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Southern Jewish Life



February 2017 Volume 27 Issue 2

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

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On his way out of office, on Jan. 17, President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning who, as Private Bradley Manning in 2010, copied around 750,000 classified and sensitive documents from the U.S. military and sent them to Wikileaks, where they were published and led to all sorts of repercussions around the world, including exposure of agents helping the U.S. in various Middle East countries. Some credit the leaks with sparking the “Arab Spring.” For that espionage — some say whistleblowing — Manning was sentenced to 35 years. In commuting the sentence, Obama explained that the sentence was “disproportionate” to her crime, she “has served a tough prison sentence” and when she gets out in May after 7 years,“I feel very comfortable that justice has been served.” Consistency has never been a hallmark of government. Somewhere, Jonathan Pollard has to be saying “you’re kidding, right?” In the 1980s, Pollard was convicted of passing classified material to Israel. For passing the information on Arab capabilities to a U.S. ally, he receieved a life sentence, the only person to receive such a sentence for sending materials to an ally. Initially, Jewish groups were reluctant to rally around him, lest they be seen as condoning or excusing spying. But as the years went on and Pollard was mostly in solitary, more people started to point out how he was sentenced to far more than those convicted of spying for enemy states, and wondered why he was being treated so poorly. In 2015, Pollard was released after serving 30 years, but he still has onerous restrictions on him, including travel bans and constant monitoring. One has to wonder why Manning, whose espionage was far more damaging than Pollard’s, was released using the same arguments that were rejected for so many years Larry Brook in Pollard’s case. EDITOR/PUBLISHER


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4 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017

agenda interesting bits & can’t miss events

As was the case in several communities throughout the region, many in the Jewish community turned out for the Women’s March in Birmingham on Jan. 21. Story, page 25.

Birmingham Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Jonathan Miller announces retirement Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, the largest Jewish congregation in Alabama, announced the upcoming retirement of Rabbi Jonathan Miller, who has led the congregation for 26 years. In a letter to the congregation, Emanu-El President Ben Weil said “after almost three decades of tireless devotion to our Temple and unwavering commitment to the greater Birmingham community, Rabbi Miller will transition from his role as Senior Rabbi to the role of Rabbi Emeritus,” effective at the end of June. “We look forward to celebrating an enviable rabbinic career that has allowed for our congregation to flourish and grow and has had such a direct impact on so many of the successes that our Temple family currently enjoys,” Weil said. Miller wrote a message of “gratitude and satisfaction” to the congregation, saying he has “come to a place in my life where I have decided to retire” and is “eager for a new chapter in my life, away from the daily and awesome responsibilities of being a congregational rabbi.” He said the decision was “totally mine” and that he has loved his work and the congregation. “I am most fortunate among men,” he wrote.

Miller’s current contract runs through 2019, and Weil said “no individual in Temple leadership desires for Rabbi Miller to retire prior to his contract termination,” but Miller and his wife, Judi, approached Temple leadership in August about retiring early. In October, Miller gave congregants at Yom Kippur services a copy of a book he had just published, “Legacy: A Rabbi and A Community Remember Their Loved Ones,” a collection of eulogies he has given over the past 26 years. Miller is currently the second-longest serving rabbi in Alabama at the same pulpit, behind Rabbi Steven Silberman of Ahavas Chesed in Mobile. Historically, Emanu-El has not had much rabbinic turnover. Rabbi Mayer Newfield served the congregation from 1895 until his death in 1940, and was succeeded by Rabbi Milton Grafman, who arrived on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 and retired in 1975. Grafman remained in the community and was rabbi emeritus when Miller arrived. Ordained in 1982, Miller came to Birmingham from the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles. He also had served at Temple Shalom

in Auckland, New Zealand. Weil said the Emanu-El leadership anticipates hiring an interim rabbi for next year, in preparation for a rabbinic search in early 2018. Such rabbis have “extensive and specific” experience in helping congregations during such transitions. Weil said “it is our belief that Rabbi Miller’s retirement will serve as an opportunity February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 5


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for our Temple to reflect and introspect on our current state and our future direction.” This year, Birmingham’s Conservative congregation, Temple Beth-El, has an interim rabbi, Barry Leff. Knesseth Israel, the community’s Orthodox congregation, is also in a rabbinic transition with the departure of Rabbi Eytan Yammer in December. The Levite Jewish Community Center will also undergo a transition this summer, with Executive Director Betzy Lynch leaving for San Diego after the Maccabi Games in August. On Jan. 3, Rabbi Robert Loewy of Gates of Prayer in Metairie announced his retirement, set for the summer of 2018. He has served the congregation since 1984.

Friendly territories: Representatives of Shiloh, Ariel visiting Alabama The former mayor of Shiloh will speak in Montgomery on Feb. 15 as part of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women’s Legislative Days, “Celebrating America’s Return to Greatness,” at the Embassy Suites. David Rubin will speak at the 7 p.m. dinner. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. After Rubin and his three-year-old son were wounded in a terror attack 15 years ago while driving home from Jerusalem, Rubin founded Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, to heal the trauma of child victims of terror attacks and “rebuild the heartland of Israel through the children.” His son had been shot in the head, with the bullet missing his brain stem by one millimeter. The author of five books, including “The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama” and “More Sparks for Zion,” Rubin appears frequently as an analyst on Fox News, Newsmax and other shows. Frances Taylor, president of the Federation of Republican Women, said “we are long standing supporters of Israel and have been extremely concerned about the strained relationship between the two countries under the previous administration.” She said Rubin is “clearly the most important speaker we’ve had in the four years of my tenure.” Eliyahu Shaviro, the mayor of Ariel, and Avi Zimmerman, executive director of American Friends of Ariel, will also be visiting Alabama during their first 2017 trip to the United States. They will visit Mobile on Feb. 19 and 20, meeting with Mayor Sandy Stimpson and other friends of the town. Mobile has an official sister city relationship with Ariel, which the capital of Samaria and the fourth-largest community in the territories, with a population of over 18,000. On Feb. 20, they will be in Birmingham to meet with JH Ranch and JH Israel, a Christian leadership group that is a strategic partner with Ariel in the formation of Ariel’s National Center for Leadership Development.

Plot twists in “Shrek 2” writer’s story While Emmy Award nominee David Weiss might be best known for writing animated blockbusters, his own story is filled with plot twists. He will tell his tale at “Shrek of a Trek,” Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at The Red Shoes, hosted by Chabad of Baton Rouge. Among his writing credits are “Shrek 2,” “Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius,” the “Rugrats Movies,” “The Smurfs” and “Smurfs 2.” Tickets are $25, free to LSU undergraduates. Raised Jewish in California, he became a Christian youth worker after converting at age 18. He went to film school to learn how to use that medium to promote Christianity — but things worked out differently. As a screenwriter, he returned to his Jewish roots. As he put it, “When you find yourself under a wedding chupah with a gorgeous blonde in a Presbyterian church being married by a ‘Jews for Jesus rabbi,’ something has to give.” He says being an observant Jew in an uncertain place like Hollywood has given him “stability and confidence.” 6 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017


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Friendship Circle plans color run To gain support for its program of inclusion, the Friendship Circle of Alabama will have a more inclusive event. Color4Friendship will be a one-mile run or walk on March 21 to benefit Friendship Circle, which provides friendship and inclusion to special-needs children and their families in the community. Teenage volunteers are paired with special-needs children for regular visits to empower them and enrich their lives. A program of Chabad, there are around 80 locations worldwide. Last year, there was a Marathon4Friendship as part of Birmingham’s Mercedes Marathon, but Rivky Novack said they decided to do the onemile color run “because Friendship Circle is all about inclusion, love, and acceptance. By joining the marathon it really limited the number of people who were physically able to join.” With a one-mile event, “all ages and abilities will be able to join.” The event will not be timed, so people can choose to run, walk, push strollers or crawl. Participants will be dressed in white to start the mile along the Levite Jewish Community Center’s outdoor track, and along the way there will be four “color stations” where they will be doused with colored powder. Though vibrant, the cornstarch-based color powder is engineered to wash out well. After the run, there will be a family fair. Registration is open at Runners receive a Team Friendship T-shirt, a pair of sunglasses, a personal color powder packet and a Friendship Circle sweatband. They also receive admission to the post-run fair. Children above age 6 must be registered to run.

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Mobile Shlicha Ofir Rozenberg will visit Montgomery on Feb. 16 for the next Café Israel, at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Or. Rozenberg will speak about “Equal in Uniform,” the partnership Israel Defense Forces has with AKIM Israel to mainstream those with intellectual and developmental disabilities into “community life.” She will also speak at the Feb. 17 Shabbat service at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem, at 6 p.m.


As part of the congregation’s Legacy Year, Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El will feature “Our Parents Suffered through the Shoah, What Their Lives Taught Me” in its “Legacy Stories” series on Feb. 17. At the 5:40 p.m. service, Stephen Steinmetz, James Sedlis and Cantor Jessica Roskin will share their experiences of being raised by parents who survived the Holocaust.


Cantor Michael Horwitz, cardiology staff chaplain at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will present a concert of Jewish music on Feb. 16 at noon. The free concert will be at UAB Hospital’s West Pavilion, and will feature Jewish, Israeli and Broadway tunes. Attendees are welcome to bring a lunch. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have a Tu B’Shevat celebration at the Feb. 11 service. PJ Library Celebrates Tot Shabbat at 11 a.m., and all tots and their families in the community are invited. Around noon, following the 9:30 a.m. service, there will be a luncheon with a brief Tu B’Shevat Seder, also open to the community.


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The Sisterhood at B’nai Israel in Panama City will have a Tu B’Shevat Seder as part of the 6 p.m. service on Feb. 10. Rabbi Alana Wasserman will conduct, and children from the Sunday Shul will plant parsley that will be harvested for Passover.


Rabbi Joshua Lief will lead a Tu B’Shevat Seder at Temple Shalom in Lafayette, Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m.


