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Southern Jewish Life

Chanukah Rededication: Temple Sinai in St. Francisville

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Don’t think that things are as bad as they could possibly get. The United Church of Christ is currently demonstrating why. On Oct. 8, a coalition of 15 mainstream church denominations blindsided the Jewish community by sending a one-sided letter to Congress — at the start of a two-day Jewish holiday that made a coordinated Jewish response impossible — urging an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Israel that would make Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid. There was no call to investigate Palestinian or Egyptian use of foreign aid. While the vast majority of Americans in the pews are supportive of Israel, that is not the case among some who have taken over leadership in some of the denominations that Jews have typically made common cause with over social justice issues. Some stalwarts of interfaith dialogue, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, the National Council of Churches and a Catholic group, were signatories to the letter. Jewish groups were understandably outraged, and cancelled a late October national interfaith summit because of the “serious breach of trust by mainline Protestant Church leaders.” Most Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians in the pews have no idea these types of actions are being undertaken in their name. But most shocking is what Rev. Peter Makari, a representative of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, has done in order to promote the letter. The United Church of Christ prides itself on being extremely tolerant. Its website and Facebook page are filled with such items as expressions of solidarity with vandalized mosques, greetings to the Jewish community on the High Holy Days, self-congratulations over the church’s involvement in anti-bullying efforts, and support of the transgendered. In other words, UCC is the opposite of American Free Press, a publication started by Willis Carto, who also founded the Institute of Historical Review — the leading Holocaust denial group. He previously founded Liberty Lobby, an extreme racist and anti-Semitic group, and the Populist Party, which ran former Klan leader David Duke for president in 1988. The AFP is filled with conspiracy theories, usually involving Jews and Israel. A recent issue’s cover story was “Petraeus vs. Israel,” charging General Petraeus was on Netanyahu’s “destroy” list and was forced out because he opposed Israel’s attempts “to engage the United States in a war against Iran.” Crime stories’ headlines are prefaced with the phrases “Black Animal,” “Black Savage” and “Black Garbage.” Hardly the phraseology you’d find on the UCC site. And yet, Makari gave a lengthy and friendly interview to AFP in late October, promoting the letter and speaking in dark tones about the Jewish lobby. If the enemy of Makari’s enemy is his friend, then the UCC needs to decide whether they want to be considered friends with the likes of American Free Press. When asked about the interview, the UCC press office said there would be no statement forthcoming, despite calls from

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December 2012


groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Makari to resign. The UCC said that Makari was not speaking for the denomination. The UCC and Makari also did not respond to questions from this publication. The overwhelming hatred that people like Makari have for Israel has blinded them so much that they have no problem making common cause with hate groups. Because the leadership of so many of

these “mainstream� churches is so out of touch with reality and morality, it is incumbent that the Jewish community shun these denominations at the leadership level, but engage the regular members and let them know what is being done and said in their name. Larry Brook Editor/Publisher

Publisher/Editor: Lawrence M. Brook, Associate Publisher/Advertising: Lee J. Green, New Orleans Bureau: Alan Smason, New Orleans Advertising: Liz Herman, Creative Director: Ginger Brook, Photographer-At-Large: Rabbi Barry C. Altmark Contributing Writers: Doug Brook Mailing Address: P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham, AL 35213 Telephone: Birmingham: (205) 870-7889 Toll Free: (866) 446-5894 FAX: (866) 392-7750 Story Tips/Letters: Subscription Information: Southern Jewish Life published monthly and is free by request to members of the Jewish community in our coverage area of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and NW Florida. Outside those areas, subscriptions are $25/year or $40/two years. To subscribe, call (205) 8707889 or mail payment to the address above. The publisher is solely responsible for the contents of SJL. Columns and letters represent the views of the individual writers. All articles that do not have a byline on them are written by the publisher. Southern Jewish Life makes no claims as to the Kashrut of its advertisers, and retains the right to refuse any advertisement. Advertising rates available on request. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved, reprints only by permission of publisher.

Philosophy: To link the Jewish communities of the Deep South, to tell you the fascinating stories of one another, and to document and preserve the news of events large and small, all a part of the rich culture of Southern Jewry. 4

December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Front Porch Bonds, Federation joint event: Israel Bonds, the Birmingham Jewish Federation and Birmingham Jewish Foundation are once again teaming up for a joint awards program, Dec. 13 at Temple Beth-El. Israel Bonds will honor Sheryl and Jon Kimerling for their dedication to the Birmingham Jewish community, Israel and Israel Bonds. The Kimerling family has provided funding to upgrade and expand the Kimerling Center in Rosh Ha’Ayin, which was built over 30 years ago by Jon’s grandparents, Max and Tillie Kimerling. The Kimerlings have played numerous leadership roles in the community, including recently chairing the Federation’s Annual Campaign to its highest-ever total. Sheryl Kimerling has served on the Foundation’s board and is currently campaign vice chair for National Women’s Philanthropy, a division of the Jewish Federations of North America. She is also on the JFNA board. The Federation will present its annual awards at the event. The Federation’s Joanie Bayer Young Leadership Award will be given to Layne Held. He is part of the Federation’s Leadership Initiatives for Tomorrow, which gives community members in their 20s and 30s leadership roles. He, his siblings and their spouses will be working with his parents, Ginger and Jerry Held, as chairs of the 2013 Annual Campaign. Held is also on the board of the Levite Jewish Community Center and vice chair of the junior board for Magic Moments. He coached the Birmingham Maccabi basketball team in Israel during the summer of 2011, and is active with Rotaract Club of Birmingham, Children’s Hospital Leaders of the Future and United Way’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program local board. A previous Young Leadership recipient, Randi Landy, will receive the Susan J. Goldberg Distinguished Volunteer Award. She and husband Dave chaired the Federation’s 2012 Annual Campaign, which launched “Operation Grassroots” to broaden the base of donors. In addition to the Federation, she is on the boards of the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School and the LJCC. The Foundation will present its N.E. Miles Lifetime Achievement Award to Sherron and Allan Goldstein. The award recognizes longtime Federation donors who have endowed their annual campaign gifts in perpetuity. Retired Marine General Charles Krulak, now the president of Birmingham-Southern College, will be the speaker. After serving from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War, and being part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Krulak retired from the Marines and joined MBNA America in 1999 as chief administrative officer. He retired from MBNA in 2005, then became non-executive director of a British soccer team that the MBNA chairman owned. Krulak was friends with Israeli military legend Moshe Dayan, and has visited Israel numerous times. Admission to the event is free. There will be a reception at 5 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:15 p.m. Chairing the evening are Carol and Jimmy Filler, who will be honored at a national Israel Bonds gathering in January. The Fillers will join 18 other recipients of the Israel 65 Award at the International Prime Minister’s Club Gala, which according to Israel Bonds is the most prestigious event Israel Bonds has each year. The evening begins with a light reception at 5 p.m., and the program at 6:15 p.m. There is no admission charge, and reservations are requested to the Federation office.

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December 2012


Front Porch Mobile’s Springhill Avenue Temple Social Action Committee will hold its Pinch-Hitters program for the 23rd year, and is looking for volunteers. Members of the Mobile Jewish community provide volunteers at three hospitals on Dec. 25: Providence, Springhill Memorial and Mobile Infirmary. Volunteers take shifts at the front desk and surgery waiting rooms, allowing the regular workers to have Christmas off with their families. Shifts are available from 8 to 11 a.m., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. To register, contact Marian Berkin at (251) 666-6589 or Sandra Gandler at (251) 342-5281.


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Deep South Rabbi is hosting a food and jacket drive this Hanukkah. Rabbi Barry Altmark is asking the Birmingham Jewish community to donate non-perishable food items and gently used jackets during Chanukah. The non-perishable items will restock the Collat Jewish Family Services closet, and jackets will be distributed to the Salvation Army and the Birmingham Hospitality Network. “While most of us are enjoying celebrating the holiday in our nice warm homes with lots of presents and jelly doughnuts,” Altmark said, “there is a huge homeless population in Birmingham that doesn’t have enough to eat and nowhere to sleep.” He has asked the local synagogues and institutions to put collection boxes in their lobbies, and the donations will be picked up at the end of Chanukah. At 7:15 p.m. on Dec. 16, Montgomery’s Temple Beth Or presents another Live at the 92nd Street Y: “God is One: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad.” Monotheism is a very new idea in the history of religions, yet it has become the foundation of the three great religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Panelists will include acclaimed scholar and author Dr. Reza Aslan; author Bruce Feiler; professor of religious studies Omid Safi; and professor of divinity Karen King. The community is invited, and there is no charge for the event, sponsored by the Rothschild-Blachschleger Lecture Fund. The series is simulcast nationally from the 92nd Street Y in New York.

