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Thanks and Thankful, Yes We Are!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE

Remember, It is not Happy people who are Thankful, It’s Thankful people who are Happy.  

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

A lot has happened my dear friends, colleagues, family, and supporters since the last newsletter release.  I’ve gone from writer’s cramp and printing presses to post-publication with press releases and now, pseudo-marketing efforts.

The Tampa Jewish Book Fair was a very good, immersion experience; I spoke with people interested in exploring new books and authors.  

This past Sunday, November 19th was B’nai B’rith’s, Mini-Book Fair which gave me the opportunity to polish my presentation and give insight into the book and why it is worthy of people’s interest and consideration.

With this newsletter, we embark on new and uncharted waters.  So far I’ve been involved with two book fairs here in the Tampa Bay area and they have been both very provocative and informative.   I’m looking to expand this to other locations and plan to visit Washington and then New York City and some other major metropolitan areas on the East Coast in the near future.

 

Presentation from B’nai B’rith Mini-Book Fair Presentation, November 19, 2017

We have devised three versions of the book available for purchase. There is the $36 full-blown color addition with over 130 color photos of pictures, letters, charts, maps, documents, etc. The second choice is the $24 version, a modified color edition which includes 40 color pages.  Then there is the Black and White version, which is selling for $18 and is available on Amazon.com.

All copies purchased with the exception of the $18 Black & White version will be autographed by the author himself.

$ 36.00  Color version (130 color pages)

$ 24.00  Partial Color version (40 color pages)

$ 18.00  Black and White version (Available on Amazon.com)

The beginning of next month, I’ll be heading up to New York for the Jewish Writer’s Seminar on Sunday, December 3 for a chance to meet with fellow authors, publishers, and editors.  It will provide the whole gamut of getting the best bang for the buck so to speak for reaching out to new audiences.

Moving Forward

I will be undertaking writing projects including possible additional books and new blog postings.  A following is a sampling of the topics.

What America means to me:                                   www.Whatamericameanstome.org

What Immigrants means to America:                 www.Immigrantsrusa.com

Messages and guideposts to dwell upon:       www.Joebabylifelessons.com

Good feelings from good actions:                       www.Feelthegoodness.com

The one that I am most excited about is:         www.Itsworked4me.com

Thank you for your support and I wish you all a great holiday season and as always we welcome any of your thoughts and comments.

FROM RECENT BOOK FAIR PRESENTATIONS

This is just one of dozens upon dozens of letters reflecting the outpourings of love that these two-people shared for 67 years.

 

It’s so much more than just letters, it’s insight into what it takes to make a life more meaningful.  It also teaches us how to be a person that can deal with the urgencies of life with all its exceptional moments.  Whether Joe Baby was helping build a museum; hire staff; prepare budgets for Congress; or plan the day to day operations, he certainly did it with a deep seeded passion.  

Joe Baby’s passion and commitment to “doing what it takes to get the job done” is clearly reflected in his actions.  For example, for two years Joe Baby commuted from New York to D.C. to support the creation of the Hirshorn Museum.  He would leave on a Monday and catch a shuttle from D.C. to New York and fly back from New York on Thursday night where he was able then to assess the progress of the Hirshorn Museum.  Talk about commitment.

Joe Baby continued to save pictures, documents, and even budgets.  He was of course involved with pertinent discussions with Mr. Joseph Hirshhorn and the Curator, Abram Lerner.  He even drew a reaction from non-other than Pablo Picasso during some sensitive negotiations.

This is how Joe Baby worked for 38 amazing years with his all his jobs in the Federal government and at the same time being equally successful creating a life of his own,  a family, and keeping a marriage intact.  

As I have said before, he wrote, collected and documented everything and it’s now available for all to see firsthand.  What it took to work with this lifetime partner reaching so many milestones and all the special times together were truly astonishing.  

After retiring from the Washington Museum accomplishment, he took part as Finance Officer/Administrator in the establishment of Ruth Eckerd Hall (REH) in Clearwater, FL and here again, you can see the letters and all the background information.  In addition, you can learn what it was like working with Arnold Bremen, the Executive Director who had a penchant for bringing all this together.  Arnold was the foundation of this Great Hall; the wonderful shows, and Dad certainly documented this as well.

Upon the completion of Joe Baby’s work at Ruth Eckerd Hall he was back in full retirement mode.  Now is the time for creating new milestones.  For example, A 50-year anniversary with Thelma returning to Europe 50 years later and retracing his WWII experience.  Much-to-do about introspection on reaching the magic age; dealing with what you can do.  Joe Baby acknowledged “What America meant to him” like the 50th Anniversary Article about the GI Bill that has allowed millions of returning soldiers the opportunity to start and/or complete their education.  Or the 50th Anniversary of the liberation of all the horrors of the Concentration Camps where millions perished including at least 15 of his family.

