Southern Jewish Life Regional, April 2024

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Southern Jewish Life April 2024 • Volume R1, Issue 2


Liberation Pavilion at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Story, page 44.


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Southern Jewish Editor Welcome to the second issue of Southern Jewish Life Regional. At the end of each book of the Torah, we stand and say “Chazak Chazak v’Nitchazek” — be strong and let us srengthen each other. We can use a lot of strength these days. Naturally, the situation in Gaza continues to dominate the conversation and our coverage, but we do have a lot to read in this issue that is lighter and more typical of what you will see when the conflict is behind us. This month, we had a lot of congregations send us their Purim pictures (toward the end of this magazine), and we welcome input from institutions all across the South. We welcome your suggestions and your story ideas — even though we have a folder filled with ideas for upcoming issues. Our vision is that this publication contributes to the strengthening of community, through accurate information not being widely reported elsewhere. Right now, it is especially important, because of a constant barrage of ill-informed takes and misleading phrases in the mainstream press, generally casting Israel in a negative light. While there are certainly elements of any conflict that can be questioned, there is a lot of demonization and double standards. Anti-Israel demonstrators — no, they are not “pro-Palestinian” — charge Israel with genocide in Gaza, yet even taking Hamas’ unreliable numbers into account (and as we go to press, Hamas is admitting that they don’t have proper documentation of at least one-third of their reported casulties), Israel has an unbelievably low ratio of civilians to combatants killed. Actual military experts say they will be studying Israel’s techniques for years to try and emulate them. Yet Israel isn’t perfect, and that seems to be the standard the world demands. Aside from our editorials, this publication does not concentrate on international news. To get the best information about what is happening in Israel and reactions here, we encourage you to check out our sister publication, Israel InSight ( debuted since the last issue of SJL Regional. Like SJL Regional, there is an online magazine version, by subscription. Israel InSight is billed as a magazine for the pro-Israel Christian community, but since it comes from a Jewish publication, obviously it isn’t of a nature that would be off-putting to Jewish readers, or any other non-Christian friend of Israel. As an example, we’ve had people in the Jewish community express astonishment at what our debut issue revealed about UNRWA and why it is completely unfit to have any role in Gaza, and why it has exacerbated the situation with the Palestinians for decades. If you rely on the mainstream media, you’ll see that United Nations agency painted as a necessary force for good, and any criticism is met with astonishment. In that same vein, we could talk about Amnesty International and the International Red Cross. As Gaza continues, we need to remember what happened on Oct. 7, remember the hostages and remember that Israel is not at war with the Gazan people — it is at war with a group that attacked and targeted civilians, and vows to do it again and again. The war and the Gaza casualties are at the feet of Hamas. We must remain strong in the face of the relentless barrage of hate and lies and see this through to victory. Allowing Hamas to survive would be seen as a massive victory for terrorism, and would guarantee that before long, there would be yet another round of bloodshed from and in Gaza. Be strong — to victory. And if you haven’t yet, please subscribe to Southern Jewish Life Regional Edition today!

Lawrence Brook, Publisher/Editor

Agenda Remembering Amnon Weinstein ISJL’s new Southern & Jewish conference Hadassah says #EndTheSilence Southern Sens. warn Biden on Israel Watching investment watchdogs Georgia adopts IHRA definition Virginia bills combat antisemitism

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Focus: The War Against Hamas Operation Hug Meet Florida’s outspoken Rep. Mast Alabama supports Israel, condemns Hamas Tennessee resolution supports Israel Texas A&M closing Qatar campus Nice surprise at Atlanta pro-Israel protest Alabama quilters make gifts for Israeli families Memphis anti-Israel protests shuts major bridge Does working behind the scenes work any more?

Liberation Pavilion dedication, page 44

Restoring the Black-Jewish alliance in S.C. Caught in Alabama’s IVF controversy World War II Museum’s Liberation Pavilion New Athletics Center at Jacobs Camp Ramah Darom building new program center Bornblum School’s special new megillah Rubenstein’s: Fashion, and now a hotel

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Opinion James Carville’s dangerous rhetoric

Books Rabbi, “Take My Dog” Sophia’s Gift 4

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Sports Israeli soccer star goes to Charlotte 62 SEC Jewish Hoops Championship 64 Bermanator’s season ends early 65

Arts Restoring a stolen painting MSJE expanding Elie Wiesel Collection in Fla.

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Cuisine Righteous Road Spirits


Purim in the South Rear Pew Mirror

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“Rabbi’s Home” in Woodville, Miss., which had a thriving Jewish community in the late 1800s, so much that the town was known as “Little Jerusalem.” Beth Israel was formed in 1878 but disbanded in the 1920s. One unusual feature of the rabbi’s home is the ornamentation at the top of the porch posts, in the shape of a menorah.

Southern Jewish Agenda Remembering Amnon Weinstein Restored Violins of Hope to teach about the Holocaust Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli luthier who established the Violins of Hope as a musical remembrance of the Holocaust’s victims, died on March 5. He was 84. The Violins of Hope, many of which were played in the death camps by Jews who survived and many who were murdered, have been brought to cities around the world for concerts and educational programs. In the 1980s, a Holocaust survivor brought Weinstein a violin to restore, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. The violin had been played in the concentration camps, and when he opened the case, ashes fell out. Weinstein’s father, a violin maker from Lithuania, had moved to Israel and opened a violin shop. But over 400 other family members were murdered by the Nazis. For many in the camps, the violin was a way to stay alive. As death transports arrived, musicians played orchestral music to give the arrivals a sense of security — before they were killed. Being in the orchestra was a ticket to survival, at least for a while. In 1996, after several similar requests over the years, Weinstein decided he was ready to restore violins that had been in the death camps, and it became his mission, along with preserving the stories behind each violin and their owners. In 2008, 16 violins were used in the first Violins of Hope concerts, in Istanbul and Jerusalem. Weinstein’s philosophy was that the violins are meant to be played, giving voice to those who were lost. His son, Avshi, is also involved in the effort. The first United States appearance of the violins was a two-week visit in Charlotte in 2012. In 2015, the violins were brought to Cleveland for a series of programs. In March 2018, the violins were in Nashville for what was then still a rare public appearance. As part of the Nashville visit, the violins also came to Birmingham for a series of concerts, after Birminghamian Sallie Downs visited Weinstein in Israel to convince him that Birmingham would be a good venue. 6

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional

The centerpiece concert, “Dreams of Hope,” at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four girls were murdered in a Klan bombing in 1963, became a documentary that aired on PBS stations nationally. The violins were in Louisville, Ky., in October 2019, and after a year of dormancy due to Covid, performances were in Richmond in August 2021. They were in several communities around South Carolina in April 2022, followed by a week of events in New Orleans in January 2023. The Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Dania Beach, Fla., is currently hosting an exhibit of the violins. In a statement, the Alabama Holocaust Education Center announced Weinstein’s death “with heavy hearts.” Through his restorations, “these violins became testaments to history, uniting the next generation with the proud history of Jewish resilience, resistance, and artistry — even in the darkest of times.” The AHEC is the only Holocaust education center in America to house one of the restored violins, on long-term loan from the Weinstein family. On May 5, at the AHEC community Holocaust commemoration, there will be a tribute to Weinstein. The event will be at 3:30 p.m. at the Harrison Theatre at Samford University.

From Medicine to Intelligence:

How the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s unique partnership with the Israeli Defense Forces is bettering the world Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks against Israel, the students and faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been focused on their continued mission of making the world a better place. Yishai Fraenkel, vice president and director general of the university, says the campus Photo by Yoram Aschheim communities of the 100-year-old institution are experiencing a range of psychological and emotional traumas. There are those who have lost friends or family members or have suffered physical injury themselves. Still, they strive for a sense of normalcy. “We are not stopping. We are not halting or looking for excuses,” says Fraenkel. “Hebrew University is one of the most important civilian institutions in Israel, and we want to continue offering a world class education and world class research.” While their academic offerings cover a broad spectrum of disciplines from social sciences to medicine, the university’s partnership with the Israeli military has resulted in multiple programs that have been advancing research and development on a global scale for decades. “We have three major programs done in collaboration with the Israeli military: Havatzalot, Tzameret and Talpiot,” explains Fraenkel. “These military programs are very important because this is an army to protect democracy, which is very precious.”

Havatzalot: Training future military intelligence leaders

More than a decade ago, the Military Intelligence Division established a program to recruit members of the Israeli Defense Forces with the potential to excel as officers in the field of intelligence. The program has been at Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 2019. “Havatzalot is a three-year program that allows young students who are also cadets to complete a double-major bachelor’s degree with a combination of military studies and one other science like mathematics, computer science, economics and sometimes philosophy,” says Fraenkel. “They finish their training, and they serve basically as the backbone of Israeli intelligence.” Troops who join the program graduate with the rank of lieutenant and must join the Military Intelligence Unit for at least six years.

Tzameret: Elite military medicine that save lives

Serving as a military doctor is not for the faint of heart, and admission to the Tzameret program is highly competitive. Candidates for the program must meet rigorous cognitive and physical fitness requirements. While participating in the program, students are allowed to defer their military service and later give five years as military doctors in the IDF. One of the main objectives of the program is to increase the number of career military physicians. The more highly trained doctors in the field, the better for anyone in need of critical care. The program is in its tenth year. As of the 2018-2019 academic year, the total number of new military

physicians in training, including those that have already finished training, exceeds 590. Like many of their other programs, Tzameret has a global reach. Up to 20 students in their sixth year of study are selected to participate in a onemonth exchange program with other military-oriented medical programs around the world.

Talpiot: Cultivating the next generation of leaders in defense and technology When you think of Talpiot, think of it as training people who develop technologies like the Iron Dome. The Talpiot pro- Photo from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem gram is one of the most prestigious academic and military programs in Israel, selecting exceptionally talented individuals from across Israel for training in science, technology and leadership. “Talpiot takes those extremely bright scientific minds, those who excel in mathematics and physics so they can apply their talents to the development of military technology,” says Fraenkel. “Many graduates of this program go on to have a successful military career and later make their way into civilian life as successful entrepreneurs. They’re idea generators.” Though these three programs might be the most well-known, you’ll also find programs like the Institute for Research in Military Medicine where research and development in the areas of post-traumatic stress disorder, combat casualty trauma and forensic medicine (or identifying victims) takes place. Additionally, the six-year-old Bina Elite Dentistry Reserve Track allows student-soldiers to maintain rigorous combat training standards. The Bina cadets serve as critical dental officers as needed.

Solidarity across an ocean

These programs, Hebrew University and the wider community are receiving critical support through the We Are One campaign, a special initiative organized by American Friends of Hebrew University along with the international chapters of the organization. “First and foremost, the We Are One campaign shows the solidarity of people throughout the world,” says Fraenkel. “Secondly, given these hardships as a university, the campaign makes it possible for us to continue our mission. We’re not just pursuing life, but the fullness of its potential.” Resources from the initiative support a wide range of immediate community needs from mental health services and legal assistance to hosting displaced individuals and funding unique scholarships for reservists called to duty. The initiative is also looking at rebuilding the future with programs promoting mental health, a shared society between Arabs and Jews and even agricultural innovation.

Show your solidarity with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by giving to the We Are One campaign.

Learn more or donate at April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Delta resuming N.Y. flights to Israel, no word yet on Atlanta Delta Airlines announced on March 13 that it will resume daily flights to Tel Aviv from New York in June. The announcement comes one week after rival United Airlines became the first American carrier to renew service to Tel Aviv since the Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7. The Atlanta-based Delta will restart nonstop service to Tel Aviv from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 7 “following an extensive security assessment,” the airline said in a statement. The Israel Airports Authority had previously said that Delta would resume flights on May 1, but the airline’s statement said that was being delayed and those who were booked on flights before June 7 will be notified. The airline recently launched a codeshare agreement with Israeli carrier El Al. United, which used to offer the most flights to Israel of any American carrier as the U.S. airline with the largest international service, is currently operating only one daytime flight between its hub at Newark International Airport and Tel Aviv, but will extend this to two flights in the future. The Chicago-based carrier said it does not plan to restart flights from additional U.S. cities until at least the fall. There has not been an announcement regarding resumption of the recently-inaugurated direct flights on Delta from Atlanta to Tel Aviv. Itineraries from Atlanta for this summer show a stop in either New York or Paris. Dallas-based American Airlines has halted flights on its lone route from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Tel Aviv until Oct. 28, and will be the last of the U.S. legacy carriers to resume service to Israel. El Al was the only airline to maintain service to the United States throughout the war. U.S. lawmakers and Israeli government officials had urged

the American carriers to resume the flights to Israel “as soon as possible.” The United States topped the list for tourists to Israel last year. Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) and Austrian Airlines were among the first major foreign carriers to resume flights to Ben-Gurion International Airport. Notably, airlines from the United Arab Emirates maintained service to Israel throughout the war. El Al has won national and international plaudits for its continuing wartime service, as well as its recent offer of free flights to European destinations for Israeli soldiers. However, with the limited service across the Atlantic, the price of round-trip economy airfare between Israel and America skyrocketed to more than $1,500 this winter, almost double the normal low-season price. The renewed competition on the popular New York line is expected to lower prices for flights on the route. From JNS and staff reports

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opinion pieces, letters to the editor… just keep them short and civil! Email submissions to or mail to P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham AL 35213 8

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional

The Houston Rockets held its first-ever Israel Heritage Night with the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest on March 14, the night that the Washington Wizards and Israeli NBA star Deni Avdija came to town. The Rockets won, 135-119, as Avdija scored 24 points and had nine rebounds.

Photo courtesy Sherrie Grunfeld

For International Women’s Day on March 8, Hadassah members and supporters participated in a historic mobilization at nearly 190 events in 17 countries around the world — and 176 events across 32 states in the U.S. — to #EndTheSilence on Hamas’ sexual violence. As part of Hadassah’s largest-ever global campaign, 130,000 people from 118 countries and 116 global organizations have signed Hadassah’s petition and letters to UN Secretary-General António Guterres demanding an independent, unbiased investigation of Hamas’ use of rape and gender-based violence as weapons of war on October 7 and beyond. In preparation for March 8, Hadassah Southern filmed a video at their regional conference in Birmingham, held Feb. 23 to 25. Chapters represented included Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Dothan, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans. Susan Smolinsky of Baton Rouge is regional president.

ISJL expands educator conference, inviting everyone The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life’s annual June conference isn’t just for educators any more. For two decades, congregations using the ISJL’s standardized religious school curriculum have gone to Jackson for a couple days of forums and networking. Now, the agency is reworking the conference for a diverse range of interests and renaming it “Southern and Jewish.” Over the past few years, ISJL reorganized into three main areas — Culture, Education and Spirituality. When in-person conferences resumed in 2023 following the pandemic, the conference broadened its offerings, including small-congregation resources, and content for culture and spirituality. With the new conference, there will be offerings in each of the three areas. While teachers and religious school leaders are encouraged to come to the education track, congregational presidents, lay leaders, parents and professionals, or anyone interested in Jewish life in the South, are invited to attend the conference.

Presenters who have already been announced include interfaith musical duo Lapidus & Myles of Atlanta, and Rabbi Stacy Rigler, a rabbi-educator currently serving as executive director of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators. Based in Jackson, the ISJL provides services to Jewish communities in 13 states, from Virginia and Kentucky down to Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas. While some programs are available to communities of all sizes, there is an emphasis on providing services to smaller communities that don’t have Jewish professional assistance. The conference will be held from noon on June 23 to noon on June 25 at the Sheraton Flowood, just east of Jackson. There is no registration fee for the conference itself, just for the hotel and meals. Early-bird rates were extended to April 15, and are $500 for double occupancy, $660 for single occupancy. A Saturday night extension before the conference is $162. Registration is due by June 1.

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Southern Senators urge Biden to rescind decisions that “undercut” Israel Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas urged President Joe Biden to rescind two recent decisions that “undercut our most valuable alliance in the Middle East,” Israel. The Feb. 29 letter, co-signed by eight Republican senators, criticized Biden’s Feb. 1 executive order authorizing the State Department to “arbitrarily punish Israelis in Judea and Samaria” for alleged attacks against Palestinians. There were no criteria given as to what would trigger sanctions. “Under the guise of ‘peace, security, or stability of the West Bank,’ it appears the State Department can punish arbitrarily any Israeli it wants. Yet, the State Department hasn’t acted against the Palestinian Authority, which makes ‘pay to slay’ payments to terrorists for murdering innocent Israeli families.” The senators asked for “a full explanation of what evidentiary standards and processes are intended to be employed when choosing to sanction Israelis while ignoring the serious crimes committed by the Palestinian Authority.” The order led to four Israelis being sanctioned, including having their bank accounts frozen. Between Oct. 7 and Feb. 24, there were 256 recorded incidents of “nationalist crime” by Jews in the territories. The previous year, there were 489, meaning the incidents are down by half despite heightened tensions following the Hamas attack of Oct. 7. Earlier this year, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called reports of growing “settler violence” a “blood libel” and “a lie disconnected from reality.”

Conversely, Palestinian violence has spiked, with shootings at the highest level since the Second Intifada of 2000-2005. Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 15, Rescuers Without Borders first responders recorded more than 2,600 Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis in Judea and Samaria, including 760 cases of rock-throwing, generally at vehicles on highways, 551 fire bombings, 12 attempted or successful stabbings and nine vehicular assaults. Over the past year, there have been 13 Israeli civilians in Jerusalem and 17 in the territories who were murdered by Palestinians. The number of Palestinians murdered by Israelis outside of military operations during that time, by “violent settlers,” is zero. The other decision was a Feb. 8 directive to have Israel provide assurances that weapons made in the U.S. would not be used to commit war crimes, or face a possible cutoff of aid. American law already requires that countries receiving American weapons adhere to the laws of war, as the senators noted, adding that “Israel has provided ample evidence of the steps it takes to avoid civilian casualties.” The senators urged Biden to “sanction terrorists and their supporters instead of their victims.” Also signing the letter were Sens. Katie Boyd Britt (Ala.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Rick Scott (Fla.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.) From SJL and JNS reports.

ISJL taking a Passover Pilgrimage road trip to five communities The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life’s Passover Pilgrimage will take to the road in late April, visiting five communities for Seder experiences. Rabbi Salem Pearce, ISJL director of rabbinic services, will visit four communities, with the fifth welcoming Rabbi Matt Dreffin, former ISJL director of education. The pilgrimage will begin on April 22 at Gates of Prayer in New Iberia, then continue on April 23 at Shomrei Torah in Tallahassee. The next visits are April 26 and 27 at B’nai Israel in Natchez, and April 27 at Beth Shalom in Auburn. The tour concludes on April 29 at the Upper Cumberland Jewish Community in Crossville, Tenn. 10

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Jacksonville Dollar General shooter’s manifesto included disturbing antisemitism From JNS and SJL reports Jewish leaders issued statements of concern last summer after Ryan Christopher Palmeter killed three people, all of them black shoppers, and then himself on Aug. 26 at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., using a gun on which he had painted white swastikas. At the time, the city’s sheriff T.K. Waters referred to writings of Palmeter’s that were discovered as “the diary of a madman.” The sheriff ’s office recently released that “diary,” a manifesto that runs 27 pages and cannot be easily quoted for its hateful ranting and racist language. At one point, the killer expressed some skepticism about Jews controlling the world. “While the evidence points strongly towards the existence of a cabal of elite jews [sic] conspiring (seemingly telepathically) to destabilize the nations of the world so that they can make a quick buck in the aftermath, the idea seems far-fetched, and Occam’s Razor leads me to believe that there is no centralization among those behind the West’s decay,” he wrote at one point. “I encourage the reader to investigate the world’s most powerful people and form their own conclusions on whether their religions and ethnicities correlate and causate (hint: look into how many major players in media companies and big tech are jews [sic]), or whether this is mere coincidence,” he wrote. He then posed: “Why is it that Adolf Hitler’s speeches are shown so often on television, and yet never given subtitles? If the man were such a villian [sic], there would be no reason to censor his words. “Perhaps coincidence, perhaps an attempt to conceal arguments against the jew [sic] crafted more convincingly than any others, especially mine.” “The jew [sic] sits in a superpositional quantum state of White and non-white depending on which is more convenient for him at any given time,” the killer wrote elsewhere.

“I’m co-sponsoring what?” Rep. Kathy Manning of North Carolina and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, both Democrats, were removed as co-sponsors of a U.S. House resolution supporting Palestinian statehood after stating that they were added as co-sponsors without their knowledge or consent. Manning, who was profiled in the debut issue of Southern Jewish Life Regional, said that Rep. Al Green of Texas, who originated the bill, had “dragged his feet” for a couple of months before removing her.

At another point, he used an antisemitic slur to refer, apparently, to Jews who run a property management company. At one point, he used the triple-parenthesis originated by white supremacists in referring to Jews to state that for “some (((strange, inexplicable reason))) there seems to be a concerted effort to hide the n—- crimes.” He said the Confederacy was a “rogue band of n—- loving Democrat Jews who would prefer keeping hundreds of thousands of violent gorillas around to spending a single penny on industrializing.” He spoke about how Arabs are flooding Europe and causing havoc the way Blacks do in America, but said that since Arab numbers in America are small, there is no imminent threat and “they can be dealt with later.” “Based on his writings, Palmeter appears to have considered himself a martyr and a link in a chain of white supremacist mass killers,” per the Anti-Defamation League. The statement from Sheriff T.K. Waters said the manifesto “is filled with the rantings of an isolated, hateful, madman, whose disgusting ideology is wholly inconsistent with the belief structure of the Jacksonville community.”

