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Southern Jewish Life


Volume 27 Issue 3

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

While Israel as Start-Up Nation has brought the world many amazing advances in a wide range of fields, there are other Middle East exports that haven’t been welcome over the years. When terror attacks started happening against Israel, there were warnings not to explain them away as simply expressions of grievance by the Arab world, or to justify them as a manner of resistance, lest those tactics start appearing elsewhere in the world. Naturally, some of the techniques honed against Israel soon were seen elsewhere in the Arab world and in the Western world. Today, many in the United States are focused on this “new” phenomenon of “fake news.” To that, supporters of Israel say,“where have you been?” Israel has dealt with that for decades in the western press. In high school in the 1980s, we were required to subscribe to Time magazine and had a current events quiz every week. Even then, Time was known to have an extreme animus toward Israel. The Jerusalem Post had a regular “Eye on the Media” column to ferret out media bias and outright falsehoods. The term “Pallywood” refers to manufactured outrage — staged “spontaneous” protests that happen only as television cameras are in the area, fake casualties, accusations of Israeli aggression when a Hamas rocket falls short of its destination and hits Palestinians, using heart-wrenching photos of those maimed and wounded and blaming Israel for the carnage when the photos are actually from Syria or Iraq... the list goes on. Those advocating for Israel have long complained of a media “template” that assumes a certain narrative in the Middle East, where powerful Israel is a colonial threat to the weak, underdog “natives,” regardless of the facts. Now, all of a sudden, people are concerned about news stories being completely wrong or slanted? Reporters and editors are (mostly) human and do make mistakes. Some come into their positions to advance an agenda and should stick to the editorial or commentary side of the

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March 2017 February 2017

commentary business. There are some who want to put out a good story regardless of the context, looking for a pre-determined quote from an interviewee so they can plug it into a pre-existing idea, regardless of whether the speaker intended it that way. There are willful distortions and manipulations on both sides of the aisle, and that was clearly evident in the past election cycle. One in particular came from the sentiment on the right that celebrities and politicians on the left are hypocritical by speaking out against guns while they have armed security — it’s fine for them but not for the average citizen. When Trump pointed that out by saying Hillary Clinton’s guards should try getting rid of their weapons, he was immediately accused of urging his supporters to assassinate her. Not that Trump hasn’t used more than his share of hyperbole and extreme extrapolation, but the overwrought umbrage to that remark reinforced a cynicism about politics and the media. One shouldn’t complain about “fake news” by one side while giving it a pass in instances where it benefits one’s own political leanings. Of course, none of this is truly new. Thomas Jefferson, who faced slanted and slanderous coverage Trump could only have nightmares about, retorted that “nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” Despite his lamentations over the partisan direction the media had taken in his day, Jefferson nevertheless held that given a choice between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” An oft-ignored next phrase then says that

Southern Jewish Life is contingent on everyone receiving those papers and being capable of reading them — in other words, an informed citizenry using reason to discern truth. In an age where anyone with a keyboard can go online and spread stories of questionable validity, it is imperative to check multiple sources and see what is credible. Especially when it comes to forwarding an incredible story that came from “somewhere” online. And that also means being exposed to sources that differ from one’s views and listening to them. Not necessarily agreeing with them, but at least considering where others are coming from. The polarized echo chamber we see today hampers civil discourse. In our stories, we strive to make them so the reader isn’t quite sure where we fall on the political spectrum. That’s not to say we always get it right, but we try to follow Mr. Jefferson’s instruction to follow truth wherever it may lead. Like so many things in society, this “fake news” dustup will pass, and in another generation, another president will complain about it. Just as anti-Semitism did not suddenly appear because of Trump, fake news did not start with this past election cycle. We’re just more attuned to both right now. Of course, having four threats against the JCCs in Birmingham and New Orleans thus far this year, we’re ready for that to pass into the rear view mirror as well.



Baseball pension ”curve ball” affected Jewish player from Alabama by Douglas J. Gladstone From 1995 through 2001, Tony Clark was one of the most productive first basemen in the American League. Playing for the Detroit Tigers, Clark was one of the players who succeeded Jason Thompson at first base. Similarly, Thompson succeeded another Tigers first baseman by the name of Jack Pierce.  Pierce  passed away on Sept. 30, 2012 at the age of 64. Pierce’s last year in “The Show” proved to be his best: he amassed 40 hits in 170 at bats for the Tigers, including six doubles, one triple and eight homers. He left behind a wife, six children and six grandchildren.   Men like Pierce, who do not receive pensions because they didn’t accrue at least four years of service credit in the big leagues, which is 4 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

what you needed if you played in the majors from 1947 to 1979, have instead been receiving nonqualified life annuities of up to $10,000 per year since 2011. Well, Pierce doesn’t anymore. That’s because, unlike pensions, which can be passed on to a loved one or a designated beneficiary, nonqualified life annuities stop when the player dies. So Jack Pierce got, at most, two of these payments before he died. Since then, his widow has gotten diddly-squat. The maximum allowable pension limit under the IRS is $210,000. The man who could remedy that situation happens to be Tony Clark. But, to date, he’s shown no inclination to do that. As the executive director of the Major League continued on page 51


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NEW ORLEANS OFFICE 3747 West Esplanade, 3rd Floor Metairie, LA 70002 504/780.5615 /sjlmag @sjlmag /southern /sj jewish TOLL-FREE 866/446.5894 life FAX 866/392.7750 ADVERTISING Advertising inquiries to Lee Green, 205/870.7889 or or Stacey Mazin, Media kit, rates available upon request SUBSCRIPTIONS It has always been our goal to provide a large-community quality publication to all communities of the South. To that end, our commitment includes mailing to every Jewish household in the region (AL, LA, MS, NW FL), without a subscription fee. Outside the area, subscriptions are $25/year, $40/two years. Subscribe via, call 205/870.7889 or mail payment to the address above. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission from the publisher. Views expressed in SJL are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily shared by the magazine or its staff. SJL makes no claims as to the Kashrut of its advertisers, and retains the right to refuse any advertisement. 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.

agenda interesting bits & can’t miss events

Neighbor Night at Temple Beth El, Anniston, on Feb. 17

Jewish, Japanese communities unite to honor Chiune Sugihara in Pensacola The Pensacola Jewish Federation and Temple Beth-El are working with the Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida and the Consulate General of Japan in Miami on a special screening of “Persona Non Grata.” The March 30 event will be at Beth-El, with a 5:30 p.m. reception and 6:15 p.m. screening. The film is the true story of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, the only Japanese person recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli government, and often referred to as the “Japanese Schindler.” Sugihara was Japan’s consul in Lithuania during World War II. Though Japan had a treaty with Nazi Germany, he saw what was happening to the Jews of Europe and defied his government to issue transit visas, allowing more than 6,000 Jews to escape to Japanese territory. He hand-wrote the visas for 18 to 20 hours a day, until the consulate was closed, and he kept writing visas and throwing them out of the train as he left Lithuania. In 1968, an Israeli in Tokyo who had been one of those Sugihara had saved managed to track him down, and the next year Sugihara visited Israel.

The film had its North American premiere in 2016 at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Sugihara was born in Yaotsu, which is near Gero, Pensacola’s Japanese sister city. A delegation of 20 junior high school students and three teachers from Gero will be visiting Pensacola that week and will attend the screening.

New Orleans Jewish Family Service gets 4-star Charity Navigator rating In January, Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans was awarded the highest 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management and a proven commitment to accountability and transparency. Charity Navigator highlights the work of efficient, ethical and open non-profits. Charity Navigator provides contributors with essential information needed to give them greater confidence in the charitable choices they make. Roselle Ungar, JFS executive director, said the agency “is honored to be given this important distinction recognizing the Agency’s hard work in our pursuit to be efficient and transparent to supporters and to the community.” She said the rating “illustrates JFS’s commitment to good governance and highlights how we pursue our mission in a fiscally responsible way.” Currently, Charity Navigator has almost 8,400 charities rated.

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 5

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Rabbi Joshua Lief, who became the part-time rabbi of Temple Shalom in Lafayette last summer, is leaving the congregation to take a fulltime position at his childhood congregation in West Virginia, where his parents are still active members. Edye Mayers said when Lief accepted the position in Lafayette last year, “he had no idea this opportunity would present itself.” Lief had been rabbi at Ahavath Chesed in Jacksonville from 2008 to 2016. He will start at Temple Shalom in Wheeling this summer. Prior to Lief, the congregation was served by Rabbi Barry Weinstein of Baton Rouge, who still serves Temple Sinai in Lake Charles part-time. Lafayette’s Temple Shalom is interviewing candidates for part-time rabbi.


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The Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood in Dothan hosted ADL Atlanta Director Shelley Rose on Feb. 9. She spoke about the current state of anti-Semitism and what communities can do to prepare for and counter these threats. That evening, she also spoke at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery. The Mobile Area Jewish Federation will honor Donald Berry, Sister Anne Brady and Jerry Darring with the Shalom Award, March 13 at a 7 p.m. dessert reception at Springhill Avenue Temple.

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B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will have a Shabbat service and Mediterranean reception celebrating the marriage of Rabbi Jordan Goldson and Beth Warren, March 24 at 6 p.m. Temple Beth Or in Montgomery will celebrate its 165th anniversary at the 6 p.m. service

On March 1, B’nai Israel in Little Rock received flowers of support from the Little Rock Islamic Center. Rabbi Barry Block said that though the Little Rock Jewish community has not received any threats, Imam Mahmoud Al-Denay Hassanein said they were disturbed by what happened to the Jewish cemetery near St. Louis. “We condemn this barbaric act that none of the religions could tolerate,” and on behalf of the Muslims of Little Rock was sending the flowers “just to show our love and support.” Temple Beth-El in Pensacola received a similar gift, with a card from “your North Hill neighbors” stating “You are welcome here” on the outside. In Tallahasee, Muslim Student Associations at Florida State University and Florida A&M sent flowers to Jewish organizations on campus and in the greater community. on April 7, featuring the choir performing some classic works. The Jewish Federation of Central Alabama will hold its next Café Israel on March 23 at 7 p.m., with Amiram Jakira, Air War College student from Israel at Maxwell Air Force Base. He will discuss the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Six Day War and reunification of Jerusalem. The program will be at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will host the


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United Synagogue Youth’s Ein Gedi Spring Subregional convention the weekend of March 24. Approximately 50 teens from the region, which includes Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and southern North Carolina, will attend. Pensacola’s Temple Beth-El will host the fourth annual Jazz Shabbat on March 31, featuring the Klezmateers at the 7:30 p.m. service. A patron concert and dinner will be at 6 p.m., and is $54 per person.

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The annual Hadassah Shreveport Shower of Dollars fundraiser will be on March 26 at 2 pm., at the home of Bethany Sorkey. New and old members, prospective members and Associates are invited. The Downtown Faith Alliance in Lafayette will have a Faith Crawl on March 11, during ArtWalk. The Crawl starts at 6 p.m. with gospel music at Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, then heads to Temple Shalom for Israeli dancing, finishing at First United Methodist Church. All are welcome. Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El continues its Legacy Stories series on March 17 at the 5:40 p.m. service with “What I Learned from Rabbi Grafman.” Jeffrey Bayer, Robert Levin and David Aarons will share stories on what Grafman taught them about life, along with some amusing anecdotes. Grafman served Emanu-El from 1941 to 1975 and was rabbi emeritus until his death in 1995.

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Hodalee Scott Sewell, a Native American and member of B’nai Israel in Panama City, will speak about his books on Native American history and ancestry of Florida panhandle families, under the pen name Christopher Scott Sewell, on March 18 at the Jimmy Weaver Memorial Library in Hosford, and the Corinne Costin Gibson Memorial Library in Port St. Joe on April 8. Both events are at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El will have its annual Sisterhood Women’s Seder on March 19 at 5 p.m. Cantor Jessica Roskin and Rabbi Laila Haas will lead the Seder, with a Haggadah designed for women. All women in the community ages 12 and up are welcome. Advance reservations are $25. Sheri Krell will lead a “Walk and Talk” on “How to Effectively Discipline,” March 15 at 8 a.m. The N.E. Miles Jewish Day School program will be held on the Levite Jewish Community Center track, with a discussion on struggles and strategies of discipline for ages 0 to 4.

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Former Akron Israeli Shlicha Mayana Branigan will speak on “Where You Go I Shall Follow,” March 19 at 3 p.m. at Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile. She will discuss the life journey of her mother, Jocheved, who died in 2013. Jocheved was a Christian, born in the Virgin Islands, who late in life converted to Judaism and moved to Israel.

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B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will have a Nature Shabbat, a stroll through the swamp, on April 8 at 10 a.m., at Bluebonnet Swamp. Author Melissa Fay Greene will discuss her book, “The Underdogs: Children, Dogs and the Power of Unconditional Love,” as part of the Temple Beth Or, Montgomery, Rothschild-Blachschleger Lecture Series, March 16 at 7 p.m. The book details the bond between disabled children and their service dogs. Greene is also author of “Praying for Sheetrock” and “The Temple Bombing,” about the 1958 Temple bombing in Atlanta.

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Hadassah Shreveport Shabbat will be on March 24 at 7 p.m., at Agudath Achim. Rabbi Jana DeBenedetti of B’nai Zion and Cantor Neil

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 7


Schwartz will lead the service with Hadassah members. On March 17, Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery will welcome Anne Rayburn from the Alabama Organ Center at the 6 p.m. service. The Rabbi and the Preacher returns in Dothan, with Rev. Lynn Nesbitt of First United Methodist Church and Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith of Temple Emanu-El discussing the Jewishness of Jesus. The classes will be at the church on March 15 and 22 at 6 p.m., and participants are invited to the church dinner before class. Dinner reservations are $7 and are due the Monday before the class.

