The Observer Vol. 88 No. 12 – December 2023

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OBSERVER Vol. 88 No. 12

DECEMBER 2023 18 Kislev - 19 Tevet 5784

HAPPY HANUKKAH ‘Let our people go’: Thousands of protesters call on Hamas to release hostages at March for Israel Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville sends 65 members to National Mall By ZOE BELL


undreds of thousands of people rallied in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14 to demand the release of the hostages in Gaza, efforts to combat rising antisemitism and continued U.S. congressional and presidential support for Israel. Pro-Israel supporters — including 65 from Nashville — united in response to the estimated 240 hostages taken by Hamas during its Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel and the Israeli death toll surpassing 1,400. The protest featured multiple guest speakers including actresses, politicians, ambassadors, Israeli president Isaac Herzog and the family members of hostages taken by Hamas. The event was organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville’s staff arranged for 65 Jewish Nashville community members to fly to D.C. for the demonstration. In attendance were Kirby, CEO Dan Horwitz and Federation staff, rabbis from local synagogues and other community members.

Nashville’s Jewish community sent more than 60 people to the March for Israel rally in Washington, DC.

“I think this is a historic moment, and there’s a lot of confusion about what’s going on, and I think people need to hear loud and clear that there’s no moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel,” Kirby told The Jewish Observer Nashville. “Whatever you may think about the Israeli government and policies, it’s not okay to kidnap people and rape people and murder them and to

Reflections By STEVE HIRSCH


e were up early that morning; like 3:30 a.m. early. But it was OK because we were taking a trip to visit our family. We check in at BNA at 5:00 a.m. and then stand in a surprisingly long line at TSA for that time of the morning. But again, no complaints because we were excited about seeing our family. Landing at Reagan National Airport to a beautiful Tuesday morning, the 25 of us on the American Airlines flight A Publication of the


have so many people not be willing to say that is really traumatic for a lot of Jewish people. So it’s important to bring a group here and stand in the face of that.” Ritchie Torres, a representative for New York’s 15th congressional district, spoke in support of Israel, citing key historical moments of terrorism. “Israel has a right to defend itself and America has a duty to stand with Israel in

her struggle for survival and self-defense,” Torres told the crowd. “Israel must do to Hamas what the U.S. did to ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the 21st century. We must do to Hamas what we did to the Nazis in the 20th century. … No one expected the United States to enter into a ceasefire with the Empire of Japan when 2,400 Americans were murdered in Pearl Harbor. No one expected the United States to enter into a ceasefire with Continued on page 7

A Visit with Family

quickly linked up with those who flew in on the Delta flight. Our trip coordinator, Leeron Resnick, directed us to our waiting bus for transport into downtown Washington D.C. We arrive at the Grand Hyatt hotel which will be our staging point for the day’s activities. Hey, where are the kosher meals that were supposed to await us? Oh well, no big deal because, you guessed it, we were here to see our family. Some of the Nashville family, 65 in total on this trip, sprang into action U.S. Attorney’s Office Brings “United Against Hate” Initiative to Nashville, page 2

right away. The dozen or so young people, led by Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Congregation Sherith Israel, and Rabba Daniella Pressner of the Akiva School immediately got organized to attend the youth program at 11:30. Some of us older family members caught our breath before our next move. By now, you realize that this was not any ordinary trip to visit family. We were attending the November 14 Rally for Israel in Washington, D.C. organized by the Jewish Federations of North America Why You Should Pick Up When I Call, page 3

and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Organized in only a week, this event drew a reported 290,000 people from all over the U.S. and Canada. Following the youth program, the main rally agenda kicked off at 1:00 p.m. Some of the highlights of the program were: • Natan Sharansky, former Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel and famous Russian refusenik, reminded us of a

Sharing the Reality in Israel, page 9

Continued on page 23 Reflections from the ground in Israel, page 10

U.S. Attorney’s Office Brings “United Against Hate” Initiative to Nashville By BARBARA DAB


he United States Attorney General’s “United Against Hate” initiative aims to educate and engage local communities around combatting hate crimes. The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville recently hosted local U.S. Attorney Henry Leventis and others from his office and local law enforcement to do just that. The event featured Leventis, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nani Gilkerson and Jae Lim, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Richard Baer, FBI Special Agent Lucas McTaggart, Metro Nashville Police Lt. Jason Sharpe, Victim Assistant Specialist for the U.S. Attorney John Hernandez, and Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Wildasin. Leventis introduced the initiative and said enforcement against hate crimes remains a top priority for the justice department. “I believe the federal government’s commitment to protecting civil rights is what distinguishes us from countries around the world. That commitment is alive and well in the U.S. Attorney’s office.” Leventis also said the administration’s support of Israel in its fight against terrorism remains staunch. “President Biden and Attorney General Garland are unequivocal in their condemnation of October 7.” A top priority of the initiative is helping to identify hate crimes. Gilkerson said in simple terms, hate crimes are designed to send a message to the victim or community. “It is a crime motivated by hate against the victim,” she said. There are seven categories of hate crimes, religion is one of those. Federal law protects against illegal discrimination. Lim said the federal government has several ways of identifying and addressing a violation of a civil right, and described how a hate incident can be a violation of a civil right. “The language must be specific as to the time, place, and a specific slur against a community. It can be

U.S. Attorney Henry Leventis introduces the panel discussion

discrimination in housing, schools, and employment contracts.” He cited examples in the workplace, such as Jewish employees being passed over for promotions or raises, or antisemitic slurs that go undisciplined by employers. According to Lim, a hate crime is where a hate incident and a civil rights violation intersect. And one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. Attorneys’ efforts to prosecute hate crimes continues to be underreporting. “It’s a serious issue. We need to report every single incident,” says Gilkerson. Citizens who believe they have experienced a hate crime should report it to local law enforcement, the FBI, and in an emergency, always call 9-1-1. Antisemitism continues to rise and in Nashville it has been rising for more than a year. Gilkerson says FBI reports of crimes based on race, ethnicity, and ancestry have risen by more than 59% over the last year, and crimes based on religion by over 17%. An area where antisemitic incidents is causing alarm locally is on campuses and in schools. Lim said social media is one area that is increasingly difficult for students. “It’s a challenge. If there is a threat on social media, the school doesn’t necessarily have to report it. But the parent should report it.” Even when an incident is reported,

Panelists discuss hate crime education and reporting

the response by a school can be less than satisfactory, leaving students frustrated and isolated. Sara Hanai’s daughter is a sophomore at Franklin High School in Williamson County. During a group project in an English class, a classmate created a monster character adorned with a star of David and with stereotypical Jewish features. When Hanai’s daughter reported it to the teacher, she received no response. “The teacher didn’t say anything, even after my daughter emailed her to discuss it with the other students,” said Hanai. “There should be a way for students to learn why these types of incidents are hurtful. To learn rather than to punish.” Hanai said after October 7, she sent a message to the principal describing that her daughter was sad and that she has relatives and friends in Israel, and again received a lukewarm response. “He said he spoke with the classmates, and they understood they made a poor choice. But no one ever spoke with my daughter. She feels no one gets how she feels, and there has been no closure for her.” For college students, it can be frightening to draw attention to oneself. Jonah Biller is a junior at Ensworth School. He attended the panel discussion with several classmates and a teacher. He said, “My brother is a freshman in college, but he is uncomfortable highlighting himself because he doesn’t want to be a target.” Gilkerson acknowledged the difficulty

Students and community members listen to panel

and risk associated with reporting hate crimes. “It takes courage, and it is part of our job to support people and hold accountable those who discriminate. Nobody chooses to be a victim.” Not everyone in attendance was part of the Jewish community. Jeff and Caroline Paine are concerned community members who are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. They were surprised to learn about the proliferation of hate crimes and antisemitism. “We had no idea this was so huge,” said Jeff Paine, “There are so many incidents that are painful, but at least people are protected. We just wish people would love each other more.” To report a hate incident or hate crime, visit crimes. To report an incident in a school or campus, visit the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville at •

Community Relations Committee Don’t Forget to Smile By DEBORAH OLESHANSKY


ery early in the morning of October 7 my WhatsApp was filling quickly with messages of the horror unfolding in Israel. One message included words from my friend’s son, one of the young people at the music festival crying out, “come save us they are slaughtering us.” At first, I couldn’t even imagine what that meant. Soon after that message I called Noam Harari. Noam served as our community Shlicha, Israel emissary, for three years and is now a beloved member of my family. During her tenure, Noam provided creative, informative, and inspiring programs, despite the fact that part of her time here was during the COVID-19 shutdown and she had to do many of her programs virtually instead of in person. Noam developed strong, meaningful, and lasting relationships, and became part of the Nashville Jewish community family. After finishing her assignment here, she returned to her family in Israel, were she now lives. Recently, we arranged a Zoom call


program for Noam to share her own personal story from October 7. The terror, pain, fear, and confusion of that day are still evident in her voice, and she is still processing that day, and the ensuing days, as her sister continues to serve in the IDF, and many of Noam’s friends are being called back for reserve duty. Each day since has brought additional challenges and struggles, learning to cope with a reality that includes racing back and forth to bomb shelters several times a day, as the rockets continue to fly, and life remains fragile and vulnerable. Before we ended the call, Noam wanted to share one final story, that of her friend and colleague, Dekel. Shortly after October 7, Dekel was among the

December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

thousands of IDF reservists called back to duty to defend Israel after the atrocities committed by Hamas. Noam said that Dekel would remind his mother, family, and friends, with these words: “Don’t forget to smile when you wake up. No matter how hard, try to be strong and to be there for each other.” These became his final words, and how he will be remembered as a fallen soldier killed defending his country. Can we live up to his challenge, to remember to smile? Can we find the resilience to stay strong during these dark days? Can we find the courage to take care of each other? We must somehow find the way and to be together not only in grief, but also in joy. There is an old joke that Jewish holidays have a basic theme: they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat. We now move towards Chanukah, when we rededicate ourselves in pride and purpose, to celebrate the light in the darkness, and embrace the miracles of life. On December 12, the sixth night of Chanukah, step into the light and

dedicate yourself to an evening of joy, celebration, and community by joining us for Jewish Community Night with the Nashville Predators. We have been invited to join the Predators for a Chanukah party, complete with with food and candle lighting, before cheering them on in their game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Coming together in this way to celebrate both Chanukah and our Jewish community affords us a time and place to draw comfort and support from each other in these challenging days. We as Jews are not new to adversity. It is part of our history and being. In the newly released book, “The Genius of Israel,” the authors share that the succuss and resilience of both Israel and the Jewish people is a story of a diverse people and society built around the values of service, solidarity, and belonging. These values sustain us and provide the foundation of our work, both locally and globally. Let’s be together on December 12 to celebrate these values and use the bonds of Jewish peoplehood to lend the light and hope we need to remember to smile. •

To the Editor:


few Sundays ago a group of avid gardeners led by Melissa Sostrin, Debra Carmichael and Marsha Raimi met at the Nashville Holocaust Memorial to prepare the soil for a new addition at the Memorial site. We are planting gardens which will include native plants to attract butterflies. Butterflies are in recognition of the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust. They represent rebirth and hope. During our prep work at the Memorial, we discovered a note left on the main plaza area and secured by one of the Memory stones we provide for visitors to honor those inscribed on the 12 Memorial walls. We were nervous about opening the note given the tension and fear that sadly permeates our Jewish lives. But as we read the message, we shed collective tears for the compassion it conveyed. Soon we will be celebrating the 18th Anniversary of our Memorial. Indeed, we have much to celebrate because we have hosted and provided tours for thousands of visitors. Some come in groups and others alone. They can be led by a docent or do an audio self-guided tour. The note, which was left for us, sends a glimmer of light which confirms that our Memorial has made some impact and we are not alone in the journey towards creating a caring, compassionate world. In reality, we will not always know how our visitors respond to visiting the Memorial . But this note, which I share with you, as with others I have received, leaves us hopeful in these trying days that we are not alone. We hope that we have made some difference in individual decisions, thoughts, and lives. If you have not visited the Memorial, c



Telephone 615/356-3242 Fax 615/352-0056 E-mail The Jewish OBSERVER (ISSN 23315334) is published monthly for $25 per year by the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, 801 Percy Warner Blvd., Nashville, TN 37205-4009. Periodicals postage paid at Nashville, TN. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE JEWISH OBSERVER, 801 Percy Warner Blvd., Nashville, TN 37205 This newspaper is made possible by funds raised in the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. The Jewish OBSERVER is a member of the American Jewish Press Association and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. While The Jewish OBSERVER makes every possible effort to accept only reputable advertisers of the highest quality, we cannot guarantee the Kasruth of their products. The Jewish OBSERVER Founded in 1934 by









May we continue to receive support and affirmation from our neighbors. We must be responsible for each other and this note affirms this important lesson. Felicia Anchor, Chair Nashville Holocaust Memorial



hank you, Nashville’s Jewish community, for welcoming me as the new Donor Engagement Associate at the Federation. To be totally transparent, I have had no professional development experience before this role. In the past three years, I received academic training in Jewish Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and clinical chaplaincy training from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. This means that I am well read and can relate to folks from a variety of backgrounds, but by no means do I know how to ask for your money. Yet, believe it or not, it’s something I am excited to do. Let me explain why. Trying to maintain a persistent edge while remaining respectful and personable is the imperative tightrope of the Federation fundraiser. Talking to me should be like walking into an Israeliowned jewelry store, intending to buy something for your wife, and instead walking out with a brand-new Rolex for yourself. Come to me ready to make a modest donation out of guilt, leave having made a major contribution with enthusiasm. The difference here is that the value that a Rolex brings to your aesthetic and Continued on page 12


Publisher Jewish Federation Editor Barbara Dab Advertising Manager Carrie Mills Layout and Production Tim Gregory Editorial Board Frank Boehm (chair), Teena Cohen, Laura Thompson, Scott Rosenberg, Liz Feinberg


I urge you to take the short journey up the hill at the Northwest corner of the GJCC parking lot. If you would like to organize a tour, please contact Marsha Raimi through our website: May we go from Strength to Strength.

