By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
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Epstein says DATA's philosophy is to "leave your labels at the door." Though different sects of Judaism may interpret the Torah's instructions in different ways, Epstein says the mix of instructors and classes at DATA provide something for everyone who wants to learn. That basis of education is something that Abrams believes has helped the Dallas Jewish community grow by more than 10,000 people since DATA's inception in the early '90s.
Just down the street from DATA headquarters, a renovated 2,200-square-foot house that can barely hold the rabbis and volunteers sharing desks and squeezing by each other in its halls, is the local Tom Thumb, a place Abrams gets really excited about. The North Dallas store was one of the supermarket chain's first locations to feature an all-kosher market. Hustling through the store at his most decorous almost-run, Abrams goes straight for the kosher bakery and triumphantly holds up a plastic box of kosher-marked cookies. For him, this is a powerful sign that Dallas Jews have made a niche for themselves in the community. Now he's helping to expand that niche northward with a Far North Dallas branch of DATA, at which the flagship program is his Partners in Torah class.
Surrounded by men in yarmulkes and women in long, modest skirts, a bemused, almost mystified philosopher and student Robert Gold smiles and shakes his head.
"I'm like, growing," he says, a testament to the guarantee Epstein gives to each DATA student: "You will not walk out of a DATA class uninformed. Thank God!"