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There will be an abundance of guests at Temple Beth Or in Montgomery on March 24 for the 6 p.m. service. Mayor Todd Strange will speak during the service, and Westchester Reform Temple of Scarsdale, N.Y., will have dinner with the congregation after the service. Dinner reservations are requested by March 17, and are $15 for ages 13 and up, $7 for ages 5 to 12.

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The annual Huntingdon College Shabbat service at Temple Beth Or will be on March 17 at 6 p.m. Rabbi Elliot Stevens will lead a presentation to the students and faculty at 5 p.m.


The Alabama Faith Council will have a community interfaith program on “Sacred Waters and Washing” in different faith traditions on April 2 at 3 p.m. at Temple Beth-El in Birmingham.

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Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El announced that Interim Rabbi Barry Leff will be serving the congregation for a second year, with the search for a permanent rabbi taking place in 2018. The congregation is currently in the midst of a search for a new Music/Education Director, with the forthcoming departure of Rabbi Joseph Robinson. An interfaith women’s day, “Hugs Not Strikes,” will be held at the Masjid Al-Taqwa on Virginia Avenue in Shreveport on March 26 at 5 p.m., prompted by calls for a “Global Women’s Strike.”

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The Mobile Trialogue will have its next event on March 16 at Ahavas Chesed, at 6:30 p.m. The Jewish, Christian and Muslim symposium will be on conversion, with three speakers who have each converted to their chosen faith. The event is open to the community, and light refreshments will be served.

The next program in the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School’s “How to Build a Jewish Home” series will be on kashrut, led by Rabbi Barry Leff, on March 22 at 7 p.m. Birmingham’s N.E. Miles Jewish Day School will host a Lunch and Learn on Kindergarten Readiness from a Whole Child Perspective, April 5 at noon. Sheri Krell, along with parents of children ages 0 to 4, will lead a discussion on what non-academic skills children need to prepare for kindergarten. Lunch will be provided. RSVP to Liora Chessin at the school. Rabbi Judy Ginsburgh will lead a “Taste of Judaism” class at B’nai Israel in Monroe on April 8 from 1 to 4 p.m. The class will feature basic information about what Jews believe, the history of the Jews, Jewish holidays and customs, Jewish words, Israel and more. There will be an “Ask the Rabbi” question and answer session at the end. The class is free and open to the community at large. Flyers from the United Dixie White Knights, a Mississippi-based Klan group, were scattered in several neighborhoods around Birmingham overnight, particularly in the Highlands and Forest Park areas, on Feb. 16-17.

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Chabad House opening in Biloxi In 2014, Mississippi became the next-to-last state to have a Chabad presence. Now, just months after it was announced that South Dakota is making it 50-for-50, Chabad of South Mississippi announced its new Chabad House. “We’ve needed a new space for about a year,” Rabbi Akiva Hall said. “We’ve really outgrown our home,” where most of the Chabad activities have taken place. The new facility is a 2,000-square-foot building at 2030 Pass Road in Biloxi. The Halls also moved into a new home within walking distance of the new center. Chabad is signing a five year lease on the building, “which needs a full renovation” to suit their purposes. Hall said they did not want to just take office space, they wanted somewhere they could customize and “really make our own.” They initially raised $15,000 to get the project off the ground. On Feb. 8, they launched a 48-hour online fundraiser with a goal of $10,000; they concluded on Feb. 10 with $11,253. The building needs new floors and paint, Hall said, and they are putting in office space and a kitchen. A couple of divider walls will be built in the main room, to put in classrooms and an area for services or large events. Currently, Chabad offers services only on the holidays, as Hall said the educational and outreach programs are currently the priority. Hall planned for the building to be ready in time for the March 12 Purim in the ‘50s celebration, which will be at 4:30 p.m. “This will be the first Chabad center in the state of Mississippi,” Hannah Hall said. “We are excited to provide every single Jewish person on the Gulf Coast a place to feel at home; to learn and be inspired and to be proud to be a Jew.”

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“Biloxi Blues” at WWII Museum “Biloxi Blues,” the semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon, will be performed this month at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Winner of the 1985 Tony Award for Best Play, “Biloxi Blues” depicts Jewish Brooklyn native Eugene Morris Jerome as he is drafted into World War II and is sent to basic training in Biloxi. The play is the second in Simon’s “Eugene Trilogy.” New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich said the play is Simon’s first serious attempt “to examine his conscience as an artist and a Jew.” Performances at BB’s Stage Door Canteen will open March 23 and run through April 22, with evening performances on Thursdays to Saturdays, and a 1 p.m. show on Sundays. There are options for Mississippi-themed dinner or brunch before the shows, from The American Sector. Tickets are available at the museum’s website.

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 9


Rabbi Natan Trief, Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade and Mark Hausmann

Interfaith group honors Beth Shalom


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On Feb. 3, Beth Shalom was honored for 30 years of work with the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge. Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade, director of the Federation, presented Rabbi Natan Trief and Beth Shalom President Mark Hausmann with a certificate at the end of Shabbat services. Beth Shalom was one of the founding members of the Interfaith Federation and Trief recently joined its Board of Directors.

William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, will speak at a March 16 lunch in New Orleans. The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans is hosting the event, the location of which was not set at press time. Daroff is a social networking pioneer, referred to by JTA as the most influential Jew on Photo by Ron Sachs Twitter. The Forward named him to its list of William Daroff the 50 most influential Jews in America. Daroff is the chief lobbyist and principal spokesperson on public policy and international affairs for 148 Jewish Federations and more than 300 independent communities. He guides the Jewish community’s advocacy efforts on the Federation movement’s key domestic policy issues, from health and human services to elder care, homeland security to strengthening charitable organizations. He is also a leader in the global fight to combat the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, creating and overseeing Federations’ Israel Action Network, and serving on the steering committees of the Prime Minister of Israel’s global task force and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization’s working group. A Miami native, he earned his bachelor’s, Master’s and JD degrees fro Case Western Reserve University, and met his wife while they were both studying Eastern European Jewish history at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

community Three days after solidarity rally, Birmingham JCC receives third bomb threat For the third time in six weeks, Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center was evacuated after a bomb threat on Feb. 27. The N.E. Miles Jewish Day School received a call around 8:05 a.m. and the emergency protocol was enacted. Law enforcement and K9 units responded and searched the building. The campus was declared clear just before 9:30 a.m., and regular activities resumed. The campus contains the LJCC, Birmingham Jewish Federation and Foundation, Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center and N.E. Miles Jewish Day School. The Jewish Community Centers Association said as of late afternoon, there were 21 threats against 13 JCCs and eight Jewish Day Schools. As evening started, another wave of calls was reported along the west coast. The American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, N.C., a pluralistic boarding high school, also received a threat. This is the fifth wave of phoned-in threats since early January, where anywhere from 10 to 27 random JCCs receive A ring of Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy outside the Levite Jewish Communithreats on the same morning, with the caller claiming there ty Center showed solidarity at a Feb. 24 rally is a bomb in the building. All have been hoaxes. The agency had similar threats on Jan. 18 and Feb. 20. On Feb. 23, during past waves. The LJCC was one of 11 JCCs nationwide to receive a phoned-in bomb the Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans received its first threat on Feb. 20. bomb threat. When the call arrived, the LJCC campus, which includes the JCCs in Nashville, Atlanta and Houston have also received threats

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Birmingham Jewish Federation and Foundation, Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center and N.E. Miles Jewish Day School, was evacuated as local police responded and searched the building. Normal activities resumed around 10 a.m., after the all-clear was given. The Day School was not in session because of President’s Day. On Feb. 22, Birmingham Mayor William Bell led off a press conference by sending a message that “Birmingham is a city that does not tolerate any kind of hate.” Bell said “We want to reassure the Jewish community and the community around the facilities that our police department and the city of Birmingham will do anything we can to quell such incidents.” A few days later, he met with the executive directors of the LJCC, Day School and Federation. Bell is directing the Birmingham Police Department to use “whatever resources are necessary” to ensure the community’s security, coordinating with the local Jewish agencies on what is most effective. He said there has been “an uptick” in such incidents nationally because “unfortunately the wrong signals have been sent from a national perspective,” creating an atmosphere that has emboldened those “with malice in their hearts.” That is why there must be a “public outcry, public denunciations,” Bell said, sending a message that “it’s not acceptable in 2017.” There were also emailed threats made to the mosques in the Birmingham and Huntsville areas. While the local mosques are outside the Birmingham city limits, Bell said “we’re just as concerned about threats against mosques as we are against synagogues,” and such intimidation goes against the American founding ideal of the right of each individual to practice whatever religion he or she prefers. At a Congressional town hall meeting on Feb. 25, Rep. Gary Palmer was asked about the threats to JCCs, including the one in his home district, and he said it is a Federal issue. “I’m very concerned where this is headed,” he said. David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, said “While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life.” They are in regular communication with the FBI and “We hope to hear updates from the FBI on progress very soon.” The latest threat came three days after a diverse crowd of about 300 people attended a quickly-organized moment of prayer and solidarity in front of the LJCC, organized by Faith In Action Alabama and the Greater Birmingham Ministries. Christian and Muslim clergy expressed solidarity with the Jewish community. The event was held on Feb. 24 at noon, and a similar event was scheduled at the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center, which has received emailed threats, on March 3. Dave Barnhart of St. Junia United Methodist Church said the gathering was to show “a commitment to creating a city and a world where we can practice our faiths in peace.” Imam Sameh Asai of the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center, said he was there “to show the respect of the Muslim community to our brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith.” He noted “if it is bad for the Jews, it is bad for the Muslims, it is bad for black people, it is bad for everyone.” Concluding his remarks so he could rush off to lead Friday prayers, Asai told the Jewish community “you are not alone. Your Muslim brothers and sisters in the community are always here for you and standing with you.” Dale Cohen of Canterbury United Methodist Church and Dollie Oankey of St. James Christian Methodist Episcopal offered prayers for peace and unity, and Kurt Clark of Sardis Missionary Baptist Church

community said the crowd was “perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have seen all year.” Angie Wright of Greater Birmingham Ministries urged those in attendance to demonstrate love, even to the haters. Betzy Lynch, executive director of the LJCC, thanked the crowd and said “caring for other human beings cuts to the core of who we are as an organization, as a Jewish people and as people of faith.” Saying the community feels and embraces the support of neighbors, Lynch concluded, “hate has no home here.” Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who returned to the state on Feb. 27 after four days of meetings with state governors in Washington, said “as the Governor of every person of Alabama, I will not tolerate targeted threats against any segment of the community.” He said he has been briefed on the threats against the LJCC and has ordered the State Bureau of Investigation to coordinate with local and Federal authorities. “I can assure the people of our state that Alabama will not tolerate any threat, we will bring those responsible to justice and we will provide any resource necessary to protect every one of our citizens,” Bentley said. Lynch said in an email to the membership that they refuse to accept that this is a “new normal.” After the bomb threat on Feb. 20, Lynch said, a non-Jewish man came to the LJCC and became a member specifically to show solidarity with the Jewish community. Debra Abolafia, head of the Day School, said “It has been an impossible 2 months for Jewish organizations, especially JCCs... we take each threat of violence seriously and execute our security procedures whenever necessary.” In an email to members, Lynch said new short-term and long-term security plans are being put into place, including increased police presence. “We are listening to our preschool parents, members and guests — and want them to feel reassured that the LJCC continues to be the safe place that it always has been.” Rabbi Barry Leff, interim rabbi at Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El, said “it’s more important than ever that we affirm our Judaism, proudly and publicly,” and members of the community should be “a ‘visible Jew’ and go to events supporting other minority groups.” He also urged supporting and attending community institutions that are threatened. “We should all cultivate the Israeli attitude toward attacks on our community: a refusal to allow attacks to disrupt our lives. To be a ‘stiffnecked people’ and insist on living life as usual in the face of those who would disrupt our lives, to refuse to give those who hate us a victory.”

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community On Feb. 23, Uptown JCC in New Orleans joined list of threat recipients Three days after 11 Jewish Community Centers across the United States received phoned bomb threats, in the fourth such wave since the start of the year, the Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans was evacuated briefly. Around 9:15 a.m. on Feb. 23, the JCC received a recorded phone call about a bomb. Leslie Fischman, executive director of the JCC, said the staff followed protocol and evacuated the building. Fischman, who was at a meeting in Metairie at the time, said the New Orleans Police Department was called, after which the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were also brought in. A sweep of the building was conducted, and the facility was declared all clear about an hour after the initial call. That day, the New Orleans JCC was the only one to receive a threat. In the previous waves, as many as 27 JCCs were called simultaneously. A Jewish Day School in Durham, N.C. and the Anti-Defamation League’s national office in New York received threats on Feb. 22. All of the threats have been hoaxes. The day after the Feb. 20 calls, the New Orleans JCC told members that they were operating with heightened security and “should we receive a threatening call, we’ll follow our security procedures and communicate with you as quickly as possible following any evacuation.” Fischman noted that with the other 53 JCCs receiving threats, they practiced their procedures in case they were next. While the JCC takes “every threat very seriously,” Fischman said “We will not be deterred by acts of anti-Semitism.” During the incident, Fischman said “Our staff was remarkable. Everyone was calm, everyone remained safe at all times.” The preschool was also evacuated. “The teachers were prepared, they knew what to do.” Undeterred, participants in an exercise class that was taking place when the evacuation notice was given reconvened outside and continued their workout in a grassy area during the security sweep. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu tweeted that the FBI is investigating the threat against the JCC. “Be clear, anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in NOLA,” he said. Lindsay Baach Friedmann, education director at the South Central Region office of the Anti-Defamation League, located in New Orleans, said this was the first incident of its kind in their region. The ADL region includes Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, only the New Orleans area has Jewish Community Centers. Friedmann said the ADL has been in contact with local law enforcement and the JCC. “We have been deeply troubled by the calls coming into Jewish institutions since they began in January and are disturbed that our community is now seeing the impact of such hate.” Fischman has been executive director for six years and on staff for 21. In all that time, “this has never happened.” She added, “The JCC has always been a welcoming and safe place, and we’re going to keep it that way.”

