Written by Ruth Baum Bigus, Special to The Chronicle
Thursday, May 09 2013 11:00
After 25 years as the Jewish community’s central address, the Jewish Community Campus has a new leader at the helm.
He’s Dan Cullinan, who started on the job May 1. Cullinan takes over the formidable task of overseeing the operations of the 267,080-square-foot mixed-use building that is home to numerous Jewish agencies that incorporate social services, schools, fitness facilities and pools, a state-of-the-art theater, classrooms, meeting and conference rooms.
Cullinan takes over for the retiring Alan Bram, who’s been executive director at the Campus since 1987 — a year prior to the building’s opening. Bram will be available to help during this transition period.
Cullinan, 52, was chosen for the position by a search committee from the Campus board of directors led by Greg Wolf. The board approved the hiring.
Cullinan has more than 25 years of experience in the property management business, most recently with Executive Hills Management, Inc. During his latest association with Executive Hills, owned by Larry Bridges, Cullinan served as property manager/tenant relations manager for One Kansas City Place, Twelve Wyandotte Plaza and One Petticoat Lane.
“This opportunity is a once in a lifetime,” said Cullinan of the new position at the Campus. “To be able to come in after what Alan has done and follow in his footsteps in the class A fashion he operated is just great. I’m very excited, and I’ll hit the ground running,” he added.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a political science degree, Cullinan jumped into the property management industry. He first joined Executive Hills in 1987 managing a variety of properties and learning from Bridges firsthand. Cullinan also spent time as facilities manager with Harrah’s Entertainment in both Topeka and North Kansas City. Later, he spent a year with Stoltz Management Company working as the maintenance manager for the Corporate Woods Office Park before rejoining Executive Hills.
Cullinan gives credit to Bridges for bringing him to where he is today.
“He’s made this possible for me,” said Cullinan of Bridges. “He’s been a mentor to me — almost like a surrogate father. I give kudos to Larry for training me in this industry. Without his mentorship, I don’t think this would have been possible.”
John Rubenstein, president of the Campus, said Cullinan becoming executive director is good for the Campus. Rubenstein said Cullinan’s boss Larry Bridges was associated with Frank Morgan and Sherman Dreiseszun, patriarchs of two of the four founding families that provided the land for the facility in southern Johnson County.
“Dan is perfect for this job, we are fortunate to have him,” Rubenstein said.
Outside of the work world, Cullinan is the father of three grown children and will be a grandfather this fall. He lives in Olathe, enjoys golf, baseball and NASCAR. At one time, Cullinan worked for the Richard Petty Driving School as a member of the pit crew.
“That was a blast,” he said.
These days, Cullinan is using his high-speed experience to settle into his new position as the Campus’ chief executive.
“This is the next step up for me,” Cullinan said. “I’m going to be very visible with my agency contacts, and I am looking forward to working with Alan’s team.”
Written by Barbara Bayer, Editor
Thursday, May 02 2013 11:00
I wear my overalls
I feel incredible
I’m plantin’ vegetables
For the hungry in the world
You may not know the tune to “Thrift Shop,” a Macklemore song that goes with these lyrics penned by Mitzvah Garden volunteer Gabriella Sonnenschein. But one doesn’t have to know the tune to understand that the lyrics express in simple words just how volunteers feel when they work in the garden.
This is the fourth year the Mitzvah Garden has used a parcel of land owned by The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah to grow food to feed the hungry in our community. The garden now covers nearly half of an acre, having expanded from 10,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet since its inception. In the past three years it has yielded more than 15,000 pounds of food that have been donated to a variety of pantries including the JFS Food Pantry, Yachad-The Kosher Food Pantry, Grandview Assistance Program and the Blue Valley Multi-Service Center.
It’s estimated between 400 and 500 people volunteered in the garden last year alone. These volunteers are shepherded by Andrew Kaplan, Larry Lehman and Ken Sonnenschein. The three co-chairs work together hand in hand, with Kaplan managing the garden’s administration and finances, Lehman overseeing the gardening and Sonnenschein providing the Jewish education. Almost every time a group visits the garden to volunteer, a mini-Torah lesson relating to the season or the activity itself is provided.
The garden has been such a success, according to its co-chairs, because it’s one of the rare communal activities that is multi-generational. Volunteers range from children to seniors and come from every synagogue in the community, summer camps, organizations, the Jewish Society for Service and most youth groups.
There are two other reasons why the garden is a success according to its co-chairs.
“People can actually see the fruits of their labor and everyone loves to get their hands dirty!” Lehman said.
