In 16 days, it will be Thanksgiving. But, in truth – for Jews – Thanksgiving is November 11, Veteran’s Day.

Why? Because on this day, we pause to think of those men and women who served this country defending the American values of democracy, liberty, and tolerance. It is because of those who served – both those who died in battle and those who returned safely – that the Jewish community found a home that was safe and secure. After being expelled from dozens our lands over hundreds of years, the United States has been a haven for the Jewish people. We have thrived these almost 240 years because of those who donned the uniform to protect us.

At the same time, we express thanksgiving for the members of the Jewish community who donned those self-same uniforms. My own father and step-father served this country, as did my sister. Along with tens of thousands of other Jewish military, they contributed to making our country the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

If you see a veteran on November 11 (and on any day), go up and say, “thank you.” It will be a meaningful “Thanksgiving moment” for you and for him or her.


Mary Davidson
JCCC’s 2015
Johnson Countian
of the Year

We are delighted that B’nai Jehudah’s own Mary Davidson will be recognized on Saturday night, November 14, as Johnson County Community College’s “Johnson Countian of the Year.”


The intent of the award – established in 1987 – is to recognize someone who has made significant contributions to the Johnson County community. Past honorees are really a list of the most influential men and women within our greater Kansas City community who have inspired and led in many different ways.


Mary has the longest roots in the moving stream that is B’nai Jehudah, with her grandfather, Bernhardt Davidson, being one of our congregation’s founding members. Needless to say, Mary has been a life-long member of our community, raised in our religious school and confirmed. Over the years, she has been intimately involved in the congregation’s various education endeavors, helping shape the lives of our youngest congregants. She has served on our Board of Trustees twice, most recently as a Vice President. Currently, she serves as co-chair of our Building Renovation Task Force.Beyond the congregation, Mary has made significant contributions to our community and our country. In 2002, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige appointed Mary to serve as the department’s liaison to state and local education agencies, public and private schools, colleges and universities and elected representatives of local and state government organizations.


For 18 years she was the assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Kansas, managing its facility in Johnson County, and she later served as vice president and dean of the graduate school at the University of Saint Mary. She has also served as one of two non-lawyer members of the judicial qualification committee of the Kansas Supreme Court. In 2012, she served as interim president and CEO of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. 


Mary began her education career as a teacher. She taught fifth, sixth and seventh grades in the Kansas City, Missouri, School District. She taught science for K-7 grades for the Kansas City School District’s educational television station KCSD. Mary still hosts a television program, called “It’s Our Community,” for the Johnson County Community College television station.


Mary’s philanthropic work – both on her own and with her late husband, Barton P. Cohen – has changed the face of our community. From gifts to the JCCC and the Nerman Museum, the Jewish Federation, and to B’nai Jehudah, Mary has generously given of herself to help others.


To Mary, your congregational family says: “Mazel Tov.” Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to make our community a better place in which to live.


At What

My classmate and colleague, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, offers an insightful lesson for all of us, based on this week’s Torah portion, Toldot. This is what he writes:

“The story of Jacob and Esau (and the selling of Esau’s birthright to his brother) reminds us that some things should just never be for sale and that one impulsive decision, made amid an anxious circumstance, can have devastating ramifications for the future. There are lots of examples of how this story gets repeated throughout history and in our own communities:

  • The businessperson who compromises her integrity by pocketing huge profits at the expense of fair wages and treatment of the company’s employees.
  • The respected leader who sells away his career and family for the momentary pleasure of an affair.
  • The teenager who wrecks his or her future by abusing drugs just because “everyone else is doing it.”
  • The driver who forgoes common sense by taking the wheel after an evening of drinking and winds up taking a life in a car crash.

There is always a reason for our selling out. The question is whether we are thinking clearly. The ultimate question is this: What determines the value of what is on the table? Do we allow God to determine our value or do we let anxiety drive what we feel we need? Have we sold ourselves to the God who created us, cares for us, and gives us what we need? Or are we still willing to sell ourselves so cheaply to things that don’t matter, and are we prepared to pray the ultimate price?”