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Southern Jewish Life Bringing Mardi Gras spirit to USY International convention

February 2014

Volume 24 Issue 2

Southern Jewish Life P.O. Box 130052 Birmingham, AL 35213-0052

Rabbis getting heads shaved for Superman Sam

Synagogue from 19th century to become apartments

Alabama’s Jews and the Holocaust

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With Chanukah so early this year, everyone’s usual December activities and programs were bunched up into late November and the first of December, so the rest of the month was rather quiet. Now we are getting into the season when there are a lot of programs and events happening in communities throughout the region. Many of them are featured in this issue, more are mentioned in our weekly email newsletter, on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and on our website, We are often asked about how to get event information into the magazine. Here’s our Frequently Asked Questions: I have a speaker coming in a week from now. Can I get it into the magazine? Not without a time machine. The reality of magazine publishing is that the process of printing and waiting for the postal service to deliver the magazine takes at least a week and a half. And of course, the magazine is monthly — so if you have an event, be sure to get us information by the middle of the previous month. The earlier the better. Not all is lost, though — we do have the weekly email newsletter and can include it there. I submitted something but you didn’t run it the way we wrote it! When you send something to us, there is no need for a committee to look over what you send and debate every word — because we re-write it into magazine format and make it a story, not a press release. If we receive a release that says an event is going to be the greatest thing in the history of the Jewish South, we’re not going to say that. We’ll quote one of the organizers saying it, but we’re not going to run unattributed opinions, because readers may infer that it’s our opinion. And our opinion is reserved for page 3, or anything clearly labeled as commentary.

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FAX: (866) 392-7750 P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham, AL 35213 Story Tips/Letters: Telephone: Birmingham: (205) 870-7889 Subscription Information: Toll Free: (866) 446-5894 SouthernFAX: Jewish Life published (866) 392-7750monthly and is free by request to members of the Story Tips/Letters: Jewish community in our coverage area of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and NW Subscription Information: Florida. Outside those areas, subscriptions Southern Jewish Life published monthly are $25/year $40/two years. To and isorfree by request to members of the subscribe, call (205) 870-7889 or mail Jewish community in our coverage area of paymentAlabama, to the address above. Mississippi and NW Louisiana, Florida. Outside those areas, subscriptions The publisher is solely responsible for are $25/year or $40/two years. To the contents of SJL. Columns and letters subscribe, call (205) 870-7889 or mail representpayment the viewstoofthe the address individualabove. writers. All articles that do not have a byline onThe them are written by the responsible publisher. for publisher is solely the contents of SJL. Columns and letters Southern Jewish Life makes no claims as to represent the views of the individual writers. the Kashrut of its advertisers, and retains All articles that do not have a byline on the right them to refuse advertisement. are any written by the publisher. Southern Jewish makes no claims as to Advertising rates available Life on request. the Kashrut of its advertisers, and retains Copyright 2010. the rightAll to rights refusereserved, any advertisement. reprints only by permission of publisher.on request. Advertising rates available Copyright 2014. All rights reserved, reprints

Philosophy: only by permission of publisher. To link the Jewish communities of the Deep South, to tell you thethe fascinating Philosophy: To link Jewish communities of one the Deep South, stories of another, andto totell you the fascinating storiesthe of news one another, and document and preserve of to document and preserve the news and events large small, a part eventsand large andall small, allof a part of the the rich rich culture of Southern Jewry. culture of Southern Jewry. 26�


February 2014

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Cover photo on� top left: Rabbi Jewish EugeneLife September 2010 Southern Blachschleger (center) of Montgomery’s Temple Beth-Or with the young ladies of Montgomery’s Jewish community and the Jewish airmen from Maxwell and Gunter Fields. Courtesy of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio, and printed in Dan Puckett’s new book (see page 16)

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Beth Or Jewish Food Festival: Montgomery’s Temple Beth Or will open its doors to the general community on Feb. 23 for the annual Jewish Food Festival. This will be the 11th year that members have made items such as brisket and pastrami, matzah ball soup, latkes and quajado. Cheesecake is imported from Carnegie Deli, and there are many other pastries available. Rabbi Elliot Stevens leads informational sessions in the sanctuary, giving visitors an introduction to Jewish customs. The event also includes a Treasure Market and Collectible Market. Admission is free, and it will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ben Flax presents exhibit on slavery at ‘Bama: This month, a student from Birmingham’s Jewish community presents an exhibit at the University of Alabama chronicling an unpleasant chapter in the university’s history — slavery. For a year and a half, senior Benjamin Flax has been researching slavery at the university as part of an independent studies class with Josh Rothman. The university opened in 1831, and Flax has been going through “documents from the board of trustees, proctors, presidents, and members of the surrounding community dealing with slavery and slave labor at the university.” The documents include issues relating to labor, hiring, housing and regulations spanning a 30-year period. Flax said that the university owned up to four slaves at one point, and they were owned by the Board of Trustees. Other slaves were “rented” as needed. The slaves were used for a range of purposes, from constructing buildings on campus to domestic duties. He finds the day-to-day activities of slaves to be the most important and interesting aspect of his research. The exhibit opens Feb. 3 in the Williams Americana Collection on the third floor of Gorgas Library, and will be available during regular library hours throughout the month, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. weekdays. Flax said he decided to do an exhibit rather than publish in an academic journal so a wider audience could be exposed to the materials. He is also not working on a narrative for the exhibit — just letting the documents speak for themselves. There are about 40 original documents in the exhibit, less than one-fourth of the sources he has

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Front Porch been working with. One document is a bill of sale from the university’s first slave, who was purchased in 1828 to help architect William Nichols with early construction on campus — structures that were ultimately burned by Union soldiers in 1865. Since the age of 10, Flax said he had a fascination of the South’s tangled legacy of slavery and civil rights. After his family moved to Birmingham, he took part in a partnership between Temple Beth-El and the 16th Street Baptist Church “dealing with the black experience and the Jewish experience in the post-World War II era.” At Alabama, “many professors” helped the history and religious studies major develop a strong appreciation for the study of slavery in America. “I found it to be an important subject of study because of the misunderstanding and depictions of the past,” especially in film and literature, Flax said. “Many stories, memorials and films romanticize or place ill focus on the system of slavery.” Several other universities have recently undergone research projects to uncover their ties with slavery. Flax said that it is at least some recognition of the role slaves had in contributing to the university of today. In 2004, the Faculty Senate issued a formal apology for slavery. Flax wants the public “to see and read original information regarding all aspects of slavery” and perhaps spark a conversation. There will also be an opening event on Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m.

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February 2014


Southern Jewish Life

Salant retiring from Gulf South: After 22 years at the helm of the Gulf South Conference, Nate Salant will retire this summer, the conference announced on Jan. 16. The native New Yorker has been an active member of Birmingham’s Jewish community since taking over the conference in 1992. The greatgreat-great-grandson of a 19th-century Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Salant has found himself traveling to small college towns throughout the South, making a point to find the small Jewish communities. According to a release from the conference, “Salant built the GSC into one of the most successful – and without question the most profitable – leagues in the NCAA Division II. Under his watch, the GSC sustained a run of excellence on the field and in the classroom not seen in the conference’s history.” Dr. Judy Bense, West Florida president and chair of the GSC Executive Committee, said “I and all of the presidents of our member institutions appreciate all he has done for our Conference.” “Nate’s retirement will leave some tremendous shoes to fill,” said Herb Reinhard, Valdosta State University Director of Athletics. “The GSC has been one of the most respected athletic organizations in the country for years and years, and most of the respect stems from Nate’s leadership and his bold and innovative ideas.” Among the conference’s members are Alabama-Huntsville, Delta State, North Alabama, West Alabama and West Florida. Salant is a member of the D2 Championships Committee and has previously served on the Division II Legislation Committee, Baseball Committee, TV Committee and the Association-Wide Committee on Committees. He is also the vice president of the Division II Collegiate Commissioners Association. “Every year has brought a new challenge my way, so I’m eager to see what the next one will be,” Salant said. “One thing I do know: I am proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 22 years, and I know I’ve left the GSC in a great place with a great future.”