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The 2016 presidential election map, by county

Blue islands in a red sea? Southern Jewish communities navigate deeply-divided political waters Note: A version of this story by Southern Jewish Life Editor Larry Brook first appeared in The Forward in January. Like so many in the American Jewish community, Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar of Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Alabama, was “very surprised” and deeply disappointed by the national presidential election result on Nov. 8. The result in her own state, conversely, was no surprise. “I knew Trump was going to win Alabama,” Bahar said. The electoral map in the South was a sea of red with a few blue islands in some big cities and in majority African-American areas. In fact, Alabama is one of the Trumpiest of red states, where the Republican candidate defeated Hillary Clinton by 62 to 34.5 percent. Consequently, her own election preference notwithstanding, Bahar quickly turned her thoughts toward breaking down walls of separation after the divisive campaign. On November 13, Bahar organized an event at B’nai Sholom featuring a couple hundred people from different faiths, races, sexual orientations and, yes, political parties parading around her synagogue and invoking the image of Joshua at Jericho. They called for a shattering of barriers. But Bahar wasn’t thinking of just the need to demolish walls between Jews and a surrounding community of non-Jewish Trump Southerners. Unlike the heavily Democratic Jewish communities of the North, where Republicans are as rare as spotted owls, the Democrat/Republican divide in the South cleaves Jewish communities as well. That’s not to say that the voting pattern of the South’s Jews matches that of those around them. As Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, put it, “Jews in the South are more Democratic than other Southern whites but less Democratic than Jews nationally.” To a large extent, that has been the story of Jewish voting patterns for many decades — even back when the only real choices at the ballot box were between different segregationists, and the question was often which one was more pragmatic. “In the Deep South, it was one-party rule, and Jews tended to support

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 15


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the more pragmatic moderates,” Rockoff said. “Certainly segregationists, but not the violent race-baiters.” Nowadays, the choices are better. The region’s mores have changed a lot, especially in its larger towns and university centers, which is where Southern Jews today mostly live. Jews in these areas can express the full spectrum of their political views without isolating themselves from the surrounding population. That’s a big change from demographic realities a couple of generations ago. When Jews originally settled in the South in the mid-to-late 19th century, many made their homes in the region’s countless small and medium-sized towns. Across the region, these towns boasted Jewish merchants who started as peddlers and worked their way to storefronts, serving nearby farms and bustling river ports. Steve Rosenthal, now the mayor of Indianola, Miss., was the third generation of his family to run their retail store, until it burned in 2001. He said merchants had to cater to the whole town, so “as a merchant in a small town, you either have to be silent or straddle the fence when it comes to politics.” Some communities where the merchants settled would disappear when the railroad bypassed a town, the Mississippi River shifted and flooded a town away, or Yellow Fever wiped out an area. But generally, Southern Jews worked hard so that their children could go off to college, only to find that many of the children did not want to return UNLIKE OTHER to the small town and run the family store. Instead of merchants, they became REGIONS WHERE doctors, lawyers and other professionals, THE JEWISH VOTE IS moving to larger cities for job prospects MOSTLY DEMOCRAT, — and a much better chance at finding a SOUTHERN JEWISH Jewish spouse. Places like Atlanta and Charlotte COMMUNITIES ARE became magnets, with communities like MORE EVENLY SPLIT Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham and New Orleans absorbing Jewish transplants from rural areas. The Wal-Mart effect, meanwhile, steadily diminished the small-town family stores where many Southern Jews once made a living. It used to be said that on Rosh Hashanah you could roll a bowling ball down Broad Street in Selma and not hit anyone because of the preponderance of Jewish stores closed for the day; now the community numbers but a handful. Just last year, synagogues in Pine Bluff and McGehee, Arkansas, held their final services. Today, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee — the states where this trend has been most prominent — contain roughly 50,000 Jews altogether. That’s less for this whole region than the Jewish population in 18 individual U.S. cities. In the South itself, Atlanta, with about 140,000 Jews, is vastly larger than those smaller communities, and South Florida, with its huge population of northern transplants, isn’t viewed as Southern at all. University towns, with their more liberal populations, are pretty much the only small communities enjoying Jewish population growth in these states. Auburn was the most recent Alabama town to establish a synagogue, in 1989. In the past couple of years, a Jewish community has been organized in William Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, home to the University of Mississippi. These are areas where it’s generally easier for Democrats to find others who share their views. Urban areas often have Democratic concentrations, as well. In the bigger cities that have large or majority African-American populations, it is more likely for Democrats to be elected locally. In Jefferson County, where Birmingham is the biggest city, Democrats dominated the county’s judicial races, including nine African-American women winning seats on the bench. Large cities, such as the Atlanta and Charlotte areas, voted 2–1 for Clinton.

community This broad change in where Southern Jews live has given the more liberal among them support for coming out openly with their views. It was an openness on view in Birmingham, among other places, on January 21. Members of the Jewish community were a visible presence in the local march for the rights of women, gay men and lesbians, immigrants and minorities — part of the string of such marches that took place nationally. The Birmingham march, which drew over 5,000, was spearheaded by Dalia Abrams, a member of the Jewish community. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home to the University of Alabama, attorney Joel Sogol said, “it’s a little easier” to be an outspoken Democrat than in many other places in the South. Sogol, who has been highly visible in battles to protect the separation between religion and state — not a popular stance in the area — noted, “Most of the people I socialize with share my political views.” Or, as Rabbi Barry Block of Congregation B’nai Israel, in Little Rock, Arkansas, put it, “I do not feel alone as a Democrat in Little Rock, because Little Rock is a blue island in a red state.” Today, about two-thirds of Arkansas’s Jewish community is in Little Rock. Block also pointed out that numerous members of his congregation “cherish past and even current relationships with President and Secretary Clinton,” adding to Democratic support. Because of how the Jewish vote is perceived, when Herc Levine became chair of the Birmingham Jewish Community Relations Committee over a decade ago, there was a great deal of teasing as to whether the “community’s Republican” could hold that position. Laura King of Huntsville flips the island analogy around, saying “when it comes to being a Jewish Republican, it’s like being a red island in a sea of blue Jewish Democrats.”

King, who self-describes as a “deplorable,” is past president of the Network of Independent Communities of the Jewish Federations of North America. None of this should lead to confusion about the actual political profile of Southern Jews. It’s far from the lopsided Democratic tilt of Northern Jews. Due to small numbers, reliable polling data on Southern Jews are non-existent. But Richard Friedman, executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, said that, based on his conversations in the community over the past three presidential election cycles, “the Birmingham Jewish community is probably split 50-50.” Meanwhile, in Shreveport, Louisiana, Rabbi Jana De Benedetti of B’nai Zion, the town’s Reform congregation, said her congregation “is predominantly Republican.” Given this spread of support, it’s not surprising that when Southern Jewish communities produce a political star, he or she is just as likely to be Republican as a Democrat. The election of Tennessee’s new congressman, Rep. David Kustoff, in 2016 doubles the number of Jewish Republicans now in Congress from the previous session — from one to two. (The other is Lee Zeldin of New York.) Prior to that, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, another Southern state, was Congress’s lone Republican Jew until his defeat in a 2014 primary race. Jay Dardenne, an active member of the Baton Rouge Jewish community, ran for Louisiana governor as a Republican after serving as Lieutenant Governor. He is now Commissioner of Administration for Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. Nationally, Jewish support for Republicans is seen as coming largely from the Orthodox community. But in the Deep South, Orthodox congregations are few and far between, and Reform congregations

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 17


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predominate. Just a handful of communities have Conservative congregations. In the bulk of the communities, where only one synagogue can be supported, the sole congregation is almost always Reform. This confronts rabbis of the Reform movement, which stresses activism for social justice, with a delicate balancing act when they take Southern pulpits. Their congregations are often more politically divided than the communities they come from, and they themselves are often more left wing than their congregants. It’s also not like a congregant can just go pray at another synagogue if the rabbi’s politics pushes her buttons. In many Southern towns, the local synagogue is the only one for miles around. As a result, rabbis often get warnings not to be too political. “The rabbi was expected to maintain a lower profile and not make waves,” said Rabbi Harold Robinson, who served B’nai Zion in Shreveport from 1998 to 2006. Robinson, a retired rear admiral who commanded 600 chaplains in the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, was on stage during a speech at the 2016 Democratic convention. In an interview during the convention, he noted that when he served congregations in Indiana and Massachusetts, he was expected to speak out. But in the South, he said, “there is more caution and anxiety… about being ‘the other’.” In the South, where evangelical Christianity is a huge influence, support for Israel by Christians, especially among white evangelicals and some black churches, is overwhelming, leading to an alliance with the Jewish community that has become somewhat more comfortable over the years. Events by Christians United for Israel are common, along with interfaith grassroots groups like North Alabama Friends of Israel, or the Alabama-Israel Task Force. Alabama routinely boasts of being the first state to support a Jewish state in Israel, through a unanimous resolution in 1943, five years before Israel’s independence. Republican amity toward Jews is notable. Mississippi’s Republican governor, Phil Bryant, held a Chanukah candle lighting at the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson last year on Dec. 29, shortly after returning from the state’s third annual trade mission to Israel. Love of Israel, however, doesn’t necessarily absolve a Republican politician of his stands on other issues. During his first term, Alabama Governor Fob James held an Israel Independence Day celebration at the Governor’s Mansion in 1981. His 1995 inauguration for his second term featured a shofar blast, recitation of the Ten Commandments in Hebrew by an Orthodox rabbi from Jerusalem, and the singing of “Hatikvah” by his cousin, accompanied by the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra. Nevertheless, James, an Episcopalian, had very little support from the Jewish community, because of his outspoken stances in support of public school prayer, his opposition to abortion rights, and his hostility toward the teaching of evolution as settled science in the public schools. Then there was his support for the “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore, who would later be expelled as the Alabama Supreme Court chief justice for refusing an order to remove his 5,300-pound granite Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. While those issues give some Southern Jews pause, King pointed to national security issues and said many Democrats “are more afraid of Christians than terrorists.” She is tired of those on the left “demeaning “ and stereotyping Republican supporters. When Southern Jews go to AIPAC conferences and visit Capitol Hill, almost all of their representatives are pro-Israel Republicans, and in many cases the Republican primary is the de facto general election. Linda Verin, who has advised numerous Democratic candidates in Alabama, noted that when she was part of one such Alabama delegation on Capitol Hill, she did some research to try and find an area of agreement with the Republican representatives. “It was difficult,” she explained. When she visited the state’s sole Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell,


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“even though she disagreed (on the Iran nuclear deal) it was still more comfortable for me.” Verin, who has advised numerous Democratic candidates in Alabama, said many traditional Democrats in the South were angry with thenpresident Barack Obama over his policies on Israel. But she noted that for Jewish Republicans in the area, Israel is perhaps the top issue, while for Democrats it’s “in the top five.” “Sometimes I’m challenged by Jewish people: ‘How can you be a Democrat?’ Well, you can’t agree with everything,” Verin said. The relative conservatism of Jewish communities in the South often surprises transplants. Sogol, who hails originally from Milwaukee, noted that he was to the left of most elected Democrats in Alabama. “Those Democrats would have been Republicans anywhere else,” he said. Verin, a Chicago native who moved to Birmingham in the 1980s, said, “I never thought of myself as a rabid Democrat, but here people point to me as ‘the Democrat.’” Elizabeth Rappaport Shannon, who grew up in Birmingham and recently returned to the city, said she found being a liberal in Alabama “frustrating.” So she became a board member of the Alabama American Civil Liberties Union “to try to make a difference.” Many Jewish Democrats follow a similar path, with Jewish community members taking leadership roles in interfaith and interracial coalitions, or working with the highly active, liberally-oriented National Council of Jewish Women chapter in New Orleans, or with area Hadassah chapters. “If I had stayed in Wisconsin, I would never have been able to accomplish nor contribute what I have in this state,” Sogol said. “Being blue in a Red Sea is not all bad.” Rockoff said he hasn’t seen a sense of panic or vulnerability among Southern Jews to the extent that many in the North or West are experiencing since Trump’s victory. Despite the South being Trump territory, anti-Semitic incidents of the sort that have surged elsewhere have been rare. The most visible incidents — bomb threats at the Jewish Community Centers in Birmingham and New Orleans — were part of a national wave against dozens of JCCs in multiple regions and aren’t seen as a local manifestation. For Bahar, the highlight of the November event at B’nai Sholom was Republican State Rep. Phil Williams and Democratic Photo by Sherrie Grunfeld State Rep. Laura Hall shaking hands and Julie Levinson-Gabis and Linda Verin at hugging. the Women’s March in Birmingham on “They both rose to the Jan. 21. occasion to demonstrate what leadership should be,” Bahar said, “working together for the benefit of everyone they serve.” Bahar urged distraught Democrats, “If you don’t know someone who is a Republican, find them… We have to make relationships happen.” Rockoff has a similar message for those in other parts of the country who are terrified about the next four years: “Y’all need to meet more Republicans.”