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December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Men and women from Temple Emanu-El in Dothan expressed solidarity for Anat Hoffman and Women of the Wall by having their own recitation of the Shema on Nov. 15 in observance of Rosh Chodesh, the new moon. Hoffman was arrested on Rosh Chodesh in October for wearing a tallit and reciting the Shema at the Western Wall. Women of the Wall works to secure the right for women to hold prayer services at the Wall.




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Sapir for Huntsville: The Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama will receive a Sapir Award for Campaign Excellence at the March Southeast Network of Small Communities leadership conference. The Sapir Awards are presented by the Jewish Federations of North America at the annual General Assembly, which was held Nov. 11 to 13 in Baltimore. The award recognizes communities and their 2000 leadership for their annual campaign accomplishments and innovations. Huntsville was previously recognized in 2003.

Centennial art: In October, members of Birmingham Hadassah traveled to Hadassah’s centennial convention in Jerusalem and presented a painting in honor of the organization’s milestone anniversary. The Women’s Zionist Organization of America counts 330,000 members, and roughly 2000 were in attendance at the convention, which featured the dedication of the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower. Israeli President Shimon Peres also unveiled a postage stamp honoring Hadassah’s centennial. The Birmingham chapter presented a painting by Kelly Kahn. The painting, which is on the cover of the chapter’s 2012-13 directory, is of the first graduating class at Hadassah Hospital with founder Henrietta Szold. The background includes the new tower and one of the famous Chagall windows at the hospital’s synagogue. The chapter presented the painting to the Hadassah Hospital nursing staff and educators from the Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing. Packman Tribute: After seven years of traveling to Monroe’s Temple B’nai Israel, Rabbi A. David Packman is retiring — again. Packman is rabbi emeritus of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City, where he served for 28 years, retiring in 2004. He also served as an Air Force chaplain in Europe during the 1960s, and has been highly active in a wide range of civic groups in Oklahoma. Susan Marx, president of the Monroe congregation, said “we’re going to miss him. He’s been wonderful for our congregation.” Packman comes to Monroe once a month to lead services, do adult education, meet one-on-one with congregants and work with the religious school students. “It’s not an easy trip” from Oklahoma City, Marx said. As for the future, Marx said the congregation is exploring several options, including part-time rabbis and cantors. Several guest rabbis will be coming to the congregation as well. His final weekend with the congregation will be Dec. 7. His “Food for Thought” class meets at noon, with Shabbat services at 6 p.m. Confirmation will be held that night. On Dec. 8, there will be “Bagels and Bible” at 10 a.m., followed by “Jewish Inquirers” at 11 a.m. At 7 p.m., there will be a farewell dinner in the private dining room at Warehouse #1.


December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Restoring St. Francisville’s Jewish history Though the Jewish community of St. Francisville faded into history long ago, the community’s effect on the Louisiana town is still celebrated today. On Dec. 9, the first day of Chanukah, there will be an echo of the ancient Chanukah rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, with the rededication of the renovated Temple Sinai. Local author Anne Butler will do a presentation on the history of Temple Sinai and the Jewish community of St. Francisville. A reception will follow at Grace Episcopal Church. The St. Francisville Jewish community dates back to the 1850s, as the town became a cotton distribution hub. The first Jewish immigrant was Julius Freyhan, who would leave a large legacy. He opened Julius Freyhan and Co. dry goods, and after the Civil War he became a real estate speculator and opened cotton gins, opera houses, saloons and stores. When he died in 1904, Freyhan left $8,000 for the establishment of the town’s first public school, which was named in his honor and was used until the 1950s. The original building burned in 1907 but was quickly rebuilt. It is located next to the Temple. The successful businesses owned by Jewish immigrant families ran the gamut from Moritz Rosenthal the shoemaker to Max Dampf ’s general merchandise store selling “dry goods, clothes, shoes, staple and fancy groceries,” from Abe Stern’s livery stable selling horses and mules to the fancy Meyer Hotel, from Morris Burgas whose dry goods store offered the highest prices for cotton and moss, to Freyhan & Co.

Inside the renovated Temple Sinai which became the principal source of supply for dozens of Louisiana parishes and Mississippi counties, in a single year selling upwards of a million dollars worth of goods and handling some 14,000 bales of cotton. Freyhan purchased land that would become the Jewish cemetery in 1891. Two years later, a group of Jewish merchants gathered to establish a synagogue, but it was not formally incorporated until 1901. Temple Sinai acquired title to the cemetery and began a campaign for its own building. In January 1903 Temple Sinai was dedicated at 4740 Prosperity Street with a large interfaith crowd on hand. The congregation would be relatively short-lived. Temple Sinai had trouble attracting a fulltime rabbi, and not much more success bringing in part-time rabbis

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December 2012



from elsewhere in the state. When Rabbi Max Raisin left in January 1905, that marked the end of rabbinic services in the town. Also affecting the community was a typical affliction of small communities. Many Jews left for opportunities in larger cities, and the children of those that stayed also moved on. In 1921, the Temple Sinai building was sold to the local Presbyterians, who used it until 1994, when it was transferred to the West Feliciana Parish Police Jury. The only known meeting of Temple Sinai after the building was sold was in 1940, to sell part of the cemetery property. There are no Jews in St. Francisville today. Hannah Rosenthal Woods, a Catholic woman whose father was Jewish, took care of the Jewish cemetery until she died a few years ago. Her son now has taken it on. Around 2005, the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum in the visitor information center added an extensive display about the Jewish history of St. Francisville. They also have a map with several sites including historic Jewish homes. Around that time, Freyhan’s granddaughter, Pauline Friedman, died in California, leaving cornerstone funding to restore the Freyhan school. Joanna Sternberg, director of the Julius Freyhan Foundation, said the school project will be roughly $2.3 million. In 2009, the Freyhan Foundation received a Save America’s Treasures grant that enabled the Temple Sinai restoration. Because it was a Federal grant, there was a lot of paperwork, which lengthened the process. “We’d just been waiting to get started,” Sternberg said. The foundation partnered with Holly & Smith Architects in Hammond for the restoration. Sternberg said “They have been mindful about maintaining the character and details of the original structure and we think everyone will be pleased with the end result.” The Temple building will be used as a multipurpose, non-denominational space for events and programs. Though it will serve as a reminder of the Jewish community’s presence, items in the museum — such as the Temple’s marble cornerstone — will not be transferred to the building. Sternberg said the facility’s usage as a multi-purpose space makes that impractical, as there would not be a good space where the items can be displayed. When the school building is restored, there may be space dedicated for memorabilia, but for now it will remain in the visitor’s center, where it is secure. With the Temple finished, Sternberg hopes there will be renewed enthusiasm for the school project. “We still have money to raise.” The Dec. 9 dedication will be from 2 to 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the community, but reservations are requested to Karry Hosford, (601) 334-0006.

If you are making end of the year charitable contributions please note that the following Internal Revenue Service rules must be followed:

• All mail with checks must be postmarked on or before December 31, 2012. • All stock transfers must be completed and in our account on or before December 31, 2012 Thank you for your continued support! The Birmingham Jewish Federation & The Birmingham Jewish Foundation The Freyhan School in St. Francisville 10

December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

After Sandy, New Orleans chef helps his hometown Forced to relocated to his native New York after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans chef Daniel Esses knew he could not just sit by when Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast. The Bronx native put together a special menu that paid tribute to the New York of his childhood, and every Thursday last month — except Thanksgiving Day — it was available at Three Muses, with all of the proceeds going to City Harvest of New York. “I know how they feel,” Esses said, having been through it in New Orleans. Before Sandy hit, he was on the phone to friends and relatives, calming them down and giving advice on how to prepare. When the storm hit, “I was obviously distressed,” he said. He knew they were going to need help, “and we knew what help they are going to need.” He started to look at which charity “was going to do the best and help the way I wanted.” He started talking with his partners at Three Muses about how they could help. “New York is a big part of who I am,” so he wanted to “show tribute to the city I grew up in.” Three Muses “is a small place,” he said, “but I couldn’t not help.” Esses grew up in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in a “fairly observant household.” He went to Jewish schools through high school, and after college set out to travel the country and start cooking. He found himself in Napa in 2000, having a difficult time finding a place to live. Friends in New Orleans suggested that he join them “and bring the dog with me,” since “it’s a good food town” and much more affordable. He got a job at Peristyle, “fell in love with the city and stayed.” He Sunday School students at Beth Israel in Gulfport send a message to New City Jewish Center, which was affected by Hurricane Sandy. New City was one of the congregations that assisted Beth Israel after Hurricane Katrina.