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The Israeli Alliance at McNeese State in Lake Charles recruited during Freshman Orientation last month. Last year, the Student Senate tabled a pro-Israel resolution; Alliance President Adam Harris promises to reintroduce it soon. Ovarian cancer benefit at LJCC: On Feb. 23, the gym at Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center will be jammed with cyclists who are Riding to Change the Future. The annual Ovarian Cycle is a benefit for the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation, supporting ovarian cancer research. Participants pay a $50 registration fee, receiving an event T-shirt, food and drinks and a gift bag. Ovarian cancer survivors do not have to pay a registration fee. Participants can register as individuals or as a team, for anywhere from one to six hours. Fundraising minimums are $600 for five or six hours, $400 for three or four hours, and $200 for one or two hours. Fundraising minimums must be raised before the event. The cycling will start at 9 a.m. and go to 3 p.m. Those who are unable to attend or can’t ride a stationary bike can participate as a virtual rider. Once registered, a participant receives a personalized web page for fundraising. A series of free training rides began on Jan. 11 and continues at various venues through Feb. 16. There will also be an Ovarian Cancer Shabbat at Temple Beth-El on Feb. 22, with speakers from the foundation and UAB. For registration information, go to

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Front Porch For Sisterhood Shabbat, Beth Israel in Jackson will host Joanne Caras, creator of “The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook” and her new book “Miracles and Meals.” She will share the story of how each book was created, and some of the more moving and miraculous stories in each book. Autographed books will be available for purchase. The Feb. 28 service will be at 6:15 p.m., and the Oneg will have items prepared with recipes in the cookbook. There will also be a dinner on March 1, details to be announced. With the switch to Shabbat evening services at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El to 5:40 p.m. from the long-ago 8 p.m., the Oneg Shabbat has been lost in the shuffle. In January and February, the congregation brings back the tradition with a casual Oneg in the atrium.

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Huntsville Hadassah will honor Harriet and Joseph Sacks at its annual Gala dinner, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at The Ledges.

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Collat Jewish Family Services in Birmingham will hold its annual meeting on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m., at Knesseth Israel. Fay Tenenbaum, “The Cake Lady,” will be the guest speaker. She was originally scheduled to visit Birmingham in October to talk about her story of “aging with passion and purpose.” The event will also honor Linda Jaffe as volunteer of the year, CJFS President Karen Allen and the 2014 board. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will participate in the World Wide Wrap on Feb. 2 at 8 a.m. All fifth graders will receive a set of tefillin from the Men’s Club, and everyone else is invited to do the mitzvah of tefillin. The Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham will have a Lifelong Learning and Growing “sampler day” on Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be speakers, vendors and exercise classes so members can explore new activities and programs. Knesseth Israel in Birmingham will have a poker night on Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. There will be a scotch bar and deli buffet. A $54 admission includes the buffet, card play and drawings for door prizes. The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center will present a free series of “The Holocaust in Film,” at Emmet O’Neal Library. The series starts with the 1987 film “Au Revior Les Enfants,” with a discussion led by Andre Millard of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, on Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. On March 2 at 2 p.m., Andrew Demshuk of UAB will lead a discussion and screening of “The Murderers Are Among Us,” a 1946 film from East Berlin, Germany’s first post-war production. On March 4, “Our Children: Unzere Kinder” will be screened at 6:30 p.m. Made in 1948, it is the last Yiddish-language film made in Poland, and details two Jews who return to Lodz after the war to perform Yiddish vaudeville for orphans. Demshuk will lead the discussion. The series concludes on March 9 at 2 p.m. with the new documentary “The Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” with Millard leading the discussion.


February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

Bringing a taste of Houston’s Kenny & Ziggy’s deli to Louisiana

Paul Katz, Leah Katz, Ziggy Gruber and Moises de la Torre at the LSU pregame party on Nov. 23. Three months after co-hosting a deli lunch with LSU Hillel before the LSU-Texas A&M football game, the famous Kenny and Ziggy’s Deli in Houston returns to Louisiana this month for two events. On Feb. 8 from 6 to 8 p.m., there will be a New York Nosh Night at B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge. Congregational president Marc Sager said “What a great opportunity to meet Ziggy and enjoy his food — a ‘Jewish Foodies’ dream!” Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door, with limited availability. Ticket holders can arrive at any time during the event and will be able to enjoy a buffet of corned beef, pastrami and turkey with all the traditional trimmings, a cheese tray, hot dog station, chopped liver and smoked whitefish salad, and nova lox with cocktail bagels. There will also be an assorted dessert station. Also on Feb. 8 at 6 p.m., the deli will provide dinner in New Orleans at Touro Synagogue’s Texas Hold’em poker tournament. Players can buy in for $100, with dinner included. Non-players can sign up as spectators for $50 and enjoy the dinner. Preregistration is required at The November event at LSU was to help recruit members for LSU Hillel and establish a Friends of LSU Hillel for future fundraising. Next year a similar event is being planned for College Station. A third-generation deli chef, Ziggy Gruber follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who opened the Rialto, the first deli on Broadway, with customers including Ethel Merman, the Marx brothers and Milton Berle. Before opening Kenny & Ziggy’s, he had Ziggy G’s on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, a regular stop for a wide range of stars. This past July, Gruber married Mimi McCaughey of Baton Rouge at the Dohany Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary, where his grandfather had his Bar Mitzvah. He proposed to her during Mardi Gras, having arranged for a fiveminute ride on one of the floats. As the float passed her and her family, he held up a sign asking her to marry him.


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TribeFest bringing tomorrow’s Jewish leaders to New Orleans Birmingham native Alison Goldstein Lebovitz a co-chair of National Young Leadership After an inaugural run of two successful years in Las Vegas, TribeFest is coming to New Orleans next month, bringing up to 2,000 young Jewish leaders from across the continent. TribeFest, which will be held March 16 to 18, is the successor to the Jewish Federations of North America’s Washington Conference, which used to be the Federation’s young leadership gathering. A few years ago, the department “really wanted to re-envision and reinvent what the event looked like” and get away from the conference model, said Alison Goldstein Lebovitz. Lebovitz is a National Young Leadership cochair who was involved in planning the first TribeFest. A Birmingham native, she is now a leader in the Chattanooga Jewish community. “The new generation needs to be approached and engaged in a different way,” Lebovitz noted. TribeFest became “an unusual model for the traditional Federation” in that it was not all about the Federation message. It’s “engaging young people where they are,”

having them “connect with Judaism in ways that resonate with them.” She added that they also “want to reach out to people who may not know what their Judaism means to them.” That isn’t an issue for Lebovitz, a graduate of what is now the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School in Birmingham. She is an author, television host of “The A List with Alison Lebovitz” and speaker. She co-founded and is president of One Clip at a Time, a non-profit that promotes student activism through the lens of the internationally-famous “Paper Clips Project” in Whitwell, Tenn. In 2002 she co-founded the Aleph Bet Children’s Center preschool in Chattanooga, and was the 2012 campaign chair for United Way of Greater Chattanooga. She has also served on numerous other boards. When asked about her inspiration for being so involved in the Jewish and general communities, she replied, “Can I just say my parents

and leave it at that?” Her parents, Arlene and Milton Goldstein, who now live in Charlotte, were “highly involved in the community” and “made sure their philanthropy wasn’t just monetary, but their acts and deeds.” Action was “critical to being Jewish,” she said. “It wasn’t just going to the synagogue, it was going to the soup kitchen on Christmas.”

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later she decided she could do that with her marketing background, and partnered with educators who developed a curriculum. Because of “rigorous standards” for school curricula, it is difficult to add something like this film unless it can be tied to something that is being studied. They broke the film into five segments, each with a lesson plan, “creating a program on how to inspire students to make a difference.” Lebovitz said “children learn how to recognize challenges and create meaningful solutions… and delegate responsibilities.” Schools in 18 states are now using the program, including eight schools across Alabama. There aren’t any in Mississippi or Louisiana yet. She is excited about having TribeFest in New Orleans. When planning started for the first TribeFest, held in 2011, Las Vegas was picked because the city was a draw in its own right. TribeFest is going to be held every other year, but they held it two years in a row in Las Vegas to get it established. Lebovitz said they looked all over the United States and Canada for a community on the same model — a natural draw that had great local partners. “New Orleans rapidly emerged at the top of the list.”