Volunteers are there every Sunday starting in early March by 9 a.m.
“By the time the August heat hits, we’re here by 7 a.m.,” Lehman said.
Regular volunteers will notice several new things this year at the garden. The first is the new path leading from the parking lot to the garden built by Tommy Poskin as part of his Eagle Scout project. He is a fourth-generation member of B’nai Jehudah who will be confirmed later this month and has served as a madrich at the congregation.
“Without this path, it was difficult to actually get to the garden from the parking lot,” Kaplan pointed out.
The garden has three planting seasons and produces such crops as lettuce, beets, Swiss chard, onions, potatoes, spinach, peppers and tomatoes. In a year or two it will produce apples and pears as well. Eight semi-dwarf apple and pear trees were planted in April. They are expected to bear fruit over a span of 25 to 30 years and yield about 12,000 pounds of fruit. Kaplan said it should take a year or two before they bear fruit and will be good producers by years four and five. “We hope, someday, to have an entire orchard,” Kaplan said.
True to his duty as garden educator, Sonnenschein led the group in the Shehechiyanu prayer as the trees were being planted.
“Blessed are You who has kept us, sustained us and brought us to this special moment,” Sonnenschein said.
Last summer’s drought was tough for the garden and some of the crops didn’t survive. The crops that did survive yielded much less useable produce than normal. Even the bees didn’t produce any honey.
Bees were brought to the garden a couple of years ago to help pollinate the plants. The bees make up a total of three colonies, which Kaplan said is all that the city of Overland Park allows. The hives will be maintained by Aaron Pfefer this year.
The drought meant the crops needed to be watered a lot. So B’nai Jehudah donated a considerable amount of water to help the garden. For that reason the congregation received the garden’s Golden Trowel award earlier this year.
“B’nai Jehudah is extremely generous when it comes to watering the garden and last year it was expensive,” Sonnenschein said.
This year a drip irrigation system is being added to help lower watering costs. This water capture system required the construction of a 30-feet by 40-feet open air structure. Plastic totes hold 4,000 gallons of rain water that can be distributed through a solar powered pumping system through several thousand feet of drip irrigation hoses that will provide approximately 25 percent of watering needs for the garden.
Kaplan said that $23,000 was raised from the community to build and install this system, which was developed by an Israeli company formerly run by Kibbutz Na’an in Israel and now owned by NanDanJain, a company in India. It took volunteers a year and a half to take this from an idea to reality. It was paid for by grants from BBYO, J-Lead, Flo Harris Foundation, B’nai Jehudah’s Brotherhood and Sisterhood and individual donors.
Funds for the garden itself have come from a variety of sources including Menorah Legacy Foundation, the Herman Levikow Foundation and the B’nai Tzedek Shuk.
Among other things, that money has paid to fence, plow, organically fertilize, seed, weed, and mulch the crops in the garden. During that time the “farmers,” as Kaplan refers to the volunteers, have also developed a leaf compost process to naturally incorporate much needed nutrients back into the soil. As a testament to its success, the garden was named Johnson County’s best community garden by 435 South magazine.
Kaplan attributes a lot of the garden’s success to Ben Sharda of the Kansas City Community Gardens.
“We needed help and he was that guy who taught us how to garden. He has a wealth of knowledge that helped us get to the next level,” Kaplan said.
The original Mitzvah Garden, a 640-square-foot plot of land located on the North side of Village Shalom, is also still active. Established 13 years ago, Sonnenschein said this year squash, gourds and herbs will be planted in it to be used for a sukkah project being organized in conjunction with the Kansas City Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art.
Mitzvah Garden campfire
Saturday night, May 4, is the garden’s annual campfire. Folks will gather at 9 p.m. and the program begins with Havdallah at 9:30 p.m. Campers will then gather around the campfire at 10 p.m. to sing, tell stories and eat s’mores and snacks. Those who wish can spend the night in the garden, using their own camping equipment. Activities resume at 8:30 Sunday morning with breakfast. Early-bird volunteers will begin work at 9 a.m. to get ready for the arrival of B’nai Jehudah Mitzvah Day volunteers. Mitzvah Day activities include fun in the sun, tilling, planting as well as building and repairing structures for the garden.
Thursday, May 09 2013 11:00
The renowned Port House of Fonseca announces the winner of its first “BIN 27 Port & Cookie Rumble.” Dr. Maureen Dudgeon of Kansas City, Mo., wins the grand prize for her Portofignos cookie creation.