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Birmingham’s Sister Cities coming to the Maccabi Games Fundraising to bring athletes from Rosh Ha’Ayin, England, Ukraine for Team Birmingham A component of the Jewish Community Centers Maccabi Games every year is international representation, and Birmingham is looking to personalize it by having Jewish teens from sister cities join Team Birmingham. The Maccabi Games are an Olympic-style athletic competition for Jewish teens, with elements of community involvement and Jewish engagement. About 800 teens will participate in the Birmingham Maccabi Games from July 30 to Aug. 4. Over two dozen communities in the U.S. will be sending delegations, including New Orleans and Memphis. Officially, Birmingham has sister city relationships in 12 countries. Sheri Krell, who is spearheading the Maccabi effort with the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission, said they contacted all of the sister cities with Jewish communities and three have responded so far. “Our goal is to bring 30 teen athletes” from those cities, she said. There is an effort underway to raise funds to help bring the teens to Birmingham, including a GoFundMe page with a goal of $20,000. Donations can also be sent to the Birmingham Jewish Federation. While the games are just under a week, the teens will be in Birmingham for two weeks, spending the first week with the greater Birmingham community, such as working with youth at the downtown YMCA and touring the area, before participating in the games. In Vinnitsa, Ukraine, the commission is collaborating with the Vinnitsa Jewish Charitable Centre to send 12 youth to compete in swimming, table tennis and other categories. “It is very tough to live in Ukraine with the civil war going on and it is even more challenging for Jewish families,” Krell said. “We are hoping to give them two weeks of a different life.” They are also looking for Russian-speaking families to house the Ukraine teens in Birmingham. All Maccabi participants are placed in home hospitality with a household that has at least one Jewish family member. While Rosh Ha’Ayin has been Birmingham’s sister city in Israel since 2005, Rosh Ha’Ayin has a relationship with the Birmingham Jewish community going back to the late 1970s through Project Renewal partnership. Rosh Ha’Ayin also has a relationship with the New Orleans Jewish community through Partnership2Gether. Two Rosh Ha’Ayin groups are scheduled to come to Birmingham — basketball and dance teams. Last year, Birmingham’s Hannah Halpern raised $2,500 as a Bat Mitzvah project to benefit the Shubeliyot Dance Troop in Rosh Ha’Ayin, then visited Rosh Ha’Ayin over winter break and danced with them. Halpern is partnering with the LJCC and the commission to raise the funds to bring four of the dancers and one instructor to Birmingham for the Maccabi Games. “Since most of the girls are from low-income families, this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them,” she said. She can be contacted at Also planning to send a delegation is Birmingham’s newest sister city, Liverpool, England. 20 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

Jackson’s Beth Israel celebrates 50 years in current building February 24 was Beth Israel Congregation Day in Mississippi. Rabbi Jeffrey Kurtz-Lendner read part of the proclamation from the office of Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant at the beginning of a festive Shabbat service on Feb. 24 to mark the 50th anniversary of the congregation’s current building. The Old Canton Road facility was dedicated on March 19, 1967, and many in the crowd remembered the procession of Torahs from the old building on Woodrow Wilson Avenue. That procession was echoed during the service, as all five Torahs were removed from the ark and paraded through the congregation. The Torahs were carried by Beth Israel President Michele Schipper, religious school educator Rabbi Debra Kassoff, Sisterhood Recording Secretary Elizabeth McGregor, Tovah Rubinsky of Beth Israel Temple Youth and Jerry Branson of the Men’s Club.

Past congregational and Sisterhood presidents have the aliyah at the Feb. 24 service Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, noted that 13 Christian ministers participated in the 1967 dedication, and it was a racially-mixed group, which was still unusual for the time. Several ministers from the area were at the

anniversary service. “This interfaith spirit has shaped our congregation in times of hardship and times of celebration,” Rockoff said. Rockoff also dispelled a misconception by many who were not at the dedication, including Kurtz-Lendner. “They didn’t march” from one


March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 21

community building to the other. “It was about five miles. They drove.” The Shirim Ensemble led much of the service, which began with candlelighting by Sisterhood Presidents Suzanne Freedman and Frankie Springer. Peter Sharp led the Kiddush. All current and past congregational and Sisterhood presidents crowded the podium for the Torah reading. Schipper and Kurtz-Lendner did a recognition and blessing for the members from 50 years ago who enabled the building of the facility. That building was necessary because the Jewish community grew tremendously after World War II, becoming the largest in Mississippi. The Woodrow Wilson building was dedicated in 1942, when there were 41 members. By the time Rabbi Perry Nussbaum arrived in 1954, the building was already crowded, as it grew to 150 families by 1962. A classroom wing was added but it was insufficient, and Nussbaum started prodding the congregation to look at building anew. The building of a football stadium behind the synagogue in 1950 also was seen as a distracting problem. The congregation bought its current location in 1964, raised $300,000 and broke ground in 1965. The modern design was meant to emulate a permanent tent, with classrooms and offices

encircling the sanctuary in the middle of the building. Much of the history was detailed in the debut of a 50th anniversary documentary by award-winning documentary filmmaker Henry Wiener. The documentary was screened at the end of the service, depicting many congregants recalling the old building and the transition to the new building. Kurtz-Lendner said Beth Israel was “ahead of its time” in synagogue design by having a low pulpit, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. The documentary explored the civil rights activism of Nussbaum, often to the consternation of Beth Israel leaders, afraid that Nussbaum’s activities would make the Temple vulnerable to Ku Klux Klan activism. Indeed, the building was bombed on Sept. 18, 1967, but because the building was so well-constructed, damage was minimal. Nussbaum’s house was bombed two months later. The documentary also explored the origins of the Sisterhood Bazaar, a huge event in Jackson every year for 50 years. The congregation’s preschool was started by Frances Larkin, who found that preschools in the area were all in churches and were all religious. The Beth Israel preschool was to be different in being non-sectarian.

50th annual Beth Israel Bazaar on March 29

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Just weeks after celebrating the 50th anniversary of its current building, Beth Israel in Jackson will celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of its biggest ways of getting people inside the building — the Beth Israel Bazaar. The 50th Bazaar will be on March 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring many menu items that appear in Jackson just this one time each year. Susan Fijman said “ it was always the Sisterhood Bazaar, but a couple of years ago, we changed it to the Beth Israel Bazaar in order to get our men involved, too. Sisterhood is still in charge of putting on the bazaar, but the entire congregation is now involved.” About 100 volunteers put on the bazaar each year. As a preview, for the first time the congregation had a pop-up bazaar preview on March 2 at the Fondren First Thursdays market. For $5 they had a mini taster’s plate with samples of

reuben, knishes, kugel and a kosher pickle. The festival menu includes matzah balls, stuffed cabbage, blintzes, brisket, knishes, kugel, chicken soup, babaganoush, chopped liver, hummus and tabouli. There is also a lengthy table filled with a wide range of desserts, and a take-out booth has desserts and casseroles made by congregants. The bazaar includes a white elephant sale and silent auction.

community Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts partners with JCRS for Gala The Jewish Children’s Regional Service “Jewish Roots: Past, Present and Future” Gala on April 1 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans will carry its theme into the dinner itself by partnering with Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts to highlight New Orleans’ culinary institutions, past and present. Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts will present the entire menu for the Gala cocktail reception and throughout a three-course dinner from many of its upscale establishments — Broussard’s, The Bombay Club, Tommy’s Cuisine, Kingfish Kitchen and Cocktails, and special event venue Marché. The gala will honor all former JCRS presidents and scholarship committee chairs for their leadership and dedication to bettering the lives of Jewish children throughout the South. Entertainment will be provided by the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble led by Michael Pellera. Marv Ammari, CEO of CCRC, said “We are thrilled to partner with such a fantastic organization as JCRS. Our family of restaurants, like JCRS and its Jewish Children’s Home, share in the history and future of the New Orleans community. We are continuing to grow and expand as JCRS also continues to add new programs and reach more and more of the communities in which we live.” The evening will also feature a silent auction of once-in-a-lifetime trips to both domestic and international destinations. Fran and Jonny Lake of New Orleans purchased a Paris trip at last year’s gala. “It was our first time to Paris and it could not have been better. We loved it!” they said. Artwork, restaurant gift certificates, stay-cations, and more will also be available for bidding at the silent auction. The oldest regional Jewish children’s agency in the U.S., JCRS provides need-based scholarships to Jewish youth for summer camp, college aid and special needs assistance, as well as outreach programs such as the PJ Library, the Oscar J. Tolmas Hanukkah Gift Program and Special Friends Club. This is the sixth year that JCRS has done a “Jewish Roots” gala, attracting several hundred participants from around the region. Gala tickets and seating packages start at $250 per person and are available by calling the JCRS office at (504) 828-6334 or

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Amanda Abrams to be featured as JCRS “Success Story”


Each year, the Jewish Children’s Regional Service Gala includes a “success story” during the program. This year, Mississippi native Amanda Abrams, chief program and innovation officer at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, will be the speaker. Ned Goldberg, JCRS executive director, said Abrams “at age 37, embodies not only the profile of a young person for whom the services of JCRS were created to serve, but she also exemplifies a young adult who has taken advantage of every life opportunity to learn, grow, achieve and serve others, especially those in the Jewish community of the South.” Born in Brookhaven, she was raised in New Orleans by her mother, Margie Weinstein. While growing up, JCRS assisted Abrams and her brothers in attending the Henry S. Jacobs Camp. Later, the agency funded her to attend the University of Pennsylvania. In New Orleans, Abrams graduated Summa Cum Laude from St.



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community Martin’s Episcopal School, where she was awarded the Mildred Herman Award for Outstanding Female Senior. Abrams holds a degree from Penn’s Wharton School of Business, an MBA degree from the University of Southern California, an MA degree in Jewish Non-Profit Management from Hebrew Union College, and has completed a Performance Management for Non-Profit Organizations program at Harvard Business School. Prior to her work in Atlanta, Abrams led planning and outreach efforts at the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, served as the first Education Fellow at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, and as the program director of Dream Street, an overnight camp housed at Jacobs Camp, devoted to serving children with physical disabilities. Before joining the Marcus JCC, she was senior vice president of strategy, planning and impact at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Abrams has also served as a narrator on some of the JCRS historical and promotional videos.

Abroms Scholars to boost Jewish presence at Birmingham-Southern

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Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Birmingham-Southern College has always had close ties with and support from the Jewish community. Now, the 1300-student private liberal arts institution is looking to grow its Jewish student enrollment and provide a more meaningful campus experience for Jewish students. Through a gift from Judy and Hal Abroms, the Abroms Scholars Program has been established at BSC. The first two Abroms Scholars will be awarded during the 2017-18 academic year; the awards will be available to outstanding Jewish students seeking to attend BirminghamSouthern. “Judy and Hal Abroms have been longtime leaders in Birmingham and in the Jewish community, and their generosity is well known to all in our community,” said BSC Vice President for Advancement Dr. Sara Helms Robicheaux. “This gift will help us to attract talented Jewish students who want to attend the college.” The gift is in partnership with the Birmingham Jewish Federation and the larger Birmingham community. In addition to the Abroms’ gift, a gift from the Federation will help provide seed money to establish a Hillel and to provide experiences that will further enrich the students’ academic and religious experiences at the college. Gen. Charles C. Krulak, BSC president emeritus, Federation volunteer and honorary chair for the Maccabi Games in Birmingham this summer, expressed his support for this partnership. “I am so appreciative to the Birmingham Jewish Federation and the Abroms for helping BSC launch this initiative and strengthen our relationships with the Jewish community on campus, in Birmingham, and across the country,” he said. The college has appointed a faculty advisor, Lester Siegel, BSC’s Joseph Hugh Thomas Professor of Music, to assist with recruitment as well as help to coordinate on- and off- campus activities for the students. The college will also work with the Federation to create a Jewish Student Community Advisory Committee to help with Jewish student recruitment and provide support for Jewish students on campus. “Diversity is a core value at Birmingham-Southern College, and we welcome students of all religious faiths and ethnicities who want to pursue their academic goals at the college,” said BSC President Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith. “The Abroms Scholars Program, as well as the support of the Federation and the Birmingham Jewish community, will help us create and sustain a vibrant Jewish student population at BSC, for which we are truly grateful.”

