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Southern Jewish Life

Nov./Dec. 2020 Volume 30 Issue 11

Southern Jewish Life P.O. Box 130052 Birmingham, AL 35213 Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Dia de los Muertos event at Pepper Place in Birmingham


November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

shalom y’all Quick, how many people were murdered in the Armenian genocide? Okay, here’s an easier one. In what decade was the war where the United States took control of what is now Texas? That big African genocide in the 1990s, who were the main players in that? If you had to ask Alexa any of these or check with Google, then congratulations, you’re a typical American. That’s why, when a new study comes out decrying how ignorant most people are about the facts and figures of the Holocaust — such as the state-by-state one we reported on in last month’s issue — instead of the standard wailing and gnashing of teeth, those reports should be taken in stride. Not ignored, but understood in context. Of course, Holocaust education has been a major emphasis in the Jewish community for the last few decades, with the understanding that the lessons to be derived from the unique event that was the Holocaust can be applied universally in teaching people how to get along and prevent future genocides. Given that the lessons of the Holocaust are universal, and the amount of time and energy devoted to educating everyone about the Holocaust, we tend to think that knowledge of the Holocaust is also universal. But we forget that unless we are in a certain arena, we just don’t know all that much. Those of us who spend a lot of time examining what is happening in the Middle East might assume that most people have a pretty thorough knowledge of the dynamics. But a study just came out showing that most Americans had never heard of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement against Israel, a movement that is roiling college campuses across the country and prompting around 30 state legislatures to ban state contracts with companies that adhere to the boycott. Despite all that, most people have never heard of a movement that those in the arena take so seriously. In pro-Israel advocacy circles, it is sometimes asked how this or that ethnic group can be attracted to the cause. A reminder that keeps popping up is that often these groups

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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 have many other priorities, andEurope for them 42Maccabi percent games identified the the Battle of the Bulge as to Australia to South America, andIsrael the JCC around United States is simply not on the logged radar, one way or the other.howbeing War II? unbeknownst and Canada, I have many miles seeing sportspart canofbeWorld a vehicle to Which, help build Jewish A similar argument can young. be made about most to a significant number of people, is when the identity, especially in our historical events, not just the Holocaust. Do we Holocaust was taking place. I feltwant honored come toup Birmingham for the firstWe time and fell in lovecontinue with not to just the for cityHoreally to tieto ourselves in knots because absolutely must push YouAmericans have takencan’t Southern to a new level with your caring abut lotthe of people. our fellow namehospitality a sin- locaust education, but wekind also and need to do so approach to the JCC Maccabi gle concentration camp whenGames. it is very likely with the recognition that this is part of a larger that they also can’t say what decade the Span- issue — the general lack of knowledge about Led by the Sokol and Helds, your hard-working volunteers were wonderful. They partnered ish-American war was fought in? Or even the history. with your outstanding staff, led by Betzy Lynch, to make the 2017 education, JCC Maccabi games hit. Korean War? In Holocaust it is oftena huge said that I want to take this opportunity as executive director of Maccabi USA to say thank you on behalf This year has seen a tremendous introspec- those who do not learn from history are doomed of everyone involved. tion in our country over issues of race and the to repeat it. legacy of slavery. And yet,the how many of Maccabiah our Not knowing history, notdelegation knowing of how I had just returned from 20th World games in Israel withand a U.S. fellow Americans can name one or more signif- our nation works and why things were set up over 1100, who joined 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries. Back in July the eyes of the entire icant battlegrounds from the Civil War? Or say the way they are, is a huge problem that exJewish world were on isJerusalem and the Maccabiah. Thisfar past monthhow withmuch 1000 athletes why Neshoba County significant? tends beyond people and know or coaches from around the world being in Birmingham, you became the focal point. Probably very few, considering that a 2012 don’t know about the Holocaust. survey of college fewerand than Everyone fromgraduates the Jewishshowed community the community at large, including a wonderful 20 percent were identify the effect the will go down in history as being a seminal police force, are able to betocommended. These of games Emancipation Proclamation. moment for the Jewish community as we build to the future by providing such wonderful Jewish How can we expect to see widespread knowlmemories. edge of the concentration camps when only Lawrence Brook, Publisher/Editor Jed Margolis Executive Director, Maccabi USA

Remembering Fran Mendler Lake

As most of you know, our commusupremacists would like to see pushed back Onlost Charlottesville nity a titan this past month. Franinto a corner and made to feel lesser. We stand cine “Fran” Mendler Lake was known with and pray for the family of Heather Heyer, Editor’s Note: to theJewish events in and loved in This just reaction about every who was there standing up to the face of this Charlottesville, by Jeremy organization in written New Orleans, andNewman, dehate. Master the Alpha Epsilon Theta Colony spite herofprominence in ourPicommuWe recognize the essence of the American at Auburn University, was place sharedinbyour AEPi nity, she held a cherished narrative as a two-century old struggle to rid National, which called it “very eloquent” and hearts at Avodah. Fran touched nearly ourselves of such corners, and allow those in praisedaspect “our brothers at AEPi Colony at every of our work at Theta Avodah. them the seat at the table that they so deserve. Auburnjust University leadership Living a few and… doors the down from they It is the struggle to fulfill the promise of the display on their campus. ” the Avodah bayit (house), she hosted Declaration of Independence, that “all men are Service Corps Members each year for created equal… endowed by their Creator with meals and swim parties — modeling Avodah New Orleans honorsrights. Fran Mendler Lake White supremacy has been a cancer on certain unalienable ” We know ouratwork the beauty of a multigenerational the 10th anniversary event (left to right: Avodah our country since its beginning, threatening is far from finished, but we know we will at not community. Josh Lichtman, Dana Keren and Fran its hopes, its values, and its better angels.10 Honorees move backwards. Fran was a long-time member of Mendler Lake). The events that took place in Charlottesville our Avodah Advisory Council, where When men and women, fully armed, take represented the worst of this nation. Those she signed letters, made phone calls, raised visions of the in future. I left lunchand meeting to the streets droves withevery swastikas who marched onto the streets with tiki torches money, and set the bar high for organization- with Fran inspired and eager to takeofon other symbols of hate, it is a reminder howthe and swastikas did so to provoke violence and al lay leadership. I remember fondly the many world, and grateful to have and suchanti-Semitism a wonderful relevant the issues of racism fear. Those who marched onto the streets did months Fran spent volunteering in the Avodah mentor with taste incall restaurants. are today. It isgreat a wake-up to the work that so to profess an ideology that harkens back to office. She even  graciously volunteered to take needs I know I am a better person for having to be done to ensure a better, moreknown a bleaker, more wretched time in our history. on the painstaking process of modifying our Fran, and I country. am certain Avodah is not a more effecwelcoming But it should come A time when men and women of many creeds, internet service — and those hours she spent on tive and a reflection stronger organization for Fran’s leadwithout on how far we’ve come. races, and religions were far from equal and far the phone with Cox were truly a demonstration ership. We were proud to honor Fran’s incrediAmerica was born a slave nation. A century from safe in our own borders. A time where of love and commitment.  ble impact on Avodah and on the New Orleans into our history we engaged in a war in part Americans lived under a constant cloud of In between and all around these acts of ser- Jewish community at our 10th Anniversary to ensure we would not continue as one. We racism, anti-Semitism and pervasive hate. The vice, Fran asked questions about our work and Partners in Justice celebration in 2018. events that took place in Charlottesville served found ourselves confronted by the issue of civil shared lessons from her leadership. Fran and I In this time of upheaval and loss, I know I will rights, and embarked on a mission to ensure as a reminder of how painfully relevant these read books about systemic justice together and miss Fran’s steady reassurance, her wry wit, and the fair treatment of all peoples no matter their issues are today. talked about our visions for a more just future. her encouragement to always learn and grow. skin color. Although we’ve made great strides, Auburn’s Alpha Epsilon Pi stands withfor thethe May Fran was a role model for collaboration, we all be blessed with just a fraction of it is a mission we’re still grappling with today. Jewish of community of Charlottesville, andhow to Fran’s power relationship building, and for commitment to others and to our comAmerica was also born an immigrant with the Jewish people around countrygoals. munity. bridge differences and focus on the shared Asmemory early as the pilgrims, many and an and the few world. We Fran also stand Foraround the past years, and Iwith hadthe reg- country. May her always be a blessing groups and families found in the country the minorities who are targeted by the hate that ular lunch meetings, in which we talked about inspiration to us all.  was on display Charlottesville. We stand of opportunity to plant stakes, chase their Avodah, aboutinlife, and the intersections Danifuture, Levine be themselves. FewService were met withDirector open with the whom white our and Avodah, both. Weminorities discussed ofour plansthese to actualize National Corps 4 November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

July 20202020 November

Southern Jewish Life PUBLISHER/EDITOR Lawrence M. Brook editor@sjlmag.com ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER/ADVERTISING Lee J. Green lee@sjlmag.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR Richard Friedman richard@sjlmag.com V.P. SALES/MARKETING, NEW ORLEANS Jeff Pizzo jeff@sjlmag.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR Ginger Brook ginger@sjlmag.com SOCIAL/WEB Emily Baldwein connect@sjlmag.com PHOTOGRAPHER-AT-LARGE Rabbi Barry C. Altmark deepsouthrabbi.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rivka Epstein, Louis Crawford, Tally Werthan, Stuart Derroff, Belle Freitag, Ted Gelber, E. Walter Katz, Doug Brook brookwrite.com BIRMINGHAM OFFICE P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham, AL 35213 2179 Highland Ave., Birmingham, AL 35205 205/870.7889 NEW ORLEANS OFFICE 3747 West Esplanade, 3rd Floor Metairie, LA 70002 504/249-6875 TOLL-FREE 888/613.YALL(9255) ADVERTISING Advertising inquiries to 205/870.7889 for Lee Green, lee@sjlmag.com Jeff Pizzo, jeff@sjlmag.com Media kit, rates available upon request SUBSCRIPTIONS It has always been our goal to provide a large-community quality publication to all communities of the South. To that end, our commitment includes mailing to every Jewish household in the region (AL, LA, MS, NW FL), without a subscription fee. Outside the area, subscriptions are $25/year, $40/two years. Subscribe via sjlmag.com, call 205/870.7889 or mail payment to the address above. Copyright 2020. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission from the publisher. Views expressed in SJL are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily shared by the magazine or its staff. SJL makes no claims as to the Kashrut of its advertisers, and retains the right to refuse any advertisement.

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agenda interesting bits & can’t attend events

Nechama: Jewish Response to Disaster continues the Hurricane Laura cleanup in the Lake Charles area

Emanu-El to be the permanent home for Birmingham Holocaust Education Center It is a time of transition as the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and Temple Emanu-El announced that the BHEC’s new headquarters will be at Emanu-El. The BHEC was formerly housed at the Bayer Properties headquarters, but when Bayer moved into a new facility, the BHEC moved to Emanu-El on a temporary basis while looking for a per-manent locale. On Oct. 12, Emanu-El announced the agreement with BHEC to make their pres-ence permanent. The education agency will occupy the space that had previously housed Emanu-El’s preschool program, the Discovery School, which closed in March due to Covid, then was permanently closed by the congregation. According to Emanu-El, the lease is for 10 years with two five-year extensions. BHEC plans to remodel the space “into a world class facility,” which will have independent access. “This is incredibly exciting for both organizations; we anticipate the BHEC being operational in their new space this coming summer,” said Emanu-El President Robert Berman. “Once construction is completed next summer, the space will contain, in addition to organiza-tional offices, new classrooms, an expanded exhibit, as well as archival and library space. All which will allow the BHEC to further expand and continue its mission of educating the people of Alabama about the Holocaust,” said David Silverstein, BHEC vice president of development. Also, the BHEC announced that Lynn Raviv has become interim executive director, after Rev. Melissa Self Patrick resigned to pursue other opportunities.

“I am grateful to the BHEC Board of Directors for entrusting me to assume this position,” Raviv said. “Having been involved with this organization since its inception, and with a number of years of experience with other non-profits and public school teaching, I look forward to using my past experience to continue the journey of the mission of this outstanding organization.” Raviv is the daughter of BHEC founder Phyllis Weinstein.

JCRC launches microgrants for community-building initiatives The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Birmingham Jewish Federation has established a Community Impact Microgrant Initative, to assist initiatives that cultivate relationships and build bridges of understanding between the Jewish community and minority communities in the greater Birmingham area. Microgrants are available to any individual, community agency or organization for programming, projects or initiatives that work to create powerful experiences and spark long-term systemic change and social good for the communities. Grants will be awarded up to $1,000. “The JCRC is looking to invest and collaborate in new ideas that will engage other faiths, cultures, races, nationalities and neighborhoods,” said JCRC Chair David Romanoff. “It is our hope that this effort will lend itself to creating a more unified Birmingham.” For more information and application information, visit https://www. bjf.org/microgrant. continued on page 33 November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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Alon Shaya to open new restaurant in Four Seasons Hotel Award-winning chef Alon Shaya and his Pomegranate Hospitality will be opening a new restaurant next year, as the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences opens in New Orleans. The unnamed restaurant will offer “a fresh perspective on a classic Louisiana dining experience in a festive and inviting atmosphere” at the hotel’s street level. “There’s no question that New Orleans has long held an influential place in America’s culinary evolution,” notes the property’s General Manager Mali Carow. “Now, in partnership with Chef Alon Shaya, our aim at Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residence New Orleans is to continue that tradition, while forging an imaginative new path into the future.” Built in 1968 for the 250th anniversary of New Orleans’ founding, the 34-story tower was originally the World Trade Center and International Trade Mart. The hotel will have 341 rooms, two signature restaurants, a spa, fifth floor rooftop swimming pool, private garden and a two-level rooftop observation deck. There will also be 92 private residences in the development. Pom Hospitality currently has two Israeli restaurants — Saba in New Orleans and Safta in Denver. A native of Israel who was raised in Philadelphia, Shaya, who won the 2015 James Beard Award as Best Chef in the South, first came to New Orleans to work at Besh Steak in 2001. In 2009, Shaya’s passion for Italian cuisine led him and chef John Besh to open Domenica, followed by the casual Pizza Domenica in 2014. The next year, he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef — South. A 2011 culinary trip to Israel, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, reawakened Shaya’s childhood memories of Israeli cuisine, and in February 2015 he opened Shaya, a modern Israeli restaurant that quickly achieved international acclaim. In 2016, it won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. He was forced out from Shaya restaurant and the Besh group in 2017 after being one of those who spoke out when many Besh employees alleged sexual harassment among the group’s restaurants. He first tried to purchase the restaurant, then was unsuccessful in forcing it to change its name. He and his wife soon launched Pomegranate, with an emphasis on creating a comfortable team environment for employees. In 2018, Pomegranate announced the new Israeli restaurants. He is also the author of “Shaya:An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel.” “We are very happy to work with Four Seasons, a company that shares the love of great food and gracious hospitality with a team-first approach,” said Shaya. “We are honored to be part of this project that will help reenergize New Orleans’ riverfront. Together, we will create a grand dining experience that celebrates Louisiana’s diverse culture and cuisine.” Guests at the new restaurant can expect “a spirited take on beloved New Orleans dishes,” an emphasis on the abundance of Gulf seafood, vegetables and other ingredients sourced from Shaya’s extensive network of fishermen, farmers and other purveyors. The complex is set to open “in early 2021.”

agenda Stephen Herman heads national civil justice group


Herman Herman and Katz Partner Stephen Herman of New Orleans was elected president of the Pound Civil Justice Institute for the term starting Aug. 1, 2020. The Pound Institute is a national legal think tank created by pioneering members of the trial bar and dedicated to ensuring access to justice for ordinary citizens. Their programs provide opportunities for open dialogue among judges, legal academics, policy makers, and attorneys on issues vital to civil justice. The resulting research is published and utilized throughout the legal community. The Pound Institute’s prominent event is the Annual Judge’s Forum offered to state appellate court judges to examine current issues affecting civil justice in the United States. Last fall, Pound held a symposium in Portland on T”he Future of Mass Torts, Class Actions and MDLs.” Herman co-presented an article with Lynn Baker on the role and responsibility of court-appointed counsel, which was recently published in the Lewis & Clark Law Review. Next summer, Herman will preside over the annual Judges Forum, on the importance of voir dire, particularly in the time of Covid, to secure fair trials for litigants of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and countries of national origin.