Why You Should Pick Up When I Call



Corrections Policy The Jewish Observer is committed to making corrections and clarifications promptly. To request a correction or clarification, call Editor Barbara Dab at (615) 354-1653 or email her at

Editorial Submissions Policy and Deadlines The Jewish Observer welcomes the submission of information, news items, feature stories and photos about events relevant to the Jewish community of Greater Nashville. We prefer e-mailed submissions, which should be sent as Word documents to Editor Barbara Dab at Photos must be high resolution (at least 300 dpi) and should be attached as jpegs to the e-mail with the related news item or story. For material that cannot be e-mailed, submissions should be sent to Barbara Dab, The Jewish Observer, 801 Percy Warner Blvd., Suite 102, Nashville TN 37205. Photos and copy sent by regular mail will not be returned unless prior arrangement is made. Publication is at the discretion of The Observer, which reserves the right to edit submissions. To ensure publication, submissions must arrive by the 15th of the month prior to the intended month of publication. For advertising deadlines, contact Carrie Mills, advertising manager, at 615-354-1699, or by email at

Editor’s Note By BARBARA DAB


t has been a while since I wrote to you, our valued readers and by now Thanksgiving is in our rear-view mirror and Hanukkah is just about here. These last weeks have tested our people as never before. We have experienced horror, pain, loss, grief, and great fear. Each morning I wake up and the first thing I do is check my email for news of what happened overnight. I rely on trusted sources to report accurately and timely and I don’t hesitate to share what I read. There is much misinformation and hatred being shared on social media, and I hope to be a beacon of light in our collective darkness. As we head into the darkest days of winter, The Observer is committed to bringing you all some of that light. We don’t break news, but we aim to dive a little deeper, bringing perspectives you won’t find anyplace else. In short, we are the voice of our Nashville Jewish community. As you read, notice the variety of

voices and perspectives. Enjoy the photos that bring you to events you might have missed or that help you relive a memorable experience. Coming very soon is our brand new and improved website where we will be able to bring you more stories as they happen, and even a digital weekly newspaper. We want to continue growing to be of more service to the community. It is thanks to your support that we can continue to be that voice, that light in the darkness. This month and next you will find within these pages, envelopes enabling you to continue your support of local, community-based, award-winning journalism. If you know me, you know this is my passion, my mission, and my service to the community. I am honored to be your editor and remain available to hear from you. I wish you all joy, hope, and peace today and always. • B’shalom, Barbara

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The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


Jewish Family Service Helps Send Critical Supplies to Israel By BARBARA DAB


n weeks since October 7 life in Israel is becoming more dire as much-needed basic necessities are running out in some areas. Jewish Family Service of Nashville and Middle Tennessee stepped in to help facilitate sending tons of supplies through an organization called Project Cure. Project Cure works globally to send medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in underserved communities and countries. In recent weeks, a request came from two agencies in Israel for emergency supplies like diapers, formula, medicine, and other items. Ellen Levitt is a retired nurse and has been volunteering several years for Project Cure. “I was exploring things to do and meaningful ways to spend my time and I learned about Project Cure by word of mouth,” she says. She immediately reached out to JFS executive director Pam Kelner. “Ellen called me, and we tried to figure out the best way to help,” she says. The two began reaching out to the Jewish community for donations, as well. “It was great that we could engage the community in a meaningful way at this time,” says Kelner. Kelner notified the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, congregations, and day schools, and in just a few days, donation bins were filled to the brim. Levitt and other volunteers for Project Cure began the process of sorting and packing the items, which included socks, gloves, ski hats, underwear, towels, backpacks, and other supplies for children. The shipment also

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included several tons of mattresses provided by Project Cure. The next step in the undertaking was figuring out the plan to move the massive quantity of donated items and mattresses, something undertaken by local volunteers. Virginia Ballard, executive director for Project Cure says volunteers are essential to the organization. “We can’t do anything without them,” she says. Project Cure has been in Nashville for 25 years and is largely a volunteer run organization, having only 35 employees nationwide. And once again, there was a Jewish community connection. Marisa Bayard, operations director for Project Cure is the former director of youth programming at the GJCC. She was on hand to oversee the shipment. “It was an unusual circuitous route,” she says. The decision was made to move everything first to Dallas by truck, and then loaded onto a plane headed for Israel. Once on the ground in Israel the items will be distributed through United Hatzalah and Magen David Adom. Ballard says the organization will continue throughout the current war and beyond. “We intend to continue supporting Israel and we will be there to help rebuild,” she says. Levitt adds, “It is wonderful the two organizations can work together to achieve this.” She says Project Cure has also been sending shipments of supplies to Gaza. To reach Jewish Family Service, visit, and to learn more about Project Cure, visit www. •


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December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

Donations of supplies headed for Israel are packaged in the Project Cure warehouse in Nashville.

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The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


‘Let our people go’: March for Israel


December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

March for Israel Continued from page 1

Al-Qaeda and the Taliban when 3,000 Americans were murdered on 9/11.” He added that Israel is held to a “dangerous double standard” compared to other countries when it comes to terrorism, which he said should not be the case. CNN political commentator Van Jones also spoke at the rally in solidarity with the Jewish community. “I’m here because the horror and the terror that unfolded in Israel and Palestine have sent shockwaves far beyond their borders,” Jones told the crowd. His call for peace — “No more rockets from Gaza and no more bombs falling down on the people of Gaza” — was met with the crowd’s chant of “No ceasefire.” Tali Izhaky, a member of NowGen’s Israel committee who attended the march, said she agrees with Israel’s right to defend itself. “You can’t agree with a terrorist organization to a ceasefire when they break ceasefires and commit these horrible war crimes,” Izhaky told The Jewish Observer Nashville. “You can’t agree to something when it doesn’t mean anything on their end.” ‘Bring them home’ Other attendees said they want to prioritize the release of the hostages taken by Hamas and ensure their safe return to their homes. Rabbi Joshua Kullock of West End Synagogue said that a ceasefire is “probably not the right answer right now.” “We are all in favor of a ceasefire as long as Hamas releases the hostages, but as long as that doesn’t happen, there is not really any room for ceasefire,” Kullock said. “The pressure should be put [on] Hamas so that they release the hostages, they renounce the terror.” Attendees brought and distributed posters of the hostages, who range in age from nine months to 87 years old, according to Daniel Shek, the head of the diplomatic department at Families of the Hostages and the Missing Forum. Each “kidnapped” poster contains the name, age, home country and a photo of the person taken captive by Hamas. Chants of “Bring them home” filled the National Mall. Rachel Goldberg, the mother of 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, spoke at the event, saying she has not seen her son since he attended a music festival in southern Israel and was taken hostage by Hamas. “Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?” Goldberg asked the crowd. A ‘direct danger to our democracy’ Deborah Lipstadt, a historian and ambassador, spoke out against antisemitism, which she said is the world’s “oldest, largest form of prejudice.” The AntiDefamation League reported that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. spiked nearly 400 percent since the war began in the Middle East. “It is an affront to the integrity of our laws. It is a gateway to prejudice, racism, injustice of every form,” Lipstadt said of antisemitism. “It is a direct danger to our democracy, and we, the United States, will fight it. Full stop.” Singer-songwriter and actress

Montana Tucker said both of her grandparents survived the Holocaust and she grew up hearing their experiences of the time leading up to it. She drew parallels between the 1940s and the present day, specifically how people were silent in the face of prejudice. “The lies began to spread about Jewish people, who we are, how we pray, what we represent,” Tucker said to the crowd. “These lies, they’re spreading again. The violence is rising again. The threat is real again.” Tucker said the young people of today can choose to be silent, like the masses during the Nazi regime, or stand up for what is right. The group of Nashville community members included 15 middle and high school students and five Vanderbilt University students. The Israel on Campus Coalition offered $250 per attendee for college students to attend the march, designed to offset travel expenses. Kirby said some individual community members donated to send a student to the rally. Kirby said students have been “bearing the brunt” of antisemitism since Oct. 7, so she was especially glad to see student representation at the rally. In October, Cornell University officials sent police to guard a Jewish center and kosher dining hall on campus in response to antisemitic online threats. At Harvard University, a group of student organizations signed a statement blaming Israel for Hamas’ attacks. Students across the country have reported feeling unsafe on campuses due to this rising hatred, per the Associated Press. President Joe Biden’s administration condemned the “alarming” rise in antisemitism in American colleges and universities. Staff in the departments of Justice and Homeland Security have facilitated conversations with campus law enforcement officials, according to a statement from the White House. ‘A word of appreciation’ Kullock said he is grateful to the Biden administration for supporting Israel immediately after the Oct. 7 attack. Biden visited Israel on Oct. 18 and gave an Oval Office address appealing for more funding for Israel upon his return. He requested $14.3 billion in aid to Israel on Oct. 20, the majority of which will contribute to air and missile defense systems. “I want to appreciate and thank the administration for going and embracing Israel right away. Standing next to Israel at this time, it’s not easy,” Kullock said. “Lots of people [are] putting pressure, and they have been able to say that Israel has the right, but also the duty to defend itself against Hamas, so first of all, it’s a word of appreciation, thanking the government.” Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler of Congregation Ohabai Sholom said she wants to see continued support. “I’m hopeful that the assistance will still come from D.C., from our government to support Israel and that finally the world will hear our need to rescue those 240 hostages before any peace can be waged,” Mackler said. Jewish Nashvillians take on D.C. Kirby said the Jewish Federations of North America announced the March for Israel on Nov. 6, and Kirby said the Federation arranged for 65 Jewish community members to come to D.C. within three days. Originally hoping to bring 25 community members to D.C., she said

she was pleasantly surprised by the larger turnout. “We kind of just put out a call to the community and reserved airline tickets and said first-come-first-served, and we filled up really quickly,” Kirby said. “I’m just really gratified that people took the time to come and be present.” She added that there is a lot of nuance regarding the Israel-Hamas war. “The key message I would send is that people don’t have to choose: you can be sorry for Palestinian children suffering and Jewish children suffering and I think a lot of people in our country

and the world right now feel like they have to pick a side and make it a binary,” Kirby said. Kirby said she has hope that the demonstration’s demands will be met, such as the release of the hostages. “Some of the goals seem really lofty that are hard to attain, just the idea that there’ll be peace and that kind of thing,” Kirby said. “We’re a long way from that, it doesn’t mean we don’t work toward it, but it’s not like that’s going to happen tomorrow.” •

This holiday season reminds us to appreciate the freedoms of America and the strength of Israel and the Jewish people. Happy Chanukah LORNA M. GRAFF

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The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


Community Faith Leaders Visit National African American and Holocaust Memorial Museums By BARBARA DAB


our rabbis, three Baptist ministers, and lay leaders from the Jewish and Christian communities traveled to Washington, DC recently to explore, to learn, and to bond over a shared experience. The trip was part of an ongoing dialogue between the two communities, spearheaded by Rabbi Mark Schiftan and Dr. Jon Roebuck, executive director of the Charlie Curb Center for Faith Leadership at Belmont University. The two-decade long friendship between Schiftan and Roebuck has led to the development of a Jewish Engagement Program at the university that seeks to deepen understanding and build relationships between the two faiths. The visit to the museums was a prototype of what will ultimately be a key part of the program. This group included Schiftan, Roebuck, Rabbi Joshua Kullock of West End Synagogue, Rabbi Flip Rice of Congregation Micah, Rabbi Michael Danziger of The Temple, Debby Sprang, Associate Vice President for University Advancement at Belmont, Dr. Bernard Turner, professor of social entrepreneurship at Belmont, Tom Gholson, pastor at Brook Hollow Baptist Church, and Philip Moody, chaplain of Bluegrass Care Navigators, and a reporter for The Jewish Observer. Some participants had already visited both museums, some only one, and some neither. The trip began with an early morning flight, landing in Washington to sunny skies. First stop was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Participants were asked to pair up with someone from the other faith. Everyone made their way through the dimly lit museum, stopping periodically to share reactions. The permanent exhibition spans three floors and covers the chronology of the Holocaust beginning with the rise of the Nazi party and culminating with the liberation. At the end of the tour, the group met in the Hall of Remembrance to reflect. Turner, who is African American, had not been to the museum. He said, “I felt shock, and disbelief, anger, shame. It was like the Civil Rights Movement with book burnings and dogs chasing people.” Sprang said she was surprised by the intentionality of Hitler. “He put the building blocks in place over many years. The genocide was absolutely intentional.” And Moody simply felt pain. “I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I just feel deep sadness.” For some, the similarities to the current climate in America were stark. Kullock said the propaganda used by Hitler seems to be from the same playbook, “It’s


the same as what is going on now after October 7, and before then on January 6. There seems to be a blind spot about what we all see clearly now and yet it got a lot of traction. We have a lot of work to do.” But Gholson said he felt the sense of helplessness. “From history we can see this is the world we live in, and I wonder what I can do.” Sitting amongst memorial candles in the quiet of the hall, Schiftan asked how the experience impacted the Christian participants. Roebuck said he became open to connecting with those different from him. “In my journey, I got to the point where I stopped saying I only care about people who love Jesus and start caring for people Jesus loved.” Gholson said he was inspired to use his position to help educate. “I feel embarrassed to know I have the power of the pulpit and I’m not addressing more current issues. It’s been easier to skip over it.” As the conversation slowed, talk turned to the current rise in antisemitism. On the walk to the museum, the group spotted a flyer posted on a lamp post calling out Israel for the murder of a Palestinian person. Gholson said it was not something he typically sees in his Nashville neighborhood. “To see it today with my Jewish friends was chilling.” And Kullock said the flyer was a reminder of what could be. “It could happen again. I don’t think you could say that a few years ago. But today, it could happen.” Day two of the interfaith trip included a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum building itself is striking and symbolic, consisting of bronze latticework that wraps the entire building and represents the work of enslaved African Americans. The interior is filled with light and according to the museum website is designed to symbolize open dialogue about race, reconciliation, and healing. As with the Holocaust Museum, this one also focused on history, starting with the origin of the slave trade 500 years ago, and ending with the modern Civil Rights Movement. This time the group toured together, with some breaking off here and there to explore more deeply, or to share thoughts and reactions. At the end of the day, the group gathered to recap once again. Sprang spoke first, saying the memorial to Emmett Till had the most impact on her. “What struck me was the strength his mother had. I was thinking about the fear she had to deal with, and after learning about the fear of Jewish Americans, it’s just not right.” Turner, who has visited the museum several times, said he learns something new

