Southern Jewish Life NEW ORLEANS EDITION
Volume 27 Issue 3
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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
Larry Brook EDITOR/PUBLISHER
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March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 3
March 2017 February 2017
opinion 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 is contingent on everyone receiving those pa-
Southern Jewish Life pers 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.
Larry Brook EDITOR/PUBLISHER
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4 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017
agenda interesting bits & can’t miss events
Photo courtesy Hunter Thomas Photography
On Feb. 5, The Mardi Gras Mitzvah Makers held their annual parade at Touro Infirmary, bringing Mardi Gras to patients who would otherwise miss out on the parades.
Rabbi Alexis Pinsky leaving Gates of Prayer Rabbi Alexis Pinsky, assistant rabbi at Gates of Prayer in Metairie, informed the congregation’s board that she will be leaving at the end of June. In January, Rabbi Robert Loewy announced that he will be retiring in the summer of 2018. He has led the congregation since 1984. Pinsky was brought to the congregation to do outreach to the unaffiliated and younger Jews. As Gates of Prayer President Richard Levin said, “When Rabbi Pinsky first started with us, we had a vision of something that we didn’t have a name for at the time, which has now become known as TRIBE. Her success has exceeded our expectations.” Thanks to Pinsky, Levin said “we now have a thriving 20s/30s community. We hope to build on her success, and continue her good work.”
JFS 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.
TRIBE has a “wandering” monthly Shabbat service in a different venue around the city each time. There is also a monthly Shabbatsana, a Shabbat morning yoga and meditation gathering, usually outdoors at City Park. A native of Atlanta, Pinsky graduated from Tulane University before entering rabbinic school. Upon being ordained in 2015, “I was thrilled to be starting my rabbinic career in a city that I already thought of as home.” Pinsky said “Gates of Prayer is a wonderful community, and this transition is certainly bittersweet. I cherish all of the connections that I have made and the relationships that have been built with the people in this community.” She is especially proud of the progress TRIBE has made. “Engagement is such important work… I have taken great joy in building up successful programming around the Greater New Orleans area.” She thanked Loewy for his example “that has taught me so much about the rabbinate that I aspire to build.” In her letter to the congregation, she said “in all of my experiences at Gates of Prayer, you, the congregants are what have made them so wonderful.”
On the cover: Temple Sinai in New Orleans makes a statement
about being a welcoming community. Temple Sinai Rabbi Matthew Reimer said “Words matter, but they are only words if they are not backed up with actions. We are a Sanctuary for all through creed and deed, and our tradition demands of us that we let those within our community and those who are lonely and afraid that we are here for them.”
March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 5
agenda Shir Chadash installs Rabbi Deborah Silver
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Rabbi Deborah Silver holds that there are four characteristics to a flourishing Jewish community: A heart, a soul, a conscience and a vision. After 12 years in Los Angeles, Silver was attracted to Shir Chadash in Metairie, where she saw “not only the existence of those four things, but the potential” for even further growth and development. “A community firing on only one or two will do okay, but the really outstanding communities in this country are firing on all four,” she said. Silver was officially installed at Shir Chadash over Tu B’Shevat weekend, which she said was appropriate because “I get to sing my song.” Rabbi Deborah Silver leads the planting of a satsuma tree on Feb. 12 The Haftorah for that weekend was the Song of Deborah, though Julie reinforced in multiple contexts.” Finkelstein Steinhaus chanted it that morning. She earned a degree in Hebrew from CamRabbi Cheryl Peretz, a dean at the Ziegler bridge University, then worked in publishing, School, officiated at the installation. “She has including as senior English editor of the Oxford been tremendously supportive in shaping my Hebrew-English Dictionary of Current Usage. rabbinic path,” Silver said, especially in balanc- Silver then became an attorney, becoming an ing tradition and modernity. associate professor at BPP Law School. Silver succeeded Rabbi Ethan Linden, who Limmud UK reignited her passion for Judaserved Shir Chadash for seven years before be- ism and a long-held dream of becoming a rabcoming director of Camp Ramah in the Berk- bi, and in 2010 she was ordained at the Ziegler shires last summer. “I stand on the shoulders School in Los Angeles, becoming the assistant of Rabbi Linden, who did wonderful work with rabbi at Adat Ari El in North Hollywood. this congregation, and I am very honored to be The installation weekend began with services taking it into the next phase of its development,” and a Tu B’Shevat Seder on Feb. 10. The official she said. installation was during Shabbat morning serA native of London, Silver admits to some vices on Feb. 11, with over 150 in attendance at culture shock in getting adjusted to Louisiana. each event. “New Orleans is unique, so everything is a surOn Feb. 12, she led a family planting ceremoprise,” from the weather and food to getting ny of a Satsuma tree during religious school. around town. Speaking before Mardi Gras, she She used a Tu B’Shevat analogy for her role said “I know it is going to be extraordinary — I as rabbi — it’s “cultivating a garden… how can I don’t know exactly what to expect.” help the tradition speak” to congregants where Being in such an “extraordinary city” is a they are, and “enhance their journey into a bit like Monty Python she said. “And now for deepening and meaningful Judaism.” something completely different.” She noted that “we are already implementing She is also excited by New Orleans being an new programs, adding new classes and working “overlapping community” where people in the groups, and articulating the principles which Jewish community are active in multiple orga- drive us. I am honored to build our communinizations, with “Jewish relationships getting ty’s future together.”
