Southern Jewish Life, Deep South, Sept/Oct 2023

Page 46

Southern Jewish Life

Sept./Oct. 2023

Volume 33 Issue 8

Jewish Life
130052 Birmingham, AL 35213

It’s football season!

No, not the Tide, Tigers, Other Tigers, Bulldogs, Gators and whatever the folks in Oxford are allowed to call themselves these days… it’s political football season, and we’reback to being unwillingly kicked around again.

The latest to misunderstand the Jewish community and the so-called Jewish vote is former President Donald Trump, who took his past comments and amplified them into something that even fans of his are viewing with alarm. His Rosh Hashanah greeting to the Jewish community smacks of the old joke about the Yom Kippur “apology” that tells others to “reflect on what you did to me this past year to make me treat you that way.”

On Truth Social, he posted “Just a quick reminder for liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel because you believed false narratives! Let’s hope you learned from your mistake & make better choices moving forward! Happy New Year!”

It turns out the post was a repost of a graphic done by a Jewish woman, close Trump friend Siggy Flicker, a former Real Housewife of New Jersey, an Israeli-born daughter of Holocaust survivors. She said she doesn’t care how many liberals are triggered by her words.

The first bit to unpack here is how this message under Trump’s name continues our current national climate of political polarization (which unfortunately has also infected Israeli politics). If you disagree with me, you aren’t just wrong, you are evil, you are trying to destroy the country.

Now, in politics, that isn’t an unusual charge any more. We’re about to be subjected to a year of campaign commercials where opponents are called everything except for children of God. But when it is said in the context of the Jewish community, there is an additional layer involved, even if written by someone Jewish.

For centuries, a staple of antisemitism has been the charge of disloyalty —

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 3 shalom y’all To subscribe, email SJL Online: Southern Jewish Life is an independent Jewish periodical. Articles and columns
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Maccabi USA leader praises Birmingham Games

I have had the honor of attending many Maccabi competitions around the world. From Israel to Australia to South America, Europe and the JCC Maccabi games around the United States and Canada, I have logged many miles seeing how sports can be a vehicle to help build Jewish identity, especially in our young.

Southern Jewish Life

that the Jews in a given country were out to destroy said country. It was the rhetoric of the Germany that tried to murder Flicker’s parents. In the 1960s, it manifested itself in the civil rights struggle as the charge that Jews supporting desegregation were working to “destroy our Southern way of life.” It is still a staple of antisemites in the U.S. and elsewhere.

that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to whatever country they are in, a trope that many Democrats have also been leveling lately.

I felt honored to come to Birmingham for the first time and fell in love with not just the city but the people. You have taken Southern hospitality to a new level with your kind and caring approach to the JCC Maccabi Games.


Lawrence M. Brook


Lee J. Green

When engaging in political rhetoric, it is important to realize that some common charges have additional meanings when referencing the Jewish community.

This is an odd mix, though. Trump accuses liberal Jews of trying to destroy Israel through wrong political choices, which is a hotly debated topic in American Jewish circles as many react to Prime Minister Netanyahu with the same level of revulsion that they have for Trump, while others are highly supportive. That’s not exactly evidence of dual loyalty.

Led by the Sokol and Helds, your hard-working volunteers were wonderful. They partnered with your outstanding staff, led by Betzy Lynch, to make the 2017 JCC Maccabi games a huge hit. I want to take this opportunity as executive director of Maccabi USA to say thank you on behalf of everyone involved.


Jeff Pizzo

I had just returned from the 20th World Maccabiah games in Israel with a U.S. delegation of over 1100, who joined 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries. Back in July the eyes of the entire Jewish world were on Jerusalem and the Maccabiah. This past month with 1000 athletes and coaches from around the world being in Birmingham, you became the focal point. Everyone from the Jewish community and the community at large, including a wonderful police force, are to be commended. These games will go down in history as being a seminal moment for the Jewish community as we build to the future by providing such wonderful Jewish memories.

Thirty years ago, that came to the fore when Spencer Bachus, a Republican, was trying to unseat Democrat Ben Erdreich in a redrawn Sixth District in the Birmingham area. Trying to paint Erdreich as a Washington insider who had been there too long (a whole decade!), Bachus used the common catchphrase of “he’s one of us,” modeling it after a campaign in Memphis.

But then, Trump basically said Jews should be supporting him because of all he did for Israel, attaching a list of his many accomplishments in that arena, as well as for fighting antisemitism in the U.S. Even a Trump hater should admit that the list is quite impressive, and had someone other than Trump accomplished those things, that individual would be a generational hero in Jewish history.


SOCIAL/WEB Emily Baldwein



But the Memphis politician wasn’t running against a Jewish candidate. In Birmingham, the phrase was seen as a subtle dig, intentional or not, at Erdreich being Jewish.

In short, Trump wants to know why we aren’t being more loyal to Israel than he, who isn’t Jewish, thinks we should be.

It’s the Middle East version of mansplaining.

On Charlottesville

Even without the accusation in Trump’s post of trying to destroy America, there’s also an allusion to the antisemitic charge of dual loyalty,

Editor’s Note: This reaction to the events in Charlottesville, written by Jeremy Newman, Master of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Theta Colony at Auburn University, was shared by AEPi National, which called it “very eloquent” and praised “our brothers at AEPi Theta Colony at

Rivka Epstein, Louis Crawford, Tally Werthan, Stuart Derroff, Belle Freitag, Ted Gelber, E. Walter Katz, Doug Brook

races, and religions were far from equal and far from safe in our own borders. A time where Americans lived under a constant cloud of racism, anti-Semitism and pervasive hate. The events that took place in Charlottesville served as a reminder of how painfully relevant these issues are today.

Auburn’s Alpha Epsilon Pi stands with the Jewish community of Charlottesville, and with the Jewish people around the country and around the world. We also stand with the minorities who are targeted by the hate that was on display in Charlottesville. We stand with the minorities of whom these white

He also, of course, wonders why Jews aren’t rushing to vote for him in overwhelming numbers in gratitude.

supremacists would like to see pushed back into a corner and made to feel lesser. We stand with and pray for the family of Heather Heyer, who was there standing up to the face of this hate.

continued on page 37

We recognize the essence of the American narrative as a two-century old struggle to rid ourselves of such corners, and allow those in


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the issues of racism and


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America was born a slave nation. A century into our history we engaged in a war in part to ensure we would not continue as one. We found ourselves confronted by the issue of civil rights, and embarked on a mission to ensure the fair treatment of all peoples no matter their skin color. Although we’ve made great strides, it is a mission we’re still grappling with today.

America was also born an immigrant country. As early as the pilgrims, many groups and families found in the country the opportunity to plant stakes, chase their future, and be themselves. Few were met with open

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interesting bits & can’t miss events

LimmudFest New Orleans

Limmud North America announced a change for Limmudfest New Orleans, but for those who have been attending the learning weekends over the years, the only change that might be noticeable is continued improvement in the offerings.

Limmud New Orleans has been formally integrated into Limmud North America. According to Limmud North America CEO David Singer, “we are in the process of integrating into our central umbrella most of our independent programs in the United States and Canada.”

The goal is to streamline administration, “realize better cost efficiencies and economies of scale,” and provide better support for the local organizers of LimmudFest New Orleans.

“LimmudFest New Orleans is coming right back in all its greatness in 2025,” he said, “thanks to the leadership of our dedicated volunteers.”

But Singer said that for those attending the next LimmudFest, “this integration won’t change a thing,” as it will continue to be a locally-led endeavor.

Through the streamlining process, “we will continue investing ever-greater resources in this program, and all our programs across North

into Limmud North America

America, to ensure that more people are impacted by more immersive Jewish learning experiences that animate community.”

The Weekend of Jewish Learning is a pluralistic, volunteer endeavor, with all organizers and speakers doing so on a volunteer basis. About 80 to 90 sessions are organized during the weekend on a wide range of topics, from theological to cultural to historical, along with a range of Shabbat service styles under one roof, culminating in communal meals.

LimmudFest New Orleans began in 2010, meeting every other year. The 2020 version was cancelled at the last minute due to the Covid shutdown, and while an online version was held in 2021, in-person sessions did not resume until March 2023. In recent years, there has been an effort to make the New Orleans event regional.

Singer said that Limmud North America has about 10 regular festivals, with more locations coming. One of the larger programs is the Labor Day weekend Limmud at Camp Ramah Darom in northeast Georgia.

Upcoming events include Limmud Michigan on Oct. 29, the Global Day of Jewish Learning on Nov. 5, and Vermont on Dec. 3. The first part of next year will include Seattle, Arizona and Winnipeg.

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 5
On Sept. 15, Ron Levitt blew the shofar on the front steps of Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El at 10:22 a.m. Area congregations were asked to ring their bells at that time, commemorating the exact moment 60 years earlier when a Klan bomb exploded at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four girls. As synagogues don’t have bells, and it being the eve of Rosh Hashanah, this was seen as a way to participate in the commemoration.
of Jewish Learning anticipated to return in Spring

History and Lunch: Southern Jewish Voices series returns at LJCC

The second season of Southern Jewish Voices will launch in October with something new on the menu. The history dialogues will move to noon, and lunch will be served at each session.

Southern Jewish Voices is a collaborative effort between the Levite Jewish Community Center and Temple Beth-El, presenting stories about Jewish life in Birmingham and around the South. The program is presented through a series of interviews conducted in front of a live audience. Videos of all sessions are archived online.

Margaret Norman, director of programming and engagement at BethEl, conducts the interviews.

“Oral stories can help us understand through first-person experiences how and why communities develop as they do,” said Elizabeth Patton, LJCC program director. “Southern Jewish Voices shares and celebrates stories of being Jewish in Birmingham with a wide audience.”

Ronne Hess, long-time community volunteer and philanthropist, will be interviewed on Oct. 25. The next session will be on Nov. 29 with Rep. Phillip Ensler of Montgomery, the only Jewish member of the Alabama Legislature.

Last year, the series featured Esther Schuster, David Sher, Jesse Unkenholz, Tammi Caldwell-Horn and Jonathan Horn, Ronald Levitt, Madeline Oliff and Barbara Aland.

On the cover: The Lemann Building in downtown Donaldsonville, La. Jacob Lemann founded a business in Donaldsonville after arriving from Germany in 1836. His sons, Bernard and Myer, took it over, renaming it Bernard Lemann and Bro. After a fire destroyed the buildings on a city block, Bernard Lemann purchased the lots and rebuilt an extensive brick building covering the entire block, known as the Lemann Block. The store opened in 1878 and was once referred to as the oldest family-operated department store in the state. It closed in the 1990s. Recently, it housed the Donaldsonville Welcome Center and Museum, but was purchased for historical preservation, and in October 2022, the Lemann Art Lofts opened.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation will have its inaugural Men’s Event on Oct. 9 with guest speaker John Cohen, athletics director at Auburn University. The 5:30 p.m. program will be at Atlas Senior Living headquarters, the former Sirote and Bayer Properties office building. Tickets are $18, drinks and appetizers will be served.

Hadassah Birmingham and Chabad of Alabama will hold a cookie decorating workshop for Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, on Oct. 16 at Chabad.

Pray In Pink Shabbat, the annual breast cancer awareness event, will be at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Mongomery on Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.

The opening Torah on Tap with Temple Beth-El Rabbi Steven Henkin will be on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m., place to be announced.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation and Levite Jewish Community Center are hosting a PJ Library Shalom Baby playdate and bagel brunch, Oct. 29 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the LJCC. The program is for ages 0 to 24 months, and their parents. Reservations required to the Federation.

Agudath Achim in Shreveport will have its Trash to Treasure yard sale on Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be items from members, as well as from the congregations back rooms, including furniture, chi-

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na sets, art work, small appliances and books. Donations of additional goods can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. any weekday. Those wishing to sell their own merchandise can reserve a table for $15.

Ritch’s Pharmacy in Birmingham will hold a flu and Covid shot clinic at the Levite Jewish Community Center on Oct. 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. Those attending should bring photo ID and an insurance or Medicare card, but those without insurance are welcome.

Jody Schlessinger is leading a Blues and Jews Mississippi Road Trip for Temple Beth El in Pensacola. The trip through the Jewish and musical heritage of Mississippi will be from Oct. 21 to 24, with many new stops and sites that were not on the 2015 trip.