Her parents were also among “the Jewish pioneers” who sent their children to the then newly-formed Day School. ‘The one-room school with the partitions,” she recalled. She also attended Camp Ramah in Massachusetts. “All the things I took for granted” while growing up “really gave me such a solid foundation for my Judaism,” she said. It also helped that she married into a family “with the same upbringing and moral compass.” Now they are raising their three boys “in that same light. It’s not only important, it’s natural.” It also helps to be from “a small Southern Jewish community where it takes every person to make a difference,” Lebovitz noted. “We are the lucky ones. We grew up having to be committed in a forthright fashion to our Judaism.” “One Clip at a Time” started when she attended a brainstorming session in 2007. A documentary had been made three years earlier about Whitwell, where a school project was started to memorialize the Holocaust by collecting 6 million paper clips. The students wound up with over 20 million and a Nazi-era boxcar to house them. “They had been trying to get the film into more schools,” Lebovitz said. A few months

On top of that, TribeFest is being held on Purim, so there will be a Mardi Gras themed Purim party. And of course, post-flood New Orleans has plenty of social service opportunities. Instead of plenaries and breakout sessions, TribeFest has a Main Stage and Mashups. The Big Show takes the place of the traditional exhibit hall. Overall themes include justice and inclusion, faith and culture, Jewish life, innovation and “hot topics.” There is also a Leadership Development Institute that will meet on the morning of March 16, before TribeFest kicks off mid-afternoon. Only a few speakers for TribeFest were announced as of press time. They include actors Joshua Malina of “Scandal” and Ben Platt from “Book of Mormon,” Grassroots Soccer co-founder Ethan Zohn and Livestrong Foundation CEO Doug Ulman. TribeFest chairs are Emma Samuels of Boston and David Kline of Austin. Lebovitz and co-chair Robb Lippitt of Detroit will be among the speakers. They have a one-year term as Young Leadership co-chairs, expiring the end of May. “It’s quick,” she said, “but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

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Delegates to the United Synagogue Youth International convention helped the Jieux paint bagels for this year’s parade


Time to paint the bagels Jewish Krewes to march on Feb. 15, Jieux throwing Chai Ball


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To mark the 18th year of Jewish — er, Jieuxish — Mardi Gras marching in New Orleans, the Krewe du Jieux will hold its first-ever Mardi Gras ball, the Chai Ball, on Feb. 8. The free event is open to the community, and donations will be accepted as a fundraiser for the New Orleans branch of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. The 8 p.m. event at the Valentino Conti House will honor the Krewe’s current and past royalty. The Right Reverend Soul Revue will perform, with beverages provided by the Bombay Club and food from Kosher Cajun. Space at the Chai Ball is limited, so reservations to jieuxkrewe@gmail. 5:54:09 AM com are required. Festive attire or costumes are encouraged. The Krewe du Jieux was created in 1996 by L.J. Goldstein and modeled after groups like Zulu that poked fun at racial stereotypes by embracing and exaggerating them. Instead of Zulu coconuts, Jieuxish bagels became the prized throw. The royalty became the King of the Jieux and the Jieuxish American Princess, with a nod to materialism stereotypes through earrings made of credit cards. The Jieux marched as a sub-Krewe of the Krewe du Vieux, a satirical old-style parade with adult themes. Instead of large floats where the entire Krewe rides, narrow streets in the Quarter necessitated muledrawn floats that hold only the sub-Krewe’s royalty. In the years leading up to Katrina there was a disagreement over the direction and philosophy of the Krewe, leading to a complete split after the flood. The new Krewe du Mishigas kept the marching slot and Goldstein kept the Jieux name. The Jieux then became known as the “Wandering Jieux” for a few years until they found a new home with the krewedelusion parade.

Parade schedule

Both Mishigas and the Jieux will march through the Marigny and Quarter on Feb. 15 in their respective parades. The Krewe du Vieux parade starts at 6:30 p.m. with the theme “Where the Vile Things Are.” This year, the Mishigas will declare “Let My People Go Cup: Partying the Red Sea.” Richard McCormack is this year’s King of the Jews, and Susan Drogin was declared this year’s Jewish American Princess. John Barry will reign as king of the parade. The krewedelusion parade, now in its fifth year, uses a similar route and is shortly after the Krewe du Vieux parade. The parade theme and the Jieux theme are kept confidential beforehand. The Jieux had their coronation and annual Running of the Jieux on Jan. 25. 12

February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

19th-century New Orleans synagogue becoming apartment building There are some people who practically live at the synagogue. In New Orleans, it will soon be possible to live in a former synagogue. Gregg Morris is turning the former Shaare Tefillah building, which dates back to the 1860s, into one- and twobedroom apartments. Morris bought the building in September 2012, unaware that it used to be a synagogue. He had just finished a project in the Bywater, and “we were looking for another The former Shaare Tefillah undergoes renovation, in this photo project to do.” from mid-December Originally from Los Angeles, he moved to New Orleans three years start at 650 square feet and include off-street ago “on a whim.” A friend of his had moved to parking. A double staircase that was originally in New Orleans a few years earlier. His family has been in the construction front of the building is being replicated to albusiness for decades in California. There was low access to the second floor. no real plan for him to stay in New Orleans When they pulled out framing that was and redevelop properties, but now “I’m here added around the front doors of the sanctuary to stay. I love this city.” by later owners, they discovered a long-forEarly on, he stumbled on the Bywater build- gotten sign for Shaare Tefillah, covered up for ing on Louisa Street and renovated it into a decades. They carefully removed it, it is being mixed-use property. While looking for his restored and will be put back. next project, he was on Jackson Street and A year ago, Morris gave a tour of the buildsaw the former synagogue. “It was love at first ing to Rabbi Robert Loewy, who has been at sight,” he said. “I knew we had to have it and Gates of Prayer since 1984. “He was ecstatic do something with it.” that this part of their history is being put back Then, “when I found out the history it was into use.” more amazing.” The plan is to restore the apThe first floor, which would be where the pearance as close as possible to the original social hall was, is being split into five apartdesign, and to use as much of the original ma- ments. terial in the building as possible, such as the The sanctuary was upstairs. An owner after hard pine and cypress materials. The original the congregation moved in 1920 split the floor brick walls will be exposed as much as pos- with the sanctuary into two floors, putting in a third floor at the level of the balcony. sible inside the apartments. Morris decided to keep the structure unConstruction began in August, and the project is nearing completion. The apartments derneath the balcony visible. For that reason, the four second-floor apartments have sloped ceilings leading to the exterior walls, with the joists that held the balcony rows as a visible feature. On the third floor, there will be three apartments — two in the front and one 1,700-square-foot penthouse across the entire back. Two things influenced that decision — the angle of the morning sun through the windows, and a huge arch spanning the eastern wall of the building, above where the ark was. The third floor apartments will be The arch above where the ark was is a feature of split-level, with loft areas overlooking the third-floor penthouse the living rooms. The open lofts, which



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Southern Jewish Life

February 2014


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are inside the roof level, will allow for natural light coming from the windows in the living room level below. The penthouse loft has a view of the entire arch, Morris noted. They rebuilt the original spiral staircase that led up to what was the balcony, and it will lead to the landing for the front two apartments. After the synagogue was deconsecrated, it was used as a school, a storage facility and offices. Prior to Morris’ purchase, it had been vacant for several years. The project is one part of a revival along Jackson Street. Morris is hopeful that plans pan out for development of the five-story former River of Life hospital across the street, which has been vacant since 1979. What is now Gates of Prayer in Metairie began as the Jewish Benevolent Society of Lafayette in 1849. At the time, what is now the Garden District was called Lafayette City. The group started having services and formally became Shaare Tefillah, Gates of Prayer, in 1850. Then an Orthodox congregation, Gates of Prayer met in rented spaces for years, then bought the lot on Jackson Avenue in 1859. During the Civil War, congregants hid the bricks that were going to be used for the building so they would not be confiscated. The cornerstone was finally laid in 1865 and the building was dedicated on April 5, 1867. Gates of Prayer originally conducted services in German, migrating to English by the end of the 19th century. In 1904, the congregation joined the Reform movement, following Temple Sinai and Touro Synagogue. After World War I, a growing Gates of Prayer built a new facility on Napoleon Avenue, then an education and social center five years later. The move to Metairie came in 1975.

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February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

On Jan. 4, Judy Caplan Ginsburgh of Alexandria, La., was among 17 new rabbis ordained by the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute. JSLI is an interactive on-line rabbinic study program which takes life experience into account and stresses universalism and inclusion. In recent years, Rabbis Barry Altmark of Birmingham and Nancy Tunick of Nashville, who serves B’nai Israel in Florence, were ordained there. To mark the occasion, the entire class made tie-dye tallesim that they wore at the ordination in Delray Beach, Fla. Five generations of the Caplan and Ginsburgh family took part in the ceremony. Pictured above with her (center) are her mother, Jacque Caplan, father Ed Caplan, granddaughter Maddie Sermons, son Jonathan, husband Bob and great-aunt Edythe Cohen.



