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Our Mockingbird

Dalai Lama in New Orleans

Traveling Southern Jewish History

Southern Jewish Life

Birmingham parades for Israel’s 65th birthday May 2013

Volume 23 Issue 5

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

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New York magazine recently had an article, “Them vs. Them,” which is cringe-worthy for the Jewish community. East Ramapo, N.Y., has a huge ultra-Orthodox population that generally wishes to be left alone by outsiders. Several years ago, they had difficulty obtaining services for their special-needs children, so to facilitate the process they began running members for the local school board. They ran as concerned taxpayers, since the overwhelming majority of their children attend private yeshivas — the district has 8,000 public school students and 19,000 enrolled in private school. Because of the Orthodox voting strength, they quickly had a majority on the board. Once they held the majority, they started slashing school budgets. The two members of the board who are not in the Orthodox bloc resigned in January, citing intimidation and a lack of information about financial matters. According to the Journal News, any hint of taxes for the schools is crushed at the ballot box, while “public school staff, academic programs and extracurricular offerings have been slashed” by the board’s majority, but reimbursements are being approved for families enrolled in yeshivas that use public special education services. There was a proposal to eliminate Kindergarten as a cost-saving measure, instead the program was reduced to a half-day. Graduation ceremonies were also eyed as “superfluous.” The New York article states that cuts in the high school are so severe, there aren’t enough classes for students to take so they can graduate. Shortly after the New York article came out, school board president Daniel Schwartz resigned after less than a year in the position. In the past, he spoke of a “crisis” of anti-Semitism in the school district, and said he and others in the Jewish community have every right to run for the board, and stated “You don’t like it? Find yourself another place to live, because this is the United States of America.” There are calls for a state takeover of the system, and investigations into the sale of two public school buildings to yeshivas at sweetheart rates. Meanwhile, the school board has become a clash of the ethnicities. The public schools are 56 percent black, 27 percent Hispanic. Also part of the backdrop is a report by the New York Jewish Week in February that many ultra-Orthodox schools in New York have received a total of $30 million in Federal funds for Internet technology, even though students do not have computer access and the communities try to suppress use of the Internet. You want to be left alone so you can preserve your version of Judaism? Fine, build your community. But in areas where you have to venture out into the larger world, there is still a responsibility to the stranger in

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May 2013


your midst, and the charge to be a holy nation. Whether some of the financial shenanigans are improper or merely have the appearance Publisher/Editor: of impropriety should not matter. Lawrence M. Brook, Questionable behavior like this hurts the entirety of Klal Yisrael by association and plays into the worst stereotypes. Yes, former presiAssociate Publisher/Advertising: dent Schwartz. This is the United States, where we have the freedom Lee J. Green, to live a Jewish life, but with that freedom comes the responsibility New Orleans Bureau: toward the greater community. What the school board is doing is Alan Smason, hurtful to the non-Jewish population and harmful to the community Cait Muldoon, Gail Naron Chalew at large. Coming from those who hold themselves up as pious and righCreative Director: teous, thisGinger type ofBrook, behavior smells about as kosher as an Alabama sausage factory. Photographer-At-Large: Larry Brook Barry C. Altmark Editor/Publisher Contributing Writers: Doug Brook

W fo St ro

Mailing Address: Publisher/Editor: Lawrence M. Brook, P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham, AL 35213 Associate Publisher/Advertising: Lee J. Green, Telephone: CreativeBirmingham: Director: Ginger Brook, (205) 870-7889 FAX: (866) 392-7750 Photographer-At-Large: Rabbi Barry C. Altmark Story Tips/Letters: Contributing Writers: Doug Brook Mailing Subscription Address: Information: P.O. BoxSouthern 130052,Jewish Life published monthly Birmingham, 35213 and isALfree by request to members of the Jewish community in our coverage area of Telephone: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and NW Birmingham: (205) 870-7889 Florida. Outside those areas, subscriptions Toll Free:are (866) 446-5894 $25/year or $40/two years. To FAX: (866) 392-7750 subscribe, call (205) 870-7889 or mail payment to the address above. Story Tips/Letters: The publisher is solely responsible for Subscription Information: the contents of SJL. Columns and letters Southernrepresent Jewish Life and is free by request the published views of themonthly individual to members of the Jewish community in our coverage area of writers. All articles that do not have a Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and NW Florida. Outside those byline on them written byor the$40/two publisher.years. To subscribe, areas, subscriptions areare $25/year call (205) 870-7889 or mail payment to theas address above. Southern Jewish Life makes no claims to the Kashrut of its advertisers, and retains The publisher is solely responsible for the contents of SJL. Columns the right to refuse any advertisement. and letters represent the views of the individual writers. All articles that do not have a byline on themon are written by the publisher. Advertising rates available request. Southern Jewish Life makes no claims as to the Kashrut of its Copyright 2010.the All rights reserved, advertisers, and retains right to refuse any advertisement. reprints only by permission of publisher. Advertising rates available on request.

Philosophy: Copyright 2013. All rights reserved, reprints only by permission of publisher.To link the Jewish communities of the Deep South, to tell you the fascinating

Philosophy: To link the another, Jewish communities of the Deep South, to stories of one and to tell you the fascinating stories of one another, and to document document andand preserve news of small, all a part of and preserve the news eventsthe large and events large and small, all a part of the rich culture of Southern Jewry.

the rich culture of Southern Jewry. 4

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September 2010�

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Front Porch Helds to succeed Filler at Federation: After an unprecedented four years as president of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, Jimmy Filler will be turning over the reins. At the Federation annual meeting on May 22, Ginger and Jerry Held will assume the co-presidency. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Levite Jewish Community Center. A reception will begin at 5:15 p.m. The Helds are currently serving as chairs of the 2013 Federation campaign and will do so again next year. Their sons, Brian and Layne, and daughter, Elisa, along with Brian’s wife, Katie, and Elisa’s husband, Aaron, have been their Co-Chairs. Lisa Engel will be installed as president of the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, succeeding Amy Saag. The program will include tributes to Filler and Saag, and is open to the community. Exhibit of rare Holocaust scrip: The Alexandria Museum of Art is now hosting “Questionable Issue: Currency of the Holocaust,” through May 25. In the concentration camps and ghettos, Nazi law made it illegal to have hard currency. All of it had to be exchanged for scrip, which was useless because there was nothing for prisoners to buy and was worthless outside the camps — but it was used to “prove” that the prisoners were paid for their labor, especially when outside monitoring groups visited. This collection of rare artifacts of Shreveport coin collector and money historian Charlton E. Meyer Jr., is the most comprehensive collection of Holocaust scrip in the U.S. This exhibition is traveled by Holocaust Museum Houston, and is presented in cooperation with B’nai Israel Synagogue, Central Louisiana United Jewish Communities, Central Louisiana Ministers Association, Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim and Emmanuel Baptist Church. New challenge grant for JCRS: The Jewish Children’s Regional Service has been issued a challenge grant from an anonymous private foundation to match gifts from new and “lapsed” donors. The match, which will be done over the next six months, will go for camp scholarships for dozens of youth who live outside of major cities in the JCRS’ seven-state region. The New Orleans-based agency provides support for over 300 Jewish children in a seven-state region to attend non-profit Jewish summer camps each year. The agency also provides needs-based assistance for college students and for specialneeds children.

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Front Porch

Bulldog Hillel goes international: Mississippi State Hillel participated in the university’s annual International Fiesta on April 6, where student organizations from many different countries represent their native way of life by selling traditional food dishes, dancing and performing music. This year, the Hillel helped benefit the B’nai Israel roof renovation project in Columbus by selling handmade jewelry. Pictured are (left to right): Erin Pendragon, Sasha Steinberg, Tracy Tuttle, Jake Tobey, Simon Kornberg, and Daniel Snyder. Kosher BBQ Contest: Will “Delicious, Divine and Devoid of Swine,” the team from Bruce Downs CPA, repeat as Grand Champions this year, or will Ramah Darom make good on its pledge after last year’s secondplace finish and de-throne the king? On May 19 that question will be answered as around two dozen teams compete in the fourth annual Temple Beth-El Piggly Wiggly “When Pigs Fly” kosher barbecue contest. While the barbecuing will be going all night, the event will be open to the community from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Chicken and brisket will be available as plates or as sandwiches. Hot dogs and veggie burgers will also be available. The contest includes brisket, chicken and BBQ beans, along with team name and booth décor. Several teams came from around the country, and in recent years a kosher barbecue contest circuit has developed, starting with the original in Memphis. Celebrity judges will determine the winners in each category. There will be live entertainment, a kid’s zone and a pickle eating contest. Beth-El will also have a white elephant sale that day. The Bobby Key Band will start at 11 a.m., and Peanut and Mother May I will start at 1 p.m. New this year is bull riding. Proceeds from the event go toward educational and social enrichment programs for Beth-El youth. For registration information, go to www.whenpigsflykosherbbq. com.

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May 2013

Southern Jewish Life

Front Porch ADL names new Florida director: The Anti-Defamation League announced the appointment of Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, a civil and criminal litigator and a prominent member of the South Florida Jewish community, to the position of ADL Florida regional director, effective April 18. Ms. Holzhauer is an experienced civil and criminal litigator, having served with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office where she handled hate crime cases. This experience will benefit ADL’s local efforts and outreach with law enforcement in its work on hate crimes and extremism. She also is an active volunteer in Jewish and pro-Israel groups and activities. Steven. L. Daniels, ADL Florida regional chair, said “We are confident that Hava’s dedication to combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry will be a driving force in carrying out the League’s 100-year-old mission.” The ADL Florida Regional Office, based in Boca Raton, serves the entire State of Florida and fights anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination through information, education, legislation, and advocacy. Rare Selma Simcha: Elijah Schulman will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah this summer, and will do so at his Bar Mitzvah project. The Bethesda, Md., teen is raising money toward the restoration of Mishkan Israel in Selma and will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah there. He has a website up promoting the fundraiser, and has a $10,000 goal set. His Bar Mitzvah will be on Aug. 3, followed by lunch at the restored Harmony Club, which was the Jewish social club a century ago. Saturday evening events will be in Birmingham. The Selma congregation has a handful of members left and holds infrequent services. There are plans for the building to become a museum, but it needs close to seven figures in restoration and renovations. Schulman’s father’s family settled in Decatur and his mother’s family went to Selma, and both families owned general stores. His maternal great-great grandfather, Max Erdreich, had eight siblings, six of whom wound up in the Selma area with him. The most recent similar event was in July 2006, when Ben Waters of northern Virginia had his Bar Mitzvah in Selma, where grandparents Sharon and Alvin Benn live.




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Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


Front Porch The Temple Tots program at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham is expanding next year. Starting on Sept. 3, the preschool will offer full-day programming from 18 months to pre-Kindergarten. The school currently runs a half day, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a wide range of after-school activities until 1:45 p.m. Now there will also be an 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. option.

with its annual cheesecake competition. The dinner and service will be May 15 at 7 p.m. Those attending are asked to bring a dairy dish to share, and a cheesecake for the competition. Prizes will be awarded in best tasting, prettiest, low calorie, youth and judge’s choice.