Temple Emanu-El and the Birmingham Jewish Federation are hosting “Peter and the Wolf,” a symphonic fairy tale performed by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and narrated by Keith Cromwell of Red Mountain Theatre, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m. at Emanu-El. Admission is free, but tickets are required. A reception will follow.

Bais Ariel Chabad in Birmingham will dedicate its foyer in memory of Lenora Pate on Oct. 22 at 3 p.m.

The Birmingham Wind Ensemble, conducted by Deanna Bell, will “Take A Trip Around The World” at the Levite Jewish Community Center, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public, but an ID is required of non-members.

The Doubt and Discovery group at Beth Israel in Jackson will have a Dialogue Between Reform and Reformed: Judaism and Christianity, with guest speaker Wiley Lowry, assistant pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson. The 7 p.m. discussion on Oct. 10 will be at the Finkelberg home, space is limited and reservations are required.

Delta Region BBYO, formerly Cotton States, will have its fall convention Oct. 20 to 22 at Hillmont Camp in White Bluff, Tenn. The weekend is open to members in grades 9 to 12.

Generation XYZ at Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have a welcome luncheon on Oct. 17 at 11:30 a.m. with musician Ray Reach.

The next Bubbie’s STEM Kitchen at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School will be on Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. In partnership with PJ Library, the event for preschoolers ages 2 to 5 and their parents will explore Sukkot with cooking and science through a Jewish lens, with stories and music by Robin Berger.

Partnership2Gether will hold a series of three Zoom events featuring Rosh Ha’Ayin and sister city Birmingham and P2G community New Orleans. The first will be on Oct. 22 at 10:30 a.m. Central, with a P2G cooking class with Erin Arnold, Birmingham’s Israel Committee chair. The class will feature Southern iced tea, biscuits and pepper jelly.

All are invited to a fall planting class at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, Oct. 8 at 11:15 a.m. in the sukkah. Kids are welcome. Master Gardener Shannon Brasovan will lead a discussion on how, where and when to plant bulbs for the greatest success.

With the closing of the summer pool season at Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center, the annual Pooch Plunge will be on Oct. 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. The event is open to all, but there must be proof that the dogs are current on their shots, must be spayed or neutered, and all breeds are welcome as long as they play well with others. The event is free, but donations to the LJCC and its event partners are welcome.

You Belong in Birmingham will have a Sip and Paint Networking Night, Oct. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Levite Jewish Community Center Senior Lounge. Drinks and appetizers will be served, and pumpkins will


Alabama is one of three states who currently have an ovarian cancer car tag. The Drive Out Ovarian Cancer car tag raises money for research in hopes that one day, doctors will discover an early detection test for ovarian cancer, so that women will be tested for this insidious disease at their annual checkups just like cervical and breast cancers.

The mission of the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation (NLOCF) is to raise funds for ovarian cancer research and to increase awareness about the risks, symptoms and treatments of this disease.

The net proceeds of the $50.00 are distributed to the NLOCF to be used for ovarian cancer research at the UAB hospital. The Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization. Your $50 contribution is tax-deductible.


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Sukkot Events


Bais Ariel Chabad in Birmingham will have Pizza in the Hut, a family sukkah party with pizza, fries and ice cream, face painting, archery tag and kids’ activities, Oct. 2 at 4:30 p.m. Reservations are $10 per adult, $6 for children age 2 and up. Sushi and Scotch in the Sukkah, for adults only, will be Oct. 5 at 7 p.m., with an open bar. Reservations are $25 per adult, $45 per couple.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have Sisterhood Sangria in the Sukkah, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. The family Sukkot celebration, with a waffles in the hut dinner, will be Oct. 3 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Simchat Torah celebration will be Oct. 7 with a 6:30 p.m. dinner, then a 7 p.m. Havdalah and program.

Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El will have Tot Shabbat in the Sukkah on Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. A Shabbat service in the sukkah and family BBQ dinner follows at 6 p.m. On Oct. 6, there will be a happy hour and nosh at 5 p.m., followed by a family Simchat Torah service with the band and consecration, starting at 6 p.m.

The 20th annual Birmingham Southside Sukkah Stroll will be on Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m., a progressive dinner with stops at four homes in the neighborhood.

B’nai Israel in Florence will decorate the sukkah on Sept. 29 at 5 p.m., followed by services at 7 p.m. In-person Simchat Torah services will be Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

Etz Chayim in Huntsville will have sukkah decorating on Sept. 28 at 3 p.m., with Shabbat Sukkot services at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 29 and 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 30. On Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. there will be a concert and kiddush in the sukkah for those bringing donations to the food pantry. There will be a kiddush in the sukkah daily at noon through Oct. 6.

Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville will have a potluck dinner and sukkah decorating on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. service. Pizza and the movie “elemental” in the sukkah for Kindergarten to grade 7 will be on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. An eco-Judaism lunch and learn in the sukkah will be on Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. Sisterhood Sushi in the sukkah will be on Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m. For adults, “TBS’s Got Talent” will be on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Shabbat Simchat Torah will be on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will have an appetizer night in the sukkah, for participants to bring dairy or vegetarian noshes, or wine and cheese, Oct. 1 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Pizza night will be Oct. 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., contact the office and prepay for pizza orders by Oct. 2, cheese or vegetarian only.

The traditional Simchat Torah Lil Perlman Cabbage Dinner at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery will be on Oct. 7, following the 6 p.m. service.

The Jewish Federation of Central Alabama will hold a Sukkot celebration, in partnership with Chabad of Birmingham, Oct. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery. There will be an arts and crafts table for kids to build graham cracker sukkot, and a meal of kosher burgers, hot dogs and chicken, and l’chaims.

Florida Panhandle

Chabad Emerald Coast in Destin will have Sukkot Under the Stars, Sept. 29 at 5:45 p.m.

Chabad in Panama City Beach will have a Sukkot dinner on Sept. 29

8 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life continued on page 41 agenda
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Israeli Consul General does Mississippi tour, visits Birmingham

Israeli Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon recently had a series of meetings with government, academic and business leaders in Alabama and Mississippi, exploring ways to expand collaboration between the states and Israel.

Sultan-Dadon heads the Israeli Consulate to the Southeastern United States. Based in Atlanta, she is responsible for a seven-state territory.

On Aug. 21, Sultan-Dadon had a day in Birmingham for visits with several partner organizations.

The day began at Miles College, for a meeting with President Bobbie Knight, senior faculty members and student leaders, to discuss academic cooperation. That meeting was preceded by a breakfast with the Birmingham Times, Southern Jewish Life and Miles officials to discuss the journalism internship that took place this year. The two publications shared an intern, Kiara Dunlap, then a senior at Miles, during the first half of the year, in a program supported by the Consulate and donors in the Jewish and Black communities. The internship culminated in a trip to Israel with Philos Black.

Sultan-Dadon was the featured speaker at a lunch meeting for Birmingham’s historic YMBC, for a discussion of current events in the Middle East, and U.S.-Israel relations.

There was a meeting with state leaders hosted by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, to discuss existing relationships and further opportunities for collaboration.

The day concluded with a visit to the Levite Jewish Community Center to meet with Executive Director Brooke Bowles and her team, learning about how the LJCC promotes Jewish identity and works with the wider community. There were discussions on working with Israel, especially on inclusion and assisting those with disabilities.

Extended Mississippi Tour

On Aug. 29, the Consulate staff started a two-day visit to Mississippi in Gulfport, visiting the University of Southern Mississippi’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. The visit included an introduction to the Gulf Blue Navigator program, which opened last year. The program provides a place for startup businesses involved in ocean health and economic development, and recently launched its first group of six startup companies in a six-month program.

They also met with the leaders of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council, to discuss opportunities in the area.

Mississippi Development Authority Deputy Director and Chief Economic Development Officer Bill Cork accompanied the consulate for much of the visit, and the consulate said the Development Authority was

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Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon meets with the staff of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life and members of Jackson’s Jewish community at Beth Israel.

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“an invaluable partner in arranging many program components.”

The next stop was Hattiesburg, for tours of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Innovation and Commercialization Center, and the Trent Lott National Center. According to the consulate, “The center’s dedication to research, international relations, and policy development provided an ideal setting for the exchange of knowledge and ideas.” There was also a visit to the Mississippi Polymer Institute.

In Jackson, Sultan-Dadon met with Governor Tate Reeves, who presented her with a gubernatorial proclamation celebrating Israel’s 75th birthday. “I enjoyed discussing economic development and how we can further improve the lives of our citizens,” Reeves said. “For almost 75 years, our countries have worked together as close allies, and I look forward to making Mississippi’s partnership with Israel even stronger over the coming years.” She also met with Department of Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson, and the department held an evening gathering to discuss economic development.

Sultan-Dadon also visited with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, to explore cooperation between the city and Israel. She also visited Jackson State University, meeting with President Elayne Hayes-Anthony, the executive cabinet and student leaders. The visit included a tour of the university’s COFO Civil Rights Education Center, led by its director, Robert Luckett.

The delegation also visited the Two Mississippi Museums, the Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History.

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the team learned about the center’s research and community outreach, especially the STORK initiative that trains first responders and teams on the ground to assist patients before, during and after childbirth.

Culture History

“The temple, built in 1905, houses the oldest Jewish congregation in Mississippi. Its stained glass windows and ark of Italian marble make this synagogue one of the loveliest and most historic in the region.”

There was also a gathering at Beth Israel to meet members of the Jackson Jewish community and the staff of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. There was a discussion of current events in Israel, and Israel-Diaspora relations.

Sultan-Dadon reflected that the visit “reaffirmed the warmth and enthusiasm that characterize the relations between Israel and Mississippi. The shared commitment to progress and partnership is truly inspiring. As we celebrate Israel’s 75th Independence and 75 years of robust relations between Israel and the United States, we look forward to further strengthening the bonds that unite us and exploring new avenues for mutually beneficial collaboration.”

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MSJE program on Civil War-era novel

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience will host an online discussion of “Differences,” a novel written in 1867 by Nathan Mayer. Steven Bowman, who republished it, will discuss the novel on Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Bowman is professor emeritus at the University of Cincinnati.

Mayer was a Union soldier who was a battlefield surgeon, and “Differences” was one of the first post-war novels by a Jewish author. Some consider it the first American Jewish novel of significant literary interest.

An immigrant to the U.S., Mayer started out in Cincinnati before his father, a rabbi, took a pulpit in Hartford, Conn., in 1856. He enlisted in the army in 1862, having just completed medical school, and treated wounded soldiers at Antietam. In 1864 he was captured, then later released in a prisoner swap, finishing his service at a hospital in North Carolina where half of his team was wiped out by yellow fever.

He became a physician in Hartford after the war, was the state’s surgeon general in 1872 and co-founded St. Francis Hospital. He also was music and drama critic for the Hartford Times.

Mayer drew on his own experiences during the war to contrast the North and the South, Jews and non-Jews, and how well the Jews in both regions integrated into their areas. The novel also deliberately works to refute 19th-century stereotypes of Jews.

Registration is available at

Mental evaluation ordered for Memphis shooter

A mental evaluation has been ordered for Joel Bowman, who is accused of trying to enter a Jewish school in Memphis while armed, and firing at a contractor outside the school. An hour after the July 31 incident, he was shot in the chest in a confrontation with police.

Bowman attempted to enter the Margolin Hebrew Academy, but security measures kept him from entering. As it was still summer, classes were not in session, but staff and contractors were on site. Bowman then allegedly confronted a contractor from A to Z Construction Services, shooting at him and then fleeing.

Bowman was found in Bartlett, and after a traffic stop, he is said to have pointed his gun at an officer, who then fired at him.

Bowman, a former student at Margolin and member of the local Jewish community, spent almost three weeks in the hospital. After being released on Aug. 18, he was booked into a medical ward at the Shelby County Jail with bond set at $750,000.

He is charged with two felonies: Criminal attempt second degree murder, and possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony. There are also three misdemeanor charges — carrying a weapon onto school property, reckless endangerment and assault on first responders.

Judge Karen Massey ordered the evaluation to see if Bowman is competent to stand trial. A hearing was set for Sept. 11, and then for Oct. 12.

In 2003, Bowman’s father was fatally shot in front of him by police after his father threatened to kill himself, then ran outside toward the police with a gun to his head. A few days before the incident at Margolin, he posted about his father’s death and his grandfather’s suicide.

May the high holidays be

12 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community
meaningful for all.
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“Jew of Oklahoma” concert in Baton Rouge

Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma will be performing in Baton Rouge on Oct. 15 at the Red Dragon Listening Room. Ben Bell and the Stardust Boys will open the 7 p.m. show. Tickets are $35, $35 for VIP seats.

