Southern Jewish Life, Deep South, May/June 2024

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Southern Jewish Life June 2024 Volume 34 Issue 3 Southern Jewish Life P.O. Box 130052 Birmingham, AL 35213 Newly-opened Liberation Pavilion at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans DEEP SOUTH
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If Gaza were truly starving, wouldn’t we be seeing video of emaciated bodies on the news every day?

A huge part of the war between Israel and Hamas has been the media war, and it has been demonstrated repeatedly that most outlets rush to parrot anything that would put Israel in a negative light. Even the better outlets very often fall into the trap of accepting Hamas claims at face value, or repeating as fact things that have been long debunked. For those of us who are immersed in the news from the region, it is highly frustrating to see those same errors spread repeatedly.

Not to mention the impression that it gives to the average viewer who is following the story much less intensely.

A good part of this effort is intended to soften support for Israel in the Jewish community. Hamas — which cares nothing for the lives of average Gazans — knows our inclination toward humanity and uses it against us. The constant drumbeat of “genocide,” “starvation,” “bombing the civilians”… nobody wants to be part of that, nobody wants to be associated with genocide.

It is deployed to weaken our resolve, to put us on the defensive. To paraphrase the old gotcha — “When did you stop genociding your neighbors?”

But the more insidious part is that charges of genocide are so serious, it justifies pretty much any action that can be taken to stop it. As we have stated for years, as the anti-Israel extremists have tried to paint Israel as modern-day Nazis… what does one do to a Nazi? “Punch them” is among the more benign responses.

The lie has real-world consequences, as Jews are assaulted, synagogues and Jewish schools are shot at — often by the same people who, after Sept. 11, warned everyone not to attack mosques or blame Muslims for the attack, because “that’s racist!”

And the lie also is meant to convince people that the war needs to end now. Of course, that means Hamas remains in power and can regroup, damning everyone to another round of war in a year or two. And what about the hostages?

The “starvation” lie does not add up. Hamas is quick to tout precise fatality figures just moments after major incidents (which usually wind up being debunked), but hasn’t

Southern Jewish Life is an independent Jewish periodical. Articles and columns do not necessarily reflect the views of any Jewish institutions, agencies or congregations in our region.

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 3 shalom y’all To subscribe, email SJL Online:

reported any starvation deaths since a few in March (comparable to the number in pretty much any developed country). The AP claimed it’s too difficult to get accurate figures.

Really? All of a sudden the Gaza Health Ministry, run by Hamas, is showing pangs of professionalism?

And it simply is not true. Studies show food deliveries to Gaza from January to April are more than adequate by international standards. More food trucks are entering Gaza daily than before the war. Hamas stole a huge percentage and sold it at inflated prices, further abusing their people and enriching themselves.

At press time, over 1,000 trucks were being held up in Egypt, which refuses to allow them through the Rafah crossing. The United Nations complains about difficulties delivering

aid in Gaza, but private groups have not had those issues.

But Israel is “using starvation as a genocidal weapon.”

Remember, these are the same people who called Gaza an open air prison, or a concentration camp, and are now posting pre-October 7 videos of their lost paradise.

War is horrible. Too many innocents are lost. But it does Israel and the Palestinian people a disservice to keep Israel from rooting out Hamas. Without that, and without a deprogramming of the hate curriculum Hamas has taught a generation of Palestinians, with the complicity of the United Nations, there is no chance for peace, or a decent future for the people of Gaza.

And we must not fall for the lies, and keep the resolve — to victory.

Southern Jewish Life Staff


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During the last week of May, Camp Dream Street celebrated its 50th anniversary. Held at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica and sponsored by NFTY-Southern, the five-day camp is an opportunity for children with physical or developmental disabilities to experience the magic of summer camp.

Growing Up

Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience launches expansion campaign, emphasizing family research

Just three years after opening, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans is expanding.

The museum recently acquired space on the third floor of its Howard Avenue building, where it currently occupies much of the first two floors. The new space is being transformed into the Southern Jewish Family Research Center, and an expansion campaign is being launched.

The expansion will add 2,500 square feet to the museum, to house their growing archive, add a reference library and reading room, and a studio for conducting oral histories and presenting virtual programming.

According to Museum Executive Director Kenneth Hoffman, visitors have related hundreds of stories about Southern Jewish history, from Jews and non-Jews. The new space will be a place to keep those stories alive, as well as research family connections throughout the region.

Naming rights are available for the overall center, and for five rooms in the expansion: The conservation and digitization room, archives, oral history studio, reference library and reading room, and the special exhibition gallery.

There are also dedication opportunities for items such as reading room tables, bookcases, shelves, and packages of bookplates.

The reference library will be a repository for materials donated to the

research collection, including published works, reference materials, individual family genealogies and community histories. The archive will make important materials accessible to researchers and the public.

The conservation room will be where museum staff will conserve, catalogue, digitize and prepare archival material for exhibition and online accessibility.

The oral history studio will be for preserving interviews, and also serve as a distance learning studio to videoconference with classrooms all over the country.

Construction has already begun, with a goal of having the new space available by the end of the year.

The museum was first established in 1986 at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Miss. It expanded into the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in 2000, which provides Judaic services to Jewish communities in a 13-state region.

The museum closed in 2012 as the camp needed the space, and the museum was largely inaccessible for larger levels of tourism. It was spun off by the Institute into a separate entity, and New Orleans was eventually selected as the new home. In 2019, the museum’s collection made its way from Mississippi to New Orleans, and the museum opened in 2021 after a Covid delay.

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 5 interesting bits & can’t miss events agenda

Rebranded ISJL Southern and Jewish conference announces lineup

When the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life’s annual June conference convenes near Jackson on June 23, it will have a broader focus and appeal.

For two decades, congregations using the ISJL’s standardized religious school curriculum have gone to Jackson for a couple days of forums and networking. This year, the newly-named “Southern and Jewish” conference will go beyond educators, welcoming congregational presidents, lay leaders, parents and professionals, or anyone interested in Jewish life in the South.

Over the past few years, ISJL reorganized into three main areas — Culture, Education and Spirituality. When in-person conferences resumed in 2023 following the pandemic, the conference broadened its offerings, including small-congregation re sources, and content for culture and spirituality.

With the new conference, there will be of ferings in each of the three areas.

Program tracks will be available for edu cators, those interested in enhancing their spirituality skills, cultural coordinators, and those involved in the nuts and bolts of keeping the congregational doors open.

Presenters will represent Brandeis Uni versity, Repair the World, the Association of Reform Jewish Educators and Keshet.

Vendors and exhibitors include And Thou Shalt Read, Behrman House, The Haberman Institute and the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience.

There will be a Hineinu Y’all education track, with Moving Traditions leading a session on “Jewish Teens: Thriving in Spite of Everything,” and ISJL Director of Education Molly Levy leading “Bereshit to Bluey: Creative Jewish Parenting Today.”

For congregational leaders, Michael Gutenstein will lead “How To Keep the Lights On: Creative Ways to Raise Operating Funds” with Michael Gutenstein; and Rabbi Stacy Rigler, executive director of ARJE, will lead “Supporting Small Synagogue Staffs.”

Rigler will also give one of the three keynote addresses.

Shira Muroff, ISJL director of programs, will lead the Culture Collaboration track.

Rabbi Salem Pearce, director of spirituality at ISJL, will lead minyan both mornings, and musical guests Lapidus and Myles from Atlanta will perform. Lapidus is a rabbi and the composer-in-residence at The Temple, while Myles is a soloist in the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church choir, former pulpit of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The conference will be held from noon on June 23 to noon on June 25 at the Sheraton Flowood, just east of Jackson. There is no registration fee for the conference itself, just for the hotel and meals.

Fellowship boosts community members new to Jewish teaching

Bonim Beyachad, a 10-month fellowship at Hebrew College to support adults new to teaching in part-time and supplemental Jewish educational settings, will launch its inaugural cohort this August. The fellowship provides in-person and virtual professional development in pedagogy, content, and classroom management for new teachers, rooted in the values which guide Hebrew College’s unique pluralistic community.

Susie Tanchel, Hebrew College’s Vice President, said “We established

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Bonim Beyachad to support lay people in becoming Jewish educators, empowering them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to enter classrooms ready to make a difference in children’s lives. We are excited to welcome our first cohort of Bonim Fellows, who will be part of a community of learners trained in pedagogy and Jewish content and receive one-on-one, personalized mentoring.”

More and more Jewish educational leaders, both affiliated and unaffiliated with synagogues, are turning to community members to teach in their programs. These community members are committed to a vibrant Jewish life and to deepening their own Jewish learning. They are inspired to share their love for Judaism with children, yet they need more background in education. The Bonim Beyachad fellowship provides deep Jewish content and scaffolded learning in a robust community of learners.