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“Four Perfect Pebbles” survivor visits B’ham schools by Lee J. Green Marian Lazan, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen who was 10 years old at liberation, wants to tell the stories that encourage peace, respect, tolerance and kindness so that people will never forget. “I am always grateful I can speak to audiences of all ages,” said the 82-year-old Lazan. She and her husband Nathaniel, who is 85, will visit the Birmingham area this month to speak at several schools and the Emmet O’Neal Library in Mountain Brook. “My messages of peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect and kindness are just as pertinent in today’s world situation.” The Lazans, who live in Long Island, N.Y., will begin their visit on March 20 at Simmons and Bumpus Middle Schools in Hoover. On March 21 at 11 a.m., they will be at Judson College in Marion. There will be a 9:30 a.m. presentation at John Carroll High School on March 22, and the Emmet O’Neal program will be at 6:45 p.m. Their visit will conclude the morning of March 23 at Liberty Park Middle School. Originally from Germany, Lazan wrote a book aimed at teaching kids about her experiences, called “Four Perfect Pebbles,” which turned into a book tour and speaking tour. Today the Lazans travel across the U.S. and the world frequently. “Just in January we were in Israel, Germany, Memphis and North Carolina,” she said. “In February we will be in Illinois, Pittsburgh and Florida. March is Alabama and Nebraska, April is Wisconsin and likely in August we will be back in Oxford, Mississippi, to speak again at Ole Miss. It’s like we haven’t even finished unpacking and we’re going somewhere again. But we love it.” When she was in Germany the education department in the region she is from developed and launched an intense teaching project involving the Holocaust and Lazan’s family. In her native Hoya, Germany, the high school is named for her. “This new Holocaust education initiative in Germany is a magnificent project,” she sad. “It starts with the children.” After the war, she wound up in Peoria, Ill., marrying Nathaniel after graduating from high school. As he was in the Air Force, they traveled the country. Last September, “Four Perfect Pebbles” was published in Hebrew. “These are universal messages I think we all can agree on to varying degrees,” she said. Lazan said she is happy to speak just about anywhere she is asked. “We don’t know how to say no,” she said.

community Israel Consul General meets Mississippi officials Officials from the Israeli Consulate in Miami and Israel Bonds in Atlanta visited Mississippi in early February, meeting with President Rodney Bennett at the University of Southern Mississippi, then meeting with governmental officials in Jackson. In November, Governor Phil Bryant led his third trade mission to Israel in as many years. Though it is not unusual for U.S. governors to visit Israel, Bryant now holds the record with three such trips in a 24-month period. Rep. Donnie Bell of Fulton was a participant on the trip, and in January he introduced a bill in the Mississippi Legislature that would prohibit the state fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel, and bar state contracts with such companies. On Jan. 31, the bill died in the appropriations committee. Bell, who joined the Republican party in 2011, also introduced HC12, urging the president to relocate Israel’s embassy to Jerusalem. That was referred to the Rules Committee. After his Mississippi visit, Israeli Consul General Lior Haiat also met with Florida Governor Rick Scott in Tallahassee, and Scott visited the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator in Tampa on Feb. 1. In October, Consul General Haiat met with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and other state officials and spoke to the Birmingham Jewish Federation. He also visited Mississippi during that trip, and met with Bryant and others. The Miami consulate took over Mississippi and Alabama from the Atlanta Consulate last summer after a realignment prompted by the Foreign Ministry’s closure of the Philadelphia Consulate. l

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Pictured above at the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson are Brad Young of Israel Bonds, Rep. Donnie Bell, Governor Phil Bryant, Consul General Lior Haiat, Speaker Philip Gunn, Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden and Rep. Jason White.

Matisyahu touring the region Matisyahu will be touring the region as part of his “Release the Bound” tour. He will be at Minglewood Hall in Memphis on March 22, House of Blues in New Orleans on March 24 at 8 p.m., and the Saenger Theatre in Mobile on March 25 at 8 p.m.

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Above, Ariel Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro and Avi Zimmerman of American Friends of Ariel were hosted by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his wife, Jean. Also at the event were Grace Pilot, Mike O’Neil, Christina and Thomas Blackmon, Melissa and Tyler Whatley, and Leslie and Stan Chassin.

Friendly territory Dignitaries from Ariel, Shiloh find receptive audiences in Alabama While some groups in the U.S. may shy away from towns and ties to groups in the territories beyond the pre-1967 Green Line because of the sensitive situation in the Middle East, that’s not the case in Alabama. Officials from Ariel, the capital of Samaria, and a speaker from the town of Shiloh visited the state last month. On Feb. 19 and 20, Ariel Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro and Avi Zimmerman, executive director of American Friends of Ariel, visited Alabama as part of their U.S. tour. They stopped first in Mobile to meet with Mayor Sandy Stimpson. Three years ago, Mobile and Ariel officially became Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker sister cities. On Feb. 20, Shaviro and Zimmerman introduces David Rubin at a Republican gathering visited the JH Israel office in Birmingham. in Montgomery The JH Ranch, a youth leadership center in the heartland of historic Israel” past stoneCalifornia that is based in Birmingham, is led throwing Palestinian youth to Shiloh. Rubin took the Parkers to the place at Shiloh by Bruce and Heather Johnston. In 1997, they visited Ariel and partnered with then-Mayor where the Tabernacle had been placed for Ron Nachman to develop the Ariel National over three centuries, before the ascendance of Jerusalem under King David. Center for Leadership Development. Rubin said that is where the Ten A few days before their visit, David Rubin, former mayor of Shiloh, addressed the Alabama Commandments, “the basis for Judeo-Christian Federation of Republican Women’s Legislative civilization today,” were placed, and that the Days, “Celebrating America’s Return to history of that area “did not start in 1948.” It came as no surprise when the Republican Greatness,” in Montgomery on Feb. 15. Rubin also spoke to churches in Ocean crowd appreciated his assessment that President Springs, Miss., and Covington, La. In the Obama “was an absolute disaster” for Israel, and following days, spending Shabbat in New the new administration is like “night and day.” He spoke of how the Jews returned to the land Orleans. At the Montgomery event, Alabama Supreme a century ago and drained the swamps. “That’s Court Justice Tom Parker introduced Rubin, where that expression comes from, by the way,” who he met when he and his wife Dorothy — he said. Rubin, who grew up “a cultural Jew” who sang “Hatikvah” at the 1995 inauguration of her cousin, Governor Fob James — went to Israel immigrated to Israel 25 years ago, moving to to renew their vows for their 35th anniversary, Shiloh. He eventually would be elected mayor. Rubin said he speaks to Christian groups 90 revisiting the place where they were married. Parker said they took an armored bus “into percent of the time, to “get the word out” about


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Israel that isn’t in the mainstream media. He referred to the West Bank as “a fictional term I hardly ever use, except for reference purposes,” saying it was invented by the Arabs to erase the presence of Israel from Israel’s historic heartland. “Increasingly, all of Western civilization is under threat from the Islamic tsunami,” both by terrorism and by those who seek to impose Islamic law, he said, adding that not only was Trump right to issue the travel ban for seven predominantly Muslim countries, he needed to go even further lest the U.S. experience the chaos Europe has with large Muslim populations. “Encourage legal immigration from countries where the people will fit in nicely,” he said. While the goal is to destroy Israel, he said that is not the case with the U.S. That goal is “to change the U.S.” from its Judeo-Christian roots to an Islamic civilization. “That is their stated goal, I believe it when they say it,” he said. Half a year after leaving office as mayor, he was driving home with his 3-year-old son in the backseat when they were ambushed by Palestinians on the side of the road. The terrorists began spraying the car with AK-47 fire. “I was shot in the leg, my son was shot in the head.” After much effort he managed to get the car started again and sped to the nearest Jewish village, where they were prepared for transport to the hospital in Jerusalem. In the emergency room, Rubin said he was told that he was the 1,000th victim of terrorism to be hospitalized there in the 18 months since the second Intifada of terrorism began. The bullet in his son had missed his brain stem by one millimeter. Three weeks later, they left the hospital, and he noticed psychological trauma in his son, but they had no idea what to do about it. Days later, he noticed his son play-acting the attack with a toy car and two dolls. At that point, he knew what his purpose was, and started the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, to set up therapeutic centers for children. “We have over 2,000 children” served though art therapy, music therapy, youth programs, playgrounds, a horse farm, petting zoos. “We’re building a new campus because we’re running out of space.” He noted terrorism hits small town hardest, because of how everyone knows each other, and communities in the territories are small. To illustrate that at the dinner, he led the audience on a virtual stroll down his street, pointing to each house and talking about their relatives who were killed or injured in terror attacks. He said there were three main ways to support Israel — pray “for Israel’s leaders to act Biblically” regarding the land, be politically active and partner with groups “who are active in the Biblical heartland of Israel.”

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 29


community Color4Friendship run on March 19

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Color4Friendship, to benefit the Friendship Circle of Alabama, will be a one-mile run or walk on March 19. Friendship Circle 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. With a one-mile event, “all ages and abilities will be able to join,” Ricky Novack said. 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 at 1 p.m., 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. At press time, $22,000 had been raised toward the $30,000 goal.

Washofsky to discuss Jewish law, Reform Judaism in Dothan Rabbi Mark Washofsky will be the scholar in residence at Temple Emanu-El in Dothan the weekend of March 31. Washofsky, a member of the faculty at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion since 1985, is the Solomon Freehof Professor of Jewish Law and Practice. He will discuss the intersection of Reform Judaism and Jewish law. He will speak at the 7 p.m. service on March 31, and at a Brotherhood-sponsored pancake breakfast on April 1 at 8:30 a.m.

Millsaps’ Bowley doing scholar weekend in Mobile James Bowley, professor of religious studies at Millsaps College in Jackson, will be the Fran and Paul Brown Scholar in Residence at Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile this month. Bowley’s area of expertise is the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and he is an editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls concordance project. When the Gulf Coast Exploreum had an exhibit of Dead Sea Scrolls in 2005, Bowley was a docent. Director of the Jewish Culture Organization at Millsaps, Bowley was named the 2016 Millsaps College Distinguished Professor. He will speak at the 6 p.m. service on March 24, and after a 5 p.m. Havdalah service on March 25. The March 25 presentation will be followed by heavy hors d’oeuvres.

For Passover Seders in the region visit us online… 720 23rd Street South, Birmingham (205) 323.7582 • 30 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 31

32 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

simchas an annual SJL special section

Zoe Rubenstein holds the Torah at the first Bat Mitzvah ceremony in Oxford, as Katherine Levingston leads the singing

First Simcha: A Bat Mitzvah in Oxford The emerging Jewish community in Oxford marked a milestone on Feb. 25 as Zoe Rubenstein was called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah at the Paris-Yates Chapel at the University of Mississippi. Rabbi Harry Danziger, emeritus rabbi at Temple Israel in Memphis, said the ceremony was likely the first Bat Mitzvah ever held in Oxford. Zoe is the daughter of Tammy and David Rubenstein. While the community in Oxford is new, the Rubensteins have roots in Cleveland, just under two hours from Oxford. Danziger serves as visiting rabbi for Adath Israel in Cleveland. David had his Bar Mitzvah at Adath Israel, as did Zoe’s brother, Nathaniel, in November 2014. The Torah both of them had used in Cleveland was brought to Oxford for the Bat Mitzvah, and that Torah’s cover was dedicated in memory of Edwin Rubenstein, Zoe’s grandfather. A dancer, Zoe is involved in the “I’m A Dancer Against Cancer” campaign with the American Cancer Society and plans to be a team captain in the “Relay for Life,” which she will do for the fourth time.

During the service, Katherine Levingston of Clarksdale, president of the University of Mississippi Hillel, was cantorial soloist. In addition to the service being a milestone for the family, the historic nature of the day for the Oxford community was emphasized. The Ole Miss Hillel began in 2010, and the Jewish Federation of Oxford was formed in 2015 to formally organize the community. In October, the Federation held its first Shabbat service at the chapel, though other services and community Passover Seders had taken place elsewhere. Last month, there was a discussion on forming a separate organization that would become a synagogue. The Temple Beth El building in Lexington, which dates to 1905 and served the congregation until it closed in 2009, has been offered to the Oxford community and there are discussions on whether moving the building to Oxford is feasible. It is estimated that there are around 50 Jewish families in the Oxford area.

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 33


Ole Miss’ Paris-Yates chapel built to welcome everyone When Henry Paris of Lexington, Miss., was looking for a rabbi to officiate his wedding 62 years ago, he had a hard time finding one because his bride, Rose Marie Leonard of Kosciusko, was Presbyterian. They also had trouble finding a Presbyterian minister to officiate, not to mention a venue for the event. They wound up having their wedding at the Delta Gamma sorority house at the University of Mississippi, where Leonard’s grandparents had met and her grandmother was a founding member in the 1870s. Paris was lead trumpet in the Rebel Band, head cheerleader and was selected as Colonel Reb, and continued his dedication to Ole Miss after graduation. With a desire for spreading ecumenical understanding, not to mention offering a venue for couples in a similar situation to what they had faced, Paris dreamed of having a nondenominational chapel on

campus. “There was a need for a chapel,” he said, and “we wanted to do something for Ole Miss.” In 1976, Paris was appointed to the Chapel Committee to explore the possibility. But Paris insisted on something unusual — to symbolize their union and to demonstrate a welcoming atmosphere to all faiths, he insisted on having a stained glass window above the entrance, with a Star of David and a cross intertwined, in the red and blue of Ole Miss. “The chancellor wanted a chapel here but the faculty did not want to have a Star of David nor a cross” because of church-state concerns, Paris

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said. He figured, “If we’re going to give what we’re going to give we want to have that, and they said no, so we thought that was the end.” The effort was unsuccessfully revived in the mid-1980s, then after Robert Khayat was named chancellor in 1995, he reopened the project after being approached by Paris and his son, Lee Paris, also an Ole Miss graduate. The Yates family also committed to a lead gift for the project. Faced with the same church-state issue, Lee Paris asked his father to meet with attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union to see if some agreement could be reached. Naturally, the ACLU lawyers said there could not be religious symbols in the chapel of a public university. Lee Paris then pointed out there is a chapel at Stephen F. Austin University, a public institution in Texas, that had a cross in it. The ACLU lawyers replied that it was permissible because the cross was part of the family crest of the main donors of the chapel, and thus was permitted. Henry Paris referenced his intermarriage and immediately said his family crest is a Star of David and a cross. A skeptical ACLU attorney asked him how long that had been the case, and he replied, “about 30 seconds.” “They started laughing,” he said. The lawyers withdrew their objection, and the Parises had the ACLU issue a letter to Ole Miss saying they would never bother the university about the chapel. Construction began in 1999. “And we lived happily ever after,” he said.