agenda Honoring rabbis of past generations Gates of Prayer to recognize Silber, Share
With Rabbi Robert Loewy planning to retire in 2018 after 34 years leading Gates of Prayer in Metairie and Assistant Rabbi Alexis Pinsky leaving this summer, rabbinic history is a topic of conversation this month. Over four decades after it was supposed to happen, the congregation will dedicate the Eternal Light in memory of Judith and Rabbi Mendel Silber on March 17, and Loewy will speak about Silber’s successor, Rabbi Nathaniel Share, on March 24. Silber’s granddaughter, Suzie Koch, will Photo courtesy of The Jacob Rader speak about Silber, who served from 1913 Marcus Center of the American to 1933, and was rabbi emeritus for many Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio years after that. Rabbi Mendel Silber The Eternal Light has been in all three of the Gates of Prayer buildings since it was donated by the Hollander family in 1875. When the congregation moved to its current building in 1974, they informed Silber’s family that the light would be dedicated in memory of Rabbi Silber. A formal ceremony never took place, between “the tumult of moving into the new building and the death of Rabbi Share.” That oversight will be corrected on March 17. After being ordained in 1904, Silber, who was also a medical doctor, had been serving as acting dean and professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. He took part in a “rabbi swap” with Gates of Prayer Rabbi Moise Bergman, who needed to move to a different climate for his wife’s health. Gates of Prayer had been founded in 1850 by a group of German Jews, and initially was Orthodox. Its first building on Jackson Avenue was dedicated in 1865 and was recently renovated into apartments. The congregation gradually drifted to the left, introducing mixed seating, a choir and organ, and readings in German, and later in English. Silber was the second Reform rabbi for the congregation after it officially shifted from Orthodox, and continued easing the congregation along that transition. He also quickly saw after his arrival in 1914 that the growing congregation needed to have a new, larger building closer to where the congregants were living. In 1920, Gates of Prayer moved into a remodeled Presbyterian Church building on Napoleon Avenue. In 1930, Silber made news by purchasing one of the few known handwritten 15th-century manuscripts of the Samaritan Bible, negotiating for several years with a Samaritan group in Nablus. It was exhibited at the public library in New Orleans. Share started at Gates of Prayer in 1934, retiring in 1974 as the congregation, acknowledging a population shift in the area, decided to move to Metairie. Share participated in the groundbreaking ceremony, but died three months later. In 1966, Share was among numerous Southern rabbis who were interviewed about their civil rights era activities, with the promise that the interviews would not be made public for at least 25 years. The interviews were recently published in “To Stand Aside or Stand Alone,” and at the March 24 service Loewy will speak about Share’s interview. Loewy said “I have always thought of myself as following in the footsteps of these two giants, whose longevity helped to shape the congregation.” Each service will be at 8 p.m.
March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 7
agenda “America Undiscovered,” a new series by Susan Neisloss on Jewish Life Television, recently debuted. The first episode profiled Bill Goldring and the second episode had an interview with Joel Brown of Kosher Cajun. Beth Israel in Metairie will have a viewing party of the segments on April 2 at 5 p.m., with a wine tasting of Yarden Israeli wines. Jim Letten will speak on “The Tension Between Religious Liberty and Civil Rights in the U.S. at Beth Israel in Metairie after the 7 p.m. service on March 31. Letten is currently with the Butler-Snow Law Firm, has served as Assistant Dean of Experiential Learning at Tulane University and served continuously as the longest serving United States Attorney in the nation with over 11-1/2 years of continuous service. Dinner reservations are required by March 28 and are $18 for adults and $9 for children for members, $25 and $18 for non-members. 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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Cohen will deliver the sermon, “The Immigrant Jews are Taking our Jobs! A Cautionary Tale from 19th Century Louisiana.” Cohen, the incoming chair of Jewish Studies at Tulane, will discuss parts of his upcoming book, “Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Merchants, Ethnic Networks and Niche Economies, 1850-1890.” 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. Tulane Hillel will hold its second annual Nice Jewish Boy pageant, March 19 at 8 p.m. Tulane’s finest Jewish gentlemen will compete in talent, interview and businesswear, seeking to be crowned with the Golden Yarmulke. The next Shabbat Kumsitz of singing following Shabbat services will be on March 17 at Touro Synagogue, led by Cantor David Mintz, around 7:30 p.m., after the 6 p.m. service.