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Birmingham office: P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham, AL 35213 New Orleans office: 3747 West Esplanade Ave., 3rd Floor, Metairie, LA 70002 (205) 870-7889 • (504) 249-6875 • (888) 613-YALL (9255) ADVERTISING: Contact Lee Green, (205) 870-7889, SUBSCRIPTIONS: Subscriptions are $24 for one year, $40 for two years. Copyright 2024. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission from the publisher. Views expressed in SJL are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily shared by the magazine or its staff. SJL makes no claims as to the Kashrut of its advertisers, and retains the right to refuse any advertisement. Documenting this community, a community we are members of and active within, is our passion. We love what we do, and who we do it for. April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Deadline approaching for JELF college free-loan aid The April 30 deadline for applications to the Atlanta-based Jewish Education Loan Fund is approaching. The agency provides interest-free loans to Jewish students in a five-state region along the Atlantic coast. The loans are “last dollar” loans to supplement an already-organized financial aid package. Often, JELF funds go toward housing, meals, books, transportation or other living expenses. To be eligible, one must be a Jewish student from Georgia, the Carolinas, Florida or Virginia, except the Washington metro area. Applicants must be enrolled full-time in a degree or certificate program in the U.S. and remain in good academic standing. Applicants must also fill out FAFSA and plan to accept offered federal college loans and other offered aid,

be a U.S. citizen or have lawful immigration status, and have an eligible cosigner. There is an online application, and all applicants and co-signers must meet with a local administrator for a personal interview. Since 1961, the agency has provided over $21.5 million, with over $9 million currently cycling at a repayment rate of 99 percent. Repayment begins six months after graduation, with 8 years to repay on a graduated rate, meaning the monthly payments increase gradually every two years. Last year, 438 students received financial support ranging from $1,000 to $8,000. The agency is funded by repayment of loans, donor support and seed money that came from the sale of the Hebrew Orphans’ Home property in Atlanta in the 1970s.

Advocate calls out anti-Israel “disinformation” in Memphis schools Laurie Cardoza Moore, president of Proclaiming Justice to The Nations, a Tennessee-based pro-Israel Christian organization, is calling on the Superintendent of Schools to remove all instructional materials that are promoting the terrorist group Hamas in schools across the Shelby County and Germantown school districts or be held liable for being in violation of state law. She said Todd Starns broke a story about a Ramadan party for teachers and staff at Houston High School and Houston Middle School, which included pro-terrorist, anti-Israel propaganda materials for the faculty to use to teach students about the “war in Gaza.” The disputed material stated, “While we know when our next meal is, people in Gaza are dying of starvation.” “This is outright disinformation”, stated Cardoza Moore. “If there are people starving to death, it’s not because of Israel, it’s because of Hamas. They are withholding the distribution of supplies and food. We have seen tractor-trailers loaded with food and humanitarian aid for the citizens of Gaza, but Hamas is controlling its distribution… They are falsely accusing Israel for crimes committed by Hamas.” Cardoza Moore said she has reached out to both principals and the Jewish Federation to see what sort of instructional materials were provided to the faculty. “As a member of the Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, I was appointed by Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton to serve the parents and citizens of Tennessee by reviewing textbooks and curriculum to insure that all instructional materials used in Tennessee classrooms are in compliance with state statutes and standards,” she said. “The law requires that they must be accurate, unbiased and they must reflect the values of the community.” 12

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Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon (center) officially congratulated the new co-chairs of the Georgia-Israel Legislative Caucus on March 11. They are: Senator Russ Goodman (R), Senator Sonya Halpern (D), Representative Brent Cox (R) and Representative Esther Panitch (D). “We look forward to strengthening bilateral ties between the State of Israel and the State of Georgia through the Georgia-Israel Legislative Caucus,” Sultan-Dadon said.

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Purim at the Capitol

Spend a service year in New Orleans with the Jewish Service Corps. On March 21, the Fast of Esther, “Bluegrass Rabbi” Shlomo Litvin from Chabad of the Bluegrass led the daily prayer at the Kentucky House of Representatives, praying to emulate the leadership of Mordecai and Esther, and for the hostages still held by Hamas.


“Repeat offender” charged with distributing antisemitic flyers in yards (JNS) — A repeat offender illegally distributing antisemitic propaganda in South Carolina could face as many as three years in prison for what he has described as “political and religious activism.” The County Sheriff ’s Office in the city of Florence, S.C., about 80 miles east of the capital of Columbia in the central part of the state, arrested Jamin Fite, 48, on March 11. He was charged with seven counts of communicating obscene messages, which could land him in prison for three years, and seven counts of littering, which includes $200 fines or 30 days in jail as potential sentences. Fite allegedly dumped his fliers on March 5 in multiple neighborhoods throughout Florence. They reportedly contained anti-Jewish language and links to a video-sharing site featuring racist content. He was charged last year for a similar offense in Myrtle Beach, for which he received a fine of more than $500, and subsequently lost his appeal. Fite had thrown 400 baggies with antisemitic conspiracy-theory leaflets from his car; police seized 800 more. April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Florida reviewing major finance firm that downgrades Elbit for protecting Israelis By Mike Wagenheim (JNS) — When Ashley Moody announced on March 29 that she is leading a coalition of state attorneys general in investigating whether a major investment firm is engaging in anti-Israel practices, the Florida attorney general cited JNS reporting. “Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East, and in Florida, we unequivocally support their right to exist,” Moody stated. “The BDS movement has one goal, the complete elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. The allegations against MSCI are deeply disturbing, and we have called for a quick response from the company’s leadership directly addressing our concerns.” “As reported by the Jewish News Syndicate, ‘Like Morningstar, which allegedly assigned damaging ratings to a dozen companies that it said committed “human rights violations” simply for conducting business in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, MSCI’s environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) ratings appear to downgrade companies for the same reason’,” the Florida attorney general stated. Based in New York, MSCI manages some $5.2 billion in assets. JNS has reported for more than two years on anti-Israel bias at the Chicago-based Morningstar financial services firm, which manages and advises on about $264 billion in assets. The coalition is made up of attorneys general from 18 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. The group of 18 is probing whether MSCI “is embracing the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement against Israel,” Moody announced. “As evidenced by our efforts against Morningstar, we oppose the BDS movement in all forms, especially given the recent rise in antisemitism across the United States. Having said that, one of the allegations against MSCI is uniquely egregious,” the group of 18 wrote in the March 28 letter to Henry Fernandez, chairman and CEO of MSCI. “According to JNS, MSCI deducted ESG points from an Israeli company specifically because of the company’s ‘participation in the construction of security and surveillance barriers designed to protect Israelis from terrorists.’ It is unthinkable to us that MSCI would stand by this position following the terrorist attacks on Israel last October,” the group wrote. 14

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Photo by MagioreStock/Shutterstock

Elbit Systems building in Haifa.

Using a publicly available search tool on the MSCI website, JNS found that the company has tagged at least nine companies with ESG controversy ratings that do business in Judea and Samaria. A copy of MSCI’s ESG ratings for Elbit, dated January 2023, that JNS viewed suggests that MSCI deducted 2.4 points from the international defense technologies company’s ESG ratings due to controversies surrounding Elbit’s participation in the construction of security and surveillance barriers designed to protect Israelis from terrorists. In the document JNS viewed, MSCI described the controversies as “severe.” The MSCI report cited Elbit’s construction of the security barrier in Judea and Samaria at the height of the Second Intifada (2000-2005), which stopped the flood of suicide bombers from crossing from Palestinian Authority-controlled territory into Israel. The MSCI report cited criticism of the barrier by the “Palestinian civil society campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions.” It also mentioned Pax Christi, a Catholic group that routinely demonizes Israel; and “Jewish Voice,” an apparent reference to Jewish Voice for Peace, which denounces the Jewish state on a regular basis. In its damaging score of Elbit, MSCI also included the company’s construction of the “smart barrier” along the Gaza border — the one that Hamas terrorists destroyed on Oct. 7 en route to carrying out their killing and hostage-taking spree. The security barrier “would allegedly intensify Israel’s control over Gaza and would further hinder peaceful resolution of the conflict,” the document states. “Given the disturbing nature of the allegations, the attorneys general are requesting a response from MSCI Chairman and CEO Henry A. Fernandez by April 18,” the Florida attorney general stated.

Georgia adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism to determine hate crimes From SJL and JNS reports The Georgia state Senate voted 44-6 on Jan. 25 to pass a bill that uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism to define Jew-hatred in state law. The legislation had passed the state House 129-5. Kemp signed the bill at a Jan. 31 ceremony, saying he was “reaffirming our commitment to a Georgia where all people can live, learn and prosper safely, because there’s no place for hate in this great state.” Georgia has a hate crimes law that calls for enhanced penalties in crimes motivated by bias. This bill uses the IHRA definition as a guide in determining if anti-Jewish bias was present as a crime was committed. Georgia state representatives Esther Panitch, a Democrat, and John Carson, a Republican, led the legislation, which calls on state agencies to define Jew-hatred “as provided for in the working definition of antisemitism and the contemporary

examples of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.” The definition considers antisemitism to be “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/ or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Another section of IHRA notes that some anti-Israel activity crosses the line into antisemitism, but criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country is not to be considered antisemitic. Anti-Israel groups oppose the IHRA definition, saying it would chill their right of free speech in advocating against Israel by labeling any criticism of Israel to be antisemitic, but the IHRA application comes only after a crime has been committed. A coalition of about 20 Jewish groups and Christians United for Israel held a Georgia Fight Antisemitism Capitol Day on April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Jan. 25 to advocate for the legislation, saying House Bill 30 helps “ensure that antisemitism is treated under the law comparably to any other form of bigotry or racism.” Free speech concerns were a roadblock in the House last year, as some Democrats objected to the bill, citing perceived effects on pro-Palestinian groups. The bill did pass the House last March, but there was no action in the Senate as Republican Sen. Ed Setzler objected based on freedom of speech, and offered an amendment to change the definition from “a certain perception of Jews” to “a negative perception of Jews.” That amendment passed, without the support of Panitch or Carson, but by then it was too late for the bill to pass in that session. The failure to pass the bill last year was magnified during the summer, with brazen demonstrations by antisemitic groups. Last June, a group demonstrated outside Temple Beth Israel in Macon, shouting obscenities and hanging a blow-up doll by the neck from a street sign. The doll was to represent a gay Jewish man. In August, a group hung antisemitic flyers outside Beth Israel, and similar flyers were distributed elsewhere in the state. Despite being in recovery from a concussion, Beth Israel Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar testified before a House committee earlier this week about the importance of protecting the Jewish community and assisting law enforcement. The day before Bahar testified, a committee hearing was interrupted as protestors shouting “Free Palestine” had to be removed from the room. The surge of antisemitism since the Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis by Hamas also motivated the bill’s passage. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my colleagues and

leaders, who listened to the Jewish community about what we were being subjected to with antisemitism and took action,” Panitch, the only Jewish member of the Georgia state legislature, told JNS after the bill passed. Chris Carr, the attorney general of Georgia, wrote that HB30 is important amid rising antisemitism. “In Georgia, we continue to push back against these acts of evil and in support of our Jewish friends and neighbors,” he stated. “We’re thankful to our General Assembly for sending a message that antisemitism has no place in our state.” Rabbi Ari Weisenfeld, associate national director of state relations for Agudah Israel of America, encouraged other states to follow suit. “Agudath Israel is especially grateful to Representatives Panich and Carson for championing the bill last year and for continuing to advocate for it this year,” he stated. “We also thank Senate President Pro Tempore John Kennedy for sponsoring the bill in the Senate.” Jordan Cope, policy education director at StandWithUs, attended the vote. “With antisemitism having exploded worldwide post-Oct. 7, the IHRA definition remains a tool of paramount importance for helping identify and quell the mounting tide of antisemitism,” he stated. “Georgia’s moral clarity on this matter sets a clear example from which other states ought to draw inspiration as Jews around the world desperately seek assurances of their own safety.” Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General for Israel in the Southeast, based in Atlanta, simply said “Thank you for standing strong against antisemitism!”

Virginia governor signs two new laws addressing antisemitism (JNS) — Two of the 100 bills that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law on April 2 address antisemitism. “From day one, we have made combating antisemitism and religious bigotry a top priority,” the Republican governor stated. “As one of my first executive orders, I formed the Commission to Combat Antisemitism, which issued a recommendation that Virginia revise its laws to ensure Jewish Virginians are protected from hate crimes, along with Muslims, Sikhs and other ethnic and religious groups.” On April 2, Youngkin signed SB 7, which unanimously passed the state Senate (36-0) and House of Delegates (100-0). The law’s aim is “to safeguard all individuals within the commonwealth from unlawful discrimination in employment and in places of public accommodation because of such individual’s ethnic origin and prohibits such discrimination.” 16

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Photo by Michael Robb Photography/Shutterstock

Glenn Youngkin campaigning on Oct. 30, 2021, a few days before he was elected governor of Virginia.

The legislation “also adds victims, who are intentionally selected because of their ethnic origin, to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense.” The governor also signed the identical HB 18, which also passed both the state House (99-0) and Senate (40-0) unanimously. “As the first state to weave religious freedom into the fabric of our nation, Virginia is leading once again and sending a clear message that Virginians should not be the victim of a crime simply because of their religion, race, or ethnicity,” stated Youngkin, who also vetoed four bills on Tuesday.

“Legislation outlawing antisemitism isn’t just about protecting a particular group,” stated Bryce Reeves, a Republican state senator. “It’s about defending the fundamental values of equality, justice and human dignity for all. It adheres to the highest values we hold dear as Americans—liberty and justice for all.” “Hate has no place in our communities,” stated Dan Helmer, a Democrat state delegate. “As the grandson of Holocaust survivors and a Jew whose children have confronted antisemitism in our schools, this bill is personal for me,” Helmer added. “I’m grateful to the governor for signing this bipartisan legislation to protect people of every ethnicity across the commonwealth.”

Texas governor issues order to combat campus antisemitism Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on March 28 “addressing acts of antisemitism in institutions of higher education.” “Antisemitism is never acceptable in Texas, and we will do everything we can to fight it,” he stated. “The State of Texas stands with Israel and the Jewish community, and we must escalate our efforts to protect against antisemitism at Texas colleges and universities and across our state,” the Republican governor added. “Across the country, acts of antisemitism have grown in number, size, and danger to the Jewish community since Hamas’s deadly attack on Oct. 7.” Abbott said the state “took immediate action to protect Jewish schools, synagogues and other key locations.” “Many Texas colleges and universities also acted quickly to condemn antisemitism, but some radical organizations on our campuses engaged in acts that have no place in Texas,” he said. “Now, we must work to ensure that our college campuses are safe spaces for members of the Jewish community.” The executive order notes that “protected free speech areas on Texas university campuses, as well as the buildings and parking lots of Jewish student organizations, have been covered in antisemitic graffiti.” It adds that students have chanted “antisemitic phrases such as ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ which has long been used by Hamas supporters to call for the violent dismantling of the State of Israel and the destruction of the Jewish people who live there.” The governor directs Texas colleges and universities to “review and update free speech policies to address the sharp rise in antisemitic speech and acts on university campuses and establish appropriate punishments, including expulsion from the institution.”

Photo by lev radin/Shutterstock

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during CPAC Texas 2022 conference at Hilton Anatole on Aug. 4, 2022.

He also tells institutions to discipline the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Students for Justice in Palestine and other related groups when they violate such policies and to include the definition of antisemitism, which the state adopted, “in university free speech policies to guide university personnel and students on what constitutes antisemitic speech.” The state has codified the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism into law. “The Combat Antisemitism Movement commends Governor Abbott’s decision today to issue executive order GA-44, aimed at combating antisemitism on college campuses,” stated Sacha Roytman, CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement. Roytman noted that the IHRA working definition “has shown to be one of the most effective tools for identifying and countering on-campus antisemitism.” April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Stacie Stufflebeam of Richmond reunites with her lone soldier sons thanks to Operation Hug.

Getting a hug In a show of unwavering support for the brave young men and women who have made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) on their own and are serving in the Israel Defense Forces, and their parents, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Jewish National Fund-USA and Friends of the IDF launched “Operation Hug.” The initiative, which ended on Feb. 11, helped coordinate the visit of over a thousand flights of lone soldier parents to visit Israel through free roundtrip airline tickets. The visiting parents came from 55 countries. The initiative provided the tickets to one parent of any Lone Soldier serving in active combat-units during the Iron Swords War, from anywhere in the world. There are approximately 5,000 lone soldiers, both men and women, who made Aliyah, currently serving in active and reserve service units without any family support in Israel. “We are deeply moved and humbled, during this challenging time, by the daily courage of all the lone soldiers who are bravely serving our Jewish homeland far away from their parents and family,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “We are extra sensitive to the concern this distance is causing the parents of these brave men and women on the front lines and have therefore 18

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established our ‘Operation Hug’ campaign to shorten the physical distances. I am proud that national institutions have come together for this beautiful project.” “Lone soldiers have left behind their friends, family, and support systems to serve their Jewish Homeland. Now it’s our turn to serve them and offer whatever measure of comfort we can,” said Russell Robinson, CEO of Jewish National FundUSA. “Not only will this initiative strengthen their spirits, but it will also strengthen our worldwide Jewish family in coming together to make a difference. There is nothing like a parent’s hug in these terrifying times, and we are proud to partner with two other incredible organizations to make this possible for Israel’s lone soldiers.” Parents benefiting from the program agree. One mother named Michelle said, “This is an incredible initiative. It’s almost my lone soldier’s 21st birthday, and there would be nothing more special for me to know that I am in the same country as him and have the possibility to give him a huge hug as well.” Another mother, Stacie Stufflebeam, from Richmond, Va., enjoyed a surprise reunion with her sons Evan, 24, and Adam, 29, who are reserve soldiers in the Nachal and Sayeret Golani brigades, respectively. Her third son, Yered, 27, also served in Nachal, and was on standby to fill in for another soldier if needed.

Southern Jewish Focus The War Against Hamas Meet the Fla. Congressman who wore the U.S. and Israeli uniforms Anti-Israel protestors prompted him to learn about — and support — Israel (JNS) — “You’re a heartless man,” a Code Pink activist tells Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) in video that the congressman shared on social media. “You lost your heart somewhere.” At issue, to the anti-Israel activist, is Mast’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. A strong supporter of Israel, Mast met with wounded Israeli soldiers alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December. He told JNS in May about the circumstances under which he donned an Israel Defense Forces uniform, of which he is proud. “Do you know where we stand on terrorists?” Mast told the Code Pink activist, who was apparently following him in the U.S. Capitol complex. “You’re a terrorist,” she told him. Credit: Courtesy. “Do you know where we stand on terrorists?” Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) volunteering on a military base near Tel Aviv in January Mast repeated. “We stand on their throats.” 2015. “Oh my god,” she said. “You are a monster.” The jeers represented the “first catalyst” for the congressMast’s colleague Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) shared the post. man’s decision to connect much more deeply with the Jewish “My favorite tweet of the week,” he wrote. state. Mast serves Florida’s 21st district, which goes from just “These people, who were out there to protest Israel, all of north of West Palm Beach to St. Lucie on Florida’s eastern a sudden wanted to pick a fight with me, which is just fine. I coast. don’t mind getting into verbal or physical confrontations with Responding to anti-Israel activists other people,” Mast, 42, a fourth-term congressman, told JNS. “It’s not hard to figure out that I’m a veteran. I don’t have “It was the first time this fight had really ever been thrown any legs, and I wear a hat that says ‘Army Ranger,’ so most at my feet in that way, where people were trying to drag me people with half a mind can put two and two together,” Mast into what I was seeing in the news,” he said. told JNS last May. Mast found their verbal assaults hypocritical. He told JNS Mast had retired in 2012 after a dozen years of service as an that he had said of the attacks on Israel in one of his Harvard explosive specialist who lost both legs to a bomb in Afghanclasses, “If it was Mexico or Canada or some Caribbean counistan in 2010. He was studying at Harvard University, and he try firing rockets into America, then guys like me would go and his then-pregnant wife, Brianna, and their two sons (they and kill them, and every American would be proud of us for now have four children) would go to the picturesque Public doing so.” Garden in the evenings so the kids could ride their bikes and He came home after enduring the taunts one night and told play in the grass. his wife, “I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I’m Anti-Israel protesters wearing Palestinian flags, who going to find a way, and I’m going to go and show my support showed up weekly or so, decided to yell things like “You’re the for Israel. I’m going to go out there and find a way to fight big Satan” and “You’re a pawn” at Mast, the congressman told against this hypocrisy.” JNS. Mast, who is Christian, hadn’t followed Israel closely at Back in Boston in 2014, when “Operation Protective Edge” the time, although he saw references on the news. was unfolding in Israel, Mast had a philosophy that recog20

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A Flower for Hadar

Hadar Cohen will never marry, have children or comfort her parents in their old ages. She was a heroic, 19-year-old Border Policewoman stationed at the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem when she was murdered by terrorists, February 3rd of 2016. She and a partner had confronted two suspicious men and, in the ensuing gunfight, Hadar took down a bomb-laden terrorist. In the final seconds of her life, she also managed to save the life of her fellow Border Policewoman but gave up her life in doing so. No one can accurately estimate how many lives and injuries Hadar prevented by her heroic actions. The firm policy of Israelis is to not honor individuals who commit heroic acts. They say that every life is precious, every martyr is a hero. They cannot honor just one out of the thousands that they have lost in the long struggle to establish a homeland for all of us. When you travel around Israel, you’ll find almost no sites designated as tributes to individuals. It was truly astonishing when, three years ago, the City of Jerusalem decided to pay tribute to Hadar and another Policewoman, Hadas Malka, by putting their names on the steps down into the Damascus Gate. This has now been formally done and the Cohen family is comforted to know that in the memories of many thousands, worldwide, Hadar will not be forgotten. We should not forget either. Alongside the cup of wine for Eliyahu, the cup of water for Miriam and the seder plate, I ask you to pay tribute to her heroism by placing a single flower on your seder table in her name and telling her story to the attendees, particularly the children. In our home, we make this the 5th question, “Who was Hadar Cohen?” The flower is in her name but it represents all of those incredibly brave soldiers and civilians we have lost in Israel, including those from October 7th and since. We suggest that you use this poignant letter as a reading, in explanation of the inclusion of the flower on your Seder table. It was written by Jewish author Naomi Ragen as a tribute to the heroism of Hadar Cohen.