December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

each visit. This time it was the focus on dehumanization. “I look at how Black folks were treated for hundreds of years. Today some factions want to go back to that.” He also had another new observation. “Today I took note of the fact that 12 of the first 18 presidents were slave owners.” Danziger said he was struck by how the legal system played a role. “This was systematic, legal dehumanization. Not from one particular leader but from the people being enriched by slavery.” And Schiftan said he observed how the legal system is not the same for Jews. “Law enforcement protects Jews, but the same can’t be said about Blacks.” Although faith played a central role in the lives of enslaved people, Rice was surprised to learn it was illegal for Black Americans to be religious leaders. “The role of clergy was apparent in a variety of ways. Blacks were not allowed to preach. I can’t believe how hard that was.” Schiftan said strong faith among Black Americans was similar to that of Jews during the Holocaust. “Here we see how Christians used the Bible as justification for enslaving other Christians. And their faith was strong despite the fact they had to ask where God was, just like Jews did.” Gholson said he is surprised there is still faith in the Black community. Moody was deeply saddened by the

losses inflicted on the Black community. “I think about the cultures we tore up. We basically raped and tortured their culture. They had art, education. We took all that. Even as the law changed, we continue some of that today.” As the day wound down, the group made their way back to the airport for the flight home. 10 individuals from two faiths who just a day before were merely 10 individuals. Now, ten friends from two faiths and different backgrounds, ages, and professions. In a follow-up email, Kullock said, “In these challenging times, it feels good to know that we are not alone. May we see better days ahead.” •

Sharing the Reality in Israel By SYDNEY CAEN


very trip to Israel is a unique experience, filled with meaning and the discovery of something new. Each visit immerses you in joy, happiness, and diversity. The streets are alive with people, each carrying a different story. The vibrant shuk is a melting pot of experiences, from birthrighters exploring Israel for the first time to secular and religious families grabbing lunch or making last minute Shabbos preparations. However, my recent trip carried a different vibe. Since October 7, Diaspora Jews have been grappling with heartache, hurting for our homeland and our people. The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, the homebase of Conservative Judaism in Israel, organized a solidarity mission. The goal was to provide North American rabbis and Jewish leaders with a firsthand understanding of Israel’s current situation, enabling them to articulate the experience and convey the message to their congregants and communities. I was invited to join the mission, contributing to social media outreach. From the moment we landed at Ben Gurion, it was evident that the air was different. Only one baggage claim terminal was open, and there were no lines. As our group gathered for a heavy day ahead, we headed south to Ofakim. Witnessing the homes, including Rachel Edri’s, covered in bullet holes was shocking, but it paled in comparison to what awaited us at Kibbutz Be’eri. We were the first civilian group allowed to visit, we could not exit the bus until we donned vests and helmets to emphasize the gravity of the situation on the border. The destruction was profound; houses burned, blood

stained the floors, and remnants of lives were scattered amidst the debris. Yet the soldiers, personally affected by the attack, expressed concern for us, worry for their families outside of Israel, highlighting the severity of the global rise in antisemitism. As we left Be’eri, we took a moment of silence, as silent as it could be through distant rockets, and said the Mourner’s Kaddish. It’s a moment that’ll stick with me forever. The second day continued with sorrow but also revealed the strength and resilience of Israelis. Meeting Rachel Goldberg and Jon Polin, tirelessly working for the safe return of their son taken hostage by Hamas, was both heart-wrenching and inspiring. The day was spent volunteering, witnessing people of all backgrounds coming together to support refugee families by packing and delivering essential supplies. On our last day, we focused on reflection, contemplating how to share our experiences back home. It is still hard to put into words. I find describing the empty streets of Jerusalem easier than conveying the blood-stained floors of Be’eri, yet I know I must find the words. Sharing the reality in Israel is a task we must take on. Even through the sorrow in the air, Israel continues to stand as a beacon of hope and resilience. Israel’s endurance is not just a testament to the strength of its people; it is a symbol of perseverance from the entire Jewish community. Now is a time for us to amplify our voices, to speak out against the voices that seek to undermine Israel’s rightful place in the world. In this critical moment, let us be loud in our advocacy, vocal in our support, and unwavering in our commitment to stand with Israel. •

The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


Reflections from the ground in Israel By DOV AND ALITZAH GELMAN

Editor’s Note: I have been receiving regular updates from Dov Gelman, a member of our Nashville Jewish community. Dov and his two children, Silas and Alitzah, are all in Israel at this time. Silas and Alitzah are serving in the reserves and Dov is volunteering. This is Dov’s latest missive.


arbara, good morning. We just heard an amazing story from our daughter Alitzah serving on the border with her artillery battery. This woman started on the Lebanese border and then moved to support the ground offensive in the south. She has come out of combat a few times this month to do laundry, shower, and resupply. On her last 24hr leave she told the following story. You can use your imagination inside the theater of your mind to place yourself in her sand covered boots. Alitzah: Sometimes it pays off to leave decision-making to the universe. With the bus driver’s announcement that the bus had an issue, I walked off the bus conveniently across the street from a Superpharm. I walk in and to my left stood four women at the cash register. I go up to them and, with a smile, ask them

Dov Gelman and his daughter Alitzah who is serving in the reserves in Israel.

if I could lighten my load and leave my bag in their care to shop without worrying about knocking everything in each aisle to the ground. Without hesitation they agreed to look after my bag, while not taking their eyes off me. Here’s what they saw: a layer of dust on my skin disguised as a tan, dusty hair,

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a dusty uniform, boots that are far from being black, and a clean gun (a clean gun is a gun that works). The woman closest to me looks me up and down and with glistening eyes foreshadowing tears asked me if I came from the shetach. I answered with a tired a smile that was followed up with, “How long have you been there?” I answered, “One month,” and with that, tears slid down her cheeks and she pulled me into a tight hug. Side note: have you ever had a conversation with someone and when you think back to what was said, you remember not exact words, but the emotion and feelings behind them? That’s what happened after she hugged me. I know she asked about my parents, who I told her were in America and that my brother and I are here as former lone soldiers in reserves. With each question and answer came more compassion and love with each tear shed. And more hugs. The remaining three women listened eagerly and before I knew it, I was being handed creams and little samples of perfume for me and Silas. After more words and more hugs, they sent me on my way to get what I needed. Along the way, Sarah, the woman who connected with me at once, asked for my name and handed me a bottle of perfume and a bottle of cologne. “This is for you and your brother, and when you smell it, I hope you’ll think of me. And when this is all over, please come by to let me know everything is okay.” With that, I gave her a hug and she went back to place them on my bag. Once I got all that I needed, I walked back to the cash register where all the women remained. They gave me a 30% workers’ discount and when I pulled out my credit card to pay, Sarah pushed my hand away and placed hers instead. I thanked her and gave her a hug and took her number in case I needed anything.

All the women wished me well and I went on my way. As I left, I blew them all a kiss through the window and headed for the bus stop. There, at the crosswalk, I noticed a middle-aged man waiting across the street. He too looked me up and down and with a huge smile spread across his face and arms held wide, yelled, “Now that’s what a female warrior looks like, you are the eyes of the land, all of Israel salutes you.” He turned to a man sitting outside of a bakery and resumed his shout, “Look at her boots. Those are the boots of a warrior!” (The desert sand faded my once black boots and left them a dusty beige.) I blew him a kiss as well and as the light turned green for us to cross, a woman came up next to me. She smiled at me as we walked across together and noted how tired I looked. I smiled back and said it had been a long night and how good the timing was to be home for the day. I hope this intimate anecdotal story helps encourage all the work the Jewish Federation and Nashville’s Jewish community are doing. •

Learn more about the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashvill at

Let’s Talk Genes: Jewish Women Learn to Take Control of Their Risks By BARBARA DAB


mpowerment was the word of the day when Nashville Jewish women gathered to learn about their potential genetic risks for cancer. The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville’s Women’s Philanthropy event, in partnership with Jewish Family Service, brought together cancer survivors, medical experts, educators, and the leadership team from Sharsheret, a nationwide Jewish support services organization. Event co-Chair Carolyn Hecklin Hyatt introduced co-Chair Dina Gluck who shared her personal story of learning she was a carrier of the BRCA gene that causes cancer. Gluck recently underwent a preventative double mastectomy, a move that dramatically decreased her risk for breast cancer. The panel discussion was led by event co-chair Felice Apolinsky. Panelists included Gluck, Peggy Cottrell, genetic counselor with Sharsheret, Melissa Rosen, director of education and training at Sharsheret, Dr. Ann Wilford an Ob/Gyn, and cancer survivor Tricia Blumenthal of Vanderbilt University.

Pictured l. to r. Linda Gluck, Lori Gluck, Sandra Hecklin, co-Chair Dina Gluck, Susy Schulman

The event was presented in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville. To learn more about Jewish Family Service, visit, to learn more about Sharsheret, visit, to donate to the Jewish Federation, visit •

Panelists pictured l. to r.: Pam Kelner, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service at podium, Felice Apolinsky, Dr. Ann Wilford, Melissa Rosen, Tricia Blumenthal, Peggy Cottrell, Dina Gluck PHOTO CREDIT: EMILY ALLEN


F R OM OU R F A M I L Y T O Y OU R S . . .





























Pictured l. to r. Co-Chair Carolyn Hecklin Hyatt, Miriam Horwitz, Rachel Spielman, Jordana Loeb

Pictured l. to r. Hayley Levy Kupin, Rhonda Kupin, Libby Werthan

Pictured l. to r. Maxine Perlen, Nilam Patel, Federation Staff, Barbara Schwarcz, Federation Event Coordinator, co-Chair Felice Apolinsky, Ellen Rosen

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The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


When I Call

Continued from page 3

overall brand is easy to see. The value of your gift to the Federation, on the other hand, can seem much less clear. From this lack of clarity rises the famous question that I hear quite often in this role: What is it that the Federation actually does? As a student of the Jewish tradition, I would like to first turn to the sources to answer this question (though to answer questions from Jewish sources is merely to raise more questions). I think it may be the case that Federation is the modern American iteration of an institution considered essential in Jewish communities for millennia. The Talmud, compiled in the 6th and 7th centuries CE, says: “A Torah scholar may not live in a town that does not possess … a fund for charity” (Sanhedrin 17b). At that time, a town was not considered fit for the ethical and religious

role model of Rabbinic Judaism if it did not contain an organized charitable foundation concerned with the wellbeing of the community. Maimonides elaborates on this Talmudic injunction in his 12th century CE Mishneh Torah, saying: “We have never seen or heard of a Jewish community which does not have such a fund for charity” (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Mat’not Aniyim, chapter 9, halakhot 1-3). This is to say that it was virtually unthinkable to find a Jewish community without some sort of organized function for collecting and distributing charity. We see that this remains true today. Historically speaking, the Federation is the extension of a communal obligation or mitzvah to provide a safety net for the community, and particularly for those who might be struggling. Any Jewish community across North America that reaches a critical mass of Jews is compelled to begin a Federation, a centralized fundraising mechanism that works

for the wellbeing of the Jewish community. This, of course, raises another question: What is the wellbeing of the Jewish community? Our Jewish tradition says the world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and gemilut hasadim. These same three pillars are what the Federation seeks to support financially. I understand these categories as extending from but not totally bound to the classical rabbis understanding of them: 1. The Torah as supported by the Federation is the living Torah of Jewish educational and cultural activity. It spans everything from yeshivah-style study to stipends for early childhood education at our four preschools located within Jewish institutions, to programming featuring secular Israeli musicians. 2. Avodah is not just about prayer or worship in the classical sense, it is also about celebrating and empowering any space where two or more Jews gather

in joy, sorrow, and every experience between. The Federation financially supports every kind of Jewish gathering that occurs in Nashville, from the synagogues in West Nashville and Williamson County to Moishe House and the East Side Tribe over East. 3. Lastly, the gemilut hasadim, acts of loving-kindness, that the Federation supports are acts of care for our local and global Jewish family. These include coordinating efforts to protect our Jewish institutions and gatherings (no small feat), caring for those in need in our community with dignity through supporting Jewish Family Services, and raising emergency funds following the October 7 attacks, funds that go directly to survivors and families of survivors on the ground in Israel. This is my formulation so far of “what it is that the Federation actually does.” I came to this through personal experience, having begun my position shortly after October 7. I have been able to see first-hand all the things that Federation does to try and support this community, even when it feels like the world is turning upside down. Now the question for me is, what is it that motivates someone to give? According to Jewish ethicist and economist Meir Tamari, the tradition of strong Jewish giving comes both from a place of obligation to fulfill a mitzvah or commandment as well as a place of mercy guided by the pangs of conscience that motivate someone to give charitably. I have seen both from donors here in Nashville. Those who have never given to the Federation before, Jews and non-Jews alike, gave generously to help heal the deep wounds following October 7. There are also those who give to the Federation every year because that is simply what you do as a member of the Jewish community. I love hearing from those “unicorns” of the Jewish community who have been in Nashville for generations and generations, and who have given to the Federation the entire time. So, if you get a call from me, know that I am not simply interested in your money. I am interested in what you feel commanded to do in your life, and what deep-rooted values lead you to spend your hard-earned money in a fashion not directed towards personal self-interest. I want to hear how you envision yourself as part of a community that supports those in need and ensures its continued vibrancy and wellbeing. Hopefully, together, we can find some common ground that will benefit us all. •

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Learn more about the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville at