Beth Israel in Metairie is planning an outing to the Timberwolves at Pelicans game on March 19 at 5 p.m., with ticket price not set by JewCCY, the Crescent City Temple Youth, press time. will be hosting the NFTY-Southern Spring Torah Academy in Metairie will have an Conclave the weekend of March 24. The three Reform congregations in New Orleans and Me- information session for parents of prospective Kindergarten and first grade students, March 14 tairie will all be featured during the weekend. at 7:30 p.m. The full early-bird discount will be Moishe House New Orleans will have a pro- extended to April 1 for families where at least gram with Calvin Duncan, who is now free af- one parent attends the event. ter being in the Louisiana State Penitentiary for Rabbi Todd Silverman will lead “The Basics: 28 years for a crime he did not commit. The talk A Crash Course in Judaism, Jewry and Jewwill be on March 22 at 6 p.m. ishness,” at Touro Synagogue Thursdays from B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will have a Shab- March 16 to May 4 at 6 p.m., except April 6 bat service and Mediterranean reception cele- and 13. Registration is free to members, $50 for brating the marriage of Rabbi Jordan Goldson non-members. and Beth Warren, March 24 at 6 p.m. Gates of Prayer Sisterhood in Metairie brings The Greater New Orleans Section of the Na- back Coach Bag Bingo, April 8 at 7 p.m., with tional Council of Jewish Women will have a 10 new Coach bag prizes. Wine, cheese and program on “The Fifth Question: What is the desserts will be served. Reservations are $25 for Secret to Making a Great Matzah Ball,” on April Sisterhood members, $30 for guests. 2 at 2:30 p.m. at Northshore Jewish CongregaThere will be a Jewish Medical Ethics dinner tion in Mandeville. and discussion led by Rabbi Alexis Berk and Tulane University will have a Judeo-Chris- Walter Levy, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Touro Syntian Studies public lecture, “The Sacrifice of agogue. the Son in the Three Abrahamic Traditions,” on Adam Orlansky, assistant director of the March 14 at 7 p.m. in Rogers Chapel. Speaker will be Jon Levenson, Albert List Professor of Henry S. Jacobs Camp, will lead a presentation about the camp at Temple Shalom in Lafayette, Jewish Studies at Harvard University. March 26 at 11:30 a.m. B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will have a Nature The next Morris Bart Sr. Lecture at the UpShabbat, a stroll through the swamp, on April 8 town JCC will be “From the Wilds of Ireland to at 10 a.m., at Bluebonnet Swamp. the Wilds of Louisiana: Irish Immigration to At the March 10 6 p.m. Shabbat service at New Orleans,” March 13 at 11:45 a.m. Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, Michael
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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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12 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017
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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 email@example.com. 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
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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 jcrs.org.
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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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26 The Jewish Newsletter â€¢ March 2017
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28 The Jewish Newsletter â€¢ March 2017
Jewish Community Day School JCDS and Our Community
At JCDS we cultivate rich community ties! Participation in meaningful activities encourages students to become active members of the community. A kaleidoscope of events keeps everyone involved as we build strong bridges with: * Sunrise Senior Living: Children visit and bring joy through their singing to residents * Congregation Gates of Prayer Nursery School: JCDS 3rd and 4th graders buddied-up with their young friends for Story Time * Congregation Shir Chadash Shul School @ JCDS with guided learning activities facilitated by JCDS teachers along with Shir Chadash teachers * Congregation Beth Israel hosted JCDS families for a beautiful Shabbat where JCDS Oscar J. Tolmas Head of School Sharon Pollin delivered an animated d’var Torah. Thank you to these JCDS board members and friends for sponsoring a lovely kiddush lunch:
By Emily Dvorin, JCDS mom and education specialist
Sharon Pollin Jessy and Rabbi David Posternock Jennifer and Neil Schneider Lauren and Hal Ungar Lynne and Michael Wasserman
* Congregation Gates of Prayer Shabbat Yeladim. JCDS and GOP families joined together in a fun worship service led by Rabbi Pinsky and Tory May, then built their very own Mt. Sinai led by JCDS teachers Judy Fried, Carol Garcia, Hemda Hochman and Sharon Pollin. Special thanks to Gates of Prayer Sisterhood for the healthy and delicious make-yourown yogurt parfait bar! * Congregation Shir Chadash JCDS students, families, and our friends came together to celebrate Shabbat and National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. Sharon Pollin delivered a luminous d’var Torah and, thanks to our generous sponsors, everyone enjoyed a cool, sweet Kiddush! Gail and Stuart Chalew Emily and Evan Dvorin Laura and George Fuhrman Lis and Hugo Kahn Barbara and Mark Kaplinsky Anne Zoller Kiefer Sarah Allison and Danny Mintz Carole and Richard Neff Madilyn and Alvin Samuels Rose and Jeremy Soso Jayne and Eric Stillman Eileen Wallen
At JCDS, we believe that students need to understand the why behind mathematical processes so that they possess the tools to solve new problems. JCDS students engage in daily Eureka Math lessons which are designed to help our learners achieve a deep understanding of mathematics through a sequence of lessons expertly crafted to build mathematical concepts one step at a time. Each lesson within a curricular unit builds upon the lesson before it. Likewise, the lessons on a particular concept, in a grade level, build upon the way the concept was developed in the prior grade level in an intentional way so that the concepts unfold like a story. Young mathematicians begin in the early grades manipulating objects in order to master one to one correspondence and to learn how quantities can be put together and taken apart. They gain early informal experiences with the concepts of comparison and equality as early as Kindergarten. These foundational concepts are built upon year after year. Teachers guide students as they move along a carefully designed progression from understanding a numeral as a number of physical objects to eventually understanding a numeral as a point on the number line. The JCDS math approach allows students to truly understand the logic of mathematics and empowers them to approach problem solving with confidence. Our mathematicians do not have to worry about “remembering how to do it” or “remembering the trick.” JCDS students are learning that numbers, and therefore math, makes sense!