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On Oct. 6, Baton Rouge attorney Michael H. Rubin was named the 2020 recipient of the Frederick S. Lane Award by the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, in recognition of his exceptional service to the public and the legal profession. This highly coveted honor, which is not given out annually, has been granted to only 12 others since 1993. ACREL is the premier organization of U.S. real estate lawyers. Admission is by invitation only after a rigorous screening process that seeks out preeminent lawyers. Rubin is a member of both Beth Shalom and B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge, and for many years was a member of Beth Shalom’s board. He is an attorney with the McGlinchey Stafford law firm, which has offices from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, and is on its management team. He has served as president of many local, state, and national organizations, including the Louisiana State Bar Association, the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents, and the Bar Association of the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He has delivered over 450 major presentations throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., and his scholarly writings have been cited as authoritative by state and federal courts. He also is the author of two national award-winning legal thrillers, “The Cottoncrest Curse,” about a Jewish immigrant to Louisiana, and “Cashed Out.”

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LJCC now offers indoor group fitness Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community has expanded its fitness opportunities, which had been scaled back due to Covid-19. Starting Nov. 2, a limited number of group fitness classes began indoors, in the auditorium. The LJCC has been offering outdoor classes and virtual classes, which will continue. To ensure safety, registration for the indoor classes will be limited and must be done in advance. All participants will be required to follow safety guidelines, including wearing masks the entire time and maintaining a 15foot distance, which is marked off in the auditorium. Classes will be halted if protocols are not being followed. The auditorium is one of the largest open spaces in the LJCC building, allowing for greater air circulation. If the initial classes are successful, the LJCC may expand the schedule.




agenda Cassie Morganstern will be the new executive director of the Mobile Area Jewish Federation, starting Nov. 9. She succeeds Kathy Lovitt.

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In Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a Birmingham native, won against Republican former Rep. Scott Taylor, 51 percent to 46.5 percent. Luria and Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin are two Jewish members of the so-called “Gang of Nine” that are a group of moderate Democrats with security backgrounds. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El is rolling out a new “pursuing justice” programming series called “Tirdof: Civil Rights Past and Present.” On Nov. 22 at 3 p.m., Billy Planar of Etgar 36 will present “Jews and Blacks in the Civil Rights Era and Now, exploring why there were Jews on both sides, and the sidelines, of the Civil Rights movement, the role of Judaism in the activism of young people in the 1960s and the implications for the streets of America today. On Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., there will be “A Conversation with Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein,” in partnership with the Birmingham Jewish Community Relations Council. The series continues with “Research, Educate, Place, Advocate,” a conversation with Joi Brown of the Jefferson County Memorial Project. Advance registration is required for the events. The North Louisiana Jewish Federation will host a Virtual Museum of Southern Jewish Experience program, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. The museum will open in New Orleans in early 2021. Executive Director Kenneth Hoffman will describe the history of the museum, its mission, while displaying some exhibit renderings. He will speak not only about Southern Jewish history writ large, but about the Shreveport area, ending with an interactive question and answer session. Registration is available on the Federation website. The next Jewish Virtual Vacation with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life will be Jewish Cemeteries, Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. on the ISJL Facebook page. The next Krispy Kreme Roundup outside Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will be on Nov. 22 at 10:30 a.m. Bring a chair. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have a Picnic on Highlands, a time to socialize on Shabbat, Nov. 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Caldwell Park. Bring lunch and a mask. Drinks and sweet treats will be provided. Beth Israel in Jackson is launching a monthly community Shabbat dinner, following the 6:30 p.m. service. Covid protocols will be observed, with individually-packaged meals and seating by family. The Nov. 20 theme is Shabbat in Italy, followed by Japan on Dec. 18, Mexico on Jan. 29 and Morocco on Feb. 26. Once a month, Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El has a Shabbat Hilcha, a hiking excursion instead of an online service. This month’s hike was Nov. 14 at 10:30 a.m. at the Frankfurt Drive entrance to Red Mountain Park. Future hikes are Dec. 5 and Jan. 16. The next PJ Library activity in Birmingham will be “Chanukah: It’s In The Bag.” This month’s bag for ages 0 to 8 will include items to make Chanukah cards for seniors in the community. Bags need to be reserved by Nov. 23 and can be picked up at the Federation office from Dec. 1 to 4. The Henry S. Jacobs Camp team will do a recruitment event for Temple Beth El in Pensacola on Dec. 6. B’nai Israel and Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge will have a joint online performance by comedian Pamela Rae Schuller, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. Schuller is known for her observations on disability, mental illness, dating, family, and past misadventures, coming from someone who is 4-foot-6 and has Tourette Syndrome. continued on page 28


November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

community Antisemitism study probes trends in the South, nation and political parties  By Richard Friedman The American Jewish Committee’s recently-released report “The State of Antisemitism in America 2020”  finds “anxiety among American Jews and a disturbing lack of awareness among the general public of the severity of antisemitism in the U.S.” Yet the study contains positive indicators when it comes to the American people seeing attacks on Jewish support for Israel as antisemitic and believing that Holocaust education is important. The AJC study marks the first time this influential educational and advocacy organization has surveyed Americans at large in addition to the Jewish community. There are some disparities between the views of the two groups. Jews, naturally, display greater understanding of antisemitism and sensitivity to its presence. Yet there also is an awareness among the population atlarge — deeper than one might expect but not as deep as one might hope. AJC found 88 percent of American Jews think antisemitism in the U.S. is very serious or somewhat of a problem today; 62 percent of Americans agree. Those who have analyzed the recent rise of antisemitism in the U.S. and Europe generally concur it is coming from three sources — the far right, far left and extremist Muslims. AJC found 89 percent of the Jews surveyed believe the extreme right poses a threat to American Jews; 61 percent saw the extreme left as a threat, and 85 percent identified radical Islam as a threat.  The AJC report was released on Oct. 26. The organization’s research, conducted during this heated election season, found that a noteworthy number of Jews and Americans in general believe there is antisemitism in both political parties. “More than two-thirds of American Jews (69 percent) and over half of U.S. adults (52 percent) say the Republican Party holds at least some antisemitic views,” according to AJC. “This is compared to 37 percent of American Jews and 42 percent of the general public who say the same about the Democratic Party.” Jews are influential in both political parties, though in Presidential elections over the last 40 years they have tended to support the Democratic nominee over the Republican candidate by a relatively consistent margin of 70 percent to 30 percent.  Frustrated Republicans point to the GOP’s strong support for Israel but fail to take into account other issues, such as abortion and the Supreme Court, where Jews see the Democratic party as more friendly to their views. Though studies show that many Jews who vote Democratic care about Israel, these and other issues, such as immigration and assistance to the poor, often take precedence in national elections.  The difference in Jewish perceptions about the level of antisemitism in the Republican Party vs. the Democratic Party — 69 percent vs. 37 percent — may be another reason that Jews affiliate with the Democrats.

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The Deep South The AJC survey also broke down responses by region of the country, using the geographic categories of the U.S. Census Bureau. The Southern region covers a broad swath of states from Florida to Missouri and Maryland. The responses from the South generally parallel the national results November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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community with one notable exception. According to AJC, 75 percent of Jews in the broadly-defined South see the Republican Party as antisemitic versus  69 percent  nationally. This is a noteworthy statistic given that many of these states are Republican-dominated. AJC’s Atlanta-based director Dov Wilker offered some observations regarding what the study reflects about antisemitism in the South, particularly in the Deep South — states such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The data from the overall South is consistent with national findings, though based on his experience heading AJC’s Atlanta/Southeast office, Wilker has some additional perspectives. Regarding the perception of antisemitism in the Republican Party being higher among Southern Jews, Wilker noted that during this election there have been several incidents in the region involving GOP candidates which have been interpreted as having antisemitic overtones. This, he suggested, could have driven the survey response to a higher level. In general, Wilker contends there are two types of antisemitism — “malicious and ignorant.” He believes that in the Deep South, where there are relatively few Jews other than in Atlanta, you find more of the ignorant kind of antisemitism — people saying things and holding on to beliefs because they just don’t know better or never have been educated. He also said that the Deep South’s large number of Evangelical Christians, many of whom historically have not had positive attitudes toward Judaism, may over the decades have created additional anxieties among Jews. Though today, as a result of an evolution that has taken place over the last 20 years, many Evangelicals have become ardent supporters of Israel and, more recently, have become increasingly concerned about antisemitism. “I am not sure there is a region of the country where support for Israel is stronger than in the South,” says Wilker, adding, “I believe that today because of the rise of antisemitism in the U.S., we are seeing a greater interest from the Evangelical community in understanding and helping to combat antisemitism.” Overall, there were heartening findings as well, especially when it comes to Israel and Holocaust education, noted  Alyssa Weiner, AJC’s  Associate Director for Combating Antisemitism. “A majority of the American people view attacks against Israel and support by American Jews for the Jewish state as antisemitic. They also believe that Holocaust education is important,” said Weiner. “Three-quarters of US adults report they know a lot or something about the Holocaust, while 24 percent say they don’t know much or continued on page 44


November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


Shedding light on the Light

Self-described “local” paper has almost no local reporting, wild circulation numbers — but plenty of ads from politicians and others thinking they are reaching the local Jewish community For years, the Jewish Light has claimed to be the “true community newspaper” for New Orleans and Baton Rouge that “carries Jewish Community related news about the Louisiana Jewish community and for the Louisiana Jewish community,” attracting advertisers on that basis. But while the publication accuses Southern Jewish Life, which is the community’s news magazine, of being “deceptive,” an analysis of the Light demonstrates that the Light does almost nothing to cover the “local” Jewish community, filling its pages with wire service material while claiming circulation numbers that are vastly out of proportion to the size of the Jewish community. Despite the large circulation numbers claimed by the Light, it apparently has little impact or readership in the Jewish community. Southern Jewish Life asked over 100 local Jewish households whether they knew of the Light. Over half of those responding had never heard of the publication, and only two recalled ever receiving it in the mail. Many of those who said they were not familiar with the publication are organizational leaders or agency professionals in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge communities. A majority of the fewer than half who had heard of the Light said they never pick it up. Only about 20 percent of those responding said they ever look at a copy of the Light, with most of them saying they did so when they came across a stack at a synagogue or coffee shop, and generally would flip through it quickly. Michael Weil, who was executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans from 2006 to 2017, said he viewed the Light as “acting under false pretenses. It claimed to be a paper of and for the Jewish community but in practice was neither.”

Knowing the History The Light is published by United Media, with Donald Gares as editor and his son, Richard Rault, as advertising manager. They are not members of the Jewish community, and also have a Christian publication, Changing Times, published by On Eagles Wings Unlimited as part of their Save The Nations Ministries. Neither publication lists Gares or Rault — or any other staff — in the staff box, which is very unusual for a news publication. Gares’s history with Jewish publications goes back to the mid-1990s. In 1989, the Federation had contracted with Abner Tritt to produce a paper for the community, the New Orleans Jew-

ish Voice. Through an editor on Federation staff, the Federation would provide content. Tritt had been publishing the New Orleans-based Jewish Civic Press, a publication with its own checkered history, since 1965, having previously worked for the Jewish Monitor in Birmingham. At one point the Civic Press claimed to have editions in Atlanta, Houston and Alabama/Mississippi, with ads from those areas, but the actual editions were rarely seen in those areas by anyone other than the advertisers. In 1995, the Federation ended its relationship with Tritt and set up Gares to produce the renamed Jewish News for them, leading to a lawsuit from Tritt, which was dismissed. Disagreements over some procedures led the Federation to look at other options in 2003, with this publication, then known as Deep South Jewish Voice — not to be confused with the former New Orleans Jewish Voice — submitting a proposal to take over as the community publication, but the Federation and Gares worked out their issues. When the levees broke in August 2005 and the community became scattered throughout the country, it quickly became clear that the Jewish News would be on hiatus and the mailing list was pointless. Deep South Jewish Voice contacted the Federation, which at the time had set up a temporary office in Houston, and volunteered to serve as the community’s publication for as long as needed. Previously, DSJV covered Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle. New Orleans updates were routinely run on the DSJV website, and bulk copies of the paper were sent to various locations in an effort to keep the community informed. The Postal Service would not resume delivering standard mail in the New Orleans area until the following March. When the Federation was finally able to assemble in Baton Rouge three weeks after the storm for its annual meeting, DSJV was there to cover it, along with the first religious services to be held in New Orleans after the storm, two weeks later on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, at Shir Chadash and Touro Synagogue. DSJV’s coverage was also intended to keep the rest of the Jewish world informed about what was happening in New Orleans, and keep an international focus on the rebuilding. At some point in October 2005, Gares contacted the Federation to opt out of their agreement. But in December 2005, stacks of a new

Publication Scorecard Confused by the number of publications in the community? So are local marketers. Here’s the who’s who:

Southern Jewish Life Began by editor Larry Brook as Southern Shofar in 1990, an independent tabloid newspaper covering Alabama. Changed name to Deep South Jewish Voice in 1999 upon expanding into Mississippi. Added the Florida panhandle in 2001, then began serving Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Became a magazine in 2009, changing the name to Southern Jewish Life. Currently produces two editions — Deep South and New Orleans, the latter of which includes The Jewish Newsletter, the newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and its constituent agencies. Also produces a weekly online newsletter, This Week in Southern Jewish Life.