May G-d bless you all and may G-d bless the State of Israel. The Conn Family, Birmingham Alabama April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


nized the vast gulf between social media and real life. kinship because bomb tech is a very small world of people,” he said. “Working with some of these people and realizing that “I’m not going to say I don’t participate in Facebook and Twitter and things like that. Sure, I do. That world is a virtual, we had served with some of the same units throughout the years in different places.” fake world of not real work. And I’m not trying to take away from influencers, but it’s not real,” he told JNS. “Complaining And on weekends, he saw families host “lone soldiers,” about what’s going on with the attacks in Israel is not the same young people in the IDF who don’t have family in Israel. They thing as going there and helping.” invited him to join them on visits to Yad Vashem and elsewhere. “You gotta get your hands dirty. You gotta get involved in real life,” he added. “One of the most important things that I realized, as we were sitting there to have these Shabbat dinners, every family With his wife’s blessing, Mast contacted every advocacy was waiting for a son or daughter or a grandson or a grandgroup he could, including the Israeli consulate in Miami, to find a way to volunteer in uniform on an Israeli military base. daughter to come home for Shabbat,” Mast said. “That was He got his chance in January 2015, on a base outside Tel Aviv, really one of the biggest ways that I realized how much service “to show support for the freedom Israel represents throughout over there touches every single family — unlike the way that it the Middle East and the world,” per his congressional website. does here in America, where we have a very small percentage of people that serve.” He arrived back stateside just in time for his wife to give That taught him the most important lesson that he took birth to their third child. away from Israel. “They don’t want war. They don’t want to Volunteering on the base near Tel Aviv was his first time in have rockets fired at them. They don’t Israel. “I can’t sit here and pretend that want to go into shelters. They don’t want Mast’s cutting response I had this longstanding dream of going to hear sirens,” he said. “They want their and walking the footsteps of where David to an anti-Israel CodePink kids to grow and have families and surkilled Goliath or be baptized in this river. vive. As much as I hope all four of my activist went viral It wasn’t this longstanding dream for me,” kids serve in the military, I don’t want to he said. “When a fight is laid in front see them have to go to war.” of me, I’m going to fight it. And I’m not going to fight it in a Mast credited former President Donald Trump (he supports virtual way. I’m going to find a way to get my hands dirty and him in the upcoming presidential election, although he said make a real tangible difference.” he remains friends with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) with In Israel, word spread quickly that a legless U.S. Army vetmoving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, “something so simple, eran was on the base, and people flocked to meet the celebrity but that so many politicians were so afraid of for so many visitor. years.” He also praised the 2020 Abraham Accords and called “I was working very hard, waking up very early every morn- the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration nixed ing. Eating in the chow hall with the troops. Putting on my in May 2018, “just absolute garbage.” uniform. Going out there and working,” he said. “But it beThe congressman is fairly active on social media, where he came somewhat of a national event. I’m not trying to oversell has often come to Israel’s defense. “I’m proud to be the only it. A lot of people read about it and knew there’s this injured member of Congress who has worn both the uniform of the American service member over here serving in our military. United States Army and the uniform of the Israel Defense What’s this all about?” Forces, and I’ll continue to stand for the strongest partnership An “endless stream” of “people with access” found its way to possible between our two countries,” he tweeted last May. him. “I had visits with Yitzhak Rabin’s family,” he said, referIn May 2021, after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accused ring to the former Israeli prime minister and defense minister Israel of terrorism for defending itself against Hamas, Mast who was assassinated in 1995. “I had people coming from read dozens of examples of Hamas terrorist attacks into the other bases.” He visited Beit Halochem, House of the Warrior, Congressional Record. Two days later, he tweeted: “I served “their place for wounded warriors like myself.” He played alongside the Israeli military after losing my legs, and so, it’s wheelchair basketball and shot pool with fellow injured solpersonal to me when Hamas attacks Israel and House Dems diers. “Had that exchange, that fellowship with them,” he said. actually defends the terrorists.” He connected particularly with Israeli colleagues who With reporting from a May 2023 JNS profile by Menachem had also been bomb techs (in Yahalom). “There’s immediate Wecker. 22

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Congressman slams UNCC student anti-Israel resolution The student government at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte campus, passed a resolution on March 28 that accuses Israel of genocide and calls on the school to divest from Israel. The university administration has since denounced that decision and said that it counseled Student Government Association leaders “several times on the university’s commitment to maintain institutional neutrality and encouraged to consider that in their requests of administrators.” “This SGA resolution does not align with that commitment and will not be acted upon by the administration,” the university leaders stated. They added that student government plays “an important role” in university life, but its leaders “neither speak for nor represent the position of UNC Charlotte.” Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) praised the university’s response. “As a proud UNC Charlotte graduate and former student body president, the university I know and love is a place of truth, inclusion and diversity of thought,” the congressman stated. “While it is right for the students to be concerned about the suffering of all civilians, to do so without acknowledging the evil Hamas represents and the fact Hamas’s horrific actions are the reason we are where we are is deeply disappointing,” he said. “On Oct. 7, we witnessed a barbaric and unprecedented attack on Israel by Iran-backed Hamas terrorists. Since then, countless innocent men, women and children have been kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed by Hamas,” he added. “The current conflict would end immediately if Hamas would release all the hostages and surrender.” Not only does Israel have “every right” to self-defense against Hamas, but it “has shown great restraint in its actions,” Hudson stated. “It is in the United States’s and the entire world’s best interest that Hamas is eliminated. I stand with Israel.” The resolution, sponsored by Sujana Islam, vice chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, said UNCC directly funds Israel through participation in archaeological digs in Jerusalem, “and the State of Israel uses the money within its state apparatus to persist in what the International Court of Justice has declared a genocide.” The resolution also specifically calls the current in Gaza a “genocide” and calls for total divestment from Israel until Israel “arranges a ceasefire in Gaza” and measures are put in place to hold Israel “accountable for their role in the Palestinian genocide.” From JNS and SJL reports.

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April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Alabama resolution strongly backs Israel, condemns Hamas and its supporters Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a joint resolution from the Alabama Legislature on April 9, expressing the state’s “unequivocal support” for Israel in its war against Hamas. The resolution, SJR29, was presented by Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur. It details Alabama’s historical support for Israel and honors the memory of those killed on Oct. 7 in an “unwarranted and unjustified vicious assault.” Anat Sultan-Dadon, Israel’s consul general to the Southeastern United States, based in Atlanta, said that as Israel fights a genocidal terrorist group, “we are grateful to the state of Alabama for its clear stand against terror and in support of Israel.” She was pleased that the resolution included references to the “intentional and systematic” torture and gender-based violence committed by Hamas against Israelis, since “to a large extent we have seen international women’s organizations stay silent in the face of these atrocities.” The resolution not only condemns Hamas, but also “all those who support their violent, genocidal, and hateful acts — globally, in the United States, and in the State of Alabama.” It references attempts by Hamas to “ethnically cleanse the land of Jews.” It also reaffirms “unequivocal support for the State of Israel as a Jewish state,” recognizes that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land, condemns all attacks on the people of Israel and supports Israel “in lawful acts of self-defense.” The resolution also opposes economic and political isolation of Israel internationally, and “all efforts to assault the legitima-

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cy of Israel as the sovereign homeland of the Jewish People.” The resolution concludes with a rejection of the claim that Jews are colonizers or occupiers in Israel, citing “testimony including more than 3,000 years of archaeology and history.” Sultan-Dadon said that statement is important “because of all the false narratives we hear about us, as if we are so-called occupiers of the land… and recognizes our historic ties to our ancient homeland.” Many legislators attended a March 5 screening of the raw footage from the Oct. 7 atrocities, held in Montgomery by the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta. There have also been screenings in Birmingham and Huntsville. That night, the Senate passed the resolution unanimously, with all senators added to the bill as co-sponsors. The bill then went to the House, where it was passed on March 7, and officially enrolled on March 14. The passage in both chambers was by voice vote. The delay in publicizing the resolution came from attempting to schedule a public signing ceremony with Ivey and Sultan-Dadon, and to avoid anti-Israel protests, as had occurred at a couple delegation meetings earlier in the year. Sultan-Dadon said it was important to note the overwhelming bipartisan support for the resolution, “a reflection of the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which have always been and should always remain bipartisan.” She added that the war against Hamas is not just Israel’s fight, and part of the larger fight against Iran. “The fight for life, freedom and humanity is the fight of the entire free

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signs a resolution supporting Israel and condemning Hamas. Behind her are (left to right) Rep. Phil Ensler, who is also director of the Jewish Federation of Central Alabama, Rep. Laura Hall, Israel Consulate Director of Government and Political Affairs Karen Isenberg Jones, Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon, Sen. Arthur Orr, Rep. and Pastor Mark Gidley, Major Liron D., and Alabama-Israel Task Force co-chairs Laura King and John Buhler.

world, in stark opposition to those who glorify death and seek a radical Islamist world order.” John Buhler, co-chair of the interfaith Alabama-Israel Task Force, said the resolution “made a strong and emphatic statement as an uproar of false accusations and misleading narratives unjustly condemn Israel and assert a nauseating false equivalence with the genocidal atrocities of Hamas.” He added, “it is vital to not remain silent, and bear witness to the truth, when so many shout or repeat unfounded outrageous claims, echoing Hamas, originally fueled by bigotry and Jew-hatred, and now twisted and cloaked in a facade of justice and nobility to infer Israel is somehow to blame or at fault.” The resolution is the latest in a long series for the state. Alabama was the first state to call for the establishment of the Jewish homeland, in 1943, five years before Israel’s rebirth. In 2019, Alabama was reportedly the first state to use the language “eternal undivided capital of Israel” in reference to Jerusalem. Sultan-Dadon said “we commend Alabama for once again standing on the right side of history.”

UAB student resolution condemns Israel In contrast, a resolution offered by the Student Senate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Feb. 25 “condemns the ongoing occupation, settler colonialism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since 1948” and “the plausible genocide of Gaza since October 2023.” It calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and states that the student government “stands in unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people… until the Palestinian people are given their due rights and until Israel faces justice and consequences for its actions against them.” The resolution also calls for a Palestinian flag in the Hill Student Center wall of flags, which shows what countries students are from. Israel is on the wall, along with Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Libya. Hamas is not referenced in the resolution. The UAB resolution was written by Nooraldein Alabsi, president of the Muslim Students Association. UAB historically has had a very small Jewish student population. April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional 25

With a few objections, Tennessee passes joint resolution supporting Israel The Tennessee General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a joint resolution in support of the State of Israel, but not without some bumps in the road by some representatives who stated that they support Israel, “but…”, and in some cases the “but” included comparisons of Israel’s actions to Nazi Germany and a charge that Israel is prolonging the war to benefit Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political future. The resolution notes that Israel has repeatedly been forced to defend itself and its people, and on Oct. 7, “Tennesseans, alongside people around the world, were horrified by the violent terrorist attacks launched against the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” The resolution stated that Tennessee is “an unequivocal supporter of the State of Israel and its right to exist and to defend itself against terror and threats to the security of its people,” with an “unwavering commitment.” Therefore, the resolution stated, the legislators “reaffirm our support for all people of the State of Israel and express our hope that the State of Israel and its neighbors can live in freedom and peace with mutual recognition of each other’s dignity and autonomy.” It condemns the “terrorist actions that began on Oct. 7,” offers “heartfelt condolences” to “all victims of the attacks” and reaffirms the state’s support for Israel. The bill was introduced on Jan 23 by Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald. On Feb. 22, it passed the Senate, 29-2, with one present. The House passed it on April 4, 76-10, with 11 voting present. Rabbi Dan Horwitz, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, said ““We’re grateful to our elected leaders who recognize the strong and important bonds between Israel, the United States, and the State of Tennessee. It is humbling, and so appreciated, to see so many folks in our state government make it clear that they stand with Israel in the face of Hamas terror.” Before each vote, several representatives spoke out against the bill, some citing trips to Israel that were meaningful to them spiritually and where they connected to Israeli people, but nevertheless expressed doubts about Israel’s conduct. On Feb. 22, Sen. Heidi Campbell of Nashville called the resolution “a struggle for me.” She said that Hamas is an evil terrorist organization and the actions of Oct. 7 were “evil and irredeemable,” but “they were not perpetrated by innocent Palestinian families.” She said she supports Israel’s right to defend her people but “the answer is not to kill innocent people.” She also stated that “I do not support their current prime minister, Bibi Netanya26

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hu, who may be intentionally prolonging this issue as a means of holding on to power.” While she stated “I love the Jewish community and the hostages must be released,” she said she could not support the resolution without a line “expressing support for the Palestinian community.” Sen. London Lamar of Memphis, who was among those who visited Israel a couple years ago, said “It’s really hard to see a group who has experienced so much tragedy also support the tragedy of another group.” Lamar said “I do not condone the attack done by Hamas or any terrorist group… they must be brought down.” However, “that does not require the mass slaughter of Palestinian babies… what this resolution should be doing is calling for a ceasefire” and figuring out how to live together in peace. “Support Israeli families and Palestinian families living in peace,” she concluded. “I’m sick of Jewish babies and Palestinian babies being slaughtered.” When Sen. Charlane Oliver of Nashville visited Israel two years ago, “I was taken aback by what I saw” in refugee camps in the territories, looking like the blighted neighborhoods in north Nashville and south Memphis. She said, “I know oppression when I see it and I just cannot for the life of me understand how a group of Jewish people who were unfortunately terribly persecuted by the German Nazis are now inflicting this kind of persecution on another group of people.” She said it is important to separate views of the Israeli people from their government, and Palestinians from Hamas. Oct. 7 “was a terrorist attack, and it was wrong… but also, 12,000 children have been slaughtered in Gaza. I can’t turn my back on that.” Oliver charged that Israel is “a government that is committing war crimes with impunity.” As for the resolution itself, she said “this is a complex issue” and this resolution is crafted in a way to make those opposing it seem antisemitic. Sen. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis also went two years ago and was baptized in the Sea of Galilee. She said that Hamas is not the Palestinian people. “We can condemn what happened on Oct. 7, wish for peace in the region and not be against the Palestinian people. That is what I am hoping this resolution is doing,” Akbari said, expressing hope in a “two state solution so both entities can live in peace.”

Rep. Chris Todd of Jackson speaks in the Tennessee House about the pro-Israel resolution

Responding to the criticisms, Sen. Mark Pody of Lebanon said “We have stood with them in peace, and we stand with them in war.” To those who questioned why Tennessee would speak about overseas issues, Pody said “Tennessee has a voice. I am taking a side. I am firmly standing with Israel. Israel is fighting for its existence. There are nations around them that want to genocide them.” Lt. Gov Randy McNally said “As a nation, as a state, we should take a very firm stand against Hamas… all those organizations that believe Israel should not live in peace. I believe we should take a firm stance against Iran that is supporting all this.”

House protests The debate was shorter in the House on April 4, but when the question was called, chants of “Let Gaza Live” could be heard in the chamber. Surrounded by co-sponsors, Rep. Chris Todd of Jackson thanked those who had worked on the resolution and made sure it would be a bipartisan expression of “our string support for the state of Israel.” Todd said Oct. 7 was “unspeakable… by an enemy that was not provoked.” He added, “We stand with Israel, they are our friend and our ally. This is a very serious moment for the state of Israel and we stand with them 100 percent.” In her criticism of the resolution, Rep. Aftyn Behn of Nashville, who used to work in the United Nations, stated that “Israel is committing genocide, funded by the United States, and this resolution condones genocide.” She ticked off a list of statistics, starting with “46,496 children killed.” As of early April, the Gaza Ministry of Health statistics, which come from Hamas and are unverified by any outside source, claims a total of 33,000 killed in Gaza since Oct. 7. The ministry claims the majority are women and chil-

dren, and does not mention any number of Hamas combatants killed. Israel estimates 14,000 Hamas combatants have been killed, which would make the civilian to combatants killed ratio one of the smallest in the history of warfare. She said those killed by Israel in Gaza are “72 percent children and women, with a daily death rate surpassing that of any major conflict in 21st history (sic),” ignoring Syria, Sudan Ukraine and Yemen, among others. Behn also mentioned “2 million people displaced, 443 damaged schools, 349 healthcare professionals killed, 300 healthcare facilities destroyed,” not mentioning that schools and healthcare facilities were used by Hamas for military purposes. She further charged that “this conflict has killed more aid workers than have been killed in any country in the last 30 years.” She asked “how does this resolution enhance the safety and well-being of Jewish Tennesseeans that face tangible material threats of white Christian nationalism and right wing violence?” She said that after Oct. 7, she worked with Jewish constituents on legislation that she could not get a first or second for in committee, “while a resolution was passed declaring November Christian heritage month… We have to be working on legislation that protects our Jewish Tennesseans on the ground.” Dwayne Thompson of Memphis said he has been a supporter of Israel and will continue to do so, “but their reaction to this has been abysmal.” Thompson said “They are out there killing civilians, hundreds if not thousands of children.” He said “I hope they defeat Hamas… but the majority of people killed are innocent civilians.” He hoped for a change in Israeli policy, and “maybe a change of prime ministers.” April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional 27

Photo by Arwcheek via Wikimedia Commons.

Texas A&M University in Education City, Al Rayyan, Qatar.

After concerns expressed, Texas A&M votes to close campus in Qatar From JNS and SJL reports The board of regents of Texas A&M University, a nearly 150-year-old public school with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 60,000, voted on Feb. 8 to undergo a “multi-year process” to close its campus in Qatar. “The board has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States,” stated Bill Mahomes, chair of the board. “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.” He noted that Texas A&M and affiliated System agencies collaborate on research with about 30 other nations without operating separate campuses on foreign soil. The university in College Station, Texas, noted that it will take four years to terminate its agreement with the Qatar Foundation. The university’s campus opened in Qatar in 2003. “In the coming days, the university administration will assemble a team to ensure several imperatives: Students complete their education, faculty and staff are supported and research obligations are appropriately fulfilled,” it stated. 28

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In late 2023, the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy released a report that suggested that Qatar could influence nuclear research at Texas A&M, and how the Qatar Foundation gains complete ownership of technology and intellectual property developed at Texas A&M University of Qatar. Texas A&M’s departure from Doha’s Education City “marks a significant and meaningful shift in U.S. academia’s ties to the Qatari regime,” stated Charles Asher Small, the ISGAP director. “We urge the remaining U.S. universities there—Virginia Commonwealth, Weill Cornell Medicine, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown and Northwestern—to follow suit and relocate their educational endeavors elsewhere, refraining from accepting funding tainted by an anti-western, anti-democratic, pro-Jihad regime,” Small added. The Simon Wiesenthal Center also expressed hope that other campuses would follow Texas A&M’s example. Texas A&M’s decision to close its Qatar Campus “has demonstrated a commitment to academic integrity, ethical principles and national security concerns,” he added. “This is

an important statement affirming that there is no place in U.S. academia for billions of dollars coming from a state that supports and funds terror, and promotes and spreads the extremist Islamist ideology from the Muslim Brotherhood.” On Jan. 5, the Jerusalem Post reported that ISGAP research showed “Qatar has acquired full ownership of more than 500 research projects at Texas A&M, some of which are in highly sensitive fields such as nuclear science, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, biotech robotics, and weapons development,” and that Qatar and Qatari state agencies had given over $1 billion to Texas A&M for ownership of those projects. General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III, president of Texas A&M, stated that the Qatar campus “has advanced ideals, graduated exceptional Aggie engineers and is cemented as an important legacy of Texas A&M. “As we look to the future of our land-, sea- and space-grant university, the global exchange of research and education will continue to be integral to our world-class campuses here in the U.S.,” he added. Welsh told KBTX that allegations that Qatar secured sensitive national security information from A&M were “insanity” and “irresponsible.” The next day, he said concerns about ties with Qatar’s regime “are fair concerns.” The Texas A&M board of regents “decided to reassess the university’s physical presence in Qatar in fall 2023 due to the heightened instability in the Middle East,” the university stated. The motion to close the Qatar campus passed 7-1. “The work in Qatar is great work,” the board chair Mahomes stated. “But it is a fraction of what Texas A&M accomplishes year after year.” The Middle East Forum pointed out that the “heightened instability” came from Qatari-backed Hamas attacking Israel on Oct. 7. Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians

United for Israel, praised the decision by the university, which a CUFI release described as his alma mater. “I am deeply grateful to Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp and the entire Board of Regents for making the right decision in ending the university’s association with Qatar,” Hagee stated. “Doha has decided to side with terrorists; as such, Aggies have no business associating with that regime.” “Across the country, we’ve seen examples of leaders at (allegedly) elite institutions fail to even articulate the right decision, let alone act on it,” Hagee added. “Chancellor Sharp and the Board of Regents’s actions should be an inspiration to others in academia across the country. We should have no business with supporters of terror and no tolerance for antisemitism, no matter the context.” Qatar hosts leaders of Hamas. Washington and others have also praised its role in helping free hostages from Gaza. U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Timmy Davis said he was disappointed by the decision, as the Qatar outpost “proudly represents American values and inspires innovation for students who might otherwise not have access to an American education.” The Qatar Foundation said in a statement that the Texas A&M decision “has been influenced by a disinformation campaign aimed at harming the interests of QF. “It is disturbing that this disinformation has become the determining factor in the decision and that it has been allowed to override the core principles of education and knowledge, with no consideration to the significant positive impact that this partnership has brought for both Qatar and the U.S.” The Foundation said the university did not “attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision” and allowed politics to influence its decisions. “We have always firmly believed that education should be above vested interests and harmful influences, and we always will.”

