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Chanukah 2019 Volume 29 Issue 12

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


December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

shalom y’all Back in my summer camp and youth group days, one of the oh-so-provocative discussion questions was “are you an American Jew or a Jewish American?” Why one feels it necessary to rank the two is perplexing, as they are wholly compatible, so the best response to that I ever heard was “the only reason someone would ask that is if they want to pick a fight.” So don’t take the bait. Another variant of the aforementioned question, of course, is “if the U.S. and Israel went to war, who would you fight for?” My response to that hypothetical trap is that if, God forbid, such a circumstance ever happened, it would mean that something has gone horrifically, catastrophically wrong with one or the other. In this hyper-sensitive era, it does not take much to set off alarm bells in the Jewish community, and as we go to press, the big debate is over President Donald Trump’s supposed decree that we Jews are A Nation. Thanks to a lot of misreporting in the mainstream press (we’ve said that phrase a lot lately, haven’t we?), hyperbole set in. Some who wouldn’t think of wasting an opportunity to make a Trump-Hitler analogy reacted to the executive order by saying we were being written out of America, just as Nazi Germany declared Jews weren’t German but were a separate nation. What Trump actually signed is something that has been pushed by both sides of the aisle, with the backing of mainstream Jewish organizations. Basically, it says that when haters target Jews on the presumption of a Jewish nationality, then the government can use the Title VI protections from the 1960s to go after such antisemitism. Title VI protections are based on race and national origin, but not religion, so antisemitism has fallen through the loophole. The order closed that loophole (though perhaps a better solution would have been to add religious protections). It did not declare that Jews are a nation, and even Trump wouldn’t have the chutzpah to think he could make such a decree. continued on next page

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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 order will be especially which is confusing to States them, givto This Australia to South America, Europeuseful and theinJCCRepublican, Maccabi games around the United fighting the Icampus antisemitism that often howcan strongly pro-Israel and Canada, have logged many miles seeing howen sports be a vehicle to helpRepublicans build Jewish are, couchesespecially itself in in anti-Zionism, identity, our young. but which is and while the Democratic party is still mostly taken to extreme forms. pro-Israel, the anti-Israel forces are increasingI felt honored to come to Birmingham for the first time and fell in love with not just the city Unlike what critics say, it does not “silence” ly finding a home there. but the people. You have taken Southern hospitality to a new level with your kind and caring Palestinian advocates or criticism of Israel — That astonishment is a fundamental misapproach to the JCC Maccabi Games. as long as it is fair criticism and not the ex- reading of American Jews. As I have reminded Led by the Sokoland and hate Helds,soyour hard-working volunteers politicians, were wonderful. treme hyperbole often seen on numerous whileThey the partnered vast majority with your outstanding staff, led by Betzy Lynch, to make the 2017 JCC Maccabi games a huge hit.a campus. of Jews are supportive of Israel and have I want to take this executive director of Maccabi USA to say you Israel on behalf Meanwhile, theopportunity controversyasset off a major passion for the land, we thank live here. is but of everyoneon involved. discussion how to classify Jews. one of many issues of concern to us. Judaism a religion? but one retains Religious issues,ofcivil IIshad just returned fromYes, the 20th World Maccabiah games infreedom, Israel witheconomic a U.S. delegation Jewish identity even when off all the and minority health care over 1100, who joined 10,000casting Jewish athletes fromrights 80 countries. Back in protections, July the eyes of the entire religious elements Judaism and — unless one (including fightingwith blanket restrictions Jewish world were onofJerusalem the Maccabiah. This past month 1000 athletes and on adopts afrom different faith It’s hard to ex- abortion)… these thepoint. everyday issues for coaches around thesystem. world being in Birmingham, you became theare focal plain to outsiders that an atheist Jew is still a American Jews. Everyone from theaccepts Jewish community at large,aincluding wonderful Jew, but a Jew who Christianityand isn’t.the community In that context, Jew whoa votes Democrat police to beThere commended. These games will down disloyal in historytoasthe being a seminal Are force, Jews aare race? is a genetic compoisn’tgobeing Jewish people, he moment for the Jewish we of build future by providing Jewishof nent to Jewish identiy,community as we are as part theto the or she is voting based such on a wonderful series of issues, memories. same family going back to Abraham — but which Israel is part of the equation but not the it isn’t exclusively genetic. One can’t sign up entire equation. Jed Margolis to join theDirector, Chinese,Maccabi African-Americans or HisSome Jews won’t vote Democrat because of Executive USA panics. But anyone can, with the proper learn- the recent track record on Israel. Some won’t ing, become a Jew. From any race — which supremacists vote Republican because would like toof seeextreme pushedpositions back theyCharlottesville don’t then give up in the process. on abortion and the perception that On into a corner and made to feel lesser. WeRepubstand Are Jews a nation? It’s a tricky definition. As with licansand arepray exclusively pushing Christianity in for the family of Heather Heyer, Editor’s Note: This reaction the events in of the the governmental arena. an extended family that isto a tiny fraction who was there standing up to the face of this Charlottesville, written Jeremy world’s population, webyhave tiesNewman, to other Jews hate. A religion, a race, a nation? None of those Master of the Epsilon nationality. Pi Theta Colony in a way thatAlpha transcends Israel is terms fit comfortably and completely. One We recognize thetranscend essence ofdefinition. the American at University, was shared by AEPi theAuburn physical manifestation of Jewish national- could say that we We are narrative a two-century old struggle to rid National, which called make it “very and ism. But that doesn’t alleloquent” Jews worldwide Jews, andaswe are Americans. of such corners, and allow those in praised brothershow at AEPi Theta at of ourselves Israelis “our (no matter much theColony ministry And if that weren’t fortune enough, baruch them the seat at the table that they so deserve. Auburn University and… the leadership they absorption would like to make it so). haShem, we’re also Southerners. display their campus. ” WhileonIsrael is the Jewish nation-state, the It is the struggle to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are nationality of American Jews is American. Many people express amazement that created equal… endowed by their Creator with White supremacy been a cancer the American Jewishhas community as aon whole certain unalienable rights.” We know our work our country sinceinits threatening butBrook, we know we will not votes Democrat farbeginning, higher proportion than is far from finished, Lawrence Publisher/Editor its hopes, its values, and its better angels. move backwards. The events that took place in Charlottesville Richard Friedman When men and women, fully armed, take represented the worst of this nation. Those to the streets in droves with swastikas and who marched onto the streets with tiki torches other symbols of hate, it is a reminder of how and swastikas did so to provoke violence and relevant the issues of racism and anti-Semitism fear. Those who marched onto the streets did are today. It is a wake-up call to the work that so Israel’s to profess an ideology that harkens back toreEthiopian community gathered Their dramatic needs to be done tohomecoming ensure a better,began more on an acently bleaker, more wretched time infor ourtheir history. to celebrate a holiday that ances- welcoming organized basis in the early 1980s country. But it should not through come a A time and women of many creeds, tors waswhen a daymen of yearning framed by the travail without joint effort of the Israeli government, the U.S. a reflection on how far we’ve come. races, andinreligions far from equal and far government, of living exile forwere centuries. the Israeli-based NGO Jewish America wasNorth born aAmerican slave nation. A century from safebrought in our own A memories. time where It also backborders. personal Agency, and Jewish Federinto ourincluding history weFederations engaged in athroughout war in part the Americans lived under a constant cloud yearned of For centuries, the Jews of Ethiopia ations, to ensure we would not continue as one. We racism, anti-Semitism and pervasive hate.ancient The to return to Israel. Scholars believe this Deep South. found ourselves confronted byBirmingham the issue of civil events that took place in Charlottesville served Jewish community was forced into exile 2500 As executive director of the Jewand embarked on a mission to ensuremoas a reminder of how painfully relevant years ago; sustaining themselves as athese Jewish rights, ish Federation, I remember our organization fair treatment all peoples matter much their issues are today. community amid challenging and at-times the bilizing and raisingoffunds to helpno transport skin color. Although we’ve made great strides, threatening circumstances, believing Auburn’s Alpha Epsilon Pi and stands with theand of the Ethiopian Jewish population to Israel, and is ahelping missiontowe’re still grappling with today. prayingcommunity that one day would return to Israel. it then underwrite their absorption into Jewish ofthey Charlottesville, and During their exile they would observe the Israeli society. This was one of the most moving America was also born an immigrant with the Jewish people around the country Sigd,around a day the set world. aside for their country. chapters As of my career andmany included the early37-year as the pilgrims, and Wecommemorating also stand with the lost homeland andtargeted affirming their belief opportunity to greetfound Ethiopians Israel shortly and families in theincountry the minorities who are by the hate that that groups theyonwould return. (The word sigd is broadly opportunity to plant stakes, chase their future, was display in Charlottesville. We stand continued on open page 32 interpreted to meanofprostration.) and be themselves. Few were met with with the minorities whom these white

Ethiopian Jews thank God for return to Israel, Federations played a big role

4 December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

December April 2019 2019

Southern Jewish Life PUBLISHER/EDITOR Lawrence M. Brook ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER/ADVERTISING Lee J. Green V.P. SALES/MARKETING, NEW ORLEANS Jeff Pizzo CREATIVE DIRECTOR Ginger Brook SOCIAL/WEB Emily Baldwein PHOTOGRAPHER-AT-LARGE Rabbi Barry C. Altmark CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rivka Epstein, Louis Crawford, Tally Werthan, Stuart Derroff, Belle Freitag, Ted Gelber, E. Walter Katz, Doug Brook BIRMINGHAM OFFICE P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham, AL 35213 14 Office Park Circle #104 Birmingham, AL 35223 205/870.7889 NEW ORLEANS OFFICE 3747 West Esplanade, 3rd Floor Metairie, LA 70002 504/432-2561 TOLL-FREE 866/446.5894 FAX 866/392.7750 ADVERTISING Advertising inquiries to 205/870.7889 for Lee Green,; Jeff Pizzo,; or Annetta Dolowitz, 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, call 205/870.7889 or mail payment to the address above. Copyright 2019. 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.

Documenting this community, a community we are members of and active within, is our passion. We love what we do, and who we do it for.

agenda interesting bits & can’t miss events Photo by Morris LeBleu

On Nov. 8, Temple Sinai in Lake Charles had an interfaith Shabbat service of healing and commemoration for the synagogue and mosque attacks over the past year, from synagogue attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway, and the attempted attack at Halle, Germany, to the mosque attacks in New Zealand. Mayor Nick Hunter declared a Community Day of Memorial in Lake Charles. Among those participating (left to right) were Imam Ahmed el Mamlouk, Lake Charles Islamic Society; Senior Pastor Ellen Alston, Henning Memorial Methodist Church, Sulphur; Rev. Ruben Villarreal, Judge, Diocesan Tribunal and Chaplain, St. Louis Catholic High School, Diocese of Lake Charles; Pastor Lannis Joseph, Ebenezer Baptist Church of Cameron; Rev. Frances “Boo” Kay, Head of School, Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School, Lake Charles; Temple Sinai Rabbi Barry Weinstein.