The next “How to Build a Jewish Home” session will be on Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the home of Rabbi Laila Haas. The Abroms Institute for Lifetime Learning at Birmingham’s N.E. Miles Jewish Day School is hosting this series. The Feb. 22 discussion, “Ritual Objects in a Jewish Home” will

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February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 7

agenda explore how ritual items can add to home décor. For Tu B’Shevat, the Springhill Avenue Temple Men’s Club in Mobile is continuing its tree planting along the west side of the parking lot. On Feb. 12, the religious school will join them for planting trees that have been dedicated to honor or remember members. An olive tree, fig tree, evergreen Israeli pomegranate tree, rosemary bush and bay tree are already scheduled. Hadassah Baton Rouge will have a Tu B’Shevat Seder on Feb. 12 at 11 a.m., at the Hilltop Arboretum. The program will be about heart health, with speakers Joy Feldman of New Orleans and Ellen Bander. Nick May, originally of Metairie but living in Baton Rouge for the last five years, has a crowdfunding page for “Be Heard,” his debut album of Jewish music. The Jacobs Camp alumnus recently released an EP, “This Beauty.” On Feb. 17, Temple Beth El in Anniston will have its annual interfaith Neighbors Night, with Rabbi Irving Bloom leading the 7:30 p.m. services. Members are encouraged to bring non-Jewish friends and associates so they can learn about Judaism, and the program is in memory of Bette and Hank Saks. B’nai Zion in Shreveport will have a Sisterhood “Ladybug Lunch” for current and prospective members on Feb. 14 at 11:30 a.m. Reservations are requested by Feb. 9. Rabbi Barry Leff of Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have his next Torah On Tap on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., at J Clyde. This month’s topic is “Kosher Sex: Everything from Prostitution to Marriage, the Evil Inclination and Holiness.”

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Birmingham’s N.E. Miles Jewish Day School will have a hairy situation at its annual gala. The March 5 event will be a Wig and Stache Bash, at Temple Beth-El, starting at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $90 per person or $150 per patron. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will be participating in the World Wide Wrap during the 8 a.m. minyan on Feb. 5. As part of the Wrap, the Men’s Club will do its annual presentation of sets of tefillin to the fifth-grade students.

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B’nai Israel in Jackson, Tenn., will have a community interfaith dialogue, “From Promised Land to the Land of Great Promise.” The Feb. 9 program is the second in a series on the birth and development of Christianity out from Judaism. There will be a panel discussion of Biblical scholars, featuring Israel archaeologist Charles Page, Union University’s George Guthrie, Lambuth University Rev. Gene Davenport and Rabbi-Cantor John Kaplan of B’nai Israel. Union University’s Proclamation choral group will also perform. The program is at 7 p.m. and is open to the community. Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood will have a Bubbles and Brunch Celebration of Our Sisterhood, Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. There will be a catered brunch with mimosas, musical entertainment and tablescapes designed by members. The Jewish-Muslim Women’s Dialogue in Panama City will have its next meeting on Feb. 11 at 9:30, at Fatty Patty’s on Thomas Drive.

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Samuel White, a fourth-grade student at Birmingham’s N.E. Miles Jewish Day School, placed second in the Birmingham City Spelling Bee, so he will advance to the Jefferson County Bee. Beth Israel in Jackson will have a first-ever preview of its annual Bazaar, which will be held on March 29, at the Fondren First Thursday on March 2, starting at 5 p.m. Beth Israel will have a pop-up tent and samples of some of the bazaar’s food offerings. This is the 50th anniversary for the Bazaar.

Do you have peace of mind? Second wave of JCC bomb threats includes Birmingham

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Campus evacuated for several hours on Jan. 18 A week after 16 Jewish Community Centers in nine states received bomb threats, a second wave of threats was reported at 27 JCCs in 17 states. The second wave included Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center, which shut down for several hours. Nothing suspicious was found at any of the JCCs. The LJCC received the call after 9 a.m. on Jan. 18, and immediately “went into our protocol,” said Betzy Lynch, executive director of the LJCC. Authorities were notified and responded “immediately,” and the entire building was evacuated in less than five minutes. The Cohn Early Childhood Education Center and N.E. Miles Jewish Day School students were taken to a designated place to await their parents. It wasn’t an easy task — the early childhood students had been scattered everywhere from the swimming pool to recess outside. Some of the youngest children were rolled out in their cribs. Lynch said they have procedures that have been practiced regularly for many years, and it was simply a matter of executing the plan. Especially because of the previous week’s threats elsewhere, “we weren’t surprised,” she said. “We were prepared.” They notified all parents to pick up their children because the process of searching the building would take far longer than they could reasonably keep the children outside, Lynch noted. Day School students also helped look after and entertain the preschoolers. Police and the FBI checked the entire 110,000-square-foot building, and bomb-sniffing dogs waited outside in case anything suspicious was found. The building was declared clear just before noon, and the LJCC reopened, except for the preschool. Lynch praised the Birmingham and Mountain Brook Police, the K-9 unit and the FBI. “We’re incredibly thankful for their response.” Richard Friedman, executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, praised the Early Childhood staff for an “amazing job in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty.” Friedman, who had just arrived at the campus when the building was evacuated, said they were able to move small children “in a fairly complicated operation and did it with good spirit and success.” After the all-clear, as the staff made their way back from where they had assembled, Lynch stood on the side of Montclair Road exclaiming “I salute all of you, amazing job!” Friedman said “any parent could be comforted by the love, TLC and professionalism” of the staff at the JCC and Day School. After a debriefing, Lynch issued an alert to the community about how to handle the situation if another threat is received. “We ask all staff, users, parents of students, and anyone else present on the campus or aware of the situation not to post anything on Facebook or through any other form of social media, insofar as such actions have the potential to broaden our exposure.” The schools will alert parents directly as to what they need to do, and they cautioned against posting logistics or locations on social media. On Jan. 9, 16 JCCs were threatened by phoned-in bomb threats,

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community including Atlanta, Nashville, Columbia, S.C. and four in Florida. Nashville taken seriously and investigated closely, thus far we are not aware of any was on the list again on Jan. 18, along with Miami. of these threats being substantiated.” The Secure Community Network reported “I am hopeful that the national profile of that the second time, the caller seemed to these incidents will allow the FBI to dedicate be a live person, instead of the recorded resources to finding the person or group message the previous week. responsible for these threats,” Lynch said. Also among the affected JCCs the In a Jan. 26 national briefing, the FBI second time were Cincinnati, Baltimore, stated they are investigating the threats as Albany, Syracuse, West Hartford, Orlando, a hate crime, not as terrorist threat. With Minneapolis and Detroit. that classificaton, additional funding and David Posner, director of strategic resources are available for state and local performance at JCC Association of North investigations. America, the umbrella organization for The FBI will also make a presentation at JCCs, said “While we’re extremely proud the JCCA convention in March. of our JCCs for professionally handling “Obviously, we take the threats very yet another threatening situation, we are seriously. We are required to,” Lynch added. concerned about the anti-Semitism behind However, “we fully intend to operate the way these threats. While the bombs in question we always have and always will.” are hoaxes, the calls are not. We know that Heading back to the LJCC after the all-clear Ashfaq Taufique, president of the law enforcement at both the local and Birmingham Islamic Society, sent a statement national level are continuing to investigate the ongoing situation. We are of “support and solidarity” with the Jewish community. “I promise you that relieved that no one has been harmed and that JCCs continue to operate you will find a friend among us, as we need to stand together in solidarity in a way that puts the safety of their staff, visitors, and premises first.” and combat the hate and fear that is becoming a norm in our society.” The Anti-Defamation League issued a security advisory to Jewish Moving forward during a time of increased turmoil, the JCC’s role is to institutions. “Although so far these threats do not appear to be credible, bring positive feelings into the community, Lynch said. “The JCC hopes we are recommending that Jewish communal institutions review their to be that little flame of light in the darkness, to help people get to know security procedures and remain in close contact with law enforcement,” each other and feel good.” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “While each incident needs to be The JCC’s goal is for “people to understand each other.”

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On the walking tour outside Brown Chapel AME Church

Praying with their feet:

Shabbat in Selma

If Selma needs a tourism spokesman, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Shalom, the National Synagogue in Washington, would be a likely candidate. After leading a 125-person delegation from Washington and Atlanta on a civil rights Shabbaton during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Herzfeld called it “one of the most powerful, intense and emotional experiences of my life.” He also wonders why more congregations don’t make similar trips, and asserts that “every Jewish Day School in the country should take their classes to Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham.” The Orthodox congregation held services at Selma’s only synagogue, the 117-year-old Mishkan Israel. The classical Reform congregation has about seven Jews remaining in the town and holds services infrequently. There was also a Shabbat morning walking tour, which culminated in a crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the 1965 Bloody Sunday clash. Herzfeld said the trip’s inspiration came last summer when David Duke, who has criticized Herzfeld personally in the past, ran for Senate in Louisiana. Herzfeld felt the best antidote is to educate about the past, especially to children. A significant number of children took part in the weekend. The group flew into Atlanta on Jan. 13, then went to Montgomery to tour the Rosa Parks Museum and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. In addition to the Ohev Shalom members, Rabbi Uri Topolosky of Beth Joshua in suburban Washington was on the trip, accompanied by one member of his congregation — she explained that most people at the small congregation of young families has very small children and could not make such a trip. While in Montgomery, Topolosky posed with his two children on the steps of the Alabama Capitol, a reprise of a photo they took several years ago when he was rabbi of Beth Israel in Metairie and took them on a trip to Alabama. There were also 20 students from George Washington University’s