Each Bonim Beyachad seminar will introduce a theory or practice, offer practical classroom applications, and provide content through a pluralistic lens. Fellows will engage with Jewish content and curricular materials, explore educational pedagogies, and take part in a community of educators who reflect on their practice with the goal of improving their teaching. At the end of the program, Bonim Beyachad Fellows will have gained knowledge, skills, colleagues, confidence, and resources that will benefit their home community.

The program consists of 18 synchronous Zoom seminars, one in-person retreat at Hebrew College outside of Boston, Sept. 24 to 26, seven personalized mentoring sessions and ten hours of adult learning.

Adults teaching or volunteering in Jewish supplemental school settings with little or no training in education who want to contribute to their community, engage in meaningful work, and deepen their relationship with Jewish traditions and rituals are encouraged to apply, as are teams or multiple teachers from the same institution.

More information:

TOLI holding Holocaust education seminar in New Orleans

The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights will hold an educator’s seminar in New Orleans in June, and it is sold out.

“Looking Toward the Future: Finding Hope Through Holocaust and Human Rights Education” will be held from June 9 to 14, in partnership with the National World War II Museum and the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge. In previous summers, TOLI has offered a program in Baton Rouge.

The seminar is for educators at all levels desiring to deepen their understanding of historic and contemporary antisemitism. Through this investigative seminar, attendees will be challenged to think about ways to promote human rights and social justice in their classrooms.

The inquiry-driven seminar models writing as a way to explore difficult topics with students. Drawing from the museum’s many resources, testimony from Holocaust survivors, field trips, and lessons modeled by experienced educators, they will encourage critical thinking in designing curriculum, and learn the best teaching practices for sharing the lessons of the Holocaust with young people today.

There will also be a visit to the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience.

The seminar is led by Penny Kinchen, the English department chair at Central Private School in Central, La. She started teaching about the Holocaust in her literature class in 2013, and attended a TOLI seminar in 2016 in New York, and in Jackson in 2018. Also leading is Alexander “Sandy” Pope, an associate professor of education at Salisbury University. This summer, TOLI is hosting seminars in nine cities across the country.

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 7 agenda

Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria has hired Rabbi Judy Caplan-Ginsburgh as their full-time rabbi for the next two years. She had been serving as the visiting rabbi at B’nai Israel in Monroe.

In partnership with B’nai Israel in Tupelo, the Jewish community in Oxford will be having a monthly service at the home of Kay and Ed Lipsitz. The services will be lay-led. The first service was scheduled for May 3 at 7 p.m. and will be on the Friday before the first Saturday of the month, which means the June service is May 31, and there will be no service on Oct. 4 due to Rosh Hashanah.

On July 26, Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery will hold a retirement dinner for Rabbi Scott Kramer, after the 6 p.m. Shabbat service.

Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center announced a new plan for entering the facility, in the interest of safety. As of May 8, all members and fast-pass holders enter the lobby through the doors on the left. Visitors will enter through the middle doors, and the doors to the right are for exiting the building. In the near future, the doors will be locked, so members will scan themselves in, and visitors will buzz the front desk for entry.

The annual meeting for the North Louisiana Jewish Federation will be on June 27 at 6 p.m. at the Petroleum Club in Shreveport, and on Zoom. Registration is required by June 24.

The Mountain Brook Fire Department has started construction of its new station at the old Knesseth Israel site. Because of the construction, no parking is allowed in the lots. Since the building sold, the congregation has been meeting in the rabbi’s home, a block away.

The next Doubt and Discovery group at Beth Israel in Jackson will be on June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Finkelberg home. Topic will be “Reforming Reform Judaism: Orthodox Lite, or Something Else?”

The University of Alabama Hillel will have summer cookouts every Monday and Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in June and July, and will be open Monday to Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m.

Bais Ariel Chabad in Birmingham will have a Ladies Night Out featuring Shavuot floral arrangements, with Sarah Marshall of Gaia Florals, June 9 at 7 p.m. Registration is $25.

The Sisterhood of Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery will have a group outing to “Zelda in the Backyard” at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival on June 23.

8 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life agenda continued on page 28

Speaking out about silence

The mantra that when it comes to sexual violence, women are to be believed and such actions condemned has been prominent in recent years, with the emergence of #MeToo and the Women’s March.

But the sudden silence when Hamas terrorists perpetrated rape, torture and mutilation on Israeli women on Oct. 7 has shocked and frustrated Jewish women and a few allies — but not the vast majority of those who were presumed before Oct. 7 to be allies. That frustration was evident at “Using Our Voices,” an international panel at the Birmingham Museum of Art on April 4.

Coordinated by the Women’s Philanthropy division of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, the panel was moderated by former U.S. Attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance. About 300 attended the discussion among Jewish Women International CEO Meredith Jacobs, University of Alabama at Birmingham Institute for Human Rights Executive Director Tina Kempin-Reuter, Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center Executive Director Miriam Schler, and Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta.

Zhaundra Jones, vice president of philanthropy and learning at the Women’s Foundation of Alabama, welcomed the audience to the discussion of “a matter of grave importance.”

She condemned the “heinous acts of violence and terror” on Oct. 7, and said “WFA stands firmly against any violence against women.”

She concluded by referencing Martin Luther King’s disappointment in “the appalling silence of the good people” in the face of injustice.

Vance started the discussion by detailing Hamas’ use of sexual violence as a tactic of war. “This was not a byproduct of war, it was a deliberate way of striking fear.”

But the women’s groups who would normally be outraged met the news with a “shrug,” as “there was silence and even denial that the sexual assaults and rapes that were well documented had occurred.”

Vance noted, as did the panelists throughout the evening, that “we should have no difficulty in saying that rape is wrong. Rape is always wrong, it does not matter who the victims are.”

In the face of the silence, Vance said, “we can arm ourselves with information… we can have a willingness to speak out.”

Jacobs said JWI is part of a feminist coalition, with a call among the group leaders every Thursday. During the call the Thursday after Oct. 7, the facilitator, who is Jewish, asked Jacobs if she wanted to talk about what happened. “Normally, that is what we do,” she said. But she sensed that it would not be safe for her to discuss it, and declined, as did Sheila Katz from the National Council of Jewish Women.

October 7 was still brought up during the call, and Jacobs said usually when something like that happens, the chat is filled with hearts, direct

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From left: Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon, Tina Kempin-Reuter, Miriam Schler, Meredith Jacobs and Joyce Vance.
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Women’s panel discusses the surprising lack of response to Hamas’ sexual violence against Israelis


messages, others asking what they could do.


“I have not returned to those calls,” Jacobs said.

In those spaces, she explained, “we are taught to believe all women,” but in this case, proof was demanded. Not only that, the narrative was twisted around to state that “rape is resistance.”

That narrative says “those women deserved what happened to them. That somehow their bodies represented the state of Israel, the oppressor… it is beyond horrific.

“The disbelief has been so painful. I believe it is antisemitic. It is dehumanization, it is delegitimization and it’s a double standard,” echoing Natan Sharansky’s definition for when criticism of Israel crosses over into antisemitism.

“One of the worst traumas for us was the deafening silence of the world,” Schler said. The feminist icons she was raised on, such as Judith Butler and Susan Sarandon, were stating “either it didn’t happen, or it was justified because of the occupation.”

“No matter what your political opinion is… rape can never be a weapon of war.”

Jacobs said the United Nations was silent. Finally, 50 days after Oct. 7, there was a tweet condemning the Hamas attack and calling for the release of the hostages. “It was deleted,” Jacobs said.

After numerous Jewish women’s leaders pressured the U.N. in December, a special envoy was sent to examine what happened, and though she characterized the result as positive, she said the envoy complained about not being able to talk to survivors. “There are very few survivors left,” Jacobs said, “and they aren’t going to trust the U.N.”

Schler said that is part of an unrealistic expectation being imposed on Israeli victims. “It is as if everything we know about sexual assault and what happens to victims has been erased when it comes to the victims of Oct. 7.”


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While skeptics demand more evidence, Schler said what is actually available is the dream of everyone involved in prosecuting sex crimes. “If they had this amount of evidence — it’s always he said, she said. We never have this abundance of evidence,” from eyewitnesses who were forced to watch their loved ones being raped, to the perpetrators filming their actions. Similarly, “victims don’t come forward” in the vast majority of cases, especially to relive their trauma in public. There’s a demand “to be this freak show where the survivors have to come out in front of the world… and tell their story.”

Sultan-Dadon noted that many victims can not give their stories “because they are no longer alive.” But there is plenty of evidence, because “the perpetrators themselves documented, took pride in those atrocities they were committing, they uploaded them to social media.”

Another objection, a lack of forensic evidence, comes from watching too many crime shows. There were 1200 murdered by terrorists on Oct. 7. The crime scenes were places of active warfare, “the last thing people were thinking about was extracting evidence of sexual assault,” Schler said. There were truckloads of bodies that had to be identified and then given to their families for burial.