12 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

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Leadership 615 is first program of its kind in Jewish Nashville By ZOE BELL


n Nov. 12, the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville debuted Leadership 615, a six-month fellowship program that aims to provide mid-career adults with leadership skills relevant to the local Jewish community. The program’s goal is for “outstanding and forward-thinking individuals to become more strategic, knowledgeable and effective community leaders,” according to the Federation’s website. The 12 participants, who are in their 30s and mid-40s, will analyze the changing Jewish communal landscape in the United States and Nashville, meet city leaders, improve their leadership and governance skills and enhance their visions of leadership within the Jewish community. Michal Becker, the director of impact and planning for JFGN, co-organized Leadership 615 alongside Carolyn Hyatt, the former campaign director. “This is the first of its kind in Nashville,” Becker told The Jewish Observer Nashville. “There are other federations that are doing leadership programs for their communities, but it’s the first time we started something like that here.” She said she seeks to make participants feel that their contributions are meaningful through the program. “The idea is really to create a pipeline of leaders,” Becker said. “Nashville is not a big community, but we find that many people keep volunteering for the same positions and we know that there are so many other people who care about the community, but they haven’t found a way to contribute, to make the most of their professional skills in their connection to this community. So we thought of creating this channel for them.” Future topics of discussion include leadership skills in a changing world, Jewish leadership in Nashville, the basics of nonprofit leadership, national and local contemporary Jewish experience and the history of Jewish community in Nashville, including politics, fundraising and Jewish education. Becker said she found guest speakers through recommendations and from a network of people in Jewish Federations across the country. She soon realized there were many qualified experts right in Nashville, Becker said, including the former mayor of Nashville, city leaders, rabbis and Vanderbilt University professors. The program’s first event was an informal meet-and-greet session, where participants said they got to know one another and met the mayor of Nashville. Yuri Livshitz, a programmer who leads a mobile app delivery team for Deloitte and a participant of Leadership 615, said the first meeting was a success. “I loved meeting everybody,” Livshitz said. “It seems to me that Michal had very good thought to put together a very diverse group from the Jewish community. I thought that was strong and I got to see that in the first meeting. I love how much this group takes itself seriously.” Livshitz, who has served on Congregation Sherith Israel’s executive

board for seven years, said he would like to see Nashville’s Jewish community expand over time. “I think [it’s] extremely unique that we all really need each other and it feels like, to me at least, that there’s a strong Jewish identity that spans the different congregations,” Livshitz said of Nashville. “The reason for that is because we’re small and we kind of each sit together because we really depend on each other, but we want to grow and I’d love to figure out ways to spread the model to exist even when we’re a large community.” Amy Pearl, a Leadership 615 participant, has worked for an asset manager and has worked in finance for over 10 years. She said she joined to ensure that there is more support and community involvement among people who are connected to their Jewish faith like herself. “I want to make sure that … the generation that will come after me continues to have a thriving and vibrant Jewish community here in Nashville,” said Pearl, who is a mother of three. She added that she prioritizes being involved in nonprofit organizations and hopes to get involved on an executive board for a local Jewish nonprofit. Rachel Appelbaum, a Leadership 615 participant who is in her second year of practice as a trauma surgeon, said she wants to volunteer more in her community. She is a founding member of The Future is NOW Nashville, a nonprofit organization that is designed to promote a violence-free future for at-risk youth aged four to 13. Appelbaum’s role is to help teach monthly lessons and lead hands-on activities related to health care, all at no cost to the children. “We just had our first session in November and for our next session in December, it’s basically monthly educational sessions that stick close to topics,” Appelbaum said, adding that one such topic is first aid training. “I would say I have a passion for that and my hope is to do more work in that arena.” She said Leadership 615 is helping her achieve that goal through collaborative work. “I think it’ll help, too, just in terms of holding leadership skills, whether that’s talking to others that may have different opinions or talking through different difficult concepts,” Appelbaum said of the program. “I think it just gives us forums for collaboration and transferring ideas and really sharing in growth over that time period.” The leadership program is sponsored by Dr. Mark Goldfarb, a retired cardiologist, formerly of Nashville. “I want to really thank Mark for his support,” Becker said. “It helps when you have donors who have this vision of how to make the future of this community more sustainable. I think that he and his wife were [a] great supporting team in this process.” • If you are interested in learning more about next year’s Leadership 615 application, reach out to Michal Becker at michal@

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LET’S TALK RETIREMENT! The Blue Ribbon (…because it’s not just about the money!) By LORETTA SAFF



he thought of RETIREMENT (the non-financial side) can cause people to be either overly excited or very nervous. Wherever you are on your journey, I encourage you to avoid the potholes by making sure you navigate via “excited.” (To be sung to the tune of “I HAVE A LITTLE DREIDEL”) I’m like a life-sized DREIDEL, Playing in life’s busy way. I spin and spin and spin It’s what I do all day. Sometimes I feel it’s too much! Sometimes I feel so rushed! I think I’ll soon retire, And I won’t feel so flushed. BUT…, How will I be a winner? I want Gimmel! Hay! not Nun. Enough the Shin that I’ve Put In! Now I want some fun.


I’m like a DREIDEL, DREIDEL, DREIDEL, Playing in life’s busy way. So for my retirement, Here’s what I can say:

We use ribbons to symbolize our causes:

(This is the planning ahead part!)

Yellow ribbons for our armed forces.

“I’ll watch my latke intake, (physical) Have friends both old and new.” (social) “My glass will always be HALF FULL, (positivity) Pledging value to all I do!” (purpose)

And I am wearing a blue ribbon.

“RE-TI-RE-MENT I’ll win With my spin at a better speed! When curious, I’ll pick and choose To get just what I need!” And so, you life-sized DREIDELS, Playing in life’s busy way, Please use these hints prepared for you To guide you every day! Now, feel free to dance and hug your loved ones! As the candles are burning bright and the applesauce and sour cream are brought to the table, feel gratitude in knowing you have a plan. •

Red ribbons on our mailboxes to remember the Covenant victims. Pink ribbons for breast cancer.

The red ribbon reminds us of the destruction that guns can wreak; the crying need for mental illness solutions. The pink ribbon gives us hope. It tells us that as terrible as breast cancer is, it’s something for which we can find cures. The yellow ribbon honors those in the military who are there to give their life and limbs to protect us. But I am wearing a blue ribbon. I will wear this blue ribbon until all the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 come home. The blue ribbon is not about victims. It is not about gun control. It is not about medical breakthroughs. It is not even about young soldiers who risk life and limb. The blue ribbon is about pain. The pain of not knowing, not knowing what the Hamas monsters might be doing to your 8-year-old daughter; your 18-year-old son who had his arm blown off- is he alive? Is he in pain? Is he dead? Where is your 7-month pregnant wife? Your 80-year-old mother?


The blue ribbon represents those who wait for word, who wait in the agony of not knowing, unable to mourn, but afraid to hope.


My blue ribbon accidentally went into the wash. It survived, still bright blue but a little crumpled. I wear it anyway. I am a little crumpled, too. •



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Journey to Azerbaijan By RABBI PHILLIP RICE

“The multi-ethnic composition of the population of Azerbaijan is our wealth, advantage. We appreciate it…and will try to maintain this wealth forever.” –Heydar Aliyev, National Leader of the Azerbaijani People


democratic republic bordering Iran, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey that boasts a secular Muslim population, has zero reported incidents of antisemitism on record in its history, and unabashedly supports Israel. Is such a place real? Our delegation to Azerbaijan — comprised of American military personnel, businesspeople, academics, and clergy — was determined to find out. Meeting with our counterparts, we quickly learned how and why the strategic alliance between the United States, Israel and Azerbaijan is so important. Our Israeli colleagues were, understandably, unable to join us on this joint mission as it was originally conceived by JINSA – the Jewish Institute for the National Security of America. JINSA is a think tank that is dedicated to advancing U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. It was especially powerful to visit a Muslim country at this time, as the Israeli flag flew outside its embassy with no demonstrations, and I felt comfortable wearing my kippah everywhere we went.

Our trip began in Baku, a modern metropolis situated on the Caspian Sea not far from the Caucus Mountains. The first day was spent traveling to Guba to visit the “Red Village” and learn about the Mountain Jews. DNA tests confirmed that a lost tribe of Jews reached Persia from Israel as early as the Eighth century BCE. Migrating east, they settled in mountainous areas where they survived numerous historical changes by living in extremely remote areas. Known as accomplished warriors and horseback riders, they spoke an ancient Iranian language called Judeo-Tat, which integrates many elements of Hebrew. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union many Mountain Jews permanently left their hometowns in the Caucasus and relocated to Moscow, Israel and/or the U.S. The “Red Village” had several synagogues, a Jewish Museum, cemetery, mikveh (ritual bath), and functioning Hevra Kadisha (burial society). Upon returning to Baku, our delegation began its meetings with officials in the foreign affairs, energy, and religious tolerance offices. We quickly learned that Israel obtains 40 percent of its petrol from Azerbaijan and in return, provides weapons. Israeli Ambassador George Deek — the first Israeli Arab Christian to hold ambassadorial rank — spoke articulately about how Israel does its best to ensure that its weapons are used in an

ethical fashion. It was comforting to be in an Israeli Embassy with other Zionists during the war in Gaza. “You of all people know,” he said, “Judaism is all about life and Hamas is all about death.” The Azerbaijani delegation freely discussed their recent war with Armenians who occupy territory in the Karabakh region and how they continue to make gestures of peace. “They are free to stay here and become citizens or to emigrate to Armenia. What we cannot have them do is terrorize us!” said Nusrat Suleymanov, the Deputy Head of Foreign Public Affairs. Discussions continued regarding how our two countries might best combat terrorism, promote energy security, and expand trade. We also learned from the two American generals on our delegation that Azerbaijan allowed the U.S. to use its bases as a staging ground for its operations in Afghanistan. I was especially engaged by out visit to the Religious Affairs Office where they took great pains to show me the Jewish stars located throughout the building. They also shared a variety of ways in which they have created such a tolerant society. For instance, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Koran are all taught in secular school settings. It is illegal as a student to wear a hijab, though not after graduation. All mosques are located off the main streets. They even provided me with some of

their supplementary textbooks: Religious Diversity in Azerbaijan, Historical and Religious Monuments in the Territories of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani Multiculturalism: In the Eyes of the World. One of the most recognized architectural landmarks worldwide, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, was a short walk from our hotel. Amongst many rugs, musical instruments, and displays of history was a small section dedicated to world religions. There was a copy of a book of Talmud, and quotes that read: “High humanism peculiar to our people, a national and religious tolerance, environment dominating in our society, mutual respect and trust between ethnic minorities have made Azerbaijan known in the world as an example of tolerance.” For centuries now, world religions have played a role in embedding within Azerbaijani culture universal values such as humanism and tolerance. When I was in high school (back before the common era) I was taught that if America was not an actual melting pot, it is at the very least a tossed salad. Azerbaijan has done a better job at creating a multicultural society based on tolerance and respect than we have here in the U.S. It is a place where different religions and ethnic groups have lived in peace and mutual understanding for centuries. What might we do to create a more tolerant society here? •

The Madeline Pargh Arts and Crafts Center Launched Classes this Fall By SHARON BENUS GORDON JCC DIRECTOR OF ADULT AND COMMUNITY -WIDE PROGRAMS


n October, we proudly unveiled the Madeline Pargh Arts and Crafts Center. Both members and non-members alike had the opportunity to partake in our inaugural classes, which were offered throughout October and November. On Monday evenings, local artist and art teacher Amie Pike taught an abstract painting class titled “No Fear Abstract Art.” In this class, students were skillfully guided in exploring various materials, techniques, and processes

essential for creating abstract art. Additionally, Amie taught a children’s art class called “Art Masters” on Thursday afternoons. This class was designed for students in grades 1-3. In “Art Masters,” young artists delved into the works of renowned artists such as Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, drawing inspiration from the masters to craft their own artistic masterpieces while having fun and learning new techniques. On Tuesdays, we were excited to welcome back artist Rhonda Polen Wernick, who led an eight-week oil painting class. Throughout this course, Rhonda expertly mentored students in

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developing their unique artistic style. She also covered essential topics such as palette setup, color mixing, composition, shading, and brushwork. Finally, artist Kim Lane taught an introductory watercolor class. Over the course of eight weeks, students engaged in various painting exercises and discovered how to create vibrant watercolor compositions in a stress-free and supportive environment. Coming up, join us for a one-day multimedia exploration workshop on December 8, from 10am to 1pm, led by artist Amy Krimsier Sterling. As the year draws to a close, take this opportunity to

reflect on the journey of the past year and express your feelings and growth through art. Amy will provide guidance and support as you create your unique piece. The workshop is open to both members and non-members, with a member price of $65 and a non-member price of $75, which includes materials. Let’s celebrate the passage of time by capturing this moment through creating art together. We look forward to bringing you new classes and workshops in January. For more information and to stay up to date on our course offerings please visit •

Rosen College Consulting Michelle Rosen, M.Ed. Helping students find and apply to “best fit” colleges.