December 2012


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December 2012

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worked for John Besh at Café August and was sous-chef at Café Degas, then worked at The Bank Café. As the Bank Café was starting to make a name for itself, Hurricane Katrina hit and he wound up back in New York. After a year and a half in New York, he spent seven months in France, then came back to the states looking for work. “My heart was more into New Orleans,” so he came back and worked at the Marigny Brasserie, getting back into the local culinary scene. After a while he started doing private catering and started a fresh pasta business. Two years ago, Three Muses “needed a partner to take the reins of the food,” he said, and he has been there ever since. Today, he said, people think of New York as the center of cutting-edge cuisine with some of the best restaurants in the world. That’s not what he wanted to highlight with his menu. “I grew up in the New York of the classics, the Jewish, Italian and Chinese neighborhoods.” Corned beef sandwiches and pizza were what he grew up with. The special menu remembers “some of the neighborhoods I spent the most time in,” and some of those places were among the harder-hit. The Second Avenue Corned Beef Sandwich is a tribute to the Second Avenue Deli. The Arthur Avenue Fettuccine Alfredo is named for a street in the Bronx where there are many Italian restaurants; it’s also one of the few items he could eat in those restaurants since his was a kosher home. The menu also includes a Coney Island hot dog, and the pizza is named for Mamaroneck Avenue, where his favorite pizzeria was. There’s a San Gennaro Zeppole, for the San Gennaro festival his family attended in Little Italy each year. It is served with New Orleans Ice Cream. Rounding out the menu is Mott Street Lemon Chicken with Broccoli, a favorite of his for late nights at a restaurant in Chinatown. Most of the ingredients for the menu have been donated. For example, Stein’s Deli donated the corned beef, New Orleans ice cream donated their products. That allows Three Muses to give the entire proceeds to City Harvest. “There’s a lot of generosity going on,” Esses said. He recalls the widespread “outpouring of support I got from strangers” after Katrina. He remembers seeing a girl selling lemonade on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant in Manhattan, with proceeds going to Red Cross. He approached her and told her that he had been displaced by Katrina, and how much what she was doing meant. This menu “is what I can do,” he said.

Southern Jewish Life

December 2012


Ambassador Ayalon visits wide range of B’ham friends of Israel Just days before Israel launched a retaliatory assault on Hamas’ infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon spent two days in Birmingham speaking to a wide range of groups about the deteriorating situation there. Ayalon was foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2006. He was elected to the Knesset in 2009 in the Yisrael Beitenu party. Ayalon was keynote speaker at two Nov. 12 events connected to JH Ranch. The ranch was founded by Bruce and Heather Johnston of Birmingham, and is a non-denominational ministry in California that does youth leadership programming. Heather Johnston spoke about meeting Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman in Jerusalem in 1997, leading to a friendship and support for the city, located in the heart of the West Bank. Many Ariel teens started going on a cultural exchange program to JH Ranch. In 2006, the Johnstons suggested building a similar facility for Israeli youth in Ariel, which Nachman did not originally think would work. “Six months later he agreed,” Johnston said. The Ariel National Center for Leadership Development is now open and has already had 15,000 youth go through its programs, and is now working with the Israel Defense Forces and all major youth organizations in Israel. Ayalon spoke at a 600-person dinner for JH Israel, which supports the project, and a luncheon for a spinoff organization, the U.S.-Israel Education Association, which drew around 300. Also founded by Heather Johnston, the USIEA takes U.S. represen-


December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Rev. T.L. Lewis, left, speaks to Ambassador Danny Ayalon outside Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Nov. 13. Also pictured are former Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, Rev. Patrick Sellers, Mayor William Bell and Rev. Arthur Price. tatives and senators on fact-finding tours of Israel, but unlike most such groups, these include visits to communities in the territories. Ayalon said he has been “a great admirer” of Johnston, who he called “a powerhouse.” The luncheon attracted a large number of political figures, including U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey, Mayor William Bell, County Commission President David Carrington, several Alabama legislators and City Councilman Jay Roberson. Rep. Jim Carns presented a strong pro-Israel resolution the legislature passed earlier this year and referenced the 1943 Alabama resolution calling for a Jewish state in Palestine, regarded as the first such call by a U.S. elected body. Ayalon spoke of the common values between Israel and the U.S.,

and how the two countries work together to benefit all of humanity. He spoke of how political Islam has replaced dictatorships in the Middle East, unlike the move to democracy after the fall of Eastern Europe. The Middle East had no history or tradition of democracy or pluralism. “We should continue to reach out to friends and foes alike, but at the same time we should not be naive about it, and guard our freedoms, our rights, he said. Ayalon also toured the Civil Rights Institute and placed a wreath at the spot where a Sept. 15, 1963 bomb went off at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four girls. Mayor Bell spoke of how the 1963 commemorations next year will be a very important time for the city. Ayalon told him it is a “sacred duty” to commemorate such events. It was also a duty to “send a message from Birmingham, from Sixteenth Street — no more discrimination, no more hatred, no more fanaticism.” Ayalon said that as a Jew and an Israeli, the visit had a special significance for him. “We have always felt a special kinship with the oppressed, the underprivileged... we were foreigners, scattered all across the lands, we knew what it was to be discriminated against, what it was to be segregated, to be humiliated.” Also in attendance was former Mayor Richard Arrington, under whose administration the city first established a relationship with Israeli sister city Rosh Ha’Ayin. Rev. T.L. Lewis of Bethel Baptist Church in Pratt City told Ayalon “now that we see the Promised Land, we are ready to cross the Jordan, but we need each other to cross the Jordan.” Ayalon also met with Governor Robert Bentley, who expressed a desire to strengthen ties between the state and Israel. He also met with upper-level donors to the Birmingham Jewish Federation campaign.

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December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

The 85-member Birmingham delegation wore matching red sweatshirts, drawing a lot of attention at the 1987 rally in Washington for Soviet Jewry.

Area marchers recall a day that made history

Huge rally 25 years ago pressed Gorbachev to let Soviet Jews go Shortly after it was announced that in December 1987, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev would visit Washington for a summit with President Ronald Reagan, a coalition came together to organize a mass rally on Dec. 6 on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Around 250,000 showed up for what has been called “the largest, best-organized protest rally in American Jewish history.” The movement to assist Soviet Jews started slowly in the 1960s and picked up momentum in the 1970s. Jews in the Soviet Union were discriminated against and could not leave the country. Applying for permission to leave generally meant losing one’s job and becoming seen as a traitor, and few applications were approved. Those who were turned down were called refuseniks, and they were open to charges of being social parasites, spies or traitors. In the late 1970s, the number of Soviet Jews allowed to leave numbered in just dozens per year. High profile refuseniks included Ida Nudel and Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky. Bar and Bat Mitzvah students in America would “twin” with Soviet Jewish teens, celebrating by proxy for those who were forbidden to observe Jewish rituals. Sharansky recalls that in the Soviet Union, Jews were deprived of freedom, but also of their identity, as Hebrew schools, Yiddish schools, and Jewish theaters were all closed. “When I was growing in the Soviet Union... there was nothing that you can touch in your past, in your heritage, in your culture, in your religion — nothing,” he said. The 1987 rally occurred during a backdrop of slow movement by Gorbachev to open up the Soviet Union, and the Jewish community wanted to be sure he got the message about Soviet Jews. Birmingham had a delegation of roughly 85

that traveled to Washington together, and on that frigid day they were decked out in matching red sweatshirts that drew a lot of attention, including from Washington Post reporters. Steve Brickman told the Washington Post that “everything is matching, including our commitment.” Sally Friedman, who heads the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, recalls that several people in the community expressed interest in going to the rally, and “we thought it would be a wonderful thing, to show our solidarity.” One aspect she found exciting was that several children went on the trip. “Their parents thought it was important to participate,” and today the rally was an important influence on them. A large contingent traveled to Washington from New Orleans, coordinated by Rabbi David Goldstein. He was already very active in the Soviet Jewry movement, having visited refuseniks in 1981, 1983 and 1986. Because he and his wife, Shannie, spoke Hebrew they were sent to groups of refuseniks that openly spoke Hebrew as a symbol of defiance. They weren’t concerned about getting into trouble, since in Moscow there were approximately 100 different languages on the street. In 1983, one of their refusenik friends was “broken by the KGB” and said Goldstein and his wife were CIA operatives and Zionist provocateurs. “Indeed we were Zionist provocateurs, but we weren’t CIA operatives, he recalled. Some of the refuseniks the Goldsteins had visited had been released by 1987 and were at the rally, which amazed him. “People you never would have dreamed would be standing on the Mall in Washington” were there. About 100 from New Orleans made their way to the rally. He noted that for several years Tulane University had been a hotbed of