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Friends and family gathered in Gulf Shores on Feb. 26 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Max Nomberg. Born in New York in 1917 to Mary and Isadore Nomberg, the whole family, including siblings Rose Cohen and brother William Nomberg, moved to Dothan in March 1948. Max had gone into the U.S. Army in 1944 and was sent to Camp Gordon in Georgia. He was sent to Watertown in Upstate New York to guard German prisoners until the end of World War II. In Dothan, the family went into the dry goods business, but each in their own establishment. Max and his wife, Dorothy Bieber Nomberg, opened The Friendly Store, on Main Street. On Foster Street, his parents opened The Quality Store, and Rose Cohen and her husband, Lou Cohen, opened Cohen’s Department Store on Main Street. Cohen’s would be divided later with Lynn’s Bootery on one side, and they opened Lou’s Bootery on Foster Street. The family were all members of Temple Emanu-El in Dothan. Max is the oldest living member of the congregation and perhaps the oldest in the congregation’s history. He was a member of the Dothan Country Club and after retirement was on the team members golf group. In 2007, Max and Dorothy retired to Gulf Shores. Dorothy died in 2011 after 71 years of marriage. They had two children, Joel Nomberg and Susan McCollough, five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, seven nieces and two nephews. “Max continues to be a vibrant member of society and an inspiration to everyone,” McCullough said. “We have all been fortunate as he continues to touch our lives.”

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Photos by Mason Fischer


by Lee J. Green

The Pontchartain Hotel A classic hotel that commenced operations in 1927 reopened as the new Pontchartrain Hotel last June. Sales and marketing director Viviane Friedman looks forward to the hotel hosting celebrations for her friends in the community in The Pontchartrain Hotel’s 2,800-square-foot event space that opened last month. “The hotel kept the original style but it has been updated with all of the modern conveniences,” said Friedman. “Many famous people have stayed here, from Frank Sinatra to Tennessee Williams to The Doors to several U.S. presidents. The hotel has great history, friendly people and modern amenities.” Located on St. Charles Avenue in the historic garden district on the carnival route, the hotel includes 106 rooms and suites, a panoramic rooftop bar and three additional dining/entertaining rooms. Award-winning New Orleans chef John Besh oversees all of the cuisine. Friedman said the new event space accommodates 150 people reception-style. “The space was an old garage that has been renovated. It was painted and also includes a historic neon sign as well as crystal chandeliers,” she said. The hotel was recently named as one of only 44 hotels in the world, with 10 others in the U.S., to Travel & Leisure magazine’s prestigious “It List.” Originally from Nice, France, Friedman said because she lived in such a tourist-friendly and focused city she knew from a young age she wanted to go into the hotel and hospitality business. She traveled to Israel when she was 15 years old and “fell in love.” When she went back at age 18, she was focused on a career. She knew she wanted to make aliyah to Israel but was advised to get her hospitality degree at a university in France first. At 21, Friedman returned to Israel and made aliyah. Her first job was at the former Laromme Hotel in Jerusalem. In the summer of 1986, a Tulane university professor named Joel Friedman came to Israel on an educational visit and stayed at the hotel. The two met and “fell in love instantly.” Joel Friedman visited her again during winter break that year. In 1987 they married and Viviane moved here. Joel is a past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans as well as Woldenberg Village. They attend and serve on boards at Shir Chadash synagogue. Viviane Friedman worked for a few other hotels before becoming sales and marketing director this past fall at The Pontchartrain Hotel. “There aren’t that many Jewish people in the hotel business,” she said. “I am in the community so I understand about our events, culture, traditions and kosher. I am happy to work with clients every step of the way to ensure that their celebration is a big success.”

The Troubadour Hotel The new Troubadour Hotel brings “a fun-loving tune” to New Orleans. The 17-story, 184-room boutique hotel in the Central Business District opened in November. 36 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017


“We are honored to have the opportunity to add to the vibrancy of New Orleans by introducing The Troubadour,” said Two Roads Hospitality CEO Niki Leondakis. “We feel this city brings our brand and its ‘joy of life’ ethos. The Troubadour offers guests an exciting range of modern experiences that will become a part of New Orleans’ storied history.” Originally developed as an office building, the site was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. Each of the guest rooms feature “New Orleans style” including retro-fashioned refrigerators, mini bars with locally sourced items, spacious bathrooms and “playful” sconces. They also have a signature Seersucker bathrobe. Famous New Orleans Chef Phillip Lopez leads the culinary team at The Troubadour, which includes the Petit Lion bistro, Lobby Lounge cocktail bar and Monkey Board rooftop restaurant, which has a “food truck favorites” menu. This is the first entry into New Orleans for Joie de Vivre Hotels, which has 20 hotels in California, plus additional locations in Chicago, New York, Baltimore and Washington.

Jordan Alexander debuts bridal line Since 2010, Theresa Bruno and her team have carefully designed her signature jewelry brands inside the casually elegant Jordan Alexander Store in Birmingham, gaining a national reputation. In November, Bruno changed the face of her signature store and went multi-brand with the launch of JA Collections. This month, her first Bridal Collection will debut in France at Paris Fashion Week. The collection of engagement and wedding rings fuses Bruno’s design aesthetic represented in Jordan Alexander with her expression of jewelry that represent the most intimate and sacred relationships in life. The Bridal Collection will be available in the Jordan Alexander English Village store in Birmingham by late March. A favorite designer to the former first lady, Michelle Obama, a chosen designer for the prestigious COUTOUR Show and with collections housed in Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and high-end boutiques across the country, Bruno wanted something more for Birmingham. Years of forging close relationships with other jewelry designers and nurturing friendships with some of the world’s most influential gem dealers, she wanted to take her brand’s store and give it some extra magic. With her global team, Bruno curated a collective of jewelry designers, traveled the world with her design team creating JA Home, and launched JA Collections with its e-commerce website, allowing those who visit it to experience Birmingham exactly the way she sees it — Southern elegance with a dash of edgy glamour. JA Collections offers a unique experience to Birmingham with a focus on designer jewelry, home, and lifestyle. “Come in and find the pieces that allow you to curate your life,” she said. Pictured here: 18k yellow gold diamond framed round Tahitian Pearl slice earrings on post, from

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 37


Southern Museum of Flight hosts Simchas Spectacular April 6 Education Day at LJCC on April 4 by Lee J. Green

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Learning about the history of aviation and sitting in the cockpit of a historic plane at a celebration is anything but plain. On April 6, the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham will host a Simchas Spectacular from 5 to 8 p.m. to show those in the Jewish community and all members of the Levite Jewish Community Center how special a celebration can be at the Museum. “We are open to people of all faiths, but we want to reach out to the Jewish community to let them know we’re available for their B’nai Mitzvahs, weddings and other special celebrations,” said Southern Museum of Flight marketing director Elizabeth Grady. The Simchas Spectacular is a free event. Attendees can take guided tours of the Southern Museum of Flight from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Then at 6:30 p.m. the Extemporaneous Theatre Company will perform some aviation-pertinent improv. Total Entertainment will provide music and a photo booth. There will also be a bounce house and airbrushing. Wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Vendors will be present to discuss other aspects of simchas they could assist with. “This is a very family-friendly event,” said Grady. “Like they do at many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, we’ll have a room that’s fun for the kids and one that’s fun for adults so everyone can enjoy.” She said she consulted with the Birmingham synagogues to get their participation. They also entered a special partnership with the LJCC. On April 4 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Southern Museum of Flight will have an educational day. Museum representatives and aviation experts will speak at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School and Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center. In front of the LJCC that day will be the Veri Eze, built by Bert Rutan. This is the lightest, fastest experimental plane ever built. Grady said members of the LJCC get a special rate of $50 per year for Southern Museum of Flight membership. Southern Museum of Flight members who join the LJCC get their registration fees waived. If anyone mentions the Museum ad in Southern Jewish Life they get $200 off the rates for booking a special event there. Last year the Southern Museum of Flight celebrated its 50 anniversary. Birmingham native Mary Alice Beatty started the museum at Samford University. She and her husband, Don, were the first pilot couple to fly over the Andes Mountains in South America. “The Southern Museum of Flight celebrates the history of aviation from the Wright Brothers in 1903 to experimental aircraft of today,” said Grady. “We want people to experience what an incredible place this is to visit… and to host a special celebration with quite a wow factor.”

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Event floral business continues to bloom for Homewood’s Sprout Flower Market. The European-styled flower market and full-service florist opened two years ago on Palisades Drive in Birmingham, but owner Faye Wolfe and staff bring more than 30 years of combined floral experience “to make your event as special as it can be.” “We love doing weddings and other celebrations. We want to help make yours as beautiful as you are,” said Wolfe. She added that Sprout offers initial consultations free of charge and give quotes the day of the consultation. Sprout Flower Market also offers single stems from its walk-in cooler as well as bouquets that can be picked up or delivered.

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Amerson Events takes entertainment to the next level by Lee J. Green Some of the lighting and visual effects similar to those employed by Lady Gaga in her Super Bowl 51 halftime show can make party hosts and attendees go gaga thanks to the team at Amerson Events. “We can do a full-scale production in which the hosts are the stars,” said Chris Amerson, owner of the Birmingham-based event entertainment company that is happy to travel throughout the region. He referenced the torches that change color with the music. “Anything that can be dreamed up, we can do.” In February, Amerson Events did everything from a Chinese New Year event to Black History Month celebration to Mardi Gras balls. Amerson said event entertainment involves so much more today than in the days in which a deejay would just play songs. “It’s all about an immersive, interactive experience with lights, music, customization, photo booths, largerthan-life props and more,” he said. Some of the things the company has provided for events include green screen technology for photos; large-scale props including an oversized red vinyl couch and an 18-foot Eiffel Tour; dry ice on a dance floor at a wedding to create the effect that couples are “dancing on clouds”; pixel mapping, texting and photos on a big screen; custom monogram lighting; snow machines or glow-in-the-dark bubble machines, and even a nine-hole miniature golf course. “We have to be in front of trends and be ready so we have the supply of many things that people might want as a part of their big event,” said Amerson. “We have many years of experience and if someone wants something, we can make it happen.” Amerson Events has provided event lighting and entertainment for celebrations big and small, including numerous B’nai Mitzvah, Jewish weddings and other simchas. “We even did upon request a deejay, photo booth and elaborate lighting for a funeral and memorial service,” he said. “It was really a celebration of life.”


Destination weddings a snap for Metairie’s Travel Central by Lee J. Green Travel Central agent Courtney Abramowitz had a destination wedding just more than a year ago not too far from Destin. After working for a few years as a destination wedding specialist for the New Orleans Travel Central agency, the Crescent City native decided to have her own destination wedding in Seaside, Fla. “I wanted to be in one of my favorite places with my favorite people,” said Abramowitz. “My family and I are from New Orleans but we fell in love with Seaside and would go there frequently,” and in recent years her parents bought a second home there. “Travel Central helped coordinate the details and our team did such a good job planning. It was a very special wedding.” The wedding, unlike many destination weddings, was no small affair. Abramowitz said they had close to 350 people at the wedding and reception, which were held outdoors under tents on a lawn at a Seaside event-hosting venue. New Orleans’ own Big Sam’s Funky Nation provided the reception entertainment. “It was a traditional Jewish wedding with a chupah and ketubah,” she said. “It was in November and 65 degrees outside. Everything was perfect.” Abramowitz said friends and family came from as far away as New York and Los Angeles. Last year her husband, Aaron, got a job with Southern Company in Atlanta so they moved there, but she remained with Travel Central. She said in the past couple of years, the trend with destination weddings has moved toward locations in the U.S. “There is usually a tie-in that makes the destination a special place to the bride and groom.” Travel Central Agent and Destination Wedding Specialist Leatta Perdue said that when she speaks about destination weddings, people are surprised about all the customizable options. Some of the more popular destinations and packages they have coordinated include an all-inclusive option in Mexico; a private retreat in the Caribbean, and a beachfront resort in Hawaii. Those who book with Travel Central can also get a package with up to $1,000 worth of air credit. “We have years of experience and you have the security of knowing there is a team of folks handling the aspects of the planning,” said Perdue.

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Weddings in the Smoky Mountains The Smoky Mountains have for years been high on the list for those in the Southeast who want to have a destination wedding, and despite last fall’s fire in the Gatlinburg area, all venues and tourist attractions are open for business. “We want to spread the word that this is the same wonderful place to travel to and to have a special celebration at as it always has been,” said Visit Sevierville area Marketing/PR Director Amanda Marr. “All of the attractions, hotels and other venues are open.” Marci Claude, marketing/PR director with the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there are numerous ideal locations for weddings as well as other special celebrations. The Courtyard by Marriott Gatlinburg opened recently and next year they will welcome a Margaritaville Resort in Gatlinburg, to go with the one already open in Pigeon Forge. “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful venue. The Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park has a large restaurant with a stage as well as outdoor wedding opportunities,” said Claude. The Park Vista hotel has hosted a few events for those in the Jewish

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community and can do kosher events. The iconic Doubletree-branded hotel also affords a 360-degree view above Gatlinburg. Shari Coleman with Swann Plantation in Gatlinburg said they recently hosted a destination wedding for a couple from New York City. The bride is Jewish and it was a double ceremony. Coleman said she was adopted as a child and just learned recently that she was Jewish. “That was very special to me to find out and I want to continue to learn more,” she said. Swann Plantation was built in 1830. Four years ago Coleman started following a dream to turn the place into a venue for special celebrations. “I had a vision and knew that I wanted a place that made you feel like you were going home; where people cared and made you feel you belonged there. ‘Sweet elegance’ is what I was striving for,” she said. Coleman said they want to put all the attention into each wedding or other special celebration at Swann Plantation so they only do one wedding or event per day.

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For decades, Israel Bonds have been a popular gift for simchas, so Israel Bonds has made it easy. In addition to regular bonds, the agency has two categories specifically for simchas — Mazel Tov bonds and eMitzvah bonds. Both are five-year bonds, currently paying 3.23 percent with an April 2022 maturity date. Mazel Tov bonds start at $100 and go up in $10 increments, with a maximum allowable purchase of $2,500 per day to one specific holder. eMitzvah bonds start at $36 and go up in $18 increments. The most that can be purchased in one transaction per day, registered to one holder, is $90. The eMitzvah bonds are available only to United States residents and are offered exclusively online at The Southern Jewish Life coverage area is serviced by Israel Bonds through its Atlanta office.