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A nice surprise Gesture of support as Atlanta coalition tries to break the silence on Hamas violence against women At a time when pro-Israel events are shut down on campus by protests, or “sick-outs” by venue employees cause the cancellation of Jewish performers such as happened to Matisyahu in several cities, a recent event in Atlanta proved to be a sharp contrast to all the bad news. For International Women’s Day on March 8, a coalition of groups, including the Atlanta Israel Coalition and the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast, held an event on the Atlanta Beltline. They displayed a new exhibit from the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, detailing the sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women by Hamas and Gaza civilians on Oct. 7, acts that continue with the women still in captivity in Gaza. In planning for the event, Cheryl Dorchinsky of AIC contacted numerous security companies, including a couple in the Jewish community. Response was lackluster, including one company that did not get back to her until a couple days after the event, and several did not respond at all. A relatively new company, Spartan Security Group, stepped 30

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up to take on the event. Chief Operating Officer Tracey Folds reassured Dorchinsky, saying he would make sure there were plenty of personnel on hand. “They did such a good job, it was unbelievable,” she said. “So professional and so incredible.” But the surprise came after the event — when Dorchinsky was told that the company was donating the time that their 15 security personnel were present. “I was literally in tears,” she said. “I had no idea.” She was told that they believed the message and cause were important. As of press time, they had not responded to our inquiries. “I’m beyond thankful for their support of our community,” Dorchinsky said. “There are still good people out there who want to be sure we are protected.” Tammy Kadish-Harper worked with the Forum to bring the exhibit to Atlanta. The exhibit began with an Israeli ex-pat living in Madrid who wanted to explain what happened to

Israeli women on Oct. 7, frustrated by how women’s movements “were completely ignoring” the atrocities. The exhibit was created from eyewitness testimonies, reports from rescue professionals and videos distributed by Hamas terrorists themselves on social media. After Madrid, the exhibit was displayed in Paris and Vancouver, and on Women’s Day, it was in Boston and Amsterdam in addition to Atlanta. After Kadish-Harper found out about the exhibit, “within a week our Israeli community here raised the money” to bring it to Atlanta “and it was very powerful.” They put it on the Beltline because “we wanted people to see.” She did not know what to expect, and “I had all these scenarios that there would be confrontations.” What she did not anticipate was “apathy and no interest, people pass by.” There were people who saw the images, “came back and asked questions.” Volunteers from the community were on hand to provide information, including one volunteer who lost many family members on Oct. 7. “That was very powerful,” Kadish-Harper said. Dorchinsky noted that “we did get a few crazies, but it was uneventful.” She has video of a woman passing by, gleefully proclaiming that “I’m a Palestinian woman.” She then returned, smiling and waving at the camera, proclaiming “I’m so cute to film” then blowing a kiss before walking away. Kadish-Harper said they would like to continue to show the exhibit in Atlanta and other places. “With all the fake news around… we’d like to flash a light on that.”

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Israelis feel the warmth, thanks to quilters in Alabama A group of Israeli soldiers returning from Gaza and their families are feeling the warmth from Alabama, thanks to the Cotton Boll Quilt Guild in Auburn. On March 19, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman presented dozens of hand-made quilts through Eretz Hemda, a small congregation in Jerusalem which assists returning Israeli reservists and helps restore them to family life. In many cases, the soldiers become parents while being away in combat. The quilts were made by the guild’s women in Auburn, and were presented at an event held at the Waldorf-Astoria in Jerusalem. Friedman said that he was introduced to the guild “by my dear friend Coach Bruce Pearl of Auburn University.” He addressed the crowd sporting an Auburn shirt, “to honor all of Israel’s friends from Auburn.” He addAmbassador David Friedman presented quilts made in Alabama to Israeli ed, “I was proud to explain to the Israeli soldiers and families in Jerusalem. their families just how much love was felt for them in this small university town in Eastern Alabama.” The guild, which is 38 years old, currently has over 40 mem- report where police officers were comforting children in the bers. Esther Flitcroft, who initiated the Israel project, said cold. The guild made quilts for officers to have in their cars for “we generally just sew for ourselves, our families and friends.” when they encountered children in a traumatic situation, so Some quilt by hand, others use computer-guided longarm they could be comforted, and then be able to keep the quilt. machines. Recently, a guild member was downsizing her home followShe initiated a service project in 2017 after seeing a news ing the death of her husband. Judy Feyen, who is originally from Chicago and has Jewish ancestry, had a large amount of quilting fabric, but because of her own health issues, she could no longer quilt. Flitcroft noted that quilting fabric is quite expensive, generally from $11 to $18 a yard. As an example, she had just done a king-size quilt where the fabric alone cost $450. They tried to find a buyer for her fabric but were unsuccessful, so Flitcroft reminded her of the police project and said they would find a charitable use for the fabric. “She said, ‘make sure you use it for good’.” A week after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, Flitcroft saw footage of Israelis who were evacuated from the border towns, suitcases in hand, not knowing what the next day would bring and where they would stay. “We just don’t think about that happening,” she said. She went to a fellow guild member’s house, where they talked about doing quilts for families of the hostages, the 32

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Southern Jewish Life

survivors of Oct. 7 and their children. The guild board unanimously decided to form a charity quilt committee “to assist the victims of the current conflict in Israel.” Using fabric from Feyen, they had a cutting day with about 15 members, had volunteers make packets and directions, and at a second meeting distributed them so members could start putting together the quilts at home. “By the 17th of October, we had a mission.” Flitcroft said she told Feyen what they were doing, “and she started to cry,” concerned for “my people.” She said they made “lap quilts” in sizes for children and adults. These are smaller than bed quilts, but with the families moving around, the smaller size is much more portable. They used most of Feyen’s fabric and finished 83 quilts. “I’m just sorry we had to stop at 83.” A big question was how they would get the quilts to Israel and make sure they were properly distributed. Pak Mail worked with them on the best way to ship and did so at cost, and Pearl contacted Friedman. They arranged a Sew Day at the Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 27, for completion of the quilts. To thank Pearl for his role in ensuring the quits would get to Israel, they also made him a quilt with Auburn fabric, with the guild members signing the label. Since Oct. 7, Eretz Hemda has delivered over $4 million in equipment and Judaica supplies to Israeli soldiers, and hosted events for couples with a member serving in the military, focusing on mental health and relationship issues. Friedman said it was an “extraordinary experience” to visit this “very special organization.” Seeing photos and footage from the ceremony, Flitcroft said “it was lovely to see babies wrapped” in the quilts. “It was a labor of love.”

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April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


“If we don’t get it, shut it down!” Anti-Israel activists block Mississippi River bridge in Memphis Anti-Israel activists shut down the only link between Memphis and Arkansas on Feb. 3, calling for an immediate ceasefire and defunding of Israel. Memphis Voices for Palestine had been rallying at City Hall, and around 3 p.m. walked to the Hernando de Soto Bridge on Interstate 40. Because the Interstate 55 bridge was closed for repairs, this was the only bridge connecting Memphis to Arkansas, and a vital link for interstate commerce. The blockage lasted for an hour and a half. Arkansas State Police reported that a woman with a medical emergency was stuck in the traffic, but troopers were able to get an ambulance to where she was stopped and had to airlift her to Memphis. Memphis police arrived around 3:45 p.m. and informed the organizers that they were engaged in an unlawful assembly, and they would need to leave. The protestors said they would have to be forced off the bridge, but as more police arrived around 4:30 p.m., most protestors started to leave. The demonstration ended by 5 p.m. Organizers had an online fundraiser for bail money in anticipation, but no arrests were made. Most of those marching onto the bridge were behind a large banner that read “U.S. stop funding Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing.” There were chants of “No justice, no peace” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Also chanted was “Resistance is justified when people are occupied,” commonly interpreted as justifying the Hamas invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, where 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed and over 240 abducted into Gaza. About 130 are still in captivity. The demonstration was livestreamed on memphisvoicesforpalestine. At one point, a person doing the filming confronted an angry motorist, calling her an “ugly a– b—” and suggested she jump off the bridge, then immediately apologized to the online viewers for saying that, explaining that she was hyper and “that was the devil coming out of me.” Cortney McKee tweeted that a woman on the bridge was trying to get to her baby in the NICU but was stuck on the bridge, which prompted an activist to respond “maybe you should think about the babies that have their limbs removed without anesthesia in Gaza too or is your outrage just selective and performative.” McKee, who is running for the Arkansas Senate, responded 34

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that she supports the ceasefire, saying Netanyahu has been “terrorizing Palestinians unprovoked” and “I sure as hell don’t support the slaughter of innocent men, women and children.” The group organizing the demonstration also recently posted that the “Memphis Police Department’s oppression of Black Memphians and Israel’s genocide of Palestinians go hand in hand,” citing the “deadly exchange” between the “Israel Occupation Forces” and American police. The “deadly exchange” was heavily promoted by the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace, which later distanced itself from the campaign, saying it led to antisemitic responses. Activists charge that Israel trains American police forces in techniques to subdue people of color. The actual police exchanges consist of American officials going to Israel to learn best practices for responding to largescale catastrophic events, how to foster positive relations in diverse communities, and in fighting terrorism. Those collaborations are with Israeli police, not the Israel Defense Forces, which anti-Israel groups refer to as the Israel Occupation Forces. As for the ceasefire the demonstrators were advocating, on Feb. 4 Hamas rejected the ceasefire deal that was discussed in Paris that week. On Jan. 23, before this demonstration, Rep. Jody Barrett and Sen. Brent Taylor introduced bills in the Tennessee Legislature that would increase the penalty for intentionally obstructing a highway, street, or other place used for the passage of vehicles or conveyances from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony; and allow a person who suffers loss or injury as a result of such an offense to bring a cause of action against the offender to recover compensatory damages from the loss or injury. “This activity causes financial hardship and creates many potential dangers for the citizenry,” Barrett said. Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders thanked Arkansas law enforcement “for clearing the pro-Hamas protestors blocking one of our state’s busiest bridges.” She added, “You have a right to free speech. But if you break the law and endanger others, you will go to jail. Arkansas stands with Israel.” On Jan. 8, anti-Israel activists in New York City shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and the Holland Tunnel, and 325 were arrested.

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Ineffective “behind the scenes” As activists push ceasefire resolutions, the old way of responding isn’t working

community. In mid-November, a mob of Hamas supporters overwhelmed a city council meeting. They engaged in blatant (JNS) — Ceasefire resolutions are all the rage in cities across America these days. Rather than focus on returning the psychological warfare by such performances as painting their hands red to suggest blood. Only one person was signed up to hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, these resolutions, which speak on behalf of Israel. come clothed in “humanitarian concern,” demand relief for The head of Raleigh’s Jewish Community Relations Council terrorists and foment hatred of Israel. worked behind the scenes against the resolution. The counThe pressure on communities to side with Hamas has taken cil members expressed their irritation at the high number many Jewish leaders by surprise. of speakers at their meetings, so he decided that only three Multiple cities in North Carolina have been targeted by pro-Israel speakers should sign up for a Dec. 12 meeting. pro-Hamas groups. Having observed four of these incidents, NCCI believed that more of our voices should be heard, so we a problem with Jewish leadership has become apparent to me. added four more speakers. 101 people signed up to support The incidents shed light on the need for change. Hamas. They continued their brutal psychological warfare, The first incident took place in the smallest of the four bringing onesies for babies designed to elicit sympathy only cities: Carrboro, which is adjacent to Chapel Hill and the Uni- for Palestinian babies. versity of North Carolina. Aside from Chabad, one synagogue For the next meeting on Jan. 15, 217 people signed up to serves both towns — the Reconstructionist Chapel Hill Kehil- speak. Again, there were only a handful of opponents. The Ralah. On Nov. 14, a ceasefire resolution leigh Jewish Federation sent out only passed by a 4-3 vote. The pro-Hamas one call to action — apparently un“Those intent on our destruction crowd outnumbered the opposition pressure — to speak out against are relentless, strategic, dramatic der about 40 to 3. No public announcethe Hamas supporters. The drama ment was made by Jewish leaders and emotional in public.” continued until Raleigh Mayor ahead of time to mobilize opponents. Mary-Ann Baldwin read a statement The following day, Reconstructionist on Feb. 6 that the city would not take Rabbi Jen Feldman sent a beautiful letter to the council point- up a ceasefire resolution. ing out the flaws in the resolution. She noted that the resoluThe terrorism supporters simultaneously went after tion did not mention Hamas and derided its moral equivalenDurham. That city is an easy target, given that it passed a boycy between terrorists and their victims. cott resolution against Israel in 2018 that was spearheaded by Over the following weeks, the hate group Students for Jewish Mayor Steve Schewel. Afterward, Durham Jewish leadJustice in Palestine and others at UNC pressured Chapel Hill ers returned to business as usual, supposedly working “quietly to pass a similar resolution. No announcement was made by behind the scenes.” One exception was a free trip to Israel Jewish leaders, but the hate campaign was uncovered on soprovided to Durham City Council member Mark Anthony cial media in early January. Fortunately, newly elected Mayor Middleton. It had no effect whatsoever. Middleton continued Jess Anderson did not support a ceasefire resolution, believing to see the Jewish state as an apartheid oppressor. it would be counterproductive and divide the community. On Nov. 3, the hate group Jewish Voice for Peace and Anderson made a statement on Jan. 24 after allowing equal their fellow Hamas supporters blocked the Durham Freeway time at a town council meeting to those in favor and those while yelling “ceasefire.” Durham Conservative Rabbi Daniel opposed. Our grassroots North Carolina Coalition for Israel Greyber published a letter in the Raleigh News & Observer on got the word out. For the first and only time in our experience, the number of Israel supporters present was equal to the behalf of himself and the North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association that said those blocking the highway did not speak number of Hamas supporters. In fact, only about 20 Hamas in their name. Aside from this article, his group apparently supporters showed up, as they likely knew they were going to did nothing to inform, alert and/or engage their communities lose this round, as they did. on the issue. As a result, our community was blindsided and Simultaneously, the Raleigh city council was targeted. Yet unable to take action. again, Jewish leaders failed to adequately inform the Jewish Although the ceasefire resolution was not on the Durham By Amy Rosenthal


April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional

Photo by Jill Lang/Shutterstock

The North Carolina State Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C.

city council’s agenda at a Feb. 5 meeting, NCCI received a tip that the issue would be raised. We showed up and were surrounded by a mob of people wearing keffiyehs and holding red roses. Sure enough, a speaker hijacked the meeting and chaos ensued. The roses were used for further psychological warfare, being thrown onto a sheet (a fake grave) before the council dais. A Hamas supporter engaged in physical assault, forcefully grabbing the Israeli flag brought by NCCI and dragging the woman holding it to the ground. The perpetrator was not arrested at that time. We requested a police escort to our cars after the mob eventually settled down and left. Synagogues and the former Durham/Chapel Hill Federation, now called Jewish for Good, were publicly silent, but quietly sent a letter to the DCC on Feb. 8 expressing concern. At a Feb. 8 DCC work session, comments about the proposed resolution — which did not mention Hamas — were heard. Again, those in favor significantly outnumbered those against. The Reform Rabbi Matthew Soffer initially spoke well, pushing to get Hamas named in the resolution. But then he falsely claimed that, while the Hamas charter is genocidal, so are the platforms of Israeli government ministers like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. He called for the passage of the resolution. We were told a vote would be held on Feb. 19. When we returned for the DCC meeting on Feb. 19, only

six Israel supporters showed up. We were again surrounded by a crowd of Jew-haters bizarrely carrying clementine oranges as their latest prop. Unsurprisingly, the resolution passed. Chelsea Cook, an appointed DCC member, spearheaded the resolution. She said, “As a Jew, it breaks my heart that we have tied ourselves to this idea of Zionism.” Two things were of particular interest: First, the Hamas supporters present became enraged when the details of the Oct. 7 massacre were described. Second, they did not stand for the pledge of allegiance, as Israel supporters do. Their agenda is not only anti-Israel, it’s anti-American. These incidents made one thing very clear: Solely “working behind the scenes” is a failed strategy. Those intent on our destruction are relentless, strategic, dramatic and emotional in public. This works for them. Many Jewish leaders will not understand this and are unwilling to adapt to the new reality. Some of them are complicit in it. We ask our leaders to educate the community about anti-Israel antisemitism, actively monitor for threats, and alert and mobilize the pro-Israel community, both Jews and non-Jews alike. Our survival depends on it. Amy Rosenthal, who lived in Israel as a child, is co-founder of the North Carolina Coalition for Israel. April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


x Antisemitic By Beth Harpaz (The Forward) — A threatening postcard sold online depicting Anne Frank saying “So much fun!” with an image of Auschwitz was sent to an Israeli-owned bakery in Atlanta. The postcard was delivered Feb. 24 to Ali’s Cookies, owned by Nofar Shablis. “Is there a child rape, torture and murder tunnel under your store? We have the Zyklon B,” said a handwritten note on the other side of the card. “Use discount code ‘GAS THE JEWS’ to save 10% on your order.” Shablis told the Forward that someone recently phoned the store ranting about Israel and Jews. “He wishes all of us to die and he will come burn down the store with us in it,” she said. Since Oct. 7, a number of people have also walked in the store, seen the Israeli flag on display and walked out. A police spokesperson responding by email to a Forward query said no information was available about the incidents.

The company behind the postcard The postcard, sold for $2.99 by Patriot Candle Co., comes preprinted with pictures of a smiling Frank, the words “So much fun!” in a word balloon and a picture of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp where Anne, her mother and sister were sent. Their mother died at Auschwitz; Anne, 16, and her sister died at Bergen-Belsen. Patriot Candle promises to send the postcard anonymously on any customer’s behalf, along with a customized message on the other side. It’s one of a half-dozen virulently antisemitic and racist cards sold on the site, including images of Hitler and one that says, “Jews are rats.” “Pick a postcard, we write your message, and send it out to the addressee,” the site says. “These are mailed out with postcard postage, so no tracking will be available.” Patriot Candle is owned by L.O.G. Enterprises in High Point, N.C. Its website does not identify the owners by name, but includes a message in which they describe themselves as being “as ordinary as a family can get! We have a beautiful daughter, who at the moment is our only kid, a house, and a business.” Their message also mentions prayer, God and rejecting restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic: “We are a God-fearing family, and we will not idolize a mask, jab 38

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or money over the Lord.” Candles and racist, transphobic and religious stickers and posters are sold on the site as well. According to the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, the company is affiliated with the Goyim Defense League, an antisemitic and white supremacist network. The ADL has documented 30 incidents in 13 states in which postcards and other antisemitic propaganda has been sent by the company to public officials, Jewish leaders and business owners. Shablis said that “when you try to figure out who did it, and what’s the organization behind it — you just wish you didn’t.”

The owner’s message of resilience Shablis offered a message of resilience for those unsettled by the incidents at the store. “I know it’s terrifying and it’s scary and it’s awful, and things in Israel are so hard right now,” said Shablis. “It’s a difficult time for all of us. But I think just because of that, we need to be strong and that’s what we are trying to do.” She said she has “lots of friends who aren’t Jewish and they support us and they’re amazing people.” The haters are “a really small group of people,” who do not represent how most Americans feel, she added, saying: “I know that most American people love Israel and they don’t have those kinds of beliefs.” The bakery, which ships its cookies nationwide, is located in Emory Village, a shopping center near Emory University. Many pro-Israel groups have been urging support for the bakery because of boycotters and anti-Israel activists targeting the store.

THIS PASSOVER, ELIJAH’S WON’T BE THE ONLY EMPTY SEAT AT THE TABLE. As we celebrate the seder, we remember those who should still be with us. Some of those seats belong to Magen David Adom medics, who gave their lives trying to save others. Your donation provides the equipment MDA needs so that next year only Elijah’s seat may be empty. Join the effort at or call 866.632.2763.

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Restoring an important alliance Pilot program in South Carolina with HBCUs for Black-Jewish relations The Academic Engagement Network announced a groundbreaking new project with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to reignite the historic alliance between Black and Jewish communities and work together to combat rising antisemitism. The network is funding a pilot project at South Carolina State University and Vorhees University, and plans to expand it to an additional five to seven HBCUs in South Carolina next year and the following year. Each school will provide seminars to educate and train both faculty and students about the shared history of Black-Jewish solidarity, provide a deeper understanding of Jewish identity and Israel, and prepare participants to confront antisemitism out in the world. Seminars will train students and staff about the history of black-Jewish teamwork and the implications of fighting hate together. “This grant may mark a new beginning, but the bond between our communities is not new; it is steeped in history. Our students are poised to become the future leaders of various fields, including industry, business, science, and law. It is imperative that they are equipped to combat all forms of hatred, including antisemitism,” stated Vorhees University President Dr. Ronnie Hopkins. Two University of South Carolina professors, Devin Randolph and Meir Muller, will lead the effort. AEN chose these USC professors because of the university’s unique position operating the only Anne Frank Center in the United States, one of only three in the world. A core component of the Anne Frank Center is to inspire young people, including college students, to make their voices heard. “While there are other excellent programs that seek to repair and rebuild the black-Jewish relationship, this project breaks new ground by bringing students, faculty and staff, and administrators at HBCUs into partnership to better understand and confront contemporary antisemitism,” Miriam Elman, AEN’s executive director, told JNS. Elman said the project will use the methodologies of the Anne Frank Center and the HBCU 101 initiative, “designed to help students successfully navigate the challenges of being an undergraduate student in order to combat anti-black and anti-Jewish bigotry and intolerance.” Brandon Fish, director of Community Relations for the Charleston Jewish Federation, told JNS that Jewish and black 40

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communities in the region have “longstanding relationships and a long history of cooperation.” Fish pointed to “the proliferation of Rosenwald schools, the birth of the NAACP and continued efforts to advocate for meaningful policy to address hate crimes impacting our communities, like a state hatecrime law and local hate ordinances.” Fish noted that the state was one of only two in the country not to have a state hate-crime law. Professional development seminars and student-focused sessions will include lessons on the historic alliance in the U.S. between Jewish and Black communities, beginning with the 1909 formation of the NAACP, through efforts of solidarity in 2023. Some historic and modern-day examples include the consistent and well-informed Holocaust coverage provided by Black newspapers, civil rights leaders who promoted Zionism, modern-day Black leaders who protested and continue to protest antisemitism, Jewish leadership in the founding of the NAACP, Jewish activists who fought for the Civil Rights Act and marched for equality, the Rosenwald Schools, and Jewish modern solidarity with Black Lives Matter. There will also be discussions of the history of antisemitism from antiquity through today, the diversity of Jewish identity, a better understanding of Israel and the role Zionism plays in Judaism, as well as ways to identify the current manifestations of antisemitism; and ways the communities can unite to counter prejudice and hate facing Blacks and Jews. Participants will be supported in creating a toolbox of policies and procedures targeted to their own campuses to foster a better understanding of Jewish identity. Selected students from each campus will receive additional training and serve as ambassadors for the project as it expands to other campuses. Each HBCU will also establish incident response teams to address antisemitism swiftly and effectively and to establish best practices. Randolph said the initiative’s vision is “the emphasis on creating inclusive and diverse spaces. I see this endeavor as something truly invaluable, drawing from a legacy of resilience and aspirations for a future marked by understanding and progress.” Muller, an ordained rabbi with a Ph.D. in education, added, “We acknowledge that we are in a time when the alliance between our communities is strained, yet we believe that the foundation for solidarity is present and can be revitalized through educational endeavors.”