The ”double standard and hypocrisy” have been “a huge disappointment, a feeling of betrayal, a feeling of abandonment.”

Based on the testimony of hostages that were released toward the end of last year, Sultan-Dadon said, there is evidence that hostages are facing sexual violence in captivity. “It cannot be that every person in the world who talks about human rights is not screaming for their release.”

— Rabbi Steven Silberman Ahavas

Kempin-Reuter said sexual violence is prevalent in war, but even in the Geneva Convention in 1949, it wasn’t really talked about. It wasn’t until the 1990s in Rwanda and Yugoslavia that attention started to be paid. Even so, sexual violence is still seen as a “side note” to war, and it takes a long time for any type of prosecution. She said there were four trials a

10 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life

couple years ago for crimes that took place in the 1990s. “There could and should be more done from international actors.”

Schler said not to look for criminal prosecutions for Oct. 7. Most survivors will not come forward, and most don’t know who the perpetrators were. “We’re talking about thousands of terrorists who infiltrated Israel.” And many of the surviving terrorists are likely to be released in a possible swap of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages.

The message of tearing down the silence and the double standard is needed, Sultan-Dadon said. “Silence is not an option… if I am not taking a clear stand and using my voice against evil, then I am enabling evil.”

“The astonishment in Israel,” Sultan-Dadon said, “is that we woke up to the realization that while so many speak of human rights… all of a sudden, when it comes to Israel, to Israeli women, those values do not apply.

“That is what we still can not digest.”

Jacobs related a story from San Diego, which welcomed a delegation from its Israeli sister city. As the community came out for a huge welcome, a young Israeli girl burst into tears. The girl, Jacobs said, expressed “I thought everyone hated us.”

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

Alabama resolution supports Israel, condemns Hamas

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a joint resolution from the Alabama Legislature on April 9, expressing the state’s “unequivocal support” for Israel in its war against Hamas.

The resolution, SJR29, was presented by Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur. It details Alabama’s historical support for Israel and honors the memory of those killed on Oct. 7 in an “unwarranted and unjustified vicious assault.”

Anat Sultan-Dadon, Israel’s consul general to the Southeastern United States, based in Atlanta, said that as Israel fights a genocidal terrorist group, “we are grateful to the state of Alabama for its clear stand against terror and in support of Israel.”

She was pleased that the resolution included references to the “intentional and systematic” torture and gender-based violence committed by Hamas against Israelis, since “to a large extent we have seen international women’s organizations stay silent in the face of these atrocities.”

The resolution not only condemns Hamas, but also “all those who support their violent, genocidal, and hateful acts — globally, in the United States, and in the State of Alabama.” It references attempts by Hamas to “ethnically cleanse the land of Jews.”

It also reaffirms “unequivocal support for the State of Israel as a Jewish state,” recognizes that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land, condemns all attacks on the people of Israel and

supports Israel “in lawful acts of self-defense.”

The resolution also opposes economic and political isolation of Israel internationally, and “all efforts to assault the legitimacy of Israel as the sovereign homeland of the Jewish People.”

The resolution concludes with a rejection of the claim that Jews are colonizers or occupiers in Israel, citing “testimony including more than 3,000 years of archaeology and history.”

Sultan-Dadon said that statement is important “because of all the false narratives we hear about us, as if we are so-called occupiers of the land… and recognizes our historic ties to our ancient homeland.”

Many legislators attended a March 5 screening of the raw footage from the Oct. 7 atrocities, held in Montgomery by the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta. There have also been screenings in Birmingham and Huntsville.

That night, the Senate passed the resolution unanimously, with all senators added to the bill as co-sponsors. The bill then went to the House, where it was passed on March 7, and officially enrolled on March 14. The passage in both chambers was by voice vote.

The delay in publicizing the resolution came from attempting to schedule a public signing ceremony with Ivey and Sultan-Dadon, and to avoid anti-Israel protests, as had occurred at a couple delegation meetings earlier in the year.

Sultan-Dadon said it was important to note

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the overwhelming bipartisan support for the resolution, “a reflection of the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which have always been and should always remain bipartisan.”

She added that the war against Hamas is not just Israel’s fight, and part of the larger fight against Iran. “The fight for life, freedom and humanity is the fight of the entire free world, in stark opposition to those who glorify death and seek a radical Islamist world order.”

John Buhler, co-chair of the interfaith Alabama-Israel Task Force, said the resolution “made a strong and emphatic statement as an uproar of false accusations and misleading narratives unjustly condemn Israel and assert a nauseating false equivalence with the genocidal atrocities of Hamas.”

He added, “it is vital to not remain silent, and bear witness to the truth, when so many shout or repeat unfounded outrageous claims, echoing Hamas, originally fueled by bigotry and Jew-hatred, and now twisted and cloaked in a facade of justice and nobility to infer Israel is somehow to blame or at fault.”

The resolution is the latest in a long series for the state. Alabama was the first state to call for the establishment of the Jewish homeland, in 1943, five years before Israel’s rebirth. In 2019, Alabama was reportedly the first state to use the language “eternal undivided capital of Israel” in reference to Jerusalem.

Sultan-Dadon said “we commend Alabama for once again standing on the right side of history.”

UAB student resolution condemns Israel

In contrast, a resolution offered by the Student Senate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Feb. 25 “condemns the ongoing occupation, settler colonialism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since 1948” and “the plausible genocide of Gaza since October 2023.”

It calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and states that the student government “stands in unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people… until the Palestinian people are given their due rights and until Israel faces justice and consequences for its actions against them.”

The resolution also calls for a Palestinian flag in the Hill Student Center wall of flags, which shows what countries students are from. Israel is on the wall, along with Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Libya.

Hamas is not referenced in the resolution.

The UAB resolution was written by Nooraldein Alabsi, president of the Muslim Students Association.

UAB historically has had a very small Jewish student population.

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Tulane among universities having to deal with “unlawful” encampments

Fallout includes battle over who can speak for the Jewish community

The national clash over anti-Israel encampments on college campuses reached Tulane University, with the university calling in law enforcement on May 1 to deal with “unlawful encampments,” sparking a battle of words over whether the university acted appropriately or went too far.

The battle also has spilled into the Jewish community, with a public dispute over who can legitimately speak for the community.

According to the university, Students for a Democratic Society requested permission to hold an April 29 gathering on campus, as is protocol for all such events on campus. The group asked for permission for groups outside of Tulane to participate in the event, which was denied, as it goes against Tulane’s policies.

In a May 4 statement, President Michael Fitts and other Tulane officials said that when the university denied the request for outside group participation, “The SDS then decided to cancel their approved event and instead hold an unregistered event on Freret Street, which is a public space and outside of our control, specifically so that they could invite outside community members to join their protest.”

Tulane SDS and Loyola SDS had announced a 5 p.m. rally on April 29, “All Out for Palestine: Rally for Academic Freedom, Stop Suppressing Student Voices,” in front of the ROTC building.

University Student Affairs leaders “provided SDS with clear warnings against using inciteful language, chanting antisemitic slogans, flouting noise ordinances, and erecting unlawful encampments. The organizers and participants, the overwhelming majority of whom were not affiliated with Tulane, however, proceeded to trespass campus property with an unregistered, unauthorized and unlawful demonstration.”

The violations included “antisemitic chanting, disruptive noise, and shoving police in order to set up an illegal barricaded presence on campus,” forcing the closure of three academic buildings and disrupting university events. Classes in those three buildings were held remotely.

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The demonstrators marched onto the campus, down Calhoun Street to the front of Gibson Hall, pitching tents near St. Charles Avenue. The Tulane police initially moved in to prevent the encampment on April 29 but withdrew with the idea of containing and ending the protest. The first warnings about trespassing were issued around 9 p.m.

A separate rally for Israel was held on the Berger Family Lawn, with no incidents.

The administration said discussions were held with the encampment for two days, verbally and in writing, urging the encampment to disburse. During that time, the university received numerous reports of “deeply disturbing behavior by some protesters and counter protesters” including antisemitic slogans and signage by protestors, and Islamophobic language from counter-protestors. “Moreover, outside groups were supplying the encampment with barricades including tires, chains and pallets that created the potential for real danger,” Fitts said.

Among the signs was “Victory to the Resistance,” “Proud Anti-Zionist Jew” and “Jews 4 a Free Palestine,” “Tulane Faculty Stands with Palestine” and “Israel Get Out of Palestine.”

In addition, “dedicated employees who worked to keep everyone safe were harassed, cursed at, and subject to various forms of intimidation.”

On April 30, there were about 10 tents in front of Gibson Hall, with “the overwhelming majority of the protestors” not affiliated with the university. They said they would not leave until Tulane and Loyola divest from any investments the universities have in Israeli companies. An electronic billboard was placed by the encampment to notify the protestors

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that they were trespassing and must leave.