On June 1, Birmingham’s Temple BethEl will honor Cantor Daniel Gale and Rabbi Michelle Goldsmith at the conclusion of their tenures with the congregation. It will be Gale’s final Shabbat with the congregation, Goldsmith will finish on June 8. The 9:30 a.m. service will include a Tree of Life dedication in their honor, and a luncheon will follow.

introductions in cold-chain logistics. The Rosh Ha’Ayin-based firm develops coldchain data logging and monitoring solutions for logistics and transportation industries and for controlled industrial environments, such as food, pharmaceutical, medical, and storage. The company seeks introductions to medical and food transporters in the region for possible dealings.

Birmingham’s Knesseth Israel Congregation will hold a Texas Hold’Em On May 9, Rabbi Donald Kunstadt of fundraiser on June 2. Sponsorships are Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile will be the currently available in levels from $250 to speaker for a Christian-Jewish Dialogue $2500. event. His topic, at the 7 p.m. speech at St. According to the American-Israel Chamber Mary’s Catholic Church, will be “Reform is a of Commerce Southeast in Atlanta, a firm in Verb.” Birmingham’s sister city is looking for business

The Mobile Jewish community will have a On May 16 at 7 p.m., Temple Beth Or in going-away party for Boaz Raz on May 19 at Dreamland Barbecue, starting at 5 p.m. Montgomery will host another session in the Raz has been the community’s shaliach from Live from the 92nd Street Y series. Jason Alexander, who played George Costanze Israel this year. on “Seinfeld,” will have a discussion with The cantor is coming home: Cantor Daniel Lubetzky, CEO and founder of KIND Sharon Kunitz returns to Huntsville for Healthy Snacks and the KIND Movement, the a visit this month. She will be at the 7 p.m. founder of PeaceWorks Inc. and of OneVoice. Shabbat services on May 24 at Temple B’nai OneVoice is a grassroots organization Sholom, and there will be an oneg in her dedicated to finding a peaceful, two-state honor. Kunitz, who lived in Huntsville from solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. infancy, was cantorial soloist and choir director They will talk about their work with youth at B’nai Sholom, then decided to become leaders to prepare their communities for the a cantor, graduating from Hebrew Union compromises needed to achieve peace. This College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2009. program is offered without charge by the She is currently the cantor at Ohev Sholom in Jewish Federation of Central Alabama, and is Harrisburg, Pa. open to the community. Beth Israel in Gulfport will celebrate Shavuot


May 2013

Southern Jewish Life

Front Porch Kamenetz talk previews Dalai Lama visit: The Dalai Lama will be in New Orleans this month, and Temple Sinai will be part of the festivities through a talk by local author Rodger Kamenetz. On May 9 at 7 p.m., Kamenetz will speak on “What I Learned About Judaism from the Dalai Lama,” and a historic 1990 dialogue between the Dalai Lama and eight rabbis. The talk is open to the community. The author of 10 books, Kamenetz’s best-known work is “The Jew in the Lotus,” about that rabbinic journey. The international bestseller looked at Judaism in light of Buddhist thought, became a PBS documentary and is used in college religion courses. Exiled from Tibet by China in 1959, the Dalai Lama wanted to speak with the rabbis about how the Jewish people survived in exile for two millennia. Kamenetz remarked, “Somehow, he made us see Judaism more clearly and sweetly than often we ourselves see it. In our dialogue with the Dalai Lama, we saw Jewish tradition come to life.” After a 1996 meeting with the Dalai Lama, Kamenetz was part of an effort to free the Panchen Lama from China. The Panchen Lama was the youngest prisoner of conscience in the world, and his eighth birthday fell during Passover. In 1997, Kamenetz launched Seders for Tibet, which were held nation-wide and later became part of the International Campaign for Tibet. He attended a Seder in Washington in 1997 with the Dalai Lama. The New York Jewish Week referred to Kamenetz as “the Jewish community’s most prominent liaison with Buddhists.” At Louisiana State University, Kamenetz held a dual appointment as a Professor of English and Professor of Religious Studies and founded

the MFA program in creative writing and the Jewish Studies minor. He retired as LSU Distinguished Professor and Sternberg Honors Chair Professor. He now lives in New Orleans, where he devotes himself now to his work with clients who seek spiritual direction through dreams. The Dalai Lama will speak at a conference, “Resilience: Strength through Compassion and Connection” on May 16 and 17. He is also the speaker for Tulane University’s commencement, May 18 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Dalai Lama will be presented an honorary doctorate of humane letters and a second-line umbrella. He is also speaking on “Strength Through Compassion” at two public events, May 17 at the Morial Convention Center and May 18 at the University of New Orleans. Both events are sold out, but the talks will be on streaming video at area venues. His visit is sponsored by the Tulane School of Social Work. For over a decade, the school’s dean, Ronald Marks, has held a graduate social work class in northern India, working with Tibetan refugees. The visit also includes a Tibetan bazaar and a sand mandala. The mandala will be built at the Morial Center from May 14 to 17. At 4:30 p.m. on May 17, the sand will be swept up and carried by monks to the Mississippi River, where it will “carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.” The bazaar will be May 14 to 17 at the Morial Center, and on May 18 at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena. Tickets are to cover expenses, all remaining funds will be donated to charity. In all, there are about 60 events connected to the visit, and residents were urged to raise Tibetan prayer flags starting April 20.


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May 2013




Southern Jewish Life

Front Porch Stone finishing term as Conference of Presidents chairman: Professor Richard Stone, a New Orleans native, is nearing the end of his two terms as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. On April 22, the conference’s nominating committee named Robert Sugarman, the immediate past national chairman of the AntiDefamation League, as its incoming chairman. The members will vote on the nomination this month, for the term beginning June 1. Sugarman was a partner at the Weil, Gotshal and Manges law firm in New York City for more than 30 years until his retirement in 2007. Stone became chairman on June 1, 2011. He is on the faculty of Columbia University Law School, where he has held the Wilbur Friedman Chair in Tax Law since 1991. He is also a venture capitalist. He is the chairman of NCSJ, which advocates for the Jewish communities in the 15 republics that emerged from the Soviet Union. He has served as Vice President and on the Executive Committee of the New York JCRC and currently chairs its Government Relations Commission. He was the chairman of the Institute for Public Affairs, the public policy arm of the Orthodox Union, from 1992 to 2002 and served on the board and Executive Committee of JCPA from 2005 to 2009. He also served as Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s representative from Manhattan on the board of the City University of New York from 19972000. In January, he and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin held a dialogue as the kickoff event for the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans’ centennial celebration. JCRS College Aid deadline nears: Jewish youth from the seven states of the Mid-South have until May 31 to be among the over 100 undergraduate college students who the Jewish Children’s Regional Service will fund with needs-based financial assistance for the upcoming 2013-14 academic year. Applications are available online by accessing the agency’s website: Applications received after any published deadline will be accepted if funds are still available; however, late applications to any program are not eligible for maximum awards. JCRS has been providing social services, care and funding to Jewish youth from the Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas since 1855. For the unleavened experience of a lifetime: Producer Michael Green, a national food and wine consultant who also wrote a play called “Wine Lovers” that ran in 2010 at Le Petite Theatre in New Orleans, seeks contributions to a feature-length documentary about Streit’s matzah company in New York City. “The company and the factory are rooted in history and tradition, not only in the sense that the recipe for their product is 3,000 years old,” said Green. “And while in many ways Streit’s may seem like a relic from another age, it continues to thrive. They constantly receive more orders than they can fill.” In 1925, when Aron Streit opened the factory’s doors, it sat at the heart of the nation’s largest Jewish immigrant community. Today in its fifth generation of family ownership in a rapidly gentrifying Lower East Side, it remains as the last family owned matzah factory in America. Green and director Michael Levine, who has many several documentary films to his credit, have a Kickstarter campaign to facilitate contributions. The goal they have to reach is $60,000 by May 31. More than $17,000 has been pledged as of April 25. To find out more about the project and to donate, go to http://www.kickstarter. com/projects/rivpics/streits-matzo-and-the-american-dream.

Reinforcing the Institute’s rabbinic, education programs With a 13-state area to cover, the Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life is bringing in reinforcements. In June, Rabbi Matthew Dreffin will return to the South, joining the Institute in the education and rabbinic services departments. He will coordinate the Institute’s nine Education Fellows, who travel each weekend to some of the over 70 congregations that use the Institute’s standardized religious school curriculum. He will also supplement the rabbinic services currently being performed by Rabbi Marshal Klavin. A Florida native, Dreffin grew up at Camp Coleman, the Reform movement’s summer camp in Georgia, where his father is plant operations manager. He attended Tulane University, earning a degree in studio arts and winning the award for most outstanding glass art student. After graduating in 2005, he had to leave for a few months because of Hurricane Katrina, then returned to New Orleans as assistant studio manager for Studio Inferno. Two years later, he went to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in California, earning a Master’s in Hebrew Letters in 2010 and a Master’s in Jewish Education in 2011. He will be ordained in May. Among his student positions was a summer as chaplain at Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, and an educator at the Union of Reform Judaism’s Mitzvah Corps of the South in New Orleans. He interned and served as religious school associate director at Temple Judea in Tarzana, Calif. His focus has long been on education, formal and informal, and wanting to pursue that career path led him to the Institute’s position. “I found myself highly impressed by the work being accomplished at the ISJL,” said Dreffin. “Even more impressive was the atmosphere of the staff — it truly felt like a team that worked together toward a common mission.” Last June, Dreffin married Erica Weil of Montgomery. Dreffin will arrive in time for this year’s Institute educator’s conference, where congregations using the curriculum are required to send a representative to learn about the curriculum and network with other congregations. The conference will be held June 23 to 25 at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson. Congregations using the curriculum receive regular visits from the Fellows, and congregations that do not get a visit on a particular weekend have follow-up calls with the Fellows. The Fellows serve two-year commitments with the Institute, and half of them are new each year. Institute President Macy Hart said they decided that a coordinator was needed for the Fellows in the Jackson office. Having an educator who was also a rabbi was a focus for the Institute. Hart said Klaven has been blazing a trail through the South, and “if we got a rabbi/educator, we could take a little heat off of Marshal.” He added that Klaven’s tours of the South and activity level “has surpassed any expectations we had, except for fantasy.” Roughly 40 percent of the Jewish congregations in the 13-state region do not have full-time rabbinic services, according to the Institute.

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Southern Jewish Life

Hadassah held a tri-region conference, “The Heart of Hadassah,” on April 19 to 21 at the Dolce Atlanta Peachtree in Peachtree City. Members of the Southeastern, Southern and Southern Seaboard regions were in attendance. The event featured Hadassah National President Marci Natan, and Hadassah National Missions Chair Miki Shulman. Panel discussions included talks about heart health and the State of Israel, and a singing group from the Atlanta area entertained. Southern Region delegates were present from Birmingham, Auburn, Dothan, Montgomery, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. De’Anna Ernst was named Woman of the Year from the Baton Rouge Chapter, Carrie Pailet by New Orleans and Joyce Rothschild from Auburn.