The project will celebrate “the historic alliance between black and Jewish communities in the United States, using it as a springboard for allyship, and for frank and open discussions about antisemitism and racism today,” Elman told JNS. “Many programs that discuss current issues and challenges between the black and Jewish communities steer clear of Zionism and Israel. This project addresses such topics from the get-go, providing professors, students and staff with the tools they need to counter the multifaceted nature of contemporary antisemitism.” The historic alliance includes the time when Jewish scholars were fleeing Nazi Germany and many wound up in the U.S. “They unfortunately found many barriers in the U.S. academy,” Elman Photo via Wikimedia Commons said. “But an exception were HBCUs Leroy Davis Sr. Hall at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C. that provided visas and employment to mentor at Ohio State University while pursuing his doctorate. 50 German Jewish scholars, saving their lives. Black and Jewish communities in the U.S. forged a unique bond as a result Ford was one of the featured speakers at the March for Israof these experiences. This initiative will draw on this inspiring el in Washington last November. history by empowering HBCUs to help combat contemporary Last year, Southern Jewish Life magazine embarked on a antisemitism and disturbing efforts by extremists to create partnership with the Birmingham Times, a historic Black divisions between Black and Jewish communities.” newspaper in Birmingham, and HBCU Miles College, to The Academic Engagement Network mobilizes networks develop an internship for a promising student writer who of university faculty and administrators to counter antisemiwould do articles of interest to both communities. Kiara Duntism, oppose the denigration of Jewish and Zionist identities, lap, who graduated from Miles last May, was the first intern. promote academic freedom, and advance education about Jasmine Moore was just named the new intern for the coming Israel. It envisions a world where American higher education year. welcomes, respects, and supports the expression of Jewish The internship includes a trip to Israel. Dunlap participated identity and robust discourse about Israel. The organization is in a Philos Black trip last July. Philos is a Christian leadership comprised of nearly 1,000 faculty members on more than 300 organization, and Philos Black works to cultivate Black Chriscampuses. tian leaders for positive global engagement, with an emphasis on Israel, Africa and the U.S. Initiatives around the region From SJL and JNS reports In January 2023, Dillard University President Rochelle Ford announced plans to relaunch the Dillard University National Center for Black-Jewish Relations in New Orleans. The center, the only one of its kind, was originally founded in 1989 by Samuel DuBois Cook, the fourth president of Dillard. The center had been dormant for about two decades. Under the leadership of Cook, the National Center for Black-Jewish relations hosted annual national conferences and produced the book, “Black-Jewish Relations: Dillard Univerusing the QR code here, sity Conference Papers,” which Cook edited. A classmate and friend of Martin Luther King Jr. at Morehouse College, Cook or go to was greatly influenced in 1949 by his Jewish professor and

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Southern Jewish Life Regional Edition April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Navigating uncertain legal waters

Amidst Alabama IVF battles, Jewish Fertility Foundation works to handle the twists The controversial ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that stated frozen embryos are to be regarded as children in terms of their legal rights caused a frenzy of activity, from those whose in vitro fertilization procedures suddenly became a legal quagmire, to the Alabama Legislature that found itself cleaning up a predictable mess of unintended consequences. After the ruling, IVF providers across the state shut down, causing Birmingham’s office of the Jewish Fertility Foundation to scramble to serve the 50 clients who were undergoing the procedure. The Atlanta-based Foundation offers fertility grant funding, emotional support and education for families — and a lot of support was needed after the ruling came down. The Feb. 16 ruling stemmed from a wrongful death of a minor lawsuit filed against a Mobile fertility clinic. Three couples who had undergone treatment at the clinic and had successful pregnancies filed suit over a December 2020 incident. As is typical, the couples had extra embryos in frozen storage at the clinic in case they wanted to pursue another pregnancy. A patient entered the preservation room and opened one of the units, grabbing some embryos. Because the embryos were deep-frozen, the patient was freezer-burned and dropped the embryos, destroying them. While the trial court said a claim could not be made under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, the Supreme Court overturned that opinion on appeal. Many in the anti-abortion movement subscribe to what is called personhood, which defines human life at the moment of fertilization or conception, which would label all abortion and many forms of birth control as a form of murder. The ruling that a frozen embryo could be considered a person under law has the implications that discarding or destroying an embryo could be considered murder. “This decision creates legal chaos with far reaching consequences on medical providers — leaving fertility clinics unsure if they can provide services in Alabama and those who already have embryos frozen in clinics wondering if they will go to jail if they discard them,” said Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women. Another quandry is what to do with extra embryos once a couple is done having children — or if the couple splits up. Would the embryos have to be stored in perpetuity, and who would pay for the storage? 42

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Rather than risk the consequences, clinics across the state shut down, causing major issues for couples whose procedures were in process and dependent on certain timing. Julie Cohen, who heads the Birmingham office of JFF, said “Before the clinics closed, I had a client reach out about what to do if they closed; I never thought clinics closing would become a reality. As soon as they started announcing closings, I immediately began receiving text from clients about whether they could travel for treatment. I am thankful JFF has the partnership clinics in Atlanta, so we were able to help them get appointments quickly.” She added, “this truly feels like a nightmare and something I never imagined becoming a reality.” The Foundation is helping with the added expense of having to pursue the procedure in Atlanta. Nationally, NCJW provided an emergency $15,000 grant to help Alabama clients, the first grant from the organization’s Jewish Fund for Abortion Access, which was established after the Dobbs decision. One issue with Alabama clients going to Atlanta for the procedure is that in some cases, insurance does not cover outside the state. They also organized an online forum with an Alabama fertility attorney, a similar program is being organized with NCJW for May. There was also a support group meeting for Birmingham clients on March 6. After the Dobbs decision of 2022, where the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the issue of abortion to the states, JFF officials warned that procedures like IVF likely were in danger, because the IVF procedure creates embryos, and many states had passed laws declaring that life begins at conception. Alabama’s anti-abortion law, though, refers to ending a pregnancy “in utero,” which would allow room for IVF. The Supreme Court ruling came under heavy criticism by Jewish groups. The Central Conference of American Rabbis, a Reform group, said it was “appalled” by the ruling and noted how “Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker makes explicit that the Court’s ruling is a religious, not a legal, act.” By extensively quoting Christian theologians, “this ruling is therefore a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion.” In his argument, Parker summarized “the theologically based view of the sanctity of life adopted by the People of

Alabama,” including that “human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.” Parker concluded, “Even before birth, all human belingshave the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his [sic] glory.” The CCAR noted the Jewish legal view that personhood is not granted to a fetus or embryo at any stage of a pregnancy, but said that they are not asking for Jewish law to be enshrined in U.S. law, either. “We demand, however, that individuals in this free country be permitted to make their own choice about engaging the use of in vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies.” NCJW’s Katz called the Supreme Court decision “wildly outrageous and sets a harmful precedent that violates separation of church and state and will make it nearly impossible for families in Alabama to access fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization.” She added that the Christian references in the opinion were “a clear violation of religious freedom as the Alabama Supreme Court — indeed the Chief Justice — has made clear that it seeks to impose a narrow Christian interpretation of theology on all people in Alabama.” The NCJW statement noted that Jews in the United States disproportionately rely on IVF, with 17 percent of Jewish women utilizing fertility treatments to get pregnant, as compared to 12.5 percent of the general population. In addition, LGBTQ couples rely on the procedure as a way to start a family. Rabbi Jen Gubitz wrote in Lilith magazine about her thusfar unsuccessful experiences with IVF, saying “I really wished our embryos were kids. But not because an Alabama judge has decided they are.” “Jewish tradition understands that life begins when a baby takes a first breath of oxygen, allowing for the soul to enter into its body. We cannot let state or federal legislation deter-

mine when life begins, forcing the hegemony of Christian scripture on our wombs or on our dreams,” she wrote.

“Fixing” the problem The widespread condemnation of the ruling led the Alabama Legislature to scramble to ensure access to IVF, as many who oppose abortion nevertheless favor IVF because the goal is to produce babies. The Legislature passed SB 159, shielding IVF providers from lawsuits or criminal charges over “death or damage to an embryo.” Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill on March 6, saying “Alabama works to foster a culture of life, and that certainly includes IVF.” The bill does not rescind the Supreme Court decision, it simply says that one may not be prosecuted over an embryo. However, in 2018, an amendment to the Alabama constitution recognized rights for unborn children, so another round of legal proceedings is possible. In his concurrence, Parker noted that IVF in the U.S. is unregulated, and in other countries, usually one embryo at a time is made, unlike the multiples made in the U.S. The U.S. should follow that example, he suggested, saying predictions that the court’s ruling would end IVF in the state do “not seem to be well-founded,” though that is what happened when the ruling was issued. He said the Legislature is free to decide how the IVF industry operates, “provided that it comports with the Alabama Constitution, including the Sanctity of Unborn Life Amendment.” That uncertainty is making many couples reconsider their procedures in Alabama, said Elana Frank, CEO and founder of JFF. They have spoken with transportation and storage companies with an eye on moving embryos out of Alabama, assuming the clinics would allow it. “Some people still want to move their embryos despite the SB 159 passing,” she said. Frank said that while the bill is good, and some clinics have already reopened, it isn’t the end of the story, because the personhood issue has not been addressed. Nevertheless, “Some staff members were watching the proceedings via the Alabama State Legislature live stream and became very emotional. One sobbed uncontrollably.” She said there is concern nationally that other states focusing on personhood laws would have similar issues over IVF. Photo by Michael Barera/Wikipedia

Alabama Supreme Court building. April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


The War That Changed The World Inside the National World War II Museum’s new Liberation Pavilion

The lengthy development of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans culminated in the dedication of the institution’s final major piece, the Liberation Pavilion, on Nov. 3. The dedication ceremony marked the conclusion of the museum’s $400 million Road to Victory Campaign that enabled the museum’s continued expansion to seven pavilions and a hotel over the past two decades. Ted Weggeland, chair of the museum’s board, said that with the completion of the Liberation Pavilion, “we finally tell the full story of the American experience in the war that changed the world.” The museum was first dedicated in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum, mainly to commemorate the Higgins boats that were key to the U.S. effort on D-Day in 1944. Built in New Orleans, the boats originally were shallow water work boats for oil and gas exploration, but were reimagined into the landing craft used at Normandy and elsewhere, giving the military flexibility in where they could land, rather than needing to conquer port cities. From that first pavilion, Weggeland said the museum grew in scope to become a world-class institution on seven acres. Actor Tom Hanks said at the time, the museum was essentially “two brick warehouses, a Higgins boat and a tank. Now look at it.” President and CEO Emeritus Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, who helped found the museum with his friend, fellow historian and best-selling author Stephen E. Ambrose, reflected on the occasion. “Twenty-three years ago, when we first opened The National D-Day Museum, Steve and I thought we had achieved our goal to preserve and honor the memory of those Americans who fought on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. The accomplishments of the past two decades extend far beyond what we could have imagined, even after we decided to broaden our mission to tell the full story of the American experience in World War II.” There were many individuals he wished could have been at the dedication, such as Ambrose, but they are no longer around. Ambrose “would be so proud, so pleased, of what great Americans had done to make this a reality,” he reflected.

Opening the Pavilion Photo by James Henry Brook

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, the first female rabbi to serve in the U.S. military, gives the invocation


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The dedication ceremony began with a lengthy ovation for the entrance of over 40 World War II veterans, Holocaust survivors and home front workers. Over 40 Medal of Honor recipients also attended.

Liberation Pavilion displays about the Holocaust

“Nearly 80 years after the end of World War II, we remain ever grateful to those Americans who sacrificed so much to secure freedom and democracy, and whose legacies are now our responsibility to carry on here at The National WWII Museum,” said Stephen J. Watson, museum president and CEO. Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, the first female rabbi to serve in the U.S. military, gave the invocation. Now the associate rabbi at Temple Chai in Phoenix, she served in the Army for 38 years and retired as a colonel. She had joined the Army reserves in 1978 and was ordained as a Reconstructionist rabbi in 1981. She provided the only mention of contemporary conflicts, starting with a reflection “on the horror inflicted on the people of Israel during this past month,” saying that after Oct. 7, “the role of those who rescued the Jewish people from the reign of Nazi terror has been exponentially highlighted.” She said she is “profoundly grateful” to the museum “for ensuring that the message of ‘never again’ will resonate for

generations to come.” Koppell said about 16 million members of the Allied forces gave their lives to end the Holocaust and liberate Europe. “It is with the most profound sorrow that we acknowledge those heroes today.” The best memorial for them is to recommit to the values of freedom and justice, she added. She concluded with a prayer for the museum’s continued growth and prosperity, for it to “be a source of inspiration for many, many generations to come.” Weggeland noted the important support by the state of Louisiana, including being the largest single supporter of the Liberation Pavilion. He thanked and introduced Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who paid tribute to the WWII generation. “There is no more sacred or meaningful form of public service than military service,” Edwards said, “to protect your country, to ensure the survival of liberty and democracy.” He introduced the Normandy Liberty Bell, which was first rung in 2004 at Normandy on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

What does the legacy of World War II mean today?

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It was first rung in the U.S. at Independence Mall in Philadelphia on July 4, 2005, and toured the country for a couple of years before making its home at the museum in 2009. At the dedication, the bell was struck seven times, to represent the seven stages of a soldier’s life, Edwards explained. “Taps” was then played. Mueller reflected on the museum’s modest beginnings, noting that Hanks had been there for the beginning of the museum, and that supporters like Hanks, Tom Brokaw and Steven Spielberg gave the museum a level of credibility that it had not yet established on its own. “This museum is about war, but it is also about the totality of the American experience,” he said. Photo by James Henry Brook While the museum celebrates the soldiers, it Many World War II veterans were honored guests at the pavilion dedication, along also tells the broader story. “Wars are the cruciwith those who attended in spirit. bles of change for all societies, and World War II brought about dramatic change in our counThis pavilion “was perhaps the hardest to do,” he said. In try both during the war and after the war,” along with other 2003, the exhibit designers asked “so what? What will people nations that were affected by the fight for freedom, he said. Wars “also influence who we want to be — what we are will- think 100 years from now.” How does one answer why World War II would still be important. ing to fight for, to die for — ultimately, our values as AmerThey had been focused on telling the stories of different icans.” The new pavilion documents those values, Mueller events in the war. “This got us back to the question of what it added. means today,” and that is reflected in this final pavilion. Gold Star Daughter and Museum Trustee Sharon Estill Taylor spoke on the wartime loss of her father, U.S. Army Air Forces First Lieutenant Shannon Eugene Estill, when she was three years old, highlighting the steep prices paid by servicemembers and their families to ensure victory, and representing the “World War II orphaned children.” She noted that the pavilion speaks of the celebrations when soldiers came home at the end of the war; her family’s experiences were not celebratory. “They should be celebrated, just as my father would have been celebrated. Today is my father’s ticker tape parade.” She found the museum shortly after her father was finally buried at Arlington in 2010, and “this museum has become my family.” Actor, producer, director and writer Tom Hanks reflected on the historic magnitude of the dedication. He said that 80 years earlier on that date, “there wasn’t a human being on the planet who had any idea when World War II was going to end.” The future was “a huge black void with no guarantee of Photo by James Henry Brook your loved ones coming home.” Tom Hanks speaks at the dedication The U.S. had no designs on Germany or Japan based on 46

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conquest or superiority, he said. The U.S. and its allies “viewed war as the path to liberation,” and those nations are now strong allies, enjoying the benefits of democracy. “Can you imagine what would have happened if the U.S. and its allies did not take up the responsibility, not to conquer, but to liberate.” The museum, he said, is a place where anyone can go and see “our responsibility as Americans and freedom-loving people to periodically take up the cause — of what?… of liberty” and removing from war-mongerers “their ability to make war upon their neighbors and the world.” After a flyover by the Louisiana National Guard Bayou Militia, guests were able to tour the completed pavilion. Mueller said the pavilion honors “the legacies of the WWII generation and helps visitors understand the relevance of the war today — the meaning of the freedom they secured and each generation’s duty to protect and advance it.”

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Inside the Pavilion There are two floors of exhibit space, and a third floor with a multimedia theater. The pavilion starts with the sober reminder that 414,920 U.S. servicemembers and merchant marines died in World War II. As part of the tribute to the fallen, the pavilion has a replica headstone for Corporal Sam Cordova, who was killed in the Philippines in December 1941. He was buried in the Manila American Cemetery, but “without an understanding of his Jewish heritage” his marker was a cross. It was replaced by a Star of David headstone on the anniversary of his death in 2020, and the replica is of the Star of David marker. The ”And Then They Came for Me” gallery examines the Holocaust in three sections. The first two sections give the history of how the Holocaust developed, and a replica of part of Anne Frank’s Secret Annex gives a personification to the history. In September 2019, the museum dedicated a statue of Frank in the Founders Plaza, the second in a series of statues. The third section focuses on the Nazi concentration camps and liberation. Throughout the gallery, there are stories about the liberation of the camps, and testimonies from Holocaust survivors. The gallery was made possible by a gift from The Lupin Foundation, in memory of E. Ralph Lupin, M.D., BGen LA National Guard. Additional support was provided by Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust; Kay and Fred Zeidman, in memory of 1st Lt. Irving Hubert Selber, U.S. Army Air Forces, and Staff Sergeant Morris Benjamin Zeidman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Author-signed copies at April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


The Four Chaplains

There is also a tribute to the Four Chaplains on the USS Dorchester, which was torpedoed by the Germans in 1943. The two ministers, priest and rabbi gave their life vests to four soldiers and went down with the ship. Another section replicates and tells the story of the salt caves where the Nazis hid billions of dollars in stolen art. “The Monuments Men and Women” did a “treasure hunt” that uncovered hundreds of thousands of pieces. The pavilion’s second floor, Goldring Family Foundation and Woldenberg Foundation Forces of Freedom at Home and Abroad (1945–Present), talks about the efforts to hold Japanese and German leaders accountable for their crimes, leading to the first-ever international war crimes trials. 48

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Other sections detail the rebuilding of a thoroughly devastated continent, how the U.S. emerged as a superpower following the war, technological advances from the war, the war’s effect on foreign policy moving forward, and how the experiences of World War II affected the push for civil rights in the U.S. “Today is a pivotal day in our institution’s history — the end of an era and the start of a new journey,” said Watson. “As we celebrate, we know that there is much more ahead: We will continue to tell the story of World War II in innovative ways, to find new ways to inspire audiences of all ages across the globe and to embrace our role as storyteller for generations to come.”