February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 11



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Hillel and Multicultural Students Services Center. A couple of Knesseth Israel members from Birmingham, where the group would have a postShabbat gathering on Jan. 14, also spent Shabbat in Selma. Rabbi Adam Starr of Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta brought about 20 members to the Montgomery part of the trip, returning to Atlanta before Shabbat. Jackson Richman, a GWU senior, joined the group in Montgomery, relating that he took an Uber from the airport to the hotel. During their conversation, the driver mentioned that his father had been in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II, so Richman told him that his grandparents had survived the Holocaust. The driver then said his father had helped liberate Dachau — so Richman told him that his grandfather had been in Dachau, “and thanked him, and his father, in spirit, from the bottom of my heart and my family’s.” The group traveled to Selma where they checked into their rooms, then had time to take a bus to Mishkan Israel before Shabbat began. The sanctuary was mostly full for Shabbat evening, with the visitors, the few Mishkan Israel members and some local dignitaries. Ronnie Leet, president of Mishkan Israel, welcomed the group, after which Topolosky led the spirited Shabbat evening service. This was the first time there has been a mechitza separating men and women at Mishkan Israel, in the form of a plastic drape laid across the top of the pews down the middle of the room. All of the Orthodox prayer books had to be brought in. Topolosky referenced the famous quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with King in Selma in 1965 and reflected that it was like praying with his feet. With that spirit, he said, the service would be a foot-stomping experience. The traditional service, far different than the mainly-English Reform Union Prayer Book service done for decades in that space, echoed off the walls. At the end of Lecha Dodi, dancing circles broke out on both sides of the sanctuary for several minutes. “Praying in Mishkan Israel was very powerful,” Herzfeld said, “and it was beautiful for the prayers to be filling the sanctuary.” At Shabbat dinner, mayor Darrin Melton spoke of the town as “the birthplace of democracy” because before Selma, not everyone had the right to vote. He felt right at home during the service, saying “It was just like my own church.” Herzfeld urged the mayor to support efforts to preserve Mishkan Israel, for its place in Selma history and its possibilities as a home for visiting Jewish groups. Also speaking to the group was Susan Youngblood, from Selma’s city council. She proclaimed that she was “in awe” of being among so many of “God’s chosen people,” who had overcome so much throughout history. After referring to the Holocaust, Youngblood asked how many in the room had ancestors in the Holocaust. She was visibly stunned when over one-third of those in the room raised their hands. At the dinner, like so many times throughout the weekend, singing and dancing broke out, with traditional Jewish songs of brotherhood and unity mixed with songs from the civil rights movement. In what is likely a first, at the start of the lunch Birkat, the prayer after meals, on Jan. 14, the introductory paragraph, “Shir HaMa’alot,” was done to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” After the morning service on Jan. 14, the group walked to the Selma Interpretive Center and met their guide for the walking tour, Joanne Bland. A co-founder of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Bland was 11 years old when the Selma to Montgomery march occurred, and she was on the bridge for Bloody Sunday. By then, she had already been arrested 13 times. Bland spoke of losing her mother at an early age, because she needed a blood transfusion and they had to wait for some “black blood” to be

community shipped in from Birmingham. Her grandmother was active in civil rights, but Bland said she didn’t understand what freedom the movement was talking about, because she knew Lincoln had freed the slaves. She recalled looking through the window at the lunch counter at Carter’s Drug Store, wishing she could sit there. When she was told that was the freedom they were fighting for, she instantly became an activist. One of the stops was at a boarded-up building that used to house a black restaurant. It was there that Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Massachusetts who came to Selma in 1965, ate while in town for the demonstrations. After the meal, Bland said, Reeb headed north instead of south, passing by a white restaurant where segregationists saw him and two fellow ministers, and beat them. He died from his injuries two days later. At the memorial to Reeb between the two buildings, Topolosky led an impromptu recitation of the “El Malei,” the memorial prayer. The furthest point on the walking tour was Brown Chapel AME Church, which was the civil rights headquarters. Surrounded on all sides by housing projects, it was seen as a safe place, because anyone looking to attack the facility would be noticed by residents. After returning to the interpretive center, the group walked across the bridge, two by two as was done in 1965. Some sang “Hinei Ma Tov.” Herzfeld had kept his tallit on for the crossing. That afternoon, the group visited the Jackson House, where King and Heschel stayed the night before the march. On Jan. 15, the group headed back to Atlanta, stopping at the King Center and chanting Psalm 23 in Hebrew at King’s grave. About 40 Young Israel members joined them before the group flew back to Washington. While many Jewish groups do civil rights tours of the South and stop in Selma for a couple of hours, Herzfeld said by staying over Shabbat and spending time walking in Selma gave them a much greater experience and sense of the place. As the large group walked up and down Broad Street, they were greeted by locals. Reuven Walder said “When we walked through the neighborhoods, I spoke to many people — not just perfunctory greetings but conversations We need to do more of this.” Based on conversations — and Shabbat remarks the next week — the story that made the biggest impression was Bland’s recollection of a shoe store on Broad Street, which had a pair of shoes she desperately wanted. Finally, her grandmother took a string and measured her foot, and they went to the store with that string. The eager Bland grabbed one of “her shoes” and started to try it on, but was quickly yanked

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community out of the shoe. It turned out the shoe was not the right size — but they had to buy them anyway, because the store owner said they could not be sold to a white person since her foot had been in it. “That shoe store isn’t there any more,” she chuckled to her astonished audience. “Hearing her story, so powerfully told in the exact spot where it took place was unforgettable,” said Sarah Gershman, an Adjunct Professor of Communications at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. The next week, Topolosky tied Bland’s story to the weekly portion, where Moses is instructed by God to remove his shoes at the Burning Bush. “I discussed the idea of taking the time to stand in someone else’s shoes, to appreciate their story.” He also referenced the speech King gave the night before he was assassinated, when he called civil rights activists a “burning bush.” David Suissa of the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles, who is friends with Herzfeld, went on the trip with his teenage daughter. He focused on the Saturday walk through Selma, with the ideas of hope and despair — the hope that came from civil rights victories, but the despair evident in seeing so many abandoned buildings and broken homes in the economicallydepressed area. He did find hope in the words of Melton and his plans to improve the city. To have such a weekend in Selma, many hurdles had to be overcome. Everything from kosher food to being able to observe Shabbat had to be considered. Avril Weisman, who coordinated the trip, said “it was an involved process involving many people and many calls back and forth, but I think it worked well in the end.”  A truck delivered all the meals from a kosher caterer in Atlanta, and the Selma Convention Center became the venue for meals. “With the assistance of Convention Center staff, we had kosher, delicious hot meals for Shabbat,” she said. Harris Cohen, who oversaw the meals, also stopped by Costco in Atlanta to get snacks for Shabbat morning Kiddush at Mishkan Israel, before the walking tour. A bigger hurdle was hotel rooms, as there aren’t many options close to downtown Selma, and it also depends on the definition of “walking distance.” A few stayed at the St. James Hotel a few blocks away, a historic 42room facility currently owned by the city and in the midst of ownership disputes while needing a major renovation. The bulk of the group stayed at a motel over a mile away, with the motel staff taking charge of the key cards during Shabbat. Naturally, Selma does not have an eruv, so those who are Shabbat-observant could not carry anything. “Most of the logistics and timing for events worked well,” Weisman said. “The mayor and people of Selma were so kind and gracious.” The lengthy walks back and forth through the city were escorted by the Selma police, and even motorists stuck at intersections seemed unfazed. Herzfeld said the logistics of the weekend were a challenge, “but it’s doable.” “I really recommend this type of experience for other congregations,” Herzfeld said. He floated the idea that Mishkan Israel could become a center for Jewish groups that come to Selma, and perhaps it should be dedicated in memory of Rabbi Joseph Gumbiner. Gumbiner had been rabbi of Mishkan Israel for eight years in the 1930s. In March 1965, he returned to Selma with three other rabbis from California, to take part in the civil rights protests, much to the consternation of his former congregants. Though King’s legacy was a major feature of the weekend, a recurring theme was how King could not have accomplished so much without the foot soldiers in each community who were agitating for change in their own cities.

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February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 15

community JCRS Gala to honor “Past, Present and Future” Jewish Children’s Regional Service continues its Jewish Roots series of gala events with “Past, Present and Future” on April 1. The gala will be at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, and is expected to attract 500 people from the New Orleans community and across the region, as the New Orleans-based social service organization holds its annual meeting the next morning. This will be the sixth Jewish Roots event, this time honoring the past, current and future leaders of the organization including its former presidents and Scholarship Committee chairpersons. The agency provides need-based scholarships for Jewish overnight summer camp experiences, undergraduate college assistance and “special needs” aid for Jewish communities in a seven-state region. The agency also coordinates PJ Library in the region, in communities not otherwise served by a local group. Last year, around 54 percent of the approximately 1,000 Jewish youth ages 17 and under in Greater New Orleans received at least one JCRS service. In all, the agency served or funded over 1,600 Jewish children in the region, in more than 200 communities. The event will feature a cocktail reception and seated dinner created by Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts and their family of restaurants, including Broussard’s, The Bombay Club, Kingfish, Tommy’s Cuisine, and Marché. The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Jazz Ensemble will entertain and there will be a testimonial from a JCRS “Success Story,” as well as a silent auction featuring once-in-a-lifetime vacations and more. Patron tickets are currently available, with levels starting at $250. Young patron tickets, for age 35 and under, are $75. For further information, visit

Miss. State Hillel seeks Jewish scholarship funds Hillel at Mississippi State University announced the establishment of a new scholarship through the Mississippi State University Foundation, the “Hillel Student Scholarship.” This scholarship aims to attract Jewish students from across the nation to join the Bulldog family and commit themselves to Hillel, according to Hillel President Jacob Craig. To endow the scholarship in perpetuity, the Hillel is looking to raise at least $25,000, and it must be done within a five-year period. Donations can be made to the MSU Foundation, designated for the Hillel Scholarship Fund. Online donations can be given at 16 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017

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Keeping it civil Jonathan Tobin and J.J. Goldberg don’t agree on much politically. For several months, the two noted journalists have visited Jewish communities across the country, holding debates on “Left vs. Right: The Battle for Israel’s Soul.” They visited Birmingham on Jan. 16, after icy conditions postponed the original Jan. 8 program, and “passionately disagreed” for an hour and a half. But Tobin noted that despite the disagreements, they never insulted each other on their “civil discourse” tour. In an era where one can insulate from opposing viewpoints, “nobody is talking to each other, they are talking past each other,” and that includes the Jewish community dialogue on Israel, Tobin said. “We need to listen to each other, to learn from each other,” he said. “Try to emulate what we have done here tonight.” Representing the left, Goldberg is editor-at-large of The Forward, former U.S. bureau chief of the Jerusalem Report, former managing editor of the Jewish Week in New York and author of several books, including “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment.” Tobin is former executive editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, and is currently senior online editor for the right-leaning Commentary. As the event at the Levite Jewish Community Center took place four days before the presidential inauguration, there was a lot of speculation about the Trump administration. Tobin, who noted “we were very critical of Trump throughout the campaign,” summed it up with “I’m not sure” what to expect. His comments on NATO and the relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin “give me pause.” Tobin said Trump feels he “has to shift from where Obama was,” but that is the same as Obama feeling he had to shift from where Bush was and create “more daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. Goldberg said not only did Obama shift from his predecessor, around the same time Netanyahu succeeded Ehud Olmert and moved Israel to the right. “All relationships are two-sided,” and both were dramatic shifts. Goldberg dismissed concerns about a gap between the U.S. and Israel under Obama. “Everybody knows America doesn’t walk away from its investments,” including intelligence sharing. “It’s noise. What counts is $3.5 billion and endless weaponry.” When it came to the Palestinians, Goldberg said Netanyahu “was halting a process that seemed to be going somewhere” through his nicesounding offer to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with no preconditions. But Goldberg said that meant starting over from scratch, when the Palestinians were saying “we’re almost there” after two decades of talks. He said the Palestinians wanted the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel “tried to nickel and dime them” over whether it would be 88 percent, 90 percent. Israel’s retired generals say Israel should accept the Arab peace initiative. Goldberg added that Obama and Kerry “knew what the Israeli army is thinking. “If you don’t trust the Arabs, set up a border and a wall, they are