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Trunks planned for Alabama, Louisiana Recently, the Berlin Jewish Museum encountered controversy over its exhibit, “Jew in a Box,” where Jewish volunteers sat inside a clear box and answered questions about Jews and Judaism from museum ANDREW HIGGINS DR. BETWEEN CAMP AND MAGAZINE STREETS visitors. 504.528.1944 | WWW.NATIONALWW2MUSEUM.ORG The Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life has taken a more conventional approach to teaching Jewish history from a box, with the Museum of the Southern Jewish ExWWII FINAL MISSION Southern Jewish Life Ad 3.8x5.indd 1 3/12/13 perience Traveling Trunk. The trunk contains reproductions of historical documents and artifacts, telling the story of Mississippi’s Jewish history. Developed for grades four through six, the contents can be modified for upper grades, and the trunk is available for schools to rent as a one or two week class resource. Another trunk has been developed for use in Texas, and Institute President Macy Hart said Alabama and Louisiana trunks are planned for the near future. Last month, the Mississippi project was selected by the Mississippi Historical Records Advisory Board for the 2013 Award for the Use of Historical Records in Grades K-12. This award, given only every other year, honors those whose work encourages and supports efforts to identify, preserve, and provide access to Mississippi’s historical records. That’s because The Maids make your home Rachel Jarman Myers, the Institute’s Museum and Special Projects healthier for you and your family. coordinator, said many history museums use trunks as an outreach program. “I was inspired to put one together for our museum as a Call now to receive a free, no-obligation estimate way to continue programming” after the main location in Utica closed. The museum is currently looking for a main location elsewhere in the 205-871-9338 Birmingham 256-534-1100 Hunstville South. 251-344-6626 Mobile 334-277-7749 Montgomery The idea of an education trunk is also being used by the Gulf Coast Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education in Mobile, with the Paul and Mary Filben Holocaust Teaching Trunk. Myers came to the Institute as an Education Fellow in 2008, traveling to communities that use the Institute’s religious school curriculum. After her two years were completed, she decided to stay on and assumed her current role. Institute Chief Operating Officer Michele Schipper, who nominated Myers for the award, said Myers “used census records, ship manifests, Referred for a reason. and business records from early turn of the century Jewish shopkeep-

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May 2013


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ers to create the engaging, interactive Traveling Trunk program. “Students and teachers have enjoyed this wonderful hands-on educational opportunity which contains artifacts, photographs, maps, board games and three lesson plans to teach Mississippi students about nineteenth century European immigration to the American South. It also demonstrates how these Jewish immigrants, who have always been a tiny minority of Mississippi’s population, have made an impact on their communities.” Myers said “Teachers who request the trunk are excited to expose their class to a religion and culture they often know very little about. Lessons provide a venue for students to connect with this material and relate it to their lives today.” With a grant by the Mississippi Humanities Council, the trunk has traveled to 12 schools thus far. “I’m so pleased to receive this award, especially since it acknowledges the inclusion of historical material in the Traveling Trunk,” said Myers. “One of the most special activities in the trunk uses records from the Bernheimer and Sons store in Port Gibson. Students are instructed to be the historians, critically thinking about what we can learn from documents that are over one hundred years old. For many, it is the first time they have had access to historical material. This is important because like so many ISJL programs, the materials and lessons in the trunk program are intended to lead all students and participants to understand, engage with, and appreciate the history of cultural and religious diversity in their communities.”

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May 2013

On April 20, Rabbi Arnold Task officiated at a B’not Mitzvah ceremony at Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria — for a woman who was born just one year after the first-ever Bat Mitzvah ceremony was performed, and her granddaughter. Sylvia Goldstein, now 90, grew up in a time when Bat Mitzvah ceremonies were new and rare. She recently began studying the Torah, and when reading the Hebrew words had a “wonderful feeling.” She mentioned it to her granddaughter, Mimi Rubin Kirzner. When Kirzner, now 35, was growing up Bat Mitzvah ceremonies were still somewhat rare, so she did not have one either. They decided to have an adult celebration together. At the ceremony, Goldstein wore her father’s tallit, which is over 100 years old.

�������������� Southern Jewish Life

Not Just Black and White Civil Rights and the Jewish Community

Bearing witness In May 1963, a group of 19 rabbis arrived in Birmingham to take a stand against segregation, much to the consternation of the local Jewish community On May 7, 1963, Sylvan Laufman arrived in New York on a business trip. The atmosphere there was far different than the one back home in Birmingham. When he left, the Civil Rights marches in downtown Birmingham were reaching a crescendo and drawing the world’s attention. After a month of generally ineffective protests, Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement started the Children’s Crusade. Students would leave school and march downtown for equal rights. Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor was perplexed, and started arresting the students en masse. He also brought out the dogs and firehoses to try and break up the demonstrations, leading to widespread condemnation of Birmingham. Behind the scenes, white leadership and the civil rights leadership were trying to hammer out an agreement on desegregation, and on May 7, five days into the Children’s Crusade,

they were close. Then Laufman saw on the news that a group of 19 rabbis was leaving the Rabbinical Assembly convention in New York and was already en route to Birmingham to take a public stand with the black demonstrators. Laufman called Karl Friedman, chairman of the Community Relations Committee. This was not going to go over well with the Birmingham Jewish community. Spur of the moment At the convention, where about 400 Conservative rabbis were in attendance, Rabbi Harold Schulweis spoke in the morning of May 7 about honoring the actions of heroic nonJews who saved Jews during the Holocaust. With shocking pictures from Birmingham on the front page of every newspaper, it was suggested that the convention take lessons from the past and apply them to current events.

Rabbi Moshe Cahana of Houston said it was imperative to do something regarding Birmingham. How could they condemn Germans who stood by if they chose to stand by now? They contacted the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and asked if they could come “render assistance in the heroic struggle of the Negro people in Birmingham,” Rabbi Andre Ungar later wrote. The SCLC simply said “come.” The association then quickly passed the Birmingham Resolution, authorizing a group of rabbinic volunteers to go to Birmingham that very night and speak on their behalf. Nineteen rabbis, including Cahana, volunteered to go, and funds were quickly raised from those present and from the association itself. Two of the rabbis had already been jailed in the South as Freedom Riders. Ungar said they debated whether to contact the Birmingham Jewish community, “if not to

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May 2013


ask permission, then at least to inform them about our plans.” They decided informing the community would put the locals in a predicament, and that “our own action had to be independent from the local Jewish attitudes.”

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May 2013

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City of confrontation When the 19 rabbis arrived at the Birmingham Airport at 2 a.m. on May 8, a large SCLC delegation greeted them. The rabbis were delighted by the large reception, then only later learned the numbers were for protection in case of segregationist attacks. Also at the airport was a delegation from the Birmingham Jewish community. Friedman had contacted Rabbi Milton Grafman of Temple Emanu-El, the city’s Reform congregation, Eugene Zeidman, Alex Rittenbaum, Dora Roth and a few other leaders. There was no rabbinic representation from the city’s Conservative congregation, Temple Beth-El, because Rabbi Abraham Mesch had died suddenly in December 1962. Friedman said many of the rabbis refused to meet with the local group. He noted that the apparent leader was Rabbi Richard Rubenstein, who headed the Hillel at the University of Pittsburgh. Rubenstein “was stubborn to the extent of being offensive. He talked down to us and challenged us and indicated that they came to make a change, with or without us.” Rabbi Richard Winograd later wrote, “I had the feeling that we somehow were the Hamans and Torquemadas to southern Jews.” The delegation would later be derisively referred to in Birmingham’s Jewish community as the “19 messiahs.” A few of the rabbis agreed to what wound up being a late night meeting in Friedman’s office. There, Grafman suggested that some of the rabbis could speak at the three local congregations that Shabbat evening, and they agreed. Abe Berkowitz, who had been instrumental in changing Birmingham’s form of government and voting out Connor five weeks earlier, explained the background of the current situation and told them that “a settlement seemingly was in the making, that from all appearances the rabbis’ presence in Birmingham could accomplish nothing, could possibly muddy the waters” and could backfire because the segregationists claim integration is a Jewish Communist inspired movement. To top it off, a few days after the rabbis arrived, there was a major conference of the rabidly anti-Semitic National States Rights Party scheduled in Birmingham. Friedman recalled that “all of them thought that we were totally uninvolved, hiding, and living in fear, and none of that was true. We were deeply involved, daily, with meetings and conferences, with Martin Luther King, Bull Connor and other leadership.” But the situation was volatile. He added that half the rabbis started to see the local community’s concerns while the other half “were out setting fires.” The rabbis chose to stay at the A.G. Gaston Motel, which was a black hotel. By doing so, they could be arrested for violating the city’s Jim Crow laws, something which did not concern them. The day of the rabbis’ arrival, it seemed the negotiations were nearing an agreement, so as a gesture of good will, King called off demonstrations for the day. The rabbis had planned to demonstrate with the blacks, something the local community had strongly advised against. That afternoon the rabbis witnessed a press conference with some of the students who were arrested early in the Children’s Crusade and had already been released from jail, and that evening they went to one of the mass rallies at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Rubenstein spoke there, and Ungar wrote that “the Negroes of Birmingham… called us ‘our rabbis’.”