B’ham Holocaust Center temporarily relocating to Temple Emanu-El The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center announced it will be temporarily relocating to Temple Emanu-El, as of Dec. 17. The Bayer Properties building just up the street has been home to the BHEC, rent free, for the past 15 years. “The BHEC has been so appreciative of the strong support received these past few months, as we have been searching for new space,” said Fran Godchaux, BHEC relocation committee chair and vice president of governance. Bayer Properties is moving into a new headquarters at the historic Magnolia Building, and the current property is being proposed for a mixed-use development that would include a boutique hotel. The BHEC move to Temple Emanu-El is temporary, as a long-term strategy is underway to identify a permanent place to house the agency’s exhibits, library, and ever-expanding Holocaust and World War II archives, as well as a place to develop new exhibits and programs to encourage more people to keep the history and the lessons of the Holocaust alive.

At Temple Emanu-El, BHEC offices will be located on the second floor, and the Community Room will be on the third floor. BHEC archives and rare books will be housed at the Levite Jewish Community Center. BHEC’s new executive director, Rev. Melissa Self Patrick, began her tenure on Nov. 4. “We are looking forward to working with Temple Emanu-El, the LJCC, and to continuing our programs with all our outstanding partners across greater Birmingham and the state of Alabama,” she said. Emanu-El Rabbi Adam Wright said the BHEC’s mission of teaching about the history of the Holocaust “so that future generations will endeavor to create a more just, humane and tolerant future” is “also part of our work at Temple Emanu-El.” He said the move “is incredibly exciting for both organizations.” Organized in 2002, the BHEC provides programming throughout the state of Alabama for teachers, students, civic groups, organizations and communities. Their website and social media will update business hours, along with upcoming programming. December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


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Cantor Schwartz installed in Dothan On Nov. 17, Dothan’s Temple Emanu-El held an installation ceremony to formally recognize Cantor Neil Schwartz as their new spiritual leader. President Leon Minsky led the ceremony, featuring congregational leaders of all ages. Religious school students Isaac Butler and Emily Arenson opened the ark and Roberta and Ed Marblestone performed the symbolic ritual of the passing of the Torah to Cantor Neil. Rabbi Scott Kramer of Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery, a long-time friend of Schwartz, formally installed him and offered the priestly blessing. Tzlil McDonald, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Alabama, was also present to offer words of welcome. In the spirit of interfaith cooperation, Rev. Joseph Johnson of Evergreen Presbyterian Church gave the invocation and a welcome from the Dothan clergy, and Rev. Lynn Smilie Nesbitt of First United Methodist Church offer the benediction. Also in attendance were Mayor Mark Saliba, Rev. Msgr. Patrick Gallagher of St. Columba Catholic Church, Rev. Peter Wong of the Episcopal Church of Nativity, and Danise Peters, President of Ruth Remnant Ministries. Emanu-El’s previous rabbi, Lynne Goldsmith, retired in 2017 after 10 years in Dothan. Schwartz previously served Agudath Achim in Shreveport, and arrived in Dothan in July. Schwartz has served as a cantor and a “cantor acting as rabbi” in the United States and Canada.

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel jabs at Alabama’s presumed treatment of Jews At a speech that has been described as “edgy,” former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took swipes at Alabama’s presumed treatment of Jews as he jabbed at presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg. The Gridiron Club and Foundation winter dinner, held on Dec. 7 in Washington, is generally an event for political figures to engage in wisecracks and satire. Emanuel opened up with amazement that Bloomberg thinks America wants a short, Jewish president, “because if they were, I’d be running.” According to the Chicago Sun-Times, after a couple of jokes about Bloomberg’s wealth, Emanuel noted “Bloomberg is kicking off his campaign in Alabama. Is this a good idea? The last Jew they liked down there was Jesus.” He continued, “so Bloomberg filed for president in Alabama, and Jeff Sessions is running there again for Senate. Can you imagine the two of 6

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

agenda them at the same event? Usually, when an Alabaman (sic) by the name of Jefferson Sessions is with a small elderly Jewish guy, he’s got a pitchfork in his hand.” Alabama was not the only state he targeted, though, as he remarked that Pete Buttigieg would get the entire gay vote in North Dakota — and then named both of them. Emanuel was a member of the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009, then was the White House Chief of Staff under President Barack Obama. He was mayor of Chicago from 2011 until announcing that he would not seek a third term in 2019. Emanuel has not responded to a request from this publication for comment about his remarks.

Pennies for Penny Bat Mitzvah project to benefit new Fisher House While Penny Berman’s Bat Mitzvah project is entitled Pennies for Penny, she has a far greater goal than pennies — she hopes to raise $18,000 to help military families with the new Fisher House in New Orleans. Berman grew up “in and with the soul of New Orleans, but with the heart of a military brat.” Her great-grandfather served in the U.S. Army during World War II, while her paternal grandfather, Jack Berman, was a Holocaust survivor. “I believe it was no coincidence my father married my mother, who was serving in the military when they met.” Her mother, Carol Berman, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve with 25 years of service, Penny with her parents, at a Sept. 15 ceremony at Beth Israel in Benjamin and Lt. Col Carol Metairie. Berman, at her mother’s While having a mother in the service promotion ceremony on means she has been able to see a lot of Sept. 15 at Beth Israel, America, there are sacrifices. “When I Metairie was only four years old, my mother was deployed to Afghanistan. My father had to play both the roles of mommy and daddy for nearly two years after she was medically evacuated out of theater and placed in the Wounded Warrior program.” While she says her family was lucky, “there are many families who need an opportunity to find “normal” after bad things happen,” and Fisher House is part of that. Fisher Houses are places where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving medical treatment. Since the program began in 1990, over 80 houses have been constructed around the country, serving almost 370,000 families. The Fisher House Foundation was founded by Jewish real estate developer and philanthropist Zachary Fisher, who died in 1999. The planned house for New Orleans is the first one in Louisiana. It will be sited at the entrance to the VA Hospital on South Galvez Street. Naturally, Berman chose her fundraising goal using the Hebrew term for life, for the “life, luck and faith I have experienced.” Her Bat Mitzvah will be on Feb. 8 at Gates of Prayer in Metairie. Contributions may be sent to Friends of the Fisher House of Southern Louisiana, P.O. Box 4231, New Orleans, LA 70118, indicating Pennies for Penny NOLA on the memo line, or online at www.fisherhouselouisiana. org, mentioning Pennies for Penny NOLA on the “comments” line.

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agenda B’nai Zion Congregation and the Shreveport Jewish community are hosting Holocaust survivor Estelle Laughlin in conjunction with the University of First Presbyterian, Dec. 22 at noon at First Presbyterian Church. A survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and concentration camps, she immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 18. Her memoir is “Transcending Darkness.” The question and answer session afterward will be co-moderated by Pastor Chris Currie and Rabbi Jana De Benedetti. There is no charge for the program, lunch is available for $12 with an advance reservation to the B’nai Zion office. Plantation Productions in Montgomery is inviting participation in “Oy to the World.” The film shoot will be on Dec. 29, time to be announced, at the home of Rabbi Scott Kramer. To be added to the schedule, contact Yvette Hochberg, (303) 929-4680 or Dothan’s Temple Emanu-El annual art auction returns on Jan. 25, with a reception and preview at 6:30 p.m. and the auction starting at 7:15 p.m. The preview includes a wine, cheese and dessert reception, with the Thirsty Pig hosting a beer tasting table. Marlin Art will be doing the auction, and some of the proceeds benefit area charities. A second chance art sale will be on Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with bagels and coffee. Advance tickets to the auction are $10, or $12 at the door. There is no charge on Jan. 26. The Mobile Area Jewish Federation’s Moroccan Cooking Class with Chef Bat Hen has been rescheduled for Feb. 4 at her home, at 7 p.m. Reservations are $35 with a maximum of 15 participants, and the address will be sent following registration at the MAJF office or website. The menu includes Eastern Salads, Hreimeh fish, traditional Moroccan couscous and chicken, and Anet’s meatball. Hadassah Birmingham will celebrate a book launch with Zoe Fishman and her latest book, “Invisible As Air.” A native of Mobile, Fishman moved to Atlanta from New York in 2011 and has written several novels, including one, “Saving Ruth,” that was set in Alabama. The event will be Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. at the new Thank You Books on Crestwood Boulevard. There will be a book signing following the discussion, and proceeds will benefit Hadassah Hospital. B’nai Israel in Monroe received a grant from the National Center to Encourage Judaism to host three community events at the Temple. The grant will help pay for advertising and marketing, and food costs for the events. The first event will be the annual Chanukah Shabbat Dinner on Dec. 27. The second event will be the Community Seder on April 10, and the third event will be the annual Introduction to Judaism Class on June 13. There will be postcards and flyers at the Temple soon, to help spread the word to the community. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El is debuting a new group, “Gen XYZ: Extra Years of Zest” with a kickoff celebration on Dec. 17 at 11:30 a.m. Gen XYZ is a different type of seniors group, “for persons with that extra zest for life,” who want to find adventure, attend interesting programs and travel with fellow congregants. The kickoff luncheon features music by Ron Bourdages, a question-and-answer with Rabbi Stephen Slater and a champagne reception. Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El will have Shabbat Rocks, a Henry S. Jacobs Camp style service, on Jan. 10 at 5:45 p.m., with a fried chicken dinner following. The evening will also honor Betty Allenberg Goldstein. A Young Jewish Adult Soiree is planned for Jan. 9 in Birmingham, with details forthcoming. The event will be a joint effort of You Belong continued on page 51 8

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


The Wandering Krewe provides tours about the unique story of how Jews settled in the Big Easy.


Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge kicking off 75th anniversary Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge kicks off its 75th anniversary celebration with a January weekend that includes a visit by Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. On Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m., there will be a musical Shabbat service, where Jacobs will speak. A dinner will follow at 7:30 p.m. On Jan. 11, there will be a Covenant and Conversations learning session with Jacobs, followed by a 10 a.m. service and a noon luncheon. After lunch, local artist Susan Arnold will lead a 75th anniversary glass art project. The weekend will end with a 7 p.m. Havdalah cocktail reception and live music. The weekend of Aug. 7, there will be an anniversary Shabbaton, including a 75th anniversary dinner and show on Aug. 8, and a breakfast on Aug. 9 that includes a session on Torah repairs with a scribe. The 144-family congregation is also hosting an online trivia quiz, with 75 questions about the congregation’s history. There is also a “75 Trees for the 75th Anniversary” campaign to plant 75 trees on the property, using Biblical and native species. Anniversary sponsorship levels start at $180 and go up to the $10,000 level to sponsor all of the events and 36 written words in the Torah. There is also an online store for anniversary T-shirts, socks, mugs, phone cases and more. While a Reform congregation, Beth Shalom was founded to provide “a home for traditional Judaism in Baton Rouge… where Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews can all find a spiritual home” and initially took the name Liberal Synagogue when it was formed by 19 families in 1945. Shortly after building their current building in 1980, they adopted their Hebrew name.


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Alexandria congregation holding 160th anniversary concert Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria is celebrating its 160th anniversary with a concert, “From the Bimah to Broadway and Beyond.” The 5 p.m. concert on Jan. 12 will feature Gemiluth Chassodim Rabbi Cantor Raina Siroty, Cantor Galit Dadoun Cohen of Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, N.J.; and Cantor Joel Colman of Temple Sinai in New Orleans. Tanya Nugent will accompany on piano. The concert is free and open to the community, but reservations are requested. There will be an hors d’oeuvres and dessert reception following. Founded in 1859 by Jews from the Alsace region of France, it is one of the oldest congregations in Louisiana and one of the original founding members of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now known as the Union for Reform Judaism.

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agenda Tulane’s Schiller receiving national Hillel recognition

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In recognition of their years of service and leadership to the Hillel movement and broader Jewish community, Hillel International will honor Yonah Schiller, executive director of Tulane Hillel, and philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, chairman and CEO of BHB Holdings, at its annual Spring Celebration, recognizing outstanding Jewish life on campus, on May 12 in New York City. At Hillel’s annual Global Leadership Symposium luncheon, Martha E. Pollack, president of Cornell University, will receive the Maimonides Award, which recognizes a higher education leader who has provided exceptional leadership in helping support Jewish students and Jewish life on campus. Schiller will receive the Edgar M. Bronfman Award, which was created in honor of Matthew Bronfman’s late father. The award is presented annually to a current or former Hillel professional who has served the movement with distinction and honor, and whose impact is outstanding and lasting, like the award’s namesake. Schiller is in his 11th year as the executive director of Tulane Hillel. Before this role, Schiller served as a rabbi and as the assistant director of the University of Florida Hillel from, 2005 to 2008. Schiller created and serves as senior project advisor to the Organizational Design Lab, an initiative that addresses institutional stagnation by questioning organizational assumptions, applying design thinking and other strategies to deliver transformational change for Hillels on more than 20 university campuses across the United States and Canada. In 2017, Schiller was named one of the 50 most influential, accomplished and interesting American Jews by the Forward magazine. He serves as a national consultant to many organizations focused on building scalable systems, models and initiatives for designing inclusive and high-impact Jewish community. Bronfman will receive the Renaissance Award, Hillel’s highest honor, bestowed on an individual whose bold vision and transformative initiatives enrich the campus, the Jewish community and the world. The chairman of Ikea Israel, Bronfman serves as the honorary chair of New York University’s Hillel, the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, and is a leading supporter of Hillel International’s Latin America program. “All of our awardees this year have helped Hillels around the world think differently about how to reach our goal of engaging every Jewish college student,” said Adam Lehman, interim president and CEO of Hillel International. “Matthew Bronfman has built on his family’s legacy to ensure Jewish continuity in this new century. Yonah Schiller has helped Hillel professionals innovate by using cutting-edge strategies and new modes of thinking to connect with today’s students. And Martha Pollack has set a strong example for other university leaders in how to ensure the safety and inclusion of Jewish students. “We are so thankful for all of their continuing leadership and very much look forward to honoring them in May for their substantial contributions to our movement,” Lehman said.

Atlanta holding second Jewish Life Festival at Aquarium The second annual Atlanta Jewish Life Festival will be held at the Georgia Aquarium on Jan. 26. The festival is Atlanta’s largest single day Jewish fest, celebrating Jewish culture and community. This year’s festival will feature kosher vendors, live music and performances, Judaica art, tons of kids activities and a shuk of over 80 community partners. Tickets are already on sale at, and admission includes entry to the Georgia Aquarium for the day. 10

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

Fifty years of memories — and marriages At New Orleans reunion, Henry S. Jacobs Camp hailed for key role in Southern Jewish communities

Photos by Scott Saltzman

“From this camp will come young Jews, proud of their faith and heri- wanted their children to have a camp that they could go to in Mississippi, tage, ready to go to college as committed Jewish youth. From this camp a legacy for what the future could be, if there could just be a camp.” will come a new spirit of Jewish identification and a new hope for our A main part of the envisioned experience was for the kids to go from future.” being one of a handful of Jewish kids in a town, or the only one, to a place At the start of the Nov. 1 Shabbat service, Rabbi Katie Bauman of Tou- where everyone and everything was Jewish, strengthening their Jewish ro Synagogue in New Orleans read those words from a mid-1960s bro- identity and self-confidence. chure from the Camp Association of Southern Temples, promoting the With Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, concept of what would become the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Miss., in attendance, it was also an opportunity to reiterate how important the and declared those words prophetic. camp is in the small-community world — and to the larger Jewish world. As long-time camp director Macy Hart would say later in the evening, Hart cautioned that he does not know whether this is true, but he is “We’re a miracle. We weren’t supposed to exist.” “known for hyperbole,” though Jacobs Camp may be the smallest camp, But not only did Jacobs Camp defy the odds and come into existence “I believe we have the highest per capita production of rabbis and profesin the summer of 1970, it has thrived for 50 summers, as evidenced by sional Jewish educators.” the almost 500 people who came from across the country to celebrate an Herman noted the large number of rabbis, cantors and educators at the anniversary weekend in New Orleans. reunion who are Jacobs alumni, saying the per capita number not only Anna Herman, a former camper who became camp director in 2014, is “off the charts,” but “they attribute Jacobs Camp as a huge part of their said “we were so thrilled and so blown away that so many people from journey to be Jewish professionals.” across North America wanted to be togethAlso among the Jacobs alumni is Rabbi er,” and she saw so many people see camp Katie Bauman, a New Orleans native who friends from many years ago and “recongrew up in Little Rock and is now the rabnect as if it had been no time.” bi of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, “I heard from so many people it was where the reunion weekend’s first events just like being at camp for the weekend or were held. at NFTY, where they stayed up all night,” The two camp directors at Jacobs since Herman said, and when the weekend was Hart stepped down in 2000 — Herman and over “people felt that same old pang in their Jonathan Cohen — are both camp alumni. stomach that they haven’t felt since those Similarly, at the Goldring/Woldenberg days” when they were sad that camp was Institute of Southern Jewish Life, which over. Hart founded and was “spawned by JaJacobs was founded in a region where cobs Camp,” he was succeeded by Michelle most of the Jewish communities were very Schipper, a former Jacobs camper, staff small, even tiny. Hart said the camp is the Song sessions were held during the weekend at Touro member and assistant director. “legacy of a group of zealot parents who Synagogue (above) and the Uptown JCC There were also many couples at the reDecember 2019 • Southern Jewish Life







union who met at camp, and in some cases had their weddings at the camp. Over the weekend, there were allusions to one of the goals of camp being a place where Jewish youth could meet, fall in love and eventually marry, with the notion that they would then provide what Hart semi-jokingly referred to as “inventory” to fill the camp in future years.

Reunion Weekend

The weekend began with a reception in the garden outside Touro Synagogue, where everyone received their nametags and adorned them with ribbons from the informative — such as the decade they were at camp, or camp parent — to items such as “Lunch Skit Oscar Winner,” “Most Nikayon Wins,” “Staff Infection,” “Fried Chicken Lover” and “I Saw Dragfoot.” Historical displays, including the annual full-camp photos, lined the courtyard and reappeared at each venue during the weekend. Bauman led the Shabbat evening service, accompanied by Rabbi Micah Streiffer and Rabbi John Kaplan, who had been songleaders “and dear friends” at camp. While it is said that the Jewish people keep Shabbat and Shabbat has kept the Jewish people, Bauman said Jacobs Camp “has in many ways kept us,” and Touro was “overjoyed” to be hosting the reunion. Bauman explained that it is “a career perk of mine that I never actually left Jacobs Camp. Every summer for the last 11 years I have had the chance to spend time there, watching the current generation’s spin on the Jacobs Magic.” At Rosh Hashanah this year, her message was of Noah’s Ark as a “laboratory for kindness,” and the Torah portion for the reunion weekend was Noah. She realized Jacobs Camp is also a laboratory for kindness, and introduced Hart as its “first and most committed researcher.” As was the case with so many there that night, there are “few individuals who have made as large an impact on my life as Macy Hart,” she said. Hart said it had been “a very emotional week” leading up to the “miracle” of the 50th anniversary. The camp’s success can be attributed to one thing, he said — “You should never, ever underestimate the determination of Southern Jewish parents to create an experience for their Jewish children.” Henry S. Jacobs was a third-generation native of New Orleans, born in 1907. He was interested in music, but his father allowed him to study everything but. He went into the family business, which failed in the late 1930s. Jacobs then became executive director, organist and Sunday School director at Temple Sinai. After World War II, Jacobs quickly began to realize “that we were losing our kids” because Jewish education was no longer taking place at home, it was delegated to Sunday School. He helped start the Southern Federation of Temple Youth, and pushed the idea for a camp that he would never see, as he died in 1965.