An Oklahoma native who later moved to Texas, Rubin now calls New Orleans home. He co-founded Killbilly in 1989 and the Americana alternative bluegrass band Bad Livers in 1990. Their final album was released in 2000, and they were inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

In 2015, he went solo with “Southern Discomfort,” followed by “Songs for the Hangman’s Daughter” and his latest, “Triumph of Assimilation.” He describes his music as “Southern Americana from a Jewish POV,” making music with a foot in both worlds.

He plays tenor banjo with the Panorama Jazz Band and has been performing klezmer nationally since 1996.

“Magic of Hadassah” in Birmingham

Hadassah Birmingham will celebrate The Magic of Hadassah, Oct. 29 at Temple Beth-El. Guest speaker will be Rachel Schonberger of Atlanta, a national Hadassah vice president, and past chapter and Southeast Region president.

A third-generation physician, Schonberger chaired Hadassah’s National Physicians Council and led the team that developed Hadassah’s first U.S. accredited continuing medical education seminar for physicians in Israel, and has been course director for that conference four times.

The event will also feature Debbie Leifer, an Atlanta-based mentalist, magician and motivational speaker. She has performed in 23 countries on five continents, and was voted Best Comedy Magician in 2015, and is the only female corporate magician voted Atlanta Magician of the Year. She did seven customized presentations at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s two-day global educational summit.

Doors will open at 2:45 p.m. Registration is $54, with spouses, partners and friends welcome. There is also a Chai Society that is an annual donor level of $180, and Keepers of the Gate at $1,000. There will be a reception for Keepers of the Gate at 2 p.m., and registration for the event is complimentary for Keepers.

Desserts and beverages will follow the program.

Area senators express concern about Iran detainee deal

On Aug. 18, 26 Senators, led by Tim Scott of South Carolina and James Risch of Idaho, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen expressing “significant concern” over the agreement to swap five American detainees in Iran for releasing around $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets. “This decision will reinforce an incredibly dangerous precedent and will enable the Iranian regime to increase its destabilizing activities across the Middle East,” they wrote.

They also expressed worry that this was a way to sidestep Congress and provide funds for Iran in pursuit of a new nuclear agreement. They asked how there could be a guarantee that these funds would go solely for humanitarian purposes and not free up additional funds for Iran’s terrorist proxies in the region.

Among the signatories are Alabama Sen. Katie Britt, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, North Carolina Sens. Ted Budd and Thom Tillis, South Carolina Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, Tennessee Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty and Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

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September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 13 community
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Gary Lazarus was talking with the owner of Shogun Restaurant in Metairie when he noticed something quite odd on the wall behind him — a photo of the Southern Federation of Temple Youth’s Leadership Institute at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in the summer of 1970. Lazarus said “I asked him about it, and he said that it had been up there for a while because someone left it on the table, and he just hung it up in hopes that they would come back looking for it.” It had been on the wall for about a year. As of press time, it is still unknown who left the photo there.

14 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community

Decades of Service

Jewish Family Service celebrates 75 years of helping New Orleans in a variety of ways

Seventy five years ago, what is now Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans started with refugee resettlement, case management and financial assistance.

“That’s where we started,” said Executive Director Roselle Ungar, “and 75 years later, that’s the core of the work we’re still doing.”

Much has evolved over the past 75 years, though, and on June 25 at the Ritz Carlton, the “Decades of Service for the Decades Ahead” were celebrated with a platinum jubilee.

A lobby display featured posters with JFS history through the decades since its founding, and during the brunch, Jefferson Parish Council Member Jennifer Van Vrancken and New Orleans City Councilman Joseph Giarrusso III presented congratulatory proclamations on behalf of their respective bodies.

Moving into the next 75 years, Ungar said the agency’s central mission is still taking care of members of the Jewish community “during challenging times in their lives,” while she is “very proud that we service the entire community. That’s part of our Jewish values and our belief in tikkun olam.”

She sees the agency continuing to grow and evolve “based on the needs of the community, trying to listen to the members of the community, hear what their needs are and try to accommodate them.”

When the Jewish Children’s Home closed in 1948, several social service committees were formed under the umbrella of the Jewish Welfare Federation. One of those was Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

The new committee worked with the National Council of Jewish Women on refugee resettlement and case management, which was the primary focus in the early days. Those services expanded in the 1950s with helping recent refugees acculturate and find jobs and housing. Meanwhile, more seniors in the community began to access the committee’s services, and adoption became part of the portfolio.

In the 1960s, JFS embarked on a relationship with the Tulane School

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Photos by Donna Matherne Council Member Jennifer Van Vrancken presents proclamation to JFS President Debbie Pesses and JFS Executive Director Roselle Ungar

of Social Work to provide case management services. It was also during the 1960s that JFS moved from being a committee to being a division of the Federation, then by the late 1970s became a constituent agency of the Federation.

Also in the 1960s, the committee worked with Travelers Aid, which provided services for the homeless and crisis intervention counseling. Starting in 1971, the executive director of Travelers Aid was Julanne Isaacson, who had previously worked at Family Service Society of New Orleans.

Isaacson was also president of NCJW, overseeing a study of community needs, which led to the creation of a recreation program at the Youth Study Center and a two-year social work scholarship for a probation officer. With that background, Isaacson became the executive director of JFS in 1973, a position she would hold until 1994.

Resettlement activities began to focus on Soviet Jews, as well as non-Jewish refugees from places like Uganda, Vietnam and Cambodia. The 1970s also saw increased demand by couples seeking adoption — but a relative lack of children to adopt.

In 1982, the newly-named Jewish Family Service opened its services to the entire community and formed numerous new programs. Deena Gerber, who served as executive director from 1994 to 2013, said United Way was a major funder of JFS, and wanted agencies they funded to be open. “Catholic Charities was open to everybody,” she explained.

Opening up to the community at large also allowed JFS to approach other places for funding.

The 1980s also saw the introduction of the Family Life Education Committee, which later became Teen Life Counts, providing educational resources on suicide prevention at area schools. Ellie Wainer headed that effort for almost three decades.

Ungar said that last year, over 2,000 students were reached, with the goal of increasing that number this year. The program has progressed “to where we are going to be able to offer it through a dedicated website and train professionals around the country to use our curriculum,” with a licensing fee outside the state.

Also in the 1980s, the Helping Hand sitter registry and the Homemaker program providing light housekeeping and transportation for older or disabled adults were established. The Lifeline electronic personal alert systems in partnership with Touro Infirmary were introduced, as well as an initiative to help older adults with housing issues.

The Passover Food Distribution, which provides baskets of kosher-for-Passover items for community members in need, also began under Isaacson’s administration.

In 2016, JFS honored Isaacson at the annual gala. She said “it is a privilege to be honored by an agency which I led for 21 years and that has continued to make me proud by remaining on the cutting edge of high-quality innovative services for children and families.” She died on May 27 at the age of 98.

Gerber, who had worked at JFS for over a decade before becoming executive director, was originally hired to oversee the Homemaker program. “That was a program that was near and dear to me,” she said.

When Issacson was looking to retire, Gerber said “she really encouraged me” to become her successor, and mentored her. “She had confidence that I could do it… I owe her a lot.”

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Gerber said Isaacson “really was a visionary” and an important part of her legacy that resonates today is continuing professional education, sending staff to different programs so they could learn new techniques in family counseling and individual counseling.

“I was very proud of the strides we made in our counseling program, keeping on top of cutting edge innovations,” she said.

In the 1990s, New Orleans became the first JFS in the country to reach out to the LGBTQ community, and Teen Life Counts expanded into more schools. Group therapy classes expanded the counseling program, and there was also outreach to interfaith couples.

Historic challenge

Perhaps the biggest challenge came in late August 2005 with Hurricane Katrina and the levee breach, which happened shortly after JFS had expanded its territory to the Northshore. As the community began to rebuild, JFS was charged with distributing $700 grants from United Jewish Communities, and to work on recovery loans to members of the Jewish community, as well as other forms of financial and counseling aid.

“Everybody was hurting” after Katrina, Gerber said. “A lot of money came to us, and we were really charged with distributing it wisely.”

She added, “We tried to do it with as much respect and dignity as we could, and reflect on how to make people not feel bad about needing.”

There were many outright grants, financial

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September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 17 community As Israelis rejoice in the sound of the shofar, we’re also preparing for the wail of the siren.
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assistance to those out of work or who needed rent money. A loan program was modeled after Hebrew Free Loan, with a five-year payback. “That really helped a lot of people.” Gerber said that Sandy Levy, then the executive director of JEF, was “remarkable in getting funding, and then we helped distribute it to people.” Allan Bissinger, the new Federation president, “was really helpful, thoughtful. He really made things happen.”

She was grateful for the national support and how the JFS staff reacted. “The staff was really committed to their clients,” she said. There was no such thing as Zoom back then, and none of the staff were able to return to their homes, “and yet, most came back by October.” Their office in Metairie was not affected by the storm, and in mid-October the building was reopened.

After the trauma of Katrina, there was a huge need for counseling. They received funding from the Jewish philanthropic world, and from the government.

With the assistance of Mary Landrieu, the agency received a grant to do research into resiliency as part of a larger study — what makes some people more resilient than others, how one’s outlook on life affects responses. Working with Tulane, JFS interviewed older adults in their homes. “The ability to talk about their experiences and to feel they were being helpful to future generations really helped people,” Gerber said.

In 2011, President Barack Obama honored Gerber with the Champion of Change Award for her work leading JFS following Katrina.

Refugee assistance came back to the fore-

18 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life

front in the 2010s, with serving unaccompanied minors through the U.S. Committee of Refugees and Immigrants, along with partnering with the National Human Trafficking Victims Assistance Program.

Gerber said Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service contacted JFS to see if they would be interested in becoming part of the program. She remembered JFS’ roots working with NCJW and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and how often Sara Stone would speak of the community’s immigration response from decades earlier.

Ungar said JFS serves refugee children from central and South America, working with them through the asylum process and finding sponsor and family homes, acculturating them and ensuring that they are in school. “We want our kids to be an asset” to society, she said.

A big part of the effort is to make sure that the children are not trafficked.

There are 13 staffers working in that program, and Ungar anticipated that number going to 16, as they work with hundreds of children each year.

The agency also launched a Behavioral Health Intern Training Center, and with assistance from the Jewish Endowment Foundation, developed enrichment programs for parents and students at Jewish Community Day School.

Ungar said “we love” the Day School program, which has a therapist at the school for 12 hours per week, working with faculty, staff and students.

The 2010s also saw a professional transition, as Gerber stepped down in June 2013. Michael Steiner became the new executive director for a brief time, then Ungar, who had been with the Federation during the aftermath of Katrina, took over in January 2015.

Gerber said she had “the best social work job in the city,” with an agency that had the right values and resources, and lay leaders committed to the mission. “We always tried to keep Jewish values,” she said. “Even with the non-Jewish staff, we would have a rabbi or other Jewish educator talk about something connecting social services to Judaism, mental health and Judaism… even though we were helping all kinds of people, it was Jewish values directing it all.”

Another major challenge

The 2020s started off with a new set of challenges, with the shutdowns of the Covid pandemic, along with recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Ida. The financial assistance programs and case management were in great demand, and the Teen Life Counts program’s importance was highlighted by a crisis in youth mental health after the pandemic.

During Covid, Ungar said, “we didn’t close. We went virtual.” The JEF provided funding to JFS for Covid response, and JFS immediately went to work. “We’re designed to do that,” Ungar explained. “We have the skill set and expertise, and all the tools in place to turn on a dime and start doing.” The funding enabled them to continue working with case management clients and expand as needed.

The pandemic gave the agency an opportunity to “stop and evaluate our priorities.” She expects to expand the number of mental health professionals in the counseling department, in response to demand. Growth will be “cautious but strategic.” Several additional possible new programs for seniors are being evaluated.

The agency was also called upon once again for hurricane response. Funds raised through the Jewish Federations of North America after Hurricanes Ida and Laura were distributed to affected members of the Jewish community by JFS, which also provided other forms of case management and support.

Ungar said “we’ve done a lot over 75 years. We’ve had amazing professional leadership, amazing lay leadership, and we are still true to our mission.”

“It’s a pretty remarkable legacy,” she added. “This is an agency that’s going to be here a very long time. The need doesn’t go away.”