The decision to clear the encampment was made “to avoid the kind of dangerous escalation occurring at other universities across the nation,” and “even in the final moments, the participants were encouraged to leave to avoid arrest. Our only goal was to clear the encampment from our campus, and our desire was to do that without any arrests. Most left the encampment at that time, but some chose instead to remain behind to be arrested.”

Early on May 1, Tulane University Police, the New Orleans Police Department and Louisiana State Police cleared the encampment. According to Tulane, 14 were arrested, including two Tulane students. Six more had been arrested on April 29, including one student, and they reportedly refused to identify themselves, though a “phone zap” to demand their release named them as Sienna Vincent, Hannah Byrne, Israel Chaim “Sruly” Heller, Quest Riggs, Serena Sojic-Borne and Wynn Fischer.

The original six arrests were for trespassing, resisting arrest and battery on an officer.

Seven students were also suspended, and “we are also actively looking into reports of university employees participating in this unlawful demonstration,” the university said.

Tulane SDS identified five of the students as Rory Macdonald, Vonne Crandell, Kristin Hamilton, Silas Gillett and Grayson Gibbs, saying the other two wished to remain anonymous.

The university also suspended the school’s SDS chapter.

Five Loyola students are also facing disciplinary action. The Loyola SDS is demanding that all actions against them be dropped, and that the university release a statement that “acknowledged the genocide of Palestinians and condemns the indiscriminate violence and mass human rights abuses committed by the Zionist Entity.”

Among the demands at Tulane was cutting all ties to Israeli universities, including cancelling Birthright trips “to occupied Palestine.”

On April 30, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans issued a statement condemning “the unlawful protest and encampments on Tulane’s campus that included the use of antisemitic rhetoric,” and that the Federation has reached out to student leaders in “support for their wellbeing.”

Jewish Voice for Peace New Orleans reprinted the Federation statement with a large red “FALSE” stamp over it, saying that the Federation marked the end of Passover “according to its own traditions: posting racist incitements on social media; drumming up fear and misinformation about peaceful student protest; leveling FALSE accusations of antisemitism against the encampment.”

They said the only threat to Jewish safety was by law enforcement, and

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Gaza encampment at Tulane University


the encampment “had easily become THE SAFEST place for Jews anywhere in the city.”

Nathaniel Miller, president of Tulane Israel Public Affairs Committee, told the Algemeiner “These protesters at Tulane are not peaceful. All night, they spewed antisemitic slogans on megaphones, chided police officers, and tried to instigate fights with Jewish counter-protesters and observers across the street.”

On May 2, a group of over 200 faculty members presented a letter opposing “Tulane’s escalatory actions in the face of peaceful protest,” the arrests and suspensions of Tulane students, and “efforts to intimidate students and employees by threatening retaliatory action for participation in peaceful protests.”

Several faculty members issued a video through SDS, saying they were present at the rally and saw “Tulane students engaging in peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations” which is now being “criminalized.” They also condemned the placement of at least four staff members on leave, and stand in solidarity with students “as their professors.”

Tensions were already high in New Orleans, as there had been several incidents in previous days.

On April 24, Hillel hosted a dinner with an IDF soldier. Daniel Wiesen, a Jewish student, organized a Palestinian solidarity rally in opposition to the Hillel event, and SDS endorsed the rally. That evening, JVP also held a “Seder in the Street” and complementary rally for an “Exodus from Zionism” on Poydras Street, blocking traffic in front of Rep. Troy Carter’s office.

JVP and allied groups have also been using the public comment time at New Orleans City Council meetings to push the council for a ceasefire resolution. In 2018, those groups presented the council with a “human rights” bill that did not mention Israel, and after it passed, celebrated it as a win for the boycott-Israel movement. The city council, surprised by that interpretation of the resolution, rescinded it two weeks later in a highly contentious meeting.

On April 26, an anti-Israel protest was held in the street on St. Charles in front of Loyola and Tulane, blocking traffic. On April 28, a group of anti-Israel protestors occupied Jackson Square past its 7 p.m. closing time, declaring it had been renamed Palestine Square, and 10 were arrested.

One of the activist groups, Nola Freedom Forum, in calling for action, urged followers to “send to that friend who doesn’t really do social media but definitely has a burner account to heckle Zios.” The term “Zios,” short for “Zionists,” has been most commonly used by neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

On May 7, SDS was calling for members to “pack the courts” in support of those who were arrested.

In early April, a group of 100 Jewish students at Tulane issued an open letter about how SDS “has crossed the line again and again” from free speech to harassment, and urged the university to rescind SDS’ status as a recognized student organization. “Tulane SDS has repeatedly hailed Hamas terrorists as “martyrs,” called for Zionist Jewish students to be forcibly removed from campus, and publicly doxxed and released the information of Jewish students on Instagram,” they wrote. “They recently embarked on a social media campaign against Professor Walter Isaacson, falsely accusing him of assault after Tulane SDS students sabotaged one of his events and instigated an altercation.”

Last Oct. 26, anti-Israel protesters assaulted multiple people at Tulane, the most serious being after Jewish students at a rally responded to those aboard a truck who attempted to set an Israeli flag on fire. A Jewish student suffered a broken nose after being struck in the face with a megaphone.

Who speaks for the community

As the debate over Tulane’s actions continued, on May 3, a letter to Tulane “from the New Orleans Jewish community” was presented to Fitts, with roughly 250 signatures. The letter was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Israel activist group.

16 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life
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The letter stated that the protests were peaceful, and the “militarized SWAT team… endangered student’s (sic) safety and both mental and physical health,” and that the students were peaceful at the time of the raid.

Groups like JVP state that the protests are not antisemitic, because they take part in the protests, and some of the protest organizers are Jewish. The letter says the university is “scapegoating ‘Jewish safety’” as a justification for clearing the encampment. “We are deeply offended at your completely false and dangerous claims of antisemitism present at the protest,” the letter said, adding that “the entire camp joined in Jewish prayer to mark the end of Passover” in a Mimouna festival the evening of April 30.

The JVP letter said they were speaking out “against genocide” and “we take our vow of ‘never again’ seriously.” They also demanded that Tulane “divest completely from Israel and the genocide that the Israeli government is currently carrying out in Gaza.”

On May 10, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the South Central Region of the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement that JVP “does not speak for the mainstream American Jewish population.”

While the organizations stand for free speech, they “stand firmly against speech that stokes

hatred and threatens the physical and psychological wellbeing of community members,” such as the increasingly hostile rhetoric and threats to Jewish students across the country. “While groups like Jewish Voice for Peace claim to fight against antisemitism, they often partner with and provide platforms for unabashed anti-Israel and anti-Jewish voices,” the agencies stated.

While JVP lends its voice to those calling for the dismantling of Israel, the response letter noted that despite a variance in attitudes toward Israel and its policies, a Pew study “found that 82 percent of American Jews say ‘caring about Israel is an essential part of what being Jewish means to them.’ For most Jews, Israel is an integral part of their social, cultural or religious identities – and yet many also support a twostate solution, the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel. JVP, on the other hand, supports tactics that deny Israel’s right to exist and harm Israel’s legitimacy as a democratic Jewish state, which prevents the sort of dialogue necessary for reconciliation and coexistence.”

The statement said the demonstrations “embrace JVP’s harshest rhetoric,” including chants of Intifada, and “from the river to the sea,” a phrase that was just condemned by the U.S. House as antisemitic and genocidal toward Israel.

In a Facebook post, JVP-Nola insisted “There is nothing antisemitic about the phrase, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’ To combat antisemitism in the 21st century requires combating attempts by Israel and its supporters to literally change the meaning of the word ‘antisemitism’.”

The national JVP organization recently promoted a “Deadly Exchange” campaign to end U.S. police going to Israel to learn best practices on dealing with mass casualty events and preventing terrorism. The campaign charged instead that the exchanges teach U.S. police tactics on how to best oppress minorities, and falsely linked recent police brutality cases against Blacks in the U.S. to Israeli training. In 2020, they had to walk back the campaign during the George Floyd demonstrations, saying without the proper context, it shifts the blame on policing from the U.S. to Israel and “furthers an antisemitic ideology.”

The response letter from Federation and ADL said that JVP’s “exploitation of Jewish identity” allows anti-Israel groups to claim “allyship with the Jewish community while advancing antisemitism.”

The letter concludes with support for private institutions, such as Tulane, enforcing their own policies against “unlawful” events.

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 17


Beeson student making the speaking rounds as Christian defender of Israel

Shortly after the Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel, Birmingham Jewish community members Susan Greene and Caryn Corenblum were walking on Overton Road near the building that had housed Knesseth Israel synagogue. They noticed a tall young woman walking toward the building carrying a bouquet of white roses.