Joe Baby always went the extra mile to acquire the necessary skills to “get the job done”.  This is what the book is about.  How you can reach the next level, and how people can glean from the work they choose to do.  

I’m one of the fortunate ones who has been the purveyor of the “guide” of the saving this for posterity.  Whether it’s advice on writing better, joining the toastmasters, building a better vocabulary, analytically challenging yourself, you can find it in American Dreamer:  ~Bill Sefekar  

What Dad shares with us is the introspection and accumulation of these meaningful things that Joseph Sefekar had acquired.  He backed it up by writing about it and sharing it with us.  He talks to us about these meaningful things’  like long-lasting friendships.

“To realize early on how important it is to keep an inner circle of friends you could rely on and trust.  I was so fortunate that these friends would be enduring and follow me through most of my life.”

One such friend, Martin Sobel, wrote a letter of recommendation.  The letter of recommendation stated that ‘Mr. Sobel could unquestionably stand by his endorsement of my character for over 16 years.’  “Considering I was only 24 at the time, then this meant I must’ve had something going for me, even when I was only eight years old.  It was good to carry this around, and hopefully, the personnel reviewing my credentials didn’t check the math.”  

In the picture above you can see Mr. Sobel’s letter is dated June 26, 1941.
(see pg. 24 in the book)  

All through his career whenever he left a position he was always celebrated.  Like when he departed the Veterans Administration in 1952.(pg89) Or the Letter of Recommendation from the Continental Air Command in 1959 and again when leaving The Civil Service and Small Business Administration in 1969.  Also, after seven years of serving as the Administrator for the Hirshhorn Museum.  One letter he received after his retirement was from one of his staff members.  She wrote in glowing terms….

Dear Mr. Sefekar,  

“You are as much a part of, to everyone, of the Hirshhorn as the beautiful works of art, and I know everyone will miss you.  It’s you who’ve kept us smiling with your calm, kind, leadership.”  

American Dreamer lends itself to so many wonderful messages, literally hundreds, so many things that can be garnered from this to shape students, young people and seniors alike who perhaps face life’s challenges can find help in American Dreamer.  

Whether it’s the student studying approaches to become a complete individual or the average person yearning to look at the brighter side, American Dreamer offers this and describes what it takes with a little bit of extra effort to achieve your goals.  Every chapter inspires us to say “yes, I can do that, or I can to make a difference, maybe I should go for it.  Joseph Sefekar did not do this for the affirmation, the acknowledgment, he did it because he was a caring person. Whether it was his family, loved ones, friends, people that he worked with or just strangers he was there and he was available.  He was always enamored with education and learning so he said, “Let’s build a library.”  Yes!  In his 80’s, he helped do this too.  The East Lake Community Library in Florida is another testament to Joe Baby’s “Just Do It” attitude.

Why did Joe Baby save and preserve all these documents and memories?  

Simply because he knew the importance of life lessons he took the time and the effort to save and preserve so many documents and memories and to make them available for all our future generations.  TO LEARN FROM THE PAST.  

Another example of this finding in one of Dad’s folders of the “Century Countdown” which was a series of the last hundred years. This series appeared in the St. Petersburg Times every day starting on September 23, 1999, and up to the fateful December 31, 1999, the millennium in the year 2000. Dad had meticulously cut out each year and each day, starting with 1900 and then collected them in this folder for me to find.  I cleaned it up and scanned them into the computer and this was a part of the blog post for Joe’s lifelong legacy “some of the major years in our family’s life and then quarter century groupings.”

Although it wasn’t cost-effective to put this in the book,  it will be available to people who have the book through sporadic updates on material that we deem to be relevant. This will be one of these extra added attractions that we will provide to our readers that will appear in the upcoming months and year.

I hope I can reach as many people as possible so you all have an opportunity to pick up a copy of this to carry around with you: Words to live by Joe Sefekar; “Joe baby life lessons.”

Again, have a great Thanksgiving and holiday season, wishing you all the best, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put a copy of the book under the Christmas tree, under your Hanukkah bush or even under your pillow. ~ Bill Sefekar

 

BOOK FAIR HERE WE COME AND PLEASE HEAR THE ALARM

Hope to meet you there

I cannot thank enough all the people that have worked so diligently over the past few years to help make this book possible.  As with the first book, Light: Courage and Hope, written with Cantor William Hauben it appears in the forward one of the title “Somebody up is there directing traffic” well there have been so many things that have happened regarding American Dreamer:.. that bears out the same premise. 