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 19 community

National AEPi launches service partnership with day in Nola’s Ninth Ward

At its International Convention in New Orleans in early August, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity launched a new partnership with the Jewish Service Alliance, powered by Repair the World, to enhance and expand service opportunities for AEPi’s more than 8,000 undergraduate members on 150 college campuses around the world.

The fraternity partnered with Rebuilding Together New Orleans to assist an 81-year-old veteran, living in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, with repairs to the exterior of his home by replacing rotten wood, caulking, priming and painting. The service project connected students with the needs of those in different communities from their own and emphasized making a difference in people’s lives.

“This was a meaningful opportunity to volunteer for a community that wasn’t ours and to be with other brothers from around the world,” said Isaac Nathan from the University of North Texas. “It was even more meaningful that we were painting a hero’s house.”

“We are excited to partner with AEPi to inspire young adults as they show up for their communities to meet pressing needs and connect to their Jewish value of repairing the world, tikkun olam. Through this partnership, we hope to catalyze tens of thousands of acts of service and learning to create meaningful social change and connect participants to their Jewish identities and communities,” said Celia Livshin, Repair’s senior director of National Partnerships Strategy.

“As the international Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi holds the Jewish value of pursuing a just world through service and learning. This is an integral component of our mission – to develop the future leaders of the Jewish community – and this partnership with Repair the World will provide our members with opportunities to get involved, take action, and make a difference on their campuses and in their communities,” said Rob Derdiger, AEPi CEO. “I’m looking forward to seeing our students continuing to explore their passion for making the world a better place.”

Derdinger added, “Seeing our undergraduates serving alongside each other outside in 100-degree heat to repair a stranger’s house in a neighborhood far from their own, was an unforgettable event. I know that every participant in that program came away with an appreciation for how Alpha Epsilon Pi, working with Repair the World, can make differences in communities around the globe.”

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Photo courtesy AEPi AEPi Brothers in New Orleans partner with Repair the World to repair a local veteran’s house.

Instant Connection

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of Kiara Dunlap’s reflections on participating on the Philos Black trip to Israel in July. Part 1, “Putting It All Together,” was in last month’s issue. This year, the Miles College now-graduate was a writing intern in a program coordinated by Southern Jewish Life and The Birmingham Times, and the Israel trip was the final component of the experience.

As I embarked on my journey to Israel, little did I anticipate the profound encounters awaiting me. While my purpose was to engage with Israeli culture and the challenges faced by various groups, I unexpectedly found myself especially immersed in the narratives of the Ethiopian Jewish community.

The stories of Ethiopian Jews often remain untold, eclipsed by the broader Israeli and Jewish narratives. However, my time in Israel gave me a deeper perspective on the history, the remarkable journey and the challenges this unique community has faced.

My initial entry into this vibrant community began at an absorption center, where I had the privilege of meeting resilient members of the Ethiopian community.

Many of them had come to Israel relatively recently, others have been in the country longer. The purpose of an absorption center is to help immigrants transition into Israeli life. It is a complex process, involving language, employment, identifying within the broader Israeli culture and embarking on a new journey.

I was struck by the fact that visitors from non-white backgrounds, such as our group of young Black leaders from the U.S., are a rarity. In fact, it was an honor being among the few Black visitors whom they’ve had the chance to welcome.

In one single moment — our moment of arrival — a connection emerged between their community and our group. Instinctively, we all knew that it was based on the shared experience of being minorities in our respective countries, unable to conceal that which distinguishes us from the broader culture. It was deeply moving and profound and something I never expected.

The children at the absorption center greeted us with a mixture of awe and curiosity, mirroring the fascination we held for them. Until then, our exposure had primarily been to white Jews, akin to the Jewish people I have met in Birmingham during my internship.

Their search for identity within Israeli culture — and especially Israeli history — was dramatized to us after a poignant visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust, which focuses on the death and destruction of 6 million European Jews.

Immediately after our Yad Vashem experience, we visited a memorial

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Israeli Ethiopian Ashager Araro, center, with members of the Philos Black group.

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site dedicated to those Jews from Ethiopia who died trying to reach Israel, often walking on foot through the Sudan facing marauders, wild animals and starvation.

At the Ethiopian site, our group was guided by the esteemed Ethiopian Jewish actor and director Shai Fredo. Shai’s poignant account resonated deeply as he pointed out his grandfather’s name on the memorial.

His recollections of life and his heritage in Ethiopia, along with the heroic journey his family undertook to reach Israel, left an indelible impression on the group. Despite the challenges he faced upon arriving in Israel as a young boy, Shai’s love for the country and his pride in his Israeli identity shined through.

He also talked about the racism that Ethiopians have encountered in Israel. He attributed this to ignorance among Israelis and lack of familiarity with the Ethiopian community. His commitment to sharing his narrative with anyone willing to listen underscores his determination to counter misconceptions other Israelis may have about Ethiopians.

Having been part of an artist-in-residence program at Clark Atlanta University, an esteemed HBCU (Historically Black College and University), Shai’s appreciation for that opportunity in this unique educational setting resonated deeply with him. He said that being in an HBCU environment was “liberating” and he sought the chance, in part, because it was geared to a minority community.

We also journeyed to an Ethiopian Israeli heritage cultural center run by a remarkable activist, Ashager Araro. She was one of the babies born during Operation Solomon, a well-known effort by Israel to bring large numbers of Ethiopians who wanted to immigrate.

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As a first-generation Israeli in her family, she conveyed the challenge of finding her place between her Israeli classmates and her Ethiopian family. Her journey of embracing her differences and discovering strength in her distinctiveness struck a resemblance to me.

Growing up in a Black family in a white-centered world, attending a mostly white high school and moving from California to Alabama, I, too, have searched for my place and could relate to much of what she was saying.

As I look back on my trip, my encounters with Ethiopian Jews in Israel have enriched my understanding of Israel’s diverse tapestry — as well as its challenges. The Ethiopian saga, not always widely known and rarely center stage, is powerful and inspiring. And it embraces the essence of unity within diversity.

El Al, Delta sign partnership

In June, El Al signed an agreement with Delta Air Lines to launch a strategic partnership offering more convenient connections for customers flying between the United States and Israel. The airlines will implement reciprocal codeshare and frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across both carriers.

Initially, customers connecting onto Delta or El Al’s services will be able to check in for their entire journey, with boarding passes issued and bags checked through to their destination. Delta offers up to 200 sameday connections from Tel Aviv via its U.S. gateways Atlanta, Boston and New York-JFK, while EL AL offers customers additional nonstop service to Tel Aviv from Boston and New York-JFK, alongside their Los Angeles, Miami and Newark service. In due course, both carriers will add their respective codes on each other’s operated flights.

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“Working closely with El Al will further strengthen Delta’s connection to Israel by offering more customers unrivalled access to destinations across the U.S.,” said Matteo Curcio, Delta’s Senior Vice President for Europe, Middle East, Africa and India. “Enhanced partnerships are integral to our long-term strategy to better connect Delta customers around the world.”

22 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community

ADL region merging major events into one Concert Against Hate

A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Awards and the Community Impact Awards to be presented

The South Central region of the Anti-Defamation League is merging its two annual fundraisers into one main event, debuting on Oct. 4 as the Concert Against Hate, featuring the A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Awards and the Community Impact Awards.

This year’s Botnick honorees are Tulane University President Michael Fitts and retired Judge Robin Giarrusso. Big Freedia and Peyton Rose Michelle will receive the Community Impact award.

Big Freedia will be featured at the 7 p.m. concert at the Orpheum Theatre. A sponsor party and happy hour will be at 6 p.m. at the Orpheum’s Speak Easy. Tickets are $180 until Oct. 3, $75 for those under age 45. Sponsorships start at $2500.

The concert “represents the depth and breadth of ADL’s mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to ensure justice and fair treatment for all,” and the idea that in an age of “increasing hate, fear, and misinformation, sharing stories of hope is more necessary now than ever.”

The South Central region, based in New Orleans, covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Fitts became Tulane’s 15th president in 2014, repositioning the university as a world-class academic environment that fosters path-breaking interdisciplinary research, innovative teaching, and a holistic student experience. Each year, the incoming class sets new heights for academic qualifications and diversity.

The ADL stated that Fitts “recognizes that the hallmark of a great university is an equitable environment that supports and sustains diverse perspectives, and that such an environment is fundamental to advancing intellectual rigor, learning, and scholarship.” He has overseen an expansion of research, redevelopment of the downtown campus and large-scale capital projects Uptown.

Giarrusso was a judge on the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans from April 1988 to April 2023. She served as the court’s chief judge from 1998 to 2000. She was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to the State’s Judiciary Commission, and served as chair of the Commission during the last year of her appointment.

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 23 community
Michael Fitts, Judge Robin Giarrusso, Big Freedia and Peyton Rose Michelle

Wishing you blessings and happiness in the coming year

Giarrusso is a vice president of the local Section of the National Council of Jewish Women and is on the board of the Jewish Endowment Foundation. She is a member of the Downtown Rotary Club, past president of Temple Sinai, served as membership vice-president of the New Orleans Bar Association Inn of Court, was a board member of the Tulane Alumni Association, and was an assistant bar examiner. She has served on the board of the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Children’s Regional Service, the Pro-Bono Project, as vice president of the Newcomb College Alumnae Board, and as the class agent for the Newcomb College Class of 1974.

Giarrusso received the First Annual Michaelle Pitard Wynne Professionalism Award given by the Association for Women Attorneys, and the National Urban League Award for Distinguished Public Service. She also received the Pro Bono Project Distinguished Jurist Award in 2015.

In addition, Giarrusso has lectured on advocacy for people with physical disabilities. She is a former board member of Resources for Independent Living, Easter Seals and the Education and Support Program for Children’s Hospital. She was appointed by former Chief Justice Pascal Calogero to attend a national conference on the court related needs of persons with disabilities.

Big Freedia is a New Orleans musical icon, a pioneer in bounce music. The “Queen of Bounce” has expanded the booming sounds of Southern rap on a string of high-energy, twerk-inducing projects, while showcasing her inimitable charisma on blockbuster hits by Drake and Beyoncé.

“Bounce has been through many iterations — from Triggerman to Sissy to Cash Money Bounce — but my new single is something I call Bigga Bounce,” says Freedia, heralding this new chapter for the genre. “Welcome to ‘Central City,’ y’all, where I pay homage to my city, my roots, hip-hop, and to the art of creating a new sound.”

Big Freedia broke into television in 2013 with Fuse’s “Big Freedia Bounces Back,” released her memoir “Big Freedia: God Save The Queen Diva” in 2015, launched a cannabis line called Royal Bud in 2022, and is on track to open her very own Hotel Freedia in New Orleans in 2024.

Along with more upcoming new music, the Queen Diva is gearing up to launch a new original series, “Big Freedia Means Business,” which will explore her prolific entrepreneurial endeavors.

Big Freedia hopes her voice and platform as an unapologetically authentic artist will inspire, especially at a time when the rights of LGBTQ+ people are under constant attack. “We gotta keep pushing, and I hope this album speaks to my community and everyone who feels they don’t have a voice,” she said. “I am living proof of why you don’t let yourself get dragged down. We keep going. We keep fighting.”

Peyton Rose Michelle is a 25-year-old trans woman based in Lafayette, having been born and raised in Parks, by Breaux Bridge. She serves as the first executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates, where she leads LTA’s legislative initiatives and helps lead Legislative Organizing Coalition for All LGBTQ+ Louisianans, which LTA co-founded.

She also became the first openly transgender person to be elected in the state of Louisiana in July 2020, gaining a seat on the Democratic State Central Committee, winning the vote in the 46th district, a conservative rural area outside of Lafayette.

NFTY holding regional New Orleans conclave

NFTY Southern will hold its Fall Conclave in New Orleans the weekend of Nov. 3, co-hosted by the NFTY chapters at Touro Synagogue, Temple Sinai and Gates of Prayer.

Jewish teens from the region, which includes Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, will spend the weekend together for teen-led socializing, service work and learning.

The Spring Conclave will be held in March at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica.

24 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community
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years of Volunteer Community Service to LSU and Baton Rouge Communities

Israel names SE region tourism director

new consul for tourism affairs to the Southern United States has a good deal of experience in the south… of France.