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over there, let them be kleptocrats, if they cause trouble you can defend yourself,” Goldberg said. Tobin said the second Intifada “blew up the whole peace process” because Israel viewed it as “trading land for terror,” which was reinforced by results of the withdrawal from Gaza. “The Palestinians still won’t say yes. That’s the problem with the two-state solution.” Tobin said if the Palestinians are convinced that the U.S. stands with Israel, “the less they will be inclined to think they can go around the peace process and expect the world to be behind them.” Goldberg said while surveys show pessimism for a peace deal, on both sides of the divide, with certain conditions there is majority support. Israelis aren’t wild about a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with half of Jerusalem, but if you add blanket recognition of Israel from the Arab world, a majority supports it. That same proposal isn’t favored by the Palestinians, but adding $40 billion in aid for the world to rehabilitate the Palestinians brings majority support. Goldberg noted both of those proposals — blanket Arab recognition of Israel and world pledges of $40 billion — are already on the table. But Tobin warns “the past is prologue, and the political culture of the Palestinians will never allow peace.” He asserted “the majority of Israelis would like a two-state solution if it were possible” and they could be assured they would actually get peace. “I don’t like the status quo either. But (Israelis) understand there could be something that would be worse than the status quo.”

Rabbis sign HIAS letter on welcoming refugees HIAS, which assists newly-arrived refugees in the United States, issued a rabbinic letter calling on “our newly elected officials to keep America’s doors open to refugees.” The letter circulated before the Trump administration took office. The letter states “Jewish history bears witness to the critical choice facing our country: whether to rescue those in need or to construct barriers to keep them out. Jews have seen America at its best, and we know what it looks like for our country to provide the chance at a new beginning.” But because the Jewish community has also seen days of xenophobia and “the doors slam shut in our greatest hours of need,” the letter appeals to elected officials to ensure that the refugee program be maintained and strengthened for refugees of all ethnic and religious backgrounds — not halted, paused, or restricted.” As of Jan. 24, there were 1,708 rabbis who had signed the letter. Among the signatories were Rabbis Elizabeth Bahar, Temple B’nai Sholom, Huntsville; Alexis Berk, Touro Synagogue, New Orleans; Barry Block, B’nai Israel, Little Rock; Harry Danziger, Memphis; Matt Dreffin, Jackson; Joel Fleekop, Beth El, Pensacola; Ilan Glazer, Beth Sholom, Memphis; Lynne Goldsmith, Temple Emanu-El, Dothan; David Goldstein, New Orleans; Gabriel Greenberg, Beth Israel, Metairie; Micah Greenstein, Temple Israel, Memphis; Debra Kassoff, Jackson; Robert Loewy, Gates of Prayer, Metairie; Barbara Metzinger, New Orleans; Alexis Pinsky, Gates of Prayer, New Orleans; Jeremy Simons, Jackson.

Coming home: Israeli journalist to speak in Jackson Arieh O’Sullivan, who grew up in Mississippi and Louisiana and refers to himself as Israel’s resident redneck, with a Jeep named the General Lee, will speak at Beth Israel in Jackson on Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. In 2012 he was inducted into the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Biloxi. He has been a Middle East journalist since moving to Israel in 1981 and is currently an anchor and reporter for Israel Television’s IBA English News. He has written for the Jerusalem Post and Associated Press.


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Bringing the Southern story to the Nat’l Museum of American Jewish History Goldsmith’s Huntsville family items now on display Thanks to Huntsville’s Margaret Anne Goldsmith, visitors to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia can get a glimpse of the Southern Jewish story. Last summer, the museum placed many artifacts that Goldsmith had donated into its core exhibition. According to the museum, “The new installation focuses on the 19th-century GoldsmithSchiffman-Herstein-Bernstein family members and the beginnings of their lives in Huntsville. Organized by family unit, it includes artifacts and images, a family tree, and an explanatory text panel.” “We’re excited to display artifacts from Margaret Anne’s extraordinary collection,” Associate Curator Ivy Weingram stated. “As the only museum in the country telling the national story of 360 years of Jewish life in America, we’re proud to be the stewards of a collection that offers so many ways to explore the rich and meaningful experiences of Southern Jews, from the 19th century through today.” “We don’t have the Southern Jewish story told nationally,” Goldsmith said. That is why she chose to give so many family artifacts to the museum, so “Yankee Jews would know there are Jews in the South.” She added, “Some people think that the Jewish experience in the South was a negative one, involving the Ku Klux Klan, the experiences of young Jews who came to the south during the Civil Rights Movement and the Leo Frank case. To most people, those were the experiences of Jews in the South. However, those events don’t paint the complete picture.” Goldsmith is descended from the first four Jewish families to settle in Huntsville. Ilana Blumenthal, the museum’s communication manager, noted that members of the four families married each other through the generations, and the combined families have “figured in every phase of the history” of Huntsville. In 2011, she donated the items to the museum, it has taken a while to document the collection and integrate parts of it into the main exhibit. The collection consists of well over a thousand  items, and includes family portraits, silver, china, textiles, furniture, jewelry, photographs, letters, documents, books, business ephemera, and other artifacts ranging from several slave receipts, a candelabra, and a grandfather clock, the circa 1908 wedding dress of her grandmother, shaving mugs and a poker set that belonged to her great grandfather, Oscar Goldsmith. Goldsmith said the family collection has been maintained through the generations, with at least one family member remaining in Huntsville. Being the last person in the family to live in Huntsville, “the challenge is what to do with everything.” Some family items have been given to local institutions, and she felt a responsibility to her ancestors to preserve and tell the family’s Southern Jewish story. “The collection is important because it represents  a classic story of German Jewish Immigration to the South in the mid 1800s,” Goldsmith said. “Our family’s experience was repeated in town after town throughout

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community the South where Jewish families helped build those towns economically, civically, culturally and philanthropically.” It is also unusual in that it chronicles five generations of a family, staying in the same community. Goldsmith resides in the family’s landmark building, the Schiffman building, on the square in downtown Huntsville. The former Southern Savings and Loan building was purchased in 1905 by her greatgrandfather, Isaac Schiffman. A couple of years before that, famed actress Tallulah Bankhead was born in that building, as her parents lived in a second-floor apartment. Goldsmith’s ancestors kept meticulous care of the family archives, storing them in the buildings bank vaults, and “there was always somebody who stayed to keep all of the stuff,” Goldsmith said. When anyone died, she said, questions of what to do with their items was always met with “put it in the vault.” Her grandfather, Lawrence Goldsmith Sr., became president of I. Schiffman and Co. in 1936, then her father, Lawrence Goldsmith Jr., succeeded him in 1972. When he died in 1995, Goldsmith returned to Huntsville after living in New Orleans since 1959. A central item in the collection is a grandfather clock that Solomon and Bertha Schiffman purchased in Cincinnati between 1885 and 1894. The clock followed the family through several homes until Lawrence Goldsmith built the Russel Erskine Hotel in the late 1920s. The clock was moved to the lobby of the hotel. At one point, the clock stopped working. Among the Schiffman businesses was a Dodge dealership, and the head of the service department, Buck Sublett, loved to tinker with clocks. He could not get it to work, Goldsmith said. Arriving at work early one morning, Sublett was attacked by a fellow employee who knew Sublett generally carried a lot of cash. Sublett died from his injuries and the robber received a life prison term. But the day Sublett died, the clock mysteriously started working again. The hotel was in operation as the city grew from a small town to Rocket City, and the hotel housed the Federal site selection team that established what would become Redstone Arsenal. After the hotel closed in 1973 the clock returned to the family home, then became Goldsmith’s in 1995.

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The two Jewish Krewes will head through the streets of New Orleans on Feb. 11. Krewe du Vieux will launch “The Crass Menagerie” at 6:30 p.m., with the Krewe du Mishigas as one of the sub-krewes. A satirical and highly adult-themed parade, Krewe du Vieux starts in the Marigny at Decatur and Mandeville, then heads through the French Quarter, mostly on Decatur and Royal Streets, up to Dauphine through the CBD to Lafayette Street, ending at O’Keefe Avenue. The post-parade ball will be at The Civic. Krewe du Jieux marches as part of the krewedelusion parade. krewedelusion announced on Jan. 19 that it was breaking with Carnival tradition and not naming a Benevolent Ruler, in response to the “abhorrent and historic” presidential inauguration. Captain Oscar Diggs said “our celebration in the streets of New Orleans will be an uprising of the people governed by a radical reorganization of our current administration.” According to Blaine Kern Sr., current ruler of krewedelusion, no New Orleans Krewe has ever paraded without royalty. The Feb. 11 parade is scheduled to start in the Marigny at 7:15 p.m. and continue through the French Quarter, finishing back in the Marigny. Alysse Fuchs was named the new captain of Krewe du Jieux. Rabbi David Polsky, who left Anshe Sfard last summer, will be visiting New Orleans that weekend so he can march once again with the Jieux. He will also deliver the d’var Torah at Anshe Sfard that morning.

community Barth is King of Monroe’s Krewe of Janus

When the Krewe of Janus rolls in Monroe on Feb. 18 for “Around the World with Janus” at 6 p.m., Alan Barth will preside as the King of Janus. Kelli Harvey is Queen Janus XXXIV. The Krewe of Janus was founded in 1984 by the Twin Cities Jaycees to promote tourism in the area. It became independent in 1989. They estimate that approximately 175,000 people view the annual parade. The Krewe holds Texas Hold’Em tournaments monthly to support Camp Quality, a summer camping experience for children with cancer. Barth is a past president of B’nai Israel in Monroe.