Late that evening, 14 of the rabbis met with the local community. According to a letter by Alex Rittenbaum, president of the Jewish Community Council, “some of the rabbis clearly indicated that their visit to Birmingham was a mistake, that they wanted to get off the hook.” In a stinging letter to the Rabbinical Assembly the next week, Temple Beth-El President Arnold Royal noted that the rabbis began to realize that “sitting in a convention assembled is one thing, and being exposed to the raw facts of life is yet another thing.” But Ungar wrote that “the Birmingham Jew was squarely on the side of reaction, of what in that great confrontation is the side of wrong against right,” and they were going to stay. As they attended rallies, yarmulkes became “prized trophies of young Negroes,” Ungar stated. A new verse of “We Shall Overcome” included the words “The rabbis are with us.” On May 9, King was arrested as the agreement was reached; he was quickly bailed out and met with the rabbis for about an hour. Late that evening, they linked arms with blacks at the airport and sang “We Shall Overcome” before boarding the planes. King announced the agreement on May 10. On May 11, the Gaston Motel — where the rabbis had stayed — was destroyed by a bomb. Celebration and backlash News of the rabbis’ visit hit newspapers all over the country, except for one place — Birmingham. The Jewish Community Council managed to keep word of the visit from the pages of the local newspapers, because “serious anti-Semitism would result from a community conclusion that Jews are leading the local integration fight.” Some were already charging that the “downtown merchants” — a code term for Jewish store owners — were the ones leading the “capitulation to the integrationist demands of the Negroes.” Elsewhere, the rabbis returned to mostly positive reactions. To be sure, there was some hate mail, but in many communities the rabbis received a hero’s welcome. For one of the rabbis, there was a great deal of backlash. Rabbi Arie Becker of Beth Sholom Synagogue in Memphis was one of the 19, and one of only two from Southern pulpits, Cahana being the other. A Holocaust survivor who lost 28 close family members to the Nazis, Becker had been in Memphis for just four years. Congregants who knew nothing of his trip until it was in the newspaper were irate and confronted him on his return, saying he was appearing to represent the congregation in what was clearly a dangerous public stance. Bricks were thrown at his house, cars would pass slowly during the night and the synagogue received bomb threats. It got so contentious that he sent his family to stay with relatives in Philadelphia for the summer. For Stephen Grafman, son of Rabbi Grafman, that proved the point of Birmingham’s Jewish community as to how volatile the situation was. The 19 rabbis could go home hundreds of miles away, Birmingham’s Jews had to stay and deal with any consequences. Further galling the Birmingham community was that Temple BethEl, the local Conservative congregation that had been target of a bombing attempt five years before, had an opening on its pulpit after Mesch’s death five months earlier. The fact that none of the 19 rabbis had expressed any interest in filling that position did not go unnoticed at the time. A few months after the 1963 visit, Rabbi Jack Bloom of Connecticut wrote that the two days he spent in Birmingham “were the most significant religious experience of my life,” and the abstract black person

Continued on page 19 Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


“Our Mockingbird” comes home to Alabama As part of the 50th anniversary commemorations of the civil rights struggles in Birmingham, the local Hadassah chapter partneredwith several local organizations to present “Our Mockingbird,” a documentary about the classic novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The film was screened at the Carver Theater on April 28. The date was selected because it is the 55th anniversary of a much lesser known chapter in Birmingham civil rights history — the attempted bombing of Temple Beth-El. Boston filmmaker Sandy Jaffe returned to her native Birmingham to film the documentary, which centers on a production of the stage version of “To Kill A Mockingbird” by two high schools — predominantly white, suburban Mountain Brook, and predominantly black, urban Fairfield. Mountain Brook also has the vast majority of the area’s Jewish high school students. Jaffe left Birmingham for college in Boston in the 1970s, where others immediately jumped to conclusions about her because of where she was from. She later rediscovered “To Kill A Mockingbird” as a reminder that

“there were people ‘not all like that’ on the right side of history who would work to make things better.” She filmed a Boston class that was doing a three-week project on the Harper Lee novel, then decided to visit Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, where since 1991 a local group has put on a stage version of the book. This year’s run goes through May 18. The Monroeville version, done entirely by locals, begins on the lawn outside the county courthouse, then moves inside for the courtroom scenes. The 1962 film version modeled its courtroom after the Monroe County Courthouse. The first time the Monroeville group performed outside the county was after a visit by the Israeli consul general from Atlanta in the mid-1990s. He invited them to perform at the Khan Theater in Jerusalem, where they had sold-out performances in 1996. After seeing the play in Monroeville, Jaffe researched other venues that were doing the play. “On the Dramatic Publishing website I discovered that Mountain Brook High School

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May 2013

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was doing the play and I got in touch with Pat Yates, the drama teacher and director, who informed me about the collaboration with Fairfield. I knew that this experiment in crossing the divides of residential segregation would be something I wanted to include in my film.” She said there are three themes to the film. First, how the novel itself still resonates “in our public discourse on race, class and justice.” Second is the view of Alabama, then and now. Third is the story of two very different schools coming together in what Yates described as “an exercise in empathy.” The film also features Doug Jones, the former U.S. Attorney that prosecuted the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing; broadcast journalist Katie Couric; Pulitzer Prize winners Diane McWhorter, Rick Bragg and Cynthia Tucker; Joseph Lowery, former Southern Christian Leadership Conference president; Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Mary Badham, ‘Scout,’ in the original “Mockingbird” movie. Jaffe has previewed the film in Birmingham

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before, but being in the Boston area she has been invited to show it several times there. “Of course, I was curious about how audiences in the Northeast would react versus audiences in Alabama and what they have most in common is how intrigued they are by the high school collaboration.” She hopes the film “will inspire similar collaborations like the high school production, not just in Alabama but around the country – that communities will create opportunities for students to actively experience “the other” in whatever context that might be.” She hopes the film will be at film festivals and eventually broadcast. She is also planning a shorter version for educational uses. “Mockingbird” is intertwined in Birmingham’s 1963 commemorations because though the film was released in 1962, it did not debut in Birmingham until April 1963, on the same day Martin Luther King Jr. launched the famous demonstrations. Hadassah coordinated the event with the YWCA, the Southern Literary Trail, the Birmingham Pledge, the Levite Jewish Community Center, P.E.A.C.E. Birmingham and City of Birmingham 50 Forward. The bomb that failed This screening also commemorates an earlier chapter in the city’s struggle. On April 28, 1958, a satchel was discovered in a window well leading down to the social hall on the 21st Way side of Birmingham’s Conservative synagogue. The fuse on the 54 sticks of dynamite inside the satchel stopped just short of detonation, and at the time it was said that the bomb was large enough to level a city block. Though fingerprints were obtained from the bag, the case was never officially solved or prosecuted. Sol Kimerling, whose father was president at the time, recalled a police officer standing in their living room stating that they knew who did it, but couldn’t do anything about it. The day before, the Jacksonville Jewish Center was bombed, and the Jewish Community Center in Nashville had been bombed a month before. Later that year, two men yelled at a janitor at Temple Emanu-El that they would be next. That same month was the most famous bombing of a Jewish house of worship, at The Temple in Atlanta. Jaffe said she has little memory of those days, “but do recall that even as a child I was aware of the idea that those who hated blacks also hated Jews; that there were areas of town where Jews lived and areas where Jews were not welcome.”

>> Rabbis in his mind became real. In 2009, Bloom returned to Birmingham and Selma for the first time as part of the ninth Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. “Who would have believed how much Birmingham and Selma had changed,” he observed. A decade after the visit, Rubenstein was invited to speak at Birmingham’s Jewish Community Center as one of his books was being published. Friedman and others went to the talk, ready to give him a piece of their minds. Then Rubenstein started his talk by stating that the rabbis had made a hasty decision a decade earlier, were not aware of the complexity of the times, and he went on to apologize for their dismissal of the local community’s concerns. “I had a much more sympathetic feeling for their problems in 1973 than in 1963,” Rubenstein said recently. “They were there on the spot, they were in a tough situation. “In 1963, I felt they were not being heroic enough. In 1973, I felt that they had a point.”

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Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


Maor Shapira, David Horowitz, Becca Leifer and Chloe Valdary before the April 24 talk at Tulane.

Horowitz talk draws controversy at Tulane

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May 2013

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Tulane University for Israel and Allies of Israel at the University of New Orleans raised the ire of several groups by inviting David Horowitz to speak at Tulane. Horowitz is founder and current president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and edits FrontPage Magazine. He spoke on “Boston and Jerusalem: How Islamic Jihad affects us all” at the April 24 talk. Maor Shapira, a TUFI member who helped put the event together, said “The room was full with students who are interested in the conflict and want to know more. Even though the lecture was initially faced with some opposition, the fact that it went through uninterrupted shows that after all freedom of speech, thought, and exchange of opinions can be maintained at Tulane University.” At the beginning of the event, it was announced that hecklers would be removed from the room, and there weren’t any during the talk. The Louisiana Justice Institute announced Horowitz’s appearance by saying “Tulane University to host notorious white supremacist on campus,” stating that the Southern Poverty Law Center considers him “among the most prominent anti-Muslim racists in the US.” They noted a protest would be held outside his talk, with participants encouraged to wear black. Organizers of the protest, which drew about 50, said it would be “an intersectional, united front against oppression,” and after the protest they would have a discussion of the talk and “recent events on campus that have caused some students to feel threatened and oppressed by hateful speech.” One of the organizers, Hillary Donnell, is an activist in the Tulane Students for Justice in Palestine, which Horowitz said was founded by Hamas and is funded by Saudis.

On April 23, the Undergraduate Student Government approved SJP as a student organization. A day before his speech, Horowitz issued a reply “to the Tulane Hate Groups that want to shut down my speech.” He called the notion that he is a white supremacist “laughable” and noted that an oft-cited article of his, against reparations for slavery, was published in a left-wing magazine. “I said the reparations campaign was racist because the reparations would be awarded on the basis of skin color not actual servitude, and paid by everybody who wasn’t black including for example Hispanic immigrants who obviously had nothing to do with American slavery.” He also took on the charge that he is anti-Muslim, saying “What is going on here is a witch-hunt by Tulane leftists who don’t want members of the Tulane community to hear and consider what I have to say.” TUFI president Yoni Kaplan noted that just before the event he got his first piece of hate mail. A Facebook poster told Shapira they ought to be “kicked in the genitals until you decide to remove yourselves from the breathing space of rational human beings” and asked why anyone would “waste their time listening to a wealthy white Jew denounce other ethnicities and religions as inferior.” Horowitz’s talk centered on the history of the region, going back to the Ottoman Empire, the mentality of jihadists and the suppression of discussion through name-calling.








Area pro-BDS professors In April, the Association for Asian American Studies became the first U.S. academic group to vote to boycott Israel. The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel lists close to 800 professors and other academics as supporting efforts to cut ties with Israeli educational and cultural institutions. In the SJL coverage area, signatories include: Jana Maria Giles, Department of English, University of Louisiana Monroe Michael Innis-Jimenez, American studies, University of Alabama Foad Izadi, Louisiana State University Georgette Loup, linguistics, University of New Orleans Scott Sorrell, mathematics instructor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette


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Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


Filmmaker shows incompetence at United Nations


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On April 17, the Jewish Student Association at the University of Alabama at Birmingham hosted filmmaker Ami Horowitz for a screening of his documentary, “U.N. Me.” The film exposes one of the world’s most beloved institutions as a corrupt collection of bureaucrats who are incapable of doing what the U.N. was founded to do — facilitate world peace and mitigate conflict. In the film, U.N. officials in charge of responding to terrorism admit that they don’t even have a definition of terrorism. Rampant waste and ineffective humanitarian relief efforts are also chronicled. Horowitz’s visit was organized as a response to the recent Israel Apartheid Week held by Students for Justice in Palestine. That week-long event brought in several speakers and films, and included an “apartheid wall” protesting the Israeli security fence that was built in response to suicide bombings. In response to the week, Aaron Graf sent an open letter to the UAB Multicultural Council, stating it was “deeply disturbing that the Council would support such an event,” and

Genevieve Begue, right, introduces filmmaker Ami Horowitz by doing so “you are supporting bigotry and hatred” because SJP aims for the “delegitimization of an entire nation” and eradication of the right for national self-determination of the Jewish people. The council responded that “We support many programs and groups, and while we do not support hate or intolerance to any group based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation, we do however support Students for Justice in Palestine or any program that promotes rational and logical dialogue of topics relating to social injustice, intolerance, and discrimination in an attempt to raise social consciousness and cultural competence among our students.”