Crescent City Jewish News was launched in 2011 by Alan Smason, who previously wrote for The Jewish News, DSJV and others. The online publication includes a weekly email newsletter, and from 2013 to 2018 produced a semiannual print edition, Source and Best Of CCJN.

Produced by United Media, which originally did the Federation’s newspaper, The Jewish News, from 1995 to 2005. Publisher Donald Gares, who is not Jewish, opted out of the arrangement after Katrina and began a new paper, Jewish Community News. In the summer of 2011, the name changed to the Jewish Light. Gares also publishes a Christian paper, Changing Times. November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

community publication entitled Jewish Community News appeared at Jewish institutions and a few stores around the community. Though sporting a new name, the layout was almost identical to the Jewish News and had generally the same advertisers — and was run by Gares. Though DSJV was covering the community, Gares said that after the storm “there was no local paper. I spoke to a lot of the community agencies, JCC and synagogues, they had no representation. We decided to continue a community-oriented newspaper without connection to the Federation.” What was the cover story for Gares’s first issue back after perhaps the most catastrophic local event in recent memory? It wasn’t about Katrina, it was the first part of a series published six weeks earlier by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about anti-Israel bias in school textbooks. In the Jewish publications world, JTA is the equivalent of Associated Press for mainstream publications. Southern Jewish Life dropped JTA in 2009, choosing instead to fill its pages with local content instead of national articles that had been available online for weeks by the time a monthly publication could be printed and distributed. JCN relied mainly on the New York-based JTA for its Katrina coverage in subsequent issues, along with verbatim copying of articles posted on the Jewish Federation’s website, complete with the copyright notice. The Federation soon sent JCN a cease-and-desist letter to get them to stop reprinting Federation content. Conversely, this publication’s coverage of Katrina and the aftermath received first place for comprehensive coverage in the national Simon Rockower Awards from the American Jewish Press Association. The Rockowers are the highest honor in the field of Jewish journalism. When the newspaper industry tanked in 2009, Deep South Jewish Voice switched from a twice-monthly newspaper to a monthly magazine format and became Southern Jewish Life. Concerned about the format switch and desiring a newspaper, the Federation looked at options, including discussions with Gares to produce a Federation paper. Gares said because of the Federation’s desire for him to rebrand, he changed the name from JCN to the Jewish Light, and after the talks fell apart because “there was some wording… my lawyer and I did not approve of,” changing the name back “would be kind of dumb.” However, the name change actually happened in the summer of 2011, long after discussions with the Federation had broken off in early 2010. Gares said the Federation recruited him “to replace” Southern Jewish Life, but Weil said “it was never about taking over” from SJL. In the talks, Gares had insisted that the Federation and local agencies cut any cooperation with SJL. Weil said Gares “did suddenly back out and I got the impression that he was never really serious about it.” Soon thereafter, more local options were available, with the introduction of the SJL weekly e-news, “This Week in Southern Jewish Life.” In fall 2011, Alan Smason, who previously wrote for this publication and others, started an online publication and weekly e-news, Crescent City Jewish News. In 2014, the Federation began running its previous standalone Jewish Newsletter as an insert in Southern Jewish Life. Jewish Community Day School and Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans also run their annual reports as inserts in SJL. The Federation also issued a letter stating that though Southern Jewish Life is an independent entity, the local Jewish agencies provide SJL with “proprietary and exclusive content,” as “we do not partner with any other print Jewish newspaper or magazine, nor does any other print periodical speak on behalf of the Greater New Orleans Jewish community.”

Got What Covered? The Jewish Light promotes itself with “Cover to Cover, we’ve got you covered.” However, the Light does virtually no original coverage of the lo-

community cal Jewish community, filling its pages instead with national wire service material, and occasional profiles of businesses that advertise. Local content consists entirely of items the Light copies word for word from synagogue bulletins and websites, the occasional press release or listings from the New Orleans Jewish Community Center’s calendar. Over the past two years, those items have generally taken up four or five pages in a typical issue, with six pages being the most. The rest of each issue is wire service material. The local content in the mid-October 2020 issue of the Light consisted of two pages of items from the JCC’s calendar page, and a press release from Jewish Children’s Regional Service that was reprinted verbatim. The rest of the publication was entirely national and international JTA stories. Even in cases where a JTA story could be supplemented with local coverage, such as the reopening of Jewish day schools during Covid, there was no attempt at providing a local angle. Each of the four issues of the Light before mid-October, going back to early summer, had no local content. The only exception was an advertiser promotional profile for a disinfection company in August, with the story reprinted from the Advocate, and several advertiser profiles in the July issue. Despite most activities being suspended due to Covid, Southern Jewish Life ran over 60 original New Orleans pieces from June to October, not counting briefs or special section promotional pieces. For the last couple of years, one The total distribution of the biggest local stories has been the upcoming opening of claimed by the the Museum of the Southern JewJewish Light is three ish Experience. While the project been extensively covered by times the number of has numerous publications, includJewish households ing SJL, the only time the Light has run a piece was the summer in the Greater New of 2019, when New York-based JTA did an article on the muOrleans area seum’s collection moving from Mississippi to New Orleans. Their Light’s 2020 annual community guide does not have a listing for the museum but mentions it in passing, deep in a listing for its former home, the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. The only time in the last four years that the Light had a local story on the front cover was in the summer of 2018, when Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards barred state contracts with any company engaged in a boycott of Israel. While Southern Jewish Life extensively covered that story, the Light merely reprinted the short JTA piece from New York. This isn’t new. From April to June 2017, Southern Jewish Life published 62 articles that were original, New Orleans area stories. In that same period, the Light published one — which was a contributed piece by JCRS. Everything else was copied from the synagogues or the JCC, taking up the first three to six interior pages each issue. When the synagogue in Mandeville was vandalized in 2018, Southern Jewish Life interviewed numerous people who were involved in the community response, and covered the community solidarity event. The Light’s entire coverage consisted of asking the photographer from the event for some photos and ran them with very little context — with more of an explanation coming from solidarity ads that the Light solicited from local political figures. While neither of Gares’ publications have run articles that would be considered overtly offensive to Jews or denigrating Judaism, a piece in the Light in April 2020 on the Dead Sea Scrolls was a curious choice. Originally published by Catholic News Service in April 2019, the piece was written by a “messianic” who promotes the Christian interpretation of a section of Isaiah that is commonly used by Christian missionaries to try and convert

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community Jews by stating that Jesus was foreshadowed in the Hebrew Bible. In the piece, he mentions but dismisses the Jewish interpretation of that section. That author is also controversial among scholars for claiming that the Dead Sea Scrolls are not from 2,000 years ago, but are from medieval times and have Chinese symbols throughout.

Characterizing the Community In its current sales materials, the Light touts print as “the strongest option” to reach “the highest net worth niche market in Louisiana.” As evidence, the Light emphasizes the Sabbath and how Orthodox Jews turn off all electronics “in favor of relaxation and reading,” and says “the Ultra-Orthodox market has recently protested overuse of the internet due to morality standards so print marketing is generally the best and only way to promote successfully to this market.” In places like New York, with large Orthodox concentrations, that is why Orthodox-oriented print media thrive while more secular ones struggle, but that does not translate locally. The vast majority of the New Orleans Jewish community is Reform, with a small percentage of the community identifying as Orthodox. The Light’s materials also say “Jews are no strangers to social networks. For thousands of years, Jewry has been a close knit, often ‘clique-ish’ and isolated community that relied on their networks to do business, buy goods, and create opportunities.” The synagogue, according to the Light, is the hub for that networking, as “when one community member finds quality buys and bargains, this close-knit community gets the word out quickly to each other.” Aaron Ahlquist, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League office in New Orleans, said the Light’s “marketing ‘research’ and strategies are offensive and borderline antisemitic,” trivializing the synagogue as a place of commerce instead of a place for worship. He noted that he had not been aware of the publication, and nothing in their approach to soliciting advertising “makes me think that the Light has the best interests of the Jewish community at heart.” A major source of advertising revenue for the Light comes from politicians who they get to place greetings ads to the Jewish community on the three major holidays and, more recently, also on Israel Independence Day. They also secure a large number of campaign ads from politicians trying to reach the Jewish community ahead of local elections. Weil said the Light solicits “campaign ads and holiday greetings from unsuspecting politicians, judicial candidates and so on, who were made to believe that they were speaking to and greeting the Jewish community,” but “this was furthest from the truth as the paper was rarely read by anybody, even if piles of copies were dumped at Jewish stores.” Many candidates have expressed confusion when contacted by Southern Jewish Life, thinking the two publications were the same. According to campaign filings with the Secretary of State, and not including federal offices, such as the routine greeting ads from Rep. Steve Scalise and others in Congress, from August 2018 to the end of 2019 the Light raked in over $69,500 in political advertising. With many October disclosure forms still to be submitted, the Light has already totaled around $25,000 in political ads for 2020.

Counting the Numbers In its advertising materials, the Light currently claims a distribution of over 11,000, plus “2500 additional copies delivered to Kosher eateries, coffee shops, Synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, and grocery stores.” The total claimed distribution of around 14,000 is three times the number of Jewish households in the area, according to Federation figures. In the CityBusiness Book of Lists in 2020, the Light claimed a circulation of 10,500 by “mail, drop off.” Full page ads start at $1,499. Also in that list, the Light’s sister publication, Changing Times, a 14

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

community Christian newspaper, claimed a circulation of 70,000. By comparison, the ubiquitous weekly publication Gambit has a circulation of 40,000, and the monthly Where Y’At has 50,000 at over 650 drop points. The Changing Times website has a list of 410 distribution points in the region. The Light’s website does not have a similar list. In 2011, then-Jewish Community News claimed a reach of “over 16,000 community members” at a time when the Jewish community was inching close to reaching its pre-Katrina population of 9,500. When asked about the numbers, Gares said 14,000 “sounds big. I don’t think that is what we put down” but said he did not have the numbers in front of him. Gares said “when we have filled out a survey form, we have used the word readership, not just the word circulation,” but the CityBusiness form sent online to publications specifically asks for circulation, and the publications are ranked by circulation size. The Light’s own ad material breaks down its distribution by zip code, listing the number of “units” in each area, to reach its total of over 11,000. Readership numbers are always much higher than circulation, as it is standard practice in publishing to assume more than one reader per copy. How are the copies distributed? As previously mentioned, only two community members in the SJL survey recalled receiving the Light at home, though Gares said the paper is sent The Light’s ad by bulk mail, which is now called Stanmaterials refer dard Mail. Gares said “We’ve got a large list we’re mailing and dropping off and to the Jewish have been since taking over. We’ve purcommunity as chased lists.” Standard mail requires a minimum of “clique-ish” and 200 copies, a postage imprint at a specific isolated, looking location on the cover and enough white for “quality buys space for an address, along with a return address. The Light does not have any of that and bargains” on its cover, but Gares explained that the copies that are dropped off around the community “we label differently.” The online version of the Light also does not show evidence of the required mailing indicia. Southern Jewish Life is distributed by mail using the entire Jewish community mailing list, plus supplemental copies to advertisers, institutions and others who request it. The Light does not have access to the community mailing list. As for additional copies around town, the Light typically places about 100 copies each at Kosher Cajun and the Uptown Jewish Community Center. They are not permitted to distribute at the Metairie JCC. Each of the synagogues and Torah Academy, accounting for another 10 locations, receive a couple dozen copies, and there are some restaurants, coffee shops and retail establishments that also receive a couple dozen copies. A couple dozen copies are also dropped off at the two synagogues in Baton Rouge. Gares and Rault did not respond to followup requests to further clarify their circulation numbers, including how many are actually mailed or dropped off. A 2015 experiment sought to figure out the pickup rate for the Light at two of the newspaper’s largest distribution points. After a new issue was delivered to Kosher Cajun and the Uptown JCC, those stacks were counted, and tiny identifying marks were placed on the spine of the paper at certain points down the stack, to ensure that the stack had not been refilled. After four weeks, the stacks were counted again, showing that in one month only 20 copies had been picked up at Kosher Cajun and just 31 at the Uptown JCC.

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community ans community “deserves its own periodical from cover to cover with no deception in between.” The Light claimed that Southern Jewish Life put New Orleans on the cover “to trick readers and advertisers of its content,” adding, “The last time we checked, there isn’t any Bama in Louisiana. Ask any LSU Tiger fan.” Southern Jewish Life publishes two editions — New Orleans and Deep South, the latter going to Alabama, Mississippi, the Florida panhandle and areas of Louisiana outside the Greater New Orleans area. There are some regionally-oriented pages common to both editions, but generally 24 or 32 pages that differ from the other edition. In the Light’s 2020 Community Resource Guide, which lists itself as the only local Jewish publication, the Light asserts “you won’t see New Orleans edition on our front cover with over 50% Alabama news and advertising in between the covers” and touts its local nature “from cover to cover and every page in between” — though the vast majority of the Light’s pages consists of national JTA stories. From the July to October issues of this year, 70 percent of the ads in the New Orleans edition of Southern Jewish Life were local to New Orleans, while an additional 17 percent were of regional interest. Still, Gares said it is “facetious” when Southern Jewish Life “puts a New Orleans label on the front cover and yet it’s not New Orleans through and through… I’ve had people who complained about you guys, ‘why do they put New Orleans only (sic) when it’s clearly a lot of Alabama stuff in there’.” Gares and Rault did not respond when asked how they claim to be “cover to cover” local if almost all of their content is JTA material. In 2016, when an advertiser switched from the Light to SJL, Rault sent an email saying the Light was the best way to reach the local community, and that unless that professional was practicing in Alabama, she “is paying a lot of money to reach people that cannot work with her,” though the Light’s rates are higher than SJL’s while apparently having a smaller local reach than Southern Jewish Life. In the email, Rault added, “Smooth talking doesn’t always mean truthful talking, and we have honestly represented this community for over 20 years. We live here and pay taxes here.” When asked to name the most recent New Orleans Jewish community story the Light has covered in person, Gares said “I don’t need to explain why I’m a newspaper. We have lots of compliments from the community. It’s working for us… and we’re going to continue as long as we can.” Likening the Jewish publication scene to the battle between Coke and Pepsi, Gares said “It’s just commerce, bro.” Both Southern Jewish Life and the online Crescent City Jewish News have received multiple recognitions for journalistic excellence in the national American Jewish Press Association Rockower Awards, and locally by the Press Club of New Orleans. The Light is not a member of either organization. In addition to their respective weekly email newsletters, both SJL and CCJN have extensive websites that are regularly updated with local news, and an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, among other outlets. In an age of online presence and social media, the Light’s website has only a link to their latest print issue and a JTA feed — and traffic too small to be measured by website monitor Alexa. The Light’s Facebook page, created in January 2019 and “constantly publishing new articles keeping the community informed and connected” has four followers and placeholder images, with no content since it began. They do not have a Twitter feed. In 2022, AJPA plans to hold its annual convention in New Orleans, co-hosted by Southern Jewish Life and CCJN. As with everything else that has happened in the New Orleans Jewish community over the last 15 years, the Light will not be in attendance.

community “Unexpected Modernism” explores legacy of Shreveport’s Wiener brothers Documentary finally debuts after two Covid delays After a red-carpet premiere was delayed twice due to Covid-19, “Unexpected Modernism” was having its world debut online on Nov. 12, and filmmaker Gregory Kallenberg is excited at the opportunity to debut the film to a much wider audience. The 43-minute documentary tells the story of Jewish architects Samuel G. and William B. Wiener, half brothers from Shreveport, whose modernist designs of residential, institutional and commercial buildings from the 1930s through the 1960s made Shreveport an early hub of International Modernist design in the United States. In the late 1920s, they traveled to Europe and brought the Bauhaus influence back with them “influencing all the architecture in the city,” Kallenberg said. The original premiere was set for April 2 at The Strand Theatre in Shreveport, which is also a story of two Jewish brothers from Shreveport. The Strand opened in 1925, developed by Julian and Abe Saenger. It would be the flagship location of what became a 320-theatre chain across the region. The Saenger brothers moved their operations to New Orleans in 1927 and then sold the chain to Paramount Publix. In 2017, Stacey Pfingsten, executive director of the Louisiana Architecture Foundation, found the book “The Modernist Architecture of Samuel G. and William B. Wiener,” by Karen Kingsley and Guy Carwile. Amazed at how little awareness there was about the Wieners, even among architects, Pfingsten and the LAF board decided to have the documentary made. They approached Kallenberg, founder of the Louisiana Film Prize, and producers Chris Lyon and Rachael Hansil.