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Southern Jewish Opinion “Ragin’ Cajun” James Carville’s dangerous rhetoric If Biden loses, he says it will be Netanyahu’s fault By Caroline Glick (JNS) — In an appearance on MSNBC, veteran Democratic political strategist James Carville of Louisiana made a stunning statement. Speaking of the uncommitted vote in Michigan, Carville said that it will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fault if Biden loses the election in November. “There is a problem all across the country [with Democratic voters who will punish Biden if he continues to support Israel] and I hope that the president and [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken can get this thing calmed down, because if it don’t [sic.] get calmed down before the Democratic convention in Chicago it’s going to be a very ugly time in Chicago. I promise you that. They’re gonna have to tell Bibi Netanyahu, ‘Hey dude, we’re not gonna lose our election because you’re scared to go to jail’.” Carville’s bit about jail was part of a larger conspiracy theory that he has been peddling since shortly after the Hamasled Palestinian invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7. That theory has it that Netanyahu only decided to wage a war to eradicate Hamas to deflect public attention from his criminal trial. Beyond the obscenity of the contention itself, the fact is that since Netanyahu’s trial opened two years ago, the prosecution’s entire case has fallen apart. But the new wrinkle that Carville incorporated is that it will be Israel’s fault if Biden loses. Carville is far from alone in making this claim. Pro-Hamas Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is one of its most outspoken champions. Ahead of the Michigan primary on Feb. 27, Tlaib led a campaign of pro-Hamas Muslims and progressives to convince like-minded Michiganders to vote “Uncommitted” to show their opposition to what they perceive as Biden’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas. Others, including academics, have piled onto the bandwagon. For instance, New York University professor Mohamad Bazzi wrote in The Guardian last week that Biden is risking reelection by not reining in Netanyahu. In his words, “While Biden complains about the petulant Israeli leader who won’t listen, his presidency is now at risk. It’s a self-inflicted wound that Biden would have avoided by standing up to Netanyahu months ago.” The allegation that Netanyahu is going to cost Biden the election because of his unwillingness to end the war with Hamas without victory is absurd for three reasons. First, the Michigan primary showed the emptiness of the threat. For more than a month, the media provided around-the-clock 50

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional

Photo by Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023.

coverage of calls by Tlaib and her Hamas-supporting partners for Muslims and progressives in Michigan to vote “Uncommitted.” But in the end, Biden won 81.1 percent of the vote and only 13.2 percent of Michigan voters voted “uncommitted.” While 13.2 percent is being presented as a major achievement, it is anything but significant. It isn’t clear what portion of the 13.2 percent voted “Uncommitted” out of support for Hamas, for one thing. Around the same percentage of primary voters regularly vote “Uncommitted” in Democratic presidential primaries. For instance, when then-President Barack Obama was running unopposed for re-election in 2012, 11 percent of Michigan primary voters voted “Uncommitted.” Beyond that, the Harvard-Harris poll of U.S. opinion on Israel’s war with Hamas, which was published the day of the primary, showed that 82 percent of Americans support Israel compared to 18 percent who support Hamas. The implications are clear. Both the election results and the Harvard-Harris poll demonstrated that Tlaib and her pro-Hamas supporters do not have the political weight to throw a presidential election. The claim that support for Israel will cost Biden the election is also fatuous because Tlaib and her supporters are bluffing. Donald Trump was the most pro-Israel president in history, and they know it. They will not enable him to return by refusing to support Biden. Tlaib admitted this herself at a press conference on Feb. 29. “It’s really important for folks to understand: I am incredi-

bly, incredibly scared of a second term for Trump. And I think it’s really important to emphasize this,” she said. The third reason it is absurd to blame Biden’s bad numbers on Israel is that his numbers have been terrible since September 2021. Real Clear Politics’ polling data show that Biden’s numbers on the economy, foreign policy, inflation, crime, the Israel-Hamas war and the Russia-Ukraine war are all negative. Trump has been leading Biden in national and swing-state polling since well before Oct. 7. For instance, an ABC News/ Washington Post poll from Sept. 24 showed Trump leading Biden 51-42. Carville is one of the top political strategists in America, and has been since he served as Bill Clinton’s political guru in the 1992 elections. There is no way that he isn’t aware that his assertion is totally unfounded. There are two explanations for why a man of his professional stature and political savvy would blame Israel’s refusal to bow to U.S. pressure and capitulate to Hamas for Biden’s likely loss of the presidency. The first reason is that Carville is trying to present the Democratic Party as the political home for an up-and-coming generation of Americans, which unlike all of its predecessors is not sympathetically inclined towards the Jewish state. The Harvard-Harris poll that showed that 82 percent of Americans support Israel also showed that 53 percent of Americans aged 18 to 25 support an unconditional ceasefire, which would leave Hamas intact and capable of rebuilding its terrorist ranks. Whereas 78 percent of Americans oppose permitting Hamas to remain in power in Gaza after the war, 43 percent of young Americans said that Hamas should be allowed to remain in power in Gaza after the war. By placing the blame for Trump’s likely victory on Israel, Carville and others like him are working to secure and maintain the loyalty of the large anti-Israel demographic among young voters. The second reason that Carville and other leading Democratic voices in politics, academia and the media are blaming Israel for what they fear will be a Trump victory in November is because they are setting up Israel — and more broadly — “the Jews” in the United States and worldwide — as the scapegoat. They don’t want to blame their party’s policies on the economy, the border, crime, energy, social issues or foreign policy for the anticipated loss. So instead, they are placing all the blame on Israel and its supporters (read: Jews). If it weren’t for them, Biden would be coasting to victory now. The implication of this move is that the Democratic movers and shakers are grafting antisemitism onto the party’s DNA. In the 1920s, the Nazis blamed the Jews for Germany’s loss in World War I — and won a lot of support among Germans who didn’t want to look inward and blame themselves

for their nation’s defeat. Likewise, Democratic strategists and opinion makers who are peddling this new antisemitic conspiracy theory view Israel bashing — and Jew-bashing more generally — as an effective means to avoid the need to reconsider their party’s deeply unpopular policies on everything from illegal immigration to transgenderism. They see antisemitism as a much easier tool for political mobilization and are adopting it. Israelis are already alarmed by the open hostility they’re facing from the Biden administration. And they are willing to risk an open breach with the administration to ensure victory in the war. A Direct Polls survey from Feb. 13 showed that Israelis favor Netanyahu over his top two rivals, Minister Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, 47 percent to 34 percent, and 49 percent to 28 percent, respectively. Netanyahu’s support owes largely to his willingness to stand up to ever increasing pressure from the Biden administration to end the ground operation in Gaza without victory. Responding rationally to the administration’s hostility and to the groundswell of antisemitism rolling through key institutions in the United States, Israel is moving quickly to limit, with the goal of ending, its dependence on U.S. arms supplies. The government has budgeted billions of shekels for Israel’s military industries, and it is anticipated that within two years, Israel will have the domestic industrial capacity to wage war without U.S. resupply of ammunition. In recent years, the main victim of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel has been Diaspora Jews, not Israel. It is they who face harassment and ostracism on their campuses and workplaces. Israel, a sovereign state, has managed to weather the storm with minimal losses. Likewise, the main victim of the campaign being waged by the likes of Carville to blame Biden’s likely electoral defeat on Israel will be the American Jewish community. If this campaign succeeds, and the unhinged notion that Israel is the cause of Biden’s political woes becomes accepted wisdom, the consequences for American Jews will be devastating. If antisemitism is grafted onto the DNA of the party most American Jews call home, the consequences will be disastrous. The community will find itself politically, professionally and socially isolated and vulnerable in ways that are almost unimaginable, but will become all too real if what is now taking form is not stopped in its tracks before it is too late. Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship. April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Southern Jewish Camp

New athletic complex underway at Henry S. Jacobs Camp When campers arrive at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp this summer, a new athletic complex will be waiting for them. Camp Director Anna Herman said “we have dreamed for years about renovating and expanding our athletic complex,” as well as adding air conditioning throughout. “Thanks to the generosity of a donor, we were able to make that happen in time for this summer.” The renovated facility is the first result of a capital campaign that has yet to be launched, but the anonymous donors liked the idea of going ahead and getting the athletic facility done. The campaign, which will fund additional improvements throughout the camp, will be announced later this year. Development Director Jacob Fijman said the campers were “delighted and wowed” at the news when the renovations were announced during last summer’s camp sessions. The athletic complex is an expansion and renovation of the facility that was built in 1985 and dedicated by the Berman family. “We’re beyond appreciative to the Berman family,” Herman said. She said they were “thrilled” to be able to expand and renovate an existing building. During Covid, they found they could renovate existing buildings “and get everything we needed and more” with a renovation. The expansion provides additional space for a wider range of activities, reflecting the growth in the number of campers, along with possible future growth. “We’ve been able to kind of make it work,” she said, but “the space we are going to have will allow all our dreams to come true.” 52

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Central to the new complex is a high-school sized basketball court that can be used for many things, and a new scoreboard. There are two new classrooms, a gymnastics room, a fitness center and an indoor rock climbing wall, along with a flexible outdoor space for small group activities. There will also be improved accessibility for Dream Street campers. “We cannot wait for all our campers to enjoy this fabulous space,” Herman said. While the camp has done numerous facility enhancements in recent years, including the construction of a new pool house in 2022, this is the largest project in years, “and our biggest need,” Herman said. It is also a learning program for the campers, as it is a “very intentional” opportunity to teach about philanthropy, supporting the community and expressing gratitude. The new complex has helped with camper recruitment, and Herman said parents of younger, first-time campers “are very excited about this building.” Last year was the biggest summer the camp has had, and with a very high camper retention rate and a lot of new campers, “we are thrilled for this summer.” Jacobs Camp strives to be “a summer home and year-round home for our Jewish community.” She noted that “while the world is certainly a hard place right now, people are looking for Jewish life and Jewish community… we are seeing more than ever that our community wants to be together.”

Ramah Darom starts on new program center First part of long-term strategic plan for the summer camp and year-round retreat center Ramah Darom has embarked on its biggest construction project in a decade, with a new 10,000 square foot Program Center in the heart of the campus. This is the first major project in the Kadima! campaign for the Conservative movement’s camp in the picturesque north Georgia mountains. The campaign is an outgrowth from the strategic plan adopted in 2020, just before the camp’s 25th anniversary celebration. The Program Center will replace the Beit Am Katan, which was originally constructed for the environmental camp that existed on that property before Ramah Darom was established. It served as the original dining hall until the much larger Levine Center was constructed. Located above the amphitheater, the building will include meeting and event spaces, a music and multipurpose room, Leadership Lounge, a new staff lounge and coffee bar, outdoor programming space, a fitness center and large porches. “The new Program Center will be the perfect addition to our beautiful facility,” said Wendy Heller, Chair of the Ramah Darom Facilities Committee. “This new building sits at the heart of our campus, and we are confident it will quickly become a favorite space for our summer campers and yearround retreat center guests.” The new building is scheduled to open in late 2024. As part of the Kadima campaign, the waterfront is being reworked, with new docks and blob tower, water slides and

additional kayaks and canoes. Future projects include a refresh in the lower roads area, including a new program building and new cabins, additional housing for vocational education and accessible hotel rooms for program guests. A teaching kitchen is also planned. Gesher Village, a new center for the oldest campers, is also in the works, with three new cabins, a new outdoor pavilion, bike trail, Zipline circuit and rock climbing. Gesher Village will be on 45 acres the camp acquired in 2019, across the street from the main campus and overlooking the lake.

New Theatre Program Programming enhancements include Ramah Darom’s new musical theatre camp, which took center stage in 2023 with over a dozen campers in the specialty camp. They put on a production of “Into The Woods” after the two-week session. “It really was a huge success,” said Ramah Darom Director and Head of Education Anna Serviansky. “The campers learned about how Judaism interacts with musical theatre. And the camp is already filling up for 2024. Teens entering eighth and ninth grades are encouraged to apply.” This summer’s performance will be “The Sound of Music: Youth Edition.” Serviansky said this summer, kids will be able to learn about and play pickleball. “We’re updating our tennis courts with new lines to accommodate pickleball, which is the fast-

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


est-growing sport in the nation,” she said. In 1994 a group of enthusiastic supporters gathered in Charlotte, N.C., to launch the creation of a new Southeastern location to join the national family of Ramah summer camps. Since its first summer of camp in 1997, thousands of children have attended Ramah Darom. Thousands of adults and kids have joined Ramah at the Kaplan-Mitchell Retreat Center for year-round programs and retreats. Recent programs included a Winter Break Family Camp with over 300 in attendance, Southern Schmooze Shabbaton for small communities, a regional teen retreat, Book It to Shabbat with PJ Library, and the B’Teavon four-day exploration of Jewish food culture, with several guest chefs from around the country. One of the camp’s longest-running programs, which almost always sells out quickly, is the annual Passover Retreat, where families can head to camp instead of changing over their kitchens. Participants can go for all of Passover, April 21 to May 1, or just the first or second half, with April 26 as the dividing date. The Passover retreat includes communal or family Seders, kosher-for-Passover menus, classes and discussions with visit-


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ing scholars, and camp-style recreational activities. There are counselor-led activities for children. “Ramah Darom inspires a lifelong love of Jewish values, tradition and community by bringing people together for immerse experiences in Jewish living and learning at every stage of life,” said Serviansky.

Levitt stepping down On March 19, Ramah Darom announced that Wally Levitt will be stepping down as CEO at the end of 2024. He has led the camp since 2018. “Making the decision to hand over the reins later this year was not an easy one,” Levitt said. He plans to return to Toronto. Board Chair Angela Cohen said that thanks to his leadership and the camp staff, “2024 is poised to be one of Ramah Darom’s most successful years. We will welcome the largest number of summer campers in a decade, serve more people than ever before at Ramah Darom retreats, complete the first phase of our campus construction with the Program Center” and be in “a place of strong financial health despite the unthinkable challenges of the pandemic and increased operating costs over the past few years.” A search committee is being established for his successor.

On Feb. 2, over 1500 Tulane University students gathered for Chabad of Tulane’s annual Shabbat 1000, the largest Shabbat dinner in the state.

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Memphis’ Bornblum School dedicates a “family” megillah Jewish schools often have a spirit of family. This year, the Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis had a Purim that definitely had family overtones for the head of school, Daniel Weiss. Each year, Weiss helps the eighth grade class decide on its class gift to the school. Last year, his son, Dotan, was in the 2023 class, which decided to donate a megillah case. When it came time to read the megillah this year on Purim, it was with a new scroll — scribed by Weiss’ oldest son, Nadav, in Israel, and delivered to the school by his middle son, Yaron. Nadav attends the Migdal HaTorah Yeshiva in Modiin. During the 2022-23 school year, Nadav had been learning how to do Hebrew calligraphy for scrolls from Tzvi Joffree, a Bornblum alumnus. He had spent the year working on a megillah, and when he was home last summer, “we talked about how cool it would be for him to write one that could be used at Bornblum,” Weiss said. 56

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He worked on it each night while home for the summer. Working backwards from the end, he was still a column from finishing when the summer ended, but before he left for Israel he went to Bornblum to show the students the art of writing sacred texts, writing the first line of the megillah with them watching. He completed the megillah in Israel, then when Yaron and their mother, Jessica, were in the country visiting shortly before Purim, he sent the megillah back to Memphis with them. Yaron was in Bornblum’s class of 2020. The family arrived in Memphis when Nadav was in the ninth grade, so he never got to attend the school, as it runs from Kindergarten through eighth grade, with about 110 students. Nadav said he was attracted to this craft because “writing was something that at first seems easy… (but) the simple thing of writing letters could be so complex and can be used for so many mitzvot, and it is the backbone, everything is

built upon it.” Scribes usually begin by writing the megillah of Esther because the rules are less stringent than for writing a Torah, he said, making it one of the easiest things to write. Mezuzahs and tefillin are the most difficult. Joffree was “there the whole time, helping me along the way” as he learned the skill, Nadav said, and also helped sew the parchment sections together. The scroll took approximately 80 hours of work to complete, and the class of 2023 also helped fund the materials that went into the megillah. Holding the megillah, Weiss told his son during a video call, “your English handwriting is so illegible, it’s unbelievable. And yet you look at this, and you look at the beauty of how you wrote the words in this megillah.” The scroll was presented to the school

Nadav Weiss shows students at Bornblum School how to scribe a megillah

during Kabbalat Shabbat on March 15. “As Head of School and more importantly, as a parent, I take great pride in

the role that each of my sons played in bringing this Megillah to Bornblum,” Weiss reflected.

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April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Stay and shop

New Orleans landmark Rubensteins celebrates a century of fine clothing by opening a boutique hotel One of the oldest continuously-operating menswear stores in America, Rubensteins in New Orleans is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with a legacy of trying new things and adapting to the times. At the 100-year mark, trying new things includes a completely different kind of venture — a boutique hotel, located upstairs from the store. The Rubenstein Hotel has 40 rooms in the upper floors of the six buildings they own. The hotel opened at the beginning of the year, just in time to offer Mardi Gras packages, as the hotel is right on the parade route on Canal Street, with balconies for viewing the festivities. They offer king and double rooms, corner suites and a presidential suite with a loft bedroom and kitchenette. “We are proud to showcase our family’s enduring commitment to downtown and the city of New Orleans,” said second-generation owner David Rubenstein. “Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we are optimistic about the timing of our hotel’s debut and its contribution to tourism in New Orleans.”

A century of change In a room overlooking Canal Street, with family portraits on the wall, third-generation owner Kenny Rubenstein recounts the store’s first 100 years of history. Rubensteins — the clothing store — began in 1924 when Morris Rubenstein used his experience from the family’s dry goods store on Rampart Street, and opened a store selling “white shirts, with collars and cuffs.” Soon, Morris’ brothers,


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Elkin and Sam, joined, and the store became Rubinstein Bros. Rubenstein said that they soon realized that “they had to expand and add product, and see where the niche was.” They sought out high-end items, and played a large role in introducing Italian fashion to the country. Even their American suits were $300 or $400, “and that was a big deal, but it was the finest things made in the U.S.” After expanding their space every two years in the rest of the 1920s, the Great Depression hit, and business fell. They approached the building owner asking for a reduction in rent, and the landlord figured that not only was some rent better than none, but when good times returned, the store would once again be successful. After the Depression, the Rubensteins were able to buy their building and embarked on an expansion, which was promoted in the Times-Picayune on Dec. 7, 1941. Of course, World War II then greatly affected the business. “Everybody was gone,” Rubenstein said. It was “hard to sell men’s product, it was hard to get men’s product.” They added women’s wear, but in 1945 went back to just menswear. After the war, they offered free white shirts to every soldier they knew, along with new charge accounts. That helped the store prosper after the war, and expansion continued, eventually encompassing six buildings along Canal at St. Charles. As more New Orleans young men headed to the northeast for college, they weren’t as interested in shopping where their fathers shopped, so Rubenstein’s opened the Madison Shop around the corner on St. Charles, with a separate entrance. That entrance is now the hotel entrance, and The Madison Bar, a nod to its history. Despite it being separate from their fathers’ store, much of the merchandise was the same. Elkin’s sons, Andre and David, ran the Madison Shop. In the 1970s, as the hippie revolution started, Andre and David launched the All American Jeans division. The family also branched out geographically, for a while. When Lake Forest Plaza opened in East New Orleans in 1974, Rubensteins was one of the original stores. In the 1980s, another location was added, in Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie. Kenny and Mark Rubenstein joined the business in the 1990s, along with Andre and David’s wives, Robbie and Niki. In 2000, David’s children, Hilary and Allison, also joined. Rubenstein said one way to stay on top of the trends, espe-

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cially among the next generation, is to have members of that generation at the table to give their observations and expertise. The late 1990s saw the decline of the Plaza, so the family closed that location, along with the Metairie location, preferring to expand and invest in the downtown location. A ladies’ department was added, and to reflect the broader representation in the family, the name was changed from Rubenstein Bros. back to the original Rubensteins. Decades ago, Rubensteins added valet parking, “trying to make it easy for people to come to the store.” James, the long-time valet, knows regular customers by name. Many of the other employees have been at the store for very long times, building long-term relationships. Rubensteins offers 30-minute complimentary style sessions, where one can define or change their own personal style, with the expertise of the staff, and no obligation to buy. Rubenstein said that the strongest part of their business comes from made-to-measure, something they have always offered. “People want to do something unique, something for themselves.” They recently opened a custom desk for Munro, one of several of the world’s best brands that they work with. Rubensteins was the first retailer in the United States to offer the luxury Italian label Zegna, and the Italian Trade Commission honored Rubensteins for that distinction. In a corridor with historical photos and awards, there is the Order of Merit medal of the Italian Republic given to Rubensteins “for their role in introducing Italian clothing to the USA.”

Biggest challenges Of course, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath “was a mess,” as the flooded city emptied out. The family gathered in Houston and decided that they were going to return, then “sat down and made a plan.” They continued to pay their employees and didn’t lose anyone. Seven weeks later, they were the first retail store on Canal Street to reopen, and they had 40 customers that day. The first customer was Mark Schroeder, a New Orleanian who had been on “The Amazing Race” and was heading to New York that day to be interviewed on “The Early Show” the next morning, and because of the flood, didn’t have anything to wear on national television. Part of the post-Katrina plan was relying on the relationships they had developed over the decades. One example 60

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Rubenstein cited was seeing a clothing line you are pretty sure you won’t be interested in, but you know the salesperson is starting out, and the fact you took the time to look at it is meaningful — and when that salesperson has something you are interested in down the line, the early gesture is remembered. With that sort of philosophy, after Katrina, “they are calling you — ‘what can we do?… Don’t worry about paying anything right now’.” Customers also called, from New Orleans and around the country, saying “they want to help, want to buy.” Those who made it back to New Orleans “were trying to get together and they had no wardrobe left.” While times change and the current trend is much more casual — Rubenstein noted he has seen that trend at Shabbat services — New Orleans is still “a dressy town. We dress in a tuxedo to go to the zoo.” Because of the sheer number of events in New Orleans, everyone has to own a tuxedo, while in most other cities, one can get away with the occasional rental. But even the dressier fashions are becoming more casual — softer, unlined sports coats are an example. “It goes between dressy and casual,” Rubenstein said. While there may be more of the casual dressy look, he added, “the fully dressy look isn’t going to go away any time soon.” Canal Street has also changed with the times, from department stores to the current mix of hotels, gift shops and restaurants in the “gorgeous buildings.” Rubenstein said the area is “definitely in a renaissance,” with far fewer empty storefronts. For buildings that had stores, most of the time upper floors were sitting empty. A combination of tax credits and developer interest has changed that, and many buildings now have short-term rentals upstairs, or other uses. The upper floors at Rubensteins had been used for storage

and executive offices, but over the years had become underutilized, so they started looking for innovative ways to use the space. They partnered with Joe Jaeger of J Collection Hotels and Development. Jaeger said “My family is committed to New Orleans and, as the largest operator of independent hotels in the city, we are always looking for opportunities to introduce projects that embrace the city’s uniqueness and character. Working with the Rubenstein family, who share our love of the city, to bring The Rubenstein Hotel to life was both an honor and a privilege.” A larger-scale project, like the hotel, is more unusual in upper levels of older buildings, but in this case, Rubenstein’s owns six buildings in a row, making it feasible. “Just one building is not enough space,” Rubenstein said, and having several in a row owned by the same individual or group is unique. The location is ideal, not quite in the French Quarter “but close enough… everything from here is walking distance.” Even though the six buildings were side by side, they did

not have the same floor heights, so in planning the hotel they had to do 3D imaging and figure a way to have a cohesive second and third floor throughout the property. A much longer closure than Katrina came with the Covid pandemic in 2020, as the store was closed for three months. Still, loyal customers in town and around the country supported them, and business came back strong after the pandemic. The pandemic also slowed down the hotel, as few people were traveling. Construction had already begun on the first phase in February 2020. As part of the hotel construction, the store itself was remodeled. While about a quarter of the store’s business is from tourists, there’s another 10 to 15 percent who are regulars but do not live in New Orleans. They have a second home, an annual convention or other reason for frequently coming to the city, “and when they do come, they come to shop.” The new hotel will give them a convenient place to stay and shop.