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activity on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Another person who had visited the Soviet Union before the rally was Judy Borisky Metzger of Birmingham, who had been there one month earlier. She told the Washington Post “You’re so much a part of it having been there.” She recalls becoming “very emotional at my opportunity to actually ask that Gorbachev let new friends and ‘ my people’ leave the Soviet Union.” A family she had visited later wound up emigrating to California. Jews came to the rally from literally everywhere. Holding the Mississippi banner was Janis Rabin, a New Orleans native then living in Jackson. She had gone to the Soviet Union for 17 days in 1984 with five other women, bringing suitcases filled with medications, Judaica, magazines, clothing, long underwear and sweaters. In Washington, she recalls marching with Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, and friends from Kentucky and Ohio. “To be part of this giant, really dynamic program was overwhelming,” Rabin said. Margot Garon traveled from New Orleans with her friend Ann Fishman. Her husband was critically ill, but insisted that she go. While at the march, a student from “one of the impressive universities” asked her why she was participating. She responded that she had been born in Germany and escaped the Holocaust at age 10 in 1937. “Just imagine, I told him, had people marched in those years and chanted ‘Let my people go,’ perhaps the world would have listened and responded,” she said. Years later, on one of her trips to Israel she was in a Jerusalem synagogue for Simchat Torah, and “there in a middle of a circle I watched Natan Sharansky dancing with a Torah. I could not believe this miracle. I went up to him and had a warm few words with him and expressed my gratitude for his release.” Vicki Lewis of Birmingham said it was a “most incredible Jewish experience, to be on the mall with thousands of other Jews from across the country, listening to Sharansky.” Phyllis Nitzkin, now living in New Orleans, traveled from Rochester with her children with other members of their synagogue. “I was overcome by seeing so many Jews in one place and by the placards expressing our protest,” she said. This was her children’s first exposure to political protest, and they told her they were protesting a human rights issue, not a religious one. Rabin and many in the Birmingham delegation still remember encountering a great deal of surprise from people who had no idea there were Jews in Alabama and Mississippi. Rabin said it was “an eye opener” seeing how many people thought that way. After the rally, two prominent refuseniks who were finally able to leave went to New Orleans with Goldstein. Misha and Ilana Kholmyansky spent a week in the city, speaking at Tulane and other venues. Goldstein said about 100 members of the community who had not gone to the rally met them at the airport. A community program marking the 25th anniversary was scheduled for Tulane Hillel, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., with Jerry Goodman, founding director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. The rally “was a moment to make our voices heard. It was important to be there and be heard as a community,” Friedman said. While the raw numbers from Birmingham couldn’t compare to the delegations from New York and Washington, she figures that per capita, Birmingham likely had the largest turnout. At the General Assembly last month in Baltimore, Sharansky said he was “puzzled” that there is little mention of the Soviet Jewry movement in religious schools. “American Jewry lived through this, actively participated in this,” he added. “They did it. That is what is so surprising [about its lack of presence in Jewish education].” (With reporting from Jacob Kamarans/ 18

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Tel Aviv’s Taste of the South At NOLA bakery, Israelis sample pecan pie and buttermilk biscuits — with a side order of American culture By Dana Kessler Tablet Magazine

When Talya Rasner opened NOLA, an American bakery and cafe on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, this summer, she wanted to pay homage to her late grandmother Nathalie Goldman. Grandma Nat was a Southern belle who lived in New Orleans almost her entire life, until Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home and forced her to move to San Antonio, Texas, where she died in 2010. Rasner considered naming her business after her grandmother but ultimately decided to name it after New Orleans, where her grandmother, mother, and Talya herself were born — an American city known for its food. Despite its name, NOLA doesn’t look like it came out of an episode of HBO’s “Treme,” nor is it devoted to Creole cuisine; it’s more broadly American than New Orleans-centered. For Rasner, NOLA is code for youthful memories and romantic fantasies of the country she left behind when she moved to Israel as a child, and her shop is solely dedicated to bringing her personal, and very eclectic, vision of America to Tel Aviv. “American cooking has quite a bad name in Israel,” Rasner explained, noting that the general Israeli culinary consensus favors French baking, which is regarded as more sophisticated. “I wanted to open a bakery that would introduce Israelis to my favorite American baked goods. It wasn’t supposed to be specifically Southern or Jewish. I would describe what we have here as all-American classics.” Rasner didn’t plan on becoming an ambassador of American cuisine, let alone culture, but NOLA has quickly become a mini-mecca of Americana. The music in the background ranges from Motown to Dixieland, and the customers often include American expats who gather for a quick fix of nostalgia. Recently, Rasner was busy planning for Halloween, a holiday that few Israelis celebrate.

NOLA’s festivities included traditional American holiday decorations like spiderwebs and carved pumpkins, and the bakery made special cupcakes adorned with ghosts, all served by a staff decked out in Halloween costumes rather than their usual attire: retro-styled frilly aprons. “It’s funny, everyone in Tel Aviv regards me now as ‘the American’,” Rasner told me. “I planned on opening a bakery, but I actually brought a piece of America to Israel.” *** The first thing you see when entering NOLA is a pair of small framed portraits from the early 1940s, perched on a shelf: Rasner’s Grandma Nat, and her grandfather William Leon, who passed away in New Orleans two weeks before Katrina. Nat once dreamed of studying medicine, but her uncle convinced her parents that it was no profession for a lady, so she married a doctor instead. He became a surgeon, while she dedicated herself to the Jewish community: She was on the Hadassah board, organizing fundraisers, rummage sales, and the yearly “mitzvah dinner.” They were pillars of Jewish New Orleans, helping to found Tikvat Shalom, a synagogue that is now known as Shir Chadash, in suburban Metairie, where she served as Sisterhood president. Elements of New Orleans can be found in NOLA’s display windows — the pecan pie, for instance. But as Rasner notes: “It isn’t a strictly New Orleans type of place. It’s a mishmash of places I know and love.” As such, the baked goods hail from very different corners of America. New York-style bagels (which can be ordered with cream cheese and lox) live in harmony with black-and-white whoopie pie, traditionally associated with Pennsylvania’s Amish; gooey Mississippi mud pies co-exist with soft and dreamy Southern buttermilk biscuits. Rasner, 33, is perhaps ideally suited to bridge American and Israeli cultures: Her

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American mother, Kathy Leon, met her Israeli “Whenever she’d bring my grandmother a box, father, Kobi Rasner, when she came to study she would hide them in the freezer and nosh in Israel as part of an overseas program of the on them straight from the freezer, because if Zionist youth movement Young Judaea. The anyone in the family would have known that couple got married after Kobi — who fought she had them, they would vanish in 10 secin the Yom Kippur war — completed his army onds. For years, I tried to get Lea Jean to give service; they moved soon afterward to the me the recipe, but she never did. Finally, when States. Kobi opened a wholeI opened NOLA, she consale jewelry business in New ceded the recipe. I promised Orleans, while Kathy became to name them after her and active in the Jewish comto never reveal her secrets to munity, teaching Hebrew anyone.” and Israeli folk dance. Talya NOLA is also a café, servand her younger brother and ing breakfast and light meals: sister were born in New Orsandwiches, salads, and leans. even the ultimate American The family moved back comfort food, macaroni and to Israel when Rasner was cheese. The house specialty 8 years old. Except for four is called blackstone biscuit, years studying industrial NOLA’s version of eggs design in Milan, she spent benedict, in which poached most of her life in Tel Aviv eggs, bacon, and fried tomabut could never get the sweet to, dripping with Hollandaise smell of her formative years sauce, rest inside a Southern out of her mind. “It’s not that Photo by Karen Biton Cohen buttermilk biscuit, instead of you can’t get a muffin or a Talya Rasner, NOLA’s owner. the usual English muffin. cupcake in Israel — you can, Not all Israelis are partial but a lot of times they’re not exactly right,” she to NOLA’s use of bacon. “It’s this Israeli thing said. “In Israel, a lot of muffins just look like that even nonreligious people have something muffins, but they’re actually way too rich and against pork,” Rasner said. “They don’t mind heavy, and not light and fluff y, like a muffin eating shrimp, but they shudder at the thought is supposed to be. The chocolate chip cookies of bacon.” Nonetheless, NOLA has already acyou get in Israel usually aren’t crispy on the quired a loyal fan base, including observant outside and chewy on the inside. I wanted Americans living in Jerusalem, who drive all to open a place where you can get American the way to Tel Aviv for a taste of home. “They baked goods like they are supposed to be.” don’t eat bacon, but the fact that they even Still, she knew that not everything about come here is impressive,” said Rasner. “They American treats would work in Israel: “I didn’t tell me they never eat in restaurants that aren’t go overboard with American over-sizing,” she kosher, and that NOLA is the only exception.” said, “and even my large cookie isn’t the size Because Rasner had also studied design, of your head.” she was very deliberate in planning the look Rasner, who from an early age baked at for her bakery: “Since the beginning, I had a home, isn’t a professional baker, and it was very clear vision of what the place would look by chance that a mutual friend introduced like, what it would smell like, how it would her to Harriet Sternstein, a Jewish pastry chef feel,” she said. NOLA’s dining area spreads out from New York who recently made aliyah af- to the backyard and has a distinct romantic ter having lived in Paris — where she opened feel, mixing new furniture with natural wood Europe’s first gourmet dog bakery, Mon Bon pieces and vintage findings imported from Chien. Rasner found in Sternstein her culinary American flea markets to create a haven of soul mate, who understands what it is to wax old-time America in the heart of Tel Aviv. nostalgic about Pop Tarts and Peppermint “Some people tell me that the place looks EuPatties. Now NOLA’s head baker, Sternstein ropean,” she said with a giggle, “but they only happily prepares Rasner’s treasured family say that because it doesn’t subscribe to the recipes, like Grandma Nat’s poppyseed cake, stereotypical America that many Israelis have made with sherry, or “Lea Jean’s munchies,” in their mind.” which are Talya’s mother’s cousin’s version of mandelbrodt. Dana Kessler has written for Maariv, “My mom’s cousin, Lea Jean, lives in Mem- Haaretz, Yediot Aharonot, and other Israeli phis, where she’s locally famous for her special publications. She is based in Tel Aviv. This mandelbrodt cookies, which she makes with article is reprinted from Tablet Magazine, pecans — popular in the South — instead of, the online magazine of Jewthe traditional almonds,” Rasner explained. ish news, ideas and culture.