Southern Jewish Life

February 2014


Puckett’s new book details how the Holocaust compelled Alabama’s Jews to work together “In the Shadow of Hitler: Alabama’s Jews, the Second World War and the Holocaust” was not the book that Dan Puckett intended to write. Puckett is an associate professor of history at Troy University, and the book was released by the University of Alabama Press on Jan. 31. Using the Holocaust as a focal point, Puckett explains the internal atmosphere of Alabama’s Jewish community and its place in the broader community, then details how those situations change with the events of World War II. In a graduate European History seminar at Mississippi State, his professor was looking at the press in the South “and how they were reacting to Nazism” while it was happening. Puckett was assigned to explore his hometown paper, the Birmingham News. He looked at the white press, the black press, how it affected the white Christian community and the black community. When he came back to school and presented his findings, his professor asked what was going on in the Jewish community of Birmingham at that time. “So I said I’d take two weeks and look at the Jewish perspective.” Years later, he said, “I was going to look at the African-American reaction to Nazism and the Holocaust,” and do a book on that. In that work, “I was going to delve deeper into the Jewish community. Two chapters is what I planned” about the Jewish response. He traveled the state, visiting some synagogues and doing research. “There was information, but not a whole lot.” At Troy he received some funding enabling him to research his book in New York. He lined up a to-do list of archives and history centers about the African-American experience. He also planned a day at the Center for Jewish History at the start of the trip, to get the Jewish part out of the way so he could concentrate on the bigger work. Instead, he spent the entire week and a half at the Center for Jewish History. “I found more material in New York than I did in Alabama” about the state’s Jewish community. It became clear as he was working on the Jewish chapters that “there was a story that needed to be told and a book that needed to be written.” He contacted the University of Alabama Press and told them that the book they agreed 16

February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

to publish would wind up being two books, and they agreed to the change. The book chronicles “how the Jewish community came together” in many ways from its deep divisions of the early 20th century. By the time the Nazis were rising to power in the 1930s, the division “was very stark” in Alabama’s Jewish community. “There were a lot of cultural and class divisions” between the Reform, German Jews and the Eastern European Orthodox Jews who came later. He chronicled the range of divisions in several of the larger Jewish communities across the state. Battling Nazi Germany “is the beginning of a process where they will start to work together in a number of things,” Puckett said. It was also a time when Jews started lobbying support from politicians and Christian ministers, with great success. Among the items covered in the book is the Alabama Legislature’s passage of a 1943 bill calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, but there were many more initiatives from the Jewish community involving the larger community. Puckett noted the Jewish community also had to come together to assist their sons who were going overseas, Jewish soldiers who were stationed at nearby military bases, and in resettling refugees. When veterans returned from the war, they were able to further bridge the divides, he added. The book also sets in context the Jewish community’s role in Alabama society. It opens with the Scottsboro Boys trials in the 1930s, where there was a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment directed at the lawyers from New York who came to the state and defended the nine blacks who were falsely accused of raping two white women. He delves into the divide between the “outsider” Jew and the Southern Jew, something that would continue to resonate through the Civil Rights era. Though the Jewish community came together in the 1940s, there was still a major divide over the idea of Zionism. “There was a tremendous working out of differences” on the issue, Puckett noted. Each community in the state was divided, with many Reform Jews opposed to the creation of a Jewish state and many in the Con-

Continued on page 18

Shave and a mitzvah… for kids Two area rabbis taking part in pediatric cancer event in memory of “Superman Sam” On March 31, Mississippi Rabbis Debra Kassoff and Matt Dreffin will shave their heads, along with dozens of their colleagues from across the country. The “36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave” is in memory of “Superman Sam,” the son of Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer of Chicago, who died on Dec. 14 at the age of 8. Kassoff was classmates with the Sommers at rabbinical school. She and Michael Sommer met during interviews at Hebrew Union College Sam Sommer in Cincinnati. “They’re people I have shared a significant chunk of experiences with,” Kassoff noted. The Sommers had their first child while they were all still in rabbinical school. Then Sam was about six months older than Kassoff ’s oldest daughter. After graduating, Phyllis Sommer started the Ima on the Bimah website about Jewish parenting. “Even though we haven’t been geographically near each other for years, I still feel very connected,” Kassoff said. Sam was diagnosed with refractory acute myeloid leukemia on June 12, 2012. He received a bone marrow transplant on Aug. 27, 2013. Nationally, a bone marrow donor drive was held in his honor during the High Holy Days. Through the rabbinic network and Phyllis Sommer’s “Superman Sam” website, word of Sam’s illness spread throughout the Jewish world. In October, Phyllis Sommer talked about shaving her head in solidarity with him and to promote awareness of pediatric cancer. She and colleague Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr came up with the idea for the 36 rabbis campaign, with “36 slightly-meshugene, but very devoted rabbis who are yearning to do something” and a goal of $180,000 for pediatric cancer research. They started getting the word out and signing up rabbis. Kassoff said “Immediately when I saw it I knew it was something I wanted to do, and I needed personally to be a part of it.” Kassoff serves as rabbi of Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville, and goes monthly to Temple Or Hadash in Fort Collins, Col. Dreffin, assistant director of education at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, had a different route to involvement in the campaign. He noticed on Facebook that many of his colleagues were changing their profile pictures to a Superman logo. “As an avid comic book reader, I was intrigued and had to know why,” he said. The Institute’s Education Fellows also heard about the campaign and “came running into my office telling me how I had to do it.” Dreffin has often grown or dyed his hair for Purim or for other Jewish educational endeavors. “I thought, how much more important to do it for this reason.” The shaving event will be at the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ annual convention, which will be in the Sommers’ hometown of Chicago from March 30 to April 2. It was originally hoped that Sam would be in attendance, but two weeks after the campaign began Sam had a relapse and there were no further treatment options. The campaign gained momentum at the Union for Reform Judaism’s bi-

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Southern Jewish Life

February 2014


ennial convention in San Diego in December, as participants sported buttons declaring that they were shaving their heads, and to ask them why. Then word of Sam’s death came during the conference. “I did not have any idea how quickly we would lose him,” Kassoff said. “Now that he’s gone, we’re doing it in his memory.” At press time, there were 81 rabbis signed up and $268,000 raised. And it isn’t just Reform rabbis — there is a team called Conservative/ Masorti Rabbis for a Cure. The initiative is also to spread awareness of the special challenges posed by pediatric cancer. Of all cancer research funding, just four percent goes to pediatric cancer. Many treatments that are used to fight cancer in adults are not appropriate for children, and there is little drug research aimed specifically at pediatric cancer. Kassoff noted an additional issue — “if they survive the cancer, they suffer life-long effects from the treatments.” Kassoff is not yet certain if she will be in Chicago for the convention. “There will be some rabbis who participate from a remote location,” and she does not attend, she will have it done in Greenville. Dreffin will be in Chicago, “which, needless to say, greatly disappointed my staff as they were hopeful that they would be the ones doing the shaving.” The campaign is being coordinated through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. As of press time, Kassoff had raised over $3000 toward her $5000 goal. Her page can be accessed at participants/mypage/660886/2014. Dreffin’s page can be found at

>> Puckett servative and Orthodox community in support. How deep the divide was depended on the personalities of the local rabbis and some prominent congregants. In Birmingham, Rabbi Morris Newfield, who served Temple Emanu-El from 1895 to 1940, was not a Zionist. His successor, Rabbi Milton Grafman, was an outspoken Zionist, much to the consternation of some who had hired him. The issue of Zionism “deeply split the Birmingham community,” Puckett said. “Montgomery was probably the hotbed of anti-Zionist sentiment” under Rabbi Eugene Blachschleger. Many Temple Beth Or congregants were members of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism. After the concentration camps were opened and the extent of Nazi devastation revealed, Puckett said “Zionism became a fact of life… Many Reform Jews came to that realization, but many did not.” Even today, Puckett said, in his interviews with older members of the community there were still some who had anti-Zionist sentiment, especially in Montgomery. Today at Temple Beth Or in Montgomery, there is an Israeli flag on display with the United States flag. “That’s something you would have never seen in those years.” The book continues with the emergence of Israel and the resettling of refugees, and concludes with a discussion of Holocaust commemoration and education in the state today. In his talk at the Southern Jewish Historical Society’s annual conference in Birmingham last November — which he helped organize — Puckett noted that working on this book “has really changed my outlook on what I want to study.”