Knesseth Israel holding Israel trip raffle Birmingham’s Knesseth Israel Congregation is raffling a week-long trip to Israel for two, with the winner getting to choose between a Jewish tour or a Christian tour. The trip is valued at approximately $8,000 and includes airfare, and can be taken through December 2019. The winner can also opt for $5,000 in cash instead. There will be a maximum of 500 tickets sold, at $100 per ticket. The drawing will be at a ticket holders barbecue on May 14 at 5 p.m. One need not be present to win. Knesseth Israel is the only modern Orthodox congregation in Alabama. Tickets are available from Knesseth Israel or online at

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February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 21



Jackson’s Beth Israel to celebrate building’s 50th anniversary

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For Beth Israel in Jackson, 1967 was an eventful year, and the next few weeks will be filled with 50th anniversary celebrations. At the 6:15 p.m. service on Feb. 24, the congregation will have a service in tribute to their building’s 50th anniversary. The Beth Israel Sisterhood decided to hold Sisterhood Shabbat in conjunction with the 50th anniversary service, and Beth Israel President Michele Schipper said there are more anniversary events in the works for March. Weeks after the building opened in 1967, the Sisterhood held its first Beth Israel Bazaar, a Jewish food festival, bake sale, silent auction and white elephant sale. This year’s 50th annual Bazaar will be on March 29. Over the weeks leading up to it, members will be preparing dishes for the annual event, which is the only time many of the dishes can be found in Jackson. Items for the sale and auction are being accepted. No electronics will be accepted for the sale. The congregation was formed in 1860 with the purchase of land for a Jewish cemetery. The next year, 15 families organized the congregation, which met on South State Street and had the state’s first Jewish day school. A marker at what is now a Shell gas station marks the site of the first synagogue building in Mississippi, though other congregations along the river were established earlier but did not yet have their own buildings. After the original building burnt in 1874, a brick building replaced the wooden building at the same site. As the community migrated, a new site was discussed for several years, with the congregation building on Woodrow Wilson Avenue. At the 1942 dedication, the first Mississippian to attend Hebrew Union College, Jackson native Rabbi Julian Feibelman of Temple Sinai in New Orleans, was the main speaker. After World War II, the congregation tripled in size. Classrooms were added, but a larger building was soon needed. The congregation bought its current location in 1964, raised $300,000 and broke ground in 1965. On March 19, 1967, the final service was held at the old building and a procession was held to the new building for the dedication ceremony. There were 13 ministers, including from African-American churches, taking part in the event. Despite a difficult environment, Rabbi Perry Nussbaum had been active in civil rights for years. The Catholic and Episcopal bishops gave the congregation silver mezuzahs, which were placed on the front doors. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the Klan bombing of Beth Israel, which happened on Sept. 18, 1967. Nussbaum’s home was bombed on Nov. 21.


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Beth Or’s Jewish Food Fest in M’gy on Feb. 26 The doors will open at 9 a.m. on Feb. 26 for Temple Beth Or’s Jewish Food Festival and Treasure and Collectible Market in Montgomery. Over the years, thousands have attended the festival, where most of the dishes are handmade by Beth Or members. The hot plate includes beef brisket with

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community carrots, Quajado (spinach pie) and challah. A deli plate includes a corned beef sandwich, homemade slaw, chips and a pickle. The veggie plate has Quajado, kugel, a latke, slaw and challah. Stuffed cabbage, hot dogs and matzah ball soup are also available, as is a bakery with numerous items, including praline matzah and whole Carnegie Deli cheesecakes. As the 14th annual festival attracts a large number from outside the Jewish community, Rabbi Elliot Stevens gives short talks in the sanctuary. In November, Stevens spoke of the congregation’s history and noted a Jewish Food Fair in the 1880s brought in $3,450 — which would be over $175,000 today. Admission and parking are free.

B’nai Israel plans usual Baton Rouge Mitzvah Day

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For the 18th annual B’nai Israel Mitzvah Day in Baton Rouge, there was a discussion as to whether to have the usual event in light of the August flooding that affected thousands of homes. Organizer Julie Tepper said “there are still many in our community that are dealing with the consequences and aftermath of the flood.” But they decided to go ahead with the usual Mitzvah Day because aside from flood recovery, “there is still much to be done and we have a generous and devoted community wanting to perform mitzvot and continue our 18 year tradition.“ There are usually around 100 congregants who participate in the effort, which will be on March 5 this year. There are six areas where volunteers are needed. One group will do Operation Shoebox, knitting or crocheting caps for members of the military. L’Dor V’Dor and More is baking hamantaschen and assembling Purim baskets for the elderly. Magical Mensch Mania will put together packages of toiletries for the Battered Women’s Shelter, snack bags for the St. Vincent DePaul homeless shelter, cards and treats for soldiers, and more. Canines and Commandments will act against cruelty to animals, making chew ropes, blankets and other items needed by dog rescue groups affected by the floods. B’nai Buddies will do maintenance, cleaning and repairs around B’nai Israel, and the Neshama Noshers will prepare lunch for the mitzvah teams.

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A Senate bill objecting to the December United Nations Security Council resolution that criticized Israel and included all of Jerusalem’s Old City in a description of occupied territory has attracted 78 cosponsors. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was the original sponsor of the bill, which says the resolution is part of efforts that “undermine direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a secure and peaceful settlement.” Rubio’s Florida colleague, Sen. Bill Nelson, signed as a co-sponsor. Both senators from Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas also signed, as did Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. The other Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions, is in the process of being confirmed as U.S. Attorney General. Both Georgia and Texas senators also signed, as did Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennesssee. As of press time, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee is one of only five Republican senators not to co-sponsor the resolution. This resolution follows a Jan. 5 vote in the U.S. House for a similar bill repudiating the U.N. Security Council’s resolution that also condemned Israeli settlements, calling it a one-sided resolution that the Obama administration refused to veto. The entire House delegations from Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas voted for the House resolution, which passed 342-80, as did the two new representatives from the Florida panhandle. The only Mississippi delegate voting against was Bennie Thompson. In Tennessee, John Duncan Jr. and Steve Cohen voted against.

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Miriam Waltzer and Barbara Kaplinsky represent NCJW while standing with women of diverse organizations at the New Orleans march

Jewish demonstrators take to the streets in women’s marches

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Though the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington and its 700 spinoff local marches around the world were on Shabbat, there was still a hefty turnout from the Jewish community, with some from the region making the trek to the nation’s capital. Having been in New Hampshire during the primaries and in Philadelphia for the Democrat National Convention, Huntsville’s Larisa Thomason wasn’t looking for another road trip. “But as I watched president-elect Trump’s behavior during the transition, I became really concerned about the future. As he began appointing advisors and making cabinet nominations, I became frightened for the future of the country and the world.” She figures making an issue “all about Trump” seems to be the only way to get his attention. Michelle Erenberg, NCJW Vice President of Advocacy, was among those marching in Washington. While some Jewish groups did not officially sign on as partners in the march because of Shabbat, NCJW was a co-sponsor and the only Jewish and the only faith-based organization on the march’s policy committee. Caroline Good of New Orleans, who was “bereft” after the election, knew she had to go to the march “and gather strength from like-minded people. It is like going to Israel and you can finally relax because you are with your own people.” Good said she “cannot accept that this man not just represents our country, but steers it” and wanted to see what the next steps would be “to move our platform forward.” She feels targeted by the new administration as a Jew and as a woman, but said the movement is about what affects everyone else. “This means we must address equal right for women, but also demand the fair treatment of Muslims, adopt the Black Lives Matter campaign, create easy access to reproductive care including abortion, make disability rights more than an afterthought, fight for LGBTQ community and protect our immigrant communities,” she said. The march “made me recognize I am not alone” in calling out “people who seek to diminish others,” Good said. In Birmingham, Dalia Abrams asked around in late December to see who was organizing a march in Birmingham. At the time, nobody was, so she decided to organize one on three weeks’ notice. “We had our first meeting four days later and 15 people showed up.” In an interview a week before the Birmingham march, she predicted maybe 200 would show up. Instead, there were over 5,000. “There is a huge desire to do something,” Abroms said. “This gave them a chance to start.” Debra Gordon-Hellman, who helped organize the march, did so “to join my voice with all the others that the poor, the disabled, the immigrant, the LGBTQ, the African-American, women, will not be marginalized and disrespected, and above all else I marched to bring attention

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26 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017

to our sick planet. All other issues pale if we do not have a viable planet.” Taking aim at the Trump administration, she said “We will not let this sick man define us, and the hundreds of thousands who marched all over the world but especially in the United States have let him know this.” Joyce Spielberger was “awed and overwhelmed” by the turnout in Birmingham. She said political leaders can’t be allowed to marginalize groups in society. “The March was not as a protest, but rather a coming together of those who care about their fellow man/woman and the upholding of human rights that we all hold so dear.” Riva Bard, who said Trump sounds “like prewar Germany,” said she marched “for mom and nana, who are Holocaust survivors… We making our voices louder than people who call in bomb threats to Jewish facilities and will send a message that we are watching this time.” Cathy O. Friedman wore her Anytown Alabama shirt, from the high school diversity program, and her group met at the Anne Frank Tree in Kelly Ingram Park, the site of 1963 civil rights demonstrations, as a reminder of “how important freedom is for every generation.” A veteran of numerous marches, Friedman noted this was a “social cause that represents every thing I believe as a Jewish woman, that our rights are on the line and could disappear in the coming years.” Michelle Bearman-Wolnek took her daughter “to empower her to take charge of her life and to broaden her views. To let her know that we still have a voice.” Rhonda Schultz Weinberg went when she head her daughter, Alyssa, and three granddaughters would be marching. “We were three generations walking together,” and the oldest granddaughter, age 6, said they were marching “to show that women can be strong.” In New Orleans, the march started at the Washington Square Park and ended at New Orleans City Hall. Susan Kierr, president of the Greater New Orleans section of NCJW, said “I was truly impressed with the diversity of New Orleans marchers and the sense of connection among the 10,000 women of all ages, along with men and children, who moved through the streets of the historic French Quarter and the Central Business District to stand together at City Hall.” Sefira Fialkoff said “as much as I value working within the system, it doesn’t feel like enough right now. It felt important to be in the streets, physically taking a stand to defend not only my own human rights as a woman, but the rights of those less privileged than myself.” Though “deeply dismayed” by the election, Judge Miriam Waltzer does not question “the legitimacy of the president.” She marched in solidarity with the vulnerable and to show her re-