They told her that the synagogue was closed and asked if they could help her. The woman introduced herself, explaining that she was Caroline Bass, a graduate student at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. She told them that she was affiliated with Passages, a national organization of young Christians who have allied themselves with the Jewish people and Israel.

The white roses were significant. They were the symbol of a young group of Christians in Germany in the 1930s who spoke out against Nazism as Hitler was rising to power, often paying for their disobedience with their lives. Bass and others involved with Passages have adopted the white rose in the wake of the horrific massacre of Oct. 7 to affirm their support for Israel,

and had committed themselves to hand deliver bouquets to Jewish institutions where they live.

The meeting with these two Birmingham Jewish women would lead to Bass becoming involved with the Jewish community’s post-Oct. 7 efforts to educate the broader population, especially the Christian community, about Israel and the antisemitic assault on the right of Jews to express their faith and support for Israel openly.

Bass has been a huge asset in this effort. Though just 23, she has an impressive presence, speaks with authenticity and knowledge, and in a soft spoken yet forthright way, commands the attention of her audiences, often made up of people two to three times her age.

Speaking about Israel at Birmingham’s Highlands United Methodist Church to an adult Sunday school class recently, Bass seamlessly juxtaposed her Christian faith with an analysis of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. As she shared words of Scripture, she referenced the civilian casualties in Gaza that have largely been caused by Hamas planting itself in and under civilian installations.

She challenged her fellow Christians to think

beyond the daily news coverage, contending that at times there is evil afoot in the world — in this case, Hamas. And yes, while Christians should never shrink from love for their fellow human beings, which, she said, is one of the most important commandments that Jesus taught, Christians also must acknowledge that such evil exists and they must stand against it.

Trusting Faith

Bass’ knowledge of Israel is grounded in the experience she had spending a semester studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Once she finishes her master’s degree at the Beeson school, she would like to pursue her doctorate in Israel.

Spending time with this determined young woman provides deeper insight into her thinking about her faith, her life and the ways she views the world in general.

At the center of her life is her family and her Christianity. She speaks passionately about her family with love, reverence and gratitude, particularly when it comes to her grandparents in Murfreesboro, Tenn., with whom she is very

18 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life

close. She speaks inspiringly about her trusting faith in God. Yet, she is intensely curious and respectful regarding how other people, including Jews, think about God.

She’s not hesitant to dive into a deep conversation about faith, spirituality, life’s journey and purpose, wanting to learn how the other person thinks. “Tell me about your relationship with God. What has led you to it?” she asks, listening intently. One comes away from a conversation with this graduate divinity student sensing that she is on a journey, destined to make an impact, poised for achievement.


None of this is surprising to those who know her father.

Bass is the daughter of Samford University history professor Jonathan Bass, who wrote “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” a well-received book on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which King addressed to eight white clergymen, including Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Milton Grafman. Grafman believed the “Letter” painted an unfair portrait of his Civil Rights work in the Birmingham community.

Bass herself first developed an interest in the Jewish experience and Israel during her undergraduate years at Samford University in a course on leadership, when she did a paper on Henrietta Szold, a transformative Jewish leader who founded Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. “You Are Blessed”

Today, in addition to carrying an intensive graduate school course load, Bass continues to make herself available to assist the Jewish community’s outreach and education efforts on behalf of Israel and combating antisemitism.

Recently, she journeyed to Fayette, Ala., to co-present a program on Israel at a gathering convened by the Fayette County Baptist Association. Invoking Scripture and fielding questions, this white rose ally made an impact.

One person who was there — an older member of the audience — wrote this in an email afterward to Bass: “What an honor to have met you. Like you, Caroline, my heart is with Israel and her people. You are blessed to be so involved, so young, and to have your level of knowledge.”

More recently, as it was starting to become increasingly difficult to do Israel programming on college campuses — due to fears of anti-Israel demonstrations that often implicitly or explicitly express support for the terror group Hamas, and many colleges unable or unwilling to provide adequate security for Israel-related speakers — Bass stepped forward, determined to make a difference.

She arranged an excellent program at Samford’s Beeson school for students and faculty, highlighted by her conducting a question and answer session with Anat Sultan-Dadon, Israel’s Consul General to the Southeast.

Impressed by her, the Consul General later said “It was inspiring to meet and witness a student who is choosing to play an active role in supporting Israel and the Jewish people, especially at this time. Caroline is a reminder of the difference that a single person can make, and of the fact that Israel and the Jewish people are not alone.”

That evening, Bass and a fellow Beeson divinity student attended a Birmingham Jewish Federation program at the Birmingham Museum of Art that focused on the sexual violence committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 and since then against Israelis the terror group is holding hostage.

Watching her sitting rapt in the front row, her anguish and compassion were apparent as she gently nodded her head, absorbing every word, bearing witness as an ally, and — with a gentle touch of her hand — comforting a Jewish friend seated next to her.

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 19
Photo courtesy John Killian Caroline Bass speaks at event in Fayette.

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The lengthy development of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans culminated in the dedication of the institution’s final major piece, the Liberation Pavilion, on Nov. 3.

The War That Changed The World

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

The dedication ceremony marked the conclusion of the museum’s $400 million Road to Victory Campaign that enabled the museum’s continued expansion to seven pavilions and a hotel over the past two decades.

Ted Weggeland, chair of the museum’s board, said that with the completion of the Liberation Pavilion, “we finally tell the full story of the American experience in the war that changed the world.”

The museum was first dedicated in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum, mainly to commemorate the Higgins boats that were key to the U.S. effort on D-Day in 1944. Built in New Orleans, the boats originally were shallow water work boats for oil and gas exploration, but were reimagined into the landing craft used at Normandy and elsewhere, giving the military flexibility in where they could land, rather than needing to conquer port cities.

From that first pavilion, Weggeland said the museum grew in scope to become a world-class institution on seven acres.

Actor Tom Hanks said at the time, the museum was essentially “two brick warehouses, a Higgins boat and a tank. Now look at it.”

President and CEO Emeritus Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, who helped found the museum with his friend, fellow historian and best-selling author Stephen E. Ambrose, reflected on the occasion. “Twenty-three years ago, when we first opened The National D-Day Museum, Steve and I thought we had achieved our goal to preserve and honor the memory of those Americans who fought on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. The accomplishments of the past two decades extend far beyond what we could have imagined, even after we decided to broaden our mission to tell the full story of the American experience in World War II.”

There were many individuals he wished could have been at the dedication, such as Ambrose, but they are no longer around. Ambrose “would be so proud, so pleased, of what great Americans had done to make this a reality,” he reflected.

Opening the Pavilion

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

“Nearly 80 years after the end of World War II, we remain ever grateful to those Americans who sacrificed so much to secure freedom and democracy, and whose legacies are now our responsibility to carry on here at The National WWII Museum,” said Stephen J. Watson, museum president and CEO.

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, the first female rabbi to serve in the U.S. military, gave the invocation. Now the associate rabbi at Temple Chai in Phoenix, she served in the Army for 38 years and retired as a colonel. She had joined the Army reserves in 1978 and was ordained as a Reconstructionist rabbi in 1981.

She provided the only mention of contemporary conflicts, starting with a reflection “on the horror inflicted on the people of Israel during this past month,” saying that after Oct. 7, “the role of those who rescued the Jewish people from the reign of Nazi terror has been exponentially highlighted.”

She said she is “profoundly grateful” to the museum “for ensuring that the message of ‘never again’ will resonate for generations to come.”

Koppell said about 16 million members of the Allied forces gave their lives to end the Holocaust and liberate Europe. “It is with the most profound sorrow that we acknowledge those heroes today.” The best memo-

20 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life
Photo by James Henry Brook Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, the first female rabbi to serve in the U.S. military, gives the invocation

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rial for them is to recommit to the values of freedom and justice, she added.

She concluded with a prayer for the museum’s continued growth and prosperity, for it to “be a source of inspiration for many, many generations to come.”

Weggeland noted the important support by the state of Louisiana, including being the largest single supporter of the Liberation Pavilion. He thanked and introduced Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who paid tribute to the WWII generation. “There is no more sacred or meaningful form of public service than military service,” Edwards said, “to protect your country, to ensure the survival of liberty and democracy.”

He introduced the Normandy Liberty Bell, which was first rung in 2004 at Normandy on the 60th anniversary of D-Day. It was first rung in the U.S. at Independence Mall in Philadelphia on July 4, 2005, and toured the country for a couple of years before making its home at the museum in 2009.

At the dedication, the bell was struck seven times, to represent the seven stages of a soldier’s life, Edwards explained. “Taps” was then played.

Mueller reflected on the museum’s modest beginnings, noting that Hanks had been there for the beginning of the museum, and that supporters like Hanks, Tom Brokaw and Steven Spielberg gave the museum a level of credibility that it had not yet established on its own.

“This museum is about war, but it is also about the totality of the American experience,” he said.