Mazel Tov — It’s A Boy! Jewish Community Day School welcomes several beautiful baby boys to our community: • Moshe Joseph Fogel was born January 24. Congratulations to parents Hila and Baruch, and big brother, Meir Michael. • Leo Benjamin Cohen was born December 12. Mazel Tov to proud parents, Sarah and Sandy. • Ori Padilla-Goodman was born on December 9. Congratulations to parents Allison and Mario, and big sister, Ilara. • Eli Samuel Weinstein was born on February 13. Mazel Tov to Brooke and Jonathan, and big brother, Charlie. We are so excited to welcome our new honeybees to the Young Baby Program!
Join us on May 2 at JCDS for Grandparents and Special Friends Day in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. The entire community is invited to this extraordinary event with: • Family Artifact Israel Museum Project: Send in or drop off an Israel related family artifact to JCDS. It can be an actual item, or a photograph. • 1947 U.N. Vote Re-enactment • Celebrate with song and dance and partake of a delectable Israeli Feast! For more information call or email: (504) 887.4091 or firstname.lastname@example.org March 2017 •The Jewish Newsletter 29
Jewish Endowment Foundation Charitable Gifts From Your IRA to the Jewish Endowment Foundation Last year, Congress made the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent. What does this mean to you and JEF? This provision allows individuals age 70½ and older to donate up to $100,000 a year from their IRAs to the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana tax-free.
Benefits to the donor of an IRA Charitable Rollover to JEF
If you have a traditional IRA and are 70½ or older, you are required to take an annual distribution. IRA rollovers to JEF count toward your Required Minimum Distribution. To make this distribution from your IRA to JEF, you must direct your IRA manager to distribute funds directly to JEF. This transfer can be made anytime during the year, as long as it is completed by December 31.
• Reduce your taxable income, even if you do not itemize deductions.
Your distribution from your IRA to JEF is tax-neutral: it does not count as taxable income nor do you receive a charitable deduction. (As always, we advise you to consult your tax advisors.) Donors do not receive an income tax charitable deduction. Your IRA rollover could benefit JEF’s General Fund, endow your annual gift to Federation, or be used to create a designated fund to distribute annual grants to one or more charitable organizations that are important to you. It cannot be transferred to a donor advised fund or supporting foundation. JEF is available to assist you or your financial advisor. Please contact Sandy Levy (email@example.com) or Patti Lengsfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) at (504) 524-4559 to have a confidential conversation.
• Satisfy your Required Minimum Distribution for the year. • Avoid taxes on transfers of up to $100,000 from your IRA to JEF. • Make a gift that is not subject to the 50% deduction limits on charitable gifts.
Did you know that you can make JEF a designated beneficiary of your IRA after your lifetime? To leave some or all of your IRA money to charitable beneficiaries while leaving everything else to your heirs is a tax-smart solution that results in more after-tax assets for your loved ones. You can designate JEF’s General Fund or a donor advised fund. You can name your heirs as the advisors to this fund. An IRA balance left to charity avoids the federal estate tax, since it is removed from your estate for federal estate tax purposes. Second, there’s no federal income tax due on the IRA money. There’s no state income tax either. Finally, no income taxes are due when your favorite tax-exempt charities take their withdrawals from the IRAs. So you avoid double or triple taxation in a simple way. When all is said and done, this strategy allows you to leave more to your favorite charities, more to your loved ones and less to the tax collector.
Last month, Tulane Hillel welcomed Shelley Freed to the staff! As the Director of Development and Leadership Annual Gifts, Shelley leads all fundraising efforts for Tulane Hillel. She is responsible for planning and executing the annual fundraising campaign for Tulane Hillel’s radically inclusive, diverse and action-oriented community that serves as a training ground for emerging young adult leaders. She is excited to be a part of the Tulane Hillel team and to be working for such a meaningful, innovative and impactful organization. Before calling New Orleans home, Shelley lived in Jackson, Wy., and worked for the Jackson Hole Film Festival. She returned home to Richmond, Va., in 2008 to launch Zaydie’s Granola as a founding partner and the Chief Granola Taster.