Lorin Maugery, 43, appointed to the role in August by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, grew up in Provence in southeastern France. He trained as a lawyer in France and at Fordham University, and earned a certificate in hotel real estate investments and asset management from Cornell University, according to LinkedIn.

When he visited Israel for the first time at the age of 14, Maugery was overwhelmed when he first touched the Western Wall in Jerusalem, he told JNS. At 29, he made aliyah with his wife, Anna. In 2014, he began as a marketing department desk manager in the tourism ministry, responsible for France, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands.

In recent years, Maugery established and headed the ministry’s foreign investor-relations department, assisting developers hoping to invest in Israeli hotels. One of his most proud accomplishments was organizing a conference in Dubai on investment in the Israeli hotel industry.

“Having Israelis seated next to Emirati delegates at our event was really moving,” he said. “The Abraham Accords opened many opportunities, and we were honored to enable people from both countries to explore business opportunities in the hotel industry.”

He is now headed to Atlanta, where the Israeli tourism office is responsible for 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

“I hope to expose as many people as possible within the Southern region of the U.S. to Israel as a prime travel destination,” he told JNS.

“Closer than you think”

Maugery, who is excited to meet “interesting people” in the United States, including those in the travel industry and religious leaders, told JNS that he anticipates his biggest challenge will be conveying “the true and genuine Israel to our friends from the South.”

He aims to do so by speaking at events and to the media, and through organizing and attending conferences.

“Israel has so much to offer travelers,” he told JNS. “Everything from history and religion to diverse cultures and amazing food. We have beautiful beaches and friendly people, hiking and scuba-diving.”

Those in the South may think of Israel as far away and out-of-reach as a feasible travel destination. But, he said, “Israel is closer than you think,” noting direct flights to Tel Aviv from Atlanta, Miami, and soon, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

‘More awareness and acceptance’

Since colonial times, Jews have been a part of the South and have made “significant contributions to the region’s history and culture,” according to Kenneth Hoffman, executive director of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans.

“In turn, the South has had a significant influence on us. It’s a unique relationship that has given the world Jewish Mardi Gras parades, fried matzah balls and the phrase, ‘Shalom Y’all,’” he told JNS.

Hoffman, who invited the new Israeli consul to visit the museum, recommended that Maugery explore Jewish historical sites in Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Galveston, Texas; Natchez, Miss.; Vicksburg, Miss.; and Memphis, Tenn. And, of course, in the Big Easy.

“Sharing our culture and history with the wider non-Jewish population gives us opportunities for education, conversation and fellowship, leading to more awareness and acceptance,” he said. “In this time of growing antisemitism, these kinds of interactions can help make our communities stronger, safer and more secure.”

26 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community

Isaacson to discuss “Elon Musk” at Nola JCC

Walter Isaacson has a new biography out, and he will talk about it at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center’s Uptown location.

On Oct. 5, Isaacson will present “Elon Musk,” his new best-selling work.

Isaacson has also written biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin.

Isaacson is a professor of history at Tulane and was CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2023.

For two years, Isaacson shadowed Musk, attended his meetings, walked his factories with him, and spent hours interviewing him, his family, friends, coworkers, and adversaries.

A native of South Africa, Musk was regularly bullied as a child, with one episode landing him in the hospital for a week. That, and the emotional scars he had from his father, affected his psyche, giving him a taste for risk and drama, and a motivation to go from being bullied on the playground to owning the playground.

Musk’s takeover of Twitter further his controversial persona, and in recent weeks he has been a hot topic in the Jewish world, as he appeared to blame the Anti-Defamation League, solely among advocacy groups critical of Musk allowing hate speech to roam unfettered on Twitter, as being responsible for Twitter’s sinking value. That led to accusations of antisemitism personally, along with the vast increase in antisemitic posts by Twitter users since he took over.

Conversely, he had a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September, where they discussed artificial intelligence, combating online bots, and striking a balance between the First Amendment and combating hate speech, as Musk insisted he opposes antisemitism and anything that promotes hate and conflict.

Tickets are required for the event, and are $35. A ticket admits one or two people, and includes one copy of the book. At the event, he will sign copies from the ticket sales or from Octavia Books, which is co-sponsoring the evening. A portion of book sales from Octavia will go to support literary programs at the JCC.

The event is part of the Cathy and Morris Bart Jewish Cultural Arts Series.

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 27 community

This Week In Southern Jewish Life

Art exhibit explores Gemilut Hasadim at area nonprofits

Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center will host an art exhibit featuring works from partner agencies in the Jewish and general communities.

“Gemilut Hasadim at The J: A Collaborative Exhibit” will celebrate the Jewish New Year with paintings by groups and individuals at 10 other agencies and institutions, all on the theme of loving-kindness.

The exhibit is modeled after a similar initiative at the Gordon JCC in Nashville. Earlier this year, LJCC staff visited Nashville to explore their offerings. Their “Under One Roof” is held during Sukkot.

Participating organizations include Birmingham AIDS Outreach, Chabad of Alabama, Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center, Collat Jewish Family Services and its CARES program, Hadassah Birmingham, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, I3 Academy, the LJCC, Temple Beth-El and Temple Emanu-El.

Program Director Elizabeth Patton said even though she is not Jewish, the concept of gemliut hasadim resonated with her. “Offering loving-kindness without anticipation of receiving something in return only strengthens a relationship, which in turn makes for a strong community.”

She added that at the LJCC, “People here feel genuine concern for one another. There’s a palpable effort to embrace and support everyone,” and that, along with how the partner organizations also practice gemilut hasadim, is why they chose this theme.

The opening reception will be on Oct. 24 at 6 p.m., with wine and appetizers. The public is invited, an ID is required for those who are not LJCC members.

Shreveport commemorates Yellow Fever epidemic

Rabbi Jana De Benedetti of B’nai Zion will be among those offering prayers and reflections as Shreveport commemorates the 150th anniversary of a yellow fever epidemic that killed off one-fourth of the city’s population.

The observance, part of a series of events, will be held on Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. at Oakland Cemetery, which houses the Yellow Fever Mound, a mass grave of over 700 victims of the epidemic, at a time when the city’s population was about 4,500. It is regarded as the third worst epidemic of its type in U.S. history.

The mound includes people of all ages, ethnicities and religious backgrounds. The gathering, where Mayor Tom Arceneaux will speak, is an interfaith community effort.

28 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community good and sweet new year! M A Y Y O U H A V E A
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Arrest made in murder of Israeli businessman in Birmingham

Snir Lalum, an Israeli living in Birmingham, was killed in what was considered a robbery attempt on Aug. 24.

Lalum, 44, was co-owner of Insta-Movers and was opening the business for the day around 5 a.m. when he was apparently followed to the business from a nearby convenience store. Birmingham Police Southside precinct officers were dispatched at 5:15 a.m. and found Lalum in a warehouse bay, suffering from a gunshot wound. He was transported to UAB Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:50 a.m.

The Birmingham Police Department said “the preliminary investigation suggests an unknown suspect(s) approached the victim at the business and fired shots at him. Currently, the motive is unknown.”

On Sept. 1, the arrest of Sebastian Ross, 23 of Hoover, was announced. He was charged with capital murder during robbery, and was booked into the Jefferson County Jail on Aug. 25. A second suspect reportedly is still at large.

Lalum lived in Vestavia with his wife, Karin, and 6-year-old son, Yarin. Assaf Hazan has organized a GoFundMe to support his wife and son, raising over $28,000 at press time. “The funds raised will support the relocation costs, ensuring a stable environment for Snir’s wife and son as they navigate this challenging chapter of their lives,” Hazan wrote. “Additionally, the funds will contribute to specialized care and therapy for their child, providing him with the tools necessary for his growth and development.”

Lalum had lived in the area for several years. In 2013 ads for Alabama Fresh Air in this magazine, Lalum was listed as a co-owner and active member of Chabad of Alabama and the LJCC.

The afternoon following the incident, Jeff Brown, regional security advisor for the Birmingham Jewish Community, sent out a summary to local Jewish institutions, saying “we are aware of an incident involving a member of the Birmingham Jewish community this morning. Working with the Birmingham Jewish Federation and Birmingham Police we can confirm this was not a targeted attack against the Jewish community and there is no ongoing threat.”

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Tolmas Award nominations open

Nominations are open for the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans’ fifth annual Oscar J. Tolmas L’dor V’dor Award.

The award celebrates the unsung heroes of the Greater New Orleans Jewish community, who quietly and consistently aid in repairing the world around them. Those nominated for the award should reflect the values of tzedakah and tikkun olam, within the Jewish community and/ or across the broader New Orleans community alike.

Previous award winners are Hal Shepard, Gail Chalew, Barri Bronston, and Shellye Farber.

Born in 1920, Tolmas was a lifelong New Orleanian. Upon his death in 2013, his entire estate was left to the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust. Led by Vincent Giardina and Lisa Romano, the Trust supports numerous local organizations in their quest to help better the community.

Anyone may submit a nomination, but to be eligible for the award, a nominee must be a member of a Jewish household, which includes interfaith members, and be a member of the Federation, having made a gift of any amount to the 2023 Annual Campaign.

Nominations are open until Oct. 6, and the recipient will be chosen by a committee consisting of the trustees of the Trust, as well as Federation lay leadership. The award will be presented at the Federation’s Annual Celebration on Nov. 30 at the Audubon Tea Room.

Event at Loyola celebrates the Jewish-Latin American Experience

The Goldring Family Foundation Center for Jewish-Multicultural Affairs will hold its second Annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, “Stories & Sabores of the Jewish-Latin American Experience.”

The event will be on Oct. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Loyola University’s Danna Student Center, St. Charles Room.

In partnership with Loyola University’s Department of Languages and Cultures and the Program in Latin American and Latinx Studies, this year’s event will shine a spotlight on the rich tapestry of the Jewish-Latin American Experience, bringing together the community to celebrate diversity, culture and shared stories.

Featured personal narratives will include Carlos Adame on Mexico, Marcela Boskis de Totah on Argentina and Mexico, Rebeca Pinhas on Costa Rica, Sebastian and Valeria Salmon on Bolivia, Rafael Shabetai on Argentina and Anamaria Villamarin-Lupin on Colombia. Ana Gershanik will moderate.

There will be music and regional foods. The event is free and open to the public.

PJ Library, Nola Jewish schools collecting stuffed animals for First Responders

PJ Library and Jewish schools in New Orleans are holding a stuffed animal drive for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and its Barran’s Bears program. First responders have stuffed animals with them, so they can comfort children experiencing traumatic events such as a traffic accident or domestic violence.

Officer Turner Barran, who started the initiative, said many children they encounter do not have a Teddy bear, and it is easier for the children to bond with officers who offer them a furry friend.

New or unused plush animals can be brought to the PJ Library/Jewish Children’s Regional Service office in Metairie, Slater Torah Academy, the Uptown Jewish Community Center Nursery School, Louise Hayem Manheim Preschool at Gates of Prayer, or Jewish Community Day School. The effort will conclude on Oct. 21, coinciding with Shabbat Noach. A similar drive was held in 2019, also ending with Noach.

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Preserving Alabama’s Jewish history

Symposium held in Montgomery

Who is preserving Alabama’s Jewish stories, and what resources exist to make sure the stories aren’t forgotten?

On July 25, about 80 people from around the state attended the first-ever Alabama Jewish Culture and History Symposium, held at Temple Beth Or in Montgomery.

Coordinated by the Alabama Folklife Association, the symposium provided a forum for researchers and laypeople to gather and discuss what historical projects are being done, how to properly preserve historical items that will be of interest to researchers, assess what is already available and where, and network on possible collaborations.

Emily Blejwas, director of the AFA, said the symposium grew out of a Jewish Folklife in Alabama working group, which has met quarterly online since 2022. That group was started after the AFA’s 2022 Cauthen Fellowships grant applications were reviewed, as there were three different Jewish history projects among the 21 applicants.

“The AFA connected the three applicants, who agreed a regular convening mechanism for communities and academics doing work in Jewish culture in Alabama would be helpful,” Blejwas said. At an early meeting, a list of priorities was established, one of which was a statewide symposium, and the AFA applied for and received a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts for the event.

Deborah Gurt of the McCall Library at the University of South Alabama spoke of the need for individuals and congregations to preserve scrapbooks, journals, letters and bulletins. “Anything that helps tell the stories of Alabama’s Jewish history.”