Home of Samuel Wiener in Shreveport “At the time I wasn’t a big architecture fan or knew much about it” beyond driving around and being able to say “that’s a house that doesn’t fit in here,” Kallenberg said. He did a “deep dive” into the subject and was “astounded” at what he learned. Having the Jewish connection in northwest Louisiana was an added bonus. “Being able to do something on these gentlemen, who did something so incredible for this area and bring it to the big screen is such a huge honor for us,” he said. He said people in Shreveport are used to seeing the buildings all over town and don’t think much about it. Now that he knows more about it,


November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life



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“you can’t unsee it.” And, he added, the city is “very lucky” that so many of the structures not only have been preserved, but are still being used and lived in. The film “is an enlightening and long-overdue tribute to two incredible Shreveport architectural trailblazers who made our community among the first American launch sites, of sorts, of the early 20th century modernist movement,” said LAF board member and Shreveport architect Mischa Farrell, AIA. “It is our hope that this powerful film will rejuvenate an appreciation for modernist architecture, its preservation in Shreveport, and the priceless contributions of the Wiener brothers.” Having the film premiere online instead of at the Strand is one opportunity created by the pandemic, Kallenberg said. The film can raise awareness of Shreveport’s architectural riches among those who travel to see such things. “There are people all over the world who travel to places like Fallingwater,” a Frank Lloyd Wright creation in Pennsylvania. “Shreveport has this incredible opportunity, it is this undiscovered architectural tourist destination that this film will shine a light on.” He recalled driving Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster, a New York native, around town, and when they passed one particular building “he almost jumped out of the rolling car” and exclaimed that he’d never seen a Bauhaus-inspired office building that large. Among the film’s sponsors are the Evolve Foundation and the North Louisiana Jewish Federation. The Federation especially took an interest in the Wieners’ roles in the Jewish community. The film includes interviews with Wiener family members, architecture experts and the book’s authors. After the premiere, Kallenberg said they will talk with other groups that can show the film. “Our job is to get this film seen.”

ISJL continues cultural offerings around region The Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life continues to organize virtual programs for communities throughout the region. On Nov. 19 at 7 p.m., there will be a performance by the Bible Players, doing their award winning unkosher comedy show for adults. On Dec. 10 at 7 p.m., Julie Silver will present a concert for the first night of Chanukah. The Jewish Federation of Central Alabama has signed up for both events. Communities or congregations that want to join in these or any other ISJL cultural offerings should contact the ISJL director of cultural programming, Ann Zivitz Kientz, at akientz@isjl.org.


That knock on a dorm room door B’ham-NOLA couple makes mark on Jewish world By Richard Friedman There was the day, almost 30 years ago, that a knock on the door of a University of Texas dorm room not only changed the lives of two young people forever but would eventually affect the Jewish world in ways they never could have imagined. What prompted Judith Lazarus to knock on Brian Siegal’s door on their first day of college? “My roommate, who I knew previously, and I were both very outgoing and we liked to meet people,” remembers Judith. “So when I got to our dorm, the first thing I did with my roommate was to knock on doors and introduce ourselves.” After meeting Brian, and realizing that though they had never met, they knew many people in common — it’s called playing Jewish geography — and Judith sensed “this guy is going to be a good friend of mine.” They each came from families active in their hometown Jewish communities and had inherited strong traditions of service and leadership from their parents, Betty and Harry Lazarus, of New Orleans, and Bobbie and Don Siegal, of Birmingham. So, not surprisingly, Judith and Brian began running into each other everywhere — in their heavily Jewish dorm, at Hillel where they both were on the board, and at other Jewish activities on the University of Texas campus. The two connected, became close, started dating, and then, as sometimes happens in college romances, took a hiatus. They would later reconnect for good, though, after Brian shrewdly maneuvered his way back into Judith’s life. “We were both very involved on the Hillel board,” Judith recalls. “He would be cracking jokes, I would roll my eyes. But he always had a joke. Then we had a little bit of a rift.” It didn’t last long. “He called to solicit me for a Jewish cause. I thought that was funny. He knew I’d give and I think it was just his way of reaching out to reconnect.” It worked. “We cemented our relationship on a Hillel bus trip from Austin to New Orleans. It was just a fun trip, though looking back it was significant because our relationship was started and strengthened through our Jewish involvement,” she notes. Marriage would eventually follow, beginning a partnership that would lead to Judith becoming a rabbi and Brian, after starting out as a lawyer, coming to work for the American Jewish Committee, one of America’s oldest national Jewish organizations.

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Profound Effect As their journey unfolded, they found themselves in Israel for a year in 2001. Judith was pursuing her rabbinic studies and Brian was continuing his legal education, clerking for the Israeli Supreme Court and studying at Hebrew University. It would be a transformative year — for both the United States and Israel, and Brian and Judith. It was the year of the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. and the acceleration of an unprecedented war of terror and suicide bombings against the Israeli people. That year in Israel left a profound mark on the two of them and shaped what would become for Brian a dramatic change of course professionally. November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life



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He saw the devastation of the suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks first-hand, including an attack at Hebrew University that killed the girlfriend of his best friend. “Those attacks against Israelis for being Jewish shaped what I wanted to do with my career in terms of advocacy for the Jewish community and Israel,” he explains. But he also wanted to still pursue his passion for civil rights and human rights — “to help be a bridge between the Jewish community and other ethnic and religious groups.” When they returned to New York, where Judith continued her rabbinic studies, Brian’s dual passions led him to a job with the American Jewish Committee. Then in 2005 came another turning point — Hurricane Katrina. Knowing that this relatively new AJC staff member was from the South and his wife, especially, was from New Orleans, Brian was asked to head the organization’s Hurricane Katrina relief effort, another experience which had a profound effect on Brian — as well as Judith. Together they brought a vision to the assignment built on assisting the New Orleans Jewish community, which was very close to Judith’s heart, and also helping the broader community. This further cemented Brian’s commitment to serve in a Jewish community leadership role that focused on building relationships with the larger community and different constituencies, purposes that are at the heart of the AJC’s mission. As the past 15 years have unfolded, that fateful knock on the door has resulted in the Siegals becoming one of the Jewish world’s “power couples,” particularly in South Florida where they now live with their three children. Judith has served as a rabbi at Temple Judea in Coral Gables since her ordination, and became the senior rabbi in 2014. Brian serves as regional director of the AJC’s Greater Miami and Broward County office. They also are among a notable number of Jews from Birmingham and New Orleans who have become connected through marriage, and who have gone on to make an impact in the Jewish communities where they’ve settled.

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

Brian’s and Judith’s love for their respective native cities, particularly the Birmingham and New Orleans Jewish communities, is evident in conversations with them. They credit growing up in these communities with playing formative roles in shaping their Jewish values and careers. Broadly similar, these two Southern Jewish communities are small but close-knit and provide a rich and supportive environment for families with children to become deeply involved in Jewish life. Brian’s Jewish upbringing in Birmingham was heavily influenced by his parents’ commitment to public activism and social justice, and Judith was heavily influenced by the centrality of Juda-

ism and religious life in her family. Judith also credits her family’s multi-generational involvement with the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica with being an important influence in her Jewish development. “Birmingham and New Orleans really helped solidify our values, our sense of purpose and our sense of agency,” says 47-year-old Brian as he looks back. “Growing up in Birmingham, many times I was the Jewish kid who was asked to explain the Jewish holidays and what being Jewish meant. Growing up in Birmingham, I always had a sense of belonging — both within the Jewish community and the broader community.” However, he emphasizes, “If you wanted to be part of the larger community, you had to be confident enough in your own background and yourself and be open-minded and willing to listen to others.” Having both spouses involved in high-profile jobs in the Jewish world is not always easy. It can be tremendously rewarding to be engaged in the work as partners. However, it also can be stressful. It can take a toll on the family if not managed carefully within boundaries. Explains Judith, “We are two working parents in demanding jobs. We have meetings in the evening that often take us away from each other and our three children. I think we do a pretty good job of balancing it out — if we can’t have dinner as a family, we try to have breakfast together. In addition, I chose my current synagogue because it is a very child-friendly synagogue and that has been important to me as we’ve raised our children.” They have two boys and a girl, ages 16, 14 and 9. It all sounds pretty compatible, and in fact, a marriage that was beshert — meant to be. Certainly when it comes to Judaism, Israel, leadership, family and a couple’s core values. Compatible, that is, until you get to the one other thing that’s so important in the lives of most Southerners, Jewish or not: College football. There, some differences and distinctions emerge. How could they not when Judith, raised as an LSU fan, had a grandfather, Bernard Bennett, who was called Tigie? That’s right, Tigie — as in the LSU Tigers. Or Brian having a Tuscaloosa-born dad who bled Crimson and was the first and only Jewish Student Government Association president at the University of Alabama? Judith was actually worried that when the two families first met, this could be a deal-killer. “I was seriously concerned they were going to go at it, maybe not a fist fight, but I really didn’t think they were going to get along,” she recalls, laughing. Well, her concerns were unfounded and the families hit it off. That’s the good news. The even better news is that nearly 30 years ago, a young girl from New Orleans named Judith Lazarus knocked on Brian Siegal’s door.

community Friends of the IDF expands into region Following the expansion and restructuring of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces’ executive office and welcoming Steven Weil as the new national director and CEO in mid-September, FIDF has decided to form the new Eastern Region, comprising Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, DC, Maryland and Delaware. Seth Baron, who for the past seven years has served as executive director of the Southeast Region, will now serve as the FIDF executive director of the newly merged Eastern Region. During his tenure, the Southeast region experienced rapid growth in both fundraising and donor engagement in support of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers. Under Baron’s leadership, the FIDF Southeast community adopted the Combat Intelligence Corps; funded various projects on IDF bases ranging from the refurbishment of a gym for Hiram Brigade on HQ Gibor Base, funding of the 2182 Campus Infirmary, as well as numerous leisure corners for the benefit of multiple IDF units; and has sponsored a total of 370 IMPACT! scholarships, with 133 current IMPACT! students. The Southeast area is home to 60 Lone Soldiers currently serving in the IDF, including 40 from Atlanta. “I am excited about this merger of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions to create the Eastern Region, a decision that reflects our new vision for FIDF, and team-based approach to leadership,” said Weil. “Seth’s knowledge of and passion for FIDF’s mission, wealth of management abilities, relationship building skills, and process-driven performance will help him excel in this new position.” Prior to working at FIDF, Baron served as both the Atlanta Area Director and the Southern States Area Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee from 2007 to 2013. “My life, both personally and professionally, has been dedicated to the Land of Israel and its people,” said Baron. “I look forward to continuing to provide solutions that benefit the well-being, education, and spiritual needs of the men and women who serve in the IDF, protecting Israel and Jews all around the world.” FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501(C) (3) not-forprofit organization with the mission of offering educational, cultural, recreational, and social programs and facilities that provide hope, purpose, and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide. Today, FIDF has 25 chapters throughout the United States and Panama.




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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


community South Alabama talk features director of Holocaust film By Richard Friedman “Who Will Write Our History?” That’s the title of a remarkable documentary, based on a book by the same name, that tells the story of a group of Jews who banded together in the Warsaw Ghetto in the early 1940s to record the oppression, inhumanity and ultimately genocide perpetrated by their Nazi persecutors. The group’s intent was to leave a meticulously-documented historic legacy that not only would allow the victims to be remembered but with the hope that such genocide would never happen again. These archives also were intended to be a recording of what was happening in the Ghetto — a dramatic and tragic chapter in Jewish and human history — from a Jewish point of view, rather than leaving the writing and photographing of events solely to Hitler’s propaganda machine. The University of South Alabama’s McCall Library, along with other community partners, hosted an online discussion on Oct. 15 with Roberta Grossman, an accomplished filmmaker who created and directed the documentary. The film, which was available for viewing in coordination with the program, is dramatic yet understated. Grossman is experienced and sophisticated enough to “get out of the way of the story” and through an array of imaginative cinema techniques, allows the story to tell itself. In fact, she creates a framework for three interwoven stories to be told at once: The destruction of Jewish life in Poland, which was rich and vibrant before the Holocaust; the dark, degenerative saga of the more than 400,000 Jews imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, showing how the Nazis strategically and sadistically  devalued their lives; and the brave band of chroniclers who risked their own lives to secretly document what was taking place. The central thread in the film is the heroic and visionary work of one of the Ghetto’s Jewish leaders,  Emanuel Ringelblum, the driving force behind what came to be known as the Oyneg Shabes Archive, the collective work of 60 historians, scholars, journalists and others who produced 30,000 pages of writing, photographs and more. They buried their work under the Ghetto in three different  places,  hoping the archives would be discovered one day. Two of the hiding places were eventually found and the material was recovered, the third has never been found. The conversation with filmmaker Grossman, in an informal question and answer format, provided insight into a range of topics. They ran the gamut from what drew her to this project, to some of the aesthetic choices she made, to the complexities and sensitivities of creating a narrative that would be faithful to the reality of life in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the Nazis in October 1940. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The decree required all Jewish residents of Warsaw to move into a designated area, which German authorities sealed off from the rest of the city. The ghetto was enclosed by a wall that was over 10 feet high, topped with barbed wire, and closely guarded to prevent movement between the Ghetto and the rest of Warsaw. The population of the Ghetto, increased by Jews compelled to move in from nearby towns, was estimated to be over 400,000. German authorities forced residents to live in an area of 1.3 square miles, with an average of 7.2 persons per room.” Grossman, despite an impressive resume and litany of achievements as a filmmaker, provided down-to-earth answers to the questions that the moderator put before her, including questions from students. Grossman emphasized the tenacity — almost obsessiveness — it takes to make such a film and the challenges of assembling all of the pieces from financing to finished product. Then, she said, one  must become absorbed in the story — relentlessly — and be intensely curious and re22

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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solve to tell it visually in a way that draws readers in and leaves them with a lasting experience. For her, the story of these secret chroniclers came at her like a “thunderbolt” when she was reading American historian Samuel Kassow’s book on the Warsaw Ghetto archives. She realized that this was an essential Holocaust story that hadn’t been told. “This is the most important unknown or little-known story of the Holocaust,” she told her online audience. “I couldn’t believe we didn’t know about it. The deeper I went into it, the more shocked I was.” Explained Grossman, “It  took 8 years to make the film and it took Sam 12 years to write the book, but it had to be done.” These were people, she said, “who so much wanted to be remembered.” The documentary premiered Jan. 18, 2019 in New York. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day that year, the film was shown in 40 countries in 200 venues. The film’s executive producer was Nancy Spielberg, sister of director Steven Spielberg.  Kassow recently participated in a Birmingham Holocaust Education Center program.