National Guard Youth Challenge and the New Orleans Children’s Book Festival. Most recently, Shelley worked in development for the Make It Right Foundation. Here, she worked closely with a small team to help rebuild New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. She specialized in donor relations and cultivation, as well as the production of major special events. Her efforts resulted in the organization successfully raising over $10 million since 2014.
In 2010, Shelley followed her heart and relocated to her adopted city of New Orleans. Unbeknownst to her, her career in fundraising was launched when she joined Sabiston Consultants, a public affairs and Shelley is a graduate of the University of Georgia; and in her free political consulting firm. During her tenure at Sabiston, she special- time she enjoys strolling City Park with her puppy Gertrude, checking ized in political fundraising and special projects while working closely out new restaurants, listening to NPR and enjoying life in the Crescent with a broad client base that included Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, The City. To contact Shelley, email her at email@example.com. 30 The Jewish Newsletter • March 2017
Jewish Community Center Last Chance to Join Team NOLA Registration is about to close for spots on Team NOLA, the New Orleans JCC’s delegation to the Birmingham Maccabi Games, held July 30 to August 4. Jewish teens ages 13–16 are invited to come experience sports, social events, service and fun at the largest gathering of Jewish teens in the world. Participants can compete in either individual or group sports. For the boys, team options include 14U and 16U baseball, basketball and soccer, and 16U flag football. Girls may participate in 16U basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. Boys and girls of all ages may compete in the following individual activities: dance, golf, tennis, swimming, star reporter, table tennis, and track and field. To register or to learn more about the New Orleans delegation, please visit www.nojcc.org or contact J. Morgan, Director of Sports and Wellness, at (504) 897-0143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save The Date: YOM HASHOAH – April 23, 2017, 7 p.m., Uptown JCC A dialogue between Holocaust survivor Martin Weiss and Sarah Cramson, a professor of Jewish studies at Tulane University, highlights this year’s community-wide Yom Hashoah program. The memorial program remembers and honors local survivors while educating the public about the Holocaust and teaching the importance of tolerance. During the program, the 12th Annual Educator of the Year award will be presented to a local teacher who has done outstanding work integrating Holocaust education into the curriculum. KING SOLOMON’S TABLE — April 25, 2017, 7 p.m., Uptown JCC James Beard award-winners Joan Nathan and Alon Shaya team up for a delicious evening as they present her newest cookbook, “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.” Foodies and fans alike will not want to miss this tasty event, featuring samples of dishes from Nathan’s book. YOM HA’ATZMAUT – May 1, 2017, 7 p.m., Uptown JCC Celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut with the flavors of Israel and a screening of the delightful film “In Search of Israeli Cuisine.” The last film in this year’s Cathy and Morris Bart Jewish Cultural Arts Series, “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” is a portrait of the Israeli people told through food. This feature-length documentary puts a face on the culture of Israel, profiling chefs, home cooks, vintners and cheese-makers drawn from the more than 100 cultures that make up Israel today — Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze.
Hello Summer! Jump into summer at the JCC! Registration for JCC Summer Day Camps is now open to the community and units at both the Uptown and Metairie locations are filling quickly. Tailoring programs to match the changing needs of children from toddlers to preteens, the JCC packs summer days with a variety of games and activities including sports, art, drama, music, cooking, science, Israeli culture and daily swimming.
Campers ages 3 and up receive swim instruction from American Red Cross certified Water Safety Instructors. Older campers enjoy weekly field trips, an overnight at the JCC, and a day trip to Blue Bayou Water Park. A separate Sports Camp is offered to campers entering grades 3 to 5. These campers focus on sports but also swim each day, participate in Oneg Shabbat performances, and join the main camp for both the overnight and the Blue Bayou trip. The 2017 summer camp runs June 5 to July 28. Registration is customizable, allowing families to sign up for the weeks that best fit their needs. Early Childhood and General Day Campers must enroll in a minimum of four weeks, but those weeks do not need to be consecutive. For teens entering grades 6 to 8, weekly options focus on a specific topic or activity and include the following choices: Tennis, Musical Theater, Adventure Trips, #HashtagArt, Culinary Creations, Strength and Conditioning, Color War, Acting for the Camera, Emoji Art, Fitness, and Wacky Science! Early morning and afternoon care are also available for campers. Applications and deposits will be accepted online. Register by April 14 to receive the ‘early bird discount.’ Teens who register for four or more weeks receive $100 off their total tuition. Visit www.nojcc.org to learn more about the fun that awaits campers during a summer at the J!