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The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


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e are so excited to kickstart the 94th summer at Camp Davis! Whether your kids had a blast with us last summer or you are new to town, Camp Davis can’t wait to welcome you or welcome you back. We have a ton of awesome specialty camp options this summer — including Basketball, Robot Building, the second summer of Theater Camp, and THREE WEEKS of Fashion Camp. Our time-tested traditional camp model is also going to be even more fun than ever. Camp Davis welcomes all children of all backgrounds and abilities, and we truly have an option for everyone. Registration for Summer 2024 will open on January 8 for JCC members and January 15 for non-JCC members. Our early bird special only goes through January 19 this year, so register early and

secure your spot and savings. Please note that many of our popular specialty camps will fill up right away. While we have you here, please considering donating to the Camp Davis’ JCamp 180 Matching Grant Fundraiser. Camp Davis has been selected as one of 39 camps in the country to receive the JCamp 180 2023 Matching Grant. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation will provide $1 for every $2 we raise, up to $25,000. With these donated funds we plan to build two wooden covered Gaga Pavilions on the upper part of our campus. Donations of $100 will receive a custom engraving at the top of these pavilions. Donations of $250 will receive a custom engraving on the posts of the pavilions. For any donations larger than $250, please reach out to Andrew Fishman, Director of Camp Davis and Children’s Services at You can make your donation at the following link: •



e are thrilled to announce that applications are now open for the tenth annual Art on the West Side 2024, a juried Fine Art and Craft show featuring over 40 local and regional artists, each showcasing a wide range of mediums, including oil, acrylic, watercolor,

glass, metal, clay, wood, fiber, photography, and jewelry. The event, co-chaired by Betsy Hoffman and Missi Freidenberg, is scheduled to take place from Saturday evening, April 6 through Sunday, April 7, 2024. The application deadline is January 2, 2024. For more information and to access the application, please visit our new and updated website at We eagerly await your submissions! • Cathy Werthan, CPA, Office Managing Partner

401 Commerce St., Suite 1250 • Nashville, TN 37219 615.245.4070 |

18 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

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B’nai Tzedek Teens Do Good and Clean Up By LEERON RESNICK


embers of the B’nai Tzedek program came together to give back to the Jewish Community last weekend by cleaning up the Shalom sign at the Gordon Jewish Community Center, after first touring the Holocaust Memorial. In addition to learning how to become

young philanthropists and give back to the Jewish community monetarily, B’nai Tzedek participants also help through community outreach events. Visit https://www.jewishnashville. org/ways-to-give/teen-philanthropybnai-tzedek to sign up to be a B’nai Tzedek and participate in events like this in the future. •

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The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


Debunking Stereotypes and Myths: Inside a Braver Angels Workshop By LISA ARONOW


n November 4, I attended a Braver Angels workshop entitled “Bridging the COVID Divide: Can we move forward?” Braver Angels is a national organization whose mission is to overcome the growing partisan animosity on both sides of the political spectrum through community gatherings, real debates and grassroots leaders working together. Nashville is lucky to have its own local Braver Angels alliance and like all Braver Angels groups, the Nashville alliance is chaired by two leaders, one of whom leans left or blue and one of whom leans right or red. During the COVID pandemic, there was significant friction and debate over the national public health response to the virus including vaccine safety and effectiveness, mask mandates and isolating. The workshop placed the participants into two groups of six individuals based on their respective Covid response opinions as “supporters” or “questioners.” The workshop moderators led the groups through various exercises designed to “humanize” the participants. Throughout the all-day, in-person event, each group worked its way through a series of exercises specifically designed to help each participant feel heard, to clarify disagreements on either side, and to come together in a respectful dialogue. In an email ahead of the discussion, attendees were encouraged not to brush up on the facts of the pandemic in preparation for the meeting but instead to consider the impact of the COVID public health response and to think of stories that might be shared to help illustrate this. Part of what makes Braver Angels

feel so accessible and welcoming is not just the genuine warmth of the members, which is obvious, but also the group’s focus on representing each side equally and fairly. All debates, workshops, events, and initiatives are hosted or facilitated by an equally balanced team of red and blue leaders. There also seems to be strong feelings of mutual respect and kindness between members on opposite sides which is incredibly refreshing given today’s politically charged landscape. When I was first asked to participate in the discussion, I enthusiastically agreed and was thrilled to participate. I had learned about Braver Angels a year and a half ago from a friend who is a founding member and joined immediately. Still, being a bit shy in group settings, I had yet to take part in any of the in-person events. As the day approached, I began to get nervous about sharing my views with strangers and afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hold space for the opposing side. (At this point, you may be wondering so let me preemptively say that I was firmly on the “supporting” side.) When I arrived at the workshop, I was led to a table with 14 name tags. After taking the seat corresponding to my name, I realized that the attendees were arranged alternating each seat with supporters and questioners. At the head of the table were our two facilitators. After introductions, we reviewed workshop goals: to learn about the experiences and beliefs of those on the other side, to discover areas of commonality, and to gain insights that might help depolarize others. Then came the ground rules which were mostly about being courteous to fellow attendees. We were there to understand others and not to persuade each other to change our minds,

a reminder to speak for ourselves and not others, to maintain confidentiality of fellow attendees, and the usual rules for politeness when speaking to others. Each exercise centered around the common stereotypes about supporters’ and questioners’ respective views on the national response to COVID, the core values behind their views, their reservations or concerns about their own perspective, and questions to ask the other side to help facilitate a better mutual understanding between the groups. Our first exercise was about stereotypes of people on each side of the debate, but what made the exercise so interesting and non-confrontational was that each side was asked to identify stereotypes about themselves held by the other side. Most striking to me among the busted stereotypes was the fact that not all liberals were supporters and not all conservatives were questioners. We learned that people on both sides felt mislabeled, hurt, and unfairly judged. Also, we found that both sides respected science and did research to arrive at their opinions. Our first exercise finished and already we were finding common ground. Another great exercise that we worked on in our groups was coming up with four questions for the other group. From the supporters’ side, the questions were about using ivermectin to prevent and/or treat Covid; what about the Covid vaccine was difficult and why was it different from other vaccines such as polio and flu; what were some of the underlying principles and circumstances of when the needs of the community outweigh the needs of the individual; and who did the group look to for the data that informed their opinions and feelings.

From the questioners’ side, the questions included: what qualifies someone to determine what the greater good for society is; what vaccine injuries are possible; who did the group look to for information and how did the group feel about some physician studies being kept from the public; and if you believed the vaccine protected you, why was it so important that everyone else get it. As each side presented their questions, multiple members of the opposite side responded with their own answers. Hearing the answers to these questions was perhaps the most enlightening part of the day. By the end of the exercise, I could practically see the connections between the two groups growing. In wrapping up the workshop, we spent the remainder of the afternoon sharing about our experience and what we learned. One of my biggest takeaways was that we all value life and place importance on taking care of each other. We learned that the other group experienced pain and vulnerability just as we did. We realized that we shouldn’t assume anything about the other side. We agreed that we all want to learn more and better understand the other side’s perspective. We saw that most people are genuinely well-intentioned and caring. And most importantly, we developed trust. I’d say that was a day well spent. •

Idaho or some state I have no idea where it is located on the map, that I could go to. To which I replied, I was thinking more like an apartment in a high-rise in Manhattan. You know, where you never have to leave and could just order everything up. That’s more along my idea of going off the grid. Disappearing literally right in the middle of one. Then somehow the conversation jumped to a whole other off-the-wall place where everyone at the table was agreeing I should be the next Golden Bachelorette. At this point I recognized that we as a group sitting around the table apparently needed some kind of make-believe conversation break other than what is really going on in the world around us. And so, we continued with this ridiculous conversation about me being the next Golden Bachelorette. I have to say, I would agree to it. Who doesn’t want love? Isn’t that what the world needs now? Yes, it is. And yes, so do I.

The whole crazy lunch conversation was a momentary reprieve from the awful and endless despair I have been feeling day after day. I feel like I’ve been thrown into the Matrix, and I want to wake up. I want Oct. 7 to have never happened. However, all I can think about every day, throughout the day, is my wish for all the hostages to be released and reunited with their loved ones again. And pray that by the time this goes to print, that is what has already happened. I pray for peace in Israel. No more wars. My silent prayer, please never, ever, ever, ever again. What century is this?!!! If miracles do exist, as they have in Chanukah past, may light overcome darkness. That antisemitism one day no longer exists in humans’ hearts and minds. That true laughter come from the joy of humanity finding its way back out of the darkness. If in fact there is any reality show I’ll sign up for, it’s that one. •

Editor’s Note: This gathering was the second of three pilot workshops held across the country to evaluate and refine the format and content before rolling it out to the national Braver Angels community. The local leaders of Braver Angels are Dr. Ron Heady and Dr. Debra Fish. For more information about Braver Angels, visit www.

Kvetch in the City By CARRIE MILLS


uring lunch at work the other day, I was in my office, scrolling on the internet in horror, watching as the world unleashed its unbridled, unfiltered antisemitism. At the same time, I heard laughter coming from the senior lounge where my colleagues were eating their lunch. It sounded so strange at first. It occurred to me how laughter has become what feels like, a thing of the past since Oct. 7. Since that day, I just figured I don’t know if I will ever truly laugh again, and the sound of it seemed so out of place in the midst of what seems like living in a constant state of sitting shiva since that barbaric October day. Still, I was drawn to the seeming lightness of hearing laughter, and figured,

even though I had already eaten, I’d go join the group. I realized immediately the laughter was like a release valve from the intensity of life as we now know it. Once I sat down, I realized why there was so much laughter. It was because the conversation was so crazy nuts. It appeared the group was passionately ensconced in a debate about aliens. Apparently, some people at work have had encounters with aliens and were making the case for them to exist amongst us earthlings. I have to say, if aliens do exist here on Earth, I hope they can do something to help save humanity. I would actually welcome a mothership to take me to another planet right about now. I decided to jump into the crazy conversation and interjected the thought that I’m thinking of going off the grid because quite honestly, I don’t think I can take much more of the madness of the world. Someone chimed in they had a farmhouse somewhere in the likes of

Happy Hanukkah

20 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

Local Muslim Community Welcomes Neighbors for Open House By BARBARA DAB


n a recent Saturday in October, the halls of the Al-Farooq Islamic Center were filled with friends and neighbors from its surrounding south Nashville location. In one room, the center’s female members greeted women visitors and showed how to don traditional clothes, applied henna, and discussed women’s role in the culture. In the mosque, displays told the story of Muslims in the United States, highlighting the many contributions to art, culture, and tech-

nology. And at the front of the room, Dr. Sabeel Ahmed gathered visitors to hear a presentation about the historic relationship between Jews and Muslims throughout history. “Fear of the unknown is the hardest hurdle,” said Ahmed, who works with GainPeace, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate about Islam and to help dispel myths. “Our goal is to build bridges through understanding,” Ahmed said. The 30-minute presentation highlighted the similarities shared by the two cultures. For example, Ahmed said a common misconcep-

tion is how God is defined. “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have the same creator. We each have a different name based on our cultural language,” he said. Notable is that the most mentioned prophet in the Quran is Moses, with the second being Abraham. After the presentation, members of the center served lunch, which provided an opportunity to talk further over the meal. Katelyn Benhoff waited for her lunch and said she has lived in the neighborhood for three years. “I typically go to the Kroger and saw the sign about the open house. I wanted to meet the

neighbors here and get a feel for what’s going on,” she said. Ali Baker has lived in Nashville since his early teens. Baker, dressed in traditional garb, gave tours of the grounds, and answered questions. “We have 17 acres here and are working to restore some of the building and outdoor areas,” he said. He explained that the building was badly damaged during the 2010 flood and the Islamic Center has been working to continue renovations. Included in that is the main building, gym, and outdoor fields and play areas. •

Dr. Sabeel Ahmed lectures about the relationship between Jews and Muslims throughout history.

Women gathered in the outside picnic area of the Al-Farooq Islamic Center

Learn more about the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville at Men praying in the Mosque

The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


Celebrate the miracle. Find recipes and more at

22 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

A Rabbi and a Doctor Discuss the Subject of Dual Faith Religious Education By RABBI MARK SCHIFTAN AND DR. FRANK BOEHM


rank: Mark, with over 70 percent of our Reform Jewish young adults marrying someone of a different faith, the Reform movement has been confronted with a request from some of these interfaith couples to allow their children to alternate weekly attendance at their synagogue’s Religious School with a similar experience at a Christian Sunday School. These are couples who are raising their children with a “Being Both” religious experience. Currently, many Reform congregations do not give permission for this every other week exposure to both Judaism and Christianity. What are your thoughts on these requests? Mark: Frank, you are asking a fundamental question that challenges the limits of the inclusive sense that Reform Judaism has always sought to embrace. The ultimate questions go to the very heart of whom we consider to be a Jew, or whom we consider to be Jewish enough? We Reform Jews have always stretched our comfort levels for the sake of our sense of inclusion and embrace.


Continued from page 1

similar rally he attended here in 1987 in support of Soviet Jewry shortly after his release from prison in Russia. • By satellite we heard from Isaac Herzog, President of Israel, live from the Kotel in Jerusalem. President Herzog reminded us of the unbreakable spirit of the people of Israel and how much the rally of all the American mishpocha means to Israelis during this difficult time. Herzog emphasized the spirit of “we are here,” and that our group was rallying for the triumph of good over evil. • Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. Special Ambassador to combat antisemitism, recalled the promise of George Washington in 1790 to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, that “…the government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance…” assuring Jews the right to practice their faith without fear. In addressing the rise of antisemitism around the world she said simply that terminology such as anti-Zionism and anti-colonialism are just veiled attempts to deny the reality of this speech, which is Jew-hatred, and we must call it out for what it represents. • Our rally was addressed by the leaders of both parties in the Senate and the House. Senators Charles Schumer and Jacky Rosen (representing Sen. Mitch McConnell) and Representatives Mike

We have done so with interfaith couples, same-sex couples, Jews by choice, Jews of color, and Jews of various sexual orientations. We have done so with the primary concern of being Judaism’s easiest entryway to a meaningful, loving and accepting Jewish community. We should consider creating a similar path for these Being Both families. Do we really wish to exclude them? Are they really a threat to whom we claim to value and claim to be? Does their potential exclusion weaken or strengthen us? Frank: According to an ancient tradition, a Rabbi should turn away a potential candidate for conversion to Judaism up to three times to test the candidate’s sincerity. While most Rabbis no longer adhere to this rule, there are often many obstacles in the way for an individual to be considered Jewish. This rule of not allowing children of a mixed religious family to study Judaism by attending Sunday School every other week is one of those obstacles and will most likely result in that child never accepting Judaism as their religion later in life. To answer your question, I believe that this exclusion will weaken our religion, not strengthen it.