Experienced Simcha venues range from traditional to unique By Lee J. Green

Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa Simchas are having a Renaissance at the only resort hotel in north and central Alabama – the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa in Hoover. The hotel’s experienced event-hosting team has handled events from a small luncheon meeting to an elaborate celebration for close to 1,000 people. Those special events have also included several Jewish weddings, Bar-Bat Mitzvahs and other celebrations. “We can offer so many options as far as space at our beautiful resort as well as room stay options,” said Meredith Martin, Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Report and Spa Catering Sales Manager. “Our culinary team has influences ranging from Southern to European and event hosts can customize a menu any way they want. We can even incorporate family recipes.” For the Stein-Summerville wedding in March 2015, they did the cuisine kosher-style. Approximately 300 people attended the wedding, which featured “a gorgeous, stunning chupah on the terrace.” Martin added that the resort also has advanced audio/video equipment on property that can be incorporated into the celebration. She said the grand ballroom can be split into eight different sections and the Renaissance Ross Bridge also offers five smaller rooms that can accommodate up to 50 people each. In addition, there are two boardrooms that can also double as hospitality suites. The resort is also unique in that it has its own in-house musician, Jewish entertainer Matthew DeVine. He is available to play at celebrations

at Renaissance Ross Bridge and he entertains in the bar every night from 9 to 11 p.m. The largest event ever hosted at Renaissance Ross Bridge was a celebration for Mercedes-Benz, attended by 950 people. But a wedding is planned this summer in which 1,300 guests have been invited so that number could be surpassed. The resort features 259 rooms and 11 suites, including the Presidential Suite. On campus is a renowned Robert Trent Jones Golf Course and a full-service spa.

Workplay Birmingham Workplay’s event team has many years of experience hosting private and public events. When someone has an event at the Birmingham entertainment venue, “they become the stars.” “When our friends in the Jewish community are having an event

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 43

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at Workplay we want this to be their home, and the celebration to be everything they dreamed and then some,” sad Workplay General Manager Joe Benintende, who adds that Workplay has the experience and is happy to help coordinate every aspect of an event from the entertainment to the food to the decorations. “We’re so much more than just a place that hosts events. We have the resources and experience to handle every aspect of one’s special day.” Benintende worked for more than 20 years for Gary Weinberger, who owns Red Mountain Entertainment and the two are very close friends. “I have been to Seders and other holiday celebrations at their house,” he added. The New Orleans native came to Workplay last year, followed more recently by New Orleans native Steven Knight. He owns Southeastern Attractions and handles public/private events booking as well as coordination. “Joe and I have been doing this for many years,” said Knight, who started in the business in 1989. “At Workplay we’re happy to do any event big or small with big national entertainment or local folks. Whatever they want, we can do.” Workplay can host seated celebrations of 300 to 500 in its theater and bar area. The Sound Stage room can hold around 800 standing. “The versatility of the space is another advantage… plus we have some of the top sound and lighting professionals in the industry,” said Knight. In 2016, Workplay hosted the Schulman/Campusano wedding and corporate celebrations for Lehr-Middlebrooks. Other big events included the Magic City Classic Halloween party, the Mountain Brook High School prom, the Girls Rock School and a Birmingham-Southern College concert. On the entertainment production side of things, Jewish Pulitzer Prizewinning singer/songwriter Bob Dylan (aka Robert Zimmerman) filmed a video at Workplay last year, and for three weeks Workplay was home base for the movie “Let There Be Light,” with many scenes shot there. Workplay even hosted a gala for 300 FBI Academy agents. “They called us three hours before they wanted to have the party and we were closed that day. I called my people in and we put it all together on short notice. It was a big success. We can even do events with very short notice,” said Benintende. Coming up this month, Workplay will host the Elvis Ball and was recently named the official venue for former American Idol winner and Birmingham native Ruben Studdard and his band Just a Few Cats. Knight said they can offer non-profit rates to those that qualify and have experience doing kosher-style events.

B&A Warehouse One of the Jewish weddings hosted at Birmingham’s B&A Warehouse in 2016 was straight out of Hogwarts. The Grace Papajohn and Evan Garfinkel wedding last March had a Harry Potter theme. There were candles hanging from the ceilings at the event facility across the street from Railroad Park downtown. They had school crests from Harry Potter and theme-appropriate drinks. More than 200 people attended. “The great thing about the B&A is that it is an open canvas. We can work with folks on all aspects of the space, décor, food to make the event special,” said Event Coordinator Haley Roebuck. “We especially love it when people come up with a creative theme for an event we can carry out for them.” Another Jewish wedding in 2016 was for a couple, Adam Goldberg and Page Feinstein, who live in New York City. The bride is from Birmingham and wanted to have the wedding in the Magic City but with some Big Apple touches. The wedding hosted more than 175 guests. In August, B&A Warehouse will host the Aland Bat Mitzvah, with 250 people expected to attend. For a standing event, the facility can accommodate more than 800


people, as it has for the Boo Halloween charity party. Roebuck said they continue to enhance and beautify the B&A. Recently the floors and walls were painted. The bathrooms were updated and Edison Bulbs were added above the bar. They recently launched monthly specials for catering off-site and can do for parties and corporate functions for as little as 10 people. There are many kosher-style items on B&A’s menu that has a Southern flair and can be customized for every celebration. The B&A Warehouse last year earned Wedding Wire’s Couple’s Choice Award and it was also awarded as a Best of Borrowed and Blue, recognized as within the top five percent of event-hosting facilities.

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Modern-day pinball wizards are being made at Bumper Nets in Birmingham with its popular pinball parties. “When we get a nice pinball machine, Stern coordinates a nationwide party we are a part of with prizes. These have become increasingly popular,” said Bumper Nets Marketing Director Emily Scott. Bumper Nets is the first table tennis store in the nation and also features arcade games, billiards, foosball, air hockey, crane machines as well as pinball for rental, purchase and for parties. “We’re seeing an increase in companies coming to Bumper Nets for fun corporate team-building,” she said. “This is a place that has something fun for adults and kids of all ages.” Party hosts can bring in food to Bumper Nets and it has three locations right by each other in the Riverchase Galleria.

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Vulcan Park and Museum Birmingham’s legendary Iron Man certainly has overseen his share of Bar at Bat Mitzvahs over the years at Birmingham’s Vulcan Park and Museum. In August they will host the Schwebel family Bar Mitzvah for 175 guests. For all types of celebrations, Vulcan can accommodate up to 300 people at its location high atop Red Mountain. Those having an event at Vulcan can tour the museum for free and go up in Vulcan for breathtaking views of the area. The facility offers free parking and an event manager. Vulcan Park and Museum is planning a $4 million expansion and renovation project to its park, and will announce details in the May issue of SJL.

Clubhouse on Highland For those who want to have a celebration for up to 400 people somewhere that feels like home, they can have it in a 107-year-old historic house in Birmingham’s Highlands district next to Rushton Park. Molly and William S. Brown built the Clubhouse on Highland in 1910 in the finest Arts and Crafts style. The Clubhouse served as a home for the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs 3rd district for more than 60 years and continues its charitable legacy today. Bob McKenna took a leap of faith and ownership in the place in 2002. It was turned into a place for celebrations of all types. They welcome all

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 45


caterers and vendors to come in. “I also have gained a lot of experience in working with folks hosting events so I am happy to offer advice on planning all aspects of the celebration,” said McKenna. “People like having their events here because it’s such a historic and friendly environment.”

the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The Uptown dining district is next door. The hotels have hosted several celebrations for those in the Jewish community over the years. It offers access to more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space at the adjacent and connected Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Homewood Suites by Hilton downtown Birmingham The hotels can offer full, customized catering along with the event space. For simchas and celebrations, room block booking special rates For those wanting to have an event in the historic Five Points South are offered. neighborhood of downtown Birmingham, within walking distance of Temples Emanu-El and Beth-El, oh how suite it is! Events at Haven Last month the new Homewood Suites by Hilton opened on 20th Street Get your party rolling with a venue that used to house the Mack Truck between 10th and 11th Avenues. It boasts art deco architecture outside company. Haven is a 1924 building that has been historically restored and eclectic modern décor inside. “We want to reach out to the Jewish community and make their over the last three years to combine original details with modern day elcelebrations and stays here wonderful,” said Homewood Suites by Hilton egance. The venue on Birmingham’s Southside has original tall glass windows, Sales Director Hina Patel. “We’re just a block or so away from (both brick walls and exposed trusses that show its industrial past, with updatsynagogues) and we’re here for their needs.” The Blazer ballroom on the lobby level can accommodate 100 people ed fixtures and amenities. Events at Haven can hold anywhere from 50 to 1,000 for a wide range reception-style. On the 7th floor, the hotel has the Presidential Suite. It is 1,200 square feet and can also be used as a hospitality room or small of celebrations and corporate events. meeting space. The hotel includes 105 suites — studio suites, one-bedroom premium suites and the Presidential Suite. Every Monday through Thursday the hotel offers its guests a free happy hour with complimentary beer, wine and appetizers. The suites are furnished with a full functioning kitchen and dishes, silverware and glasses. The Homewood Suites by Hilton also offers groceryshopping service at no additional charge. On-site parking is also available. “We’re glad to be open and we’ve already hosted or booked a few events already,” said Patel, adding the hotel offers a discounted rate per room for a block of rooms reserved.

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sports Once again, an Israeli Pelican flies away as Casspi waived after injury There have been three Israeli players in the National Basketball Association, and all of them have played in New Orleans — very briefly. There were hopes that when the Pelicans executed a major trade that brought All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to New Orleans from Sacramento on Feb. 20 that Casspi would be around for a while. Instead, he was waived on Feb. 25 after less than a week with the Pelicans, after breaking his thumb in his debut game on Feb. 23. In 24 minutes, Casspi scored 12 points and had two rebounds against Houston. With the Pelicans needing immediate help and on the periphery of making the playoffs, Coach Alvin Gentry told ESPN “it was really just important for us to have that roster spot,” as Casspi would be out of action for at least four weeks, pretty much the rest of the regular season. After the trade that brought Casspi to New Orleans, David Booth, the Pelicans’ director of player personnel, said “he can stretch the floor, being able to knock down open shots beyond the three-point line. He’s knows how to play, is smart, and his basketball IQ is very high, which helps our team on the floor. We have valued him in the past. This was a great time to get him, with him coming with DeMarcus.” This was the second time for Casspi to be in New Orleans. In 2009, Casspi, became the first Israeli player in the NBA when the Sacramento Kings picked him in the first round of the draft. In July 2014 Casspi wound up with the Pelicans as part of a three-team trade, was waived almost immediately and returned to Sacramento. In 2013, Gal Mekel from Ramat HaSharon signed with the Dallas Mavericks. On Nov. 1 of that year, the first NBA game featuring Israelis on

opposing teams occurred, as Casspi was with the Houston Rockets at the time. After a mid-season injury and time in the Developmental League, Mekel was waived by Dallas. The Pelicans signed Mekel in December 2014, but he was waived after playing in four games. He has since played for teams in Russia and Serbia. Last fall, Shawn Dawson was in the Pelicans’ training camp. Having come up through the ranks of Israeli basketball, Dawson helped lead Maccabi Rishon Lezion to its first-ever title last season, and started getting calls from the NBA. He appeared in three preseason games for the Pelicans, then was waived on Oct. 21. Dawson has returned to Maccabi Rishon Lezion.

April 28

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 47

community The Mob as Jewish heroes When it comes to the history of the American Jewish community and of Israel’s establishment, the Mob had an important, even heroic, role to play. That is the message of Myron Sugerman, who will speak on “A History of Jews and the Mob,” at Beth Israel in Metairie on March 16 at 7 p.m. One could say Sugerman has some inside information about the subject. He grew up in New Jersey, the son of Barney Sugerman, who was friends with many members of “the syndicate,” the Jewish Mob of the 1930s. They had a Mob-connected coin operated machine distributorship, for jukeboxes and amusement games. In 1985, Myron Sugerman was indicted for conspiracy in distributing gambling devices and counterfeit video games. He served 19 months as a guest of the Federal government. In the 1930s, Jewish Mob members worked with the Federal government to infiltrate and break up the Nazi Bund in the U.S. “They protected the ghettos in Newark, New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, wherever,” Sugerman said in a recent New Jersey Jewish News interview. “Any time the goyim came to beat up the Jews, the Jewish guys beat up the goyim. They protected the neighborhood. They beat up the Nazis and eventually got rid of them. They had leadership — and they had money from Prohibition.” After World War II, the Jewish Mob played a huge role in the establishment of Israel. Mainstream Jewish organizations were reluctant to support the Jewish underground in Palestine because of the U.S. Neutrality Acts. David Ben Gurion came to the U.S. to meet with Rudolf Sonneborn, who assembled a secretive group of a dozen or so influential Jews across the country — including Abe Berkowitz of Birmingham — to provide clandestine material support to the fighters. How did they get it there? Sugerman said the Jewish Mob leaders had the connections with the Italian Mob on the New York piers and knew how to get around the authorities. Rabbi Steve Weil, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, said Sugerman is “the most masterful story teller, a serious historian and a communicator par excellence,” and a program he led was “one of the most stimulating and entertaining evenings of the decade.” Reservations for guaranteed seating are available. There is no charge but donations are welcome.