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Remembering Rabbi Mesch

50th yahrzeit for a generationʼs rabbi An entire generation in Birmingham’s Jewish community grew up under the leadership of Rabbi Abraham J. Mesch, and his memory will be honored this month at his long-time congregation. Temple Beth-El will mark his 50th yahrzeit with a weekend of events featuring his son, Barry Mesch, as scholar-in-residence. Barry Mesch is provost and Stone/Teplow Families Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew College. In 2001, he guided the creation and adminis- Rabbi Abraham J. Mesch tration of the first online Master of Arts program in Jewish Studies on the Internet. Before going to Hebrew College in 1990, he was at the University of Florida for 20 years and was founding director of the Center for Jewish Studies. On Dec. 7, Barry Mesch will speak on “Mesch Memories: Reflections from a Son and his Father” at the 5:45 p.m. Shabbat service. A dinner will follow, with reservations needed by Dec. 3. On Dec. 8, he will speak during the 9:30 a.m. service on “The Real Chanukah Story: Religion, Politics and Money.” A luncheon will follow services, after which he will speak on “Rabbi or Prophet: Who is Superior? Perspectives from the Talmud and Maimonides.” The Sisterhood’s annual Chanukah latke lunch will be Dec. 9, and Mesch’s descendants will visit his grave at Elmwood Cemetery with members of the local AZA chapter of B’nai B’rith Youth. The AZA chapter was named in Mesch’s memory when the chapter was re-established in 1970. Every year, the chapter marks Mesch’s yahrzeit at Beth-El’s daily minyan. Chapter advisor Barry Dreayer said the first year they did it, Barry Mesch spoke over the phone to the teens, telling them about their chapter’s namesake. Barry Mesch said his father stood for three main values. “He was first and foremost an educator,” and after his death the congregation’s education building, which was completed in the early 1950s, was named for him. Rabbi Mesch also had “a love of all things Jewish,” and “understood that the world Barry Mesch was changing and that Judaism needed to change as well (as indeed it always had).” In the 1950s he oversaw the congregation’s transition from Orthodox to Conservative. He also was “totally dedicated to the Zionist effort.” The third value was Jewish community, “trying to heal divisions which would arise from time to time in the congregation” and being a bridge to the non-Jewish community. Rabbi Mesch was ordained in 1934 in Jerusalem by Chief Rabbi

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Abraham Isaac Kook after studying at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav. He had studied at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Seminary in New York and Hebrew Theological College in Chicago. He came to Birmingham in the summer of 1935 and began to build Beth-El into the largest Jewish congregation in the state. Rabbi Mesch was also known for the first English translation of “Abyss of Despair,” known in Hebrew as “Yeven Metzulah.” The 17thcentury work by Nathan Hanover is an eyewitness chronicle to the Chmielnicki massacres in Poland and Ukraine in 1648 and 1649. Historians regard the massacres as a precursor and template for the Holocaust. The book, originally published in 1950, was re-released in 1983 and is available today, with a new introduction by William Helmreich of Queens College and City University of New York. Helmreich notes how the book describes the period of relative peace and prosperity for the Jewish community before the massacres, and how the massacres helped spur Hasidic movements, the emergence of failed messiah Shabbetai Zevi, and the migration of Jews to western Europe. He undertook the translation in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the massacres. It is still used in some college courses. In 1948, he published “The Rebirth of Israel: A Confirmation Program,” and in 1955 published “The Bar Mitzvah Platform: Complete Sermonettes for the Bar Mitzvah, Based on the Weekly Portions of the Torah, and Special Sabbaths Coinciding with the Festivals.” In April 1958, there was an attempted Klan bombing of Beth-El, which was never officially solved. As the Civil Rights battles began to ramp up in Birmingham, Rabbi Mesch died suddenly in December 1962 at the age of 52. When a coalition of 19 rabbis left the Rabbinical Assembly convention a few months later to make a public show of solidarity with demonstrators in Birmingham, it was noted to them that the local pulpit was open and if they truly wanted to take a stand, they would apply for the position. The anniversary events are open to the community, and anyone with recollections or memorabilia is encouraged to contact Beth-El.

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A large number of Hadassah members and supporters from the Southern region traveled to Jerusalem in October for the organization’s centennial celebration and dedication of the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower. The 19-floor state-of-the-art tower has five floors underground in case of war. Hadassah members’ fundraising provides 4 percent of the hospital’s operating budget but 96 percent of its research and development funding.

Photo by Paula Burch-Celantano

Tulane President Scott Cowen (far left) stands with the major donors to the new stadium, which will be ready for the 2014 football season. From left to right: Cowen, Richard and Janet Yulman, Gayle and Tom Benson, Jill and Avram Glazer, and Tulane Athletics Director Rick Dickson.

Jewish pigskin

Tulaneʼs new stadium named for Miami philanthropists In October, a Reform Judaism magazine study ranked Tulane University No. 9 in schools that Jewish students choose, based on percentage of the student body and raw numbers. Starting in 2014, those students can attend football games in an oncampus stadium named after a Jewish philanthropist. The university announced on Nov. 1 that the new on-campus stadium will be named Yulman Stadium, to recognize Richard and Janet Yulman. Yulman is the retired chairman and owner of mattress manufacturing giant Serta International as well as a member of the Board of Tulane, the university’s main governing body, since 2005. The Yulmans’ daughter, Katy, graduated cum laude from Newcomb College in 2005. Yulman donated $15 million toward construction of the $55 million facility. Yulman is chairman of the Greater Miami Jewish Foundation and Philanthropic Fund and vice president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. In 1988, the Yulmans sponsored 96 elementary school students in Albany, N.Y., pledging to pay for the students’ college tuition once they earn their high school diplomas. The stadium’s club space for premium ticket holders will be the Jill and Avram A. Glazer Family Club. Tulane alumna Jill Glazer is a member of the university’s board and Avram (Avie) is a member of the university’s President’s Council. The Glazers supported the project with a multi-million dollar gift. The club features approximately 2,300 chair back seats, two club rooms with direct field views, a sports bar, expanded concession offerings, restrooms and a large space for gathering, similar in scale to the Kendall Cram Lecture Hall of the Lavin Bernick Center. It connects to the Club Decks and to the Hertz Center Hall of Fame. Avie Glazer, a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and the Washington College of Law at American University, is the former chairman of the Zapata Corporation founded by former President George H.W. Bush, co-chairman of the 19-time English soccer champion Manchester United, and an owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The family has been actively involved in every recent major campaign undertaken by the university. In addition to membership on the Tulane Board, Jill Glazer has served as chair of the Helluva Hullabaloo Auction that benefits Tulane student-athletes. In addition, the Glazers founded the Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer

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Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and the Judith and Morris Henkin Memorial Scholarship Program. Jill Glazer’s tireless efforts on behalf of the university were recognized in 2010 when she was given the Tulane Alumni Volunteer Award. Among the projects that the Glazers have supported are the post-Katrina donation of trees that grace the Gibson and Monroe quads and Gibson Circle, the Newcomb Pottery Garden, and the Glazer Gardens and Bocce Court, in memory of Jill’s parents, Judith and Morris Henkin. The new football field will be named Benson Field after New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle, who donated $7.5 million to the project. The university has raised $45 million of the $55 million cost for the 25,000-seat stadium, which will have a total capacity of 30,000. Construction is set to begin in January. Currently, Tulane plays in the Superdome, which has a 70,000-seat capacity that swallows the much smaller crowds for Tulane games. “The new stadium will revitalize our football program and be a tremendous asset for our entire community. It is a testament to Tulane’s place in New Orleans and nationally when the members of your board and one of the city’s greatest business and civic leaders join together to make this dream a reality,” said Tulane University President Scott S. Cowen. “The entire Tulane family thanks them, as well as the hundreds of other donors, for their commitment to our athletics department, university and community.”