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February 2014

Southern Jewish Life


Confused About Hearing Aids? Don’t be behind the 8-ball…

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By Lee J. Green Interim Home Health Care and its Birmingham office want to do their part to keep seniors in need well-cared-for in their own homes. Lloyd Ford, who had almost 25 years of healthcare executive management experience, primarily with hospitals, before purchasing the Birmingham Interim Home Health Care office last July, said home health care providers can today offer more medical services in the home, and that is where things are trending. “I think we’re moving toward having ‘hospitals in the home’ and virtual offices for some physicians,” said Ford, who owns and runs Interim Birmingham with his wife Melissa, a registered nurse. “There are certain things, especially something like trauma, that patients have to go to the hospitals for. But with hospitals stays getting shorter, on average, due to insurance issues we’re seeJust about anyone will ing a push toward more medical tell you they would care services and rehabilitation delivered in the home. Just about rather be at home anyone will tell you that’s where than in a hospital they would rather be anyway.” Infusions are already being performed by experienced medical home health providers and Ford sees a day in the not-too-distant future that chemotherapy, dialysis and other related medical procedures could be performed in homes. Interim Home Health Care offers home infusion therapy, skilled medical and nursing care, non-medical care and support as well as healthcare staffing. The corporation has been around since 1966. Ford advised seniors and those authorizing their healthcare to ask as many questions as possible to understand what kind of care is needed, what kind of care will be provided, and all of the costs associated with it. “Some of our service costs, for example, are covered to a certain level by long-term insurance (non-medical) and health insurance (medical),” he said. “But having worked for so many years in the healthcare industry, I understand how confusing it can be for a patient and family member to understand. We are happy to advise.” Ford said he got into the healthcare industry in the first place because of the difference it can make in peoples’ lives and that it can save lives. “The reason why I got into the healthcare industry and why I wanted to do this is because I enjoy knowing that I contribute to peoples’ wellness. That is the greatest reward,” he said.

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St. Vincents offers discount tests for Heart Day Because symptoms of heart disease can be difficult to detect, screening is important. At St. Vincent’s Health System in the Birmingham area, Feb. 15 — the day after Valentine’s Day — will be Heart Day. From 6 to 11 a.m. St. Vincent’s will offer four heart tests for $40 — a $350 value. The tests will be available at nine St. Vincent’s locations in the area. Participants will receive an EKG, a lipid profile, a blood pressure screening and a basic metabolic profile. T-shirts will also be given out. Registration is requested by Feb. 7 by calling Dial-A-Nurse, (205) 9397878. Go to for a list of locations and documents needed for the screening. Southern Jewish Life

February 2014



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February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

Fairhaven expanding facilities, growing Jewish population By Lee J. Green Fairhaven Retirement Community has been a fixture in the Crestwood area of Birmingham for more than 50 years. But there is much new about the place, including a campus redevelopment and expansion coming this year and an increase in the number of Jewish residents, thanks in part to Julie Marcus, who has been Fairhaven’s director of marketing since last fall. “We know that the large Baby Boomer population is getting to that age where they need options for retirement, assisted and nursing care living,” said Marcus, an involved member of the local Jewish community. “Fairhaven wants to be there to meet their needs and to provide a community that offers everything a senior wants.” Fairhaven has been around since 1961 and offers independent living apartments, assisted living apartments, specialty care assisted living (memory care), rehabilitation services and skilled nursing care. “Thanks to a partnership with (the University of Alabama at Birmingham), we have the only on-site dental clinic at a retirement community in the state of Alabama,” said Marcus. “We also partner with UAB’s Center of Aging. We have a geriatrician who can be a resident’s primary care physician… and skilled nurses from UAB. Plus our rehabilitation program is state of the art.” Rehabilitation consists of 20 private rooms in one building on Fairhaven’s campus and skilled medical resources. “Most are there temporarily but some have said they like it so much that they have stayed in those units,” she said. Some of those in independent living can have emergency call buttons and residents also signal staff to tell them they are awake and if everything is fine. Marcus said she could not give too much detail about the expansion nor give a time frame, but she did say the first phase will add a significant amount of two-bedroom assisted living units and that the rest of the Fairhaven community would be fully functional during the campus redevelopment. One of her goals is to grow the partnerships between Fairhaven and the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School and Collat Jewish Family Services, as well as start a partnership with the Levite Jewish Community Center. “We’re just a couple of miles down Montclair. We’d like to work with the LJCC and Buz-a-Bus to give the opportunity for our active seniors to join the JOY (Jewish Older Years) Club and to enjoy senior fitness,” said Marcus. In 2013, a group of Fairhaven residents attended a symphony event at the Day School. Sheri Krell brought some of the Day School students to Fairhaven on Dec. 3 for its Chanukah

party, featuring traditional songs, latkes and a chocolate fountain. Rabbi Barry Altmark led the service portion. “When the kids get together with the seniors, it is something very special. This always creates lasting memories for everyone,” added Marcus. She said all active residents enjoy activities such as musicians that are brought in, hanging out in the Fairhaven coffee shop/juice bar, which is open around the clock every day, watching old movies, trips to the museums, restaurant, arts events and the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market. Marcus said Fairhaven prides itself on having residents live there for a long time and employees who have longevity with the community. “Fairhaven is what it is because of the people that live and work here. And if someone’s health needs change, we can keep them in the community and just move them from one area to another,” she said.

Continuous care at home provides intense support In times of crisis, those facing a terminal illness need an option other than the Emergency Room for care. Also, surveys show that when facing end of life, the vast majority of people in the United States would prefer to die at home, free of pain and surrounded by their loved ones. Unfortunately, the majority of people die in a facility, away from their family, and experiencing unnecessary discomfort. Continuous Care is a service that can help with both of these issues, often the situation many terminally ill patients and families find themselves in. Designed to provide intensive hospice support at bedside in the home, over extended periods of time, from a minimum of 8 hours up to a maximum of 24 hours per day, Continuous Care provides the patient and their loved ones with comfort, compassion, and dignity right in the comfort of their own home. The model for quality and compassionate care at the end of life, hospice involves a team-oriented approach providing pain and symptom management. Emotional and spiritual support is expressly tailored to the patient’s goals of care. One of the four levels of care of the Hospice Medicare Benefit, Continuous Care is provided for patients who require predominately nursing care to achieve palliation or management of acute medical problems associated with a terminal illness. Available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, Continuous Care is covered 100 percent by the Hospice Medicare/Medicaid benefit and most private and managed care insurance plans, however in some instances, prior authorization may be required. Continuous Care is provided wherever the patient calls home — an assisted living facility, nursing home, or home of a family member — by experienced nurses and certified nursing assistants who are available to provide direct care for uncontrolled agitation or anxiety, respiratory distress, nausea and vomiting, pain or in instances of family or caregiver crisis. Robust staffing is essential for providing Continuous Care. Due to the cost involved, many hospice agencies, while they do provide the service as one of the levels of care, do not specialize in providing Continuous Care. St. Joseph Hospice has made a commitment to ensure staffing levels are always maintained so that the team is ready to meet the needs of patients, their families and caregivers who require intense care in the home. Medical directors, certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, act as consultants to the patient’s physician, are full time and available for consult at all times. St. Joseph Hospice works to honor the wishes of those individuals with a terminal illness and provides medical, psychosocial and spiritual support to those facing end of life due to a terminal illness. Located throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and now in Mobile, St. Joseph Hospice has earned a reputation as a leader in the hospice industry. More information:

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February 2014


Seniors Greenbrier/Noland reflects on a century of care Last year, Noland Health Services, which owns Greenbriar at the Altamont senior living community, celebrated its 100th birthday. The company traces its origins to physician and philanthropist Dr. Lloyd Noland, who in 1913 came to Jefferson County at the invitation of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Land Company to address the public health needs of workers. Soon after arriving in the “Magic City,” Noland presented plans for a company hospital that would serve as the foundation of a community health network of services. Growing from the progressive system envisioned by its founder, Noland Health Services today follows this inspirational vision by operating as a private, not-for-profit health care organization, and is one of the largest providers of multilevel senior living communities in Alabama. One of the centerpieces for Noland’s services in the area is Greenbriar at the Altamont in the popular Highland Avenue neighborhood. The senior living facility is located in the historic Altamont Apartments, which was recently named to the National Historical Registry. “Located in a building that is a significant part of the development of Highland Park, Greenbriar is rich in history and celebrating our heritage is very important to us,” said Executive Director Jennifer Shunnarah. “We have built on that history and strive to offer our senior residents services and amenities in keeping with the spirit of those offered by the Altamont Apartments.” Residents at Greenbriar at the Altamont enjoy a host of activities and events to stay active and

engaged. Greenbriar offers its residents regular art classes, exercise classes, Wii bowling tournaments, craft classes and outings to museums as well as arts and music events. The community also regularly hosts local performers including individual members of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and just a few weeks ago an acapella group from Yale University gave a special performance in the decorated grand lobby. Other annual events include a costume ball, a Best Friends Tea, a Resident Appreciation Day and other festive holiday celebrations. During the past few years, Greenbriar has partnered with Greystone Elementary School for an inter-generational project. The second graders regularly connect with a group of seniors using Skype, as well as some in-person visits. For its Jewish residents, Greenbriar offers Shabbat services the second Friday of every month. The community partners with the Levite Jewish Community Center and Collat Jewish Family Services for other Jewish cultural enrichment opportunities as well as holiday celebrations. Moreover, the building is conveniently located only a few blocks from Temples EmanuEl and Beth-El. Greenbriar offers independent living, assisted living, short-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing to its residents. Noland Health Services also owns multi-level-care and senior living facilities in Bessemer (Oaks on Parkwood), McCalla (Woodlands at Tannehill), Pell City (Village at Cook Springs), Sylacauga (Sylacauga Health and Rehab) as well as the Roebuck section of Birmingham (East Glen Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation).