What are we so worried about? There are only 15 million Jews in a world of eight billion people making us approximately 0.2 percent of all people on Earth. Surely, we have room in our schools and in our hearts to expose children of interfaith marriages to the beauty and wonder of Judaism. At this upcoming season of Chanukah and Christmas, we need to revisit policies of exclusion and move to one of inclusion. One way is to consider the following suggested guideline: A child of an interfaith marriage, whose parents desire their child experience an education in both a Jewish and non-Jewish education, is welcomed to attend Jewish Sunday School on an alternative weekly basis during the school year. However, any such child whose religious participation includes both Jewish and non-Jewish education, and who wishes to participate in Jewish life cycle events such as Bar and Bat Mitzvah, must adhere to established guidelines or policies as set forth by the clergy and officers of that congregation. Mark, what do you think? Mark: Frank, there is real wisdom in the idea you have put forward. The reality is that the next generations of

Reform Jews will no doubt include many more dual faith households in terms of the active religious participation of both parents. Whether we would prefer it to be this way, or not, ultimately makes no difference in the decisions these couples and families will make. It is what it is, and we may either respond to this reality with our full embrace of these families and their children, or we can choose to close the door on them, most likely losing them for a long time, perhaps forever. Is that really the best choice we wish to make? I believe in the product we offer, the warmth and the wisdom of our Jewish traditions and beliefs. I would like to give the full demonstration and education of our faith, to every family who wishes for their child to be exposed to it. At the end of the day, if we are strong in our own Jewish identity as Reform Jews, and if we remain true to our ideals of inclusion and embrace, then what do we have to lose, in comparison to all we stand to gain? •

Johnson and Hakeem Jeffries all had the same message. This unified message that the U.S. stands unequivocally with Israel was a welcome message of bipartisan support. Walking around through the thousands of people in attendance, I heard a variety of languages being spoken, including a lot of Hebrew, Spanish, Russian (I think), and even some New York English. The posters and flags were both professionally printed and homemade, as well. The messages were clear and consistent: • Bring the hostages home now! • We Stand with Israel! • Stop antisemitism now! • Am Yisroel Chai! The mood and the music were upbeat and hopeful, and the energy of the crowd persisted (almost) till the end of the program. Throughout the day, you could not help but feel that the people in the crowd were members of our extended Jewish family. This was clearly the biggest family reunion that any of us had ever attended. Sitting at the airport awaiting our return flight to Nashville, I walked around and asked some family members why they had chosen to come to the rally. While I thought I knew the reasons, I wanted the people to speak for themselves: • Janice Berger wanted to express her support for Israel with more than just writing a check. “I really wanted to do this,” she said, “in the same way that I

attended the 1987 rally to free Soviet Jewry in 1987.” • Barbara Mayden expressed it this way. “I want to put my energy into a cause that I feel in my heart.” • As a child of Holocaust survivors, Renee Ward said “I never thought that this could happen again.” She felt that she needed to be present to stand against this same evil that her parents experienced. I then asked some of our younger family members why they decided to come on the trip. • Isaac Simpson wanted “to stand up for the Jewish people.” • Yedid Strosberg also wanted to “stand up for the Jewish people and get a chance to come to Washington.” • Xavier Rodriguez wanted to “experience the rally, something I’ve never done before.” • Ravi Strosberg wanted to “stand up for Israel, and to see how many people would be here.” • Hirsch Coleman wanted to “stand up for Israel” and also said “my Mom told me that I should go.” Nashville’s clergy showed up and showed out on the trip as Rabbis Kullock, Freller, Mackler, Pressner, (Laurie) Rice, Rothstein, and Strosberg accompanied the group, interacting with younger and older members of the Nashville Jewish family. Rabbi Kullock said it well, “I am here because I have to be here.” Federation CEO Dan Horwitz and

Board Chair Leslie Kirby took time to acknowledge the event organizers at JFNA, as well as the staff of the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, who made this happen in a very short timeframe. Special thanks to Federation staffer Leeron Resnick, who did a lot of the heavy lifting in organizing and “herding the cats” on the ground in Washington. When we first landed in Washington in the morning, I asked Rabbi Strosberg what he had said to encourage the student group to attend the rally. He said that he told them that first, there are times when you must stand up for things that are important to you and second, that if we do not stand up for ourselves in life, how can we expect others to do so for us? Based on the feedback I received from our students on the trip I would say these messages were received loud and clear. One final comment. At the airport that evening Rabbi Saul saw me interviewing people and he told me that he had one more quote for me. “I always get choked up when I hear Hatikvah” he said. Me too, rabbi, me too. All in all, a pretty good visit with the family! •

Happy Hanukkah

Rabbi Mark Schiftan can be reached at Dr. Frank Boehm can be reached at

Author’s note: BTW, I was also able to get together with two brothers and a sister and their spouses who came to the rally from Baltimore and Reston, Virginia. Shout out to Charles and Mary, Tina and Lee, and Don and Nell.

Learn more about the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville at

The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


At Our Congregations… Nashville’s congregations Here are the websites for all five Nashville Jewish congregations, with information on services, upcoming events and more: Congregation Beit Tefilah Chabad, Congregation Micah, Congregation Sherith Israel, The Temple – Congregation Ohabai Sholom, West End Synagogue, The Observer provides congregational listings of events and services as a complimentary service to the community. If your congregation is not listed, it is because we did not receive the information in time to meet our publication deadline. Please give your rabbi, executive director, or synagogue volunteer a gentle nudge.

@ Micah Congregation Micah - an inclusive, innovative synagogue exploring and celebrating Jewish life - is committed to building community and repairing the world! We offer creative and diverse ways to live a Jewish life in Tennessee and beyond, using the rich beliefs and practices of Progressive Judaism as our foundation. Visit our 30+ acre campus or access our virtual programs from our website, Like us on socials: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @MicahNashville; sign up for our e-blasts; learn and pray with us in-person, or livestream our service on our website, YouTube, or Facebook. In our tent, there is room for everyone!

Weekly Events

step into the spotlight and let the community see what you do best! The show begins immediately following Shabbat services. Register to attend or perform on our website.

Grief Group with Rabbi Laurie: Thursday, November 30, at 12 PM

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” -Muriel Rukeyser, The Speed of Darkness We all have stories of loss. Maybe a loved one died, a marriage ended, a relationship went sideways, or a job slipped through our fingertips. Loss is often accompanied by grief, and grief is best explored and moved through by the sharing of stories in community. Rabbi Laurie will convene a grief circle monthly beginning in August. All are welcome to attend. This offering is in-person only.

@ Sherith Israel December 2 Eat, Learn, Sing Community Seudah Shlishit, Learning, and Musical Havdallah For more information, visit

December 9 (Motzei Shabbos) Annual Chanukah Party Menorah Lighting, Food, Music, and More For reservations, visit

December 16 Community Melava Malka 6:30 pm Music, Stories, Food For all ages. For more information, visit

Sanctuary Shabbat Services: Fridays at 6 PM

At Micah, we approach God in many ways: the inspiration of words, the beauty of sacred space, the authenticity of our intentions, and through the power of music and song. Join us in-person or virtually for services this month that will be as diverse as they are engaging, as moving as they are participatory. Come early and schmooze with us starting at 5:30 PM! Light refreshments are served.

Saturday Morning Torah Study: 9 AM on Zoom

Deep conversations about the text with thoughtful and caring people led by the clergy.

Mah Jongg: Tuesdays from 12:30 PM- 3:30 PM

Join our players for an afternoon of fun in the social hall! For more information, contact Paula:

Schmooze & Views: Thursdays from 10:30 AM- 11:30 AM

At Micah, we keep politics off the pulpit but not out of the building. Share your views in a round-table discussion on current events facilitated by Rabbi Flip and Dr. Bob Smith.

December Events Micah Reads: Monday, December 4, at 7 PM on Zoom

Education Director Julie Greenberg leads the discussion on “Kantika” by Elizabeth Kraver on December 4 and “Safekeeping” by Jessamyn Hope on January 8.

ReJewVenation: Tuesdays, December 5 and 12 at 6 PM

Rabbi Laurie leads this educational opportunity to reconnect with you with your personal Judaism.

Micah and Temple Clergy with Dr. Steven Windmueller on Zoom Anti-Israel Expressions & Anti-Semitic behaviors: Wednesday, December 6, at 6 PM

Why now? What are the driving features in connection with what we are experiencing? What ideas, individuals and institutions are shaping attacks on Israel, Jews and Judaism?

Channukah Shabbat and Dinner: Friday, December 8 at 6 PM

Our annual Channukah Shabbat Dinner and Chanukiah Contest returns this year. Come celebrate the miracle of light and meet with members of the congregation. Make sure you enter a Chanukiah into our contest! See details for submission on our website.

Micah’s Got Talent: Friday, December 8 at 6:45

Back by popular demand, Micah’s Got Talent is your chance to showcase your Skills! Whether you sing, dance, play an instrument, do gymnastics, or are a Rubik’s cube master,

24 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

@ The Temple Pirkei Avot: Jewish Wisdom for Today’s World Every Friday from 5:00-5:40 PM

Every Friday from 5:00-5:40 PM Get ready for Shabbat with a little text study! Each week we will study a piece of wisdom from Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of our Ancestors, an ancient Jewish text still relevant in our own times. Available in person at The Temple and via zoom. Zoom Room:

Shabbat Schedule for December

Our Shabbat Services will be held in person at The Temple. You can also watch via zoom from Friday, December 1st ~ 6:00 PM Friday, December 8th~ 6:00 PM-CHANUKAH SERVICE WITH NOAM KATZ AND FESTIVE ONEG TO FOLLOW Friday, December 15th~Ninth Night of Chanukah Service Friday, December 22nd ~ 6:00 PM – BLUE JEAN SHABBAT Friday, December 29th ~ 6:00 PM – BLUE JEAN SHABBAT

Ninth Night of Chanukah December 15th at 6:00pm

Chanukah is a celebration of Jewish pride, survival and hope. It is a holiday of bringing light into a darkened world, and on these days that darker, we join together to add more light with our Ninth Night of Chanukah. Join us for Shabbat as we add more light to the world.

Chevrah Torah Study 9:30AM on Saturdays

Join us for our weekly Torah study on the portion of the week, led by the clergy. You can join us in person at The Temple or via zoom from

Tot Shabbat for families with young children.

December 9th @ 4:00pm-Chanukah with Musician in Residence Noam Katz. Come for Tot Shabbat and stay for our community menorah lighting and Havdallah.

Women’s Torah Study December 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th 10:30 AM

Ongoing weekly women’s Torah study led by Patty Marks. Available in person at The Temple and via zoom through Continued on page 25

At Our Congregations… Continued from page 24

Lunch with the Rabbi December 7th, 14th, 21st Lunch at 11:30AM Program12:00-1:00 PM $15 per person for lunch

Engage with Rabbi Danziger and guests in a discussion of current and important issues from a Jewish perspective. RSVP on or by calling the Temple at 615-352-7620 Available in person and via zoom. Zoom Room:

Monday Mah Jongg with Canasta Join Us for MAH JONGG Mondays at The Temple! December 4th, 11th, 18th 1:00pm

Drop in for Mah Jongg. We’ll have coffee and water. Bring your friends, a card, and a set and have some fun. Mah Jongg cards and sets are available for purchase in The Temple Gift Shop.

The Temple’s Adult Education Series Hello My Name Is….

Learn Jewish History, Innovation, Culture, and Values through Famous Jews with Familiar Names. Hello My Name is Jerry: Tuesdays, 11/28, 12/5, 12/12 at noon at The Temple. Our clergy will be leading these sessions. For more information, go to

Hike & Havdallah at Percy Warner Presented by The Temple’s Worship and Music Committee Saturday, November 18th

Where and When for the Hike? Meet at the top of the steps at the end of Belle Meade Boulevard at 3:45 PM with the hike of the 2.5 mile white trail to begin at 4:00 PM. If you are not hiking, please meet us for Havdalah at the stone gate entrance to the park at 5:30 PM. Who? All ages! Bring friends and family. For more information or questions, please contact Anne Davenport at adavlaw@

Golden Lunch Bunch Will meet at Temple from 11:30-1:00pm on December 5th: Hanukkah Party featuring Cantor Fishbein December 19th: Ayla Schwartz

RSVP to Jamie Maresca at 615-354-1686 or via email at helpinghands@

Hike & Havdallah at Percy Warner Presented by The Temple’s Worship and Music Committee Saturday, December 16th

Presented by The Temple’s Worship and Music Committee Saturday, December 16th Where and When for the Hike? Meet at the top of the steps at the end of Belle Meade Boulevard at 3:45 PM with the hike of the 2.5 mile white trail to begin at 4:00 PM. If you are not hiking, please meet us for Havdalah at the stone gate entrance to the park at 5:30 PM. Who? All ages! Bring friends and family. For more information or questions, please contact Anne Davenport at adavlaw@

Chanukah at The Temple Temple Chai Society Pre Chanukah Dinner and Movie Chai Society is for members 65+

Sunday, December 3rd at 5:30 pm Please join us for a fun evening of food and the heartwarming movie Full Court Miracle that is based on a true story of determination, faith and friendship. Cost is $15 per person.

Next Dor and Now Gen Young Adult Bourbon Tasting

December 13th at 6:30pm. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Sheri Rosenberg at

Noam Katz – Musician In Residence

Rabbi Noam Katz is one of the most exciting and influential voices in contemporary Jewish music. He has brought his high-flying energy and soulful melodies to Jewish and interfaith audiences across North America, Africa, and Israel. A longtime song leader/educator at several URJ camps and programs, Noam’s music and wisdom are widely known throughout the Jewish world. He currently serves as the Rabbi/Dean of Jewish Living at The Leo Baeck Day School in Toronto, Ontario.

Schedule for Noam Katz:

December 15th at 6:00pm Chanukah is a celebration of Jewish pride, survival and hope. It is a holiday of bringing light into a darkened world, and on these days that darker, we join together to add more light with our Ninth Night of Chanukah. Join us for Shabbat as we add more light to the world.

Ninth Night of Chanukah

December 15th at 6:00pm Chanukah is a celebration of Jewish pride, survival and hope. It is a holiday of bringing light into a darkened world, and on these days that darker, we join together to add more light with our Ninth Night of Chanukah. Join us for Shabbat as we add more light to the world.