Reunion weekend operations co-chairs Naomi and Larry Orlansky, and Friday night co-chairs Ellen Balkin and Michelle Soll light the Shabbat candles at Touro on Nov. 1


December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

community In 1959, the Camp Association of Southern Temples was formed by Celeste Orkin, who served as its president for 10 years. In 1965, Hart said the movement’s National Committee on Camps and Institutes voted no to having a camp in Mississippi. Another attempt was made in 1967. “Meanwhile, SOFTY were doing all these demonstrations, ‘we want a camp!’ We did everything we could to convince our parents and asked our parents to convince the movement that we should have a camp.” All clergy in attendance concluded the Nov. 1 Shabbat service with “Sabbath Prayer” For Hart, being involved with SOFTY and then the National Federation of Temple Youth was a way for a kid in the only Jewish family in Winona, Miss., to meet Jewish peers from around the region and country. He became national president of NFTY in 1967. Another attempt to convince the national movement to open a camp in Mississippi was made in 1969, and “once again they voted no.” The “group of zealots” called for a recess, Hart said, then they asked for the leadership to reconsider the vote because in the spring of 1967, “the ground was broken to build the camp.” Behind closed doors, the group said, “it’s too bad you don’t want the camp, because we are opening in June 1970 with you or without you, but we really would like to be a part of SOFTY, NFTY.” When the meeting resumed, “they changed the vote” and on Aug. 15, 1970 the camp was dedicated. Rabbi Alexander Schindler took the deed to the camp for the Reform movement. “We weren’t supposed to last maybe three or four years because there aren’t enough Jews in the Reform movement” in the area, Hart said. It has been said that the camp would have to draw one-fourth of the entire camping-age Reform Jewish population of the region to fill its beds. “But here we are 50 years later, because of the determination of Jewish parents in the South who don’t always have all the benefits you have in urban areas. They wanted their children to have this experience, and boy have we had this Magen David Adom (MDA) is Israel’s official ambulance, blood-services, and experience.” disaster-relief agency, serving the nation’s 9 million people. But like every other The summer of 1969, Hart was a senior in Red Cross agency around the world, MDA doesn’t receive regular government college, and felt he owed the Reform movement support. That’s why it relies on people like you. something for all the opportunities he had Since the 1930s, generous Americans like you have provided the vehicles, through NFTY. Coming from Winona, “I am training, and equipment that’s kept Israelis healthy and strong. the least plausible individual to be in that position,” and he felt a sense of gratitude. There are many ways to support Israel, but none that has a greater effect on its He offered to work for the Reform movement people and its future than a gift to Magen David Adom. Your support isn’t just for free in New York for two years, after which changing lives — it’s literally saving them. he would go back to Mississippi and run for Make an end-of-year donation to Magen David Adom at governor. He wound up being sent to MississipAnd our best wishes for a joyous Chanukah and New Year. pi to learn how to run a summer camp. Rabbi Sol Kaplan had opened the Reform movement’s Camp Harlam in Pennsylvania, and was tapped to open Jacobs in 1970. “Rabbi Kaplan hired me, I hired my first staff member in October 1969 and showed up,” Hart said.

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Forty-nine of the 50 years of Jacobs Camp directors, represented on three chairs held aloft at the Nov. 2 gala — Jonathan Cohen, Anna Herman and Macy Hart. The late Rabbi Sol Kaplan was the founding director for the first summer. Kaplan “was the adult in the room,” Hart said. “When the summer was over, there weren’t any adults left in the room, just me, and we had a camp to run.” He was thankful — and somewhat amazed — that so many parents entrusted their children to him. “You have to know that in reality, all of you who were at camp, who were campers when I had the honor of being director, you made me… You helped me grow up and be in a positon where I could be a part of your lives.” Rick Jacobs pulled from the introduction to the week’s portion being about “the generations of Noah” and said “These are the generations of this extraordinary camp,” and “we are blessed to celebrate this milestone.” He recently was making a Shabbat dinner when some of his guests saw his Jacobs Camp “if it ain’t fried, it ain’t food” apron. They expressed astonishment that a camp had already been named for him so early in his tenure, but he said it wasn’t named for him, and “that camp is one of the most extraordinary places on this Earth.” His first visit to the camp as president came on a Shabbat where he started at Temple Israel in Memphis, where Bauman was serving at the time, then Shabbat morning in Greenville at Hebrew Union Congrega-

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The Innocent Girls dish about camp life: Rachel Schulman, Patti Micklin, Michelle Schipper and their counselor, Terrie Welz, playing the role of the fourth Innocent Girl, Joel Ashner. 14

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

tion, the afternoon at Beth Israel in Jackson and arriving at camp for Havdalah. He sat with the younger campers, and when he asked one of them why he was so wide-eyed, the child who is the only Jewish kid in his town replied that “I can’t believe all these kids are Jewish.” A native of Dothan, Herman related a similar experience. After her rabbi and Hart recruited her and she got to camp for the first time, “I absolutely could not believe that all the kids on the upper athletic field were Jewish. ‘They have got to be actors,’ I told myself.” In concluding the service, Bauman called on all the clergy in the room to come forward to end “in the best Jacobs Camp way possible,” with the “Sabbath Prayer” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” which Bauman said was “a tradition started by Rabbi Sol and Peggy Kaplan, on the first week of the first session of Jacobs Camp, ever.” In Jacobs Camp tradition, Shabbat dinner was fried chicken. Among the alumni taking in the weekend was Ken Jacobs of Tallahassee — grandson of Henry Jacobs. Wanting to make friends on his own, when he went to camp, he didnt let on that the camp was named for his grandfather — though later during his first summer, his grandmother visited the camp and some other campers “figured it out.” He reflected, “grandpa would have been just ecstatic with this. It was his dream.”

Saturday Morning at Camp

The party shifted to the Uptown Jewish Community Center, with those who did not stay up all night showing up early for Shabbat services, led by camp alumna Rabbi Judith Lazarus Siegal, a New Orleans native. She recalled how at camp, “many of my best friends were the only Jewish children in their town or school.”

SJL photo

Rabbi Harry Danziger, Rabbi Bob Loewy, Lisa Cyzner and Rabbi Cantor John Kaplan lead Havdalah at the National World War II Museum The service had a camp feel, with “Modeh Ani” to “Feelin’ Groovy,” and “Al Shlosha D’varim” morphed into “Country Roads,” then “Circle Game” and “The Dreamer.” At the start of the Torah service, Macy and Susan Hart carried the Torah through the auditorium. Rabbi Harry Danziger did the Torah reading, with the Aliyah going to all the rabbis, cantors and educators who had been campers. Danziger said he was representing “the founding rabbis, and I’m the only one left who really knew them.” At the time of the camp’s founding, he was rabbi at B’nai Israel in Monroe, then was senior rabbi at Temple Israel in Memphis from 1978 to 2000, and now serves Adath Israel in Cleveland, Miss., monthly. Danziger said Jacobs Camp “has been the heart of Jewish life in the region” and as a congregational rabbi, he says “we couldn’t replicate the amount of Jewish learning you have at camp.” The kids who came back from camp transformed their Temples and

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


community communities, he said. As an example, in the early days, probably 95 percent of campers had never heard of or seen Havdalah. “Havdalah came back because of camp, and camp music.” He added, “In many big cities in America, where most Jews don’t belong to synagogues, products of Jacobs Camp are often leaders, lay, leaders, rabbis, educators.” While the movement may have been leery of starting a visible Jewish institution in Mississippi in the 1960s, shortly after two Jewish civil rights workers were murdered and synagogues were bombed, Rick Jacobs said the region is a vital part of the Reform movement’s history. “If you look at a map of where the first congregations were,” when the Reform movement began in the 1870s, “a lot of them were here.” Camp is “not just feeling that you are part of something,” he said, it’s being “touched and nourished by the depths of Judaism.” The camp has become intertwined with Southern Jewish communities in so many ways, Rick Jacobs said. After visiting camp in 2016, he went to Baton Rouge to see the results of major flooding in the area, and Herman was there “rolling up her sleeves.” “It wasn’t a mitzvah project for someone else, it was her community.”


December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

Similarly, Jacobs was a refuge after Hurricane Katrina, and under Jonathan Cohen’s leadership, set up a major distribution point for aid that had rolled in from across the country. Going back to the 1980s, the camp became a repository for artifacts from congregations that were closing or downsizing, leading to the establishment of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, which was housed there until 2012 and will reopen next year in New Orleans. The museum and Jacobs experiences then led to the formation of ISJL, now a major Jewish resource affecting 13 states. Rick Jacobs said Jacobs Camp is “a pillar of strength for the entire community.” The morning events continued with children’s art projects, Ga Ga, basketball, another sing-along and lunch in the outdoor pavilion. The evening brought a celebration and memory-swapping with a party at the National World War II Museum, including a type of adult bug juice never served at camp. Rabbi Michael Danziger, former winner of “Funniest Jew in the South,” emceed and did “Hey, Where’d The Years Go.” “The Innocent Girls,” Patti Micklin, Michele Schipper, Rachel Schulman and their counselor, Terrie Welz, filling in for Joel Ashner, provided

camp gossip, and the trio of Jeff Asher, David Newman and Abram Orlansky did “Words of Our New Fathers,” a satirical reunion take on the annual Camp Megillah. Amanda Abrams and Ben Dorfman wrote “At Jacobs Camp,” which a group sang to the tune of “Brown Eyed Girl.” The evening also included a Fiddler-style birthday celebration where Hart, Cohen and Herman, who have directed the camp for 49 of the 50 years, were each lifted on chairs and paraded around the dance floor. Cohen, a Tupelo native who led the camp from 2001 to 2014, was a surprise last-minute guest, as he originally was not going to be able to make the weekend, but flew down that morning. The evening concluded with the aforementioned camp staple, Havdalah and a Friendship Circle, led by Rabbi Harry Danziger, Rabbi Bob Loewy, Rabbi Cantor John Kaplan and Lisa Cyzner. While Herman says the Jacobs Magic continues, they are always “evolving our program” to stay “very competitive in the summer camp landscape.” The camp will “stay true to what kept us special for 50 years, while being cutting edge enough to be around for the next 50.”

Beth Israel celebrates 150 years of leadership in Meridian As Congregation Beth Israel President Lou Newman began his remarks at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Meridian Temple, he commented that it was odd he should recount the congregation’s history, as he has been in Meridian for just five years, while many of those in the room were part of six-generation families at the congregation. He pointed out Harold Meyer, the oldest member at age 96, who “has experienced 64 percent of our entire 150 years.” About 70 people were in the sanctuary for the Nov. 15 service. Though the current membership is just 25 families, “some of which are living in other towns,” Newman said, at the reception following the service, plans were being laid for the 175th anniversary — and a congregational cruise for the bicentennial. Scott Strasser said a legacy campaign that had taken place for the anniversary had produced an entire year’s worth of budget for the congregation, “another year of life.”