Strong Conviction During the South Alabama program, Grossman was asked what role she thought the film could play in educating young people about the story of the Warsaw Ghetto and the bravery and foresight of these archivists. “I have a very, very, very strong conviction… that history is the best way to educate young people or really anybody. There is nothing like what a film can do. I think it is a great way to teach history.” A student asked Grossman if she thought Ringelblum, the leader and organizer of the archivists, and the others initially sensed that the Germans intended to kill the Jews that they had crammed into the Ghetto. “Absolutely not,” said the filmmaker. “They formed the secret archives group eight days after the Ghetto was sealed, to collect primary sources — so that what was happening could be written from a Jewish point of view. As things progressed and they became aware of what was going on all over Poland and beyond, it became clearer and clearer what German intentions were.” Upon the realization that genocide was the goal, “their mission changed — to leave a remembrance and accounting of what took place, with the hope that someone would remember them after the war.” Another student asked her if she had any advice for aspiring filmmakers. “Choose subjects wisely, and make sure whatever story you set out to tell that you are very passionate about it,” she said, reflecting the determination and focus it takes. “One of the reasons it took me eight years was I couldn’t figure out what to leave out.” Grossman also was asked how she thought the archivists, if they were alive today, would feel about their work being discovered and their story being told? “I  think they would be deeply  gratified.  I also believe they would be horrified it had taken so long. I think that they thought that when the archive was discovered and the raw truth was uncovered, that something like what happened to them would never happen again.” Unfortunately, the filmmaker added, they also would be horrified, she believes, by the genocide that has occurred since the Holocaust.  Sponsors of the program were The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The Gulf Coast Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education through a grant from the Harry and Kela Zaremba Fund, the Department of History (USA) and the Mobile Area Jewish Federation.

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life



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Limmudfest New Orleans making plans for hybrid 2021 event Virtual program to encourage regional participation While nobody can predict what March 2021 will look like, the new leadership team at Limmud New Orleans are working on Limmudfest, scheduled for the weekend of March 12 to 14. Limmudfest New Orleans is traditionally held every other year, bringing hundreds of participants from New Orleans and surrounding areas for a weekend of Jewish unity and learning, with about 90 sessions on a wide range of topics. Originally scheduled for March 2020, Limmudfest had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Next year’s festival is being chaired by Leslie Goldberg and Marissa Knell. Goldberg said they are exploring virtual and in-person options for Limmudfest. For “Covid-safe” in-person learning, they are looking at “chavruta pods” and having a special delivery menu from local kosher restaurants. For the virtual side, there would be an opening ceremony followed by a series of virtual sessions in the afternoon of March 14. “Holding a (mostly) virtual event means being able to bring the Limmud experience to more of our far-flung Jewish neighbors, and being able to bring big-name presenters from around the world to our humble Southern event,” they said. Goldberg has been a member of the New Orleans Jewish community since 2012, serving as a religious school and Hebrew teacher at Touro Synagogue, and participating in the lay-led Torah chavruta. She first got involved with Limmud by leading a Torah study session soon after arriving in the community, and this is her first time working on the administrative side of the event. Knell also arrived in New Orleans in 2012, currently organizing Shabbat services with Kol Halev, a group that holds a monthly meditative Shabbat service, and is also studying public health at Tulane. Limmud also has a new technology director, Max Lapushin, for a festival that will rely on technology to an unprecedented extent. Limmudfest is entirely volunteer organized and all the presenters volunteer their time. The organizers are looking for additional volunteers, especially for registration and the technology help desk. More information about Limmudfest 2021 will be forthcoming.

Shielding Israel The Baxley Companies in Dothan continue to help Israelis within range of Gaza missiles, with the dedication of additional bomb shelters through Operation Lifeshield. Here, a shelter is dedicated at the Kibbutz Dorot Garlic Factory, in the Shaar HaNegev region. Factory staff have 30 seconds to seek shelter when a rocket alert is sounded. Additional shelters were recently dedicated at nearby Nahal Oz.

community From Birmingham to the Minnesota Vikings: The Wilf family saga By Richard Friedman Birmingham, New Jersey, the National Football League and a Zoom call reconnecting friends after 70 years. These are just some of the elements in a story marked by humility, prosperity and gratitude. It’s the story of the Wilf family and how in the post-Holocaust era, survivors Suzy and Joe Wilf left Europe and landed in Birmingham in 1950 — on July 4, fittingly enough — with their infant son and little else, ready to begin a new life. They were met at the airport by a representative of the United Jewish Fund, the forerunner of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, and taken to an apartment which UJF had rented and fur-nished for them. The Wilfs, a young couple in their 20s, were among a cluster of Holocaust survivor families re-settled in Birmingham in the wake of World War II. This was part of a national effort to reset-tle Holocaust survivors in local Jewish communities. Jobs would be found, English would be taught, financial aid would be provided; all with the goal of helping these fellow Jews begin new lives and enter the American mainstream. Some would stay in Birmingham and some,

such as the Wilfs, would move on. Suzy and Joe left Birmingham after a year. They wound up in New Jersey, where Joe’s brother Harry would resettle as well. That’s where part two of this story begins. The Wilf brothers — smart, hungry and ambitious — embraced the American dream full-throttle and built a business, Garden Homes, which over time became the country’s largest home builders. They prospered beyond what they ever could have imagined. Suzy and Joe and the Wilf family would become one of the American Jewish community’s wealthiest and most generous families. Joe and Suzy also became big-time NFL fans, attending New York Giants games with their sons as the boys were growing up. It was there, in Yankee Stadium, where the Giants played, that the dream of owning a NFL team was planted. In 2005, Zygi Wilf, the infant son who came with his parents to Birmingham, and his younger brother Mark put a group together to buy the Minnesota Vikings. Today, though still involved with Garden Homes, Zygi is the Vikings’ board chair and Mark is the team’s president.

Photo courtesy Minnesota Vikings

Mark Wilf Mark also has found time for Jewish causes. Currently he is board chair of Jewish Federations of North America, an important volunteer role. Mark provided a recent online update for the Birmingham Jewish Federation. He also talked about his family’s connection to Birmingham and their gratitude for the help extended to his parents, Joe and Suzy, when they arrived in America. Joe is deceased, but

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


community Suzy was excited Mark was speaking to a Birmingham group. It brought back memories for her, including their friendship with another young couple, Helen and Szymon Nagrodzki, also Holocaust survivors who were resettled in Birmingham. Though Helen and Szymon are deceased, a Zoom call was arranged for Mark, Suzy and the three grown Nagrodzki children — Louise Abroms and Paul Nagrodzki of Birmingham, and Shirley Willcher, who lives in Maryland — to meet.

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

From the minute the call began, Suzy beamed. The emotion was apparent as she reached back 70 years to reflect on a time of extraordinary challenges and transitions for their respective families. It was almost as if long-lost family members were reconnecting. Suzy, with a precise and vivid memory, recounted their friendship with Szymon and Helen. She even remembered Shirley as a toddler. Pictures were shown back and forth and Suzy was curious about the Nagrodzki children, want-ing to know about their lives. Suzy was asked what Birmingham was like in 1950. “The weather was too hot!” she said, laughing. Weather aside, they also were bothered by the racial segregation of that era, especially since they had been victims of discrimination and ha-tred themselves. As Mark had done during the BJF program, his mom reiterated the family’s gratitude to the Birmingham Jewish community for helping to give them a new start. Both the Wilfs and Nagrodzki children talked about how grateful they are to be Americans. Even with all they have achieved, the Wilfs carry themselves with humility and a warmth that puts other people at ease. It is especially important to Mark, now 58, that the next generation of the family and generations beyond remember their family’s story and the importance of Jewish people caring for one another. As the call ended, it was noted that Paul Nagrodzki was wearing a purple shirt — the color fa-mously associated with the Minnesota Vikings. “It’s in your honor,” the Wilfs were told. Mark smiled, and with a son’s pride noted that his mom still follows the team religiously.

Montclair Run goes virtual For the first time in 44 years, there won’t be hundreds of runners on Montclair Road in front of Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center on Thanksgiving morning. Because of coronavirus, this year’s Sam Lapidus Montclair Run is going virtual. Once registered, participants can do the run wherever they like, at any point between Nov. 14 and 29. A mobile app will track distance and time according to whether one registered for the 10-kilometer, 5-kilometer or one-mile fun run. The results are then automatically uploaded. Runners may also choose to manually upload their time. The run can be done anywhere, indoors or outdoors, even on a treadmill. Registration is $36 for the longer races, $18 for the fun run. T-shirts were guaranteed to those who signed up by Nov. 13 and can be picked up with race packets at the LJCC on Nov. 24 and 25. Shirts may be shipped by request, starting Nov. 29. Registration is at slmr.itsyourrace.com. The event was renamed in 2008 in memory of Sam Lapidus, who loved fitness and working out at the LJCC. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at age 9 in 2003, but refused to let it alter his plans. He died in November 2008, just shy of his 15th birthday. Proceeds from the race benefit the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama and the LJCC Fitness Program. The Center for Childhood Cancer donations help children in Alabama by enhancing services, building new programs, and recruiting new physicians and researchers. Over 1,000 runners participate each year.

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From a Jan. 9 concert at B’nai Israel, Natchez

Campaign seeks matching funds for Natchez Temple restoration As work continues to preserve Temple B’nai Israel in Natchez, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise $150,000 to access a matching grant from the state for the next phase of renovations. The B’nai Israel Board of Overseers, in partnership with the Goldring/ Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, started the campaign to match a Community Heritage Preservation Grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History that will see the complete replacement of the building’s outdated, century-old electrical system and the installation of a much-needed fire suppression system. This phase of the project will cost around $430,000. Nora Katz, director of heritage and interpretation at ISJL, said this phase “is crucial to realizing our goal of opening the synagogue as a community gathering place, hub for the arts, and interpretive center.” With just 10 members left in the congregation, there has been an increase in cultural offerings at B’nai Israel. The Southern Jewish Historical Society held its 2016 conference there, there is an annual “Cabaret Under the Dome” concert, and in 2018 there was a production of Mark Twain’s “The Diaries of Adam and Eve.” The first phases of the renovation included a wheelchair ramp along the side of the building, providing access to the sanctuary. The roof and dome have also been restored. After replacing the electrical system to meet fire codes, the HVAC system will be replaced. Also on the to-do list is an elevator and accessible bathrooms, and a catering kitchen and exhibit space “so the temple can serve the Mississippi community as an event venue,” Katz said. B’nai Israel was the first Jewish congregation in Mississippi, with roots going back to 1840. It was a charter member of the Union for Reform Judaism in 1873 and completed its first building on the current site in 1872. That building burned in 1903 due to faulty wiring, and the current building was completed in 1905. B’nai Israel’s Beaux-Arts building with an Italian marble ark is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributor to the On-Topof-the-Hill Historic District, and was named one of Mississippi’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in 2017. The Temple has received two Community Heritage Preservation Grants from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and is a partner of the Historic Natchez Foundation. “We are so grateful to have the partnership of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as we embark on this ambitious historic preservation project,” said Katz. “But we need widespread community support in order to make our vision for the Temple a reality. The COVID-19 crisis has challenged us to find new and innovative ways to raise awareness about this important project.” The campaign is at https://www.gofundme.com/f/natcheztemple.

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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community David Meola, Fanny and Bert Meisler Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Jewish and Holocaust Studies Minor Program at the University of South Alabama, will present “Origins of Jewish Reform” on the Springhill Avenue Temple Zoom, Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m. Temple Beth El and other historic downtown Pensacola congregations will hold their annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service virtually, Nov. 22 at 5 p.m., via Facebook Live and templebethelofpensacola.org. Temple Beth Or in Montgomery continues a century-old tradition of participating in an interfaith Thanksgiving service, but this year it will be virtual. The service will be the afternoon of Nov. 22, with First United Methodist Church and Church of the Ascension.

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For Birmingham’s annual Southside Faith Association interfaith Thanksgiving service, Temple Beth-El has been selected to be the virtual host. Rabbi Stephen Slater will give a message and Sarah Metzger will provide the music, live from the Beth-El sanctuary, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m. The livestream will be on the Beth-El YouTube page, and available for later viewing. Offerings can be sent to Greater Birmingham Ministries. Baton Rouge Young Jewish Professionals will meet at Chabad of Baton Rouge on Nov. 21 at 6:45 p.m. for wine, cheese and Havdalah. Masks are requested. The Beit Ariel Chabad Center in Birmingham will host a Red Cross blood drive, Nov. 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Donating includes a test for Covid antibodies. Appointments are required. The Southeast Chavura plans a Torah study on Dec. 12 at noon on the outside porch of Ralph and Kacoo’s restaurant in Mobile. After focusing on the weekly portion, there will be a discussion of biblical Chanukah by the group’s own Jewish archaeologist. For more information, call Cal Ennis, (228) 623-0479. Bazsinsky House, a Jewish landmark in Vicksburg that is now a bed and breakfast, was recognized with a Traveler’s Choice Award from Tripadvisor. The family owned the home for four generations, until a 2006 purchase by the current owners.


The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center continues its new lecture series, “The Holocaust in Focus,” on Zoom, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. These lectures will narrow the focus on iconic Holocaust photographs and critically examine what is known about them. Jonathan Wiesen of the University of Alabama at Birmingham will present “Auschwitz 1944: Victims and Perpetrators in Two Photo Albums.” He will juxtapose the Lilly Jacobs Album and the Hocker Album, the only photographs from Auschwitz-Birkenau and its perpetrators.

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

On Sept. 26, Tulane Jewish Leaders held a Create and Donate event at Tulane Hillel for students to make tie-dye masks and bags for themselves and to be donated to a local school.