While the museum celebrates the soldiers, it also tells the broader story. “Wars are the crucibles of change for all societies, and World War II brought about dramatic change in our country both during the war and after the war,” along with other nations that were affected by the fight for freedom, he said.

Wars “also influence who we want to be — what we are willing to fight for, to die for — ultimately, our values as Americans.” The new pavilion documents those values, Mueller added.

This pavilion “was perhaps the hardest to do,” he said. In 2003, the exhibit designers asked “so what? What will people think 100 years from now.” How does one answer why World War II would still be important. They had been focused on telling the stories of different events in the war. “This got us back to the question of what it means today,” and that is reflected in this final pavilion.

Gold Star Daughter and Museum Trustee Sharon Estill Taylor spoke on the wartime loss of her father, U.S. Army Air Forces First Lieutenant Shannon Eugene Estill, when she was three years old, highlighting the

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 21
Inside the Liberation Pavilion
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steep prices paid by servicemembers and their families to ensure victory, and representing the “World War II orphaned children.”

She noted that the pavilion speaks of the celebrations when soldiers came home at the end of the war; her family’s experiences were not celebratory. “They should be celebrated, just as my father would have been celebrated. Today is my father’s ticker tape parade.”

She found the museum shortly after her father was finally buried at Arlington in 2010, and “this museum has become my family.”

Actor, producer, director and writer Tom Hanks reflected on the historic magnitude of the dedication. He said that 80 years earlier on that date, “there wasn’t a human being on the planet who had any idea when World War II was going to end.” The future was “a huge black void with no guarantee of your loved ones coming home.”

stone on the anniversary of his death in 2020, and the replica is of the Star of David marker.

The ”And Then They Came for Me” gallery examines the Holocaust in three sections. The first two sections give the history of how the Holocaust developed, and a replica of part of Anne Frank’s Secret Annex gives a personification to the history.

In September 2019, the museum dedicated a statue of Frank in the Founders Plaza, the second in a series of statues.

The U.S. had no designs on Germany or Japan based on conquest or superiority, he said. The U.S. and its allies “viewed war as the path to liberation,” and those nations are now strong allies, enjoying the benefits of democracy.

“Can you imagine what would have happened if the U.S. and its allies did not take up the responsibility, not to conquer, but to liberate.”

The museum, he said, is a place where anyone can go and see “our responsibility as Americans and freedom-loving people to periodically take up the cause — of what?… of liberty” and removing from war-mongerers “their ability to make war upon their neighbors and the world.”

After a flyover by the Louisiana National Guard Bayou Militia, guests were able to tour the completed pavilion.

Mueller said the pavilion honors “the legacies of the WWII generation and helps visitors understand the relevance of the war today — the meaning of the freedom they secured and each generation’s duty to protect and advance it.”

Inside the Pavilion

There are two floors of exhibit space, and a third floor with a multimedia theater.

The pavilion starts with the sober reminder that 414,920 U.S. servicemembers and merchant marines died in World War II.

As part of the tribute to the fallen, the pavilion has a replica headstone for Corporal Sam Cordova, who was killed in the Philippines in December 1941. He was buried in the Manila American Cemetery, but “without an understanding of his Jewish heritage” his marker was a cross. It was replaced by a Star of David head-

The third section focuses on the Nazi concentration camps and liberation. Throughout the gallery, there are stories about the liberation of the camps, and testimonies from Holocaust survivors.

The gallery was made possible by a gift from The Lupin Foundation, in memory of E. Ralph Lupin, M.D., BGen LA National Guard. Additional support was provided by Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust; Kay and Fred Zeidman, in memory of 1st Lt. Irving Hubert Selber, U.S. Army Air Forces, and Staff Sergeant Morris Benjamin Zeidman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

There is also a tribute to the Four Chaplains on the USS Dorchester, which was torpedoed by the Germans in 1943. The two ministers, priest and rabbi gave their life vests to four soldiers and went down with the ship.

Another section replicates and tells the story of the salt caves where the Nazis hid billions of dollars in stolen art. “The Monuments Men and Women” did a “treasure hunt” that uncovered hundreds of thousands of pieces.

The pavilion’s second floor, Goldring Family Foundation and Woldenberg Foundation Forces of Freedom at Home and Abroad (1945–Present), talks about the efforts to hold Japanese and German leaders accountable for their crimes, leading to the first-ever international war crimes trials.

Other sections detail the rebuilding of a thoroughly devastated continent, how the U.S. emerged as a superpower following the war, technological advances from the war, the war’s effect on foreign policy moving forward, and how the experiences of World War II affected the push for civil rights in the U.S.

“Today is a pivotal day in our institution’s history — the end of an era and the start of a new journey,” said Watson. “As we celebrate, we know that there is much more ahead: We will continue to tell the story of World War II in innovative ways, to find new ways to inspire audiences of all ages across the globe and to embrace our role as storyteller for generations to come.”

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Photo by James Henry Brook Tom Hanks speaks at the dedication ceremony

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New Orleans tourism with a Jewish flavor

For those who want to sip in the history, culture and flavor of New Orleans with some Jewish connections splashed in, Gray Line New Orleans has just the tours to take.

In 2002, Tales of the Cocktail, now the world’s leading cocktail conference, began as a Gray Line partnership to produce a cocktail walking tour. One of Gray Line’s cocktail guides is Roni Bossin, a Jewish New Orleanian. He speaks fluent Hebrew and can also be booked through Gray Line for Jewish history tours in the Crescent City.

“Some great Jewish leaders and businessmen have played important roles in the growth, culture and fabric of New Orleans,” said Bossin, who was born in the U.S., but his parents made aliyah when Bossin was two years old. “There are also several important connections between New Orleans and Israel that I like to highlight on the tours.”

The New Orleans Original Cocktail Walking Tour highlights the Sazerac — America’s first cocktail — which was birthed in New Orleans around the 1850s.

Businessman and philanthropist Malcolm Woldenberg moved to New Orleans in 1944 with longtime business partners the Goldring family

to start a wholesale liquor business. Today, after acquiring another historic liquor company, it is known as the Sazerac Company, the second-largest spirits company in the nation. Third-generation William Goldring still serves as CEO.

“On my Jewish history tours, I also highlight the ‘Banana Man’ — a Russian immigrant named Sam Zemurray — whose innovations paved the way for the banana industry to flourish in the U.S.”

Zemurray immigrated to the U.S. in 1891 at age 14. After landing in New York, he settled in Selma, where his uncle owned a general store. Four years later he went to Mobile to enter the banana trade. In 1905, Zemurray moved to New Orleans and grew the very successful Cuyamel Fruit Company.

He has given much to the New Orleans with his philanthropic efforts. Zemurray also had a deep connection with Chaim Weizmann, who would become Israel’s first president, and his involvement in Central America helped to win a United Nations vote, paving the way for Israel’s declaration of independence.

Bossin also highlights the many contributions of Judah Touro to New Orleans. He also tells the story of the Karnofsky family, who arranged for the great Louis Armstrong to get his first cornet.

“Louis Armstrong sang some songs in Yiddish; wore a Star of David and loved to eat matzah,” he said. Many of the visitors who come from Israel and from other places across the U.S. are surprised to learn about these many Jewish connections.

Bossin was working as a tech lawyer in Haifa when a friend moved to New Orleans in 2013. “I came to visit him and I just fell in love with the city. The people are so warm and they have so many great stories to tell,” he said.

Three years later, Bossin took a “leap of faith” and moved to New Orleans. He learned everything he could about the city and became a certified tour guide. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I really love what I do,” he said. “And it is an evolving process. I’m always learning more…and I gear tours toward the interests of those who are visiting.”

Gray Line celebrates 100 years in New Orleans in 2024. It has been operated by the New Orleans Steamboat Company since 1987. The hub of both companies is the Toulouse Street Wharf, adjacent to Woldenberg Park.

For more information of Gray Line New Orleans and Bossin’s Jewish history tours, go to

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 23

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Vulcan celebrates 120 years

Birmingham’s Iron Man Vulcan turns 120 in 2024, and his annual birthday party on June 2 celebrates the history of this icon.

“We want to honor Vulcan’s past and importance to the Magic City, while looking at the future,” said Vulcan Park and Museum President and CEO Cynthia Cardona. “Of course we want people to come visit the museum to learn about the history of Vulcan and the area, while at the same time we want to get Vulcan figuratively off Red Mountain — to reach out and be involved in the community as a whole.”

The museum’s current exhibit, “Vulcan at 120: Celebrating Birmingham’s Iconic Iron Man,” tells the story of Vulcan’s auspicious beginnings representing the city and state at the 1904 World’s Fair, his decline in the 1990s, and how the community rallied to repair and restore not only the beloved statue, but his park, too. The exhibit includes rarely-seen photos and material from the Vulcan Park Foundation Collection.

Vulcan Park and Museum also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Vulcan and the 25th year of the Vulcan Park Foundation.