With Rabbi Barry Altman looking on, Jennie Herrington lights the Shabbat candles at the Nov. 17 150th anniversary celebration for Beth Israel in Meridian He also noted there will be a greater effort to stay in touch with those who have Meridian roots, to keep them informed of congregational activities and make planning easier for the 175th anniversary. The small Meridian congregation has an outsized effect on Jewish history, and its members also have provided a huge legacy in Meridian history. Rita Herzog of Nashville represented the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish

Life in bringing greetings. She recounted visiting the congregation for the first time shortly after its 125th anniversary, when she became engaged to Meridianite Drew Herzog and they came to Beth Israel for a wedding blessing. “We were so welcomed, with so many outstretched arms,” and now she was representing the Institute as “an extension of the Herzog family.” She said the congregation’s members “hold their Southern Jewish roots strong,” and have “created children and grandchildren who have


December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


community moved away from Meridian, who have embraced their Judaism, who are proud Jews thanks to the warm and comforting roots they have here at Beth Israel, and the ISJL board is well represented by Meridianites.” Drew Herzog recalled that growing up at Beth Israel made him who he is. “Other Jewish children from bigger towns might have received a more thorough religious education, and might have benefited by being part of a larger community, but they do not have the same wonderful perspective that I gained.” Jay Davidson commented that “While today we are only a fraction of the size of the congregation at its peak, I love our enthusiasm and commitment in keeping the temple going,” and also credits the greater Meridian community for their support. Len Maith recalled growing up in Laurel, when there were just three or four Jewish families remaining and a small synagogue that opened only on holidays. He eventually moved to Meridian, and his children attended religious school at Beth Israel. Strasser said his family “came to this area long before there was a Jewish congregation or even a Meridian. My ancestor David Rosenbaum was the first president of Beth Israel when it formed in 1869. For 150 years, Rosenbaums have been members of Beth Israel.” In 2014, his “proudest moment” was when his son Dylan became a Bar Mitzvah there. “I handed him the Torah and told him ‘this is the Torah of your ancestors. You are the seventh generation to stand before this congregation and read from the Torah. Today this is your congregation’.” Even with the multi-generational members, there are also newcomers. Ester and Oz BenDavid joined in 2016, saying that when they arrived from Israel as a young couple with a baby, Beth Israel “welcomed us with open arms and embraced us to this special community with an endless warmth that made us feel at home from day one.” Coming from Israel where synagogues and Jewish communities are everywhere, “we are amazed by the fact that this very small group of people succeeded to uphold and continue the existence of this congregation for 150 years.” The community began with David Rosenbaum’s arrival in Marion, followed by the Threefoots, Isaac Rosenbaum and Leopold Rosenbaum. When the railroad went to Meridian, everyone moved there, and in 1868 land for a cemetery was purchased to bury two peddlers who had died. “Service were held in numerous locations over the years,” Newman said, and in 1873 the first rabbi, David Burgheim, arrived. With 50 members in 1878, the congregation built its first building, on 22nd Avenue. It was the first building in the city with gas lighting. In 1906, with over 80 members, a larger building was constructed at 11th Street and 24th Avenue. It had a fire during its first year, leading the congregation to meet temporarily at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. In 1879, there were 32 children in the religious school, “reflecting that many members were young families.” The 1906 building sat 500 and was “truly one of the grandest synagogues in the South at the time.” There were 82 members, including 42 children in the school. By 1927, there were 575 Jews in Meridian. “Eastern European immigration swelled the growth, and members did all they could to sponsor, find jobs and living arrangements for and teaching English to those who came. Many financed business ventures for the newcomers,” Newman said. For those not comfortable with a Reform service, Ohel Jacob was organized as an Orthodox congregation, meeting in the home of Louis Davidson. In 1929 they built a small building. Never a large congregation, “later Ohel Jacob members would celebrate Shabbat with Beth Israel and only open their building for the High Holy Days,” Newman said. He added, “Meridian never experienced the conflicts and tensions that many times happened in towns with two separate associations.” Ohel Ja18

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

cob closed in 1990, and “all were welcomed into Beth Israel.” Many in the Jewish community had a large effect on Meridian. Israel Marks and his brothers played a large role in establishing Highland Park, donating land for it. Marks was president of the parks commission from its beginning until his death in 1914, “and a statue of him was erected as a testimonial to his unselfish public service.” But Newman said Marks was probably best remembered for the plan to build a grand opera house next door to his business. “It brought performers from all over the world to Meridian” and now lives on as the Riley Center. The Baums had a wholesale dry goods business that eventually spread over an entire downtown block, named the Baum Block. A.J. Lyon wholesale grocery was the “largest in Mississippi for over 50 years” and when the depression hit, Ike Rosenbaum, president of the company, would let those who had always been honest in their dealings have supplies on credit. One was JP Clark and Sons, a retailer in Lauderdale county, Newman recalled. “During a Sunday service at his Presbyterian church, the preacher announced that Jews would never be able to go to heaven. Immediately, Mr. Clark got up and headed for the door, announcing to all, if Ike Rosenbaum can’t go, then I don’t want to go.” The Threefoot family built a well-known grocery business, building the landmark Threefoot Building that is now being renovated into a hotel. “Unfortunately, they built the building just as the Great Depression hit, and it led to the closing of the business.” When Abraham Threefoot died in 1898, many businesses closed for the day so people could attend the funeral, Newman said. Also, “when the YMCA feared falling short of funding for their new building, the

Beth Israel’s 1964 building Threefoots stepped in with a donation and completed the building.” Loeb’s became known for fine clothing, and Alfred Rosenbaum was a leading businessman who served as mayor for eight years. Rosenbaum “was instrumental in bringing the Naval Air Station to Meridian, expanded the National Guard complex… and developed a military presence in Meridian that is unrivaled in Eastern Mississippi,” Newman said. “This theme has run throughout our history, of the active and determined work of individuals in congregational leadership in the greater Meridian community, starting with local businesspeople who established themselves in Meridian and continuing with members that took part in all community organizations, and clergy that were willing to take unpopular stances in order to advance civil rights,” Newman said. Rabbi Judah Wechsler, who served Beth Israel in the 1880s, campaigned for African American education, and led a movement to have a bond issue to construct the first brick public school building for African American students. The school was named for him and the building still stands. The congregation also “pushed the envelope” in naming Paula Ack-


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erman as its spiritual leader, well before women were being ordained as rabbis. She was asked to take that role after the 1950 death of her husband, Rabbi William Ackerman, who had served the congregation since 1926. Though she never took the title of rabbi, she was regarded as the first female spiritual leader of a Jewish community, though many news reports called her “America’s first lady rabbi.” She served until 1953. Newman said the first wedding she was to officiate involved the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Kay. Milton Grafman, the rabbi at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, where the bride’s mother grew up, called to offer his services. “When told Mrs. Ackerman was performing the service, he said she can’t do that, to which Mrs. Kay replied, according to the laws of Mississippi she can. And that was the end of that.” The rabbi in Nashville at the time received the same reaction, he added. The current building opened in the suburbs in 1964, followed by the Rosenbaum Social Hall and education building. A Holocaust memorial was commissioned by three local Christians and presented as a gift to the congregation. Local artist Helen P. Shapiro designed it, and also drew the watercolor of the downtown Temple that was used as the artwork on the anniversary invitation. Beth Israel “was silently on the side of desegregation and spoke out against KKK activities,” Newman said. “The entire Jewish community had close relations with African-American leaders and lay people… This of course ran against the grain with segregationists, resulting with the bombing of the education building.” The damage was so severe the building was demolished, although some of the stained glass was salvaged and now adorns the front windows of the main building. Money was raised in Meridian and in Jackson, where their Beth Israel Congregation and rabbi’s home were bombed, to recruit paid informants to turn on the bombers, and they were caught when they attempted to bomb the home of Meyer Davidson. “We have always been proud to point out that none of the bombers were local or from the Meridian area,” Newman related. “Indeed, the Meridian community made it known there was no support for such heinous actions.” After the 1960s, membership at Beth Israel declined. “It is not unique to Meridian. It is a story that is played out all over the South,” Newman said, as fewer businesses are passed down to younger generations. “There may come a day when small businesses may decide they can locate anywhere and thrive by using the Internet, and the draw of the big city may wear thin,” he said. “Either way, we are dedicated to keeping Beth Israel as viable as possible. We are a small group but everyone steps up when needed.” Newman also recognized several visitors for the evening. Among those in attendance were Mayor Percy Bland and wife Deidre, Ward I council member George Thomas and wife Linda, and Richie McAlister, “who is instrumental in coordinating extra security when we need it.” He acknowledged Rabbi David Goldstein, emeritus of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, who served Beth Israel for a decade. Newman told him and his wife Shannie “we loved you both then, and we love you both now.” Goldstein said “coming from a much larger city and synagogue I was positively delighted to be invited to serve at Beth Israel” and found “a committed and energetic core of Jews who highly valued their Jewish heritage and who were determined to remain a proud link in the contin-

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


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uum of Jewish life in Meridian.” Newman also thanked Risa Herzog for representing ISJL, saying “I guess (ISJL founder) Macy (Hart) had a good idea after all.” He acknowledged current visiting rabbi Barry Altman, saying “you add so much to our Jewish life, and you do it with such good humor.” Altman said, after 38 years with Temple BethEl in Ormond Beach, Fla., he never thought he would lead another congregation, but Barbaree Heaster asked him to officiate her mother’s funeral in Meridian. The Heasters split time between Mississippi and Ormond Beach. Seeing the Meridian community “was a revelation,” Altman said. “It struck me how amazing Beth Israel was, and it was apparent how important it was to all to preserve and glory in the history and traditions of Meridian.” Newman also acknowledged the presence of this publication, and said “in typical Southern Jewish sentiment, we hope that the entire region reads of our spunky little congregation and this celebration and eats their heart out.”



Our Soldiers Speak founder headlines Israel Bonds programs Joint service in Baton Rouge, event planned for New Orleans For the first time in years, Israel Bonds will have a program in Baton Rouge as the community’s two congregations unite for a joint Shabbat service. Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, founder of Our Soldiers Speak, will be the guest speaker for the 6 p.m. service on Jan. 24 at B’nai Israel. He is the lead lecturer for the organization, which has reached diverse audiences at almost 400 college campuses, discussing the difficulties Israel Defense Forces face in asymmetrical combat situations where the other side has no rules. Anthony is a veteran of the second Lebanon War in 2006, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. He speaks annually on Capitol Hill and arranges briefings with senior IDF officers for members of Congress. An informal Israeli-style Shabbat dinner is being planned after the service. There will be no service at Beth Shalom that evening. An Israel Bonds event is also being planned for the weekend in New Orleans, with details to be announced.