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Ellen Alexander, development director of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, was named this year’s Outstanding Development Professional by the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy. The award was presented at the annual Jewish Camps conference, Nov. 4 and 5 in Springfield, Mass. At the conference, the institute launched its new name, JCamp 180. JCamp 180 guides Jewish camps to become strategic and self-sustaining by providing coaching and consulting Ellen Alexander, left, with the services along with technology mentor and director of Grinspoon’s assistance and a series of match- GIFT program, Laurie Herrick. ing grant challenges. Over 400 people attended this year’s conference, for the first time including Jewish day camps. Alexander was recognized not only for her work at Jacobs Camp, but for being someone who other development professionals look to for guidance and advice. She joined the Jacobs Camp staff in 2010 after years of working in non-profits, most recently as executive director of the American Cancer Society in Jackson. Last year, Jacobs alumnus and supporter Alan Franco of New Orleans received the “Outstanding Philanthropist Award” for his support, through the Goldring Family Foundation, of first-time camper incentives, as well as his work in support of many important Jewish causes. In 2010, Jacobs Camp was named Camp of the Year for overall fundraising, leadership development and institutional advancement.

Baton Rouge’s Other Mad Hatters

What would it be like to be an American Hebrew Academy student? Join us for a weekend to find out!

Prospective Student Weekend On Nov. 11, Baton Rouge Hadassah held a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Beth Shalom. Top, Queen of Hearts Jessica Martell and Alice, Abigal Rayner. Above, Gus Levy and Ben Shieber. Left, Mad Hatter Aaron Savoie and Baton Rouge Hadassah President Marilyn Martell.

February 1-3, 2013 Reserve your space today. Student housing is limited. Experience classes, a campus tour, Shabbat and what it is like to be a part of the Academy community. Special programs for prosepctive students and parents will take place throughout the weekend. Registration Deadline: January 20 For schedule, hotel information and registration forms, please visit For additional information, contact a member of the Admissions Team.

American Hebrew Academy Right, Southern Region Vice President Marla Kameny and President Lee Kansas. Baton Rouge’s most famous Mad Hatter, LSU football coach Les Miles, was not in attendance.

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Birmingham State of Israel Bonds Cordially invites you to attend

The 2012 Birmingham Community Tribute Event Honoring

Sheryl and Jon Kimerling with Guest Speaker General Charles Krulak, president of Birmingham-Southern College Thursday, December 13, 2012 ~ Temple Beth El ~ 2179 Highland Avenue Light Reception 5:00pm ~ Program 6:15pm

Co-Sponsored by The Birmingham Jewish Federation & The Birmingham Jewish Foundation The evening will be chaired by Carol and Jimmy Filler, and co-chaired by Ginger and Jerry Held, and highlighted by the presentation of The Birmingham Jewish Federation & Foundation Awards Joanie Plous Bayer Young Leadership Award ~ Layne Held Susan J. Goldberg Distinguished Volunteer Award ~ Randi Landy N.E. Miles Lifetime Achievement Award ~ Sherron and Alan Goldstein Please RSVP to Donna Berry at 205-879-0416 or


December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Chanukah Pizmon concert a homecoming Pensacolaʼs Ripps part of musical group A first-year student at Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Pensacola’s Hannah Ripps is coming home at the beginning of winter break and bringing a bunch of friends with her. She is a member of Pizmon, a co-ed Jewish a capella group that will perform at Ahavas Chesed in Mobile on Dec. 8. The group consists of students from Columbia, Barnard and JTS. They sing a variety of different genres including liturgical pieces, Israeli rock and pop, English parodies, Yiddish classics, and children’s songs. The 7 p.m. Mayer Mitchell Memorial Concert is free and open to the community. Because of Ripps’ presence, the Pensacola Jewish Federation is chartering a bus that will leave Temple Beth-El at 5:30 p.m. Ripps said she is “really excited to bring the group down to see the community in which I was raised.” She started singing “once I figured out how to use my vocal chords,” and started out entertaining guests on Friday night while her father played the guitar. In third grade she joined the Pensacola Children’s Chorus, where she performed for six years until attending the American Hebrew Academy in North Carolina. “I knew I would miss chorus but would continue to perform in shows put on by AHA’s theatre department,” she said. During her sophomore year, her parents hosted three Pizmon members, while she joined AHAcapella at her school. The next year, Magevet, a Jewish a capella group from Yale, performed at the academy, and “I decided then that a capella was the extracurricular activity that I had to include in my college schedule.” The professional reputation of Pizmon attracted her, but at the auditions she realized how much fun the group members have together “and I really wanted to be a part of that.” She said the group acts “as Jewish role models and we show the communities that we travel to how music can play a huge part in a person’s Jewish life.” Ripps is currently enrolled in the Double Degree program with Barnard and JTS. She hasn’t decided what she want to pursue at Barnard, but is “fairly set” on studying Jewish art and visual culture at JTS. In March 2011, Pizmon did a Southern tour, visiting Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Pensacola and New Orleans.

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December 2012


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December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Chanukah Rick Recht headlines New Orleans Chanukah celebration A concert by Rick Recht will highlight this year’s New Orleans community Chanukah celebration, Dec. 10 at the Uptown Jewish Community center. In addition to the concert and traditional lighting of the menorah, this Complete listing of popular annual event features an indoor Chanukah events in picnic catered by Kosher Cajun, which the region at includes their fried chicken and latkes. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the concert at approximately 6:30 p.m. Recht will be accompanied by drummer Dennis Stringfield and Bass guitarist Shlomo Ovadya. He is regarded as the top touring musician in Jewish music, with 150 concerts a year. He is the national music spokesman for The PJ Library and executive director of Songleader Boot Camp, a national leadership development immersion program held annually in St. Louis. Recht is also the founder and executive director of Jewish Rock Radio online. Recht usually brings local performers on stage with him during his concerts, and that will be true in New Orleans. Members of the Community Day School and the JCC Nursery School will join him. Local cantors will also perform at the celebration, including Cantor Joel Colman of Temple Sinai, Cantor Tory May of Gates of Prayer, and Cantor Jamie Marx of Touro Synagogue. The Chanukah Celebration is free and open to the community, but reservations are appreciated. This event is made possible with to the collaborative participation of the PJ Library /Jewish Children’s Regional Service, the Jewish Endowment Foundation and the Feil Family Foundation. Outrageous Christmas sweaters are all the rage this time of year — but when the invitation comes for an Ugly Sweater party, what’s a Jew to do? Hotglue some felt menorahs onto an old sweater? “Step up your Jewgame”, go to www. and check out the new company’s line of Chanukah sweaters, from the Spinmaster and Geltdigger to the Borough Park or Crown Heights snowman families. With tongue firmly in cheek, the site also has a photo essay of Santa’s first Chanukah. Ten percent of the proceeds go to Jewish Heart for Africa, “because they’re awesome.”

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Southern Jewish Life

December 2012


Chanukah Shiny, rare collectibles are what Doug’s Coins in Homewood specializes in. They recently got in their special pure silver Chanukah Rounds coins ($40 each). They also offer 2012 Modern Proof and Mint sets ranging from $40 to $80. Also popular are the 2012 Silver Eagle collectible coins. In 2013, Doug’s Coins will celebrate its 30th anniversary. For kids — and adult kids — who think that sports (especially football) reign supreme, A Tiny Kingdom has expanded its Mountain Brook location and opened holiday kiosks in the Riverchase Galleria and Gadsden Malls. Owner Brannon Bruno said the kiosks sell only sports memorabilia, much of which is signed. That includes 8x10 photos, sports cards, jerseys, helmets, Fatheads and more. Those items, along with a plethora of great Chanukah gift ideas for girls and boys, can also be found at the main store in Mountain Brook Village. Bruno said the signed Alabama and Auburn helmets, actually worn in games, sell for $500 and up. The signed jerseys — not used in games — average $200 each. “Our most popular sports items have been signed 8x10 photos of Nick Saban, Trent Richardson and Cam Newton, along with the helmets that were worn in the last three BCS National Championships,” he said. “We also have autographed jerseys, photos and cards of alltime greats who played at Alabama or Auburn, including Joe Namath and Bo Jackson.” Also popular are the medium-sized Fathead sports wall-sticks. For older girls, A Tiny Kingdom offers iPad holders, make-up cases, phone slots and purses by Girl Nation in several bright colors. Younger girls can “adopt” a doll from Middleton Newborn Nursery. The dolls come with a questionnaire kids fill out promising to be a good parent; before being “adopted,” the dolls get a check-up from a “doctor” or “nurse” at “A Tiny Kingdom Hospital.” Bruno said they also have a large selection of items from wellknown brands such as Barbie, Hello Kitty and Disney. New Brik Tek sets for girls and boys have sold well since coming in recently. Lego recently lost its patent so these “Lego look-alikes” offer all the same building enjoyment at lower costs. A Tiny Kingdom also offers a nice selection of Judaica-themed toys, including yo-yos that play the Dreidel song, plush menorahs and clay dreidel-making kits as well as Chanukah gift wrap and bags. The store also hosts parties for kids and can work with just about any theme. For more information go to and for the sports kiosks