solve “to stand up and speak out whenever I see that those who govern forget the rights of people.” Benay Bernstein said her spirits “soared” as she saw “faces full of passion as marchers proclaimed their issues, equal pay for women, climate change, women’s rights, universal healthcare. The cry was mainly for acceptance and inclusion.” Carol Kossman attended the Jackson march, saying she had been a secretive Democrat for years. “I have not liked the things proposed by Trump and was happy when I saw that Jackson was having a march,” she said. “It was uplifting to see so many people gathering to support women’s rights and promoting love vs. hate so I was very glad that I went.” Also at the Jackson march were Dana and Jonathan Larkin. He said the march “resonated with both the fear of repression of the victories we’ve seen in the last 50 years for the rights of all citizens, but also with the hope that a new social movement is coalescing to fight against that repression. The march “is doing Tikkun Olam in its most basic form and it was important to us that we march with our sisters and allies around the world.” Their daughter, Alexis Schwartz, who lives in Washington, attended the national march, “carrying all my cousins and sister and mom and grandmas and friends with me.” In Gulfport, Milt Grishman marched “in the spirit of Shifrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who resisted Pharoah, in honor of strong women in every generation.” In Panama City on the conservative Florida panhandle, Lisa Rahn was one of about 500 who marched. “As a Reform Jew, I feel it is my duty to speak up in the face of bigotry, non-tolerance and injustice, which have permeated our society too much over the last 18 months.” While she respects the office of the president and the nation’s peaceful transfer of power, she is concerned about the direction of country. “Dissent is patriotic,” she said. Waltzer said the march “was a great success,” but “what are we now going to do with all that energy?” Abrams said “we are going to work to find a way to use this energy to make change… we are paying attention, and we are going to demand accountability from our elected officials.” Sheri Krell added, “if we all become more involved in the organizations that move us, we can really improve the lives of so many.” Bernstein said the main message for staying active is “to continue the fight by making your voice heard and not just putting thoughts out on social media. Personal letters to those in power work, visits to officials work, Group  meetings with representatives work. Numbers work. Paying attention and getting cohorts out at the critical time to advance your issues work.”


senior life an annual SJL special section

Tulane, New Orleans VA program used as model by Lee J. Green New Orleans’ Hospital at Home program, a partnership between the Tulane University School of Medicine’s Section of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, has been used as a model not just for other VA hospitals but private senior living communities. “The concept of home is such a powerful concept. It’s not so much a physical place but a place where people can be secure and comfortable,” said Dr. Lumie Kawasaki, associate professor of medicine with the Tulane University School of Medicine and the chief of geriatrics and extended care for the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. “Our goal is to keep them in their actual homes and if they need extended hospitalization, to make it as much like their home as possible,” added Kawasaki. “A veteran said it best when he said, ‘I mend better in my own bed’.” She said other VA hospitals, veterans care and senior care systems have contacted them to implement some of the Hospital and Home ideas in their programs. In the case of New Orleans, innovation came from necessity. “This was after Katrina and it was a dire situation. We had to rebuild the infrastructure and start again,” said Kawasaki. “It was dev-

astating but some silver linings came out of it.” She said they were alarmed by the high numbers of those in their 80s who lost their lives in the storm or shortly afterward due to issues with care. “The fastest growing population is those over the age of 65 and we’re seeing the fastest growth rate of the number of people living to be over 85 and 100 years of age,” said Kawasaki. “But it’s not just about living longer, it’s about living longer with a high quality of life.” Advancements in medicine, care and technology have helped people to live longer, healthier lives. Some of the technology can aid seniors who need care but are living at home. “The focus is on smart homes — devices that can help seniors who need care and are living at home to manage their medicine and to perform tasks such as turning lights on and off. There are smart phones with larger screens and touch screens that can be incorporated into the electronics of a home to help someone prompt their memory as well as to handle tasks that would be difficult,” said Kawasaki. She said a trend for the VA in New Orleans is non-institutional care. The SLVHCS provides home-based community services such as primary care, respite care and community adult day care. It was the second VA in the country to form a Hospital at Home program.

Greenbriar at the Altamont residents keep active, celebrate Every day is a celebration for residents at Birmingham’s Greenbriar at the Altamont, but some special holiday events really take the cake. In December they lit the menorah at the senior living community and had a fun Chanukah party well-attended by Jewish and non-Jewish residents. The King and Queen crowning will be part of Greenbrier’s Valentine’s Day celebrations this year. Then in March, friends from nearby

Temple Beth-El will come by to lead Purim celebrations. This festive holiday event at the community will include food, the shaking of tambourines, learning and fun. A Passover Seder will be observed at Greenbriar and is open to all members and special guests. More fun events and holiday celebrations abound in 2017. For more information go to

February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 27


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Most residents at Colonial Oaks assisted-living facility in Metairie don’t pass over a chance to celebrate fun events. Mardi Gras comes later this month, followed in April by a Seder for Pesach. For the past 16 years of her 28 years of experience coordinating events at retirement and assisted living communities, Myra Dunn has enthusiastically coordinated events at Colonial Oaks. “We want to make the environment like home and gear our events to the things our residents are interested in,” said Dunn. This past December they hosted a Chanukah party with great attendance by Jewish residents, family and non-Jewish residents. They said the blessings, ate latkes and chocolate while playing dreidel. Every year Colonial Oaks’ Mardi Gras celebration is on Lundi Gras, Feb. 27 this year. They will name a King and Queen. Krewe members from Mardi Gras parades will come dressed in costumes. The Passover Seder will be in the morning the day before the first day of Pesach this year. Last year more than 40 people attended, Dunn said. She said the residents also love the programs that focus on history and memories from when they were younger. “We have several World War II veterans and some of them have hosted a program in which they have shared their experiences,” said Dunn. “We have some amazing residents.”

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Fair Haven retirement community and one of its residents, Bernard Goldstein, share some rich history in Birmingham and are looking toward the future. This month, Goldstein turns 92. Also this month, Fair Haven completes phase one of its extensive redevelopment of its 56-year-old campus on Montclair Road, and Goldstein will be moving into his new apartment. Last year Fair Haven — which includes garden homes, independent apartment living, assisted living, specialty care assisted living (memory care), skilled nursing and short-term rehabilitation — embarked on a master plan redevelopment “to not only transform its physical campus but to also transform how people experience assisted living, short-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care.” Fair Haven added three skilled nursing households, three assisted living households and two short-term stay households complete with a new therapy gym, pharmacy and dental clinic. The core renovations will continue the new exterior façade updates seen on the new buildings and add special amenities for residents and guests, including an ice cream parlor and a casual bistro. Existing nursing areas of the building will be renovated, with new kitchen areas as well as family-style dining areas that “more closely resembles home.” All construction and renovation is expected to be complete in August of this year. At that time Fair Haven will be home to almost 400 residents and employ more than 300 full-time and 50 part-time staff. Goldstein said he is looking forward to moving into his new apartment. He was born in Birmingham; grew up for a time in Gadsden and returned when he was 14 years old. After graduating from Ramsey High School, Bernard began to pursue a degree at Birmingham Southern College. But in 1943 he decided to volunteer for service in the United States Army. He was inducted into the infantry; sent to Louisiana for training and subsequently sent overseas to Germany. Goldstein served for three years in the Army. Among his many decorations are a bronze star and a purple heart. He was wounded by a bomb during the Battle of the Bulge and, ironically perhaps, sent to a hospital in Birmingham, England. He bravely returned to the war precisely where he had left, with a few small pieces of shrapnel still lodged in various parts of his body. Goldstein’s greatest prize in life is his family, he said. After the war, he returned home to Birmingham and met the love of his life, Nancy Selber, from Shreveport. Together they raised three sons with a business acumen that runs in the family. Goldstein, who has been a long-time member of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, owned The Canterbury Shop for 32 years. Located in Mtn. Brook Village, the store sold fine clothing for children and infants. He also owned The Canterbury Varsity Shop. He would sell both businesses and move onto something he had always wanted to do — photography, and his youngest son joined him in his photography business. Though he retired from the photography business many years ago, Goldstein can be frequently seen snapping his camera and recording videos of activities at Fairhaven. Bernard and Nancy had been at Fair Haven for a while until Nancy passed in October 2015. But he knew Fair Haven was home and said he looks forward to every day with his friends in the community.

seniors Woldenberg Village only Louisiana location for Snoezelen therapy They name a king and queen in all three areas of living and care, and invite residents’ families to celebrate with food, music and trinkets. “Last Woldenberg Village, the New Orleans senior living community under year we had the oldest living king for Zulu and Rex here,” added Townsend. the Touro Infirmary umbrella, is the only Louisiana health care institution For more information visit to implement a therapy to help patients with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Developed by the Dutch in the 1970s, Snoezelen Therapy was originally developed to help children with Autism. It is designed to deliver stimuli to various senses and incorporates aromatherapy, tactile therapy, exercise therapy and music therapy to benefit those patients. by Lee J. Green “We implemented it in March of last year with 20 residents and we plan New Orleans’ Pulse Home Health knows the pulse of the home health to expand the program significantly in 2017,” said Woldenberg Village care industry and a focus on quality care. Executive Director Joe Townsend. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services ranks medical home Woldenberg Village is a continuum-of-care senior living community which offers 60 independent living garden apartments, 60 assisted living health care providers on a five-star system. Most Louisiana agencies are at apartments, a 120-bed skilled nursing care facility, and an outpatient re- 3-½ stars or below but as of last month’s new rankings, Pulse earned a 4-½star quality rating. Those ratings are available on Home Health Compare habilitation center that specializes in physical and occupational therapy. through Townsend said that 12 percent of their residents are Jewish. It was 7 “There is an enhanced focus on providing the best quality care needed,” percent when Townsend came on board in September 2011 and has been said Tami Blackwell, a consultant with Pulse Home Health. as high as 15 percent. Pulse Home Health is locally owned by the Capaci family. Lou Capaci is “Growing our Jewish resident numbers and making this the most ideal a pharmacist and daughter Kim is a registered nurse. “We’re locally owned, home environment for our current Jewish residents has been a focal point family run and involved in the community,” said Blackwell. Pulse has an offor me. This was one of my four main goals when I got here,” he said. fice in Metairie and one on the Northshore. They can provide home health Townsend said Woldenberg Village Activities Director Rita Austin care services within a 50-mile radius of their Metairie office. leads residents in fun holiday celebrations. They celebrate all of the major Patients needing home care can receive it on all levels since Pulse is exJewish holidays. The Chanukah party this past December was well-at- perienced at a multitude of different care areas including skilled nursing, tended by Jewish and non-Jewish residents. physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, home health aides They will have a Passover Seder coming up in April and have services and even psychiatry nursing services. “We work with a patient to customize a plan of care based on that indievery Saturday morning for Jewish residents. Of course, everyone in New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras and on Lundi vidual’s needs,” said Blackwell. Pulse’s skilled nurses are highly trained and Gras every year Woldenberg Village has a festive celebration for Carnival. put a focus on patient education. by Lee J. Green