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Southern Jewish Sports Israeli soccer player makes debut with Charlotte Abada left his former team in Scotland over anti-Israel hostility from fans Liel Abada, an Israeli footballer who sat out games for his Scottish club amid fan protests of the war in Gaza, has joined Major League Soccer’s team in Charlotte. The team said on its website on March 7 that it had paid $8 million to acquire Abada’s contract from Glasgow’s Celtic FC. He will be Major League Soccer’s second active Israeli player, joining Tai Baribo of Philadelphia Union. Abada, 22, tallied 29 goals and 22 assists over 112 matches in his two seasons with Celtic; the team won its Scottish League this year and last. Abada is from Petach Tikva, a city east of Tel Aviv, and had 20 goals and 10 assists in 76 matches during his breakout at Maccabi Petach Tikva. He had signed a four-year contract last summer. But the team’s home stadium became inhospitable this fall. Celtic fans have long been vocal supporters of Palestinian rights, which they associate with their own historic struggles against dispossession, famine and racism. Since Oct. 7, that has become the central aesthetic in the home stands, where thousands wave Palestinian flags and — in the first game following the Hamas attacks — unfurled giant banners that read “Free Palestine” and “Victory To The Resistance.” Abada has voiced his displeasure over the displays to the team’s leadership. The club distanced itself from the slogans, but Brendan Rodgers, Celtic’s manager, recently acknowledged that it would be hard for the Israeli to perform in such an environment, and implied a change of scenery might be inevitable. “This is a young guy, 22 years of age, far, far away from home,” Rodgers said in February before a Celtic match. “People can talk about what’s going on there and then they can forget about it. This is the reality for him, this is his life. Every single day, every night, families in a war. So it’s a really, really tough situation for him. On a human level, I have real, real empathy for him.” Abada sat out the team’s previous five games, without saying why beyond “personal reasons.” “Leaving Celtic wasn’t in my plans, yet life’s unpredictable turns remind us that we’re not always in control,” Abada wrote on Instagram on March 7. “The past six months have been a personal challenge, yet the overwhelming support from the gaffer (manager), coaches, and board has been my rock. Their unwavering faith during these times won’t be forgotten, but cherished forever.” He also paid tribute to the “incredible Israeli community in Glasgow” and thanked the Celtic fans “that stood by me.” 62

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Avi Luzon, chief of Maccabi Petah Tikvah, told London’s Jewish Chronicle that Abada had no choice but to leave because of the indignation of fans “on the street towards him… Liel felt unwelcome where he was — there were hostile looks and it’s not nice to feel that.” Abada, a 5-foot-6 forward, will make $200,000 a year in Charlotte, which is 2-2-2 this season as of March 31. He is expected to eventually join the starting lineup. “Liel has been one of the most exciting young wingers in Europe and we’re delighted to welcome him to Charlotte,” Zoran Krneta, the team’s general manager, said in a news release. “He’s an elite goal scorer and chance creator who is a proven winner who is determined to bring trophies home to the club and our supporters.” Abada could form a first-choice front three in Charlotte alongside Copetti and winger Kerwin Vargas. He joins midfielder Djibril Diani and winger Iuri Tavares, among others, as key additions for 2024. “To bring a player of his caliber to Major League Soccer speaks to the strength of the league, but also that Charlotte FC is an attractive destination for top foreign talent,” Krneta said. “He’s a player that I know well coming from the UK,” Charlotte Head Coach Dean Smith said in a media availability. “I know he’s been playing in Scotland, but there’s not many English people who don’t know about Celtics and Rangers players because they’re always in the news and they’re on the TV a lot. “They’re both two big clubs and to get a player of his caliber and the consistency he’s had in the last couple of seasons with Celtic is a big coup for ourselves, I believe.” Charlotte, now in their third season, made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs last year as the Eastern Conference’s No. 9 seed. Abada is under contract through the 2026 MLS season, with an option for 2027. Charlotte FC is owned by David Tepper, who is Jewish and also owns the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. He made his Charlotte debut on March 30 against FC Cincinnati, being substituted in at the 61st minute. He had two shots on goal but did not connect in the 1-1 draw. “I want to first say thank you to the people of Charlotte for the support I got,” said Abada. “I’ve gotten so much support and respect from them. I need to return the favor on the pitch.” By Louis Keene of The Forward and SJL reports. Louis Keene is a staff reporter at the Forward covering religion, sports and the West Coast. He can be followed on Twitter @thislouis.

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Such Mazel! Auburn wins historic battle of Jewish coaches in SEC tournament championship The Southeastern Conference men’s basketball championship game turned into the Jewish coaches invitational. Fourth-seeded Auburn, coached by Bruce Pearl, defeated sixth-seed Florida, which is coached by Pearl’s former assistant, Todd Golden, 86-67, in Nashville on March 17. The unprecedented head-to-head matchup of Jewish coaches with an SEC title on the line was part of a day that saw four Jewish coaches reach championship games. Duquesne, coached by Keith Dambrot, won the Atlantic 10 championship over Virginia Commonwealth, 57-51; while Temple, led by Adam Fisher, lost to UAB in the American championship. There were 12 Jewish head coaches among the 361 Division I programs, Dambrot recently announced his retirement. This is Pearl’s second SEC tournament championship. Auburn also won it in 2019, then became the first team from the state of Alabama to reach the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. He has also won three regular season SEC championships, two at Auburn and one at Tennessee. With Auburn pulling away in the waning moments of the game, Pearl was seen with tears in his eyes with two minutes remaining. He said after the game that he was thinking about his father, who died in August. “He held me to a high standard, and I hold my players to a high standard,” he said. During the game, Pearl and a couple other coaches sported pins with the U.S. and Israel flags. Pearl has been outspoken in defending Israel, including battling on social media even during the season. He routinely speaks about Israel at synagogues and churches throughout the region, and is involved in several Israel-related non-profits. Earlier this season, Auburn Hillel joined Athletes for Israel and members of the Auburn basketball and baseball teams to make gift bags for soldiers and families in Israel. In 2022, he took his Auburn team on what he called Birthright for Basketball, a summer trip to Israel where they played three Israeli teams, including the national team, in the first such visit to Israel by a Power 5 program. Pearl developed the trip with the hopes that other universities would follow, and this past summer Arizona and Kansas State made a similar trip, adding games in the United Arab Emirates to make it an Abraham Accords program. Golden grew up minutes from the Jewish Community Center in Phoenix, Ariz., and went there every day after school. Golden, who has a U.S.-Israel dual citizenship, played for 64

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Maccabi Haifa from 2008 to 2010, after graduating from St. Mary’s. “Being in Israel was a life-changing experience for me,” said Golden. “I learned so much there and it really helped me as I transitioned into coaching. I still have a lot of good friends there and thank goodness they have been safe” during the current conflict. Pearl and Golden first crossed paths in 2009, when Pearl coached the U.S. basketball team at the World Maccabiah Games, held every four years in Israel. It was the first time the U.S. took the gold medal, and Golden was on the team, along with Pearl’s son, Steven, who is currently associate head coach at Auburn. Golden was an assistant coach for Pearl at Auburn from 2014 to 2016, and credits the Auburn coach as being a mentor. “I owe so much to him for all he did for me. He has really helped in my acclimation process to the SEC. Bruce is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and his work ethic is something that I emulate.” When he was hired at Florida in 2022 after being head coach at San Francisco, he said of his former boss “It will be a unique experience to compete against him.” The University of Florida is said to have the largest population of Jewish students of any public university in the country, with about 6,500 Jewish undergraduates and around 9,500 overall. Golden said he has great relationships with the students and Chabad House. “I want them to know I’m there for them,” said Golden. Pearl was founding president of the Jewish Coaches Association, which has a gathering every year at the Final Four. He hoped to be too busy this year, as he told the team upon arriving in Nashville that their goal was nine straight wins — three to win the SEC and six to win the NCAA. Auburn was a four seed in the NCAA tournament, but got bounced by Yale in a first round upset on March 22 in Spokane, Wash. A victory would have meant a second-round match on Purim, for the head coach whose Hebrew name is Mordecai. Florida was a seven seed, losing to 10th-seeded Colorado on March 22 in Indianapolis.

“The Bermanator” misses tournaments with season-ending injury The Bermanator was on a roll, then his season ended early. Lior Berman, a 6-foot-4 guard for the Auburn University basketball team, suffered an ACL injury during the March 2 game against Mississippi State. At first, the fear was that he had completely torn his ACL, but additional tests showed it was not a complete ligament tear. Berman, from Mountain Brook, had been averaging over 10 minutes per game recently off the bench. “He meant a lot to our program over the last five years, both on and off the court,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said on March 5. “So disappointed for Lior… He’s such a great example of when you don’t always get what you deserve, stay with it. I probably should’ve been playing him more, sooner, almost every year that he’s been in the program. Photo courtesy Auburn athletics Pearl said it is hard to understand why the injury Lior Berman in Auburn’s March 2023 game against Tennessee. occurred. “To miss March, he’s worked so hard to put games at home in Birmingham, including a highlight-reel himself in this position. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to reverse layup in a win against Iowa on his 22nd birthday. recover.” After his junior year, the Auburn basketball team made a Two days later, when the extent of the injury turned out to historic trip to Israel, becoming the first Power 5 program to not be as severe, Pearl added that Berman was “playing 10 to do so. When the team arrived, Berman was already in Israel, 15 minutes behind Chad Baker-Mazara and doing a really, having just finished a gold medal run in the World Maccabireally good job. It was a tough injury.” Berman will undergo rehabilitation for three or four weeks, ah Games, the fourth in a row for Team USA — a streak that began in 2009 when the team was coached by Pearl. Pearl said. “I don’t anticipate him being back this year. It deIn the Maccabiah championship game, Berman had 11 pends how far we go” in the NCAA tournament. Instead of a points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals against France. In an earlier six month recovery, it will be four to six weeks, enabling Bergame against France, he had 21 points, including 3 3-pointman to do professional tryouts. Pearl said Berman is looking ers, and 6 rebounds. He also scored 16 against Israel and 13 to play professionally in Israel, if not the NBA. against Argentina. Berman played his high school ball at Mountain Brook, a This year at Auburn, he averaged 6.4 minutes, 1.7 points Birmingham suburb, which won the state championship three and 1.1 rebounds per game. In his final three games, against times. He had offers from Division II and Division III schools, Georgia, No. 4 Tennessee and Mississippi State, he averaged but after a two-hour recruitment visit at Auburn, Pearl offered 11 minutes, 4.8 points and 1.3 rebounds, shooting .750 from him a spot as a walk-on. Pearl wanted to give Berman a scholarship, but Auburn was the field. He was first-year SEC Academic Honor Roll his freshman dealing with the fallout of the 2017 Chuck Person bribery year, and then was on the SEC Academic Honor Roll the next scandal that drew the attention of the FBI. The loss of a scholthree years. arship was part of the NCAA penalties. Pearl said Berman “does it the right way on and off the Last year, after Berman’s fourth year with the program, that spot became available again, and without fanfare, Pearl shifted court. He is going to be incredibly successful in life because he’s incredibly successful in everything that he does. He’s great Berman to scholarship status for his fifth year of eligibility. for all the guys to kind of learn from. Just be like Lior. At the Though Berman likely could have had more playing time same time, if you’re not being like Lior, you recognize that elsewhere, there were unforgettable experiences along the you’re going to have challenges on and off the court.” way, including being a Jewish player playing for a Jewish Berman said “I want to give thanks to my coaches, staff, adcoach in the Power 5 level. ministration, teammates and the Auburn Family. I have loved He also was able to experience two NCAA tournament every second here and wouldn’t trade it for anything.” April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Southern Jewish Arts

Art Restoration Painting that spent 50 years at N.C. museum returned to family 80 years after Nazi seizure In recent years, there has been an effort to reclaim works of art that the Nazis had stolen during the Holocaust to their rightful owners. On Jan. 16, a ceremony was held at the University of North Carolina to return a work that had been at the Ackland Art Museum for over 50 years to the original owner’s heirs. “The Studio of Thomas Couture” had been owned by the renowned Jewish art collector Armand Isaac Dorville, a Paris lawyer. His collection included over 450 works, including Delacroix, Rodin, Renoir, Manet, Degas, Bonnard, Vuillard and Signac. The family has been able to track down about 20 thus far, through the efforts of art historian Eleonore Delabre. This is the first work that has been reclaimed by the family in the United States. When Germany occupied Paris, Dorville and his family fled south to his chateau in Cubjac, where he died in July 1941. Since he did not have children, he designated his three siblings and four nieces to inherit the collection. In 1942 they were forced to sell the collection at auction to raise money for the family to flee. According to the museum, policies of Nazi Germany and Vichy France meant that Dorville’s heirs did not receive compensation for the sale, and Dorville’s sister, along with her two daughters and two 66

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granddaughters, were deported to Auschwitz and murdered. The painting is of a session in Couture’s studio where students paint a standing male nude model, surrounded by examples of Couture’s paintings. Edouard Manet is among those who studied under Couture. The painting was likely done around 1854 by one of Couture’s students. Ackland Curator Dana Cowen spoke about the effect the piece had on five decades of students at UNC. “Since the subject matter has to do with students learning from their teacher, it has been featured in exhibitions with that in mind,” Cowen said. “In that way, it has helped students understand the process of how artists worked in 19th century Paris.” Art dealer Roger Louis Adolphe Dequoy purchased the painting at the M. Terris auction house in Nice, but its whereabouts between 1942 and 1972 are still unknown. The museum purchased the painting in 1972, “during an era in which provenance research was not yet considered essential.” It appeared in six exhibitions and has been published numerous times. In 2022, a French lawyer working for Dorville’s heirs contacted the Ackland about the painting, and “it became clear that the painting had been sold under duress during World War II.”

Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill

Raphaël Falk shakes hands with Ackland Art Museum Director Katie Ziglar during the Jan. 16 ceremony. Falk traveled from France to acquire the painting.

In a release, the museum noted that “restitution of this painting was not a difficult decision.” Because Dorville’s heirs were under duress due to antisemitic laws, they could not protest the auction, nor could they benefit from its proceeds. The remainder of Dorville’s Paris property was seized by the Nazis in 1943. “Though we are sad to see this painting leave the collection, the Ackland recognizes the historical injustice suffered by the Dorville family and its heirs by the crimes committed during the Nazi era,” Cowen said. “Through the restitution of this work, we express our continued commitment to rectifying such injustices of the past.” Raphaël Falk, Dorville’s great-nephew and an heir to his estate, came over from France to represent the family at the ceremony, and Delabre also attended the ceremony. At the ceremony, Falk said “By restoring this work, you are not only paying tribute to Armand Isaac Dorville, but also contributing to the preservation of truth and human dignity. You are giving a voice to those who have been silenced,

and helping to shed light on the dark pages of our collective history.” “This restitution is very special because we actually have an heir here, along with an art historian who did essential research on the provenance of the painting,” Museum Director Katie Ziglar said. “That’s not always the case, and they could have just requested that we pack up the piece and send it their way. But it’s so special that these two took the time, energy and effort to be with us for this transition.” “I think he would be glad to see us thinking about him,” Falk said of his great-uncle. “We’re still trying to do our best to get his whole collection back together. It’s going to be very difficult, but we’re just beginning, and we will pass on this task to our children.” Ziglar said “The painting will never leave us entirely. It will always be part of our legacy and that of so many people who are UNC graduates. At the same time, it’s wonderful to know that it is going back to France and will be part of the initiative to bring Dorville’s collection back together again.”

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Growing Up Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience launches expansion campaign, emphasizing family research Just three years after opening, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans is expanding. The museum recently acquired space on the third floor of its Howard Avenue building, where it currently occupies much of the first two floors. The new space is being transformed into the Southern Jewish Family Research Center, and an expansion campaign is being launched. The expansion will add 2,500 square feet to the museum, to house their growing archive, add a reference library and reading room, and a studio for conducting oral histories and presenting virtual programming. According to Museum Executive Director Kenneth Hoffman, visitors have related hundreds of stories about Southern Jewish history, from Jews and non-Jews. The new space will be a place to keep those stories alive, as well as research family connections throughout the region. Naming rights are available for the overall center, and for five rooms in the expansion: The conservation and digitization room, archives, oral history studio, reference library and reading room, and the special exhibition gallery. There are also dedication opportunities for items such as reading room tables, bookcases, shelves, and packages of bookplates. The reference library will be a repository for materials 68

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donated to the research collection, including published works, reference materials, individual family genealogies and community histories. The archive will make important materials accessible to researchers and the public. The conservation room will be where museum staff will conserve, catalogue, digitize and prepare archival material for exhibition and online accessibility. The oral history studio will be for preserving interviews, and also serve as a distance learning studio to videoconference with classrooms all over the country. Construction has already begun, with a goal of having the new space available by the end of the year. The museum was first established in 1986 at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Miss. It expanded into the Goldring/ Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in 2000, which provides Judaic services to Jewish communities in a 13-state region. The museum closed in 2012 as the camp needed the space, and the museum was largely inaccessible for larger levels of tourism. It was spun off by the Institute into a separate entity, and New Orleans was eventually selected as the new home. In 2019, the museum’s collection made its way from Mississippi to New Orleans, and the museum opened in 2021 after a Covid delay.

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monthly artifact From the collection of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans

The museum’s oldest item The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans is now displaying the oldest artifact in its collection: a silver kiddush cup made in the year 1677. The cup was recently donated to the museum by members of the Fraenkel family, in honor of Albert Fraenkel II, who died in 2023, and his brother Francis “Shorty” Fraenkel. Albert had been the eighth-generation keeper of the family heirloom. While many kiddush cups are ornately adorned with grape or other Jewish motifs, the Fraenkel cup is a simple cylindrical beaker with a tapered form, embellished with simple bands and hammered dimples. It stands a modest 3.5 inches high and holds approximately four ounces. Albert Fraenkel’s great-grandfather, Felix Fraenkel, the fifth generation to own the cup, brought it with him when he immigrated to New Orleans as a teenager from Rothbach, France, around 1852. Many Alsatian Jews immigrated to Louisiana in the mid1800s, seeking economic opportunity and an escape from antisemitic laws that had existed throughout Europe for centuries. Albert and his brother Francis grew up in New Orleans. Albert, an avid researcher into his family’s genealogy, traced the generations of his family back more than 350 years in Alsace, France, and even traveled there to meet newly-discovered relatives. Albert’s son Jeffrey Fraenkel, owner of the internationally-recognized Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, points out that one of the silversmith’s marks on the bottom of the cup is the symbol of the city of Basel, Switzerland. “I took the cup to Basel a few years ago and showed it to a silver dealer, who was really impressed,” said Jeffrey. “It amazes me that the cup originated there and, through the Fraenkel family, somehow found its way back to Basel some 340 years later.” The museum’s 5,000-piece collection of Southern Jewish items includes many artifacts that immigrants brought with them from the “old country.” Most of these date to the mid-to-late 19th century and the early 20th century, according to Kenneth Hoffman, the museum’s executive director. “That an immigrant took pains to pack a religious item like this kiddush cup for a trip into the unknown, tells us a lot about the importance of tradition, religion, and community,” said Hoffman. “We are grateful to the Fraenkel family for this most meaningful donation.” The Fraenkel kiddush cup is currently on display in the museum’s “From Immigrants to Southerners” gallery. 70

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Atlanta Opera performing for Holocaust remembrance The Atlanta Opera and community partner The Temple will present “Identity & Conflict,” a concert and panel discussion leading up to Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. The evening features a performance of “Another Sunrise” for soprano and chamber ensemble by Jake Heggie, composer, and Gene Scheer, librettist. Esther Tonea is the soloist. Tonea is a frequent collaborator with Heggie, and is a 2022 winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition. “Another Sunrise” is a 30-minute work based on the life of Krystyna Zywulska during the Nazi occupation of Poland. With her mother, Zywulska walked out of the Warsaw ghetto in broad daylight in 1942 and joined the Polish resistance. While effectively denying her Jewish identity, she was captured and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she continued her resistance efforts. Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer set the work in the 1960s when Zywulska is reflecting on her lost identity and struggling to define her future. The performance will be followed by a community discussion on the topic of identity, personal choices and social pressures — both historical and current. Radio host Lois Reitzes moderates, and panel members include Scheer, Rabbi Peter Berg, and Atlanta Opera General and Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun. The community conversation will explore the impact influential individuals and artists have on society, both positive and negative. A focus will be on Richard Wagner, an antisemitic composer whose works were immensely popular among Nazi leaders, and are effectively banned in Israel. The Holocaust remembrance program is during the Atlanta Opera’s mainstage performances of Wagner’s “Die Walkure.” “This year’s commemoration of Yom HaShoah is particularly poignant in the face of rising antisemitism, a hatred that has always brewed under the surface of society through the ages and has now bubbled over in the wake of the October 7th attack,” said Cantor Tracey Scher of The Temple, the Opera’s partner in this production. “This shared event will help us understand through the lens of a one-act opera and conversation, the stark reminder that the Holocaust is not a distant memory and the enormous impact that hatred has on marginalized societies.” In addition to The Temple, other community partners in presenting this event include The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and The Breman Museum. Tickets are $25, $18 for members of The Temple, and are available through The Temple’s website.