@ West End For links to the following online services or programs, please email office@westendsyn. org or visit our website calendar for more information https://westendsyn.shulcloud. com/calendar

12/1 - Potluck Shabbat Dinner Join us Friday, December 1st for an intimate Shabbat dinner experience with delicious food and fabulous company. RSVP to spaz@westendsyn.or and plan on brining a pareve or dairy dish.

12/3 - Music & Me - 10:30 a.m. Join Amber Ikeman for a Musical Program plus Schmooze time for Families with Young Children under three years old. Sunday morning, December 3rd from 10:3011:30 a.m. Get ready for Chanukah!

12/6 - Wednesday Wind Down – 4:30 p.m. December 6th from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Join us for snacks and games in the May Internet Café at WES. No RSVP needed.

Hanukkah at WES! 12/7 - Ma’ariv & Hanukkah Candle Lighting at 6:00 p.m. Beer tasting with Trent Rosenbloom 6:30 p.m.

Join us for a delightful Hanukkah celebration at West End Synagogue! Indulge in a unique Beer Tasting event with the renowned Trent Rosenbloom. Discover the perfect pairing of craft beers and festive Hanukkah delicacies. Reserve your spot today ($10 suggested donation) and let the holiday spirit flow with every sip! RSVP -

12/8 - Tot Shabbat 5:30 p.m./ Kabbalat Shabbat Services 5:30 p.m. (instead of our regular 6 p.m.), followed by Catered Hot Chicken Shabbat Dinner.

Join us for either our regular Kabbalat Shabbat service or our FWYC Tot Shabbat service. Both services will be followed by a delicious Hot Chicken Catered Shabbat Dinner with vegan and non-spicy options for everyone. Experience the warmth of the season at our Shabbat Dinner, filled with traditional delights and joyful community spirit. Tot Shabbat for Families with young children 1st grade and under will be led by Nili Friedman and Sharon Paz. RSVP for Tot Shabbat and/or Dinner here:

12/9 - Kid’ish Club, aka Jr. Congregation

Inviting all 2nd – 7th graders for Kid’ish Club Shabbat morning, Saturday December 9th from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Kiddush lunch to follow.

12/9 - Havdalah, Hanukkah Candle Lighting, & Board Game Night.

Doors open at 7:00 p.m. RSVP Required. Get ready to light up your Hanukkah at West End Synagogue! Ignite the holiday spirit with a beautiful Havdalah ceremony and candle lighting. (don’t forget to bring your own hanukiyah!) Let the fun continue with our Board Game Night! Bring your friends, family, and your playful spirit for a night of laughter, games, and delectable Hanukkah treats. RSVP -

12/10 – Beit Miriam Hanukkah Family Program

Join us for a Chanukah play put on by our high school students; a bounce house, Chanukah carnival activities, latkes, sufganiyot and Chanukah songs with musicians Amber Ikeman and Bel Gelzer 10:30-11:55 a.m.

12/10 - Music City Sisterhood Torah Fund – An Afternoon of Learning and Music

4:30 - 6:00 p.m. Featuring West End’s new Assistant Rabbi, Natan Freller and his wife, Bel Gelzer. RSVPs required and open until noon on December 6th. RSVP - Continued on page 26

The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


At Our Congregations… Continued from page 25

12/11 - 20s & 30s Hanukkah Candle Lighting, Snacks and Shmooze, & A Rugrats Hanukkah Screening Hosted by Rav Natan Freller & Bel Glezer. RSVP for address:

12/13 - The Sandi Goldstein Learn & Lunch Program for ages 60+ 11:00 a.m. Reservations required, catered lunch following the presentation. Speaker: Jean Roseman. Topic: “The Evolution of Nashville’s Synagogues” Lunch catered by Goldie Shepard at 12:00 p.m. Cost: $3.00 RSVP 615-269-4592 ext. 11 or

12/13 - Women’s Torah Group (on Zoom) – 11:00 a.m.

Join us on December 6th, at 11:00 a.m. Rabbi Joshua leads our study of the book of Deuteronomy.

12/13 - Secrets of the Oy-Oy Sisterhood – 4:30 p.m.

Ongoing Programs Sisterhood Challah Sales made by Melissa Sostrin

Sign up on the Google form linked below or text Jessica Kullock at 615-881-4455 by WEDNESDAY AT 9:00 p.m. each week to pre-order for pickup Friday during synagogue office hours. Flavors: Plain, chocolate, cinnamon, cinnamon raisin, zaatar, poppy seeds, sesame, bag of 6 challah rolls. Plain is $8/each, all challah with seeds toppings are $8.50, and the rest are $9/each.

Learning opportunities Talmud on Tuesdays

Rabbi Joshua leads a lively Talmudic discussion at 7:30 a.m. in person and on Zoom every Tuesday, immediately after morning minyan. Come and join us!

Thursday Torah study

Wednesday, December 13th from 4:30-5:30 p.m. A virtual open board meeting of West End Synagogue’s Sisterhood, open to all. Email sisterhoodwestendsynagogue@ for the Zoom link.

With Nechemya Rosenfeld every Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. following morning minyan at 7:00 a.m.

12/13 - Ma’ariv and Candle Lighting 6:00 p.m. and Beit Miriam candle Lighting at 6:00 p.m.

Religious Services

12/14 - Men’s Torah Group (in person) – 12:00 p.m.

Our minyanaires are always looking for more people to strengthen the only egalitarian minyan in town! Sunday services will be at 9:00 a.m. and Monday-Friday will be at 7:00 a.m. Monday and Thursday minyans to be followed by breakfast.

Join us for our Torah class for men. We are currently studying the Second Book of Kings and will be eating pizza.

12/14 - Ma’ariv and Candle Lighting at 6:00 p.m., Followed by Donuts & Torah w/ Rav Natan: “Israel as a Light unto The Nations” RSVP:

Shacharit (in person)

Ma’ariv (on Zoom)

Join us for daily Ma’ariv at 6:00 p.m., Sunday-Thursday.

Kabbalat Shabbat

12/16 - Bar Mitzvah of Edwin Gordetsky, 9:30 a.m.

You are invited to join us every Friday for Kabbalat Shabbat in person at 6:00 p.m. As part of our Friday night services, we are currently studying Jewish ethics through an in-depth reading of Pirkei Avot.

12/23 - Birthday Shabbat

Shabbat Morning services

Join us on Shabbat morning, December 23rd, for a special celebration of our December birthdays. The main service begins at 9:30 a.m. and a kiddush lunch will follow. Everyone is welcome.

The Madeline Pargh Arts and Crafts Center was Dedicated in October By RACHEL CLARK, GORDON JCC DIRECTOR OF MARKETING


n October 15, the Madeline Pargh Arts and Crafts Center officially opened with a dedication ceremony. Several notable figures attended the opening event, including Mayor Freddie O’Connell, who stayed longer than he had planned! Rabbi Schiftan gave an invocation, and Gordon JCC Board President Jeremy Brook, dedicated the building and said a few words. CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, Rabbi Dan Horwitz gave the blessing over the building’s

mezuzot. Many of Madeline’s family members spoke, including granddaughter Lexi Hammerman, and sons Andy Pargh, and Bernie Pargh. Madeline’s art was on display throughout the center. “The dedication of the Madeline Pargh Arts and Crafts Center was a much-needed bright spot in the aftermath of the most difficult time for our people in recent memory. Madeline’s legacy is that each time someone creates art in the building that bears her name, a little more beauty will be brought into the world for years to come. We are so grateful to the Pargh family and to all the people who made this vision a reality.” Brook stated. •

Advocacy • Administration • Project Management NEW CUSTOMER SPECIAL: 20% off your first 10 hours [4 hour minimum]

You are invited to join us every Saturday morning in person or by Zoom at 9:30 a.m. Great davening, insightful learning of the Torah portion and a yummy (and nutritious!) kiddush lunch following services! •

Community Listings East Side Tribe East Side Tribe is a grassroots social and spiritual community fueled by Jewish values and rooted in East Nashville. For more information or to RSVP, please visit Thursday, Dec. 7 - Hanukkah Out East: East Side Tribe turns Inglewood Lounge into a latke-filled party. (Man, those latkes are good.) It is one of the coolest places in Nashville to show off your Jewish pride. BYOM (Bring Your Own Menorah)! Saturday, Dec. 9 - East Side Tribelings: Another tot Shabbat for your little ones — this time, Hanukkah-style! Friday, Dec. 15 - Potluck Shabbat: Join us for East Side Tribe’s monthly Potluck Shabbat Dinner. Welcome to all!

Hadassah Happenings Please join us on Sunday December 10th from 2 to 4pm as we gather together as a community at the home of Judy Abromowitz to feel the warmth of Hanukkah. Sherri Holzer will be with us to share a special latke bar. We will be recognizing our Momentum group and singing songs for Israel. You won’t want to miss it! Please bring canned goods to donate to the Nashville Food Bank. From December 1st to December 29th, Nashville Hadassah will sponsor a No Show Ball with all proceeds going towards our mission to support Hadassah Hospital in Israel. If you would like to show your support for Hadassah Hospital you can mail a check made out to “Hadassah” and mail it to Jewish Federation of Nashville, c/o Hadassah, 801 Percy Warner Blvd,, Nashville, TN 37205. •

“My job is to make your life easier!” J A N E R . S NYD E R Personal Assistant, Concierge & Family Advocate • 615-557-6277

… because your memories matter 479 Myatt Drive, Madison, TN 37115-3024 615-712-9521 •

26 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

December in the Galleries: Featuring Works by the Nashville Collage Collective, Alexa Lipman, Colette Wise, Carrie Mills, and local artisan gifts I

n December, the Janet Levine March Gallery will feature the work of the Nashville Collage Collective. The Nashville Collage Collective is a unique forum where local artists can share materials and ideas while they support each other in the exploration of collage techniques, collaboration, and exhibition of work. Members have gathered regularly for the past 12 years to work side by side at free-form workshops which have taken place at venues such as Turnip Green Creative Reuse, Zeitgeist Gallery and the home studio of organizer Lisa Haddad. Artists come from a wide array of artistic backgrounds - assemblagists, sculptors, fiber artists, painters and collaborators - all bringing their unique techniques and processes to Collage. This year they present a great variety of wall-collages as well as 3-D items that are more gift-oriented. Over 20 artists will be participating, showcasing a stunning range of experimentation and materials. The JLMG2 gallery will feature the work of Colette Wise and Carrie Mills. Nashville-based painter Colette Wise was born and raised in Canada. Art, in its many forms, has always been central to her life. Wise has been a professional singer, songwriter, avid photographer, and gardener. In 2005, Wise’s life changed when she founded the nonprofit organization Free for Life International, helping to rescue over a 1,000 young women from sex slavery around the world. In 2017, Wise began to lose her eyesight from a genetic disease. She drew strength from her love of art and began painting what she saw, arranging images to create an intriguing visual poem. Wise has dedicated the past four years to oil painting. Her loss of sight has drawn her closer to Tonalism, as she sees in more muted values. Wise’s work inspires others with and without disabilities to find courage and hope to create. Mills is an artist and has been curator of the J galleries for almost 20 years. Her creative life encompasses the world

By Marilynn Derwenskus

The House gallery will feature the Under One Roof collaborative exhibit. The Art Reception will be Wednesday, December 13 from 6 – 8pm and will feature a holiday gift fair and music by DJ Joseph and jewelry by Chandler Dezigns. The Exhibition Dates are from December 2-30. The exhibitions are free and open to the public. Attendees will need to sign in at the front desk. For more information, contact the GJCC at 615-354-1699, Curator Carrie Mills at, or go to •

By Colette Wise

By Alexa Lipman

By Carrie Mills

of fashion, fine art, and music. The Sig Held Gallery will feature the art of Alexa Lipman. Lipman is a visual artist based in Nashville, TN. She creates abstract mixed-media art, often incorporating recycled and unexpected materials. With a refined eye for fashion and interior design, Lipman’s work reflects texture and dimension. Driven by genuine authenticity and

curiosity, her portfolio remains fluid, always on the verge of transformation. Each piece she produces encourages introspection, conversations, and the forging of human connections. Her latest venture dives deep into the intersection of technology and our mental psyche, challenging viewers to reflect on the digital age’s impact on our well-being. The Senior Lounge Art Gallery will feature the work of Marilynn Derwenskus. Derwenskus is from the Midwest, but now resides in Franklin, Tennessee. She is a member of the Michigan Watercolor Society, Watercolor South, and Nashville Artist Guild. She has an extensive exhibition record in the United States and has won 90 awards altogether, as well as received 22 grants, including the Pollock/ Krasner Grant, 14 Ball State University Faculty Grants, and the Lilly Foundation Award. Derwenskus considers these grants and artists residencies as very significant for the development of her paintings. She is now a retired professor but is still a dedicated artist. All the galleries will feature local artisan gifts to purchase for the holidays.


Pet Paintings Carrie Mills 615-210-5044

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! ! The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023 27

A Big Thank You To All Our Advertisers Who Support Us Throughout The Year!

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Jamie Rothberg Jane Snyder JBS Jessica Averbuch Jewish Family Service Jewish Federation and Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee JMS Jonathan Gluck Katy’s Hallmark Leadership Academy Lorna Graff Marcum Marsha Jaffa Martin Sir Mike Propper Montgomery Bell Academy Nan Speller Nashville Academy of Reflexology Nashville Jewish Film Festival Nashville Psych NCJW Now Gen Optique Pathfinder Counseling LLC Peterson Foundation for Parkinsons Polly Shepard Porta Via

Publix Red Spirits & Wine Robins Insurance Rosen College Consulting Schultz Memorial Shalom Hospice Sheba Medical Center Sperry’s Sprintz Team Nashville Tennesse State Museum Tennessee Holocaust Commission The Lipman Group / Jackie Roth Karr The Pargh Team The Temple The Temple Gift Shop The Temple Preschool URJ Henry S. Jacobs Vanderbilt Jewish Studies Vanderbilt Office of Religious Life Watkins/Belmont WES Religious School Wes Scoggins / Jewish Cowboy West End Synagogue Zander Insurance Zeitlin Sotheyby’s International Realty

To All Our Readers, Please Show Your Appreciation By Patronizing These Businesses.