Cookie lovers nationwide were invited to submit their favorite, original cookie recipe that pairs best with BIN 27 Port, for a chance to win two prizes. All recipes were judged by famed chocolatier Jacques Torres and award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.
Dr. Dudgeon’s recipe was selected from nearly 150 recipes, submitted via BIN 27’s Facebook page. Dr. Dudgeon won the grand prize of a trip to New York City where she received private cooking lessons with Torres and Greenspan. In addition KitchenAid, a contest partner, awared her with a Dual Fuel Double Oven Range and a professional 600 Series 6 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer.
Judge Greenspan said it was great to see so many home bakers enter the contest.
“Every recipe submitted was a labor of love. Jacques and I baked and tested, tasted, sipped BIN 27, then tasted some more to find winners whose cookies were good on their own and even better with Port. The finalists hit all the flavors we love with BIN 27.
“But it was Maureen’s Portofignos — chocolate cookies speckled with Port-soaked figs and toasted walnuts — that hit them best. Congratulations to Maureen and thank you to everyone who participated — you made our job tough, but delicious,” Greenspan said.
Judge Jacques Torres adds, “Why should kids have all the fun? Fonseca BIN 27 turns the cookie into something sexy and decadent for adults. The pair becomes like Angelina and Brad — each one makes the other even sexier! Judging this contest was anything but tough — pass the port and cookies, please!”
Dr. Dudgeon said she had never entered a cooking contest before this one. She entered because she was interested in the cooking lessons provided by the famous professionals. She likes to bake often and finds it relaxing.
“It is a good way to show love, regard and affection for people,” she said.
Part of Dr. Dudgeon’s work as a physician is teaching medical students and residents. She enjoys having cooking for her students to mark milestones.
“Some of the women have come over to learn how to bake things,” she also explained. “In fact, a bunch of us even made the wedding cake for one of them.”
Fonseca BIN 27, which is not certified kosher, was created over a century ago. Reserved for the winemaker’s family consumption, BIN 27 was released commercially in 1972 and quickly became one of the top ports consumed in the United States. Produced primarily from wines from Fonseca’s own quintas in the Cima Corgo and showing exceptional quality and consistency from year to year, BIN 27 is blended from reserve wines selected for their superb fruit character and depth of color. Its well-knit structure; rich, velvety full body; and luscious blackcurrant and cherry bouquet and flavors finish on an intense, lingering note.
Dr. Dudgeon’s Portofignos cookies are described as a not-too-sweet, chocolate sablé filled with salty walnuts and port-soaked figs echoing and enhancing the flavors of Fonseca BIN 27 Porto.
MAUREEN DUDGEON’S PORTOFIGNOS
4 ounces dried figs, diced to 1/8 inch pieces
¼ cup Fonseca BIN 27 Porto
4 ounces walnuts, chopped to ¼ inch pieces
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 7/8 cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened, dry cocoa
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/8 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Place diced figs and Fonseca BIN 27 Porto in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Turn off the heat and set aside until cool, then drain reserving the liquid for another use.
(Pro tip from Jacques Torres: When I marinate fruit, I like to do so cold, rather than warm. It’s best if the fruit marinates for a few days to absorb a great deal of flavor. The alcohol will still cook out when the cookies are baked.)
Place the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet and toast at 325 degrees F until light brown. Remove from oven and toss with the ½ teaspoon sea salt and set aside.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and ¼ teaspoon salt together into a bowl.
Using a stand or hand held electric mixer, whip the softened butter until soft and creamy. Mix in the sugars until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract.
Carefully mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until nearly incorporated. Continuing with the mixer, add the toasted, salted walnuts and the Port-soaked figs mixing only until incorporated.
Cut two sheets of waxed paper about 18 inches long, divide the dough into two portions and place on the waxed paper. Using the waxed paper as an aid, form the dough into two logs, 2 inches in diameter, wrap tightly and refrigerate for several hours.
At this point the dough may be kept in the refrigerator for two to three days or frozen.
When ready to bake, line a sheet pan or heavy cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Slice the chilled or frozen cookie dough into 1-inch slices and place 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet.
(Pro tip from Jacques Torres: Refrigerate the dough for more than just “several hours” – 24 hours is ideal. Pro tip from Dorie Greenspan: Cut the cookies ½-inch thick and bake just one sheet at a time as the cookies will bake more evenly.)
Bake 10-12 minutes turning the sheet one time until the cookies are just set and barely brown on the bottoms. Cool on wire racks. (Pro tip from Dorie Greenspan: Because the cookies are still very soft when you remove the baking sheet from the oven, allow the cookies to remain on the sheet for a couple of minutes, just until they’re firm enough to handle, before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.)