Elderly patients are at high risk of problems associated with the hip, ranging from fracture to arthritis. A program has been developed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Highlands to mobilize elderly patients immediately and to minimize hospitalization. Early mobility will allow the patient to reduce the risk of blood clots, lung problems (pneumonia) and confusion (sun downing). The program consists of three concepts: a muscle-sparing anterior hip approach, long lasting local anesthetic and avoiding general anesthesia. General anesthesia has post-operative side effects which include urinary retention, nausea, confusion and lack of energy. The direct anterior hip approach has allowed patients to sleep in any position they want after the surgery and more importantly there are no restrictive precautions, since the likelihood of dislocation is negligible. Early mobility is very important for the elderly patient. It not only allows the patient to return to activities of daily living, but improves their mental wellbeing. “This program is a major advancement in the care of not only the elderly patient, but all hip replacement patients. Most patients stay in the hospital one to two days,” said Dr. Herrick J. Siegel, Associate Professor of Surgery and total joint

replacement surgery at UAB Medical Center. Siegel added, “it’s a pleasure seeing the rapid recovery most patients are able to achieve. The stability of the hip after surgery in combination with significantly less pain then traditional hip replacements will benefit the elderly patient most of all.” Approximately 20 percent of orthopedic surgeons are using the direct anterior approach. Although it was initially felt to benefit mostly young, healthy patients to return to recreational activities and work, it now appears that the elderly patients also see a tremendous benefit. “It is important to find an experienced joint surgeon that regularly performs this approach. At UAB Highlands, I have performed more than 5,000 hip surgeries. During the past two-and-ahalf years, this approach and recovery program is my standard protocol,” said Siegel. He is currently involved with the development of a new hip implant to continue to improve the direct anterior approach. Siegel also teaches courses nationally and internationally to orthopedic surgeons. “Our fragility fracture program at UAB Highlands complements this new hip program well for those patients with hip fractures,” he said. For more information, go to

By Lee J. Green

Rapid Hip Recover reduces complications


February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

Better hearing involves technology, brain training and rehabilitation Birmingham Hear Lab LLC Owner Tom Sholten believes that investing in turning hearing loss into hearing gain, through advanced hearing aid technology and dedication to auditory rehabilitation, is always a sound health investment. “Hearing clearly is so important in our everyday lives and our regular interpersonal communication,” said Sholten, who has more than 30 years of experience as an audiologist. “You want to be able to hear and understand what your spouse says, what your kids say, what your co-workers say. Through advanced digital hearing aids and a dedication to rehabilitation exercises, it is possible to greatly improve one’s hearing and thus quality of life.” Most of Sholten’s clients are seniors, though he has his share of younger patients. That includes Homewood Family Medicine’s Dr. Scott Weisberg, an involved member of the Birmingham area Jewish community. Weisberg has become a marathon runner in recent years. He was close enough to the bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line last April that he suffered some significant hearing loss. Weisberg is working with Sholten to address those issues and he has recommended Sholten to his own patients. The largest segment of the U.S. population is Baby Boomers, and those born on the early end of that generation are just hitting their senior years.

“Many of these Baby Boomers grew up going to rock concerts, so we’re seeing some people come to me (before their later senior years) looking for solutions to hearing loss.” Over the years, especially in the past five to 10 years, hearing aid technology has changed dramatically. The digital age has opened the door for hearing aids to become much more sophisticated. They can be programmed to adjust to differing environments. “We can recognize sounds that are more difficult to hear for someone. A hearing aid can be programmed to increase the volume when consonants are spoken but not for vowels. They can make only the softer sounds sound louder so speech comes across as clearer and easier to understand. These are smart devices that can be programmed and customized for a client. The devices learn and adjust,” said Sholten. “It’s not just about amplifying everything, which was all most of the old analog devices could do.” He said back in 2000, the hearing aid industry was 15 percent digital and 85 percent analog. But Sholten said he has always been an “early adopter” and was 85 percent digital even back then. Another thing that has revolutionized the hearing aid industry is Bluetooth wireless control. “It is possible to be in your convertible driv-


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ing 60 miles an hour down the highway with the top down and communicate with hands-free control on the cell phone and everything sounds crystal clear,” said Sholten. The biggest innovation in the hearing industry during the past 30 years, according to Sholten, has nothing to do with technology. It’s a membership option offered by Hear Lab LLC that allows for affordable hearing solutions with low monthly payments. “Many insurances won’t cover this or will only cover enough to get some of the cheapest hearing aids that won’t work well enough for someone,” he said. “This membership solves that quandary and helps to ensure that a clients can get just what they need at costs they can afford, with the protection of a warranty too.” But hearing aids alone are only part of the equation. Hear Lab LLC emphasizes rehabilitation exercises as part of an advanced regime to improve both hearing and comprehension. “Most other hearing aid places just sell you the devices and tell you how they work. They don’t take the time for audiology rehabilitation. The rehabilitation improves hearing 28 percent without doing anything to the hearing aid,” said Sholten. “The most important part of the hearing industry is understanding speech.”


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Southern Jewish Life

February 2014


Seniors Tulane’s Friedlander leads education on head, neck cancer detection By Lee J. Green

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Significant advancements have been made in the treatment of head and neck cancers. But Dr. Paul Friedlander, chair of otolaryngology and clinical associate professor of surgery at Tulane University School of Medicine, continues to push for greater detection education as well as screening opportunities for those in need, in an effort to push down the mortality rates of those cancers. “Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer nationally,” with 40,000 cases per year along with 30,000 additional thyroid cancer cases. “Many of the cases are with those who are in their 50s, 60s and senior years,” said Dr. Friedlander, a New Orleans native and lifelong member of Temple Sinai. While many of the cancers are treatable with early detection, the warning signs are not as easy to detect by most individuals. Approximately two-thirds of all patients first diagnosed with a head or neck cancer are already in the advanced stages of the disease. “It is difficult because the symptoms can mimic other symptoms for something less serious. For example, a symptom of tonsil cancer is a persistent sore throat. But if the sore throat lasts two to three weeks, it could be something more serious,” he said. “Another common symptom might be difficulty swallowing. As we get older, especially for seniors, it becomes more difficult to swallow. But when something becomes chronic and too painful, it should be addressed.” Friedlander said swelling in the neck or a neck mass that won’t go away also could be a warning sign. “I advise anyone not to let it linger. Go see your primary care physician or ENT specialist,”

Woldenberg Village knows about Tikkum Olam By Lee J. Green In late December, residents at the Woldenberg Village retirement community, which is under the Touro Infirmary umbrella, were treated to music from young, talented jazz musicians in town for the United Synagogue Youth International Convention. The sounds of “Tikkum Olam” or “Repairing the World” filled the air and the young musicians bonded with the senior residents. “As part of the Jewish religion, the value of ‘Tikkum Olam’ or ‘Repairing the World’ is very important. The students displayed this important value to our residents through the art of music and loving kindness,” said Woldenberg Director of Activities Rita Austin. The jazz ensemble visited with residents and performed at The Azaleas Assisted Living Community as well as Willow Wood Skilled Nursing Facility, both located on the campus of Woldenberg Village. The students, ranging in age from 15 to 18, played jazzy versions of “Dreidel,


February 2014

he said. Friedlander was trained as an ENT doctor with a specialty in head and neck cancer. He earned his medical degree from LSU and interned in general surgery at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. He completed residency in general surgery at George Washington University; otolaryngology at LSU as well as head and neck surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center. His fellowship was also in head and neck surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He started practicing 1997 in New Orleans. Friedlander said that at that time, most head and neck cancers were treated with surgery. Advancements have allowed for more effective and less invasive treatments today employing chemotherapy, radiation as well as robotic surgery. “We’ve made great gains in treatment but because there had not been great gains in screening and early detection, we’re not seeing a decrease in the national mortality rates,” he said. “Unlike breast cancer (mammography) and prostate cancer, there really hasn’t been a national screening protocol along with that level of awareness.” Friedlander saw a need to raise awareness and provide free cancer screening opportunities to those in need. In 2009, he formed a community organization called Healing Hands Across The Divide. The group, led by Friedlander and involving medical students, goes out into mainly the inner-city communities of New Orleans to offer free neck cancer screenings. “Once a month we’ll get out there into a community and offer free screenings as well as educational opportunities,” he said. “Our motto is that all problems can be solved, but the solutions need to be reasonable.”