December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

The Riverchase Galleria’s Bumper Nets is the nation’s first table tennis store and its owner is a national champion as well as coach. But the stores are game also for providing billiards, interactive arcade games, Skee-Ball, foosball, pinball, dart boards, air hockey and accessories for the ideal “man cave.” Table tennis world record-holder and entrepreneur Homer Brown started the first Bumper Nets in August 1999 at Brookwood Mall. Now they feature three stores in a corner of the Galleria — the main location, a second location more for interactive arcade gaming, and for younger gamers a Bumper Nets 4 Kids opened last fall. They sell games, tables and equipment, and rent them for play time at the stores as well as host weekly tournaments in pinball, pool and table tennis. “It’s so gratifying for me to have a place that encourages others to play these wonderful sports and games — especially table tennis — that I am so passionate about,” said Brown. “The stores are constantly evolving as we add some of the latest (especially stand-up arcade) games and equipment that people can’t find anywhere else. We’re also open to adding more tournaments in games we don’t already feature regular tournaments in. Every day is a fun day here.” Brown is from St. Louis and started getting involved with table tennis in high school. But it was while at a Chattanooga college that his newfound hobby quickly became a dedicated passion. He began to attend and play in U.S. Open table tennis events starting in 1969, ranging from national and international events to the Olympic Games. “It was a lot of fun being able to travel and compete. I enjoyed getting better and more competitive. Today I enjoy mostly coaching others to achieve their goals in table tennis, while developing a love for the sport,” he said. After graduating from college, Brown worked for 23 years with BP. In 1996, not only did he and his son attend the Olympic Games hosted by Atlanta, but he also relocated to Birmingham. Vulcan Oil brought him in as a COO to bolster the company’s marketing efforts. Three years later, Brown took a chance and pursued his dream. “Starting Bumper Nets was something I had thought about for several years and Birmingham seemed to be the perfect place to do it,” he said. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response.” Brown said table tennis is one of the top sports for one’s brain, and it also helps to burn calories. He has worked with several current and former University of Alabama football players to improve their reflexes through the sport. Bumper Nets sells Newgy’s Robo-Pong training table. This $599 digital training equipment is considered top-of-the-line and compares in some ways to a pitching machine in baseball. Brown also gives lessons on the Newgy table at the main store. Brown holds the world record for consecutive U.S. Open table tennis appearances at 43. He said even with keeping busy at the stores, he plans to keep that streak alive for many years. “I want to reach 50 U.S. Open appearances and keep the record going,” he said.


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Southern Jewish Life

December 2012



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December 2012




Southern Jewish Life

In business for almost 75 years, Perlis is often the first stop on many people’s holiday shopping routes. This venerable clothing retailer serves the greater New Orleans region with stores in New Orleans, Mandeville, and Baton Rouge, but ships offerings from its website around the country. One of the most popular brands for this updated traditional store is Southern Tide. The company started off by re-inventing the polo shirt. Theirs is constructed of a unique stretch pique cotton and brushed interior and offered in dozens of great colors. Building on their success, Southern Tide has grown into a fullblown clothing line with woven sport shirts in impressive patterns and comfortable cotton pullover sweatshirts and sweaters as well as polo shirts for women and boys. Perlis is one of the largest Southern Tide accounts in the country with an inventory selection rivaled by few. “This is a great brand for young men because of its updated fit, which is slightly trimmer than other brands and because of the light, comfortable fabrics,” says Ryan Sparks, a buyer for Perlis. “But we’ve also seen dads come in looking for the shirts as well. The sloppy, baggy look is definitely long gone, and more and more men are starting to appreciate vivid colors in their sportswear.” For the truly distinguished gentleman, Perlis suggests cashmere accessories like full-length scarves, cashmere-lined leather gloves, and socks in elegant argyle or striped patterns. There’s also Perlis’ wide selection of formalwear accessories like stud and cufflink sets, cummerbunds, and bowties. “Formalwear is something most men don’t even consider until the night they have to figure out what to wear, and we all know someone whose closet needs an update,” Sparks says. “What better gift than something he’ll wear for every special occasion?” Shop at Perlis in uptown New Orleans on Magazine Street, in Mandeville on Causeway Boulevard, or in the French Quarter in Jax Brewery. Shop from home at www.perlis. com.

Going to Homewood Antiques down Oxmoor Road is like a trip down memory lane, according to owner Chris Collins. The 10,000square-foot store of treasures older and newer opened just more than two years ago. “We want this experience to be like the old stores, where service was everything and they treat you like family,” said Collins. “We get to know our customers… and there is something for everyone here. We have 90 different vendors and every time someone comes in the store, there is always some different stuff.” She said they want Homewood Antiques to be a one-stop shop for gifts, home decorating and more. “We have a very wide variety of items (from furniture to glassware to toys to collectibles) and we even offer services such as furniture painting, accessories customization,” added Collins. “It’s important for us to always have good quality merchandise at reasonable prices.” For more information, go to Birmingham’s Collage proves that “c”-ing is believing — “chic, choice, consignment clothes” and recently, “celebration.” “It’s unique for a store that has been open 20 years to have a grand opening,” said owner Tracy Dismukes. Collage opened in Homewood 1992 and recently had a celebration to also mark the opening of a new location in the Vestavia City Center. “But we pride ourselves on being unique. Our customers can find high-end designer apparel and accessories at roughly one-third of the original cost.” Collage opened in Mountain Brook 20 years ago next to the old Blue and White Café. Dismukes purchased it in 1994 and moved it to Homewood. Then in 2000, she relocated to “The Curve” in Homewood. In 2001, she opened the Vestavia location and moved to its current location this past October. “Collage is well-known in the consignment/resale industry as a leader with very high standards for quality and knowledge of what people in this area want to wear,” said Dismukes, who graduated from Berry High School in Birmingham and earned a Business Administration degree at Auburn University, then an MBA from Samford University. A few years after starting her career in the banking industry, she decided to follow her passion and open Collage. The stores carry a broad range of labels from Gucci to Gap, also including Michael Kors, Ann Taylor, Jones New York, Armani, St. John, Banana Republic and others. In addition to selling selected consignment from local people who bring items in, Collage also sources new merchandise from markets in New York, Atlanta as well as other large cities across the nation. Stylish consignment accessories they specialize in include designer purses, handbags, clutches and shoes. For more information, go to