South Alabama has an archive of material

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 31
Hollywood Outdoor Living has stylish and cozy fire pits to keep you warm during those cool fall evenings and throughout the winter.
Cantor Neil Schwartz describes unusual markings in Dothan’s Jewish cemetery

mainly from the Mobile-area Jewish community, including Ahavas Chesed’s materials to 1989. As part of the event, there were displays from the Jewish Mobile Oral History Project.

There was also an exhibit of recent photographs, “We had to know who we were; We had to know who we weren’t” by Emily Williams. Williams, who is working on her master’s at Louisiana State University, has photographed Jewish history in several smaller communities in Alabama.

Nora Katz, in one of her last events as director of heritage and interpretation at the Goldring/ Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, said they have over 800 oral histories that “provide insight into aspects of the Southern Jewish experience that might be missing from other sources.”

That said, the ISJL is not a “collecting institution,” but she suggested that institutions who want to preserve their stories work on a list of what to keep, “relying on a group of decision makers rather than one individual.”

Most congregations and institutions have individuals who represent “multiple decades of institutional memory.”

While discussing what items to preserve, Katz said grant applications are often overlooked, but she said they are “some of the most interesting documents,” because they tell the story of an institution’s plans and priorities.

One place that is a collecting archive is the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Keri Hallford described its offerings, noting that it is the first public archive in the country, pre-dating even the National Archive.

Melissa Young spoke about the Temple BethEl Civil Rights Experience in Birmingham, which is set to have its grand opening on Oct.

26. With the increase in civil rights tourism and especially Jewish groups coming to the area, “we were looking for a sustainable method to welcome these groups,” and congregants were more than willing to share their stories about their experiences during the Civil Rights battles, as well as the attempted bombing of Beth-El by the Klan in 1958.

Susan Thomas described the extensive archives at Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile, the state’s oldest Jewish congregation. The archive was established in 1980 and she took over in 2005. She brough a few items from the archive, including a registry of births, marriages and deaths dating back to 1860.

Thomas spoke of Leon Schwartz, who had been sheriff and then mayor in 1927, as “the most famous Mobilian you’ve never heard of.” A World War I veteran, Schwartz helped establish the American Legion. The archive has a collection of his materials.

Cantor Neil Schwartz, who recently retired from Temple Emanu-El in Dothan, presented his research into an unusual find in Dothan’s Jewish cemetery — several stones with three Hebrew letters — lamed, pay and kuf — carved together into one symbol, something he had never seen in any Jewish cemetery.

32 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community
ISJL’s Nora Katz addresses the conference

He discovered that these stones had been designed by Isadore Bauman, who died in 1946. Bauman had moved to the state from Poland, and in the area of Poland where he was from, it was common to use those letters on tombstones to signify a “short date” — commonly, the Hebrew letters for the year give just the last three digits, such as using 687 for 5687. While most stones simply leave it at that, this symbol was used in a few places to indicate that it is a shortened date.


Dan Puckett of Troy University led a session where academics shared what they are researching, and what funding opportunities exist. Puckett chairs the Alabama Holocaust Commission and is author of “In the Shadow of Hitler: Alabama’s Jews, the Second World War, and the Holocaust.”

Amy Milligan of Old Dominion University, who is documenting Selma Jewish history, said she works in “memory keeping and story telling,” how stories are remembered by individuals. She found her way to Selma and figured on working there for two weeks to tell the community’s story.

Instead, she ran into Ronnie Leet and Hanna

Berger, two of the remaining three Jews in Selma’s communities, and that was over six years ago. In that time, she has made numerous trips to Selma, and recorded over 500 hours of oral history for a forthcoming book.

Selma’s Mishkan Israel is “a lens for us to understand the story of Jews in Selma, in the Black Belt, and the larger story of Jews in Alabama and the South.”

She said it is important to “center the narratives” of small congregations, because “no congregation is too small… everybody is somebody,” and small congregations are a wealth of historical knowledge and context.

Young spoke about her work in exploring the “second wave” of Birmingham’s Jewish history. Much has been done about the first Jewish families that arrived shortly after the city was formed in 1871, of German origin and acculturated. Much is also known about the Yiddish-speaking Eastern European immigrants from 1895 to 1915.

“In between was a second wave that is almost never recognized,” she said. There were lots of splinter groups that fought with each other, and a surprising amount of movement among the community’s congregations.

She said it is vital for community members to

tell their stories. “I couldn’t do what I do without people telling me their stories.”

Being able to tell the stories is becoming increasingly challenging regarding the Holocaust. Ann Mollengarden of the Alabama Holocaust Education Center said that for the most part, “we don’t have survivors to tell us stories any more.” Now, the search is on for further family stories, newspaper clippings, anything that can preserve the memories.

The AHEC has an archive online detailing every Holocaust survivor known to have resettled in Alabama at some point. Currently, there are almost 180 identified.

“In learning the stories, we are able to teach the history,” Mollengarden said.

Dahlia Road, a duo in Auburn that recently released their first album, “Our Way Back Home,” also performed, and there were tables of Jewish-related books published by the university presses of Alabama and Georgia.

In summing up the day, Milligan asked for communities to consider what would be most helpful to them in collecting and preserving their history. The AFA is planning to make the symposium a regular event, and there is talk of doing the symposium or workshops around the state.

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 33 community

ISJL offering road trips exploring Jewish Mississippi

The Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life will have an online information session for those interested in their upcoming tours of the Jewish Delta.

“Jews, Blues and Food” will start in Jackson on Jan. 31 and travel to Memphis and the Mississippi Delta through Feb. 5. A longer tour, “Jewish Life in the Most Southern Place on Earth” will highlight Jackson, Natchez, Vicksburg and the Mississippi Delta from Feb. 18 to 25.

The online information session will be on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Central. Registration is open through Nov. 1.

Each tour will have between 20 and 40 participants. Staff from the Institute will lead the bus trips through off-the-beaten-path destinations, leading discussions on Southern Jewish history while experiencing Mississippi art, music and cuisine.

The first tour starts with civil rights history in Jackson, then moves to Greenwood and Indianola, before Shabbat evening in Greenville. There will be tours of Mound Bayou and Ruleville, and an evening at a juke joint in Clarksdale. Memphis will include civil rights sites such as the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel, and a night on Beale Street.

After time in Jackson, the second tour heads to Natchez and the oldest Jewish congregation in the state, along with antebellum sites. A visit to Vicksburg includes a discussion about Jewish involvement in the Civil War, followed by a journey to Greenville. After visits to Mound Bayou and Ruleville, there will be a visit to Greenwood, where there will be a Southern cooking class and Shabbat. The trip continues with following the footsteps of Emmett Till, then back to Jackson.

Rates, specific sites on the itinerary and additional registration information is available at

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“Only at the J” gala

Ever since Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center opened its doors in 1906, LJCC Executive Director Brooke Bowles said, it “has been saving lives on a daily basis.”

She said “the feeling of belonging and community we offer everyone who walks through our doors changes their trajectory, offering hope and motivation.”

“Only at the J” was the theme of the Aug. 6 J’la, which raised over $160,000 to broaden the Center’s impact in the Jewish and general communities. She noted the many partnerships that have developed, with the LJCC offering its facilities to a variety of groups, and how it is a place to expand relations between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities.

The evening also included a $15,000 challenge gift from Medical Properties Trust.

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 35 Shanah Tovah Wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year! Local. National. Global. Wherever you need us. © 2023 Dentons. Dentons is a global legal practice providing client services worldwide through its member firms and affiliates. No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers. Please see for Legal Notices.
Above, Brooke Bowles addresses the crowd. Left, the live auction. Far left, the silent auction.

Fighting for Our Families, Our Values, Our Way of Life

“As our area of the state continues to grow, it is extremely important to have a State Representative with the vision, determination and commitment to represent our entire district. As your Representative I will be accessible, available and engaged with our families and businesses.”

A Career of Service

• Ponchatoula City Council – 14 years

Served as Mayor Pro Tempore

• Ponchatoula City Planning and Zoning Board – 2 years

• Ponchatoula Volunteer Fire Fighter and First Responder –23 years

• First Assistant Chief – 12 years

• Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Board Member – 13 years Chairman, King and Parliamentarian

• Tangi Tourism Board of Directors – Board Treasurer

• Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce Member

• Tangipahoa Chamber of Commerce Member

• Associated Builders and Contractors of Louisiana-Bayou Chapter Member

• Founding member of the LSU Student Chapter of the Instrument Society of America (ISA)

Roots Deep in Our Community

• He and his wife, Lou Ann, have 2 sons, Joshua and Tyler

• Works as an Electrical Engineer

• Member of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond.

• Graduate of Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science Electrical Engineering Degree

New JLI to explore World of Kabbalah

Nola classes presented in memory of Richard Stone

Kabbalah has often been seen as a mysterious, even incomprehensible, aspect of Jewish thought. The new Rohr Jewish Learning Institute class seeks to make it more understandable.

“The World of Kabbalah: Revealing how its mystical secrets relate to you” is a six-week class led by Chabad Houses across the country. Currently, classes have been announced for Baton Rouge and the New Orleans area, information in other communities, including Birmingham, was not set at press time.

The course will detail the core mystical and spiritual teachings of Jewish mysticism, with a view on how they offer insights into daily life, self-understanding and personal growth.

The first lesson, “The Evolution of Ego,” is about three spiritual worlds linking the divine plan to the physical universe, and how the three worlds correspond to human thought, speech and action, and how that insight helps prevent rash decisions and promotes habits for intentional living.

Additional classes talk about the 10 Sefirot, the mystical vessels between heaven and earth, the chaos of the primordial spiritual universe, what it means that God “contracted” to allow space for humanity in the universe, the purpose of the physical universe and the power humans have to repair wrongs.

In Metairie, the course will be offered on six Tuesdays from Nov. 7 to Dec. 19, skipping Dec. 12, at 10:30 a.m. at the Goldring/Woldenberg Jewish Community Campus, or 7:30 p.m. at Chabad of Metairie. There is also an online option. The Nov. 7 class is a free stand-alone event at both locations, with dinner served at the evening class, sponsored by Lakelawn Funeral Home. Registration for the course is $75 with a 10 percent discount for two or more, or for returning students.

In New Orleans, the course will be at the Uptown Chabad for six Wednesdays, Oct. 25 to Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. Registration is $70 with a 10 percent discount for two or more, or for returning students. As with the first session in Metairie, the Oct. 25 Uptown class can also be attended without charge.

In Baton Rouge, there will be an in-person course on six Mondays from Oct. 30 to Dec. 4 at 11 a.m. at the Main Library at Goodwood, or on Zoom at 7 p.m. Registration is $98 with a 10 percent discount for couples, or for returning students.

This year’s JLI courses in New Orleans are being presented in partnership with the Stone family to honor the memory of Richard Stone. “We feel that this is a meaningful way to honor Richard’s memory as well as his devotion to Jewish learning, and how the Torah informed his view of law and ethics,” said Rabbi Mendel Rivkin.

Stone, a New Orleans native, was assistant solicitor general of the United States and argued over a dozen cases before the Supreme Court, taught tax law at Columbia University for 40 years, co-founded Lev Pharmaceuticals and worked with Israeli technology companies. He chaired the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and was active in numerous Jewish causes. He died in May 2022.

The winter JLI course will be “Advice for Life,” from the guidance of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and the spring JLI course will be “Decisions of Fate,” Jewish values for making life and death decisions. The spring class will include the opportunity for CLE and CME credits.

36 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life community •
Early Voting: Sept. 30 – Oct. 7 Election Day: Saturday, October 14
May the coming year of 5784 be a blessing for you and for our entire state

There is a common question among Republican activists — why does the Jewish community not vote more heavily Republican, given how supportive Republicans are of Israel, and how the Democrats have been tolerating anti-Israel extremists in their midst.

Of course, in our region one can point to the antics of Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor “Jewish Space Lasers” Greene and Matt

Gaetz as an easy response.

It’s a fundamental mis-reading of the Jewish electorate. Yes, on some level, Israel is important to most of us. But we aren’t Israeli. We’re American, and while views on Israel inform our vote, it’s not the sum total of who gets our vote. We live here, not in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Our main concern is the U.S. legislative process, not the Knesset.

continued from page 4

Every four years, Republicans think “this is the year” that Jews will be attracted by their Israel policies, economic policies, fiscal restraint (does either party do that any more?), strong defense, and so forth.