Southern Jewish Life

Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Hava Nagila,” as well as famous New Orleans classics such as “When the Saints Go Marching In.” After performing, the students gave an informal discussion and lesson on the history of jazz music in New Orleans. “This is just one of the many exciting events that are held at Woldenberg Village every day,” said Rita Austin. “Life is meant to be enjoyed, and that is our focus for our residents’ care.” Woldenberg Village is a continuum-of-care retirement community which offers 60 independent living garden apartment homes, 60 assisted living apartments, a 120-bed skilled nursing care facility, and an outpatient rehabilitation center that specializes in physical and occupational therapy. The campus also offers on-site Shabbat services every Saturday and observance of all Jewish holidays. In addition, Woldenberg Village is smoke-free, pet-friendly, and features beautifully landscaped grounds. For more information about Woldenberg Village, visit www.liveatwv. com.

Collat Jewish Family Services offers senior solutions With the “graying of America,” social service agencies like Collat Jewish Family Services in Birmingham are dealing with the challenges of aging. CJFS Executive Director Lauren Perlman said “most people, wherever they are in the process of aging, want to remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible, preserving their quality of life.” The agency sees a wide range of situations where individuals or families call on their expertise. A few examples are: • A woman who started to worry that it was time for her mother to “retire” as a driver after two fender-benders in three months. She needed assistance in figuring out how to broach that subject. • A woman who felt overwhelmed with caring for her husband after he was released from the hospital following a hip replacement. She had no idea what resources were available to help. • A man in Houston whose father lives in

Birmingham needed “eyes and ears on the ground” near his father to make sure he is safe and has what he needs. • Sisters who feel fortunate that their parents, who are in their 80s, are healthy and independent, but don’t feel prepared if that changes and worry whether they have the right plan in place should a crisis occur. Perlman said “our seasoned staff has been there to help seniors and their families navigate the complicated journey of aging for almost 25 years.” This month, CJFS is launching “Aging with Grace,” an interactive discussion group for women over 60 who want to explore and embrace the joys and challenges of the next chapters in their life. Facilitator Robin McMilin explained, “Taking the time to face our fears and challenges and reframe our perspective on aging can be the difference between living life to the fullest and waiting for life to end.” The agency continues to provide services like Buz-A-Bus, which provides transporta-

tion to helps seniors remain active and independent; Senior Care Coordination, which helps put resources in place to support aging in place; and Just Like Family, which takes care of “the little bigs” like sorting through mail, acting as escorts on medical appointments, and grocery shopping. New programs are launched when the community expresses a need. Perlman said “all of our programs are designed to meet seniors where they are in the aging process providing caring, professional services. We take a holistic approach to serving our community members with the goal of comprehensively meeting their needs, not just providing a service.” The agency’ services are open to all.” Based in Jewish values, our focus is on preserving the dignity and respect of our clients,” Perlman said. For more information on CJFS’ programs, call (205) 879-3438.

Southern Jewish Life

February 2014


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February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

JCRS turning on lights for Broadway-style Gala In his acceptance speech for one of his record-breaking 12 Tony Awards for “The Producers,” Mel Brooks thanked an “avalanche of Jews” for the gift of American Broadway musicals. To celebrate the Jewish legacy in theater — from the Yiddish Theatre to Gershwin, Sondheim, Rogers and Hart –— the The Scharff (above) and Tolmas (below) Jewish Children’s Region- families will be honored by JCRS al Service will present “Jewish Roots of Broadway: A Musical Night from Gershwin to Godspell” as its annual gala, March 22 at the National World War II Museum Freedom Pavilion in New Orleans. The evening will honor members of the Scharff and Tolmas families for their dedication, leadership and generosity in support of JCRS’s mission to provide a financial safety net for vulnerable Jewish children and families with special needs assistance, educational scholarships and Jewish summer camp experiences. Several members of each family have served on the JCRS board over the past decades, and each has provided a JCRS president, Lee Scharff from 1997 to 1999, and Jeanie Tolmas, from 2003 to 2005. The Tolmas family members being honored are Hyman and Connie Tolmas and their daughter Jeanie and son and daughter-in-law, Alan and Gina Tolmas. Members of the Scharff family being honored are Dan and Florence Scharff and their son and daughter-in-law, Lee and Susan Scharff. Alan and Gina Tolmas, along with Jeanine Tolmas, are current members of the JCRS Board of Governors. “We are proud to recognize these wonderful individuals who make up such fine families,” explained JCRS President Leon Rittenberg III. “The members of these families have served JCRS in various capacities and are known throughout Greater New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Dallas for their volunteerism and generosity, as well as for their professionalism and community service.” Both families are long rooted in Greater New Orleans and, between them, have been active members of the Shir Chadash, Temple Sinai, Gates of Prayer, and Anshe Sfard congregations. Since Hurricane Katrina, Dan and Florence Scharff have relocated to Baton Rouge and joined Temple B’nai Israel; and Jeannie, Hyman and Connie Tolmas moved to Dallas, where they joined Alan and Gina as members of Congregation Tiferet Israel. The gala event will include a pre-event cocktail reception, dinner and feature a musical history of the influence and accomplishments of Jews in theater. This JCRS event continues the “Jewish Roots” theme from

its 2013 “Jewish Roots of Comedy” and 2012 “Jewish Roots of Jazz” successful fundraisers. Both previous events have sold out, and while it is being moved to a larger venue this year, a sellout is still anticipated. The musical program is being produced by Harry Mayronne, an acclaimed New Orleans based musician, composer, producer and puppeteer. For his work in theatre, Mayronne has received numerous awards for musical direction for shows including the 2010 Allways Lounge and Theatre production of The Threepenny Opera. Vocalists will include Amy Alvarez, Darcy Malone, and Christopher Wecklein. Proceeds from “The Jewish Roots of Broadway” will enable JCRS to directly assist greater numbers of vulnerable Jewish youth and families in the region who need the necessary assessments, therapies and tools for children with special needs, provide scholarships for children to attend Jewish summer camps and offer college aid for Jewish youth. Patron tickets begin at $200 per person. Group packages, event sponsorship and reserved tables are available. Reservations are available at or by calling (800) 729-5277. Also, JCRS has secured discounted hotel rooms for out-of-town guests.

Chabad’s Rohr Institute offers modern Jewish identity course The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute will present “To Be a Jew in the Free World: Jewish Identity Through the Lens of Modern History,” the institute’s new six-session Winter 2014 course that will begin during the first week of February. In New Orleans, Rabbi Mendel Ceitlin of Chabad Jewish Center will conduct the six course sessions at 7:30 p.m. on six Wednesday evenings beginning Feb. 5 at Chabad Jewish Center in Metairie. Bais Ariel Chabad in Birmingham will hold the classes on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. starting on Feb. 5, and on Thursdays at 10 a.m., starting Feb. 6. Rabbi Yossi Friedman will lead the sessions. “A recent PEW study exposed that 22 percent of Jews identify as ‘Jews with no religion’ and for many, this is a clear indication that the landscape of Jewish identity is changing rapidly” said Rabbi Zalman Abraham of JLI’s headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Our objective with this course is to initiate a discussion about Jewish identity, why it is still relevant, and what we can do to make it something our children and grandchildren will cherish for generations to come.” In “To Be a Jew in the Free World,” participants will confront questions of allegiance and issues in which Judaism and contemporary society appear to be in conflict. Looking into the past, the course explores a series of fascinating case studies, such as arguments made in the 1650s to convince Oliver Cromwell to readmit Jews to England, and how Ulysses S. Grant’s 1862 expulsion of the Jews in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi became a defining issue in his presidential election. “The subject of identity is close to the hearts of many in our Jewish community, yet it’s a subject that is rarely discussed nowadays,” said Ceitlin. “The course provides a rare opportunity to address this issue that will benefit the wider community of New Orleans, and we invite everyone to attend.” Like all JLI programs, “To Be a Jew in the Free World” is designed to appeal to people at all levels of Jewish knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple, or other house of worship. Interested students in New Orleans may call (347) 351-6476. Cost is $75, with a 10 percent discount for couples and returning JLI students. In Birmingham, cost is $89 for individuals and $135 for couples. Registration can be done at




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Southern Jewish Life

February 2014


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February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