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48 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

Christians United for Israel at Belhaven University in Jackson had a Valentine’s Day candy gram table on Feb. 9, raising money for Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli-based organization that brings children from 51 developing countries to Israel for heart surgery, and develops medical centers in those countries.

community It’s Jewish Food Festival season in the South The annual Jewish Food Festival at Temple Beth Or in Montgomey on Feb. 26 and Deli Day at Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville on March 2 kicked off a season of Jewish food festivals in the region. The annual Corned Beef Extravaganza at Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile will be on March 17. The $10 lunches include a ¼-lb. corned beef sandwich on rye, a kosher pickle, New York style cheesecake and bag of chips. Prepaid orders must be in by March 13. Orders may be picked up at Springhill Avenue Temple from 10:30 a.m. to noon, or delivered for orders of 10 or more lunches. In Baton Rouge, Beth Shalom will have its 33rd annual corned beef sandwich sale. There will be a sandwich making party for volunteers on March 18 at 7 p.m. The sale will be on March 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for take-out, and March 20 and 21 for takeout and deliveries to local businesses with five or more orders. The $10 lunches include a ¼-lb. corned beef sandwich on rye, potato chips, dill pickle and homemade brownie. Tuna or egg salad sandwiches are available by request. The 50th annual Beth Israel Bazaar in Jackson

will be on March 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (story, page 22). Temple Emanu-El in Tuscaloosa will have its annual Jewish Food Festival on April 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Box lunches range from $10 to $12, and have brisket, a corned beef sandwich or falafel. The food sampler bar, which enables one to purchase four tickets for $5 and sample numerous Jewish dishes, will be back, with items including black and white cookies, sweet kugel, knishes, matzah ball soup, stuffed grape leaves, bagel and schmear, blintzes, baklava, rugelach, and hamantashen. Seating will be at the Bloom Hillel Center next door. Dothan’s Deli Day will be on May 4, with close to 2,000 bag lunches prepared each year. Robert Goldsmith said it will be his last Deli Day before his wife retires as the congregation’s rabbi this summer, and he said this sale should hit 16,000 lunches during his “corned beef king” tenure. The $12 bag includes a quarter-pound sandwich on Atlanta Bread Company Jewish rye, a kosher dill pickle, bag of potato chips and a Sweet and Sassy huge chocolate chip cookie.

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March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 49

culture Eicher part of the “Phantom” Phamily by Lee J. Green Actress and dancer Julie Eicher finds herself doing celebratory dances for being in the traveling Broadway production of classic musical “The Phantom of the Opera” as well as her profound life experience of connecting with her Jewish roots on a Birthright Israel trip this past January. “Phantom” will be at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex as part of the Theater League’s Broadway in Birmingham series, April 5 to 16. The show will also be at the Robinson Performance Hall in Little Rock from March 8 to 19, the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis in December and the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans in March 2018. “My Jewishness is very important to me and helps define me,” said the 26-year-old West Hartford, Conn., native. “Traveling to Israel for the first time was amazing and astounding in every way possible. I have started studying my Hebrew again since I got back. We’re on the road all the time with ‘Phantom’ but I always have my mezuzah in my wallet. My home is on my back.” Eicher took the trip during a tour break. She has been with “The Phantom of the Opera” tour for a year and a half. Growing up in West Hartford, Eicher and her family attended Beth Israel synagogue and she had her Bat Mitzvah there. But from a young age she balanced that with her passion of ballet dancing. “I would do ballet classes and dancing six nights a week but even that was not enough. I don’t think I have the natural ability that others had. I developed a passion for ballet and I was always learning. I worked my way up by working harder,” she said. Eicher danced through high school and would graduate with honors from the University of Cincinnati’s conservatory program. By the time she was 19 years old, she was doing professional ballet dancing in shows. After graduation she got an opportunity with the Nashville Ballet. She worked there for a few months, then did shows for a few months in Houston and Chicago. But New York City was calling her name, she said. Eicher went on a lot of auditions and had some jobs that lasted a month or two, but as it is for many in theatre and dance, getting long-lasting production work proved challenging. Two and a half years ago she auditioned for the traveling Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” She made several cuts over the next few months and she was among the last few considered but did not get a role. Then she got a chance to re-audition and the very next day she got an e-mail that would change her life. “It said, ‘welcome to the Phamily.’ I called my mom crying. I was in complete shock. I was so happy I could not contain myself.” Three weeks later she was on the road touring with her Phantom “Phamily.” She said that this production is different from the one that has been on Broadway for many years. “This show has more of a modern feel. Phantom debuted in the 1980s. This production has some incredible new scenic design and fresh new energy. But of course it still is the same classic show that everyone knows and loves,” said Eicher. 50 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

culture She said the challenge for the cast and crew is to make sure the show is fresh and vibrant every night. “We strive to present it the audience as if it were new even if we’ve done the same show 500 times. We want to keep that vibrancy and give them the best show every single night.” Eicher said traveling so much and being away from her actual family for long stretches of time posses its challenges. But Eicher makes it a point to stay close and enjoys opportunities to reunite with friends, family on the road. She also has enjoyed experiencing new cities. During this interview last month, Eicher was making her first visit to Atlanta with the show. When she comes to Birmingham in early April it will be her first visit to the Magic City. “I love connecting with those in new community and Phantom ‘phans.’ I look forward to reaching out to the Jewish community in Birmingham and enjoying our stay in the city,” she said.

> > Baseball

Continued from page 4

Baseball Players Association — the union representing today’s players — Clark has often been described as erudite and resourceful. Sorry folks, I just don’t see that. I see a Tiger who lost his nerve. What I see is a man who has turned his back on his baseball brothers, a man who could help about 500 retirees who have been hosed through no fault of their own. One of those men is the late Alan Koch, a pitcher for the Tigers and the Washington Senators who appeared in 42 career games over parts of the 1963 and 1964 seasons. He hurled a total of 128 innings, was credited with four wins and had one complete game to his credit. Born in Decatur, Ala., Koch attended Decatur High School and the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. He died in Prattville in 2015 and is buried in the Bnai Jeshurun Cemetery in Demopolis. Why is Koch’s widow being hosed like this? During the 1980 Memorial Day Weekend, a threatened players’ walkout was averted when the league and the union agreed that players would be eligible for health benefits after only one day of service and a pension after 43 days — roughly onequarter of a season. The problem? The proposal was never made retroactive. Now does that sound fair to you? Clark was honored last June by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with the prestigious Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award. He reportedly declared that he had “a responsibility to leave the game better for those who come after me.” Mr. Clark, you’ve got a responsibility to leave the game better for everyone. For women like Alan Koch’s widow. And Wayne Cage, Aaron Pointer and Tom Ragland and Pierce — all of whom are retired persons of color who aren’t receiving MLB pensions because the players union screwed up more than three decades ago. Leaving Pierce out in the cold. And now his widow is paying the price. Just like Linda Kidd Koch. Seriously, Mr. Clark, when you look in the mirror, do you see yourself embodying the ideals of Jackie Robinson, who wanted social justice for everyone?  I think, when you look in the mirror, you see Pierce’s ghost staring back at you. Imploring you to do the right thing.

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March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 51

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52 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

Salmon and Smoked Salmon Rolls with Dill Sauce

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Makes 8 servings Ingredients 11 1/2 pound center-cut salmon fillets 6 large zucchini (each about 7 inches long and 1-1/2 inches thick), trimmed 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill 7 teaspoons white wine vinegar 6 ounces smoked salmon (not lox), coarsely chopped 3 tablespoons chopped dill pickle Preparation Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Steam it until it is just opaque in the center, (approximately 15 minutes). Cool completely. Line the baking sheet with paper towels. Slice enough 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise strips from center portion of each zucchini to make 24. Steam in batches until just tender but very pliable, for about three minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and then pat dry. Whisk mayonnaise, 3/4 cup dill and vinegar in a small bowl. Season the dill sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Flake salmon coarsely into large bowl, discarding skin and bones. Gently mix in smoked salmon, pickle, remaining three tablespoons dill and 1/4 cup dill sauce. Place one rounded tablespoon of salmon mixture at the end of each zucchini strip. Roll up the strips, enclosing the salmon. Place the rolls seam-side down on the platter. (Can be made one day ahead. Place rolls on paper towels. Cover rolls and sauce separately, then chill.) Serve rolls with the remaining dill sauce.


The Fish Market by Lee J. Green

Judaism is all about tradition, and tradition is also very important to The Fish Market. The Birmingham restaurant was started by Greek immigrant George Sarris in 1983 and has grown significantly over the years. Even as new things are added, tradition is always at the core. “We take a lot of pride in staying true to who were are… and giving our customers the best possible food along with service,” he said. Sarris said he has many friends in the Jewish community and appreciates those who he has created strong bonds with over the years. “I find that we have much in common and our traditions are very important.”

Continued from page 54

It is not known what issue Haman might have with the Jews. During his short, already turbulent tenure, he has gained a reputation for having strict standards, being easily angered, and succumbing to bouts of paranoia. Many jokes are made about what covers his cranium, but no one comments on his three-pointed hat in his presence. One palace guard says that people fear Haman’s wrath even for something as simple as not bowing in his presence. In an odd twist, the order specifies a particular day on which the entire operation is to be performed — exactly 11 months after the order was written. This provides time for any number of possible reactions, judicial and otherwise, though it’s unclear so far what actions might be taken. One can only imagine that, if there were a Jew in a prominent position in the palace, perhaps this hostile executive order could be rescinded. Doug Brook reminds that any events in the Book of Esther resembling modern people, real or frictional, is a coincidence. To read past columns, visit For exclusive online content, like facebook. com/rearpewmirror.

Using technology to spread hate

World War II Museum panel contrasts radio, social media The National World War II Museum will have a panel discussion in conjunction with its exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.” On April 4, “Fueling Extremism in a Wired World” will explore how new technology gives extremists the opportunity to spread hate, through radio in the 1930s and social media today. Co-sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the panel will be moderated by Robert Citino, the National WWII Museum’s Samuel Zemurray Stone senior historian. Steven Luckert, senior program curator of digital learning and new media at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will be on the panel. A reception will start at 5 p.m., with the presentation at 6 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made online. “State of Deception” will be exhibited through June 18.

Taking it to the boycotters In Atlanta, a Jewish resident agreed to rent his home’s exterior for a film shoot, then learned that anti-Israel activist Danny Glover is featured in the film. Because of Glover’s boycott-Israel activism, the rental fee was donated to Stand With Us, which fights anti-Israel activities on campus.

> > Fish Market Kim Zakarin, who leads the Yellow Bicycle catering company arm of The Fish Market, said they can accommodate 400 patrons in the restaurant for simchas and are happy to do customized menus for off-site catering, with many kosher-style items available. “People can be a guest at their own party,” she said. The Fish Market also offers family-style dinner menus and takes reservations for groups of 10 or more. Of course since fish is in the name, the seafood has to be the finest. The Fish Market brings in fresh fish from the Gulf Coast twice a week on its trucks. The newest menu items at the restaurant have focused more on hearthealth and have been very well received. Zakarin, who is also an involved member of the Birmingham area Jewish community, said they also have numerous gluten-free items on the menu. Sarris continues to be well known and loved in the overall community. He also continues to do a cooking segment every Thursday morning on ABC 33/40.

March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 53

rear pew mirror • doug brook

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54 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

The Achashverosh administration today issued an executive order taking unprecedented, unilateral action against a specifically targeted minority population. According to multiple sources, who requested anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak, the administration has determined that the Jewish people are a threat to sovereign security. On the 13th, letters were reportedly dispatched to the governors of every province, and the princes of every people, in the language of each province. The letters instructed all provinces to destroy, kill, and cause to perish all the Jews, including young and old, children, and women. It is unclear what distinction is intended between “destroy, kill, and cause to perish,” though vague and odd use of language has long been a trait of the king’s communication. The administration denied the existence of these letters, pointing out that no such letters have been delivered, and that an unrelated investigation of the postal service is being considered. Nevertheless, the city of Shushan is perturbed at these reports. Almost instantly, at least one peaceful protestor was seen at the king’s gate, dressed in sackcloth and covered in ashes. Word has traveled faster than the official orders. Reports from every province indicate great mourning for the Jews, fasting, weeping, lamenting, and many wearing sackcloth and ashes. It is uncertain what might actually befall WHY WOULD the Jews but, if their fate is sealed, it’s equally SUCH AN EDICT unclear who is paying for the fall. Estimates indicate that this initiative could BE ISSUED cost ten thousand talents of silver — an AGAINST ONE exceedingly large expenditure. Sources say that this exact amount has been set aside PARTICULAR in the king’s treasuries, by order of the king GROUP? himself. However, it is not expected to be a cost for the public to bear. The letters containing the king’s order reportedly concluded with instructions to “take (the Jews’) spoils as plunder.” Therefore, while the project exists to oppress the Jews, they are also expected to pay for it. No explanation has been confirmed as to what set this executive order in motion. However, the king has a well-known history of being influenced to rush in, including the controversial events surrounding the Vashti scandal that led to the former queen’s sudden departure. The king himself denies having sent any such order, and dismisses the allegations. Early this morning, he chirped, “Who is this and where is he, who dared to do this?” It is possible, however, that the king was not the order’s sole instigator. Senior policy advisor Haman, who was promoted above all the kingdom’s princes soon after Vashtigate, has allegedly been instrumental in crafting this policy. In a recently obtained memo, Haman told the king that the Jews’ “laws differ from every people, and they do not keep the king’s laws. It’s of no use for the king to let them be. If it pleases the king, let it be written to destroy them.” While Jews are known to have their own laws, they have never been observed to be in conflict with the laws of the kingdom. There is no documented evidence supporting the assertion that the Jews do not keep the king’s laws. continued on the previous page


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56 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017

SJL Deep South, March 2017  

March 2017 Deep South edition of Southern Jewish Life, the Jewish community news magazine for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and NW Florida...

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