Enjoy cookies with a glass of Fonseca BIN 27 Porto. The baked cookies may be stored in a tightly closed container or bag. Makes more than four dozen cookies.
(Pro tip from Dorie Greenspan: the yield is approximately 18 cookies if you cut the dough 1-inch thick; approximately 36 cookies if you cut the dough ½-inch thick.
Written by Ellen R. Portnoy, Contributing Writer
Thursday, May 02 2013 11:00
The battle for women’s rights in Israel has been making so much news recently it’s hard to keep track of the very latest. The woman who’s been at the forefront of this battle for many years now, Anat Hoffman, will be in Kansas City to talk about this and other issues on May 17, 18 and 19. (For details, see below.)
One of these battles, that of women being allowed to pray at the Western Wall, has intensified over recent months resulting in arrests when women prayed there. Last week, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that women in prayer shawls do not disturb the public order and should not have been arrested.
Hoffman, who is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center and an active member of the group known as Women at the Wall, said in a statement published by JTA, “Today Women of the Wall liberated the Western Wall for all Jewish people. We did it for the 8-year-old girl who can now dream of having her Bat Mitzvah at the Wall, and for the grandmother who cannot climb on a chair in order to see her grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We did it for the great diversity of Jews in the world, all of whom deserve to pray according to their belief and custom at the Western Wall.”
Hoffman has not been fighting the battle for religious pluralism in Israel alone. One of the reasons she said she is coming to Kansas City is because of the efforts many members of this community have made to support the cause.
“The Kansas City Jewish community has made sure that Kansas City puts to shame all other cities in the United States for their support of rights in Israel,” Hoffman said.
There are four people in Kansas City that she calls a “nuclear blend” in helping promote these rights. She praises Rabbi Alan Londy for inviting her to Kansas City as The New Reform Temple’s Krasne scholar in resident.
“The Kansas City Jewish Community has the right to say what they think should be done in the Jewish state,” Hoffman said. “They have a duty. Zionism is not a spectator sport.”
She notes that Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff is a staunch supporter of a legal aid center for new olim fighting for conversion rights. Then there’s Rabbi Mark Levin, who fervently believes Jews in Israel should be able to have freedom of choice when it comes to marriage.
Last but not least there’s Bill Lowenstein, who champions the rights of women.
“He is giant fighting for women,” Hoffman said.
The crusade begins
Hoffman’s life and the issue of religious pluralism in Israel changed forever in 1988, when she was attending a conference with a group of women who simply wanted to pray at the Wall.
“I was just there because I own a folding table, and the hotel would not rent one to them,” she said, “that is how an historic moment occurs.”
Soon after, a group of women who eventually were called Women at the Wall gathered monthly at the Kotel for Rosh Hodesh services. Their desire to pray together, wearing tallit, caused the ultra Orthodox to attack them and try to keep them from praying. Nothing — court battles, arrests, media attention — kept the women away from the Wall.
Recently the balance changed. Just before the April 11 Rosh Hodesh service the Women of the Wall received a letter from Yossi Pariente, the chief of police of Jerusalem, telling them the attorney general said women cannot wear tallit, cannot read Torah and cannot say Kaddish at the Wall. It went on to say that police would enforce the law, Regulation 13, the Holy Places Law of 1924, which is punishable with six months in jail. They were told they could appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.
“We raised hell immediately,” said Hoffman in a recent phone interview. “How can it be that we cannot say Kaddish! What was amazing is that from around the world, not just in the English-speaking world, but all over, we got letters and protests. And the most amazing is that the chair of the Knesset Committee on Women also called the Rabbi of the Wall. And the rabbi backed down!”
From there things happened rapidly. Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, has introduced a plan to make the Kotel accessible to men, women and mixed groups. Then there was the arrest at the Wall on April 11 of five women, who were part of a group of 300 women, for praying while wearing tallit. Most recently came the court’s ruling that they should not have been arrested.
While Hoffman may be best known in the United States for her work with Women of the Wall, her efforts supporting women’s issues and religious pluralism goes beyond the Kotel. She runs the IRAC, the legal and political arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. Included in the organization’s five major goals are the recognition of Reform and Conservative conversion in Israel; freedom of choice in marriage; fighting against racism in Israel based on religion and race; and fighting for the equality of women.
In her role with IRAC Hoffman has led the way against women’s segregation on public busses. Their actions, along with the support of many Orthodox women, led to Supreme Court victories against such discrimination. Where once there were 2,500 segregated buses, there are now 500.