December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

community New Orleans student experiences Israel through a scientist’s eyes by Haley Cohen Special to Southern Jewish Life

In Hebrew, “Amaris” means “promised by God.” It’s a fitting name for a girl who has been offered millions of dollars of scholarships and recently returned from a summer of working in the labs of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science alongside renowned scientists — all before beginning her freshman year of college. Born and raised in New Orleans, Amaris Lewis took an interest in bioengineering from an early age. “My interest arises from my desire to impact medical patients directly by developing drugs in a lab myself,” she said. Toward the end of her senior year at Lusher Charter School in New Orleans, Lewis applied and was accepted to the Dr. Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute at the Weizmann Institute. For one month, Lewis joined a delegation of 20 American teens — and 75 others from around the globe — to live in Israel and work in the Weizmann Institute labs. She did research in the Institute’s protein biochemistry lab, focusing on purifying proteins, which she said could be “beneficial in possibly developing more efficient pharmaceuticals.” Having never travelled to Israel before, Lewis and her parents were apprehensive about safety. But the whole family agreed this was a oncein-a-lifetime experience not to be passed up. “It was a nice surprise that once I arrived, I felt completely fine,” she said. Lewis’s pre-trip jitters were put to ease by receiving an unexpected email. When Janis Rabin, national vice president and executive director of the Southern California American Committee for the Weizmann Institute region, read about Lewis’s accomplishments, she knew she had to

contact the teenager. Rabin, also a New Orleans native, attended Lusher Charter School and graduated in 1965, when it was called Fortier High School, a segregated public school (the school was renamed following Hurricane Katrina). Rabin’s father attended the school too, decades earlier. “To say you were a Zionist at that time was not really politically correct,” Rabin explained. “When I saw the picture of this young woman, it really touched me to see that Amaris was going to be in Israel and have opportunities that 50 years ago she would not have had.” Rabin explained that Lewis, as an African American, would not have been able to attend her high school when Rabin was a student. Rabin said her connection to Lewis was emotional and she quickly reached out to wish Lewis “safe travels.” “It was really comforting to have a connection with Weizmann that’s so close to home because I was one of only two participants from the south and only one from Louisiana,” Lewis said. “I think I brought it to the attention of everyone that I was so moved


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by how far my city has come. This young woman is so accomplished and has been given so many opportunities,” Rabin said. “Amaris will make a difference to society. And that’s the beauty of the Weizmann Institute — that there are no political boundaries that would prevent anyone from participating in world class science.” Lewis echoed Rabin’s sentiment that there are no boundaries holding her back from achieving her dream of “improving the quality of the human condition.” When it came time to apply to colleges, Lewis aimed high and applied to a dozen exceptionally competitive schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Vanderbilt, Emory, Rice, Tulane, USC, Carnegie Mellon and LSU. She was accepted to all of the universities, winning multiple prestigious scholarships. But for an adolescent with so many achievements, Lewis sounds surprisingly humble. She said she had much to learn from her fellow ISSI participants — specifically the Jewish ones. “Where I’m from, I hadn’t interacted with a lot of Jewish people before. I only knew very surface level stuff, like maybe a little bit about Chanukah,” she said. “I learned so much being immersed in a diverse pool of people, eating different foods, seeing other people observe Shabbat and seeing their prayers.” Lewis also got to experience her first hike, which she called a trip highlight. “Hiking Masada was the most memorable moment. We got to explore the natural world that inspired all of the people there to become scientists. And that sunrise was indescribable,” she said. Back in the U.S., Lewis is staying busy. She began her freshman year at Stanford University this fall and is balancing academics with her many pastimes — ballet, violin and competitive swimming. Yet, Lewis said finding the time to return to Israel remains on her mind. “I certainly want to go back. There’s so much I haven’t seen yet and I want to learn more about Jewish people and their culture and history,” she said. “I really admire all of the foundational work that the Institute does that could translate to the next big discovery. I’d love to come back both as a scientist and as a global citizen.”

ISJL names Herzog development director Risa Klein Herzog of Nashville has joined the staff of the Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life as director of development. Herzog will remain in Nashville, working remotely for the ISJL and traveling frequently on their behalf. She brings 30 years of development experience to the team, having worked for 22 years at the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and eight years in the secular nonprofit world at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. “I’ve kept an eye on the ISJL as it developed over the years,” says Herzog. “My hometown, Nashville, is a larger Southern Jewish community, and my husband, Drew, grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. So I’ve long known of the importance the ISJL has and how it impacts so many Southern Jewish communities, never forgetting the smaller and under-served communities like Meridian while also partnering with larger communities like Nashville. I’m honored to join the ISJL at such an important time in the organization’s history, and I’m so excited to connect with communities and help take the ISJL to the next level.” The ISJL will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2020. The organization’s staff and board are planning a “Year of Vision,” with lots of engagement throughout the year including strategic planning, events and continued partnerships with communities across the South. 24

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

community Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat named to Consulate in Miami Khaldi will oversee Florida, Alabama, Mississippi Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat has become the acting Consul General at Israel’s Consulate in Miami, effective Nov. 25. The Miami Consulate serves an area that includes Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, as well as Puerto Rico. Ishmael Khaldi succeeds Consul General Lior Haiat, who was named spokesman of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs before his expected time in Miami was completed. Khaldi was born and raised in Khawalid, a small Bedouin community in northern Israel near Haifa. He was one of 11 siblings, and grew up without electricity or running water in his home, living in a tent until age 8, as his family raised sheep and goats. Encouraged by his parents to attend college, he started working at a nearby kibbutz, then decided to join the Israel Defense Forces. He served in the IDF and the Israeli police, also earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Haifa and a master’s degree in political science and international relations from Tel Aviv University. He started a project called “Hike and Learn with Bedouins in the Galilee,” bringing young Jews to the area to learn about Bedouin culture and the transformation of Khawalid to a modern society. He says the encounter with many of the thousands of participants in the project inspired him to become a diplomat. In 2004, he started working for the Foreign Ministry. He first served in the Arabic Media Department as the spokesperson to the Arabic media during the disengagement from Gaza, and then was appointed Deputy Consul General in San Francisco between 2006 and 2009. From 2009 until 2011, Khaldi served as the policy adviser to the

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman. Most recently, Lieberman was Minister of Defense until resigning in November 2018 to form the Yisrael Beitenu party, which some have seen as the spoiler in the last two Israeli elections, keeping both Likud and the Blue and White parties from being able to form a ruling coalition. In 2012 Khaldi assumed the role as Counselor for Civil Society Affairs at the Embassy of Israel in London, serving there until November 2015. While posted at Kathmandu as Israel’s ambassador to Nepal, earlier this year he teamed with the local Chabad rabbi to make miniature oxygen tanks available for rental, to Consul General Ishmael Khaldi protect them from altitude sickness in case of emergency. Rabbi Hezkl Lifshitz explained that many hikers don’t carry the tanks because of their weight and expense, so this project made oxygen easier to transport and more affordable. An Israeli hiker died in a jeep accident on a Himalaya ridge two years ago. As a Muslim diplomat representing Israel, Khaldi has been a particular target of anti-Israel groups when speaking on college campuses. On Nov.

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community 14, his appearance at Middlebury College was met with a protest by about 25 students. His talk was about facilitating conversations between Bedouins and Jews in Israel, and what it means to be a minority in Israel. Nepal is a popular tourism destination for Israelis, and after the 2015 earthquake, Israel sent a delegation of 250 medical personnel and rescue workers. Among other incidents, during his 2011 talk at Kent State University, former Associate Professor of History Julio Pino interrupted his lecture by shouting “Death to Israel.” Back in Israel, he has been fighting bureaucracy for years to get the access road to Khawalid, paved, providing reliable access to jobs and healthcare in nearby towns. He also has fought to maintain the Bedouin character of 13 such small communities in northern Israel. Khaldi is the author of “A Shepherd’s Journey: The Story of Israel’s First Bedouin Diplomat,” detailing his early service representing Israel. From Miami, he will oversee relations with what his predecessor called “probably the most pro-Israel area of the U.S.” This is not the first time Alabama and Mississippi have welcomed a non-Jewish diplomat from Israel. From 2006 to 2010, Reda Mansour, who is Druze, was consul general in Atlanta, as the Atlanta consulate had Alabama and Mississippi as part of its territory at the time.

Mobile Jewish Film Festival Announces Lineup Now in its 19th year, the Mobile Jewish Film Festival has announced its extensive lineup of films and venues for the 2020 festival, which will run from Jan. 16 to Feb. 2. The opening film, “Besa,” will be screened on Jan. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mobile Museum of Art. The film details the Muslim community of Nazi-occupied Albania, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during World War II. It is told through the eyes of two men joined in a remarkable quest. This is being shown in conjunction with an art exhibit dealing with the same subject. Admission is free but reservations are required to the Mobile Area Jewish Federation office. A reception will begin at 5 p.m., and a guided tour of the BESA exhibit follows the film. “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles” will screen on Jan. 18 at Springhill Avenue Temple. The documentary is the inside story on how a risky Broadway show with mixed reviews became a cultural icon, with a celebrated film adaptation and becoming the first Broadway musical to exceed 3,000 performances. There will be a dinner with live music at 6 p.m., and the film at 7 p.m. 26

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

community On Jan. 20, the festival moves to the University of South Alabama’s Laidlaw Center for the Performing Arts. “Marshall” will recognize Martin Luther King Day. In the film, a young Thurgood Marshall travels to Connecticut to defend a young black man accused of sexual assault. He is forced to join forces with a local Jewish lawyer as they contend with racist and anti-Semitic views. David Meola will lead a discussion after the 7 p.m. screening. “Prosecuting Evil, The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz” will screen on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. The film celebrates this 98-year-old, diminutive Jew who at the age of 27 put mass-murdering Nazis on trial at Nuremberg as chief prosecutor. He has continued to wage a life-long crusade for law and peace. The final Laidlaw screening, “Shoelaces,” will be Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. The film about a father and his adult special needs son was up for eight Israeli academy awards and won Best Narrative Film at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. A dessert reception follows. On Jan. 26, it will be baseball season with “The Spy Behind Home Plate,” the incredible story of Moe Berg, who played for five major league baseball teams while leading a secret life spying for the OSS during World War II. The film will be at Springhill Avenue Temple at 3 p.m. On Jan. 28 at 7 p.m., the festival moves to Fairhope and the USA Performance Center with the drama, “The Light of Hope,” the harrowingly true story of Elizabeth Eidenbenz, a Red Cross nurse who saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish mothers and infants during World War II, providing refugees shelter and safety from the Nazis. Eidenbenz has been awarded the status of Righteous Among the Nations by the state of Israel. “Promise at Dawn” screens on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Bernheim Hall in the Ben May Library. This is an epic film about the life of author Romain Gary, and the woman who was responsible for his success, his mother. Gary went on to become a World War II aviator, diplomat, filmmaker, and husband of actress Jean Seberg. “To Dust” will be at Ahavas Chesed on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. The dark comedy and buddy movie involves a widowed cantor who enlists the help of a college biology professor, played by Matthew Broderick, to find out what’s to become of the body of his deceased wife. Special guest will be religious educator Mason Voit, a Mobile native whose son, Sammy Voit, is featured in the film. The festival wraps up on Feb. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at Ahavas Chesed, with “Golda’s Balcony,” the film adaptation of the one-woman stage play. The film has won all 20 of the competitive festivals where it has screened. Ticket and sponsorship information can be found at

YEAR-END CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS 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, 2019 • All stock transfers must be completed and in our account on or before December 31, 2019 • To be sure your gift is complete, please don’t wait until the last minute.