Last year’s birthday bash included more than 850 attendees and they expected to eclipse that this year.

Then on July 4, sparks will fly as Vulcan Park and Museum’s Thunder on the Mountain fireworks show lights up the sky.

Cardona said they also plan an expanded Spooktacular event for Halloween on Oct. 31. “We also have our private event space for celebrations and meetings,” she said.

After a one-year hiatus they also plan to bring back the Vulcan Awards, honoring those who are making a difference in the greater Birmingham community. Nominations are currently open and the event will be Nov. 6.

Since the renovated Vulcan Park and Museum re-opened in 2004, more than 800,000 visitors from every state in the nation and more than 80 countries have visited Vulcan, which welcomes more than 8,000 school children

“It’s our goal to have an attraction that represents the whole state of Alabama and the region,” said Cardona. “We want to be on-par with the Statue of Liberty and the Space Needle.”

Visit Natchez celebrates history, new events

Fall event plans are up in the air but still concrete in the historic riverside town of Natchez.

The annual Natchez Hot-Air Balloon Festival on Oct. 18 and 19 is one of many events this year.

“This is an exciting year for Natchez as we welcome new partnerships, plans for the city and celebrate some of our most beloved returning events,” said Visit Natchez Interim Director Lynsey Gilbert. “With so much in store this year, we’re confident that Natchez’s appeal as a truly authentic Southern destination is only going to grow.”

The Balloon Festival will be at Rosalie Mansion and includes an art show, fireworks, carnival rides, live music and food vendors.

Also in October, Natchez hosts Y’all Means All, an LGBTQ+ festival celebrating the diversity of the Natchez community while raising funds for charitable causes.

One of Natchez’s biggest annual events is the Natchez Food and Wine Festival, July 26 and 27. This event celebrates the cuisine the region has to offer, and will include chefs from across the Deep South.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Historic Natchez Foundation. The Foundation “works to preserve and tell the story of Natchez while stimulating development through the rehabilitation of historic properties.”

In 2024, Natchez will also introduce the town’s second trail marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail, recognizing the “Natchez Deacons of Defense and Justice.” This organization is made up of black World War II veterans who fought to protect the civil rights activists.

Gilbert said Natchez also offers various tours year-round, including historic home tours, ghost tours and culinary tours. For more information, go to

24 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life

Southern Jewish Summer Travel

Tree House offers “Bed and Yoga” retreat in downtown Birmingham

Alabama’s only “Bed and Yoga” offers a place to stay in Birmingham’s historic Southside that inspires creativity and wellness in a retreat atmosphere.

Birmingham Tree House, a six-bedroom 1898 Victorian mansion just a few blocks from Temple Emanu-El and Temple Beth-El, was the brainchild of certified yoga instructor Renny Ratliff.

“I wanted to create an environment that inspires community, connection and spirituality,” said Ratliff, a Birmingham native who graduated from Mountain Brook High School. “It’s like an oasis amidst an urban sprawl.”

Ratliff said for years she had dreamed of having a space that brings yoga and hospitality together. She has been teaching yoga for seven years, and then in early 2020 found the perfect place to carry out her vision.

“I started working on the Birmingham Tree House the day the pandemic shut everything down. But it gave me some time to work on renovations and to get the place exactly as I wanted over the span of a few months,” she said.

The Birmingham Tree House has six individual, nature-themed guest rooms that can be rented, or the entire house can be rented with at least three months’ notice.

“My favorite part was designing and decorating the house,” said Ratliff. “I love colors, art, poetry and movement.”

The Birmingham Tree House also includes a co-working space, a living room and a porch. There are also two yoga studios guests are welcome to use, and they can also take part in weekly yoga and meditation classes taught by Ratliff. Locals also can come see LPC Natalie Hottel for counseling and hypnosis.

Ratliff said that the Birmingham Tree House “is an ideal space for gathering for family reunions, corporate parties and other celebrations.” The house is not only dog-friendly, but Ratliff’s dog Tree is a frequent hostess.

Ratliff has welcomed guests and groups from Birmingham as well as from across the world. She is happy to give recommendations to those staying there, including nearby Vulcan Park and Museum, Railroad Park and rEVOLVEr resale.

“I’m from Birmingham but I have traveled around a lot,” she said. “That has shaped who I am and my vision with the Tree House. It’s a place with open-minded energy that I hope inspires people and their unique journeys of discovery.”

Her cure


Kennedi is cured of sickle cell disease thanks to a life-changing bone marrow transplant she received from her sister here at Children’s of Alabama. The amazing treatments, discoveries and innovations for pediatric blood disorders and cancer happening here are helping change lives for the children of Alabama, across the country and around the world.

May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 25 CURE_Kennedi-Jewish-Life-7.75x5-PROD.indd 1 8/7/23 1:45 PM
The “I Am Earth” room

Southern Jewish Senior Life

Holocaust survivor helps build community at Brookdale Senior Living

Riva Hirsch so loves the Brookdale Senior Living University Park community that she helps them coordinate activities, holiday celebrations and encourages her Jewish community friends to make it their home.

The Holocaust survivor has spoken about her heroic story at the community, as well as for schools, synagogues and remembrance events across the country. She considers herself an ambassador and stays very active at the continuing care retirement community in Birmingham.

“I feel like I’m an ambassador here,” said Hirsch, who turns 91 in August. “We love getting more friends involved with the wonderful activities here — Mah Jongg, poker, bridge, bingo, happy hours, musical entertainment, movies and holiday celebrations.”

She said she and her late husband, Aisic, also a Holocaust survivor, used to volunteer at the community when they were younger. When she moved to Brookdale eight years ago, Hirsch knew she wanted to volunteer with leading activities and showing new residents around.

“I’ve felt a sense of belonging,” said Hirsch. “At Brookdale, you really feel like you are at home.”

Hirsch helped organize the Chanukah celebration for the community, which included a meal for more than 200 people and a menorah lighting. “I tell the kitchen what to make for Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah. The chefs do such a wonderful job with the food here… and they work with specialty diets,” she said.

Hirsch, who is a long-time member of Temple Beth-El, organized a trip to the synagogue recently so Brookdale residents could learn from Rabbi Stephen Henken. They are also planning a trip soon to visit the Alabama Holocaust Education Center at Temple Emanu-El.

Julie Wright, Brookdale’s director of resident programs, said many activities are designed based on residents’ interest and specified for different levels of care.

“We have a wide range of activities from senior exercise to learning about technology to musical concerts to arts and crafts,” said Wright. “We also plan shopping outings and visits to the museums. It is kind of like being on a cruise ship.”

Brookdale University Park also includes a beauty salon, fitness center, a library, transportation and is pet friendly. It is one of more than 700 Brookdale communities across the United States.

Hirsch’s story inspires

In 1941, the Germans occupied seven-year-old Riva’s village in Romania. Her family attempted to flee but were captured by the Nazis.

She was separated from her parents and two brothers at a concentration camp in Luchinetz. Riva survived torture, hunger and disease before being liberated in 1945.

In 1948, she finally made it to Israel, where she met Aisic Hirsch. They married in 1950 and had two children. The Hirschs came to New York in 1962 and 30 years later moved to Birmingham to be close to their children and grandchildren.

“It is up to us to tell the stories,” said Hirsch. “We need to teach it to our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids so they will understand and it will never be forgotten.”

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Miles College choir joins Beth-El for Civil Rights Experience Shabbat celebration

Special Shabbat celebrates launch of Beth-El Civil Rights Experience

It was not your typical Friday night service at Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El.

There, standing tall and proud, in front of the Jewish congregation on March 15, was the acclaimed choir from HBCU Miles College filling the beautiful sanctuary with their sounds, energy and music.

Yet, in a deeper way, it was the most normal thing of all. Two communities — African-American and Jewish — worshipping together as fellow Birminghamians in a beautiful spiritual environment that bound the two communities together.

The Friday night worship service ushering in Shabbat was beautiful; to hear the music that was sung and played throughout the service was a great experience.

For someone who doesn’t know much about the Jewish faith, this was a unique learning opportunity, starting with realizing how the prayer book is “backwards” because of how Hebrew is written.

Another feature that stood out was people who have recently lost loved ones rising and reciting prayers to remember and honor them, and everyone greeting each other with “Shabbat Shalom.”

The evening also was important because it was a display of solidarity and mutual support between two communities that have been through struggles, oppression and bigotry.

One purpose of this special Sabbath was to highlight Temple Beth-El’s “Civil Rights Experience,” an initiative that educates and celebrates the role the Birmingham Jewish community played during the city’s Civil Rights era. Music and spirituality were used to bring the two communities together for the evening.

“We learned about the role of Miles College in the Civil Rights Movement when we researched sit-ins in the 1960s as part of this project, and the role of Miles College students in those demonstrations. Along with the historic connection, this seemed like a great chance to build a new relationship,” said Temple Beth-El’s

Margaret Norman.