But then, you’ll have random Republicans go on about how “this is a Christian nation” or demonize the LGBTQ community, or see who can be the most restrictive regarding access to

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 37
>> Politics

abortion (hello, Sen. Tuberville), or many other hot-button issues that are designed to appeal to a certain base and get the party nomination while having little to do with governance. At that point, many Jewish voters decide that nah, we can handle a couple far-left cranks in Congress, and stay with the Democrats.

That’s on a national level, in this region the vote is much more evenly split. But there’s still the unfortunate necessity to list all the reasons why there’s no way one should vote for a Republican, and then list the reasons why there’s no way one should vote for a Democrat, and then go through the list seeing which one, on balance, has fewer items that will cause lasting damage.

The post also taps into fears that the love of Israel and the Jews is transactional — we are liked as long as we toe a certain party line. It isn’t an unfounded fear — when the Jews didn’t flock to his new religion of Islam, Mohammed went from very friendly to very hostile.

Martin Luther agreed that the corrupt Catholic church would never attract Jews b ut would be far more receptive to his reformed church. When that didn’t happen, his writings became virulently antisemitic.

That concern is still felt today. A couple years ago, a prominent Christian supporter of Israel railed against the new Israeli left-wing government, suggesting Christian support was being tested. Thankfully, everyone else in the Christian Zionist world was shocked by his remarks, and he wound up apologizing for a hasty, emotional reaction.

Being anti-Israel can hurt

Even without the Jewish community being single-issue on Israel, many political figures have learned that being seen as anti-Israel does hurt. Despite the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt being signed on his watch, President Jimmy Carter’s other mis-steps lost him much of the Jewish vote in 1980 (though he still out-polled Reagan, 45 percent to 39 percent), something he apparently never got over, and he has been horrible as a former president when it comes to Israel.

Despite leading the first Gulf War, President George Bush received just 11 percent of the Jewish vote in 1992 after inexplicable battles over aid to Israel and the infamous Secretary of State James Baker quote, “F--- the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.” So we didn’t.

President Barack Obama was seen as terrible for Israel, and his eroding Jewish support between 2008 and 2012 showed that, and the hangover affected his vice president, Joe Biden, as he had that lower level of support from Jewish voters in 2020.

But that low level was still more than 2-to-1 for Obama and Biden over their opponents, even as Trump received 30 percent of the Jewish vote in 2020, relatively high for a Republican.

Next year, given how bad the Biden administration has been regarding the Middle East, a more mainstream Republican candidate has a great shot at attracting a larger percentage of the Jewish vote. But to do that, the candidate can’t be staking the most extreme positions on social and church-state issues. Nobody expects a Republican nominee to be a rah-rah leftist on those issues, but at least a modicum of humanity would be appreciated.

It would also be appreciated if our political figures and their supporters would approach the Jewish community with a bit more understanding that we, too, are not monolithic, we are by no means single issue, and we really don’t appreciate it when statements are made that the antisemitic “Jewish conspiracy” nuts can latch on to.

We’ve had far too many people accuse us of trying to destroy the society we are in. We especially don’t need someone who wants us to believe he is our best friend making that sort of charge.

38 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life commentary INFO@SCOTTWALKERJP.COM | @SCOTTWALKERJP 3519 Severn•(504) 888-2010 • Fax (504) 888-2014 ONE STOP KOSHER FOOD SHOPPING Dine In — Take Out — Catering Shanah Tovah! Open Mondays-Thursdays, 10am-7pm; Fridays and Sundays 10am-3pm Outside the New Orleans Area? We Will Ship Your Order To You!
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Life coach helps clients achieve their goals

September is synonymous with college football, and this year, the High Holy Days.

Thoughts turn to setting goals, making resolutions and life achievements. Football fans also know the important role a coach plays in a team’s success. For life coach Caryn Corenblum, her success comes from helping her clients to achieve theirs.

“I find that as I am working with others to increase their awareness to maximize their personal and professional potential, it forces me to grow and understand more about myself,” said Corenblum, who in 2005 launched IntuitivEdge Coaching and Learning in Birmingham. “I’m devoted to lifelong learning and growing as a person. That’s what helps me to partner with others.”

Last month, Corenblum attended an international coaching conference in Orlando to learn about new techniques; the role of AI in business/life coaching, and best practices.

“The coaches created a culture of connectivity and belonging,” she said. “It’s important to give advice but it’s most important just to listen.”

Corenblum said that like in football, achieving goals and success in life involves a team — a life coach, family, friends.

One of the emerging fields Corenblum has successfully employed with her clients and in workshops she conducts is NeuroLeadership. This focuses on bringing scientific knowledge about the brain and the body to the fields of leadership development, change management, emotion and stress regulation as well as collaboration with others.

“I consider myself a ‘deep coach.’ My clients and I work together to identify where they are stuck and what their next steps are to move themselves forward,” she said. “We focus on the psychological, the emotional, the spiritual and the action — they are all connected. I focus on the full, embodied human wellness picture.”

Corenblum is originally from Baltimore and met her husband, Steven, while she was at the Emory University pursuing a degree in Business Administration. She would later earn a law degree from the New England School of Law. Steven was from Birmingham, so they moved to the Magic City, with Caryn working as a pension and profit-sharing attorney.

They started having children and she experienced the challenges of balancing family with career. “This was in the late 1980s and I started working part-time in diversity training,” she said. That led to her becoming program director for what was then called the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

“That really opened my eyes to social change and leadership success,” said Corenblum. She would go on to obtain a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama. More recently she has also completed a three-year training program in PBSP, a holistic developmental healing methodology and she is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner.

Being Jewish, a mother, a daughter and a spouse have played important roles in her own development as well as providing a foundation of understanding to help others.

“Leadership implies and includes being a parent. It is a focus on passion and inclusivity. We find those keys that help us to balance parenthood with personal and career success. It’s a balance,” she said, adding that her husband and

continued on page 40

happened 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.

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 39 health/wellness CURE_Kennedi-Jewish-Life-7.75x5-PROD.indd 1 8/7/23 1:45 PM

>> Coach

continued from page 39

her sons Elliot, Carl and Zachary have been “my greatest teachers.”

Corenblum said her Judaism and specifically the concept of Teshuva (Hebrew for repentance) grounds her in her purpose to become a master facilitator of change.

“Teshuva really grounds me in my practice,” she said. “To assist others in their Teshuva process is a blessing.”

She also pointed to the importance of Elul, the month of self-reflection. “We don’t change unless we turn and look inside of ourselves,” added Corenblum.

Corenblum can work with clients via in-person sessions, Zoom or a combination of the two. She also has an Emotions Education 101 Zoom she developed that will be starting up again soon.

“Making a change and growing involves a commitment,” she said, adding that typically she would work with a client for six months to a year at a time, either weekly or monthly. “Each client plan is unique. My goal is to assist people to trust their impulses to become their own master-facilitator of change. This includes developing that relationship with a coach and knowing when to ask for help.”

Atlanta Kosher BBQ contest returns

The Atlanta Kosher BBQ Festival returns on Oct. 22, with approximately 25 teams competing in kosher brisket, beef ribs, chicken and chili categories. The Atlanta Kashruth Commission oversees the event, which is run by the Hebrew Order of David and celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Noah’s Bark, a team from Temple Kol Emeth, was the Grand Champion in 2022.

The festival is at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. There will be a vendor village, children’s activities, music, silent auction and barbecue. Admission is free. Tasting tickets are $1.25 and can be purchased in advance or at the event.

Last year, about 4,000 attended the festival.

Proceeds in past years have benefited the Jewish Education Loan Fund, Backpack Buddies, I Care Atlanta, Atlanta Israel Coalition, Cobb County Police K-9 Unit, Cobb County Sheriff’s Department and the Atlanta area Jewish community.

Teams who wish to compete can sign up for $600. They will receive two Weber kettles to use, two bags of lump charcoal, a whole brisket, beef ribs, chicken, ground beef and beans for chili, and all the ingredients needed to make a rub and sauce. Vendor tables are also available, and items are being accepted for the silent auction. Further information is available at

40 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life
What’s Your TRADITION?

>> Agenda

at 6 p.m., by reservation only.


continued from page 8

Temple Beth El in Pensacola will have a Shabbat Under the Stars service and dinner, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. The Simchat Torah service and dinner will be Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.

Chabad of Pensacola will have Sukkot Under the Stars on Sept. 29, with a young professionals happy hour at 5:45 p.m., and welcoming the holiday at 6:30 p.m. with a community dinner in the sukkah. CKids will have Sukkot World, designing and building a sukkah model, Oct. 1 at 10:30 a.m. The Pensacola Sukkah Mobile will be traveling from Oct. 2 to 6. A Sukkot Graffiti teen party will be on Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. Sukkot in Jerusalem, a family celebration and dinner, with art decorating and a caricature artist, will be Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. The Mentsch Club will have Scotch and Cigars in the Sukkah, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in the new Chabad garden. On Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m., there will be a Simchat Torah celebration with a holiday buffet and l’chaims. Simchat Torah Day celebration will be Oct. 8 at noon, with lunch, dancing and a farbrengen.

Sea Shul will have a Sukkot celebration on Sept. 30 at 11 a.m. at The Nature School in Santa Rosa Beach, with learning, crafts, decorating and a pizza party.


Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria will have a Sukkot family service and dinner on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.

Chabad of Baton Rouge will have a Sukkot dinner on Sept. 29. Services will be at 6:30 p.m., dinner will be at 7 p.m. The event is free, sponsorships are $100. A kids event, Cereal in the Sukkah, with a pancake bar, will be on Oct. 1 at 10 a.m.

The Unified Jewish Congregation of Baton Rouge will have a Sukkot service on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m., followed by a dairy potluck and Sukkah mixology. Morning service will be at 10 a.m. on Sept. 30. Consecration will be on Oct. 1 at 10:30 a.m., with pizza in the hut, a petting zoo and snow balls. Sisterhood Sangria and Salads in the Sukkah will be on Oct. 3. Simchat Torah service will be Oct. 6 at 6 p.m., and Shemini Atzeret with Yizkor will be Oct. 7 at 10 a.m.

A Sukkot bring-your-own picnic dinner will follow the 5:30 p.m. Shabbat service on Sept. 29 at Temple Shalom in Lafayette

B’nai Israel in Monroe will have a Sukkot service on Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. with Rabbi Salem Pearce of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, followed by a potluck dinner.

Agudath Achim in Shreveport will have a covered dish lunch following the 10 a.m. Simchat Torah service on Oct. 8.

B’nai Zion in Shreveport will have a Harvest Dinner, Sept. 29 in the sukkah following services. The service will be preceded by sukkah decorating at 5:30 p.m.


Beth Israel in Gulfport will have a kids’ Sundaes in the Sukkah program on Oct. 1 at 10 a.m., Services start at 9:30 a.m., and kiddush in the sukkah follows. There will be a Sukkah Hop on Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m. Simchat Torah celebration will be Oct. 8 at 10 a.m.

Beth Israel in Jackson will have a Sukkot Shabbat on Sept. 29 at 6:15 p.m., with pizza to follow. The morning service will be Sept. 30 at 9 a.m., followed by Torah study at 10:45 a.m. Shemini Atzeret yizkor is Oct. 7 at 9 a.m., with Torah study at 10:45 a.m. Simchat Torah, Consecration and a potluck dinner will be Oct. 7 at 5 p.m., with the morning service Oct. 8 at 9 a.m.

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 41


Supporting Caregivers: One Week at a Time

Twice a week, in my role as director of the CJFS CARES dementia respite program, I co-facilitate virtual support groups with CARES Assistant Program Director Lise Grace for family caregivers of people with dementia. CJFS initiated these support groups more than 20 years ago, before CARES existed. We offer these groups at no charge, and many of the caregivers who faithfully attend have no other connection to CJFS or CARES. Some don’t even live in Alabama.

1811 29th Ave South Homewood, AL 35209 205-874-1044

Many — and probably most of them — would tell you that the support group is the most important part of their week. Lise and I recently talked about why this is the case. Lise brings a unique perspective to the group in that she went from attending a support group as a caregiver to facilitating one. For six years, she cared for her late husband, Dan, who had early onset Alzheimer’s and passed away in 2016. The first piece of advice Lise received after Dan’s diagnosis was to join the CJFS support group.