I’ve included herewith, some of the material from the newspaper that appeared in the Jewish Press,  October 6 -19 edition for Tampa and Pinellas County.  Being one of the two local authors, I really feel privileged and am looking to give this opportunity my best shot.  I will be most anxious to put this in the best possible light regardless of how things turn out, LOL.

I am certainly very lucky and fortunate to have this opportunity being one of the featured speakers at the Tampa Bay Jewish Book Fair that starts this upcoming week.  I’m scheduled for Sunday, October 29th at 4:30 PM at the Brian Glaser Family JCC. The Center is located at 522 N. Howard Avenue. This used to be the old armory and is just south of Kennedy
Blvd.  I hope to see everyone there.   

The book with all the last-minute edits will be available but first and foremost this will be an opportunity to meet with you and share Dad’s special story on how, “He Wrote It”.. “How They Did It”…and “How He Saved It.”  

Who’s The Boss

Just three weeks ago while in my garage I came across an envelope, the 4 ½ x 5 ½  inch variety.  There it was on the shelf near the entrance to the door to my house looking a little weathered.  It said “Father’s Day 2000” with a handwritten Joe; I opened it up and I’d like to share it with you.  

There was a drawing of a woman with red hair which would definitely pass for my mother and it says,

           

On the back of the card was the standard Greetings Workshop,

  With the explanation; “not knowing where this card came from, as  it was just sitting there in my garage I then realized it was sent by my mother of course because she wanted everyone to know who’s the boss.”

I was overcome by this and went ahead and scanned it, put it in the manuscript and it appears right in the front next to the Dedication.

 

Everybody Needs a Spiritual Advisor

Everybody needs spiritual advisor whether it’s someone that you can listen to, speak with or even read about. They can be your Clergy, Pastor, Reverend, Rabbi, Cleric, etc. They are people that you admire, respect and look for guidance.  In my religion, the rabbis and cantors provide this necessary link to ponder and follow the precepts that we feel are so important in living our lives to the fullest with regard to our kindred spirit.  It also makes our journey here on earth more palatable and reconciling why the heck we are here.

I’d like to share with you a very emotional and inspiring talk by one of My spiritual advisers, Rabbi Daniel Treiser, of congregation Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater, Florida. I’ve used some of his messages, sermons in the past and most recently in connection with the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in September.  However, what transpired during our high holiday services the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah was a gut-wrenching pouring out of what happens when we are tested; really tested.  This is what happens when life-threatening situations occur that leads to the most innermost soul-searching.

The story goes like this…

 “Hearing the Alarm”

Daniel Treiser – Rosh Hashanah Morning Sermon September 21, 2017 – 1 Tishri 5778 (Date in the Hebrew Calendar) Rabbi  

For that answer, we turn to a later teaching in our Jewish tradition.  In the Middle Ages, Maimonides was one of the greatest scholars, teachers, and minds, and remains our finest teachers. When he wrote his great legal commentary the Mishneh, Torah, he taught his meaning and purpose for the shofar’s blasts.  He taught that the shofar calls to us, saying “Awake, you sleepers from your sleep. Arouse you slumberers from your slumber and ponder your deeds; remember your Creator and return to God in repentance. Do not be like those who miss the truth in pursuit of shadows and waste their years seeking vanity. Look well to your souls and consider your deeds; turn away from your wrong ways and improper thoughts.”

For Maimonides the shofar is an alarm clock, waking us from our daily routine, to pay attention and perform acts of teshuvah, repentance, at the start of this New Year. The question we must ask ourselves then, is do we hear that alarm clock, or do we hit the snooze button?

Reflecting on repentance, my colleague Rabbi Richard Levy once wrote,  

                                “The day has come to take an accounting of my life.                                                   

Have I dreamed of late of the person I want to be,

Of the changes I would make in my daily habits.

In the way I am with others,

In the friendship, I show companions,

In the assistance, I offer my neighbors?

I have remained enchained too often to less than what I am.

But the day has come to take an accounting of my life.”

We hear alarms and warnings all the time and, all too often, we ignore them.  We hear a car alarm going off, and unless it sounds like ours, we dismiss it.  If a home alarm goes off on our street, MAYBE we check to see if something is wrong, but otherwise, we pay no attention.   This past July, three different friends unknowingly sent me the same article.  It was in the Washington Post, and it was titled “Tampa Bay’s Coming Storm.” In the article, the author speaks to climatologists, experts, building developers, local government leaders, and residents of communities throughout Tampa Bay, including many in which I know you live.  And the conclusion they all came to is that Tampa Bay is woefully unprepared for a major storm. I received that article in July.  I dismissed it.  So when the forecasts first came, we prepared a little bit.  Bought some water, bought some tuna. Nutella, oddly enough.  As the track shifted, we dug out the gas cans, bought batteries, pulled out the synagogue’s hurricane plan.  As the cone moved west, I found myself thinking of Rabbi Levy’s poem again.  What papers need to be protected?  What comes with me?  What items do we as a family want to preserve just in case?  Is it time for us to leave or should we wait it out?  “The day has come to take an accounting of my life,” indeed.