Eat and Play at Adloyadah It’s carnival time at the JCC and you can almost smell the falafel! Our 48th annual community-wide Purim celebration will be held on Sunday, March 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Uptown JCC. Bring the entire family for a fun-filled afternoon of food, music, games and activities for all ages. The “Human Hamster Balls” and giant slide are back, as are everyone’s favorite inflatables, along with some exciting new ones like the “Tug and Dunk Bungee Pull.” Come enjoy delicious Middle Eastern delicacies and nosh on New York-style deli items. Grab a snowball or popcorn, and do not forget to take home a bag of the homemade hamantashen. Admission to the carnival is free and open to the community. A children’s All Day Play Pass is $12, or $10 with a donation of nonperishable items for the Broadmoor Food Pantry.
March 2017 • The Jewish Newsletter 31
Jewish Family Service 32nd annual Passover Food Basket Distribution
Current and upcoming Community Groups
Each year, JFS strives to make Passover meaningful by reaching as many individuals and families as possible through its Passover Food Basket Distribution program. This year, the event takes place on Sunday, April 9. Event co-chairs Betsy Threefoot Kaston and Julie Koppman will join volunteers, donors, staff, board members, synagogues and other New Orleans-area Jewish agencies to prepare and deliver Passover food and ritual objects to hundreds of members of the local Jewish community. Many of the recipients are elderly or people with disabilities. This is the only contact some have with other members of the Jewish community all year long.
JFS runs therapeutic, support and social skills groups periodically to meet the needs of the community. Register now by calling (504) 831-8475.
If you know an individual or family in need, or wish to volunteer or contribute, please visit our website http://jfsneworleans.org/services/ passover/ or call (504) 831-8475 for more information.
Wednesdays: March 8 to April 5, 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. (Metairie) A support group for families and individuals interested in adoption. Discuss common challenges and hopes for adoption; receive educational resources, tools and support.
JFS offers Counseling Services across the Metro Area Counseling for individuals, couples, families and groups is a core community service of JFS. Licensed behavioral health professionals provide guidance and support on how to cope with interpersonal and family problems. Appointments are available at all three offices — Metairie, Mid-City and the Northshore. Fees are assessed on a sliding-fee scale based on household income. JFS now accepts Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Gilsbar, and TRICARE insurance policies. Please call to set up an appointment: Metairie and Mid-City (504) 831-8475; Northshore (985) 253-1619.
JFS Partners with Jewish Community Day School to offer Parent Workshop Preparing for Summer Vacation Thursday, April 6, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. The challenges and joys of summer vacation will be discussed. Successful strategies for keeping the peace, staying sharp, and having fun as a family will be shared. Location: Goldring Woldenberg JCC/3747 W. Esplanade Ave/Metairie, LA 70002 With Laura Kulick, LCSW. RSVP to Lauren Ungar, lungar@jcdsnola. org or (504) 887.4091
Wednesdays: March 8 to April 5, 4:30 to 6 p.m. (Metairie) An educational series for parents/caretakers of children age 11 to 17. The workshop is designed to help parents improve communication with their adolescent children, minimize power struggles, increase mutual understanding, and learn strategies to talk about challenging topics.
Women in Transition
Wednesdays: March 8 to April 5, 1 to 2:30 p.m. (Mandeville) A support group for women who may be feeling lonely, depressed or anxious about the process of aging, changes in their relationships with adult children, or challenges adapting to natural life changes. Cost: $50 for 5 sessions.
For Social Workers, Counselors, and Mental Health Professionals: Register Today for the 2017 Spring Continuing Education Series at JFS • Ethics, presented by Dana DelaBretonne, LPC. March 17, 8:45 a.m.-noon • Working with At-Risk Adolescents, presented by Marvin W. Cliffors, PhD, LCSW. May 19, 8:45 a.m.-noon Participants will receive 3 CEUs for each event. Pricing: $60 for 1 event, $110 for 2 events. All events located at: 3300 W. Esplanade Ave. S., Suite 603, Metairie. For more information, call (504) 831-8475, or visit http://www. jfsneworleans.org/events/
The New jfsneworleans.org site!
JFS has launched a new website this new year. Take an online tour! JFS is pleased to welcome Melissa Stewart, LMSW, on staff as the A sampling of what you’ll find includes current information on JFS Teen Life Counts Program Coordinator. Melissa moved to South Louisiana two years ago from Tennessee. Her experience includes working programs, services and educational events, as well as interactive forms at Catholic Charities and conducting individual and group therapy at and a blog. Updates were made to provide you valuable information in a user-friendly format. Let us know what you think! River Oaks Hospital.
32 The Jewish Newsletter • 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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March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 35
simchas Please look for our new Irish Stout 6-pack cans
coming to stores this month
New Orleans knows how to host celebrations Located on the historic Continental Gin campus, Cahaba Brewing Co. offers a unique and memorable experience perfect for your next event.
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cahababrewing.com Whether you’re planning a celebration, fundraiser, business meeting or wedding reception, we think you’ll find our taproom to be the perfect venue.
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 shopjacollections.com.
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
Hold Your Special Event at Workplay! Concerts Private Parties Bar/Bat Mitzvahs Weddings Corporate Events
Live Music Nightly
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.”