McNeese Senate tables pro-Israel resolution

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A pro-Israel resolution that seemingly had been passed by the McNeese State University Student Government Association Senate was tabled indefinitely on April 3 by the association. The resolution was submitted by Adam Harris, who heads the Christians United for Israel group at McNeese State. He had recently returned from the AIPAC policy conference and made his presentation at the March 13 Senate meeting. The resolution passed, 28-21. The following week, Harris went to get a signed copy of the resolution, but Student Government Association President Davante Lewis said he would not sign it because it was improperly passed. “I did not reject any resolution,” Lewis said. “The legislation is back in the senate after parliamentary procedures were not followed correctly.” When the voice vote was too close to call in March, there was a second vote where members raised their hands. The Pro-Tempore did not record abstentions, meaning the 49 votes that were cast fell short of the 51 required for a quorum. Harris returned to the Senate on April 3 to get it passed again, but there were several present in opposition, including one who sug-

Southern Jewish Life

gested that many leading academics would no longer be available to McNeese State for supporting Israel. The resolution expresses “support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to support strict enforcement of the sanctions placed by the United States Congress and by the UnitedNations on Iran, in order to maintain a nuclear free Iran.” Toward the end of the discussion, Senator Alex Reinauer, a student from the local Jewish community, said he urged a vote against the resolution because the Senate is supposed to serve as the liaison between the student body and the administration. “I’m not saying I’m opposed to anything in this bill,” he said, but debating foreign policy like this is not something the Senate should be spending its time doing. He also expressed concern that by delving beyond usual student affairs, outside groups become interested in campus politics, citing this publication’s requests to Lewis for comment about the March 13 vote. The Senate decided to table the resolution indefinitely by an overwhelming voice vote. “Now I get to write another resolution,” said Harris.

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May 2013


TUFI’s Kaplan receives national Israel campus advocacy award Yonatan Kaplan, outgoing president of Tulane University for Israel, received the David Bar-Ilan Award for outstanding campus activism from the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America’s CAMERA on Campus division. Eliana Rudee of Claremont College received the Outstanding Student Leadership award, for her group’s “Less Hamas More Eliana Rudee of Claremont College and Hummus” campaign that Yonatan Kaplan of Tulane University for has been adopted nation- Israel received the 2013 David Bar Ilan Awards. ally. Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli-Arab journalist and lecturer, was also honored at the New York annual dinner, which was attended by hundreds of supporters from across the country. Kaplan said he was honored to accept the award on behalf of TUFI, and the CAMERA On Campus helped enable the group’s growth. “When I arrived at Tulane, the Israel presence on campus was nearly nonexistent. I started TUFI in an effort to fill that void and establish a vibrant and active pro-Israel community at Tulane.” The group grew from five to over 300 on the current listserve. With the assistance of CAMERA, he said, several notable speakers have been to Tulane, including Ishmail Khaldi, the first Bedouin vice consul of Israel, and Gil Hoffman, the Jerusalem Post’s chief political correspondent. Other programs included art solidarity events and scientific projects. He said that Tulane admissions sent him a letter recently stating that 125 incoming freshmen had indicated interest in TUFI. Addressing the dinner, Kaplan said “TUFI has succeeded in becoming that vibrant and active pro-Israel community at Tulane... You enable our mission and you have our gratitude.”

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The Algemeiner did its first-ever Jewish 100 in April, unveiling the list at its “star-studded” 40th anniversary gala in New York on April 23. The list celebrates the “top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life.” Among those featured is a non-Jew, Chloe Valdary, who started Allies of Israel at the University of New Orleans, and launched “Once And For All,” a mixed-media campaign to combat anti-Semitism. She was listed in the “Tomorrow” leaders category. Among the “Jewish 100” awardees who attended the Gala was Czech Ambassador to the United States Petr Gandalovič, representing Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, as well as the anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Abraham Foxman, activist Arthur Schneier, and others. The Algemeiner began in New York City 40 years ago as a Yiddish newspaper, but transitioned to English and now also has a website that hosts stories from across the Jewish world.

Real Estate/Homes St. Francisville bed and breakfast with Jewish roots for sale A historic bed-and-breakfast with Jewish heritage is currently on the market in St. Francisville. The St. Francisville Inn, which has 10 guest rooms, is in the 1880 Wolf-Schlesinger House and is currently on the market for just under $900,000. It has been operated as a bed and breakfast for 30 years and is a popular destination. The home was built in 1880 in the Victorian Gothic style. The property was acquired by Morris Wolf from Julius Freyhan in 1878. M&E Wolf began in 1867 as J. Freyhan and Co., a country store operated by Julius Freyhan that was described as growing “to become principal source of supply for a dozen Louisiana parishes and Mississippi counties, selling up to a million dollars’ worth of goods and handling up to 14,000 bales of cotton in a year.” Freyhan had arrived in the area, penniless, in 1851, but became one of the wealthiest men in the South. His company, J. Freyhan and Co., was a country store that grew “to become principal source of supply for a dozen Louisiana parishes and Mississippi counties, selling up to a million dollars’ worth of goods and handling up to 14,000 bales of cotton in a year.” When Freyhan retired to New Orleans, he turned the firm over to his brothers in law, Morris and Emanuel Wolf, who renamed the company after Freyhan’s death in 1904. A 1917 25th anniversary edition of the local paper, The True Democrat, devoted nearly an entire page to the store. The town recently rededicated the long-defunct Temple Sinai building, and plans to renovate the Freyhan School, the first public school built in St. Francisville, originally funded by a bequest in Freyhan’s will. The Inn is located in the historic district. The main parlor has original ceiling medallions featuring Mardi Gras masks. The rooms are connected with wide porches around a brick courtyard with swimming pool. Upstairs is a private living area for the home’s owner. Morris sold the home in 1903 to Aaron Schlesinger. Schlesinger’s daughter sold the home in 1954 to Eloise Burnett, who converted it into three apartments. When Richard Dilet restored the home and converted it into a bed and breakfast in 1982, it had been abandoned for several years. The current owners purchased it in 1990. There is a wine parlor on site, and Morris Wolf ’s General Store. The property is being marketed by Landry Team Real Estate in St. Francisville.

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May 2013


Real Estate/Homes Adding value to homes made easy Updating kitchens, bathrooms, garages, basements and paint coats to a house can really enhance its value whether someone wants to sell or get more years of living in the place.

Kitchen, bathroom renovations popular Lenny Klein, whose has 20 years of experience in the remodeling and new construction business and who started Klein Home Builders 10 years ago, said those who renovate their kitchens and bathrooms can get anywhere from 70 to 100 percent back from what they put into the enhancements if they sell. “For a few years, most of the people we worked with wanted to expand and enhance their home to stay in it longer, especially since it was so difficult to sell their homes,” said Klein. “But in the past year or so, we’re seeing the market improve for sellers so their making these improvements as investments in an effort to get more value from their home sale.” He said that people who are staying in their homes update their kitchens mainly because they need more space. “Functionality is very important when it comes to kitchen and so is space-saving. Today we can do some incredible things to give people more storage space not just in kitchens, but any room they need it, or through added rooms,” added Klein. To add more space without building on, some customers have sought finished basements. Klein Custom Builders can custom build and paint cabinets, allowing for more space saving and enhancing aesthetics. “People are really surprised by what is possible,” he said. “No job is too large or too small, whether it is simple maintenance or a major renovation. My goal for this company is to be a one-stop shop for any home improvement or maintenance needs, while delivering the highest quality and customer service.

Jewish couple opens up door to new career with Garage Experts

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May 2013

Long-time Montgomery Jewish community members Jacob and Elizabeth Dubin left the life of attorneys last fall to open up a Garage Experts franchise for Alabama. Has it been a joy and a success so far? The verdict is yes — that’s an open and shut case. “We wanted something that would allow us to help others enhance their homes and allow us more time to spend with our family,” including their 6-month-old daughter, said Jacob Dubin. “We researched the company a great deal and realized they were doing things that no one else was doing.” The California-based Garage Experts started in 2008 as an industrial coatings provider and now has franchises across the U.S. “They use industrial strength products that are the best on the market and carry lifetime warranties. They

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can beautify any concrete surface — not just garages but also things such as patios. Plus everything is manufactured in California, which has the toughest environmental safety laws in the nation. The product is 100 percent safe and has no odor,” he said. Garage Experts can employ a variety of topcoats that can clean and protect concrete flooring as well as cabinets. “It’s stain-proof, oil-damage proof, tire-mark proof and incredibly strong. You get it done once and you never have to do it again,” said Dubin. He said he has worked with a few customers who wanted to turn the garage into a living space for a family member, a playroom, a man cave or to have a nice room for storage. “We can really transform the space and add value to a home,” said Dubin, adding that Garage Experts can work jobs all across Alabama and offers free estimates.

Window, door maker rebuilds after the tornadoes in Alabama Tuscaloosa-based Remmert and Company – which provides Kolbe doors/windows, custom casework, woodwork, countertops, millwork, moulding and installation — had its production facilities and offices devastated by the April 27, 2011, tornado that struck Tuscaloosa. But as the saying goes, when one door closes another one opens up. All employees on campus emerged safely from the rubble. Deciding to see the ruin as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, they immediate began drafting plans for a state-of-the-art, expanded production facility to house production and finishing work. And not only did they recover to be bigger and better than ever, but they helped many others in the area to rebuild. “During construction of our new building, we were fortunate to have wonderful family, friends, customers and suppliers lend their hands in the clean-up effort… and we are grateful for the temporary locations that allowed us to get back up and running in an extremely short period of time,” said owner Bill Remmert, a Birmingham native and Auburn University Engineering graduate who purchased Montgomery Woodworks in 1989 and moved it to Tuscaloosa in 1995. With the new building, Remmert and Company has the ability to produce shop drawings in-house with its team of engineers. In the past two decades, the company has transformed from a local residential cabinet, specialty lumber and hardware supplier to a full-service woodwork and millwork shop serving residential and commercial markets across not just central Alabama but the Southeast. Remmert also is a regionally-exclusive provider of high-end, energy-efficient Kolbe windows and doors. Kolbe products are designed

Continued on page 27

Crowne offers up luxury living, mortgage free While the economy continues to improve and stabilize, the financial crisis of 2009 left its mark on the mortgage industry. Underwriting guidelines became more stringent and down payment requirements went up, which means more people are turning to apartment living. While it may take young professionals and young families a few more years to work their way into a house, they are quickly discovering they can find all the comforts of home in a rental property thanks to an increase in luxury apartments being developed across the country. “People are looking at apartments to avoid the risk or expense of homeownership, and then they discover that our high-end luxury rentals offer more amenities and space than they anticipated in an apartment,” said Alan Engel of Crowne Partners. “Many of them are staying longer than they expected because it offers all the comfort of a house without many of the headaches.” The local trend Engel is seeing is happening across the country. Apartment occupancy rates have increased every quarter for the last two years as people flock to apartment living, but the more meaningful statistic might be the drop in the move-out rate. At the end of 2012, the moveout rate was at 16 percent, significantly below the historical average of 20 percent. Part of the long-term appeal, Engel said, is the luxury amenities attached to high-end multi-family developments. Many of Crowne Partners’ properties, such as Crowne at Galleria Woods in Hoover, include a swimming pool and a fitness center, even concierge services, green space, and a business center with computer access. The company’s Crowne at Grandview apartment complex even offers a “Doggie Bark Park” for residents with pets. Add to that controlled access gate entry, per-

sonal garages and custom landscaping and residents are finding the sort of amenities that the average family can’t afford in a home. “Meeting the amenity desires of a high-end market has always been a goal of ours at Crowne,” Engel said. “Whether our renter is a medical resident at the University of Alabama at Birmingham looking for a temporary home during their studies or a young professional couple that’s not ready to purchase a home, we want to provide a comfortable, upscale living environment.” In some parts of the country, the demand for

luxury apartments has grown so large that companies are reporting 3 to 4 month wait times for rental units. Engel said the good news in Birmingham is that companies like his got ahead of the growing demand and apartments remain available. “We saw the increasing demand and responded quickly,” Engel said. “As we continue to renovate and grow, our focus is offering unexpected luxury in our complexes. There is no reason that an apartment can’t provide everything you want in a home and more.”