New Orleans’ Pulse home health care earns highest quality ranking

February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 31


Schonberg communities in La., Miss., built around individual needs The cornerstone of the Schonberg community philosophy is that exceptional assisted living and memory care is personal. Personal care begins and ends with each unique individual, and the family, friends, and loved ones of each resident play an important role in shaping and strengthening each community. Schonberg & Associates has revolutionized and set a new standard in assisted living by going above and beyond to provide unparalleled amenities and care tailored to fit each resident, creating customized activities and care plans based upon a thorough assessment of the individual residents’ abilities, likes, dislikes, passions and preferences. In order to make the transition into assisted living as easy and comfortable as possible, Schonberg & Associates has opened several convenient locations throughout the Greater New Orleans and Mississippi area that provide the absolute best in high-quality amenities, programming and care, including Vista Shores in New Orleans, Beau Provence in Mandeville, Park Provence in Slidell, and Ashton Manor in Luling, Beau Ridge in Ridgeland, and Alden Pointe in Hattiesburg. With the help of full-time Activities Directors that cook up exciting and engaging events, activities, and social outings, Schonberg communities are fully dedicated to ensuring that every day is filled with unique options to satisfy each and every resident, from those with green thumbs or artistic talents to those that prefer singing or shopping. When one is part of the Schonberg family, one can rest assured that there is always something to do, somewhere to go, and someone special to share a meal or a cup of coffee with. Schonberg is also committed to honoring the sanctity and importance of providing each resident with the means to practice and celebrate their faith. As a community that serves a large number of Jewish residents, Schonberg takes especial care to meet the needs of this audience, holding bi-weekly religious services at the community, observing and celebrating Jewish holidays throughout the year, and providing delicious kosher menu options. Residents are also encouraged and supported in organizing community clubs and events based upon shared interests that include religious views, such as a recent citywide synagogue tour taken by residents at the New Orleans community Vista Shores. While the plethora of Schonberg communities within the Greater New Orleans area enables residents to remain close to the friends and family members from their old neighborhood, the exclusive Schonberg Neighborhood Design at each community makes it easy to make new ones, as well. Each neighborhood is occupied by residents with shared abilities, which fosters a comfortable environment ideal for socializing and maximizes team members’ ability to provide each resident with the specialized attention and care that they need. The Schonberg Neighborhood Design is just one aspect of Schonberg’s unique and innovative approach to memory care, which is considered by many to be the finest specially staffed Alzheimer’s and dementia care program in the region. Several of Schonberg’s communities in the Greater New Orleans area have been honored with the national Dementia Care Specialists’ Distinguished Provider Award, which recognizes assisted living communities that provide truly outstanding, resident-centered care. Schonberg communities pride themselves on setting an exceptional standard in memory care through extensive training for all team members, the staffing of full-time Memory Care Directors, and promoting continuous education through consultation and courses with leading Alzheimer’s and dementia care researchers and experts. Schonberg’s individualized programs are custom-designed to enrich residents’ lives and enable them to function at their highest possible level. Schonberg’s community philosophy revolves around giving residents the freedom to be as independent as possible, while providing the peace of mind that assistance and compassionate care is always available when it’s needed. Founder David Schonberg sums up their award-winning operating philosophy with a single question: “Several times each day, we ask ourselves, ‘Is this in the best interest of this particular resident?’ If the answer is yes, then we can’t go wrong. This simple operating philosophy is the secret to our continued success.” 32 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017


Home Instead celebrates 20 years of service by Lee J. Green Home Instead Senior Care Birmingham, which celebrates 20 years in 2017 and has delivered more than three million hours of service to more than 12,000 families during that time, knows the importance of home and family in the Jewish faith. Several of their caregivers, employees and clients are Jewish and they have some caregivers who are familiar with traditions, including keeping kosher and observing the Sabbath. “It is a privilege that we have such a strong and vibrant Jewish community here. We’re proud to serve those in need and to have community members on our team,” said Home Instead Senior Care Birmingham owner Dan Pahos. His franchise of the 23-year-old Omaha, Neb.-based company was the first in Alabama when it started 1997 in Vestavia. The company is now in 14 countries. Pahos said much has changed in the non-medical home care industry since those early days. At first they cared for primarily those in the World War II generation, but now it is the Baby Boomers. In fact, more than 11,000 people turn 65 every day in the U.S. “In the last eight or nine years we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of Baby Boomers we are providing care for,” said Pahos. “The World War II generation was more quiet and not exposed to technology as much. The Baby Boomers not only want help but in this technology-driven world they want things to be worked out quickly. We’ve positioned ourselves to make sure we are ready to respond as soon as they want us to.” Unlike the 1950s and 60s, far more people are living longer into their 80s, 90s and 100s. “We have seniors that are dealing with multiple medical conditions and medications. It can get complicated. But we’re there to make it easier for them,” said Pahos. It starts with a free needs-assessment consultation and then a caregiver is matched with a client. Home Instead Senior Care Birmingham has 285 trained caregivers in its network, along with its 18 staff members. Sophisticated matching software allows them to find the best match between a caregiver and a client based on a set of data — specialty care experience or training such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, geography and availability, smoker or non-smoker, whether caregivers be around cats

and dogs, as well as personality matches. “We plug in all of the data and then we usually have at least a few prospective caregiver candidates. Our experienced schedulers select who they feel among those will be the best fit,” said Pahos. “I would say 90 percent of the time it works out the first time but we always have another option… or a backup if a caregiver gets sick or the client’s schedule changes from their normal routine.” The caregivers provide services such as basic help around the house, helping clients with medications, running errands and other non-medical-care needs. But on a personal level, they enjoy being companions to those they are caring for. “Our caregivers develop some strong friendships with those they are giving care to and that emotional connection is so important. They become like family to us and to those they are providing care for,” he said. Speaking of family, that was what inspired Pahos to get into the non-medical home care industry. In the 1990s, his mom said the world is getting older. The World War II generation and Baby Boomers would need more help to stay in their homes. “She said my temperament and disposition would work well with the elderly, as I have always liked hanging out with my grandparents and listening to their stories,” he said. Pahos is from St. Paul, Minn., and never thought he would live in the Deep South. But he met the woman who would become his wife, who is from Birmingham. They moved to the Magic City in 1993. Not long after, Pahos had to deal with unexpected eldercare issues for his dad back in Minnesota, so from that personal experience he started looking at business opportunities in caring for the elderly. “I thought the Home Instead Senior Care franchise and the non-medical home care industry was a perfect fit for me. It played to my desire, skills and strengths,” he said. When he lost his father, he moved his mother to Birmingham and through Home Instead Senior Care, he provided loving care for her until her passing in 2011. “It’s rewarding to be doing something where you have make such a positive difference in people’s lives,” said Pahos.

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community “The Green Book” of Jim Crow era intersects with Holocaust survivor Play has Alabama debut this month at RMTC by Lee J. Green



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34 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017

A play about the book that identified places for African-Americans to go during the days of Jim Crow laws and segregation, interwoven with a fascinating twist when a Jewish concentration camp survivor comes into the story, has its Alabama debut Feb. 17 to 19 at the Red Mountain Theatre Company’s Cabaret Theatre. The play is presented in partnership with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. “The Green Book” is the first work by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Calvin Alexander Ramsey who was born in Baltimore in the 1950s but moved to North Carolina with his family when he was young. “My dad worked in the steel mills. I remember growing up in Baltimore and befriending many of the nice Jewish merchants. Our communities seemed to have a kinship there and in North Carolina,” he said. Ramsey would go on to become a university professor and writer. He lives in New York City now, but previously lived in Atlanta and for five years served on the advisory board of Special Collections at Emory University’s Woodruff Library. Pulling from these resources and his own experiences, Ramsey launched a career as a playwright at age 51 with “The Green Book.” The two-act play focuses on the difficulties African-Americans faced while traveling during the Jim Crow era. It was based on his research about “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a manual directing blacks to “safe” restaurants, hotels and gas stations across the country, published from 1936 to 1963. The play had its premiere at Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit in 2004 to soldout houses and rave reviews. It was a finalist in the Last Frontier Theater Conference in Alaska, with critiques given by numerous prominent playwrights, including Louisiana native Tony Kushner. In the play, the book’s salesman encounters Jacob Lansky, a Holocaust survivor who is on a journey to honor the African-American soldier who had saved his life. Ramsey said their interaction “is very pivotal to the play.” Lansky is a composite of Holocaust survivors Ramsey met as well as from culling over many hours of tape. The Actors’ Temple on 148th Street in New York City, a synagogue that also houses a theater, hosted a reading of “The Green Book,” with “Dr. Ruth” Westheimer in attendance. Ramsey said that despite living in North Carolina during the few last years “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was published, he was not aware of it at the time. His family had moved to North Carolina in 1959 and he went to a segregated school. In 1966, he transferred to a white school in Roxboro, a small town outside of Durham. “There wasn’t a lot of action in our town but I was very aware with what was happening while Dr. Martin Luther King was alive. I felt a part of it and supported the fight for equal rights,” said Ramsey. “Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, they were all from Baltimore and they were our heroes,” he said.

community Ramsey is currently working with Red Mountain Theatre Company to develop his civil-rights-infused children’s books into 30-minute plays. One, “Ruth and the Green Book,” is a children’s adaptation of the play, and the other, “Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend,” speaks of the pivotal role mules played in the fight for civil rights in the isolated Alabama town now famous for its quilts. Ramsey will come to Birmingham for several days in mid-February and said he was available to speak to schools and organizations in the Jewish and general communities about “The Green Book” and his experiences. “It is remarkable to see where Birmingham is today versus then. I am looking forward to this opportunity and I hope the play resonates with people,” said Ramsey. The play will be performed on Feb. 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 19 at 2 p.m.