We sit here today less than two weeks since Irma struck, less than a week since some folks here had power restored, a day after we watch another powerful storm decimate an island paradise.  And we breathe a sigh of relief because we “dodged a bullet.”  And yes, we did.  We’re the lucky ones.  I can tell you that right now the members of Temple Beth El in Fort Myers are celebrating their New Year at Cypress Lake United Methodist Church because their building is unusable.  Temple Emanuel in Lakeland is also worshipping in a church because of damage.  I cannot tell you where Rabbi Michael Feshbach is leading services today.  He is the rabbi of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, heavily damaged in Irma, and we have yet to hear about Maria’s impact.  We pray for their safety as we give thanks for ours.

So what do we do? Do we heed the call, look around us and see that our world is changing? Do we acknowledge that sea levels rise and storms become more powerful because of our impact on the earth or do we hit the snooze button?  Will we learn the lessons of the last two weeks to make ourselves safer and be better prepared, but at the same can we do our part to help prevent further damage to our fragile world? “The day has come to take an accounting of my life.”

Alarm clocks have evolved over the years, from the town crier of old and the rooster on the farm into technology.  If I ask you to think of an alarm clock, you probably envision the wind up analog clock with two bells on top.  That’s the most common icon.  But we evolved to digital ones, too.  They’re ubiquitous and everywhere. The funny thing is, I don’t have an alarm clock on my nightstand.  Like many of you I imagine, I just use my cell phone.  Open up the alarm feature on my phone and you’ll find at least 15 different preset times I may use as an alarm.  Some are set to repeat, some don’t.  
But never did I imagine that my phone would be the alarm clock I heard on May 22nd.  How could I think that a simple phone call would alter the path of my life forever because something didn’t look right?

I might not have expected it for myself, but I know what those calls are like.  I know many of you have received the calls like I did. I’ve been through them with some of you. The call from the doctor’s office, the hospital, the emergency room – the alarm we dread.  It comes filled with questions, so many fraught with fear.  What does this mean?  Will I be cured?  How long do I have?  There’s questions upon questions upon questions.  Treatments, healing, recovery, positive attitude, alternative therapies, all of them are important questions to consider and trust me, they’ve been on my mind non-stop.
But this alarm raises other questions, too, questions that have been on my mind just as much as the ones about my treatment, questions that are equally important for each and every one of us.  What have I done with my life?  How do I use my days?  How do I treat others around me?  Do I give thanks for the myriad blessings I encounter every day or do I forget to acknowledge them?  Did I offer the caring hand, the supportive shoulder, the gentle chuckle to ease the hurt?  Did I say I love you enough? We often live our lives as if we have all the time in the world to get around to changing, even though we know our time is short.

Why do we wait for that alarm to ask these questions? Why do we need the cancer diagnosis, the tragedy, the loss of a friend or loved one to make us wake up?
“The day has come to take an accounting of my life.”
“I need to come in touch with my own power,” the poem continues, “ …To be a comfort, a source of honor, So strong that I can risk the love of someone else So sure that I can risk to change the world…
So long as I have breath, I know I have the strength
To transform what I am to what I can be.
The day has come to take an accounting of my life.”