The IRAC has worked hard to get Reform and Conservative rabbis paid just as Orthodox rabbis are in Israel, taking the case all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court. The face of this fight so far has been Rabbi Miri Gold. Although the Supreme Court ruled that Rabbi Gold should be paid a salary, this has not yet happened. Hoffman, however, is confident she will eventually get paid.
“I think the state will soon be paying for 2013 and will also be paying damages,” she said. “Now we are arguing over 2012.”
Rabbi Gold is a strong supporter of Hoffman and her work.
“Anat has highlighted the fact that there is religious coercion in many sectors of Israeli society, and much of it sanctioned by the government,” said Rabbi Gold. “Often these issues are very connected to women’s issues, so it puts a spotlight on them and demands attention and solutions.”
“Whether it is Women of the Wall, segregated buses, young girls being harassed on their way to school, she, through the IRAC, puts these issues squarely on the table and she demands justice,” added Rabbi Gold. “She knows how to do these things cleverly, and she gets things done.”
“While my court case is not gender-based,” Rabbi Gold added, “it doesn’t hurt that it’s a woman in the spotlight demanding to be recognized as a rabbi by the government of Israel. No one in the government can offer solutions for men only in this case.”
It is these issues of women’s rights and the increased intolerance on the part of ultra Orthodox Jewish men that have raised many issues. Hoffman’s theory on why there is this tremendous frantic outpouring against women is intriguing.
“I think it has to do with Israel’s policy to exempt young men from the core curriculum. The (ultra Orthodox) man doesn’t study any life skills, any real world topics. He only studies Torah. He doesn’t know how to write checks and deal with the world. The wife is the one who knows because she is out in the world. She learned the core curriculum. She works. Because of this the status of women has risen in the ultra Orthodox community. So to keep women in check, came the idea of protected modesty.”
“They are saying, ‘You might think you are so smart, but your desires to wear red or your hair brings people to temptation.’ The modesty whip is used to keep women in check. You cannot see women, we will not even put photos of women in the newspapers,” she said. “The end result is that women are not feeling good about themselves anymore. They see their body as oozing sin. So it is a breaking down of confidence.”
Hoffman believes that ultra Orthodox men should not serve in the army. Instead they should do national service in education and health. “I don’t want people who are not educated to have a gun,” she said. “They would not know what is an illegal order because they have never studied civics, history and information about the country and democracy.” She is also concerned that it would change the role of women in the army.
Hoffman events at NRT, JCC open to the entire community
Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, will be in Kansas City the weekend of May 17-19 as the Krasne Scholar in Residence at New Reform Temple. The IRAC is the religious and political arm of Reform Judaism in Israel. Hoffman also has served as the chairman of Women at the Wall and previously served on the Jerusalem City Council for 14 years.
“There were several reasons why we invited Anat Hoffman as the Krasne Scholar. We wanted to do a program with something to do with Israel,” said Rabbi Alan Londy of New Reform Temple. “We wanted something that is directly connected to the Reform movement. And the issue of her being with the Women of the Wall all contributed to us making our decision.”
On Friday night, May 17, Hoffman will speak at 8 p.m. during services, on “From the Back of the Bus to the Top of the Agenda.” After a light breakfast on Saturday morning she will lead a Torah study at 9:15 a.m. on “The Critical Civil Rights Issues Facing the State of Israel.”
The community is invited to both events at New Reform Temple. Those wishing to attend the brunch on Saturday, need to make a reservation by calling 816-523-7809 by Monday, May 13.
“Anat Hoffman coming is a real important significance for New Reform Temple,” said Rabbi Londy, “because our leadership is very concerned with the issue of religious pluralism in Israel. We have a strong commitment in our congregation to nurture Reform Judaism in Israel. Her talk is very important to our religious and social agenda.”
In an effort to have her heard by as many people as possible, Rabbi Londy and New Reform Temple reached out to the community.
“We wanted to present to the community an opportunity for everyone to hear her,” said Rabbi Londy. “So the support of the rabbis and agencies was very important. I asked my colleagues to support this, and they did.”
With this successful effort, Hoffman will also be speaking at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the Jewish Community Center on “Religious Pluralism and the Future of the State of Israel.”
The program on Sunday night is co-sponsored by New Reform Temple, The Jewish Community Center, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, The Jewish Federation, The Rabbinical Association, Congregation Beth Torah, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, Congregation Beth Shalom, Kol Ami and Kehilath Israel Synagogue.