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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2117 Cahaba Road Birmingham 205/871.4616 little-hardware.com

57th Annual Fall Outdoor Cascading Chrysanthemums November 1 – 30 Open Daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

(Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days)

Theodore, AL

800-247-8420 / 251-973-2217 bellingrath.org

Embrace the warmth of family and create



Little Hardware offers a large selection of essential items for home projects as well as vast array of gifts. “It has always been a diverse store, with so much more than hardware,” said Frank Davies, whose father bought the store for the original owner, Lewis Little, in 1964. Little started Little Hardware in 1946 and moved from it from its original location in Ensley to Mountain Brook Village in 1959. “About 10 years ago we expanded what we offer. We’ve got everything from dog food to power tools to grills to housewares to gift items,” said Davies, who in 2014 moved the store to its current location in English Village. “We’re happy to also do custom orders for anything that isn’t in the store and if we get a few requests, we’ll start carrying those items on a regular basis.” He said he helped out at the store when he was in high school and came back to Little Hardware after graduating college in 1982. The store offers much for those who are looking for Chanukah gifts. Davies said their Weber barbecue grills, Yeti coolers and drinkwear and Kamado Joe cookers (pictured here) have been very popular sellers. Little Hardware also offers supplies and guidance for those who are into birding. They’ve also seen an uptick in customers getting supplies for home projects, especially with folks spending more time at home due to Covid-19 precautions. “We’re an essential store, so we never closed during the quarantine,” said Davies. “We noticed an increase in sales with certain types of hardware, lawn and garden, paints.” Little Hardware started carrying Benjamin Moore paints earlier this year. “Plenty of people were doing home (and lawn) projects,” he added. They’ve also sold their share of disinfectants, cleaning supplies, face masks and face shields. Little Hardware also offers curbside pick-up and limited-range delivery. “We’re very fortunate to get great support in the community from our friends who believe in supporting local stores,” said Davies. “We want to do anything we can to reach out to them and say thanks.”

Applause Dance Wear

1629 Oxmoor Road Birmingham 205/781-7837 applausedancewear.net

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

It is the holiday season and Applause is the largest dancewear provider in Alabama — and if you can’t shop in person, there’s always the website for online shopping. Established in 1981, Applause has an extensive inventory of shoes, tights, and leotards by leading companies in the industry. Applause only staffs dancers who are experts on fit, style and quality for all things dance! Pictured here are Kaia matching sports bras and leggings with prints for leisure or athletic wear.

chanukah gifts Vulcan Park and Museum

1701 Valley View Drive Birmingham 205/933-1409 visitvulcan.com Vulcan Park and Museum recommends Chanukah gifts that can help support the Birmingham landmark’s future — give a membership and provide an experience that will be treasured throughout the year. Membership allows recipients to be a part of the timeless symbol of Birmingham’s past, present and future. Members can experience the interactive history museum; the beauty of the park’s lush grounds and breathtaking views of Birmingham from high atop Red Mountain. Membership includes unlimited regular admission year-round to Vulcan’s Museum and Observation Tower, discounted (and sometimes free) admission to community events at Vulcan Park and the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing preservation of Birmingham’s favorite landmark. It also provides access to over 700 institutions in the North American Reciprocal Museum Program.

Unmatched Customer Service • Superior Sewing Machine Brands That’s what has attracted sewing enthusiasts from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana to downtown Homewood for over 70 years!

Machine Sales and Service • Scissor Sharpening

Hanna Antiques

2424 7th Avenue South Birmingham 205/323.6036 hannaantiques.com The perfect gift for your man who has everything — vintage cufflinks. And yes, there is quite a selection! Stop by for holiday shopping inspiration.

Chateau Drugs and Gifts

Since 1950

We Take Bring in your old sewing machine, serger or Trade-Ins! embroidery machine for even bigger savings! Located at 1722 28th Avenue South, Homewood

205.870.1931 sewingmachinemart.com Open Tuesday-Friday, 9:30-4:30

3544 West Esplanade Avenue Metairie 504/889.2300 chateaudrugsrx.com Chateau Drugs and Gifts has been a pharmacy since 1977, but it also has a diverse selection of gifts, including art and handmade pottery, clothes (mostly sweaters, robes, pajamas), lamps, purses, small luggage, kids’ costumes, New Orleansthemed gifts from Jax Frey as well as Purple Pumpkin, Beatrice Ball, toys, bath and body products, wine charms, as well as much more. Chateau’s Judaica gifts include menorahs and mezuzahs from Michael Aram, “Jewish History of New Orleans” books from Images of America, along with a nice selection of greeting cards for Chanukah and other holidays and B’nai Mitzvah celebrations, along with a few options for wrapping paper and gift bags. November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


chanukah gifts

Bearden Design et Boutique and Salon 2846 18th Street S. Homewood 205/502.7678 beardendesignboutique.com

Israeli Designer T 9. Made from recycled fibers. Gil and Deb Mouyal teamed up to offer customers complete style solutions from head to toe with Bearden Design et Boutique and Salon. During the quarantine, the married couple decided the best way for their businesses to thrive was to marry Gil’s hair salon with Deb’s boutique. “We are a team. We are very involved with the people we work for and we’re focused on treating our customers like family,” said Deb Bearden Mouyal. Bearden Design sells fashions from across the globe, including four independent Israeli designers — Matti Mamane, Gershon Bram, Kedem Sasson and T9, all of which feature clothing made from recycled fibers. Bearden Design strives to find designers as well as manufacturers that use eco-friendly fibers and manufacturing practices. “We do our very best to meet with every designer before we start working with them to make sure they understand our mission to empower women through fashion with function and comfort,” said Bearden Mouyal. She started Bearden Design et Boutique five years ago and moved to downtown Homewood this past January. Prior to opening the boutique, Deb Mouyal provided interior design and home renovation services. Gil Mouyal is Jewish and originally from Paris. He has been a hairstylist in the Birmingham area for 41 years. “I have experience working with men and women with all types of hair,” said Gil Mouyal, adding that the hair products in the salon — Moroccan Oil — are made in Israel. “I specialize in doing color and I use a no-ammonia hair color (by Matrix) that leaves hair shiny and undamaged.” Deb Bearden Mouyal said she wanted to bring unique style to Birmingham. Approximately 90 percent of the fashions at Bearden Design come from international designers and manufacturers, along with a few independent U.S. designers. The jewelry they carry includes creations from two independent female designers — Debe Dohrer from Nashville and Santa Fe’s Laurie Lenfesty with her Bittersweet Designs. Bearden Design also carries a line of “athleisure wear for the mature woman,” leggings, skorts and legging skirts designed by Deb Mouyal herself under the name Jade Sport. The shoe lines they sell are from Fly London, Cappelletti, Gabor, Softinos and others. “We carry fashions and accessories that make women feel empowered, stylish and comfortable,” said Bearden Mouyal. For more information, go to www.beardendesignetboutique.com and Bearden Design et Boutique on Facebook as well as Instagram. 32

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

chanukah gifts

Chanukah Gifts! King Cake Hub provides taste of normal season With several Krewes already cancelling their parades for the 2021 Mardi Gras season — including the Krewe du Vieux, home of the Jewish Krewe du Mishigas — Will Samuels is working to ensure “that we can still revel appropriately throughout Carnival.” Starting Jan. 6, King Cake Hub will be operating for its third season at the Mystere Mansion on Canal Street in New Orleans, and “New Orleans will find a way to celebrate the season no matter what events are (or are not) taking place.” To help the celebrations, the King Cake Hub is presenting Quarnival, with expanded curbside pickup and local delivery for over 50 varieties of King Cake from over a dozen bakeries. The King Cake Coterie will consist of six exclusive specialty King Cakes, every Tuesday starting Jan. 6. The Coterie includes a new collaboration between NOCCA and Steve Himelfarb of Cake Cake, Bywater Bakery’s Key Lime King Cake, Gracious Bakery’s Cherries Jubilee King Cake, Cannata’s King Berry Royale, Zuppardo’s savory Brie, Fig and Candied Dates King Cake and Breads on Oak’s Bourbon Praline Pecan. Reservations are being taken through Dec. 31, and the cakes can be picked up each week or, for $50 over the six weeks, delivered locally. The season package is $180 and is available through kingcakehub.com. Though the Coterie is only for local delivery, other King Cakes can be ordered online for shipping nationwide. King Cake Hub has also launched MardiGrasTV, with livestreamed concerts, entertainment shows, cooking, sports/exercise, comedy, history, education and the arts. There are also plans to broadcast live events when possible, and on what would be parading days, previous years’ parades will be aired. MardiGrasTV is available via Strimm, and partnerships are planned with Plex, Samsung Plus, Fire TV and other streaming services. It will also be available on MardiGrasTV.com

Opening Soon in ! Destrehan

We’re Open, Come On In! Inside, Curbside or Delivery Mon-Fri 10am-6pm • Sat 10am-4pm

5101 W. Esplanade Ave (at Chastant) Metairie 504-407-3532 nolagiftsanddecoronline.com

Manischewitz, PJ Library build Chanukah houses Bayonne, N.J.-based Manischewitz, an iconic name in traditional kosher products, is offering a do-it-yourself Chanukah House cookie decorating kit that comes with everything children need — from cookies and icing to a sanding sugar and a candy menorah — to build their own edible holiday cottage. And this kit also comes with the gift of books to kids the world over. The kit is at the center of a special promotion by Manischewitz to drive consumer sales and raise awareness for PJ Library, an organization that sends more than 225,000 free Jewish children’s books every month to households in the U.S. and Canada. “We are delighted to partner with PJ Library to help make both baking and reading fun for children, especially during holiday time,” said Shani Seidman, CMO of Kayco Kosher Food. “We are proud to have the retail support of supermarkets and chain stores as well as Amazon, to continue to provide kosher food choices directly to consumers, especially during the holidays as well as year-round.” “We are excited about partnering with Manischewitz to bring new traditions and fun activ-

ities for families to celebrate the holiday together,” said Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, president of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Every box features a callout encouraging consumers to sign up for free storybooks of their own from PJ Library. While the Chanukah House kit is designed for Jewish families, any parent looking to enrich their children’s cultural experiences will find this to be a fun and educational discussion starter. The Chanukah House cookie decorating kit will be available at Walmart and on Amazon, among other outlets. November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


chanukah gifts Happy Raptor Distilling

1512 Carondelet Street New Orleans 504/654.6516 happyraptor.com

Chef’s hammock, pedestal bowl, platters with figs, cheese

Earthborn Pottery

7575 Parkway Drive Leeds, Ala 205/702.7055 earthbornpottery.net Food and art share much more in common than a palate and palette. Artist Tena Payne began collaborating with Chef Chris Hastings in 1997 to design and create plates for Hot & Hot Fish Club. Today her Earthborn Studios provides artistic pottery plates, bowls and related functional artwork to restaurants around the world. “I think there are a lot of similarities between culinary art and ceramic art,” said Payne, who in 2006 opened Earthborn Studios in a 25,000-square-foot facility in Leeds. “We both make creations. We put them in the oven. What comes out is something so beautiful and expressive. Plus, it’s like alchemy — there is both art and science in our processes.” Their clients range from the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas to Alabama Power and Alabama Goods. Payne said Earthborn pottery is organic by nature and design. The clay they use is durable and the abrasive-resistant glazes are industrial dishwasher safe. Their pottery can be used in the microwave and in the oven. The pieces she has commissioned are custom works and most employ her trademark design element of an Ammonite fossil. “It is that spiral shape and flow that symbolize the continuation of time, life and art,” she said. Payne said it’s a family affair at Earthborn — her husband, Winn, and son, Nathan, both work at Earthborn in the production of the pottery. “It makes it more special and something we can share in,” she said. They also share their knowledge with those interesting in making pottery art. Payne teaches classes at Earthborn Studios, with a four-week class this month, followed by one in January. Their big annual event also hosts artists of various media the second weekend of December. The Blue Light Special on Dec. 12 and 13 features more than 50 artists who can not only bring their best work, but the show also gives them the opportunity to sell some of their artwork with imperfections, such as pieces that are nicked or slightly damaged in some way, at a discount. As a part of the Blue Light Special event, attendees can also give back to those in need. Empty Bowls is a hunger-prevention endeavor pairing local potters and local chefs, who will be providing lunch. For a donation of $25, attendees get hot soup and bread served in handmade Earthborn bowls, which they can keep. Proceeds go to First Light Women’s Shelter. “Giving back is an important part of my philosophy,” said Payne. “There is so much we can do to make a difference in someone’s life.” For more information about the events, classes and the gift shop, go to www.earthbornpottery.net. 34

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

Inspired by the iconic New Orleans dessert, in October Happy Raptor Distilling released its newest rum, 504Bananas Foster. Handcrafted in the Crescent City at the distillery’s historic Central City location, the rum is created from 100 percent Louisiana molasses, with an infusion of real banana, cinnamon, vanilla and spices and no artificial ingredients. “We are so proud to introduce this product in time for the holidays,” said co-founder and Chief Brand Officer Meagen Moreland-Taliancich. “Crafting a rum inspired by bananas foster has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we intended to release it much sooner. Of course, the coronavirus shutdown had other plans for us. Despite the obstacles we encountered, this rum is a true product of New Orleans made with love and deep appreciation for our community.” 504Bananas Foster was originally unveiled for tastings and cocktails, but not for purchase, during Mardi Gras 2020 when Happy Raptor opened its doors for the first time. One month later, the pandemic shut down bars and tasting rooms across the state and created significant obstacles to the product’s development. “504Bananas Foster is intended to draw upon the nostalgia of a New Orleans tradition without a syrupy sweet taste or unnecessary additives,” said co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Peter Rivera. “Finding the right balance of sweetness, spice, and banana was difficult, but I think we’ve hit on something special. In addition to seasonal drinks like hot cocoa or eggnog, the rum works beautifully in a variety of cocktails such as a traditional daiquiri or an old-fashioned, and we’ve been dreaming up new ways to use it in cooking and baking.” 504Bananas Foster is joining a line-up of signature 504Rum products created at Happy Raptor’s distillery. Happy Raptor specializes in a Caribbean style of infused rums, known as rhum arrangé, in which a white rum is infused with a variety of citrus, botanicals, or spices to create a flavor without unnecessary or artificial additives. Their new product is the most extensive infusion to date, each batch taking over a month and a half to infuse. The new rum is currently available for purchase in the Happy Raptor tasting room at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Carondelet Street, and at select stores around the city.