>> Adding value to meet or exceed today’s stricter building codes and standards for energy efficiency, as well as the energy requirements for green building rating systems. Its Ultra Series windows and glass pane doors allow maximum visible light to enter while blocking 86 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Painting a pretty picture Painting a house enhances its look and adds value to a house while also providing value with energy savings, according to Jeff Wood, who has owned and run J&W Painting in Birmingham for more than 27 years. House painting can enhance curb appeal and increase the value of one’s home, he said. It also promotes healthy indoor air quality and keeps dust and dirt to a minimum. Of course, a fresh paint job protects exterior and interior surfaces, and hides permanent marks. Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


Real Estate/Homes Issis and Sons helps consumers pick the right carpet better the carpet. Issis and Sons says that a carpet might looks beautiful on the rack but Issis and Sons knows that carpeting can set the tone for a home. The how it looks in one’s home depends a great deal on the expertise of the carpeting/flooring store, with two locations in the Birmingham area, installer. That is why Issis and Sons’ installers must go through many hours wants to make sure customers feel like they have made the right choice of schooling and testing before they are allowed to lay one roll of carpet. All carpet starts out as loop, but machine-cutting when buying. turns loop into cut pile. While pile may not factor Carpets should be selected for the traffic and lifeinto carpet performance, it is the key factor in carpet style in a home. Most people keep a carpet for more preference, according to Issis and Sons. than seven years. The industry recognizes three textures cut out of Carpet is made up of fibers, mesh backing, an atpile — plush, Saxony and frieze. Plush (or velvet) is tached cushion and latex adhesive to hold the pile both dense and uniform, providing a formal look. of twisted fibers in place. Better carpets have better Saxony is less formal, with individual strands twisted latex adhesive. Fibers may be nylon, olefin, polyester, together and heat set. acrylic or wool. Frieze is the most durable and least formal of the By far the majority of carpets sold in the United three pile styles. Frieze has a nubby texture and a States are nylon, thanks to its durability, colorfastness, characteristic curl that come from tightly twisting the stain and soil resistance as well as resilience to matting yarn before looping and cutting. and affordability. Wool carpeting is considered handBerber is a loop-pile carpet made of bulky wood, nysome and very durable. lon or olefin. Because of their pile, Berbers do not hide Nylon carpet will never wear out, it will just wear. seams like dense cut pile does. If a Berber is burned, Mid-range and high-end carpets can be expected to torn or badly stained, the entire section of the damlast 12 to 15 years. aged carpet must be replaced. Unlike cut pile, Berber Carpet quality is judged by density and pile. Dencannot be replaced. sity is the thickness and closeness of the pile yarn. Carpet prices begin at $8 per square yard, accordHigh density is considered an advantage. The very densest carpets are so packed with fiber per square inch that it is difficult ing to Issis and Sons. They advise buying the highest quality carpet one to wiggle a finger all the way down the mesh. So the denser the pile, the can afford, coupled with the highest quality padding.

By Lee J. Green



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Ferguson dishes on latest in high-tech kitchens By Lee J. Green Induction cooking, intuitive touch-screen interfaces, high-tech designs and steam ovens would be considered what’s hot — both literally and figuratively — in kitchen appliances. That’s according to Ferguson Bath and Kitchen, a national distributor of kitchen, bathroom and lighting appliances and equipment, tools and safety equipment, plumbing supplies, heating and cooling equipment with 10 showrooms to serve all of the Southern Jewish Life coverage area — Birmingham, New Orleans/Metairie, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Mobile, Destin, Daphne, Jackson and Pensacola. The hottest selling items this year are iPods, tablets, e-readers and smart phones. That’s what consumers want and surveys have shown that twothirds of consumers are planning to make a technology purchase in the next six months. Appliance manufacturers understand this trend and continue to incorporate more advanced technology into their products. They recognize that consumers are using touch technology and memory presets into their everyday lives, and will soon be looking for this functionality in the kitchen. In the past these types of features, if available, were only offered in high-end, premium appliances. Today they are more commonly available at the mid-range level. One of the latest trends is induction cooking. It has been popular in Europe for a while, but the demand in America has been steadily increasing. An induction cooker is faster and more energy-efficient than a traditional electric stove. It also provides the user with instant control of temperature level. Even diehard gas stove fans are slowly converting. Until recently, induction technology was mainly limited to cooktops. However, slide-in and free-standing models are now more readily available. Smart phones were among the first to introduce touch-screen technology to the masses. Now consumers can have that same functionality and convenience in the kitchen with touch-screen interfaces on dishwashers, ranges, ovens, microwaves and refrigerators. Many ovens and ranges allow for pre-setting for the Sabbath, for example. The new Jenn-Air Pro-Style Range even allows cooks to program the cooking method, time and temperature of successful recipes then recall them when repeating the recipes. Several of the models can be set remotely from a computer or smart phone. Not only are appliance manufacturers replicating the functionality of high-tech gadgets, but they are also replicating the style and design. Expect even-more streamlined looks in kitchen design, with appliances that will closely resemble the look of an iPhone or iPad. White or black floating glass accented by stainless steel trim is one example. Additionally, steam ovens are becoming increasingly more popular. Cooking with steam is a fast, easy way to seal in nutrients and flavors. Since the food only absorbs the amount of moisture needed to cook, there is less chance of overcooking or drying out. Steam ovens are not new to the market, but advanced technology has brought the manufacturing costs down, and coupled with increasing demand, the prices to consumers have reached that mid-level. Ferguson launched in 1952 with two locations and today employs 18,000 at approximately 1,300 locations across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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Real Estate/Homes Birmingham and Alabama real estate records strong sales growth By Lee J. Green

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Longtime Birmingham Jewish community member, RealtySouth agent and avid tennis player Bridget Sikora loves bringing in net profits for sellers and getting buyers the homes they de-serve. Sikora said things are brisk for her, and new home sales in Alabama recently posted a close to 25 percent gain. “The interest rates are still very low and sellers seem to have a greater understanding of market demand when we work them to set their prices,” she said. “The factors here in Birmingham are working very favorably for buyers and sellers.” The real estate market had been soft since 2007 and very slanted toward a buyer’s market. But savvy sellers held onto their places a bit longer and got low-interest home equity lines to enhance and renovate their places. Now they are getting more takers for their offers and with the economy improving, more buyers are getting approved. “I have had plenty of people ask me to come to their house and let them know what they could do to increase the value of their home,” she said. “Then after they have made the improvements, many have gotten their homes sold at what we/ they feel is a good price. Most buyers want a home that is finished and in good shape with some nice amenities.” Sikora, who has been with RealtySouth 10 years, said she is seeing some strong homes sales growth in Mountain Brook, Vestavia and Homewood, especially with the schools being rated so high. “We live in Mountain Brook and I am a former PTA president at Brookwood Forest Elementary School. The quality schools and communities definitely are good selling points.” Those have also been good reasons why Trussville (just northeast of Birmingham) homes sales have been strong, according to Nancy Drinkard. She and her husband, Alan, own a Remax Market Place realty office in the growing city. According to Trussville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Diane Poole, “There is a small town feeling, but with a good selection of commercial areas so you don’t need to go far for what you need,” she said. “Our school system is one of the best in the state and we have a variety of housing options.” Neighboring Clay and Springville have also experienced new home sales growth as well as population increases. The Remax Drinkard office specializes in finding mid-to-higher-end properties in the area, but also work the seven-county Birmingham metro area and even have clients as far as Tuscaloosa. “We are seeing inventory decreasing and sales increasing, plus we’re getting our sellers increasingly better offers than they have gotten in the

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past few years. You can tell that the market is growing and people are doing well,” said Nancy Drinkard. As a result the Drinkards’ Remax office has grown significantly over the past three years since they first opened up, going from four agents then to close to 24 today. Sales in 2012 for the office were up 10 percent from 2011 and Alan Drinkard estimates that the growth is even more significant from last April to this April. “We’re seeing the developers build more and continue their developments,” said Alan Drinkard. “The banks are lending more money and with the increase in demand, developers, sellers and we are anticipating that things will only continue to improve… and demand will continue to increase.” The Drinkards advise working with experienced real estate agents who can guide clients every step of the way. Nancy Drinkard has been a real estate agent for almost 20 years and Alan Drinkard for more than 11. Even though Birmingham’s ARC Realty Group LLC just opened its doors last November, its four forming partners bring a combined 82 years of experience in the industry. Chairman Tommy Brigham, with 30 years experience, is a former CEO with RealtySouth and has seen much change in Birmingham real estate over the years. “While our industry has faced challenging economic conditions over the past five years, it’s also been a time for creativity and innovation,” said Brigham. “Home buyers have new ways to shop for a home. We’re excited to apply these strategies in the launch of ARC Realty.” Beau Bevis, Mechelle Wilder and Dale McIntyre also lead ARC. The company currently has 50 realtors with listings totaling more than $60 million. Its two offices are in Cahaba Heights and Inverness. ARC Marketing Director Barry DeLozier said when the housing market went soft for a few years starting in 2007, it coincided with the rise of new internet as well as social media technologies. It allowed both buyers and sellers to become more educated with the market, options and what they could do to work with an agent to thus obtain a competitive edge. “We’re seeing more savvy buyers and sellers today. That helps ARC professionals to speed up the sales process and get more for its clients,” said DeLozier. “Today 87 percent of homes were screened online first before potential buyers visited the homes in person.” He adds that “for most it’s the biggest purchase they will ever make, so by ARC and its clients doing their homework to provide the most knowledgeable solutions, that will help ensure that it is the best situation for everyone.”