Sprout’s 30 years of expertise makes your event bloom We have office spaces available to rent — so you can WORK all day and PLAY at night
email@example.com • (205) 879-4773 ext 4001 Check our concert calendar at workplay.com 38 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017
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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March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 39
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40 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017
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
HAVEN 2515 6th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233 205-536-7233 email@example.com
March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 41
SJL Online: sjlmag.com
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.
Bonding with Israel is popular for simcha gifts
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42 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017
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 israelbonds.com. 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 PowerSharesSeries.com
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.
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Estate planning is also for when you are still around by Lisa Finn In November 2015, I was lucky enough to write an article about Estate Planning for Southern Jewish Life. As I write this in early 2017, feeling lucky once again, I stand by my prior first sentence: Proper estate planning is not just about what happens when one dies. While we cannot afford to ignore the certainty of death, nor can we afford to ignore the certainty of the uncertainty of life. One of the biggest unknowns we each face is whether or for how long we can continue to live independently. The two biggest challenges associated with the loss of independence are the emotional and financial costs. In terms of the financial costs, if one does not have adequate long term care insurance and he or she needs to live in a skilled nursing facility (a.k.a. a nursing home), you may assume that the cost of care will drain his or her life savings. Absent proper and timely planning, the only alternative is to die before all one’s money has been spent. Most people I encounter are surprised, then sickened, to hear that Medicare does not pay for long term care. You may recall that Medicare is the insurance for seniors, while Medicaid is the insurance for the poor. Only long term care insurance and Medicaid provide for long term medical care. And, with care costs approximating between $7,500 and $10,000 per month, most people struggle to comprehend that not only may they lose their independence, they may also lose everything they struggled their entire lives to accumulate, because they’ve lived “too long.” Once life savings have been drained, and one is indigent, Medicaid will pay for the patient’s care for the remainder of his or her life. To qualify for Medicaid in Louisiana, a single person must have no more than $2,000, a house, a car, and his or her pre-paid funeral arrangements. While the patient is permitted to keep his or her home, upon the patient’s death, the home will be subjected to the lien that Medicaid placed on it at the time the patient applied for Medicaid. This is Medicaid’s Estate Recovery rule. Through this rule, the government seeks to recoup its costs of providing long term care. Have no fear that early death is your only way out of what has been dubbed the “Nursing Home Poverty Issue” — there is another way! Through properly drafted pre-planning documents, you may be able to save your life savings and insure yourself against the risk of draining your life savings to cover your long-term care costs. Through proper trust planning and trust funding, people that are ready to confront the uncertainty of life find peace of mind. It’s never too soon to plan. Now is the time to learn whether and how trust planning can save your life savings should you need long term care — not just for a legacy once you’re gone, but for you to enjoy while you are here. The Law Office of Lisa Finn, Esq., LL.M., located in Metairie, specializes in and focuses exclusively on Estate Planning.
March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 49
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L’Chayim: Touro honors Shepards On Jan. 29, Touro Synagogue in New Orleans conferred its most prestigious honor, the L’Chayim Award, to Kathy and Hal Shepard. Touro President Susan Good said “to choose them as our honorees was the easiest and most unanimous decision I have had to make as president of the congregation.” Kathy is a nursery school teacher at the Jewish Community Center and “has participated in almost every Jewish agency in our city.” A past president of the JCC, she advised a Lemann-Stern emerging leadership class for two years and is co-chair of the 2017 Annual Campaign for the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. A longtime member of the Touro Sisterhood board, Good noted she was one of the “last women standing” as the Sisterhood held its last Sisterhood Shabbat last May and transferred its funds to the Touro Foundation. Hal is a past president of Touro Synagogue and its Brotherhood, and is currently president of the Touro Foundation. “His forward thinking has led us to create new bylaws for the Foundation and to form an Investment Advisory Committee, all to safeguard our capital investments,” Good said. He also knows every inch of the Touro building and its physical systems. He is also a past president of Tulane Hillel and is an advisor to the Federation’s current Katz-Phillips leadership program.
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. 50 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017
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event photography - weddings - bar/bat mitzvahs - sweet sixteens - debutante balls Nationally-known Jewish musician Noah Aronson will be the Musician-in-Residence at Gates of Prayer the weekend of March 31. Aronson is currently serving as the creative director of Sacred Music NY, a nonprofit organization he helped to create, that organizes concerts around New York City bringing together spiritual musicians from diverse backgrounds to inspire interfaith dialogue and social change. As composer-in-residence at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Mass., he produced four albums with his mentor, Cantor Jodi Sufrin. He has released two albums as a solo musician. His album, “Left Side of the Page,” released in 2013, has received wide-spread acclaim for its musical settings of poetic selections from the Mishkan Tefilah Prayer Book. Gates of Prayer regularly uses his “Am I Awake” and “Zamru” at some services. In 2015 he partnered with Behrman House to create a music-based curriculum, Hebrew in Harmony. On March 31 he will lead the music for the 8 p.m. Shabbat service, joined by Cantorial Soloist Victoria May and the Kol Simcha choir. On April 1, he will also provide music at the 10:30 a.m. service. At 5:30 p.m. there will be a Living Room Concert for Dor Ha’Bet, the Baby Boomers group, at the home of Janet and Kevin Krane. TRIBE, the 20s and 30s group, will have a concert with Aronson at 8 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz Market. On April 2, Aronson will do a family concert at 10 a.m., before the 11 a.m. nursery school fundraiser.