28 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

Pilates at the J



estled inside Nashville’s Gordon Jewish Community Center is the newly opened Mind/Body Studio. In this welcoming space, the J invites its members and the greater community to experience a mindful movement practice called Pilates. Whether you are a novice exerciser, recovering from injury or an experienced athlete the JCC is the perfect place for you to practice Pilates. How can Pilates be beneficial for such a diverse population? It is because Pilates focuses on and teaches the principles of: Breath, Centering, Concentration, Control, Flow and Precision. Each class, private, or duet session is specifically set up to teach these principles through thoughtful movements. The Pilates movements or exercises, and their sequences are then able to be tailored

to the people in the classes, adjusted to meet you where you are that day and help you to reach the goals you have from your Pilates practice. In short, no matter your level of fitness these principles will help you to connect with your body and in turn help you to live in your body with more freedom. People who practice Pilates speak of having reduced pain, feeling more flexible and finding that they are building strength, balance and coordination with each session. Mat Classes: The foundation of Pilates is the mat class. Here you build an understanding of the Pilates exercises and principles. These classes are the perfect place for a beginner to learn the basics and for a more advanced Pilates practitioner to fine-tune advanced exercises. At the J mat classes are held in the group fitness studio and are included in membership. Tower Mat Classes: Tower mat

classes take the flow of traditional mat exercises and add a level of challenge and support through spring resistance. The springs help teach the body to activate its muscles, helping to increase strength, balance and flexibility. At the J our tower mat classes are limited to six people, so you will be able to receive individualized support from your teacher as needed. Reformer and Other Pilates Apparatus: During private and duet sessions you have the opportunity to utilize the Pilates reformer, the Cadillac, ladder barrel, Wunda Chair, and highchair. Like the tower, most of these pieces use springs for resistance, however each one provides a different level of challenge or support to the body depending on the exercise you are practicing. In private and duet sessions your Pilates teacher is able to support your individual body and needs more closely than in a group session. Similarly, it is in a private session that you can work on the specific

needs of your own body with the undivided support of your teacher. It is here that you can make even bigger strides towards your personal movement and exercise goals. Currently the JCC has three classically trained certified Pilates teachers: Janelle Cisneros, Laura Hibbard and Mary Pellett. To be certified, these teachers had to complete at least 600 hours of training and since have all taught Pilates for many years. Each has worked with a variety of clients ranging from people who work all day at a desk, to professional athletes, and parents of young kids to older adults who have lived many lifetimes. The JCC is proud to have these skilled Pilates teachers on staff to teach you, support you and help you on your wellness journey. For more information, to see the class schedule and to purchase a Pilates class package, private, or duet visit •

arranged kosher food, housing, transportation, medical care and provided social and emotional support for Israelis passing through and Israelis staying for a while. As social workers, we had the privilege of interacting with the evacuees in basic but meaningful ways to help provide a place of refuge for the time being. A few of my favorite moments have been seeing pictures of Israeli children smiling and having fun with donated art boxes from Eileen Wallach, hearing the excitement from a relative as I tell him the teenager he is caring for can join in sports with JMS and Kehilla High School. Then there was hearing the relief from a family who just received a new refrigerator we were able to purchase at a reduced rate from Electronic Express and

can now store a week’s worth of groceries for their large family. And the moments when someone entrusts you with their experiences and feelings about the war and you can see their burden become a little lighter as we listen to every word. It’s all about making connections with Jews in a time of need and connecting them with the community whenever possible. For the next few months, you will hear from various staff at JFS about the work we have been doing since the war began in more detail. Being the Clinical Director, puts me in the prime position of watching all the love and support our community has to offer each other whether it be a local resident or a brother or sister from Israel. •

Heart of the Matter By TONI JACOBSEN


n the morning of October 7, I turned on the news and learned about the horrors happening in Israel. My heart sank as I watched the images of hostages being taken. Their faces reminded me of people in our own Jewish community and I couldn’t help but think the only difference between this community and the Kibbutzim is location. The sadness, shock, and horror in our community was palpable. Many of us felt helpless. The tragedy hit home for me when I had a meeting at Akiva a few days later. As those beautiful Jewish children emerged

from their classrooms, it brought tears to my eyes because in my mind’s eye, I was seeing children from Israel. True to the tradition of Tikkun Olam, we sprang into action and began addressing the needs of our community. We put together a survey to hear what individuals wanted, we offered free counseling sessions related to the war, we offered a Beads for Israel program, support groups and a planned interactive art project. JFS is no stranger to disaster responses, but this was personal. This one brought us to our knees, left us speechless for a moment and has left a scar on our hearts. In addition to caring for the Nashville Jewish community, we opened our hearts and resources to Israeli evacuees. JFS

People of the Books By ELYCE RAE HELFORD

A Jewish Bestiary: A Book of Fabulous Creatures Drawn from Hebraic Legend and Lore, by Mark Podwal. Penn State University Press, 2021.


n 1992, just before moving down to Murfreesboro to begin my tenure at MTSU, I happen to peruse a used bookstore and came upon Mark Podwal’s A Jewish Bestiary. I bought it to give my stepfather, along with the tallis I’d already purchased, for his conversion to Judaism. The prayer shawl was shipped from Israel, rather costly and beautiful. The 1984 Podwal book, by contrast, was small, humble, and slightly yellowed, but also beautiful. Larry accepted both gifts with gratitude, and when he died in 2017 (may his memory be a blessing), I found he’d kept both the shawl (for he’d become a lay rabbi in a small Pennsylvania town) as well as the small hardback volume. I donated the tallis to the synagogue, but I took the book home. I had nearly forgotten this little tid-

bit of a book until recently, while reorganizing a bookshelf at home. I realized as I looked it over that I had never fully read

it. I did, then and there, and my thoughts about it shifted considerably, from a cute keepsake to a surprisingly informative

Jewish lore zoology. Moreover, I took in the heady blurbs on the back cover for Continued on page 30


615.356.3242 EXT. 299





The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


Lifecycles B’rit Mitzvah Cedric Numbers

Cedric Numbers will become a Bar Mitzvah at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 2, at Congregation Micah. Cedric is the child of Natalie-Chantal Lévy-Sousan and Darrin Numbers, the brother of Tristan Numbers (z”l), Naomi Numbers and Adrienne Numbers. A 9th grader at STEM Prep High School, Cedric loves to play video games, ride his bike, and play basketball. He makes friends with everyone and often walks to the fire station to talk to his “buddies” there. Cedric has a big heart and is always on an adventure! He loves the homeless and has chosen to support Room In The Inn to help clothe, feed and house people in need. He especially will be donating his centerpieces (shoes) to the homeless, and often buys food and water to distribute to our local homeless people. His goal is to help them all get warm, fed and have a safe place to stay.

Obituaries Doris Tenzel Fleischer

Condolences to the family of Doris Tenzel Fleischer who died on November

People of Books Continued from page 29

the first time, by Cynthia Ozick and Elie Wiesel. Wiesel declares, “There are few books today that I would recommend with as much enthusiasm.” Ozick, meanwhile, waxes poetic, lauding the book’s combination of “incandescent wit [and] joyous originality” and praising author/ artist Mark Podwal heartily: “His is the genius of metaphor through line.” This encouraged me to pause my exploration to look up Podwal. Though he may be best known for his early

6. She was a lifelong resident of Nashville, a graduate of Peabody Demonstration School (now University School), and attended the University of Miami. She and her husband were life-long boaters and belonged to Cedar Creek Club for many years. They divided their time between Nashville and Aventura, Fla. She counseled breast cancer patients for over 20 years as a volunteer for the Reach to Recovery program for the American Cancer Society. Her love of antiques, Opera, and Mah Jongg was only surpassed by her love and devotion to her family. She collaborated with her daughter, Sherrie, to write and publish a book about the life story of her mother, Dr. Pauline Tenzel. She was a lifetime member of NCJW and Hadassah, and a lifelong member of the Temple Ohabai Shalom. She worked with her husband in the family business, Hermitage Electric Supply Corporation for 25 years. She was preceded in death by her parents, Mr. Jack and Dr. Pauline Tenzel; her brother, Dr. Richard Tenzel; and husband of 56 years, Gerald Fleischer. She is survived by her son, Jack (Daniella) and daughter Sherrie Davidson and four grandchildren, Anya Davidson, Adam Fleischer (Laura), Matthew Fleischer (Rachel), and Rachel Fleischer; and great

grandchildren, Hudson, Emilia, Halle, Ford, Lily and Ari Fleischer. Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, The Temple or a charity of your choice.

drawings on The New York Times’ Op-Ed page, he has published many books, won numerous awards, and has had his art collected in nearly 70 institutions, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yad Vashem to Jewish museums in Prague, Berlin, Vienna, and Stockholm. With this new information gathered, I was ready to read. I soon found the book worthwhile for its Preface alone. From the Hebrew Bible and Talmudic and Midrashic literature, Jews have learned a variety of moral lessons featuring animals, both real and imaginary. There is the serpent from the Garden of Eden, Balaam’s talking ass, the Golden Calf,

the lion of Judah, the Leviathan, Jonah’s great fish, and even the ziz. To help contextualize the collection, Podwal goes on to explore the history of Jewish animal representation, from the earliest printed Jewish book (1491’s Meshal Ha-Kadmoni, “The Ancient Parable”) through medieval compendiums of animal tales and Jewish illuminated manuscripts. Most engaging to me is the discussion of similarities between Christian and Jewish bestiaries, which often included similar moral and religious instruction. Each animal Podwal explores – historical, fantastical, or a combination of the two – receives several paragraphs of

Happy Chanukah

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30 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

Sergeant Ross Elisheva Rose Ida Lubin

Condolences to the family of Sergeant Ross Elisheva Rose Ida Lubin, who is the granddaughter of Eva (and Dan) Marx of Nashville. Sergeant Lubin was a lone soldier who moved to Israel from the United States and joined the Border Police as part of her military service. After completing her basic training, she was assigned to the Border Police’s Old City Brigade in Jerusalem. She lived in Kibbutz Sa’ad, located near the Gaza border. During the October 7 Hamas massacre, her life was saved as she was in the safe room in the Kibbutz until the army came to their rescue after 22 hours of being in lock down. Sergeant Lubin was on duty outside off the Walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, when she was stabbed to death by a 16-year-old Arab terrorist from the Issawiya neighborhood, in East Jerusalem. Her friends in the brigade described her as “a courageous, profession-

al, values-driven, social, cheerful, and kind-hearted soldier who was always willing to help everyone. She was the first to volunteer for any mission in order to protect the country.” Sergeant Lubin came to Israel from the United States more than two years ago to serve as a soldier in the Border Police in a challenging role, far from her family in the U.S., out of love for the land, the country, and its values, and out of a deep sense of duty.” She is survived by her family in Atlanta, her father David, her mother Robin, and her siblings, Alec, Lily Joseph and Isaac; and with her grandmother, Eva (and Dan) Marx in Nashville. Funeral as to be held in Israel as soon as the family arrived there.

Patsy Wind

Condolences to the family of Patsy Wind who died on November 16. She is survived by her brother, Paul (Paula) Barnett; children, Barry (deceased) and Ginny Wind, Ted Wind, Alan Wind, David Wind and Esther and Steve Horn; grandchildren, Ben (Adina), Bailey (Ev), Erin (Evan), Cassidy, Jamie (Zach), Andrew, and Rebecca; and great grandchildren, Rachel, Brie, Daniel, Hayden and Jonah. • explication, including its place in Judaic texts. We meet, for example, the ant, “among the tiniest on earth, yet […] the wisest of the wise,” as described in the Book of Proverbs, then the ram sacrificed by Abraham in Isaac’s place, and also the largest land animal and only one of its kind, the Behemoth, from the Book of Job. We next learn that the Ostrich, called Hasidah in Hebrew (from hasid, or pious one), was named for its merciful compassion, according to the Talmud. We learn that its compassion is limited to its own kind, however, rendering it unclean. Accompanying each discussion is a line drawing of the beast as imagined by Podwal, combining recognizable animal traits and symbolic details and contexts, such as the ostrich shrouded in a tallis, the ocean-dewlling Leviathan as an enormous tail beside a tiny boat, and the treacherous fox with an entire challah in its mouth. Perhaps the most creative entry is reserved for the final pages, featuring the mythical ziz, an enormous bird named only in the Book of Psalms. This protector of humanity against storms has wings so broad that, when unfurled, they turn day into night. Its name, we learn, comes from the Hebrew for “this and that” or zeh va-zeh in Hebrew. Why? Because its flesh has a taste difficult to describe: a bit like this, a bit like that. Ah, leave it to us Jews to think first of food. The ziz – though seen only once, reports the Talmud – is kosher. I definitely recommend spending some time with this delightful and insightful volume. And that is easier than I first thought, for a new 2021 edition is in print. This “tasty” bestiary is perfect for Hanukkah gift giving! • Elyce Rae Helford, Ph.D., is a professor of English and director of the Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor at Middle Tennessee State University. Her book, What Price Hollywood?: Sex and Gender in the Films of George Cukor, will be released in paperback in January 2024. Helford can be reached at


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The Jewish OBSERVER • December 2023


Simchas & Celebrations I S S U E

COMING JANUARY 2024 We will be highlighting lifecycle events including Weddings, Bar & Bat Mitzvahs, Anniversaries and Births. We know that you will want to be included in this issue. For advertisers who contract a 1/8 page ad or larger we will be happy to contact you for articles pertaining to your business.

Deadline for ads is December 15, 2023 Contact: Carrie Mills Advertising Manager 615-354-1699 e-mail: carrie@nashvillejcc. org or fax: 615-352-0056

32 December 2023 • The Jewish OBSERVER

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