Latter & Blum grows with New Orleans housing market By Lee J. Green New Orleans continues to experience a renaissance of growth in its real estate sales sector as people continue to move to the Crescent City. “The New Orleans real estate market did not experience the market crash and fall-out several years ago and certainly has sustained significant growth post-Katrina,” said Latter & Blum Marketing Director Stephen Waring. Founded in 1916 by New Orleans Jewish community leaders, the company is now the largest full-service real estate brokerage in the Gulf South with operations in greater New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Southern Mississippi. Latter & Blum handles all phases of residential, commercial, leasing, property management, appraisals, mortgage and title services. Some of the growth in 2012 and 2013 for New Orleans can be attributed to favorable rankings in various categories. The public schools received recognition for being vastly improved. New Orleans was ranked among the top U.S. cities for new job creation, for working mothers, digital media/technology leadership, and Louisiana did well on the list of friendliest states for small businesses. New Orleans also tops a list of cities where a paycheck stretches the furthest and the city has experienced the nation’s fastest per capita personal income growth since 2005.

Late last year, Latter & Blum acquired Van Eaton and Romero as well as M.A. Allen Realtors, expanding the company by more than 25 percent and ranking it as the 39th largest brokerage in the U.S. by unit sales. Waring said that with growth has also come the expansion and enhancement of the company’s websites as well as incorporation of new technologies allowing for a more informed agent as well as customer. “In March we integrated and launched our enhanced new web presence. We added some very effective new tools and features,” he said. “The goal is to provide as much education and real-time information to a customer so that he or she can make the most informed decision. For most there is no bigger purchase than the purchase of a home.” At no charge, individuals can subscribe to Latter & Blum’s Market Tracker and Property Profile Reports. These interactive e-mail reports provide specific market information on a home, community or area of interest. “It’s valuable information in real time with close to 30 data points detailing a property or an area. It generates a wealth of market and property statistics instantly.” The new Latter & Blum websites include a new look and design, detailed school and market information, multiple interactive maps of every listing, video tours and property slide shows, online mortgage applications, complete agent contact information, easy-to-navigate MLS/development listings and social media integration.



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New Orleans’ Nano architecture firm builds upon success By Lee J. Green

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Ian and Terri Dreyer continue to build upon their architecture firm’s successes since returning to New Orleans post-Katrina. The owners of Nano LLC also provide leadership in a couple of non-profit organizations with designs on improving New Orleans’ infrastructure and educating future architects. “We don’t just work this profession, we live it,” said Terri Dreyer. “Our motto is ‘detail every scale.’ No job is too big or too small and we put the same attention to detail as well as creativity into everything we do.” Nano’s portfolio in the New Orleans area includes Weinstein’s department store, Salon Diversions, Tulane’s uptown campus and Higher Ground. Terri Dreyer said she sees some strong new small business retail growth in New Orleans as well as in smaller towns such as Houma and Hammond. “Small business growth is what will pull our country out of this recession. We’re seeing a trend in new restaurants we’re designing and mixed-use retail/living spaces (as is the case with the Dreyers/Nano). We’re a small business and we love working with other small businesses. It’s about helping each other,” she said. A couple of those projects include 800 Baronne and a proposed new Fresco restaurant they are designing. Nano continues to work on some projects for the State of Louisiana’s Main Street program, which offers grants for businesses to locate in smaller towns. On the residential side, they have done several historic home renovations, with folks taking advantage of the tax credits. “People might add 500 or 1,000 square feet to their home and modernize it with the thought they will stay there longer… or increase the house’s value and ease of sale,” added Terri Dreyer. In addition to provide structure design, Nano does much interior design/office space work and even makes custom furniture. The Dreyers hope to have their own line of furniture soon. Terri and Ian met and both earned masters in architecture at the Tulane School of Architecture. They married in October 2001 and formed Nano. They worked a variety of projects, primarily in the New Orleans area, focused on commercial and residential new structure architecture, renovation and interior design. After Katrina hit they relocated to Dallas and worked for a firm whose projects included the design of public areas for new stadiums such as those for the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts. Upon returning to New Orleans, the Dreyers reformed Nano and worked on many renovations, rebuildings and other projects. They also were instrumental in the launch of CityWorks, a local non-profit devoted to the rejuvenation and continued care of City Park. They also provide leadership and instructional roles in another nonprofit that helps further education in the areas of architectural design as well as building. Terri serves as an architecture professor at LSU, where she earned her undergraduate degree in interior design, as well as an adjunct professor for Tulane’s School of Architecture. “The designers of tomorrow will shape the future and we feel optimistic about where things are heading,” said Terri Dreyer.

Inventive ideas for home decor Reclaimed items at E Homewood Interiors

that might be special” from Jewish life-cycle events, said Carla Hamilton, who has owned Four Corners Custom Framing Gallery since 1999. With more than 3,500 styles of frames, Four Corners offers the largest selection of molding styles in Alabama as well as one of the largest in the Southeast. In addition to offering framing and custom matting, Four Corners specializes in providing preservation services for old documents, prints, photographs, pastels, certificates, letters, maps, watercolors, posters and memorabilia. Damage can be significantly reduced, if not eliminated. Risk of further physical deterioration of an already-compromised piece can be halted. They can also restore old frames to their original beauty along with providing gold and silver gilding services. “The Birmingham Museum of Art refers us and we have gained quite a reputaFour Corners Custom Framing tion in conservation,” she said. Gallery preserves memories Hamilton has a degree in graphic design, and Custom framing not only adds to the value everyone at Four Corners “is involved in some of the home, it can help to preserve and present way, shape or form with every project we work on.” They also offer a free one-hour design conthings of the highest sentimental value. “We’ve created custom framing and shadow- sultation to customers in the Birmingham area boxes with items such as ketubas, prayer shawls, to offer advice on what framing and molding to Bar-Bat Mitzvah programs among other things Continued on page 37 layer on accessories that add color and light,” such as colorful lamps that achieve both. She said the store aims to appeal to the midto-high-end furnishings market and a variety of tastes. Rankin said that they have set up the Homewood downtown shop to be representative of a cross-section of what they sell, but “we have access to 30 times what’s here at the store. People can really customize to get the exact color and style they want.” Recently E Homewood designed the breakfast room in the Alabama Symphony designer home at Riverchase Country Club, which shows through May 5. Proceeds were raised to benefit Symphony programs. When asked what the E stood for, Rankin said “we like to say it stands for Elegant, Eclectic, Earth-friendly and Easy.”

A door with a Star of David done in stained glass can now be bought as a bookcase. That is one of the products at the new E Homewood Interiors, which offers several lines described as using “reclaimed” or “recycled” materials. “In this case and in several lines, it’s like repurposing these materials and with the door, it brings the outside inside,” said E Homewood Interiors Manager Christopher Rankin. “It is a great concept to turn something that was headed for scrap into something else that is functional, useful and beautiful.” Another example of reclaiming materials would be the furniture made from old wine barrels sold at E Homewood. It is one of several lines exclusive to the store from Alabama artists. The store also carries various fleur de lis used in décor. Rankin describes E Homewood’s aesthetic as “casually elegant.” The store sells its own line of upholstery along with furniture, furnishings, art and even candles. E Homewood Interiors Designer Barbara Williams advices customers to “keep it classic, simple and clean” when they ask her for some design and implementation tips. “Then you can

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Behind the LATTER & BLUM, CJ BROWN, VAN EATON & ROMERO & NOLES FRYE signs, you’ll find a well-established, professional real estate firm that offers a wide range of residential, commercial, leasing, property management, mortgage and insurance services. You’ll also find knowledgeable people who take pride in their work and will exceed your expectations of service!

1-800-428-8294 Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


Real Estate/Homes

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The Maids take cleaning to a whole new level By Lee J. Green

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Summer in style… Gas Grills Charcoal Grills Pizza Ovens Fireplaces

2718 19th Place South • Homewood, AL (205) 803-1118

The Maids has become an allergy sufferer’s best friend. Alabama and Atlanta franchise owner David Senseman, who owns locations in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile, said one of their customers had been suffering from dust as well as mold allergies for many years. “After our team provided a thorough cleaning she called us up and said that for the first time in six years she was able to sleep through the night because her allergies did not bother her,” he said. “She said it was like a minor miracle.” No miracle in this case, just science. Senseman said when most people clean on their own, they just move dirt around and most of it ends up next to walls, window frames, doorframes as well as baseboards. Usually 75 percent of the dust is just left there. But The Maids makes a point to get dust out of the hard-to-reach places, especially employing advanced vacuums with four filters. “The filtration techniques we use far exceed the HEPA standards,” he said. Dating back to 1995, The Maids Alabama/Atlanta has also been on the forefront of the green cleaning product movement. They don’t use any toxic, harmful products and stopped using chlorine or ammonia almost 20 years ago. “We care about the health of our employees and our customers,” said Senseman. “All of the products we use are environmentally friendly, bio-degradable and water-based. You can drink the products we use, not that you would want to, since I am sure they don’t taste good. But the point is that you want to be both clean and safe, especially considering that families have kids and pets in the house regularly.” He said that these days, pets tend to spend more time in the house than they did 30 years ago. That also means that there is likely more pet dander around, thus a need for more regular cleaning. Fifty years ago, approximately 10 percent of married women worked outside the home. Today that number is 90 percent. With both parents working and kids’ activities increasing, there are greater strains on peoples’ time. That’s where The Maids comes in. “Most people understand the importance of a clean house from a health and aesthetic standpoint, but they have less time to clean,” said Senseman. “People choose an outside maid service for assurance of trustworthiness, and getting that consistently thorough cleaning.” The Maids provides thorough screening, references and background checks of its employees and is fully licensed and bonded. To help ensure the thorough cleaning, The Maids Alabama/Atlanta, which has been in business for 25 years, works each job in teams of three or four. One of the people on the team serves as the working supervisor each time. “People are entrusting you with care of their home, which for most is their most precious possession. We do everything we can to ensure that they know they can trust us treat their home with care and to fully clean it right every time,” said Senseman.