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community Holocaust in Film series in B’ham The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center will hold its eighth annual “Holocaust In Film” series at the Emmet O’Neal Library in Crestline. The series starts on Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. with the Serbian film “When Day Breaks,” as Misha Brankov learns the truth about his identity and how the Brankov family saved him from the Nazis. On Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m., “Box for Life” is the story of Noah Klieger, who survived by faking his way onto the Auschwitz boxing squad, and became and influential Israeli journalist after the war. On Jan. 26 at 2 p.m., “The Good Nazi” is the story of Major Karl Plagge, commandant of a forced labor camp, who risked his life to save Vilna’s Jews. The series concludes on Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. with “Who Will Write Our History,” about the clandestine group Oyneg Shabes in the Warsaw Ghetto. Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum, they risked their lives so that even if they did not survive, the truth of what they went through would. Discussions of the films will be led by Andre Millard of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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Ruth Remnant Ministry will hold a series of Holocaust education events leading up to its sixth annual remembrance event in Dothan. Ruth Remnant seeks to be “a strong voice for Israel” in calling Christians to stand with Israel and the Jewish community, and to educate about the Holocaust. The first three events will be on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at Northside Methodist Academy’s fine arts building. On Jan. 9, there will be a screening and discussion of “Whose Child Are You?” On Jan. 16, the film will be “All My Mothers.” On Jan. 23, Cantor Neil Schwartz of Dothan’s Temple Emanu-El will present Music from the Warsaw Ghetto. The International Day of Remembrance commemoration will be on Jan 26 at 3 p.m. at The Depot, with Tim Lorsch presenting “The Suitcase,” a one-man show that blends narrative storytelling with original music to share the history of a German Jewish family’s life before World War II and their remarkable survival of the Holocaust.

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

The rabbis of the Chabads in Florida’s panhandle traveled to New York to see each other, as part of the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries in mid-November. Among the close to 6,000 participants were Rabbi Mendy Havlin of Panama City, Rabbi Yeshayahu Tenenboim of Destin, Rabbi Shneur Oreichman of Tallahassee, and Rabbi Mendel Danow of Pensacola.

community Natchez’s B’nai Israel gets major state preservation grant Rosenwald School in the Delta also receives funding for repairs Temple B’nai Israel in Natchez will receive a large grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, to help its preservation efforts. The department’s board met on Dec. 6 to award $3 million in Community Heritage Preservation grants to 17 preservation and restoration projects. Another grant with Jewish significance is going to the Marks Rosenwald School, one of the few remaining Mississippi schools from a massive effort by the Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. The Community Heritage Preservation Grant program, authorized and funded by the Mississippi Legislature, helps preserve and restore historic courthouses and schools and, in Certified Local Government communities, other historic properties. Over the life of the program the department has awarded more than $37 million to 300 projects. “The Legislature has saved hundreds of significant Mississippi properties through this program,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “The Department of Archives and History is grateful for the Legislature’s support and pleased to be able to help preserve these local treasures.” In 1991, B’nai Israel went into a partnership with the Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life as a way of preserving the temple into the future. In 2017, the Mississippi Heritage Trust named B’nai Israel one of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi. The Natchez Jewish community and the ISJL are embarking on a renovation project that will enhance accessibility, restore the historic structure, and preserve the building in perpetuity. Once the multimillion-dol-

A February 2016 concert at B’nai Israel lar restoration project is complete, the building will be consistently open as an event space, community arts hub, and museum telling the story of Jewish life in Natchez. The first phase of the project was completed in January with the construction of a ramp for the disabled. A complete restoration and stabilization of the roof and the historic dome was completed in September. Nora Katz, ISJL’s director of heritage and interpretation, told the Natchez Democrat that this new grant for $286,384 will “fund the most sig-

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December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

nificant steps in that process, which is replacing the electrical and mechanical systems in the building and installing a fire suppression system.” An updated electrical system will enable a good sound system, as well as upgrades to air conditioning. The Natchez Jewish community was established with a burial society in 1840, and the congregation was the first to be chartered in Mississippi, in 1848. Their first building was dedicated in 1872 at the corner of Washington and Commerce. In November 1903, the building burned in what was believed to be an electrical fire. The current building was dedicated in March 1905. “Knowing that our overarching goal is to make the temple a gathering space for the City of Natchez, we know replacing the electrical system is going to be a huge part of making that happen,” Katz said. The Natchez Institute, which works with ISJL on the B’nai Israel project, also received a grant for $243,375 for roof repair on its facility, and to finally take care of some damage from a 1998 storm. The Marks Rosenwald School will receive $198,315 for the replication of windows and doors, interior rehabilitation and utilities improvement. Marks’ Old African American High School is one of the few remaining Rosenwald Schools in Mississippi, and is one of the oldest historic properties left standing in the African American community. The building was constructed in 1922, one of 557 schools in Mississippi assisted by the Rosenwald Fund. The fund would provide seed money to match locally-raised money and labor, providing African-American schools in areas where none had existed or were severely underfunded. Of the Mississippi schools, only about 15 still stand, with half of those heavily altered or deteriorated. Most of the over 5,000 Rosenwald Schools built throughout the South closed in the 1960s after desegregation. Some of the remaining buildings are being preserved and turned into community centers. Grant awards are paid on a reimbursable basis upon the successful completion of the entire project or at the time of the completion of pre-established phases of the project. Prior to application, all buildings must have been designated Mississippi Landmarks.

Concert to benefit Natchez Temple The Natchez Festival of Music and the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life present the second annual “Cabaret Under the Dome” at Natchez’s historic Temple B’nai Israel. This evening of Broadway and opera classics performed by singers from across the South supports the building’s restoration and celebrates the Jewish community’s important place in the history of Natchez. The artists performing in the cabaret are featured in the Natchez Festival of Music’s annual outreach program. They will share favorite songs from their repertoires. Eric Botto, a Houston native, is a tenor currently pursuing a Master of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Mobile. Tennessee native Grace Denton is a Doctorate of Musical Arts student in Voice Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Mobile. Hosea Griffith is a graduate of Mississippi College and a regular performer at New Stage Theatre in Jackson. Harlan Mapp is studying for his Master’s Degree in Conducting at the University of Southern Mississippi. Soprano Olivia Russell has a resume of diverse roles in opera and musical theatre, which she continues to build as a student at the University of Mobile. Pianist Julian Jones, a Louisiana native, is a Doctorate of Musical Arts Student in Vocal Pedagogy and Performance at the University of Mobile. The evening of song and celebration will be followed by refreshments. All proceeds benefit the B’nai Israel Restoration and Preservation Fund. Tickets are available online at, and are $20. Tickets will also be available at the door.

community Deadlines approach for 2019 charitable deductions Better late than never always applies, but when it comes to year-end charitable gifts, the Birmingham Jewish Foundation and Birmingham Jewish Federation say better early than late. Both organizations are grateful for their supporters and want to ensure that donors’ gifts get credited to the year they are aiming for, so they are issuing a reminder of important year-end dates in accordance with Internal Revenue Service guidelines. To be considered a 2019 donation, checks must be postmarked on or before Dec. 31, 2019. Just dating a check Dec. 31 is not sufficient for it to be considered a 2019 gift, if it is mailed or hand-delivered after that date. For a stock gift to be considered completed, and therefore eligible for a 2019 deduction, it actually must be in the Foundation or Federation account by Dec. 31. Donors should check with their brokers as to the time frame needed, but it is recommended that process of gifting begins no later than Dec. 20, in order for the gift to be complete by Dec. 31. Transferring mutual fund shares can take even longer, so consider starting even earlier for this asset. Those gifting stock should let the agencies know what stock and how many shares are being gifted, so they can be sure it gets credited to the right account or fund. For The Federation, contact Tiffany Hyche,, (205) 803-1513. For a gift to The Foundation, contact Hyche; Sally Friedman,, (205) 803-1519 or Janet Aarons,, (205) 803-1524. The Foundation offers a variety of opportunities to open a named fund. For $1,000, a designated fund can be opened for a partner agency, such as the Levite Jewish Community Center, Collat Jewish Family Services, The N.E Miles Jewish Day School, Camp Dream Street MS, Huntsville’s Temple B’nai Sholom, Knesseth Israel Congregation or one of the region’s Jewish camps or Hillels. For $1,000 a special purpose fund, such as for youth programming or for needs in Israel, can be opened. An Unrestricted Fund can be opened for $1,000. These funds enable the Foundation board to make grants wherever the need is the greatest. Donor Advised Fund can be formed for $2,500, from which the donor can make recommendations over the years as to grants from the fund. The Foundation also welcomes gifts of any size to existing funds. The above is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax or financial advice. One should always consult with legal and tax advisers for planning strategies.