The shofar does more than simply call upon us to wake up and take stock of our lives.  It calls upon us to act as well.  To act as individuals for the betterment of our world.  “The Talmud teaches, ‘If you see wrongdoing by a member of your household and you do not protest you are held accountable.  And so it is in relation to the members of your city.  And so it is in relation to the world.’  As Jews, we are held accountable in ever-widening circles of responsibility to rebuke transgressors within our homes, in our country, in our world. One chutzpadik, medieval commentator teaches we must voice hard truths even to those with great power, for ‘the whole people are punished for the sins of the king if they do not protest the king’s actions to him.’ I’m often asked if every rabbi just goes to some website to download their sermons so that everyone is saying the same thing.  The answer, obviously I hope, is no.  But today I do want to share words with you written by others.  Today I am one of several hundred Reform rabbis around our country, sharing this call in one form or another. “Today I speak words in fulfillment of our sacred obligation. We will not be silent. We will, without hesitation, decry the moral abdication in our nation that sees us becoming more divided and fueled by hatred.  This is not a political statement.  We, like the prophets of old and generations of rabbis before us, draw from the deepest wisdom of our tradition to deliver a stern warning against complacency and an impassioned call for action. We call on you to rise up and say in thousands of ways, every day, as proud Jews and proud Americans: ‘You cannot dehumanize, degrade and stigmatize whole categories of people in this nation. Every Jew, every Muslim, every gay, transgender, disabled, black, brown, white, woman, man, and child is beloved of God and precious in the Holy One’s sight.  We the people, all the people, are created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of the Divine.  All the people are worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ On this Day of sounding the Shofar, may her four distinct notes compel us to respond with a resounding call for justice. The single Tekiah, The Sound of Certainty: As rabbis, we are speaking to our congregations in every accent of America to declare in unison: acts of hatred, intimidation, and divisiveness will not be tolerated in these United States.  We stand upon the shoulders of the sages, poets, and rabbis in every generation who fought for freedom.  We speak in memory of every Jew and in memory of all people who tragically and senselessly lost their lives at the hands of evil oppressors.  We call on all our political leaders; progressives and conservatives alike, to rigorously uphold the values articulated in the founding documents of our country, the “immortal declaration” that all [men] people are created equal. We call on every elected leader to responsibly represent our country’s history and advance its noble visions of tolerance.  On this first day of the New Year, we are ‘Proclaiming liberty throughout all the land’ [Lev 25:10].

The second note, the three blasts Shvarim, The Sound of Brokenness: Something crumbled inside us when we watched the televised images of Charlottesville’s beautiful streets filled with hate-spewing marchers. It reopened the wound we felt here when thugs marked our sidewalks with Nazi graffiti when criminals desecrated the mosque in New Tampa.  How much more vandalism, how many clashes, which other cities? We must not accept or become inured to some warped version of ‘normal,’ of racist and anti-Semitic acts or rallies popping in and out of breaking news cycles. Let us never grow numb to the brokenness, but let our pain fuel our vows to respond – with peaceful protests, and with public calls for healing, by building alliances and by speaking in unison with other minorities and faith communities. Neither silence, nor complacency, nor waiting anxiously and fearfully for the next wounding event are options. Not for us. The words of Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, sound a warning to us today, ‘We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.’ May we never be neutral, never silent in the face of threats or of discrimination toward any. Let us interfere as healers of the broken[hearted], and binders of their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

The third shofar blast: Truah – 9 short notes-  The Sound of Urgency: The events of these simmering weeks are a wake-up call to our Jewish community.  Racism is wrong whether it seeps into explicit anti-Semitism or not. The Talmud teaches that God created us all from the first Adam so that no human being could ever say, ‘my lineage is greater than yours.’  But just in case we thought the white supremacists were after someone else, or that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with modern-day Nazi sympathizers, or that we were somehow safe in the fact that most – but certainly not all – Jews in America are white, those fiery torches illuminated another truth, one we learn and forget only to learn again this day: if one minority group’s rights are threatened, we are all threatened.  As Martin Luther King taught us, ‘We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny,’ whether we are the least powerful or the most powerful person in our world.

The final shofar blast: The Tekiah G’dolah The Endless Pursuit of Justice: Torah admonishes: ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may live and inherit the land which I, God, give to you.’ Our sacred text reminds us that for a community truly to inherit its place in the world, thoughtful leaders at every level must be dedicated to equality and to unity.  Every community relies on passionate and engaged citizens; it relies on you to be insistent advocates for tolerance and enduring kindness between the diverse peoples of our nation. To pursue justice is to create a society that protects and enlivens every citizen.  Let us be relentless, tireless builders of that society in our county and in our country – in this New Year.” 5778

My friends, in so many ways, it has been an interesting year since we last gathered to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  There have been reasons to celebrate, reasons to cry, and reasons to express great concern.  If there is one thing I have found in this year, it is that I need to listen to the shofar’s call more than ever.  I cannot simply sit back, hit the snooze button, and let life go on without me making a difference.  A difference in how I view myself, how I view others, how I view the world.

In this New Year, let us all hear the shofar’s call.  Let us hear the alarms others have heard and wake up to be our best selves.  Let us plan and prepare to make our world better.

Let us hear the call to action to defend the rights and needs of others.  Let the hundred notes we are about to hear from our shofar remind us of the command to offer thanks 100 times each day for the many, many, blessings in our lives.                   

Let’s not wait for another alarm, because “TODAY has come to take an accounting of all our lives.”

Rosh Hashanah Morning Sermon 5778 –

Thank you, Rabbi Daniel Treiser