Perhaps the most powerful moments of the evening occurred during a workshop prior to the start of the service. This setting gave choir members the chance to introduce themselves.

Those from the Jewish community who attended the workshop heard about the choir’s achievements and its upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The workshop also created a setting for members of the Jewish community to join the choir for some singing.

What the two communities sang together was a musical rendition of Psalm 145, with words and music by Miles College Choir Director Valerie R. Harris, who led the singing and fused the voices of the two communities into a one powerful voice. Her energy, passion and love for music and people filled the room.

Together they became wrapped in a single voice: “Great is the Lord, Great is the Lord, Holy, righteous, mighty, awesome… Great is the Lord, Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.”

“In a world where so many are divided, I thought it was important to come together and show unity even though our beliefs are different,” said Harris.

Jaeden Henderson, a Miles College junior and choir member, said he felt very good performing at Temple Beth-El. “It was different only because their beliefs are slightly different than what I’m accustomed to, but overall, a great experience!”

Added Henderson, “I believe it was important for the choir to perform at this event to promote diversity. Diversity is important in anything that we do and to be able to expose people to our beliefs, our gifts and talents was a blessing in itself.”

(Jasmine Moore is a junior at HBCU Miles College. She is interning jointly with Southern Jewish Life and The Birmingham Times through a partnership with Miles. She is focusing on stories of interest to both the Black and Jewish communities.)

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May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 27
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Bais Ariel Chabad in Birmingham will have a Shavuot service on June 11 at 7:45 p.m., and Thru-The-Night learning from 10:30 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. Services on June 12 will be at 9:30 a.m., with a celebration at 11:30 a.m. with the reading of the Ten Commandments, and a noon dairy buffet and ice cream party.

Chabad of Baton Rouge will have a Shavuot dairy dinner, June 12 at 4:30 p.m., open to all. Register online.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have Putting the You in Jew for Shavuot. On June 11 at 5:30, the children’s program begins with pizza and crafts, followed by a tot program at 6 p.m. There will be an ice cream bar and reception for all at 6:30 p.m., followed by breakout sessions about Jewish history, food, film and more, starting at 7 p.m. and lasting until 10 p.m.

Chabad Emerald Coast in Destin will have a Shavuot celebration with a light buffet dinner and cheesecake bar, June 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will have milkshakes and Torah study for Shavuot, June 11 at 8 p.m. Yizkor will be June 13 at noon.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have a Volunteer Fair on June 23 at 9:30 a.m., followed by the congregational annual meeting at 10:30 a.m., and deli box pickup at 12:30 p.m.

Beth Israel in Gulfport will have Sleepless on Shavuot on June 11 at 8 p.m., with a sushi and salad buffet, and a deep dive into three controversial Jewish topics. Reading of the Ten Commandments, with dairy reception and ice cream bar, will be June 12 at 5:30 p.m., and there will be a festival service with reading of the Book of Ruth on June 13 at 9:30 a.m.

The Birmingham Jewish Foundation is hosting an Israel Bonds drive kickoff breakfast, June 18 at 8:30 a.m. at Pinetree Country Club. Kenneth Stein, president of the Center for Israel Education, will speak about the current situation in Israel. A former long-time professor at Emory University, Stein has authored six books. Reservations are requested to the Foundation by June 10.

Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center begins its Thursday Family Fun Nights at the outdoor pool on June 6, starting at 5:30 p.m. There will be food for purchase, and the events are open to members.

Sea Shul on 30A will have a Father’s Day Shabbat service and deli night, June 14 at 5 p.m. at the Seaside Assembly Hall. Breezy’s

continued on page

28 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life


>> Rear Pew Mirror continued from page 30

One last, additional matter which came to our attention after most of this letter was written. Out of concerns related to both noise and safety, we must ask you to remove the musician who’s reportedly on your roof playing a violin.

In the first place, he’s playing music that the performance of which is protected by copyright. On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, he’s at risk of falling and suffering a major injury. Really, Tevye. A fiddler on a hot tin roof? Sounds crazy, no?

We hope that you take this in the spirit of community with which it’s intended. It’s not meant to spoil any vast, eternal plan, now that you’re a wealthy man.

Doug Brook is later this summer, miracle of miracles, once again playing Tevye. To acquire the new FIVE-star rated book “Rear Pew Mirror: Reflections From the Back of the Sanctuary,” read past columns, or listen to the FIVE-star rated Rear Pew Mirror podcast, visit

>> Agenda continued from page 28

will cater the dinner, preceded by a Shabbat service led by Rabbi Joshua Lesser. Early bird tickets by May 31 are $25, Major Contemplators are $35 through June 10, and Procrastinators are $50 starting June 11. Kids are $10.

The final service for Rabbi Joseph Rosen at Beth Israel in Jackson will be on June 21 at 6:15 p.m. He will become the new associate rabbi at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El Civil Rights Experience will have a Community Tour for individuals or small groups on June 30 at 4 p.m. Space is limited.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have a family outing at the ballpark, June 16 at Regions Field. First pitch is 4 p.m. Tickets are $18, and each person will receive a $10 gift card for concessions.

Taco Mama continues to grow its brand across the Southeast

What started as a shell of an idea by Will and Leigh Haver in 2011 has blossomed into thriving, fresh, fast-casual Taco Mama Mexican restaurants, with 19 locations statewide, including numerous locations around the Birmingham area, along with Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Florence, Auburn, Montgomery and Mobile.

“Will has been working in restaurants since he was 19 years old,” said Leigh Haver. “Through travelling and experiencing many approaches to burrito shops and taquerias, we decided that Crestline Village was the perfect spot to create our own taqueria.”

The Havers purchased Otey’s Tavern, located a block from Taco Mama, in 2007 and opened a sister Otey’s location in the Edgewood neighborhood of Homewood in 2023.

The Havers and some family are members of the Levite Jewish Community Center and Temple Emanu-El. “We’re grateful for the support of the Jewish community and we’ve catered many events for them over the years,” she said.

Taco Mama can customize orders to make them kosher-style. The Havers also recommend building a burrito bowl with fresh vegetables, a Hippie Fisherman with flounder or a build-your-own-bowl with tofu. They also offer some Happy Family meals for pick-up or delivery.

Haver added that while no new Alabama locations are planned for 2024, they will open their first Florida location in Gulf Breeze this summer.

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May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life 29 When It Comes To Your Health Experience Matters
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Now I Have Everything

Dear Tevye,

We hope this letter finds you well. Everyone in the AHA is gratified to see that you have, in fact, become a rich man. After being blessed with five daughters and a life of poverty, it’s a gift for you that the Almighty has seen fit to smite you with money, the world’s curse. May you never recover.

In the best interest of our little circle in this village, it’s our humble duty to raise with you several issues that your small fortune has brought about. We ask that you to attend to these matters with all due expedience.

It was a delight to see you buy that big, tall house with rooms by the dozen. Not only is it right in the middle of the town, but that tin roof is as fine as those real wooden floors below.

Regarding the house’s interior, there’s no concern about the one long staircase just going up, but the one even longer coming down does not comply with local building code. The one more that leads nowhere just for show is similarly non-compliant.

Stepping outside of the house, your good fortune has let you fill your yard with chicks, turkeys, geese and ducks which the town both sees and, unfortunately, hears. While their noisy squawking is a reminder that there lives a wealthy man, each loud quack, cluck, gobble and honk lands like a trumpet on the ear which has led to numerous complaints from your neighbors. Please find a way to limit their volume to a level comparable to that of your new milk cow.

Where’s the ghost

of Fruma Sarah when you really need her?

Speaking of noise, there have been numerous reports that your wife, Golde, while supervising meals to her heart’s delight, has also been screaming at your new servants, day and night. It’s not our place to intercede in matters of domestic service, but we wanted to caution you about this before a labor complaint is filed.

Regarding your neighbors, some have observed that you are regularly receiving the most important men in town, fawning on you and asking your advice. This is well and good but, if you please, Reb Tevye, we caution you to not overstep the limits of your knowledge.

People might assume that, because you’re rich, you really know. But it actually does make a difference if you answer right or wrong. For example, the Good Book makes no mention of a chicken.

Perhaps the accuracy of your knowledge will improve now that you have the time you once lacked to sit in the synagogue and pray, in your newfound seat by the eastern wall. Given that you now discuss the holy books with the learned men for seven hours every day, these domestic matters could easily escape your notice. That’s why we’re sending you this letter.

We hope that you understand the various concerns raised in this letter, and that you’ll see fit to address them with all due speed. As you’re doubtlessly discovering, while it is understandably desirable to become a wealthy man if one lives in poverty, with great wealth comes the great expense that wealth brings. The grass is sometimes greener on the other side of the shtetl.

30 May/June 2024 • Southern Jewish Life rear pew mirror • doug brook
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