M & M Jewelers

440 Inverness Corners Birmingham 205/991-0593 mmjewelersbirmingham.com For over 25 years, M&M Jewelers has offered “one to one” personal assistance with finding that special piece of jewelry, no pressure sales, repairs, appraisals, custom designs — and a home town atmosphere. Pictured here are timeless Stackable Bands.

chanukah gifts Mon Ami

40 Church Street, Crestline Birmingham 205/848.7800 monamibham.com Mon Ami is French for “my friend,” and the Mountain Brook children’s clothing store prides itself on being a friend to the community. “We really appreciate our friends who shop locally,” said Aja Michel Powanda, who opened Mon Ami in February 2019 with her mother, Farren Michel. They’ve even reached out by going to their customers. “We do local delivery and pick-up on approvals for those who want to try things on at home,” added Powanda. Customers can also order online from www.monamibham.com. A Birmingham native, Powanda worked for several years as a buyer at a high-end Chanukah Knit Pullover children’s clothing store in New York City. Powanda and her husband wanted to raise their children in Birmingham, so they moved to the Magic City four years ago. “It was always my goal to open my own children’s clothing store here,” she said. Mon Ami sells formal and casual clothes for boys and girls sizes 4 to 18, but it’s so much more than just a clothing store, said Powanda. The store’s selection includes jewelry, watches, accessories, fun Band-Aids, Bluetooth speakers, purses and shoes. “This past spring, we started selling puzzles (along with puzzle mats) and masks” for adults as well as kids, she said. “Those have been popular. The kids love the glow watches and the fun jewelry we have too.” Mon Ami also has brought back its popular “Llamakkah” loungewear pants for girls. They also recently got in Chanukah shorts and t-shirts with penguins on them. For simchas, Mon Ami offers a large selection of formal wear for girls and boys including a few of the name brands worn by adults, such as Southern Point and Johnnie-O. They also sell high-end blazers made in Italy. “We want to make shopping a fun experience for kids and their parents,” said Powanda. “We love helping them find exactly what they want.”

an outstanding wine store and bar in the heart of Homewood Wines from all over the world in all price points & access to over 6000 selections for order. Virtual and In-Store Wine Tasting Events Every Friday — Check our Facebook Page for Schedule Classic Wine Company • 1831 28th Ave S, Ste 110 Homewood • 205-871-WINE (9463) Curbside Pickup Available

Make Chanukah Magical…

NOLA Gifts & Decor

5101 West Esplanade Ave. Metairie 504/407.3532 nolagiftsanddecoronline.com At this locally-owned boutique, there is a wide range of New Orleans-inspired home décor, gifts and accessories, as well as Jolie Home Paints. Along with year-round items, there are plenty of seasonal options, including Chanukah merchandise, such as these Chanukah towels. There is also plenty of LSU, Tulane and Saints items for gift-giving, and New Orleans-themed masks, including many local schools. Orders can be placed online for shipping. A second location is opening soon in Destrehan. November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


chanukah gifts

Sewing Machine Mart

1722-C 18th Avenue South Birmingham 205/870.1931 sewingmachinemart.com Today’s sewing machines can do “sew” much more and Birmingham’s Sewing Machine Mart has seen an increased interest from new customers who want to do everything from make masks to embroider clothes. “In 2020, 35 percent of the people who bought sewing machines were first-time buyers,” said Sewing Machine Mart owner Shawn Jackson. “Sewing and embroidery are fun hobbies that can be easy to learn. We’ve also seen some experienced sewers come in to get machines for their clothes-making business ventures.” Sewing Machine Mart opened in 1950. Jackson’s father was a friend of the owner of the downtown Homewood store. In the early 1990s, they needed someone who could repair machines. “I had fixed cars and lawnmowers, but not sewing machines,” he said. “I really picked it up on my own and developed a love for it.” In 1993, Jackson bought the store. “We pride ourselves on the customer service, education and expert repair we can provide,” all in-house, he said. “That’s what gives us an advantage over other businesses” who sell the machines. Sewing Machine Mart sells machines by manufacturers who have been in business for a long time — Baby Lock (50 years), Husqvarna Viking (nearly 150 years) and Pfaff (more than


2800 Cahaba Road Birmingham 131 Summit Boulevard Birmingham 205/749.6787 brombergs.com Family owned and operated since 1836, Bromberg’s has provided fine jewelry and giftware options for the most discerning customers in Birmingham. Bromberg’s has established a solid reputation as a fine purveyor of quality diamonds as well as jewelry timepieces and gifts. The Wedding Registry offers the finest selection of china, crystal, sterling and giftware. Above, the quatrefoil is a longstanding emblem of good fortune that gained popularity during the Gothic and Renaissance eras. Bromberg’s quatrefoil jewelry is available in various styles featuring diamonds and gemstones in gleaming 14 karat yellow gold. Prices starting at $495. The red onyx necklace pictured solo is $550.

150 years). But many of today’s machines can do so much more than their predecessors. “Designs can be programmed into the machines. You can connect some of the machines to your Wi-Fi and store your designs on the cloud,” he said. On some of the machines, sewers can project images onto their pattern so they can see what it will look like ahead of time. In March, Pfaff will introduce a sewing machine that can respond to voice commands. Jackson said Sewing Machine Mart also takes trade-ins and sells pre-owned machines. “We have machines here from $150 to $23,000,” he said. “When someone comes in we are happy to consult with them and make some recommen- English Tea Room dations based on needs and budget.” 734 East Rutland St. Covington, LA

985/898.3988 englishtearoom.com

A slice of England in Louisiana, the English Tea Room does a full-service breakfast, lunch and High Tea every day from Monday to Saturday, with authentic English dishes and popular cheese boards. The venue is also available for special events and private parties. Not going to be in the Covington area? That’s fine, English Tea Room has over 200 varieties of premium tea that can be shipped nationwide. 36

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

financial an annual SJL special section

Overcoming Election Paralysis By Leigh A. Kaylor As I write this article, I do not know the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. There seems little chance that the Democratic majority in the House flips, but will the Senate? Will there be a new administration in 2021 and what would that mean for estate and gift taxes? Even without knowing the answers to these questions, I can tell you that taking action on your estate plan right now is something you should consider, and that is because of our current, historically low, interest rates. Many of the techniques estate planners use involve the applicable federal rates (AFR), and even more specifically what we call the 7520 rate. Each month the IRS publishes a table of interest rates for private loans that are deemed by IRS to be sufficiently high that there is not a gift element in the transaction. The 7520 rate is used in valuing interests transferred or retained in certain types of transfers, and is 120% of the midterm AFR. In October 2020, the AFR for a nine-year loan (midterm) is 0.38% and the 7520 rate is 0.4%! How can you use these low interest rates to shift wealth to your favored beneficiaries? One way is to sell an appreciating asset to a trust for your children. Assume you own a family business that is a limited liability company, and you are willing to transfer some of your ownership interest to your children, but you don’t want to just give it to them. One plan would be to sell the interests in the LLC to a trust for your children in exchange for a promissory note bearing interest at the proper AFR. If you sold $10 million of LLC interests in October 2020 in exchange for a nineyear note, the interest rate would only have to be 0.38%. If you believe the LLC interests will appreciate more than 0.38%, you will have frozen the value of those assets in your estate at minimal appreciation and passed along a majority of the appreciation to the trust for your children. For example, in nine years the value in your estate of the aggregate note payments, plus the interest, would be approximately $10,019,000, but if the asset stayed in your estate and appreciated at 5% each year for nine years, it would be worth more than $15 million. The low interest rate target allowed you to move significant appreciation to your children at no gift tax cost. Another popular strategy is a grantor retained annuity trust, or GRAT, where you transfer assets to the GRAT and retain an income stream, or annuity. The values of the interests transferred and retained by you are calculated using the 7520 rate. If the value of the assets in the GRAT appreciates at more than the 7520 rate and you survive the term, the GRAT will be successful at passing that appreciation to the GRAT remainder beneficiaries at the end of the term. For the charitably inclined, a charitable lead annuity trust, or CLAT, is a trust you can create that will pay an annuity to a charity for a term of years, with the remainder coming back to your family. If you put $10

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

million in a CLAT paying a 6.8% annuity with 5% growth for 15 years, the charity would get more than $10 million and nearly $6 million would come back to the family at no gift tax cost. All of these techniques require careful planning and execution by someone knowledgeable in this area, but don’t be paralyzed waiting to know how the election comes out and miss taking advantage of these low interest rates. Leigh Kaylor is an Estates, Wills and Trusts attorney at Sirote and Permutt in Birmingham. No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than legal services performed by other lawyers.

Southern Jewish Life tells our story, keeping our communities connected and informed!



Setting up a health savings account can lead to tax-saving wellness An option that converts non-deductible medical expenses into deductible ones can help with tax savings wellness, according to Birmingham accounting firm Bruce Downs, CPA. A Health Savings Account, also known as an HSA, offers tax filers an immediate tax savings through this “IRA-type” account without income limitations. The current Federal tax law can severely limit the tax benefit for many who have medical expenses and those who wish to contribute to a traditional IRA account. Only when the total of medical expenses is greater than 7.5 percent of one’s income do they have a chance of helping. That is only when that excess is added to one’s mortgage interest, donations plus state and local taxes (up to $10,000), exceeding one’s standard deduction, which can vary from $12,400 if single up to $27,400 if married filing jointly and over the age of 65. Who is eligible to set up and contribute to an HSA? Someone must be at least 18 years old and not claimed as a dependent on another return. Individuals and married couples must be covered only by a High Deductible Health Plan where the deductible is at least $1,400 Single or $2,800 Family and the maximum out-of-pocket in-network is $6,900 Single and $13,800 Family, which means one cannot be enrolled in Medicare nor a health Flexible Spending Account at work. To set up an HSA, filers can contact their bank or financial advisor. For 2020, they can contribute up to $3,550 for a single or $7,100 for family, increased by $1,000 if someone is age 55 or older. They have until April 15 to set it up. But if an HSA is opened and funded beforehand, then all subsequent medical expenses incurred can be paid with those tax-deductible contributions in the account. That essentially converts medical expenses from nondeductible to deductible. If someone wants to pay for medical expenses with an airline credit card, there is no time limit to reimburse from the HSA account. Like an IRA, its earnings will compound but unlike an IRA, funds can be withdrawn without paying taxes if they are attributable to medical expenses for which one has not been reimbursed. Another big advantage of HSAs is that they can be used to pay for long-term care insurance premiums, converting them into something that is tax deductible. If someone is employed and does not participate in a Health FSA but is covered by a health plan, he or she can verify with the employer that the plan is HSA-eligible. If someone is self-employed, he or she can verify with their insurance carrier to see if the plan is HSA-eligible. Bruce Downs, Sallie Downs and Barry Dreayer are all involved members of the Birmingham area Jewish community. For more information or a consultation, please contact them at barry@brucedownscpa.com.

community Incentive grant available for first-time summer campers in region This year’s cancellation of sleepaway camp was one of the toughest disappointments Jewish children faced over the past year due to the COVID pandemic. The countdown until they may see their camp friends may be longer than usual, but the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana in New Orleans hopes that it will make their next camp experience even more special. For those children who have not yet had a Jewish camp experience, JEF announced that the Goldring Family Foundation will once again fund the Jewish Summer Camp Experience incentive grant program for 2021. The Jewish Summer Camp Experience, funded by the Goldring Family Foundation and administered by JEF, provides one-time-only grants of up to $1,500 to help families send their children to nonprofit Jewish sleepaway camps for their first time. Children in grades one through nine who reside in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle are eligible to apply. Established by JEF in 1999 and funded by the Goldring Family Foundation since 2001, the Goldring Jewish Summer Camp Experience has distributed grants for more than 1,500 children to attend Jewish summer camp since the program’s introduction. Research confirms that one of the most effective ways to create positive Jewish identity and develop children’s commitment to living Jewish lives is to expose them to a camp experience, where they will meet other Jewish children and appreciate the precious heritage of Jewish traditions while enjoying fun activities in a classic Jewish summer camp culture. The Goldring Family Foundation has continued to make this program available, describing these camp grants an investment in a Jewish future for each child. Grants are not based on financial need. Both parents need not be Jewish. Neither temple nor synagogue affiliation is required. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2021, with award notifications sent by May 31. For more information and an application form, contact Debbie Berins at debbie@jefno.org or visit the JEF website, jefno.org, and select the “Youth and Camping” tab.

Phase 2 NOW OPEN



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New fund to help Jewish campers from small Louisiana communities For Jewish students in smaller communities, Jewish summer camp is a major part of their Jewish education and experiences. The Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana announced the launch of a fund that will make it easier for Jewish students from rural areas of Louisiana to have that experience. The RoseMary and Saul Brooks Fund for Jewish Youth Engagement was created in 1995 by RoseMary Brooks with the goal of helping children who are physically distanced from synagogues, youth groups and other Jewish community events and activities increase their exposure to their Jewish heritage and peers during their formative years. Originally formed as a charitable trust to help her grandchildren travel to Israel as well as a permanent legacy for other Jewish youth, the fund is now bring relaunched as a Designated Fund, as her oldest grandchild has reached the age of 18, and redefined for this new program. RoseMary and Saul Brooks raised four children in a Jewish household in New Iberia, and truly understood the importance of providing them with as many Jewish experiences as possible. At the time, there was no regional Jewish camp. RoseMary and her husband saw the profound impact on their grandchildren of having that experience available to them. Seeing their children grow into adults with strong Jewish connections

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community and traditions, they wanted other children living in rural areas of Louisiana to have opportunities to connect to other Jewish youth. “I can see myself in those kids living in rural areas of Louisiana,” said Joan Brooks Cox, RoseMary Brooks’ daughter. “Growing up, my mother made every effort to ensure we felt connected to the larger Jewish community, and I am so proud to work with JEF to continue her legacy through this grant.” “For some children who do not live in areas with a readily accessible Jewish community, sleepaway camp can be an important foundation for their Jewish identity,” said Bobby Garon, executive director of JEF. “We are grateful to the Brooks family for their generosity and are delighted to work with them to help provide this kind of shared experience to more children.” “My mom’s ultimate goal was to encourage kids to value that Jewish identity, and grow to become active participants and leaders in their Jewish communities,” added Cox. The fund will provide an incentive grant of at least $550 for up to 10 Jewish children to attend a Jewish nonprofit sleepaway summer camp annually. To be eligible, students must have at least one Jewish parent and identify as Jewish themselves, reside full-time for the past year in a Louisiana community that is outside of the major metropolitan areas such as New Orleans or Baton Rouge, be entering grades one to 12 after camp and be attending a nonprofit Jewish sleepaway camp. One application must be submitted per child, and they can reapply each year they are eligible. Funding is limited and available on a first-come first-served basis. Applications will be reviewed by a small group, including JEF staff, Board, and a representative of the Brooks family, and funds will be paid directly to the camp. For more information, contact Debbie Berins (debbie@jefno.org) at (504) 800-8007 or click the “Youth & Camping” tab at jefno.org.