Many support group members, upon joining the group, express that they were relieved to find people who understood what they were going through. That was very much Lise’s experience. The isolation she was feeling was only adding to her stress, and the support group proved to be the answer. “For me, it was an absolute lifeline. It made me realize that I was not alone in my caregiving experience. Dementia presents in very different ways, but among caregivers, the similarities far outweigh the differences. We all become exhausted and overwhelmed, and feel guilty because we think we could be a better caregiver.” In our group, people are always saying to us that they’re disappointed in themselves because they lost their patience with their loved one. We repeatedly remind them that if you’re human, you’re going to lose your patience from time to time.


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I asked her why she thought dementia caregivers in particular seek out support groups. She explained: “I cared for my father after he had a stroke, and one difference is that my dad was loving and grateful. We had a shared reality, great conversations, and he could participate in making decisions about his care. With Dan, and with dementia caregiving in general, you’re often making decisions on someone’s behalf, not even sure how they might feel about it because they’ve lost the ability to express that. They’re unlikely to express gratitude for what you do, and you may feel like you’re taking care of somebody who doesn’t even like or know you.”

I asked Lise if anything has surprised her about our support groups. “I might have been surprised, had it not been for my personal experience,” she said. “I expected participants to share thoughts that they wouldn’t say anywhere else. ‘I’m ready for this to be over’ is not uncommon to hear. Primarily, you want your loved one’s suffering to end, but you’re also aware of the toll that caregiving is taking on your own physical and mental health. A support group is a safe place to say that.”

Lise and I discussed the most common things we repeatedly tell our caregivers. We agreed that we often have to reassure them that they are doing a good job. We focus a lot on self-care, reminding them that their health and happiness matters too. We encourage them to pursue the things they enjoy as often as possible. We tell them never to say no to an offer of help from a friend or family member and to get paid help if

42 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life counselor’s corner
a monthly feature from Collat Jewish Family Services
Fine Jewelry • Local Art • Furniture Restoration
continued on page 45

Revisiting the 1980s: Ala. Shakespeare featuring “Midsummer,” “Joseph”

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is connecting the present with the past as they kick off the 2023-24 season with the show that started it all when the ASF moved to Montgomery in 1985.

William Shakespeare’s classic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will get a new telling when it hits the stage, Sept. 14 through Oct. 1. Director Rick Dildine said the ASF production focuses on “our need to love and be loved.”

“At the center of our telling of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is a boy in his attic escaping a dispute between his parents,” said Dildine, who is also the ASF’s artistic director. “Here he has permission to dream and have big thoughts and feelings. He has created a fairy tale world. And through this story, he will find his way home.”

Dildine said as a director who came of age in the 1980s, he found himself drawn to intergenerational stories with movies such as “The Neverending Story,” “Princess Bride” and “The Goonies.”

“Like Midsummer, these are all stories that ask us to go not only on physical adventures but also adventures of the heart,” he said.

Dildine said the production includes live music, with the fairy characters being portrayed by the musicians. “I love employing some of the trappings Shakespeare would have used,” he said.

“The music has a folk feel to it… we would call it singer-songwriter. For me, music is a great conduit to heighten the emotions of a scene.” The ensemble features percussionist Sage, a non-binary Jewish musician.

The ASF began in Anniston in 1972. When it moved to its current 100,000-square-foot complex in 1985, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was the first show they produced.

“It’s our most-produced Shakespeare play,” said Dildine. “If you’ve never seen a Shakespeare play, it’s a great entry-point.”

Dildine will also direct “A Christmas Carol,” which hits the stage Nov. 16 through Dec. 24.

The ASF will start off 2024 with the Tony-nominated musical “Blues in the Night,” Feb. 8 through March 3. The musical includes songs from blues legends, including Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington and Johnny Mercer.

Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” brings the well-known Brit-

ish sleuth to the stage April 18 through May 12. Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson face a dizzying web of clues, silly accents, disguises and deceit as five actors portray more than 40 characters in this “slapstick mystery.”

Then on June 13, the ASF presents the world premiere of “Zelda in the Backyard.” Dildine said the play by Mobile-native Elizabeth Wilder was developed through ASF’s 2022 Southern Writers Festival of New Plays.

“It’s a one-woman show about a woman who inherits a wrecked 1961 Rolls Royce from her father. She sets off on a journey to reassemble the car and pieces of the past her father left behind,” he said. “In honor of her Southern roots, she named the car after Zelda Fitzgerald.” Wilder also wrote “Gee’s Bend,” which the ASF produced a few years ago.

One of the most enduring musicals of all time, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” caps the 2023-24 season July 11 through Aug. 11. The humorous retelling of the Biblical story of Joseph, his 11 brothers, his father Jacob and the coat of many colors debuted on Broadway in 1982.

More information:

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 43 culture


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• Increase your emotional and social intelligence

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Bengan Bhartha


4 large eggplants

8 garlic flakes

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

250 grams of onion

8 grams chopped coriander leaves

3 centimeters chopped ginger

4 julienne green chiles

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

350 grams chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Ghee (clarified butter)


Brush eggplant with clarified butter. Roast the eggplant, turning over at regular intervals, until the skin becomes black.

Remove and transfer to a pan full of water, cool, peel the blackened skin and mesh the flesh. Heat ghee, add cumin seeds and stir

over medium heat until they crackle. Add onions and saute´ until transparent. Then add ginger and green chiles. Saute´ for a few seconds. Add eggplant, chili powder and turmeric powder then stir-fry until the ghee floats on top. Add tomatoes and salt. Remove and adjust the seasoning. Add garnish and coriander leaves, then serve.

Taj India moves to new location

Alabama’s oldest Indian restaurant just moved to a new, larger location. But the Taj India tradition of serving authentic Indian food in a welcoming environment stays true.

“We’re just so grateful for our customers who have supported us over the years and we’ve just had a wonderful response to the new location,” said Navi Judge, who co-owns Taj India with her husband, Aman. “Our customers and our employees are like family to us.”

Aman’s brother, Manjet, came to Birmingham in 1994 to start Taj India. Aman was working at a family Indian restaurant in northern California when Manjet asked him to come join him in 1996. It was about that same time that Navi moved to Atlanta with her family from north India. The two met and were married a couple years later.

Taj India built a tradition with its Highland Plaza location. In January 2023, the developers got approval for a rezoning of the property, making way for a multi-level apartment complex and limited retail space.

“We had been searching around the area for a perfect location when a friend mentioned” the former Bogue’s space at 3028 Clairmont Avenue, said Navi Judge. “On July 15 we signed a lease and moved in only two weeks later. It’s a great feeling to be in a place that also has a great tradition and is only one mile from our other location.”

The new space is larger and more open, including a private party room that seats 60. Taj India is open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner.

Judge said they have resumed their popular lunch buffet and will soon be adding items to the buffet, as well as the dinner menu for the fall.

“We change some of the lunch buffet items every day,” she said. “Soon we will be adding some dishes with fall flavors, such as pumpkin and carrot pudding.”

The majority of Taj India’s menu items are kosher-style, including Indian curries, chicken flavored with dry spices and mint leaves; a crispy savory fish with yellow lentils and a tangy sauce (Fish Pakora); a northern Indian specialty of baby corn simmered in spiced spinach, and Kadhi Lamb — a boneless lamb cooked in a rich, tomato-based masala sauce.

“Everything here is made to order and we are happy to customize to meet all dietary requests,” said Judge, adding that they have a separate vegetarian and vegan menu. She also added that Taj India has expanded its take-out and delivery options in the past few years.

Their chefs, Sanjay and Inger Singh, have been with Taj India for more than 25 years. Their family also helps out with the restaurant.

The Judge’s oldest daughter, Jasleen, does their social media while she is in law school. Younger

44 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life continued on page 45 Taj India 3028 Clairmont Ave. So. Birmingham (205) 939.3805
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J.D., LICSW ICF Professional Certified Coach Somatic Experiencing PractitionerTM
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>> Rear Pew

continued from page 46

wash, many head motions can lead to a tragic kippah collapse.

For example, here’s an absolutely true story from the first day of religious school this year, less than a week before Rosh Hashanah. A student walks into the classroom and asks what to do because his kippah fell in the toilet.

Yes, 15 years into teaching at the same synagogue you can still hear new things.

The teacher’s first instruction was to not explain how it happened, which he proceeded to do anyway to the entire class. The teacher then gave the student the only logical advice for such a situation: go ask the education director what to do.

Doug Brook is not a zombie, no matter how he seems in the morning. Or afternoon. Or evening. For more, listen to the FIVE-star rated Rear Pew Mirror podcast at pod/show/rearpewmirror or any major podcast platform. For past columns, visit



continued from page 42

possible. You lose a lot of yourself in the process of caring so intensely for someone else and it’s important to keep that to a minimum.

Finally, we reflected on how connections are made in the group and how friendships are formed as a result of these connections. It’s not uncommon in a single session for our members to support each other through their struggles and to share the happy moments that do occur in the life of a caregiver. We give each other permission to laugh even on the hard days and we support each other in a way only those going through a shared experience can do.

To learn more about the CJFS CARES dementia respite program, visit our-mission/cjfs-cares-respite-program/. CJFS virtual support groups are offered free of charge, meeting each Monday at 3 pm and each Tuesday at 7 pm. Want to know more or schedule a visit to CARES? Contact Pam at or (205) 960-3411.

>> Taj India

continued from page 44

daughter Noor is a freshman at UAB and helps out at Taj India. “Our youngest daughter, Kirat, is in the sixth grade, but she wants to work here when she gets older.”

Judge said having additional space will help them when they celebrate their festival of lights, Diwali, in November.

“We are looking at having some live music and some other special surprises to celebrate the holiday,” she said. “It is such a joy for us to share with people our food, music and traditions.”

September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life 45

Yom Zom Kippocalypse

Put away your Jewish space lasers. Shut down the secret conspiracy to control global finance, Hollywood, and the bagel industry. The ultimate Jewish conspiracy, the only one we ever needed, has been hiding in plain bagels — I mean plain sight — all along.

In every service, every day (morning, afternoon, or night), in the first page of the Amidah, we commune (Yiddish for “communally pray”) for zombies to rise.

It’s true. Look it up.

The second blessing of the Amidah ends with praising the Almighty Big G for “mechayei hameitim,” literally “giving life to the dead.”

Granted, as with many things, it depends on where you’re from. In this case, it also depends on how much you clear your throat while talking. In China and other parts of Asia, they say “me-chai-ei hameitim,” literally “giving tea to the dead.”

These two pronunciations lead some bar and bat istas to put something in the tea that can raise the dead.

There’s one thing which all scholars can agree on. Not a single scholar, or a married one, agrees with the following origin story for this prayer about giving life to the dead.

On Shabbat mornings, the Torah Service is followed by a sermon and then the Musaf service which almost immediately goes into the Amidah. When is it more necessary to pray for waking the dead than right after a sermon?

However, the prayer to wake the dead was added to every Amidah in every service because the rabbis didn’t want to make rabbis look bad by having it only come after the sermon. Of course, every rabbi thought they were being magnanimous because they all thought it was about someone else.

The Zom Kippocalypse raises two important questions. First, if one kills a zombie, does one have to say kaddish for them for another 11 months? The complicated answer: it depends. The simple answer is much longer.

Why does the prayer for resurrecting the dead happen just after the sermon?

Second, is a golem just a Jewish zombie? No. There are numerous differences. For one thing, the spelling. For another, golems know that brains aren’t kosher.

Of course, there have been numerous famous golems through the centuries: The Golem of Chelm, the Golem of Prague, and the Green Goblem of Gotham.

The plural of golem in Hebrew is golim, which could also be the Hebrew plural of goalie. This phraseology would explain a soccer strategy intended to scare the other team’s forwards from approaching near the goal, but it resulted in too many dead ball fouls.

Golems aren’t necessarily as malevolent as zombies. Perhaps the most recent, famous golem incident was during the Apollo 13 mishap. The astronauts were forced to power up the Lunar Excursion Module and abandon the Service Module for several days. In short, they had to go LEM-ward to survive.

Speaking of atonement, which you were thinking about after reading that, on Yom Tzom Kippur — the slow fast day of Yom Kippur — we seek to be sealed in The Book of Life for the next year. Anyone who isn’t, sadly becomes a victim of the Yom Zom Kippocalypse.

When trying to escape the zombie apocalypse on Yom Kippur, one must mind their headwear or risk a Yom Kippahcalypse. Unless it’s well secured to one’s head by a clip, railroad spike, or hair in need of a good

46 September 2023 • Southern Jewish Life rear pew mirror • doug brook
continued on previous page

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