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Southern Jewish Life

December 2012


Bruce Downs

Don’t fall off the fiscal cliff


December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

So you thought this would be another CPA article about the Fiscal Cliff — well, you are right. What an oversold, overhyped thing this is. While it is true that many tax provisions are set to expire and many spending cuts loom, you have a House, a Senate and a president who are motivated and further away from an election than they will ever be. Before you take your case of bottled water and head for the cellar with your automatic rifle, have a little faith in our elected government and their ability to steer away from the cliff. The more things change the more they stay the same. From a financial standpoint the best thing you can do is put yourself into your work and make the most of your earning capacity. If you are working in a field that you don’t like, consider education, but focus on your income stream, and don’t dismiss the profession you find yourself in. There were probably good reasons you chose the line of work you are in, and if you look around, you can find room for improvement. Once established in your line of work, work hard and save your money. Is there another way to financial security? Afraid not. While not everyone can be a homerun hitter, most of us have the capacity to earn and save money. The most effective way to make savings a habit is to establish a set of books for your family. There are many ways to do this. Probably the most used method is Quicken software, an inexpensive and sophisticated tool. Start small. Put your checking account and your credit cards on Quicken. If you are looking for an online and cooler method, try the new Recently acquired by the makers of Quicken, will do much of what Quicken does in a web based app. For those of you who like more control of the process, Quicken on your desktop will be the solution. Both programs prompt you to download from your financial institutions. This will give you a measure of expense and revenues, and both will generate reports for you from day one. Time being what it is, if you keep it up for a year you’ll have some valid data to prepare your next major tool, a budget. Budgets make us look at what we spend, and what we spend it on. The software will have categories assigned to everything you spent over the last year, and if you are meticulous, where you spent it. It can sometimes embarrass you when it shows you how much you spent at Starbucks or on ITunes, but it’s useful information. Your goal? To save at least 10 percent of what comes home, and yes, retirement plans count! If you can fully fund a retirement plan at work, do so. For a tax saving strategy, there is no better plan. Maximize all contributions to retirement plans — many times this will mean that your company will pay in matching amounts — and then if possible save at home. Once you have begun the habit of saving, it will begin to stick, and once you have saved enough, you will have the next cool thing that Quicken type software can give you — a balance sheet. That measures your net worth at any given moment. As I once heard Shelley Stewart say, there is the money that comes in, the money that goes out and the money that stays right here. The money that stays right here is your net worth. This is the end game — we all should be working toward a net worth of a particular number. Many people call this “The Number”. And there was a popular book by this title that I recommend as a reading item. Once reservoirs of cash have appeared on your balance sheet, you will be challenged with another problem — how to invest them. Investors still should consider investing in stocks and in bonds, with a portfolio that uses some strategic allocation. Quicken can link directly to broker accounts or pull information directly from the Internet. The key to any investment strategy is consistency. Chances are you will want to engage a professional to help you set out a financial plan, but don’t just leave it at that. The most important thing about your long term financial plan is that it educates you and that you learn from it and begin to understand the nature of it. The Internet has yielded vast pools of information, readily available to investors at no cost. You are the chief steward of your financial well-being, so learn what is available and how it works, for your own benefit. Be sure of this: Disaster will not befall us to the extent that investing in growing companies — either in their equities (stocks) or debt instruments (bonds) will not cause the money that has stayed right here to grow. It will, as surely as you will grow in your job as you find the place where your combination of talents can be best used. Don’t fear the fiscal cliff or the gloom and doom talking head — he is making a lot of money to scare you. After all, it sells a lot of soap (and anti-depressants).

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December 2012


Kosher-Style Recipe: Bistro V By Lee J. Green Staying true to his Bayou La Batre roots and coupling that with his eclectic international cuisine experience, Bistro V owner and executive chef Jeremy Downey has come up with a new menu he describes as “comfort foods with a gourmet flair.” And that includes two new creations that are staples of Jewish cuisine but with some unique twists — sweet potato latkes and brisket sandwiches. Downey, who opened Bistro V in Vestavia in 2010 after serving as executive chef of the previous tenant City Diner, said the sweet potato latkes feature some unique twists. The brisket sandwiches (which can be ordered without cheese for kosher-style) are prepared similar to Philadelphia steak sandwiches. “Good food evokes pleasure and warm memories,” said Downey, who played on the Alabama Crimson Tide national championship football team in 1992-93. “I want to share with people classics that they and I loved, made like grandma used to make, but with my own personal style. These are classics turned around.” Downey grew up on a farm. He and his parents cooked frequently with the fresh ingredients they would grow. After graduating from Alabama, he became a chef. Downey worked in San Francisco, New York, Washington and other places, 521 Montgomery Highway doing French, Italian, MediBirmingham • 205.823-1505 terranean as well as even a bit of Creole/Cajun cuisine. “I have taken a little bit with me from home and everywhere I have been to put into Bistro V. We’ve been very Ingredients: pleased with the response. I 2 sweet potatoes have had people tell me, ‘don’t 1 teaspoon honey tell my mother or grandmothChopped cilantro er, but this is even better than Chopped jalapeño pepper they used to make’,” he said. 2 ears of corn Other new “gourmet com1 teaspoon lime juice fort foods” on the fall-winSalt and pepper ter menu are gnocchi-style 2 eggs chicken and dumplings, beef 1 cup Panko bread crumbs short ribs, new pastas, pear Diced apples and blue cheese salad, fourChopped red onion cheese macaroni and cheese. Dollop of sour cream Downey said that he always uses locally-grown products Directions when possible and every day Boil two sweet potatoes until soft, offers a different fish as well then mash. Add the honey. Let cool. as a risotto special. “Coming Shave the two ears of corn and fold from the Gulf, seafood is just into the sweet potato mix. a way of life. I always serve Add cilantro, salt and pepper to the freshest Gulf seafood.” taste. Mix in the two eggs and cup Bistro V serves Sunday of bread crumbs. Pan-fry the fritters brunch along with lunch and for three to five minutes. dinner Monday-Saturday, and new for fall on the brunch Apple Salsa menu are a few creative om- Dice the apples and chop the red elets, fruit pancakes and dif- onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper. Add lime juice, honey, salt and ferent types of Benedicts. On the menu regularly are pepper. Mix well. some Southern/Cajun/Creole Place the apple salsa and sour favorites such as red beans cream dollop on top of the fritters. and rice, jambalaya, po boys, Enjoy, and Happy Chanukah from Bistro V. and fried green tomatoes.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

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December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Continued from page 38

Yes, dreidel time is a swell time, To go spinning til the flame’s gone away. Giddy-up dreidel top, don’t ever stop, Dreidel ‘round the m’norah, Nun, hay, shin, ‘til gimmel’s on top, As you spin, dreidel, rock… What if Eartha Kitt had purred her way through a number that was more Maccabean:

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Macca Baby, be a good little Maccabee, for me, Clean up our great Temple Macca Baby, and light up the Menorah tonight. Macca Baby, our little kingdom they overthrew, I’m blue, ‘til you came to our rescue Macca Baby, please light up the Menorah tonight. Think of how the oil you lit Lasted longer than should have been legit Next year could be in Jerusalem If you’d light my candle a bit Boo doo bee doo Macca Baby, forgot to mention one little thing, please bring A gelty pleasure Macca Baby, just light up my Menorah tonight.

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Happy Chanukah

Finally, what if the man behind “The Music Man” had thought he was seeing the advent of a different winter holiday: It’s beginning to look a lot like Chanukah Two candles aglow; Next thing it will be five then nine aglowing once again With gelty coins and latke cakes to go. It’s beginning to look a lot like Chanukah Light in each Menore But the prettiest sight to see is the kinder and thee Dreidlin’ on the floor. With all the stations on XM, Sirius, and Just Kidding radio, one would think these songs would appear eventually. But stay tuned. After all, it’s the season of miracles — including one that lasted eight days. Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who awards the ignominious title of the New York Y*nkee of holiday songs to… Feliz Navidad. Barry M*nilow should record it, and probably has. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit //. For exclusive online content, like Southern Jewish Life

December 2012


Define Wealth.

The Beholder’s Eye by Doug Brook

Feliz Chanukah

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‘tis the season to wonder how many people realize that the Festival of Lights is actually Chanukah and not Christmas. Jews try all kinds of things this time of year, though it’s sometimes hard to tell if they’re trying to blend in or failing to make a distinction. For example, what would be the actual effect of placing a scene in your front yard depicting the miracle commemorated for eight days starting on the 25th of Kislev… A Neis-Tevet-y Scene? What good is the image conveyed by the back room dreidel games at Congregation Beit Kessef and Temple Zahavei Tzedek? It’s difficult to find a Jewish place in a Christmas world, especially for the many Jews who grew up not knowing Feliz Navidad from Jews wrote all these Felix the Cat. huge Christmas How have some Jews found their way? By writing a signifisongs. When are the cant number of the most famous Christians going to Christmas songs that the world return the favor? has ever known. Why did many of them do it? They sell well, so the royalties were good money. (For those who appended that with, “the most Jewish of reasons,” remember that “He knows when you’ve been bad” came from a song first recorded by Eddie Cantor, so you know who the “He” might also mean. So be good, for goodness sake.) For years, Jews have bemoaned that there are so many wonderful Christmas songs written by Jews, but they couldn’t be bothered to write good Chanukah songs. Taking it a step further, this column wonders why Christians haven’t returned the favor, writing any Chanukah songs. But, they haven’t. All that’s left is to wonder what might have been. What if that German composer was instead commissioned by a synagogue to write a tribute to that year’s major campaign contributor, “Mo Tannenbaum”? What if Birmingham native Hugh Martin had instead co-penned for “Meet Me in St. Louis” using a different denomination for Judy Garland to croon about, “Have-a Ya a Nagila Chanukah”? What if in the 1950s the world instead sang: Spin dreidel, spin dreidel, spin dreidel, rock, Spin and I’ll win, if you don’t land Shin, Lighting and slighting the candles as one, Now that the spinning game has begun. It’s dreidel time until dinner time, Rambling and gambling will fill the air, until Mother’s glare. What a night time, it’s latke time, Then spin the night away,

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December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Southern Jewish Life

December 2012


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December 2012

Southern Jewish Life

Southern Jewish Life, Dec. 2012 (Deep South)  

Southern Jewish Life serves the Jewish communities of the Deep South with original local news and features