Registration is now open for this year’s Limmud New Orleans, a regional weekend of Jewish learning for all ages and all levels of knowledge. The volunteer-led weekend brings together Jews of all background for a celebration of Jewish culture, arts, learning and teaching. All of the presenters are volunteers, with a heavy reliance on local talent, supplemented with some national figures. Among the presenters will be Clive Lawton, who founded Limmud England 30 years ago. Scholar-in-residence at the London Jewish Cultural Center, Lawton will be making his debut as a presenter in New Orleans, though he has visited twice before. There will be over 90 sessions in the categories of history, arts and culture, spirituality, Israel, social justice, contemporary Jewish life, family, text and thought, and Southern Jewish life. Sessions include a 50th anniversary discussion of the impact of Nostra Aetate on Catholic-Jewish relations, a history of pickle making, “Punk Jews,” print making, Jews and atheism, Chassidic dance, investing in Israeli companies, the New Orleans connection to touring Israel, wine tasting, Jews Pursuing Justice, “How Jews in the U.S. became white,” “Jewish lawyers, Islamic law,” puns in the Bible, Jewish Dryades Street and a panel on JNOLA. This year, Limmud will make history with its expansion over Shabbat. Limmud NOLA chair Gail Chalew said “many Limmud events include Shabbat and offer religious services of all denominations. But this will be the first Limmud ever to have all the synagogues themselves offering services under one roof, under Limmud auspices.” The community’s synagogues will all hold their services under one roof, at Temple Sinai. Touro and Gates of Prayer will have a joint service with Temple Sinai in the sanctuary, while Shir Chadash will hold Conservative services in the chapel, and Beth Israel will have an Orthodox service elsewhere in the building, led by the congregation’s new rabbi, Gabe Greenberg. After individual services, participants will come together for meals. For those who do not travel on Shabbat, Limmud is emphasizing home hospitality around the Temple Sinai area. Limmud starts with registration on March 7 at 5 p.m. at Temple Sinai, and runs through 5 p.m. on March 9. The Sunday sessions will be at the Lavin-Bernick Center at Tulane University. This year also introduces a Young Limmud program for ages 4 to 12. There will be music, nature walks, art activities, a joint parent-child social action activity, and storytelling with nationally known children’s book author, Amy Meltzer. Babysitting will be available for ages 1 to 3. Chalew said everyone is encouraged to spend a weekend in a Jewish world with several hundred fellow Jews interested in expanding their Jewish horizons. “You will have meals with people from all streams of Jewish life, have the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat by taking a nature walk, learn more about everything from pickle making to Torah text, take part in designing a Limmud mural, be entertained by visiting comedians and artists, gain new insights into the Jewish past and present in Louisiana,” Chalew said. “You will see old friends and make new ones — that’s the Limmud experience.” Registration includes as many sessions as one wants to attend, kosher meals and snacks. Through Feb. 28, registration for all three days is $75 for ages 30 and up, $40 for ages 18 to 30 and $15 for children. For those attending just Saturday night and Sunday, registration is $50 for adults, $25 for young adults and $5 for children. Pricing increases after Feb. 28. Registration is online at

Continued from page 30

Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who, as a child, collected so many calendars that updating them all currently has him toiling away somewhere late in 1997. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, like

Beth-El to install Rabbi Konigsburg

Two Disney shows part of new season at Theatre LJCC Theatre LJCC at Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center announced its lineup for the rest of 2014. The season starts Feb. 27 with Disney’s “Jungle Book Kids,” a musical adapted from the famous film. It will run through March 9. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a rock opera based on the Biblical story, will be presented from June 12 to 21. Disney’s “Peter Pan Jr.” will follow, from Aug. 7 to 17. The season wraps with the classic “Bye Bye Birdie” from Nov. 6 to 16. All shows have Thursday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m., except for the summer Saturday performances starting at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students. There will also be a special performance of Nashville’s Whitings Jazz Band on April 26 at 8 p.m.

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Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will install Rabbi Randall Konigsburg the weekend of Feb. 28. Konigsburg started at the state’s largest Conservative congregation last summer, succeeding Rabbi Michelle Goldsmith. The festivities begin on Feb. 28 with a Simon and Garfunkel Shabbat, led by Sunmoon Pie and the AAbsolute Shabbat Band. Sunmoon Pie is an Atlanta-based duo comprised of Bonnie Puckett and Birmingham native Michael Levine. A Shabbat dinner follows the 5:45 p.m. service, catered by Yellow Bicycle. Reservations are required by Feb. 25. On March 1, there will be a 9 a.m. Hebrew Kirtan chanting and meditation service, led by Levine and Puckett. Participants will then join the traditional service, which starts at 9:30 a.m. and will be led by the Konigsburgs’ children, Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg, Eitan Konigsburg and Hillel Konigsburg. A luncheon will follow. The formal installation and program will be at 7 p.m. on March 1, with Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg officiating at her father’s installation. A champagne reception will follow.

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ond hat trick, of course, is the hat trick of two days of Rosh Chodesh Adar I coinciding with the one day of Rosh Chodesh February — three giant leaps for menschkind. But, in Talmudic fashion, it must be asked, if comedy and bad things each happen in threes, wouldn’t bad comedy work in three times three? Look no farther than Adar’s most famous holiday, Purim, which while it stays in the original Adar (Adar II), is still recognized in the second Adar (Adar I) as Purim Katan. Purim has three days of related observance: Purim itself, the Fast of Esther, and Shushan Purim. Thus, a third hat trick — a hat trick of hat tricks! Thus, this instance of Rosh Chodesh Chodesh is more monumental, of greater significance and theological impact, than either Kol Nidre the 13th or Thanksnukah. Now, who can argue with that? Anyone?

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February 2014


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February 2014

Southern Jewish Life

The holy hat trick The year 5774 first brought Kol Nidre the 13th, the last time that will occur in a September in the lifetimes of any of our exponentially great-grandchildren. Then it gave us Thanksnukah, the exceptionally extraordinary elision of Erev Chanukah with Erev Yom Turkey. Now, before even the midpoint of the hockey season, 5774 has gotten the hat trick. Neither the minor holiday of Yom Kippur (how big a Jewish holiday can it be, with no special meals?) nor the even more minor festival of Chanukah (how big a Jewish holiday can it be, with no special sermon?) holds a havdalah candle to the end of this trilogy. This February 1 is not only Rosh Chodesh February, but also Rosh Chodesh Adar — on the same day! Despite its obviously superior importance, both theologically and culturally, some people don’t even realize this winter blessing is happening. One can conclude This month’s calendar only that the media is too exconvergence has hausted after its overly extensive more significance coverage of Thanksnukah, and its underly extensive coverage of than Thanksnukah did Kol Nidre the 13th. But this doubled start of the new month is no ordinary Rosh Chodesh Chodesh. Of course, it’s mathematically possible for a Rosh Chodesh to occasionally fall on the first day of a secular month. But there’s many reasons why this instance is especially noteworthy. This Rosh Chodesh Chodesh is at the start of two leap months. Of course, February is the occasional recipient of a leap day, though not this year. And this is also the start of Adar I. You see, 5774 is a leap year, in which a leap month — a second Adar — is added. So, why is Adar I so special, if the second Adar is the leap month? Because the second Adar — the one that’s added — is Adar I. Adar II is the normal Adar from every year. (Don’t believe it? Ask your rabbi. And then blame your rabbi, on behalf of his or her profession.) Why is it called Rosh Chodesh Chodesh? Obviously, because it’s the start of two months — in this instance, February and Adar I. Seriously. Dare your local rabbi to show you any instance in the Talmud where a rabbi disagreed with the usage of Rosh Chodesh Chodesh for such an event. They won’t find one. However, this Rosh Chodesh is a two-day Rosh Chodesh. (Yes, some of them are.) So, with this third day of new-monthitude, why is it not Rosh Chodesh Chodesh Chodesh? Because that would just be silly. While the Talmud doesn’t decry this nomenclature either, ask your rabbi whether calling this event Rosh Chodesh Chodesh Chodesh would be silly. The answer will be “who sent you… stop wasting my time,” which is ancient Aramaic for “yes.” But they say comedy works in threes. They also say that bad things happen in threes. Therefore, bad comedy must work in two threes. Given that, Rosh Chodesh Chodesh being the third in the 5774 calendrical anomaly hat trick is actually two hat tricks in one. This sec-

Continued on previous page

Southern Jewish Life

February 2014


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February 2014

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SJL Deep South, Feb. 2014  

Deep South edition of Southern Jewish Life, the Jewish community news magazine for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and northwest Florida

SJL Deep South, Feb. 2014  

Deep South edition of Southern Jewish Life, the Jewish community news magazine for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and northwest Florida