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Lief leaving Lafayette Rabbi Joshua Lief, who became the part-time rabbi of Temple Shalom in Lafayette last summer, is leaving the congregation to take a full-time 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.
March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 51
community Gates of Prayer nursery school holding brunch and fair on April 2 3
Gates of Prayer’s Louise Hayem Manheim Nursery School in Metairie will “blast off ” for its annual fundraiser on April 2. The fundraising brunch at 11 a.m. will be preceded by a children’s concert with musician-in-residence Noah Aronson (see page 51) at 10 a.m. Brunch tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, $10 for children and free for ages 5 and younger. The brunch items include an omelet station, waffle station, bagels and spreads, kugel, a New Orleans station and more. There will also be a silent auction. Brunch tickets include admission to the fair, which includes pony rides, a petting zoo, bounce houses, carousel, cookie tree, face painting and more. Admission to just the fair is $8 or four for $20, free for nursery school families. The fair will be from noon to 3 p.m. A $1,000 raffle will be held, with $3 tickets, four for $10 or $20 for 10 tickets.
Baring all for art — and research Hadassah New Orleans is holding a groundbreaking Free the Tatas Paint Day in anticipation of its September gala to raise money for breast cancer research at Hadassah Medical Center. The March 19 event is being sponsored by Northshore Jewish Congregation in memory of Mary Latter, Cheryl Klein and Daryl Sue White. At the event, 17 models, most of whom are breast cancer survivors, will have their torsos artistically painted by local artists. When completed, a photographer will take pictures of the “artwork” and the images will be transferred to canvases. The works of art will be auctioned at the Sept. 9 gala, Free the Tatas Studio 504 Discotechque, Hadassah Bares All for A.R.T. (Awareness, Research and Treatment), at the Cannery in New Orleans.
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It’s Jewish Food Festival season 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. 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 take-out 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. 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.
Continued from page 54
Southern Jewish Life’s documented evidence supporting the assertion that the Jews do not keep the king’s laws. 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 http://brookwrite.com/. For exclusive online content, like facebook.com/rearpewmirror.
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Nat’l Day School leader visits Torah Academy Torah Academy in Metairie welcomed Rabbi Heshy Glass, the founding national chairman of the Consortium of Jewish Day Schools, on Jan. 25. Torah Academy has been using their Chumash study curriculum called “L’havin Ul’haskil” in the elementary grades for the past two years. Chani Nemes, Torah Academy’s experienced Judaic director, went to their principal’s training conference in November 2015. The Consortium of Jewish Day Schools is dedicated to the empowerment, development, and improvement of Jewish day schools across North America. Established in 2002 as a collaborative union among Day School principals, CoJDS today encompasses educators from many schools across the U.S. and Canada, providing a forum for continuous collaboration towards the realization of mutual goals, training programs and events. Glass met with the board of directors, administrators, parents and community members throughout his visit. “Torah Academy looks forward to the continued partnership with this forward-thinking organization to help strengthen Jewish education in Louisiana,” Rivkie Chesney, director of development at Torah Academy, said.
March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 53
rear pew mirror • doug brook
Esthernative facts The Jewnion – Judaica’s Fined-est News Source 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. WHY WOULD Reports from every province indicate great SUCH AN EDICT mourning for the Jews, fasting, weeping, lamenting, and many wearing sackcloth and BE ISSUED ashes. AGAINST ONE It is uncertain what might actually befall the Jews but, if their fate is sealed, it’s equally PARTICULAR unclear who is paying for the fall. GROUP? Estimates indicate that this initiative could cost ten thousand talents of silver — an exceedingly large expenditure. Sources say that this exact amount has been set aside in the king’s treasuries, by order of the king 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 continued on previous page 54 Southern Jewish Life • March 2017
With the current political situation on everyone’s mind, it should come as no surprise that the satirical Krewe du Vieux and krewedelusion parades on Feb. 11 would take aim at President Donald Trump. Krewe du Mishigas, the Jewish subkrewe in the Krewe du Vieux parade, looked to escape the planet with AlienNation. The float featured Trump as Trumpa the Hut slapping Lady Liberty in the face. Krewe du Jieux, part of the krewedelusion parade, held a Jieux d’Etat, with the float featuring a Bannon Cannon.
March 2017 • Southern Jewish Life 55
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48 Southern Jewish Life â€¢ March 2017