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Check our Website for updates between issues And see the pages from our other regional edition 34

May 2013

Southern Jewish Life

Warm up to direct-vent fireplaces and versatile high-end grills By Lee J. Green Kitchens outdoors? How about fireplaces in bathrooms and bedrooms? These hot ideas are trending thanks to some innovative, direct-vent fireplace technologies and versatile, high-end grills like the ones sold at Southern Fireplace and Grill in Homewood. “These days it seems that people are cooking outdoors a lot more, especially here in the South,” said owner Brandon Dill, who opened up the fireplace and grill shop in August of last year after years of working for his dad’s related business in Columbus, Miss., when he was younger. “With all these high quality gas grills, charcoal grills and ceramic smoker grills, you can really get that great flavor while increasing the options of what you can make.” With the weather warmer in the Deep South, interest in grills has steadily increased this spring, he said. Some of the new higher-end grills include lights for better knob/setting visibility, high-grade stainless steel and lifetime warranties. “We carefully select the brands we work with to make sure we are offering quality to our customers and we use only American-made products, unlike many of those big box stores,” said Dill. “It’s better to get a nicer grill for those longer warranties and lifespans. You get improved functionality, durability, longevity and peace of mind.” He also said that outdoor brick pizza options are also gaining in popularity, giving people added options for outdoor cooking in addition to the traditional grilled foods. “We’re seeing people that have outdoor refrigera-

tors, ovens and grills so they can bring the whole set-up outside.” Many of the direct-vent fireplaces Southern Fireplace and Grill sells are automated, with several allowing for prior setting via mobile, or at least thermostat controlled. So some of them can be set ahead of time prior to the Sabbath. Dill said the trend is toward the direct-vent gas heat fireplaces with aesthetics such as LED ember beds and other backlighting to create a unique home design element. “They provide very efficient, effective heat and also add to the décor,” he said. “Direct-vent gas fireplaces look nice and the technology makes it possible to move fireplaces to any room.” Or even outside, as is the case with the outdoor fireplace sets that can be easily installed and are made from water-resistant, glass-fiber-reinforced concrete. Southern Fireplace and Grill makes it a point to sell as many products as possible that are rated very high in energy-efficiency as well as being environmentally friendly. “These are among the safest, most efficient products of their kind you can buy and we back it will knowledgeable service,” said Dill. “Natural gas is the cheapest way to heat per BTU.” After working with his dad’s business while in high school, he graduated from the University of West Alabama, where he was the winningest pitcher in school history. He spent a few years in minor league baseball and married a Birmingham woman, which brought him to the city to open the business. “There wasn’t another business that was focusing on doing just what we are doing now and doing it well,” he said.


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Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


Kosher-Style Recipe: Wintzell’s Oyster House By Lee J. Green

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(205) 874-6311 Su: 10:30a–3p M - Th: 11a-8p F - Sa: 11a-8:30p

Dine In • Catering • Take-Out • Local Delivery 36

May 2013

For 75 years, Mobile-based Wintzell’s Oyster House has been a pearl of Southern, Gulf seafood and Creole cuisine in Alabama. Likely within the year, those in the Birmingham and New Orleans areas — as well as perhaps a couple other cities in the Southern Jewish Life coverage area — won’t have to say “aw shucks” that they don’t have a location there. Wintzell’s currently has 11 restaurants, starting with two in Mobile, and additional locations in Spanish Fort, Fairhope, Saraland, Orange Beach, Tuscaloosa/Northport, Guntersville, Montgomery, Huntsville and Decatur. Wintzell’s Marketing Director Stacy Wellborn said a franchise location will likely open this fall in the Birmingham area and they have picked out a spot in New Orleans that could also open later in 2013. However, the next location to open will be in Pittsburgh, Pa. Other locations will likely include Nashville and Virginia as the company pushes toward a goal of 25 Wintzell’s locations within the next three years. “Wintzell’s takes a lot of pride in spreading this Alabama Gulf cuisine and tradition across the Southeast and the country,” said Wellborn. “We’re really growing and in addition to opening new restaurants we plan to have many special events (through Mardi Gras 2014) to celebrate the 75th anniversary.” Oliver Wintzell started the first Wintzell’s as a six-stool oyster bar in downtown Mobile. But the expansion began in 2000 when Bob and Buff y Donlon, owners of Southern Pointe Group, acquired the restaurant. The second Mobile location opened in 2003 and the other nine have opened in the 10 years since. One of the anniversary events will include the launch of some exciting new oyster dishes — one with collard greens and mashed up hushpuppy pieces on a half-shell oyster bake; oysters with Buffalo wing sauce, and Seafood Napoleon (fried eggplant, shrimp and oysters on Fettuccine Alfredo with Creole Sauce). While those dishes are not anything close to kosher, Wintzell’s also serves many favorites, such as fish and grits, pecan-encrusted grouper, blackened mahi mahi, fish tacos, burgers, chicken baskets with fries and hushpuppies as well as steaks. Yes, that’s right, steaks. “We’re known as a seafood and oysters restaurant, but we’ve gotten rave reviews from customers and food critics about our ribeye steak. It’s a 14-ounce cut of Buckhead Beef out of Atlanta,” said Wellborn. Of course, all seafood comes fresh from the Gulf, and Wintzell’s is happy to take special requests if folks want to make a non-kosher dish kosher-style (well, aside from oysters). “Whatever we can do to make people happy,

Southern Jewish Life

we will do,” she said. Coming up in May at the Windcreek Casino an hour north of Mobile, Wintzell’s will host a professional oyster eating contest. “There will be a woman there who ate 40 dozen oysters in about eight minutes. We’re bringing in about 400 dozen oysters for the event,” said Wellborn. Then in June, they will accompany the Alabama Gulf Seafood Commission to a big national food event in New York City. “It’s another chance to show the nation what great foods come from here,” she said.

11 locations •

Wintzell’s Fish and Grits Ingredients: 2 7-9 oz. pieces of white fish 16 oz. quick grits 1 lemon, cut into wedges Blackening Seasoning Green onions Parsley Heat cast iron skillet to 500 degrees. Butter and season white fish with blackening seasoning. Place seasoned side down in hot cast iron skillet and baste top side with butter and blackening seasoning. Cook for 30 seconds and turn over and cook the other side for ten seconds. Remove fish from skillet and place filet onto a flat grill or non-stick sauté pan. Squeeze two oz lemon juice on filet and cover. Cook for 4-6 minutes. Prepare 16 oz of grits according to package. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Scoop cheese grits into two large bowls and place fish horizontally across the grits. Garnish with fresh washed parsley and a lemon wedge. Serves two.

Continued from page 38

Oh Lord, Thou broughtest up my soul from the nether-hood; to downpay in figures five, that I should not go down in a money pit. Sing praise unto the Lord, for walk-in closets won, and give thanks for this roof ’s high frame. Neighborly anger is but for a moment, no paint job lasts a lifetime; sweeping may tarry for the night, but maids cometh in the morning. Now I have said to my HOA: ‘I shall never be moved.’ Thou hadst established, Oh Lord, my property line as a stronghold – They didst hide my fence; I was affrighted. Unto Thee, Oh Lord, did I call, and unto the bank I made application: ‘What profit is left after my flood, when I had to fill that pit? Shall the rust raise past my knee? Shall it require a roto-root? Hear, Wells Fargo, be gracious unto me; Lord, be Thou my co-signer.’ Thou didst turn for me my moving into nesting; Thou didst loose my floorplan, and grid me with solar; So that my mortgage may not raise its fee, and not be delinquent; Oh, Lord, my God, I will pay property tax and lien forever. Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley whose house is anchored, via a long rope, to a large rock in western Nevada… just in case. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, like

>> Four Corners use, and where. “We advise customers to choose a frame that not only fits perfectly with what they want to frame but goes well with the environment it is in, such as being compatible with lamps, furniture and style aesthetics of the area of the house it is in,” she said. “Most importantly, we ask our customers questions to get to know them and their tastes.” Chances are they have something to fit every taste. They have a wide variety of style options and materials. Four Corners tries to use sustainable products as much as possible, such as bamboo, with several environmentally-friendly materials offered such as reclaimed building materials, such as planked wood, pine, leather frames, tin siding and ceiling tiles turned into frames. Hamilton said anything is possible when it comes to creating a “shadowbox frame of treasures” for customers. In addition to some of the Judaica items people have given Four Corners to preserve through creating shadowboxes, more unique items they have including have been baby dolls, 8-track tapes and petrified mushrooms. “Usually photographs, jerseys and military paraphernalia are most common, but we can be creative with whatever they want to include in there,” she said.

Southern Jewish Life

May 2013


The Beholder’s Eye

How Do You Put A Value on Peace of Mind?

by Doug Brook

Where you hang your kippah

There are many things that can help us sleep a little better at night. Having a solid plan to achieve financial security is one of the most powerful. At Berk Cleveland Rathmell Wealth Strategies, we can assist you with wealth management strategies to create your best todays and tomorrows. And if that isn’t peace of mind, we don’t know what is. Norman Berk Sandra Cleveland Marshall Rathmell Harold Sasnowitz Kristen Shaw

Your Life In Balance.

205.298.1234 Birmingham, AL 607.238.7718 Binghamton, NY

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May 2013

Southern Jewish Life

Through the course of Jewish history, the term “house” has meant many things. The first and second Temples were referred to as “haBayit,” which literally means “the house.” Their builders putting massive stones in place was the first known instance of people “rockin’ the house.” Of course, the first Temple was built by King Solomon and, as we read every Shavuot, the second Temple was known as “the House that Ruth built” — a phrase that has unfortunately been purloined by pinstriped pretenders from the Bronx. More recently, Lisa Edelstein starred for seven years as the ex-girlfriend and boss of the title character on Fox’s “House, M.D.” (Check local listings.) While Hugh Laurie’s title character There’s a Psalm would think that “House of worship” refers to him, through the last couple for everything. thousand years Jews have been buildEven for moving ing local houses of worship made of into a new house. boards and foundations that they can only hope are, in the long term, stronger and more cohesive than the boards that run them. But before this devolves into extending the tangent to TV’s shortlived “House Calls,” or even worse, to the short-yet-too-long-lived “After M*A*S*H,” consider another source of biblical reference to the place where Jews traditionally hang their beanies. As almost both of you know, there are 150 Psalms in the Bible. Their authorship is commonly ascribed to King David, primarily because scholars initially misheard “father of Solomon” as “father of Psalms, man.” While that debate rages on, recent evidence has confirmed that King David was the actual author behind several of the works commonly credited to William Shakespeare. Findings include the original holiday-based play, “Eighth Night; or, Oh, You Oil,” and the play originally about the complaints of Jewish mothers-in-law, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Either way, this column guarantees that no rabbinic scholar will take the time to deny that the recently discovered Mishnah tractate Bava Gump reveals some never-before-seen Psalms. Psalm 30 is commonly known as a Psalm associated with Chanukah, as its first verse includes the phrase, “chanukat haBayit,” meaning it is for the dedication of the Temple that David was himself forbidden to build. Bava Gump reveals that there was, in fact, a follow-on Psalm intended for the dedication of an individual’s house. Fortunately, the text of that Psalm was perfectly preserved for these thousands of years, hermetically sealed in what archaeologists believe to have been an ancient mayonnaise jar. Once they recovered from the rind of the ancient mayonnaise, they provided the following translation. Psalm 30.5 A Psalm, a song to the dedication of a house, by David. I will extol you, Oh Lord, for they hadst raised my rent, and hadst not suffered mine neighbors to rejoice over me leaving. Oh Lord, my closets cried unto Thee, and Thou didst relocate me;

Continued on previous page

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May 2013

3143 Belwood Drive • Birmingham •


Song of Solomon Wedding Bands ” I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine”

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May 2013

Southern Jewish Life

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SJL Deep South, May 2013  

May 2013 issue of Southern Jewish Life, Deep South edition, covering the Jewish communities of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and NW Florid...

SJL Deep South, May 2013  

May 2013 issue of Southern Jewish Life, Deep South edition, covering the Jewish communities of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and NW Florid...