How a Jewish museum in Florida landed the Elie Wiesel collection

Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock

The Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.

agreement with the foundation, the nearby St. Petersburg campus of the University of South Florida will house Wiesel (Jewish Press of Tampa Bay) — For about a year, officials at documents for access by the public and researchers, anchorthe Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Petersburg ing a new Elie Wiesel Center for Humanitarian Ethics. kept a closely guarded secret that the museum was seeking to Wiesel “remains a world icon. He was perhaps the greatest become the permanent home of a treasure trove of documents communicator we’ve ever had advocating for the importance from the late Elie Wiesel. of the lessons of the Holocaust,” said Igel. “He believed that On Feb. 3, at its annual “To Life” fundraising gala — the honoring the victims of the Holocaust must be an active museum’s biggest annual social event — museum board chair undertaking, not just a history lesson, and that concept is Mike Igel let the secret out, telling the audience the Wiesel integral to the museum’s core mission. It’s the main reason the Foundation had chosen the museum to house and exhibit a museum exists.” collection of Wiesel’s memorabilia, including his 1986 Nobel Wiesel, who barely survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Peace Prize, documents, manuscripts, letters, photographs, wrote in his most famous book, “Night,” of seeing his mother works of art and recordings. and sister directed to Auschwitz gas chambers, where they During a visit to FHM last year by Wiesel’s son, Elisha, Igel perished. It also tells of how he and his father and so many learned the family and the Wiesel Foundation were looking others struggled to survive in the death camps, and of how he for an institution that would do more than just house and watched his emaciated father die days before the camp was display Wiesel’s collection. liberated. “They wanted an organization that would use the collection “His life’s work was helping all of us, in every generation, to passionately, actively and dynamically continue professor realize that we have a collective moral responsibility not just Wiesel’s legacy, using it to create more ‘Upstanders’ and spread to look evil in the face but to fight it. As he so eloquently his message far beyond the museum’s four walls,” Igel said. stated, ‘Human suffering anywhere should concern people “Thankfully, our proposal was built around that very theme: not everywhere’,” Igel said. just education, but action. It’s what we are as an institution.” Wiesel died in 2016 at the age of 87. The museum will create a permanent exhibit honoring Wiesel and displaying items in the collection, including re-creatThe museum’s pitch ing Wiesel’s office. Igel said about a year ago a letter from the Wiesel FoundaThe museum will also create an international traveling tion arrived at the museum, inviting the museum to submit a exhibit from materials in the collection and, as part of the proposal on how it would handle the collection of materials. By Bob Fryer

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“We wondered if we should give it a shot,” he said, and ultimately, the board decided to do so. After a few rounds of conversations with the foundation, it was clear there were several other applicants vying for the collection, though Igel said they never found out who those entities were. At each turn, after FHM received feedback from the foundation, museum officials revised plans. Eventually, FHM submitted renderings of how the Wiesel collection would become a centerpiece of the museum, making it part of signage on the renovated building and how the exhibit will be the first thing visitors encounter when they enter. The museum learned that Wiesel’s wife, Marion, 93, was delighted by the renderings, and Igel has no doubt that helped push the foundation board to offer the collection to FHM. Another factor that may have tipped the scale in FHM’s favor, he said, is its commitment to tell the story of Wiesel not just as the world-famous man who had the audience of world leaders, but also of him as a husband, father and grandfather. Re-creating his office, “where the magic happened,” and telling “a full life story” will be part of the exhibit’s aim, Igel said. While FHM does not know what other institutions were vying for the collection, Igel noted that Wiesel’s longtime connection to St. Petersburg was yet another factor helping the museum’s bid. Wiesel was a visiting professor each winter at Eckerd College for nearly 30 years, and he got to know members of the local Jewish community, including at the museum, where he cut the ribbon when FHM moved to its current home in 1998. He also received the museum’s highest honor, the Loebenberg Humanitarian Award, in 2012.

Will incorporate most, but not all, materials Landing the collection is a huge accomplishment for the Florida Holocaust Museum and its future, Igel said. Wiesel is likely to draw visitors from all over the world to learn more about perhaps the most famous Holocaust survivor. However, it will not be the only institution with a Wiesel collection. There is already one at Boston University, where Wiesel was a longtime professor; those materials will remain there, including correspondence between Wiesel and world figures. An initial announcement by FHM said it was receiving the “entire” Wiesel collection, but Elisha Wiesel noted in his video address to the “To Life” gala audience that FHM would receive “everything [his father] kept closest to him that did not end up in the archives at Boston University.” He said FHM and the foundation would soon enter into a contract “that will license a lifetime’s work of my father’s ar72

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chival papers, manuscripts, correspondence recordings [and], library…” While Boston University does have some significant documents in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and has previously hosted an exhibition of his papers, all of its items are kept at its archival research center and are not on public display for passersby. Researchers or members of the public can make appointments to view materials in the center’s reading room, said Johanna Kaiser, communications director for the center. The university also houses the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, but the center also does not have a museum-like display. For now, nobody knows precisely what the Holocaust museum will receive because there are trunks of materials that have not been opened in years. In the coming weeks, museum officials will travel to New York to catalog all of the materials in the collection. Just cataloging is expected to take several months.

A boxcar, a boat and Elie Before the museum learned that it had been awarded the Wiesel collection, FHM officials were already reconfiguring the building to accommodate their second signature exhibit—Thor, a 10-ton Danish fishing vessel that was used 80 years ago to help ferry Danish Jews under threat of extermination by Nazis to the safe-haven of Sweden. The museum is in the process of preserving the boat and prepping it for display. It will symbolize the goodness of humanity, of non-Jews who risked their lives to help rescue the Jews. It will be displayed next to the museum’s original signature exhibit, a railroad boxcar believed to have transported Jews to death camps — a symbol of the worst of humanity. With no certainty that the museum would be awarded the Wiesel collection, Igel said from the start, sketches of the new layout of exhibit space with the boxcar and Thor also included space that they hoped would become a permanent Wiesel exhibit. “It was like we were willing it to happen,” he said. Last fall, amid the gloomy news of the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 and the ensuing war in the Gaza Strip, Igel said he got the call on Oct. 18 (his father’s birthday) that the museum would get the collection. Igel said it was hard to contain his excitement when he called his wife to let her know, “We won!” It is expected to take about a year and a half before the Wiesel exhibit is complete, but Igel hopes to have at least part of it, including his Nobel Peace Prize, on display as soon as possible, with more being phased in. Thor should be moved into the museum this fall. This story originally appeared in the Jewish Press of Tampa Bay.

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Southern Jewish Cuisine Righteous Road in good spirits for Passover By Lee J. Green Putting his Judaism into his product creations has led to high spirits for St. Louis entrepreneur David Hermelin. He founded Righteous Road in 2018, and his kosher craft spirits company now ships to over 40 states, while also being in stores across Missouri, New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Illinois and Maryland. “In 2014, the craft bourbon market really started to soar,” said Hermelin. “I thought about the creativity in craft bourbons and how that might translate into creating unique spirit brands that partnered with Jewish themes.” “The kosher market (for craft liquors) was also underserved,” he said. “It seemed that there was an opportunity to do something innovative and but also spiritually meaningful.” Hermelin concocted the idea of branding his first product Righteous Seven. This premium liqueur is a blend made from all seven fruits and grains (the seven species) that praise the Land of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy as “a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates (honey).” Since its launch, Righteous Seven has won multiple Double Gold Medals. As part of his previous career in the pharmaceuticals industry, one of Hermelin’s jobs was to research and come up with new product ideas that had some kind of competitive advantage. “If I was going to try and compete in the craft spirits market, I knew I needed to develop concepts that weren’t already being done,” he said. After coming up with the idea for his company, Righteous Road Craft Spirits, he began collaborating with a distiller in Kansas City to research and develop Righteous Seven. Once the product was refined with the right combination of the seven species and ready to launch, he found a distiller in the St. Louis area to manufacture and bottle the product. “Winning the Double Gold Medals at 74

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some of the national craft liquor competitions really inspired confidence that we had something to really build off of,” said Hermelin. Righteous Road now manufactures five different kosher craft liquors. In 2021, the company launched The Fifth Cup Liqueur. It contains no wheat or grains, and is kosher for Passover. “It has dates, figs, apricots, almonds and pistachios,” he said. “Historically there was a custom of drinking a fifth cup on Passover night after the four cups of wine. I thought it was a fitting and unique name for a brand that could be enjoyed on Passover.” Hermelin grew up Conservative and has “grown in his level of observance” as an adult. He lived in Israel for a few years in the 1990s, studied at a Yeshiva, and has a couple of brothers who currently live in Israel with their families. “I came up with the name Righteous Road because to me, the road of life should be traveled righteously. A person that aspires towards a meaningful path guided by the Creator,” he said. “It’s about bringing goodness to the world while also defending the principles of moral virtue in the face of challenge and depravity.” Hermelin said that while Righteous Road is a Jewish-owned company that makes kosher products, he has seen increased business from outside of the Jewish community. “The market in the Jewish world is a perfect fit, but you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Righteous Road,” he said. “America is founded on Judeo-Christian principles and our products resonate with that historical connection as well as the love for the land and country of Israel… and really, it’s also about having products that taste good!” Hermelin said he is continually thinking of new products, including the development of a Righteous Road bourbon whiskey and other special release bourbons that are finished in Righteous Road liqueur barrels. “We’re building off of our core and trying to come up with ideas that fit with our brand, but also lead us into some new directions,” he said.

From the back page of this magazine to under your drink on the coffee table Makes a decent afikomen prize “He periodically spells my name right.” – Moses “Yes, we gave him a graduate degree. We’re looking into it.” – chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary “Half of the things he says I said, I never said. Including this.” – his mother “He knows more about Judaica than most, and you won’t find any of it in this book.” – his fourth-grade teacher “His translation skills are second to none, and it’s a very close second.” – his Hebrew professor “I’ll deal with him.” – The Almighty Big G

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Available Through Or Order on Amazon April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Southern Jewish Books In case of Rapture… who takes care of their dogs? An unusual request from a small town in Mississippi leads to a “fun” novel by Rabbi Jonathan Miller When Rabbi Jonathan Miller was still rabbi at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, he got an unusual phone call that led him to say “I’m going to write a novel about this when I retire.” That novel is now complete — “Take My Dog: A Southern Detour Through the Apocalypse.” Now, what is a rabbi doing writing about the Christian view of the End of Days? The phone call came in 2016 from a Christian living in a small town near Meridian, over two hours from Birmingham. The caller was taking classes at his church about the Rapture, when faithful Christians are swept up into heaven before the War of Armageddon takes place on Earth. When he disappeared, what would happen to his dog, he worried. He didn’t want to entrust the dog to an atheist, so he figured he needed to find someone Jewish, thus the call to Miller. Miller reassured the caller that he would be honored to do so. In the novel, the call comes in to Rabbi Tuvya Greenblatt, a mediocre rabbi who can’t get out of his own way. His series of congregational stops has placed him in fictional Cumberland, Ala., where he has to deal with a somewhat indifferent congregation and a “vindictive” congregational president who is working feverishly to get rid of Greenblatt. Through that phone call, Greenblatt’s story intersects with unusual events in Brookhill, Miss., where the very Christian small town near Meridian goes through a theological crisis as many members of the two main churches are attracted to a teen, A.J. Pierson, with odd visions and prophecies. Some follow him as a prophet while others deride him as troubled, but it sets in motion a series of inexplicable events that end up with dozens of dogs suddenly being delivered to the synagogue in Alabama, in the middle of Rosh Hashanah services. Even so, Greenblatt’s moment in the sun soon comes back to bite him. Miller cautions readers — especially back in Birmingham — not to try and connect characters and events to reality. “With the exception of the phone call, everything is from my imagination.” The book’s Temple Sim Shalom does not reflect Temple Emanu-El, nor does Greenblatt’s dysfunctional family have any parallel to his own. While he uses thinly-disguised euphemisms for some public figures and place names, on occasion he will mention the real things, such as naming the actual Birmingham television stations when referencing news coverage of an event in the book. Aside from the phone call, “nothing in here is based on 76

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truth,” he said. “Humor, and this is my attempt at it, is an exaggeration of things that are true.” “It’s meant to be a fun read,” he said. Unlike his decades of sermons, “nobody is meant to learn lessons about life, or Torah.” But he does hope that people come away with an appreciation for the challenges rabbis and ministers have in guiding their communities, and they have many of the same issues everyone else deals with. The book is certainly meant for both Christian readers and Jewish readers. At one point, Miller went to a Sunday school class at South Highland Presbyterian Church, which is across the intersection from Emanu-El, and read excerpts, “and they roared.”

While Southern readers will find familiar elements, Miller also regards the novel as a glimpse into Southern culture for his colleagues who have never served in the region. Miller arrived in Birmingham from Los Angeles in January 1991 with the idea that he was coming for five years. “They were extended,” he explained. “We liked it.” He retired from Emanu-El in 2017. Noting that he has always loved to write, he has kept himself busy with a free Substack, doing “little essays, typically 1,000 words, just observations about life.” He had already written a book in 2016, “Legacy: A Rabbi and a Community Remember Their Loved Ones,” a collection of eulogies he had delivered during his time at Emani-El. It is hard to write about Southern culture without referencing college football. “There’s always football,” Miller said, and perhaps surprising for a rabbi from Birmingham, though the Alabama Crimson Tide gets some play in the story, “Take My Dog” actually highlights Mississippi State football culture, cowbells and all. Miller said that the late Mike Slive, a con-

gregant who was commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, took him to a couple games at Mississippi State, located just up the road from Meridian — and probably near where Brookhill would be. “I love the small-town Mississippi culture,” Miller said. The story itself went through “many iterations,” and “so many people encouraged me along the way,” he said. Friends who are Christian clergy added their input. Scott Stantis, long-time editorial cartoonist at the Birmingham News, did the cover illustration. The book is also an exploration of how every community has secrets — the book opens with a lynching in the Mississippi town early in the 20th century — and how those debts must eventually be paid. Miller returned to Birmingham for a visit during the High Holidays this past fall. “While I’m happily retired in Washington, I miss the people I’ve cared for in Birmingham, and who care for me.”

“Sophia’s Gift” looks at doll collecting, Jews in the South during the Civil War By Lee J. Green A new children’s book from an award-winning author offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Jews in the South during the Civil War. “Sophia’s Gift,” the latest book from former Fairhope resident and award-winning author Karen Kurtz, illuminates a friendship between a wounded Confederate soldier and a Jewish mother and her daughter that nurture him back to health. The book is based on the true story of the soldier’s friendship with Sophia Strauss and her mother, Caroline, in Culpeper, Va., in 1862. When the soldier is well enough to travel, he gives Sophia a china doll, which she names Grace Darling after the British Victorian icon, Grace Horsley Darling. “I had been writing for doll-collecting magazines,” said Kurtz. “While I was doing some research, I just came upon a fascinating story I thought really needed to be told. There are very few books, especially for children, focusing on Jews in the Confederate states.” Kurtz said she began reading stories about dolls during the Civil War and the role that some played in helping slave fami-

lies gain freedom through the underground railroad. “There is some important history that deserves to be preserved,” she said, adding that Sophia’s doll lives on today at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Va. Jewish merchants were among the first to settle in Culpeper, which is about 80 miles northwest of Richmond. The town was hit hard during the Civil War, with 160 battles fought there. Kurtz was born in Iowa and earned a master’s degree from Indiana University. She is a former elementary school teacher, college administrator, editor, publisher and consultant. She and her husband, Mark, a photographer, lived for years in Goshen. “We had some friends who lived in Gulf Shores. On our visit, we went to Fairhope and fell in love with the community. We moved down there and lived there for 20 years before moving back to Goshen a couple of years ago,” said Kurtz. Following the success of the book, Kurtz said she plans to write a book about how children learned to sew before the invention of the sewing machine.

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Southern Jewish Purim Haman’s Last Hoedown

Temple of Israel in Wilmington, N.C., saw “Haman’s Last Hoedown at the Shushan Saloon” for their Purim celebration. The country-western Purim Shpiel was written by congregants Linda Liss-Bronstein and Myrna Cohen with lyrics by Temple member Eileen Rothberg, including parodies of “The Gambler,” “Jolene,” “Friends in Low Places” and more. Local singer Scott Gales performed following the play. Above, cast members Rabbi Emily Losen-Ostrov, Dahlya Shook, Ron Rothberg, Linda Liss-Bronstein, Sam Brody, Eileen Rothberg, Michael Grissom, Myrna Cronen and Sharon Levy with the Social Committee Chairperson Robi Lorio. Not pictured are Ruben Ostrov and photographer Andy Bronstein. Top left, The Good Ole Boys, King Oshibaby, Haman and Narrator: Ron Rothberg, Andy Bronstein, Ruben Ostrov, Michael Grissom and Myrna Cronen. Photo by Alan Potash. Middle, Vashti is sent off: Eileen Rothberg, Dahlya Shook and Sam Brody. Bottom, Queen Esther leads the line dancers: Dancers Dahlya Shook, Betty Rosen, Sharon Levy, Myrna Cronen in back and Harriet Eisen. Bottom two photos by Ron Rothberg.

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April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional

Mickve Israel in Savannah had a Saturday night Purim masquerade that included the Club One Drag Show, and a diva Purim shpiel with Cher, Madonna, Willie Nelson, Elvis, A Blues Brother and Elton John.

Purim Across The South

Purim Barbie Spiel from Temple Shalom in Fayetteville, Ark.

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Purim in Israel at Chabad of Memphis. Photos by Eli Ostrow.


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Photos by Karson Photography

As part of its year-long 275th anniversary celebration, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, S.C., held a community-wide Purim Family Fun Day, with kosher food, games, rides, activities and a petting zoo, which included a baby kangaroo (below). Rabbi Stephanie Alexander was “Rabbi Barbie.”

Temple Emanuel, Greensboro, N.C.

The Tenenboims of Chabad Emerald Coast in Destin, where they had a Purim in Israel celebration. April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Congregation Micah in Nashville

Dor Tikvah in Charleston, S.C.


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Margolin Hebrew Academy Feinstone Yeshiva of the South in Memphis B’nai Israel, Little Rock

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


The annual Purim talent show at Jewish Community Day School in Metairie, near New Orleans, concluded with a performance of “Am Yisrael Chai.” The show itself had singers, dancers, piano and ukelele players, magic, comedy and a karate act.

Photo by Siria Jacobo

Congregation B’nai Israel in Jackson, Tenn. Left to right: Glenn Scarbrough (Mordecai), Adib Jacobo (Royal Messenger) Melissa Kelley (Haman), MaeRose Kelley (Esther), Teeghan Jones (Slave), Nona Jacobo (Maiden), Lucy Scarbrough (Director), Allan Sterbinsky (King Ahasuerus), David Cohen (Narrator).


April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional

At Agudath Achim Synagogue in Little Rock. Clockwise from top left: Harry and Rivkah Ehrenberg, Rabbi Mark and Ellen Biller, Michael Margoles, Victor Biton and Jana Jacobson Cohen. Photos by Rabbi Mark Biller

Arabian Nights Purim at Chabad of Alabama in Birmingham drew about 400 participants.

April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional


Rear Pew Mirror by Doug Brook

Torah’s Funniest Moments: Leviticus Weeks before Jewish palates are strained by the alleviation of leavening, mental palates are similarly strained by the annual Torah cycle reaching Leviticus. This third book of the Torah is best known for being unknown to most people. Rules. Levites, one assumes. And lots of sand, as if there’s much mention of the Israelites still being in the desert. Story? We don’t need no stinkin’ story. Thus, it’s time to explore – not merely what happens in Leviticus – but the funniest things in this book that, on the surface, seems drier than a dry martini. The first several chapters, and several more after them, describe various sacrifices that Israelites were to bring to the Levites to offer up to the Almighty Big G. Of course, the closest to burnt offerings in modern times are tailgating barbecues before the Iron Bowl. Services and scripture related to sacrifices are relevant today not for the literal altarnative act, rather for the intent behind the sacrifices. They matter today for the timeless reasons why anyone would sacrifice, such as: reparations, thanksgiving, well-being, atonement, or a man on second and nobody out in a tied or one-run game. Leviticus describes the ingredients and recipe for each sacrifice in such detail as would daunt any bachelor. The description of every animal sacrifice, entrails and all, ends with the aesthetically incongruous, “an offering by fire, of pleasing odor to the Almighty Big G.” Apparently, the ABG enjoys Passover year-round, because at all times “no meal offering shall be made with leaven.” The recently discovered tractate Bava Gump extends this to not preparing meals with anyone named Levin. For various animal offerings, the Levites are instructed to “sprinkle blood against all sides of the altar,” presumably because there’ll be a mess anyway so it might as well be by design. If a priest unwittingly incurs guilt, his sacrifice includes “bringing the bull to the entrance of the tabernacle,” which is good training for what they’d need to bring if they enter politics later in life. If one must bring an offering for having sinned and they are

too poor to bring a goat, they can instead bring two turtledoves. Or two pigeons, but not a partridge nor a pear tree. After the many chapters instructing how to offer sacrifices, Moses has a formal public installation ceremony where Aaron is consecrated as the high priest. In recognition of this, the Israelites offered a special sacrifice, just as outgoing presidents are similarly roasted at contemporary synagogue board installations. When that sacrifice was ready, “fire came from before the Almighty Big G and consumed the offering” and everyone saw it, cried out, and fell to the ground. Despite that demonstration of divine disintegration, two of Aaron’s sons decided to spontaneously burn an unrequested offering. The Almighty flame combusted them both. Aaron and his other two sons were cautioned not to mourn them, because there’s more where that came from. Next comes a long list of rules for the Health Department about what’s allowed in a kosher restaurant, followed by similarly appealing rules related to skin diseases, and then many more rules about human interaction and a lot of ways to refrain from it. Toward the end of the book, Leviticus includes one of the Torah’s greatest hits, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This is often misinterpreted as justification for ruthless revenge, but context matters. When this was written, it wasn’t unusual that people would over-compensate in reaction to injury. Given that context, there’s an implied “only” which at the time would’ve simply been understood in its at-the-time progressive approach. To put it another way, look no further than the Twentieth-Century Jewish authority from Babylon (New York), Rodney Dangerfield, who famously said in the classic 1986 film “Back to School,” “they’re not so tough. The football team at my high school, they were tough. After they sacked the quarterback, they went after his family.”

Story? We don’t need no stinkin’ story!


April 2024 • Southern Jewish Life Regional

Doug Brook says if you must cuss, try Leviticus. To acquire the new FIVE-star rated book “Rear Pew Mirror: Reflections From the Back of the Sanctuary,” read past columns, or listen to the FIVE-star rated Rear Pew Mirror podcast, visit

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