Grant supports exploration of changing historical narratives Tulane’s School of Liberal Arts was awarded a $225,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to convene a year-long site-specific inquiry exploring changing historical narratives in New Orleans and the greater Gulf South region. Mia Bagneris, an art history professor and director of the Africana Studies Program at Tulane University, co-organized “Sites of Memory: New Orleans and Placebased Histories in the Americas” with Adrian Anagnost. The sessions will examine how myth and memory inform contested Photo by Arielle Pentes sites of public history, such as plantations, Mia Bagneris historic houses, monuments and memorials. The seminar also engages scholars based in other cities to explore varied approaches to public history and collective memory across the Americas to understand New Orleans’ layered histories through a new lens. The highly regarded Sawyer Seminars were established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. Tulane last hosted a Sawyer Seminar in 2001.

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

community Zioness: Progressives need not check their Zionism at the door Growing national organization starts expansion into region with Baton Rouge By Richard Friedman Before long, a new roar may be heard in Baton Rouge. This one, though, may not be coming from Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium. Instead, it may be the roar of Zioness. Zioness is not a typo. It’s a new, fast-growing organization made up mostly — but not exclusively — of younger women determined to blend their Zionist and Progressive ideals and forge new paths of Jewish activism. They are especially committed to countering what they see as the false and harmful notion that mainstream Zionism and left-leaning Progressivism are incompatible. They are motivated and passionate, and have begun fighting like lionesses, carving out new space in the social activism landscape for their group and what they represent. One such Zioness is Baton Rouge’s Rachel Posner, an impressive 20-year-old Princeton University student. She is so committed to her Jewish, Zionist and Progressive identity that it was the topic of her college application essay. Posner became involved with Zioness this past summer as an intern. She helped create a Zioness chapter in her hometown, making Baton Rouge the first city in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama to have such a group. “I was excited to put Baton Rouge on the Zioness screen. Growing up there I know how important it can be and how well it can fit into our community,” says Posner. Zioness, with more than 30 chapters across the country, “fights for the advancement of social, racial, economic and gender equality in America

and for the inclusion of Zionists in social justice spaces,” according to the group’s website. One of those most passionate about Zioness is Rabbi Lindsey Danziger, its national director of organizing. She grew up in New Jersey and lives in Cincinnati, where her husband, Michael, also is a rabbi. “Zioness is really personal to me,” says Danziger, 33, who was ordained in 2017. “The rabbi who was my rabbi when I was growing up had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement. Fighting for equality and justice is really ingrained in my experience.” She faced an internal challenge. “If when I was young someone told me

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I had to choose, I would’ve picked being a Progressive over a Zionist.” Zioness, she believes, solves that dilemma. The group’s website says “Zionism is itself a progressive value: the movement for liberation and national self-determination of the Jewish people in our indigenous homeland. We are rooted in Jewish values, stand for justice and equality, and fight against all forms of oppression.”

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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

Many in the larger Progressive community are uncomfortable with Israel. They see Israel as favoring one religion over others, subscribing to colonialism and a nationalism that marginalizes its non-Jewish citizens, using harsh military tactics and practicing apartheid (racial segregation) in relation to the Palestinians. Zioness members want to give their fellow Progressives a more accurate understanding. The group’s recent open letter to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on pulling out of an event honoring the late Yitzhak Rabin reflects the challenge Zioness members face. Ocasio-Cortez, one of the country’s most prominent Progressives, withdrew after becoming uncomfortable with Rabin’s military background, according to reports. The gathering was to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination. “There is so much about you that inspires, activates, and empowers so many American Jews, who overwhelmingly share your passion in the fight for social, racial, economic, gender and environmental justice,” Zioness wrote to Ocasio-Cortez. However, the group also told her, “We are deeply troubled that you have decided to pull out of an event honoring the life and legacy of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who paid the ultimate price for his commitment to peace and justice, assassinated by a right-wing extremist for trying to advance the cause of Palestinian statehood. This makes us genuinely feel that your commitment to progressive values, equity and equality for all excludes the Jewish people.” Feeling excluded from the Progressive movement is what led Jewish attorney and activist Amanda Berman, who grew up outside Philadelphia and lives in New York, to launch Zioness in 2017. She now serves as its executive director. “Amanda wanted to show up and support women’s rights, including the right to control one’s body. Amanda is a proud feminist, but she wanted to do it through the lens of a proud Jew and Zionist and to not have to check those identities at the door,” says Danziger. “She felt that if we show up in these spaces we can build bridges and have conversations. We

community are Progressives, we are feminists, we are committed to LGBTQ+ rights, we care about all of these issues. But we want to express ourselves within the framework of our full identity, which includes being Jewish and supporting Israel’s right to exist, and we want to first build bridges and then educate other Progressives about what we believe,” added Danziger. Berman, in an interview with the Jewish website Algemeiner, talked about what prompted her to form Zioness. “I personally refuse to cede spaces that I care deeply about. We launched as a reaction to the antisemitism in the Women’s movement… I really truly felt that I couldn’t participate in the feminist movement in America, which relates directly to my bodily integrity and autonomy.” After being shunned by her fellow feminists, she had her “aha” moment. “Because I am a Zionist, I was not allowed to fight for reproductive health and equal pay and health care and family leave, and all these things that matter deeply to me as a woman, and affect, literally, my body. And it hit me as, ‘No one can tell me that I can’t participate in that space, there’s no way that I’m going to cede that’.”

Grassroots Strategies





At the core of the group’s strategy, as the article explains, is a simple premise: “To engage in the causes of others without giving up our own.” Zioness is a grassroots organization. “Chapters have a degree of autonomy to decide strategies and actions. They have a lot of leeway in terms of how to pursue racial, economic and gender justice,” explains Danziger. Many chapters have male members and also include women of all ages. Not all members are Jewish. Chapters use speakers, educational programs, one-on-one relationships, public statements, mobilization initiatives, and partnerships with other Progressive groups to advance their goals. Requests to form chapters are pouring in from throughout the country. The organization has hired a new Grassroots Community Organizer, Darryl Coulon, to help respond. Coulon is a 2019 LSU graduate from New Orleans, where Danziger expects a chapter to be formed soon. Zioness is a perfect fit for Bree Spielfogel, a 32-year-old early childhood mental health consultant who converted to Judaism about five years ago. Spielfogel has stepped forward to lead the new Baton Rouge chapter. She is passionate about her faith and has a deep attachment to Israel. She also is passionate about her Progressive values. Spielfogel has a vision of what she would like the chapter to be. “I would like us to be a safe place for Progressive Jews in the Baton Rouge area to come together to discuss political ideas and also become allied with other groups in the area to advance a Progressive political agenda.” Of particular importance to her is bridging the gap between the sometimes limited or inaccurate perceptions that the broader Progressive community has of Jews and Israel and developing allies in the Progressive movement for Jewish and Israel causes. A former Teach for America teacher, Spielfogel believes education should be at the forefront of her chapter’s agenda — from educating Jewish Progressives about Zionism and Israel to educating Progressives in general about these same topics. She especially wants to combat the notion that supporting Israel means you are politically conservative; a false perception that can deter Zionists such as herself from fully owning their Progressive values. What comes through in talking to these Zioness women is their passion, persistence and sense of purpose. Perhaps the most important purpose is one that Posner expressed: “Zioness addressees the worry that the younger Jewish community is going to abandon their Jewish/Zionist values for Progressive values.” Whether Zioness is successful in addressing this concern and achieving its other goals remains to be seen. What is clear is that Danziger, Posner and Spielfogel and their Zioness colleagues across the country intend to put up a roaring good fight.

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life


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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

community >> Antisemitism

continued from page 10

anything at all. Ninety percent of U.S. adults say it is important to teach middle and high school students the history of the Holocaust,” reports AJC. This last figure is highly significant and gives propulsion to ongoing efforts by the Jewish community and others to seek government funding and initiate strategies to educate the American people, particularly younger Americans, about the Holocaust. 

Antisemitism and Israel Respondents in the general public category were presented statements about Israel and asked if they believed the statements were antisemitic.  Seventy-four percent  felt “Israel has no right to exist” is antisemitic. Fifty-five percent said the statement “the government only supports Israel because of Jewish money” is antisemitic. An even half said “American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America” is antisemitic. Other findings AJC deemed important include the growth of antisemitism on the Internet, the growing number of actual incidents and the spreading of conspiracy theories that paint Jews as malicious and untrustworthy. The Internet continues to be a perplexing new arena for those striving to combat antisemitism and other forms of hatred and because of the widespread, omnipresent nature of social media the problem is growing and becoming more complex. Other troublesome conclusions such as this one are found throughout the report: “The number of American Jews who say they have avoided certain places or events out of concern for their safety as Jews increased to one in three (31 percent) from one in four (25 percent) in the 2019 AJC survey.” One question asked was, “If a Jewish person or organization considered a statement or idea to be antisemitic, would that make you (more likely) to consider it antisemitic, (less likely), or would it make no difference to you?” AJC leaders were concerned that a significant number of Americans (65 percent) said it would make no difference. Weiner sees this as a contrast with people seeming to be more willing to acknowledge other forms of prejudice based on the views of the victims, such as racism, for example.  Weiner also is frustrated that many Americans don’t know what the word antisemitism means. It once could have been explained as hostility and hatred toward Jews, but, she believes, the growth of antisemitic conspiracy theories and anti-Zionism masking as antisemitism has made explanations more complex. In cases where respondents were unfamiliar with the term, it was explained to them to enable them to answer the questions. Ten years ago, many American Jewish organizations saw antisemitism as a diminishing concern despite occasional incidents. Today, this has changed. Not only is antisemitism a growing concern nationally, local Jewish communities have taken steps to beef up their security. AJC and other national organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and Secure Community Network are playing important roles. How the presidential election and its aftermath shakes out remains to be seen. Jewish thought-leaders are preparing for an array of possibilities, running from traditional post-election analysis of what the implications might be for Israel and the Jewish community to more pointed strategies, such as how to prepare for and respond to any spikes in antisemitism. AJC is among the national Jewish organizations that will play a role in charting the post-election course for the American Jewish community.  Said Weiner, one of the AJC national officials assigned to help combat antisemitism, “All of this data is important for our advocacy so that AJC can use the study to speak to Members of Congress, our interfaith partners and other groups, and point to data that can undergird strategies and initiatives.”


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continued from page 46 first recount ever counted. (Take a moment to parse that sentence. There’s time.) When the Big G was gearing up to destroy Sodom and Gemorah, Abraham asked Her to spare them if there were 50 good people there. When the Big G said sure, Abraham changed the count to 40, and so on all the way down to 10. The Big G found only one good person there — Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Lot was saved, even though he alone wasn’t enough to save the cities. This clearly teaches that every vote matters, even if it’s not enough to win. Whoever finds themselves in a position where they get to play god needs to be endowed with such wisdom. In the words of (the originally Jewishly-performed so it counts here) Captain James T. Kirk, “above all else, a god must have compassion.”

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Doug Brook wonders why we all can’t just get along. To read past columns, visit http://brookwrite.com/. For exclusive online content, follow facebook.com/rearpewmirror

Alfred Uhry to headline first Blumberg lecture Alfred Uhry, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Oscar and Tony Awards for “Driving Miss Daisy” will be the keynote speaker for the first lecture in what will become an annual event honoring Atlanta Jewish community pillar Janice Rothschild Blumberg. Registration is free for the Dec. 6 event, which will be at 3 p.m. Central online. The Southern Jewish Historical Society, the Breman Museum and Atlanta’s The Temple will jointly oversee this annual event recognizing the contributions of Blumberg to both Atlanta and Southern Jewish history. The author of numerous books and articles, she received the SJHS Samuel Proctor Award for Outstanding Career Scholarship in Southern Jewish History. She is a former SJHS president and remains active in the Society. Her memoir “What’s Next? Southern Dreams, Jewish Deeds and the Challenge of Looking Back While Moving Forward” will be published in Spring 2021. In addition to being an accomplished historian, Blumberg has led an eventful life as a native Atlantan, civil rights activist, leader of The Temple where her late husband Jacob Rothschild served as rabbi, and more. The series will feature noted scholars who will examine the cultural, artistic, and historical themes that have been interwoven through her life.


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This column is being written amid the continually breaking news on Election Night in America. By the time it’s read, nearly both of its readers will know more than is known at its time of writing, more or less. Or will they… The following are Election Night predictions, guaranteed to provide 100 percent accurate aforementions about what will be to have happened by the time almost both readers read this. To file any claims against this guarantee, please mail them to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. 90210. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. First and foremost, who will be happy about the election results? This is staggeringly simple to answer. Because of — and in spite of — the polls, it’s been obvious for weeks. Without any doubt, a significant number of Jews are happy with the election results so far, while a significant number are not. Meanwhile, numerous agnostics just don’t know. Second and fivemost, what difference will the election make? Plenty. Things will never be the same again, in fact. Third and sixmost, now that things are at least this much closer to over, is everyone getting along yet? Not remotely. And if you ask anyone why that is, they point you straight to “them,” while supplementing that pronoun with other four-letter formations. Fourth and sevenmost, is there anything that the entire Jewish people can agree about at this point? Absolutely: All can agree that if the next paragraph begins with “fifth and eightmost,” the only suitable response is civil war. Or forcing the columnist to attend minyan every day for a year. Whichever comes worst. It’s also noteworthy that after election night all Jews will be unified in one other way. They’ll all think that over 65 million voters are stupid. Of course, they disagree about which 65 million. Nonethemore, now that this column has united the Jewish people in a way unseen since Abraham was the first Two Jews, Jew, it’s time to considerately consider other considerations. three opinions? some For nearly 2000 years, Jewish scholars have gone to great lengths to ensure that That prevents for every two rabbis there are three opinions. They’ve gone through those mentalpolarization matical gymnastics specifically to remind us that polarization — the reduction to a mere us-versus-them binarity — is, well, polarizing. Even modern Western Judaism has three main denominations, not two. Game, set, match. (Note: It wouldn’t work if it was just “game, set” or “game, match.” Or even “set, match.”) Even comedy works in threes, which is all the proof needed. (Another note: For a great film about modern Western Judaism, see “The Frisco Kid.” Set in the 1849 gold rush, starring Gene Wilder as a rabbi and Harrison Ford as a bank robber in The Old West.) Back to Judaism’s long tradition of defusing polarization. In the words of Rabbi Telfone, the great communicator, “every battery has two poles, but it’s the stuff in between that makes things work.” He realized this centuries before batteries were even invented. His successor Rabbi Selfone made a farther-reaching connection, saying, “everyone is entitled to their wrong opinion.” The Talmud recounts, however, that his wife didn’t agree that it applied to him. Speaking of recounts, count on the Torah to provide a recount of the continued on previous page

November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life



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November 2020 • Southern Jewish Life

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Southern Jewish Life, Deep South, November 2020  

Deep South edition of the November 2020 issue of Southern Jewish Life, the Jewish community news magazine for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisian...

Southern Jewish Life, Deep South, November 2020  

Deep South edition of the November 2020 issue of Southern Jewish Life, the Jewish community news magazine for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisian...

Profile for sjlmag