Natchez Literary Celebration a Mississippi journey This year’s Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration will celebrate “Mississippi: A Literary Journey” the weekend of Feb. 23 to 25. The weekend is one of the state’s most significant conferences dedicated to literature, history, film and culture. The goal is to inspire a love of the humanities, and most events are free and open to the community. Begun in 1990 by Copiah-Lincoln Community College and now sponsored by Copiah-Lincoln and Mississippi Department of Archives and History, with support of the Natchez National Historical Park, the celebration annually presents a theme-based lecture series enhanced by films, field trips, workshops, exhibits, book signings, concerts and discussions. William Ferris will be among the presenters, discussing “The South in Color: A Visual Journal,” using photographs to demonstrate the power of memory and the sense of place. Documentary film presentations include “The Parchman Ordeal” and the life of Nellie Jackson, “Mississippi Madam.” Martha Rossignol will discuss the civil rights movement’s effects on small-town Mississippi from a persona perspective. NancyKay Sullivan Wessman will present “Katrina and its Impact on Modern Mississippi.” Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post will discuss “The State of Jones,” Jones County’s defiance of Mississippi’s secession in the Civil War. Ticketed events include a concert at First Presbyterian Church and a benefit cocktail reception at Glen Auburn, home of Dr. and Mrs. Randy Tillman. More information is available at nlcc.

Southern Jewish Life’s

Guide to the Jewish South

is a “guidebook” like Mardi Gras is a “parade”

Most Jewish publications publish some kind of annual Community Guidebook.

Southern Jewish Life’s Guide is different. SJL’s Guide is more than a listing of organizations, institutions and congregations… it is a portal to the history of the Deep South Jewish communities of Louisiana, Alabama, the Florida panhandle and Mississippi, and a guide to the present. SJL’s Guide provides information on every community with a Jewish presence. It gives a history of each community, and finds the often-overlooked sites and fascinating stories. It also chronicles sites of defunct Jewish communities and tells those stories. It’s a keepsake edition that will be widely read and referred to —

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Email or Deadline is March 27

February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 35

304 19th Street North Bessemer, Ala. 205.424.9444

The Bright Star’s Greek Snapper 1 stick butter, melted 6 8-oz. fresh snapper fillets ½ cup flour for dusting Sauce: Juice of 3 lemons Oregano to taste Salt and Pepper to Taste 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil Make sauce by mixing lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper in bowl with wire whisk. Slowly pour olive oil into lemon mixture, whisking until emulsified. To prepare fish, pour melted butter over each fillet, coating evenly. Lightly dust each piece with flour. Cook in a heavy skillet coated with 1 teaspoon olive oil or on a griddle until lightly browned. Pour sauce over grilled fish and serve immediately.


The Bright Star by Lee J. Green

One of the Deep South’s most legendary restaurants has two things the Jewish community can appreciate — a love of tradition and a love of good food. Greek immigrant Tom Bonduris had a few dollars, some culinary skills and a dream when he opened up The Bright Star restaurant in Bessemer in 1907. While much has changed in Alabama and the world since then, many things about The Bright Star have remained the same. “What hasn’t changed is that we have been and will always be in the hospitality business,” said General Manager Stacey Craig, whose uncles Jim and Nick Koikos currently own The Bright Star. “Our customers and our employees are like our family. We make sure that every time someone comes in they get quality food in a clean, friendly environment.” Of course not much has changed with the menus over the years and the building, as The Bright Star moved into its current location in downtown Bessemer in 1915. “We go from a meat-and-three lunch to a steak and seafood house for dinner.” Bonduris came to the Birmingham area from the Laconia region of Greece. The coal and iron ore industries were booming. Cooking was what he and his family knew so they invested in a small restaurant with a horseshoe-shaped bar just a few blocks from the current location. Bonduris sponsored Craig’s grandfather Bill and great-uncle Pete when they came over to the U.S. from Greece in the 1920s. In the 1950s Bill, Pete Koikos and Gus Sarris owned The Bright Star. 36 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017

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During the 1960s, Pete and Gus sold their interest to Bill along with his sons Jim and Nick. After Bill passed in 1988, the restaurant has been equally owned by Jim and Nick. The restaurant has worked to preserve its history. The marble floors are still there and murals and chandeliers have been restored. In 2010, the James Beard Foundation recognized The Bright Star as an American Classic. It is not known if Bonduris ever visited New Orleans, but the restaurant he opened had the character of a French Quarter-type establishment. Every August, The Bright Star partners with famous restaurants such as Commander’s Palace and Tujaques on a Taste of New Orleans weekend. That tradition dates back to 1989, when the late Jamie Shannon of Commander’s was the first to visit. Jim Koikos had dined at Commander’s and asked to meet the chef, invited him to be a guest chef at The Bright Star, and a tradition was born. After Shannon’s untimely death in 2001, Jared Tees and Tory McPhail continued the tradition, and for the last couple of years, Richard Bickford of Tujague’s has been the guest chef. They also have had some special events featuring Flora-Bama Chef Chris Sherrill. The Bright Star can accommodate 300 guests, including a banquet room for up to 100 people. The restaurant is also unique in that it has seven private dining rooms for small groups. One of those rooms is the Bear Bryant room. The legendary coach would come regularly to The Bright Star, including every Monday night to dine and watch Monday Night Football, Craig said. “(Current Alabama Crimson Tide Head Football Coach) Nick Saban has come here. I can see us one day having a Nick Saban room,” she said. Don’t worry, Auburn fans — there is also an Auburn-themed private dining room. “People can reserve the rooms ahead of time but they don’t have to. If it’s available they can sit there,” added Craig. The restaurants walls are lined with photographs of the family owners, employees and famous customers dating back to the early years. Other regular guests at The Bright Star over the years included Alabama singers and actors, NASCAR’s Allison family, Alabama legendary quarterback Bart Starr and many others. Craig said The Bright Star has gained a reputation for having “the freshest fish in central Alabama,” brought in twice weekly from the Gulf of Mexico. The Greek-style snapper recipe is below. Many items on the restaurant’s menu are kosher-style including the steaks, other non-shellfish seafood, fresh cooked Southern vegetables, burgers, macaroni and cheese as well as several salads. “We do what we know. It’s simple food done well,” said Craig. “We will add some seafood and other specials but the main menu stays intact. We’re not all about tapas or chasing other fads.” The Bright Star for many years has been a popular stop before or after Alabama Crimson Tide football games since it is west of Birmingham just a mile from Interstate 20/59 on the route from the Magic City to Tuscaloosa. “We have been and will always be a destination restaurant,” said Craig. “We’re all about tradition and family here. As times change, that will never change.”

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ADL’s Rose to speak in Dothan, M’gy


Shelley Rose, interim regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s office in Atlanta, will be visiting two Alabama communities on Feb. 9 to speak about the current state of anti-Semitism and what ADL is doing to combat it. She will speak at Dothan’s Temple Emanu-El at noon, with Sisterhood providing a soup and salad lunch. In Montgomery, she will visit Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem at 6 p.m. for a community program.

2226 Highland Avenue S Birmingham 205.939.3805 TAJINDIA.NET Lunch M-F 11-2p, Sat & Sun 11:30-2:30p Dinner: M-Sa 5-10p, Sun 5-9p

February 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 37

rear pew mirror • doug brook

Enterprising Jews

Southern Jewish Life

Documenting this community, a community we are members of and active within, is our passion. We love what we do, and who we do it for.

38 Southern Jewish Life • February 2017

  Space… the final shpatzir… to boldly go closing all portals for Shabbat so no stars are seen until the appropriate time after sunset. where no minyan’s gone before… Non-Jewish crewmembers take Shabbat Judaism has a long history in the future of reaching for the stars. The Vulcan salute from rotations. However, many circumstances fall Star Trek is famously adapted from Judaism. under the “to save a life” clause, including battles Many writers for the original series were Jewish. and not being able to shut down all ship’s power from sunset to sunset. Because… life support. And there are the actors. Speaking of supporting life, there is little Many know that Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, was Jewish. Almost as many know that Jewish practice without food. Recreation the captain himself, William Shatner, is tribal, rooms on the Enterprise always have three food dispensers. One each for dairy, meat, too. But the list goes on. Check off Chekov, and check the list twice. and pareve. Astute observers will note that food dispenser trios sometimes Walter Koenig, the original, and temporarily appear in random Anton Yelchin, the newer —  both places throughout the ship. Chekovs, born to Russian Jews. Even IN SPACE, The reason is simple: they were Winona Ryder, who played Spock’s NOBODY specifically for Passover. After mother the second time around, is all, what’s the only food ever seen one of many guest players who were CAN HEAR out of a dispenser in the eligible to have first cut their chops YOU DAVEN coming transporter room? Chicken soup. as a bar or bat mitzvah. What about off ship? The With the original series, the Jewish adventure was only beginning. While Klingon Culinary Conflict of 2263, where they nobody on Voyager or Enterprise grew up at a were given the rules of kashrut to accommodate seder table, the Passover meal was just another the devoutly Jewish ambassador. After the first order to Commander Data’s alter ego, Brent two pages of restrictions, the Klingons cancelled the diplomatic meeting, setting relations back Spiner. The four main Ferengi of Deep Space Nine several years. were all Jews, which some deemed controversial. When praying, Jews must face east, The Ferengi are the Star Trek universe’s symbolically toward Jerusalem. Three times insidious merchants — diminutive, annoying, a day, the helmsman has to swing the ship self-important, conniving, and always looking around so it’s facing the eastern part of Earth for to make a profit. Some believe they’re an anti- minyan. When mission requirements prevent Semitic portrayal, akin to what many believe of that, facing galactic east is allowed. Rotating the “The Merchant of Venice.” ship simplifies the question of which way to face Of course, Ferengi existed long before these within the ship, and especially if there’s a course castings, so the notion is, as one of the four change. Ferengi actors famously lisped in another Jewish rituals also provide simple explanations fantastical film, inconceivable. to certain oddities seen throughout the mission. Equally inconceivable is how to apply certain For example, ships orbit facing eastward so Judaic laws and customs aboard a starship. they can remain in orbit during minyan without For example, Shabbat begins at sunset and continual reorientation. ends after the next sunset upon seeing three Also, math. The Enterprise was on a five-year stars in the sky. In space, how can one witness a sunset? Which sun setting over which planet, mission. However, Star Trek was cancelled after three seasons. The numbers reconcile more and based on what time? Quite simply, wherever the ship is, at a than people realize. Subtract five years worth time pre-determined to sync up with the solar of Shabbats and holidays (including the minor schedule on Earth and matching up with ones)… Three years.   shipboard time, viewscreens are set to show Doug Brook included Winona Ryder, even the sun setting on a planet in a nearby system though she had just one brief appearance in the at the appropriate time. Similarly, at the end of Shabbat the same is done, with the assistance franchise, because she’s always been on his list of of a non-Jewish crewmember operating the five. It’s laminated. To read past columns, visit For exclusive online controls. As for seeing three stars, some insist on content, like  



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SJL Deep South, February 2017