of Overland Park, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Read more...

Sandhaus, Frances Zurovsky

Frances Zurovsky Sandhaus, 98, passed away on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at Kansas City Hospice House. Read more...

Beiman, Melvyn

Melvyn Beiman, 82, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., died on Wednesday, July 24, 2014, at the Village House on the campus of John Knox Village. Read more...

Elyachar, Daniel

Daniel Elyachar, 87, loving father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle and friend, passed away peacefully on Monday, July 21, 2014, at his home in New York City. Read more...

Beth Torah Weiner Religious School earns national accreditation

“ ‘I’ll just have to see for myself’ was Marlene Myerson’s response when I told her that parents did not just drop their children off for Sunday religious school classes; but instead they stayed in the building and often attended family worship with their students,” explained Marcia Rittmaster, religious school and youth groups director at Congregation Beth Torah.

Rittmaster was referring to the September 2013 site visit by the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE) Accreditation Team led by Myerson. But when Myerson arrived her doubts were put aside. Unlike many Reform congregations across the country where religious schools are “drop off” centers for parents, Myerson walked into the building to find nearly 100 adults hanging out for Sunday Schmooze and News while their students attended Sunday classes.

Commendations in the NATE accreditation report highlight the “sense of a warm and welcoming community that exists among the staff, the leadership and the congregants.” The nearly three-year process included interviews of the congregational staff and lay leadership, teaching staff, students and parents; detailed documentation of the policies and procedures of the Weiner Religious school (including the parent handbook), marketing materials, progress reports, lesson plans and even a map of the facility; budget information; evaluation of the congregation and the school vision; review of the curriculum and teaching materials; a staff visit by NATE; and much more.

A summary of the findings stated: “Your program is an excellent one, led by dedicated and committed staff who care about their students and each other, and who work in tandem in order to offer congregants an outstanding Jewish education.”

In addition to evaluating the nuts and bolts of a Jewish education program, the accreditation process is designed to help congregations reflect upon their mission.

Rabbi Mark Levin said that since the inception of the congregation, education served as a focal point of all other programs.

“The school has served as the core for developing a sense of community in Congregation Beth Torah from the beginning,” he said.

Led by Rabbi Educator Rebecca Reice and Rittmaster, Sunday morning classes for pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students include classroom study, family school once a year and weekly family worship. Midweek Hebrew begins in fourth grade as students and families begin to think about Bar and Bat Mitzvah. The Keshet program is for fourth- through sixth-graders; the TAG program is for seventh- through 10th-graders. Post-confirmation students stay involved by serving as madrichim.

With lifelong learning programs a requirement for accreditation, the NATE team looked closely at the opportunities for adult education at Beth Torah. Impressed with the variety of programs the report stated: “The congregation offers a variety of programs that address the needs of learners of all ages.”

Lifelong learning was described as innovative, including speakers, discussion groups and current event forums as well as opportunities for travel to Israel.

Rabbi Reice stated that “the core of her pride in Beth Torah educational programs could be explained by the support shown from an Adult B’nai Mitzvah class.” When one of the older students in the class died suddenly, the class organized food and provided a caring community to help support the family in the face of this tragedy. “We always say ‘we are the community we need.’ Learning together helps us build that community.”

Although the process is complete and the accreditation awarded, the impact will continue as Congregation Beth Torah continues to reflect the spirit of Reform Judaism by placing learning as the central goal of its community. Currently the board of directors is reviewing the recommendations and engaging in plans to incorporate technology into the learning programs without sacrificing personal relationships and community building.

Of the more than 900-member congregations of the Union for Reform Judaism, Beth Torah joins an elite group of only 20 other congregations with accredited religious schools. That represents 2 percent of reform congregations in the United States and Canada, and is the only accredited school in Kansas or Missouri.

Members of the congregation’s NATE Accreditation Team, responsible for completing the application process from beginning to end, were: Shari Blank, Debbie Chase, Sheila Ginsberg, Henri Goettel, chairperson Robin Hendrikse, Diana Hurst, Elizabeth Lenz, Sanam Millerlile, Aaron Nielsenshultz, Rabbi Reice, Aaron Rittmaster, School Director Marcia Rittmaster and Elaine Tobias.