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Limmud announces first two speakers The first two speakers have been announced for LimmudFest New Orleans 2020, the regional weekend of Big Tent Jewish Learning. Author Rich Cohen and Wexner Heritage Program Director Rabba Yaffa Epstein will be among the dozens of presenters for the weekend of March 20 to 22. LimmudFest will have over 90 sessions in a variety of tracks, from text study to cultural exploration, Jewish food, social justice, art and history. Each congregation in the community participates in an environment that crosses denominational lines and levels of observance, including Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Shabbat services under one roof. There is also a children’s track. The weekend begins with services, Shabbat dinner and educational sessions at Gates of Prayer in Metairie. On Shabbat morning, there are services and additional sessions after lunch. Events shift to the Uptown Jewish Community Center for Havdalah and community programming. A full day of sessions will continue at the JCC on March 22. Cohen is the author of the New York Times bestsellers “Tough Jews,”

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December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


community “Monsters,” “Sweet and Low,” “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead” (with Jerry Weintraub), “The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stones” and “The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse.” He is a co-creator of the HBO series Vinyl and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. Epstein oversees the development and curriculum for dynamic lay leaders throughout the United States and North America who take part in the Wexner program. Epstein most recently served as the director of education, North America, for the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, where she implemented a comprehensive educational vision for advancement of the institute in North America. A member of the faculty for Pardes since 2004, Epstein has also taught at Yeshivat Maharat, the Drisha Institute, the Dorot Fellowship, and Young Judaea on Talmud, Jewish liturgy, Jewish law, constructive disagreement, leadership and women in Judaism. Epstein received rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Maharat and holds a law degree from Bar-Ilan University. She has lectured at Limmud events around the world, has written curriculum for the Global Day of Jewish Learning and has created innovative educational programming for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Early Bird registrations are being taken through Jan. 31. Adult registration is $85 for the weekend, $60 for just Sunday. Young adult registration for the weekend is $50 and children’s registration is $18. There is also a LimmudFest Mensch registration of $180, which covers the true, non-subsidized cost for a participant and helps offset registration for someone who can’t afford it. Registration and more information are available at

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after their arrival in the early 1990s. Their stories were moving, filled with drama, and for some marked by danger and travail. Yet, what I remember most was their unyielding faith that one day God would bring them home to Israel and that they “just knew” the time had come when it finally arrived. Since their arrival in Israel the Ethiopian population has grown considerably, though their absorption into the Israeli mainstream has been challenging at times culturally, educationally and economically. The Birmingham Jewish Federation and Birmingham Jewish Foundation continue efforts to address these challenges. Still, the return of Ethiopian Jews is one of both Judaism’s and history’s great sagas — here was an isolated Jewish community cut off from the Jewish world for centuries, but never losing faith that they would one day return to the Promised Land. The Ethiopian community in Israel today numbers about 125,000. Many are those who came or descendants of those who came via the two main operations Jewish Federations helped finance — Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991. Today, while the Ethiopian community in Israel continues to observe the Sigd, it also has become a national holiday. But no longer is it a day of yearning to return. Rather it is seen more as a celebration. It is a time set aside to celebrate their return and thank God for bringing them back to their homeland just as they had prayed for centuries. The Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, Rabbi Reuven Wabshat, told the Jerusalem Post, “The decision (to continue the holiday) was made so that the community would not forget the ’powerful heritage of Ethiopian Jewry,’ and to help Israeli society understand the travails experienced by the Ethiopian Jewish community throughout their history in Africa before their return to Israel.“ Richard Friedman will conclude his career as executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation this year and join the staff of Israel InSight magazine, a sister publication of Southern Jewish Life.

pet care an annual SJL special section Photo courtesy Snapwire/Pexels

Riverview Animal Clinic offers holiday pet wellness advice by Lee J. Green Riverview Animal Clinic wants to help ensure a happy, healthy, holiday season for pets with preventative care advice. “It’s important to cat-proof and dog-proof the environment this time of the year, just as you would child-proof your home,” said Arthur Serwitz, co-owner and founder of Riverview Animal Clinic, which opened in 1984. Serwitz said that gift bags, ribbons and small toys are attractive to pets, particularly cats. But there are potential dangers for those animals that might ingest them, or possibly choke on them. He said different types of chocolate contain various levels of fat, caffeine, and the substance methylxanthine, which is toxic to pets. The darker and richer the chocolate, the higher the risk of toxicity. “Be careful with meat fat trimmings and bones. Excesses can cause major gastro-intestinal issues as well and a potential cause for pancreatitis,” said Serwitz. Certain nuts should not be given to pets: almonds, walnuts, and pistachios can cause gastro-intestinal upsets and choking. Some plants, if eaten, can also cause gastro-intestinal upsets and other complications. Serwitz said this past June the FDA came out with a “warning” for grain-free dog diets. It has stirred investigations into potential links between these diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. “Most of our veterinary institutes are recommending to not feed these grain-free diets until the research can further understand if there is a genuine risk and link to these diets and this specific type of heart disease,” he said. Riverview is open seven days a week and employs a veterinary ophthalmologist as well as advanced pet eye care equipment to treat everything from cataracts to the removal of tumors. They also have three technicians who can do advanced ultrasound and two veterinarians who specialize in caring for exotic pets. For additional specialized and emergency care, Veterinary Specialists of Birmingham opened a new state-of-the-art facility off Highway 280 in Shelby County, just behind Riverview Animal Clinic, earlier this year. Four boarded veterinary surgeons and two veterinary ophthalmologists are staffing the specialty part of the practice. They also operate an emergency facility to see patients after hours, weekends, and holidays. Serwitz said there are two other emergency clinics in Birmingham: Steel City Emergency Vets in Hoover and Emergency Pet Care in Trussville. “There are other practicing veterinary specialists in Birmingham as

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December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


pet care

well: a veterinary internist, veterinary dermatologists, veterinary cardiologist, another ophthalmologist, and a veterinary behaviorist. Most of the general veterinary practices in Birmingham can refer to all these resources, since we are surrounded by veterinary schools with Auburn, Tuskegee, Mississippi State and Georgia being within a few hours of Birmingham,” he said. One of the biggest advancements in allergy treatment the past several years is for Canine Atopic (allergic) Dermatitis. “We see so many dogs seem to be susceptible to environmental allergies with secondary complications. And one of the biggest related problems we see is not only with skin rashes and skin infections but also ear infections,” said Serwitz. There is a relatively new product called Cytopoint, which is an immunotherapy that is given by injection and works for 30 to 60 days to block the “cytokine” that makes pets itch. “We are seeing very good results and less dependency of other drugs that may have a long-term risk when given chronically,” he added. In rounding out our recommendations for better and longer quality of living for pets: annual or even semi-annual checkups are strongly recommended for preventive, proactive health care, Serwitz advised. Senior wellness programs for older pets include more comprehensive exams. “Eating right; exercising daily; going on adventure trips and socializing are all great to help pets lead long, healthy, happy lives,” he said.

Thinking of Adding a New Pet to the Family? Some advice from Hollywood Feed The holidays are one of the busiest pet adoption seasons, and the stress surrounding this time of year, combined with a new puppy or kitten, can sometimes be overwhelming. The Feed Team members at Hollywood Feed are here to help you choose the best products for your new fourlegged family member.

Planning Ahead

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With the chaos of the holidays, it’s a good idea to prepare for your new pet’s arrival ahead of time. Things like food, toys, and other supplies can be selected in advance. Are you getting an adorable puppy who’ll need to be crate trained? Having the crate set up and ready in your home before your puppy gets there will save time and allow other family members time to get used to the crate being in their space. Will your new kitten be staying in a special room in order to introduce her to your other cats? Since cats can be stressed easily, a slow introduction over the course of a week or two decreases the likelihood of stress. You will want to have your new kitty’s room set up with a litter box, water, food, and toys beforehand so that she can get comfy right away.

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December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

Ensuring your new pet eats an age appropriate, well balanced diet is crucial to your pet’s health and happiness. Feed Team members receive over 40 hours of training from nutritionists, veterinarians, and vendors each year to be able to help you pick the right food for your pet. Bringing home a new dog or cat requires a bit of trial and error to find what food and treats work best. Your new kitten might not be a fan of fish. With Hollywood Feed’s guarantee, you can bring the food back and try a different flavor. The returned food will be donated to a pet in need.

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Not sure what size collar to pick out for your new kitten or what type of chew bone is right for a small puppy? Need to fit your new dog for a car harness for a long drive to visit family? Stop by one of Hollywood Feed’s stores for help. With planning and advice from our Hollywood Feed associates, all you need to add is love to ensure your new pet will quickly become one of the family.

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Over 3,000 cars, trucks and SUV’s across New Orleans! December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


community Chanukah at Riverwalk in New Orleans celebrates 30th anniversary







As a prime example of shining light in the face of darkness, when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was running for statewide office in 1989, Chabad in New Orleans approached the Riverwalk to host a public Chanukah celebration and menorah lighting to combat hate. “The Riverwalk embraced that opportunity and a partnership was born,” said Rabbi Mendel Rivkin. The Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans voted to approve the event, and over the past 30 years, the event has continued to grow into one of the major events on New Orleans’ annual Jewish calendar. By the third year, 1000 people attended. Over the years, attendance has ranged between 300 to 700, with over 500 attending last year. Community and political leaders often attend, including several mayors, members of Congress, state legislators and members of the city council. For many of the celebrations, either the mayor or the city council issued a proclamation in honor of the event. The event offers music, food, Chanukah materials, several forms of children’s and general entertainment. Central to the event is the lighting of the 11-foot menorah constructed by the late Isak Borenstein, one of the community’s Holocaust survivors. Over the years there have been several unique themes. There was the generational passing of the torch in 2000. A year after the levees broke, there was the human Menorah made of members of different Jewish organizations for the 2006 ceremony. The theme continued with a human Menorah of former IDF soldiers in 2007 and a human Menorah of newcomers in 2008. There have choirs and plays featuring children’s groups. Last year’s event featured the Power of Light ceremony with presentations in six languages. Among those honored with the lighting of the Menorah have been Buddy Bart, Alan Franco, Stanley Bleich, Morris Lew, Brad Edelman, Arnie Fielkow, Richard Cahn, Gene Gekker, Brad Egenberg, Benny Naghi, David Rittvo, Charlie Brum, Davd Halpern, Adam Stross, Harold Ginzburg, Marty Lang and Jeff Kaston. While the Riverwalk was undergoing major renovations in 2012 and 2013, the event moved to Lakeside. Since 2014 it has been back at the Riverwalk, overlooking the Mississippi River. The event was coordinated by David Kaufmann until his illness and passing in 2017. Since then, Rabbi Mendel and Malkie Rivkin direct the 504.300.9020

New Orleans & Metairie

Last year’s Chanukah at Riverwalk 36

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

community program. In recent years, the Krewe du Jieux has held a Chanukah parade following the Riverwalk event, dancing through the French Quarter starting around 6:30 p.m., accompanied by the Panorama Jazz Band. The parade concludes around 8 p.m. at Café du Monde, where menorahs will be lit and kosher beignets and chocolate gelt will be consumed. While the Krewe’s Mardi Gras parade in February is adult-themed, the Chanukah parade is family friendly. The parade is free, but cash is encouraged for tipping the band and buying refreshments along the way. In addition to attracting members of the general community, Jewish tourists have also been captivated by the Riverwalk event. Rivkin related two especially memorable examples. Norma Crossman and husband were on a cruise that had a four day stop in New Orleans. The first night of her stop was also the first night of Chanukah and she was feeling depressed. She was surrounded by “holiday cheer” and here it was the first night of Chanukah and she had nothing Jewish. She wandered around the French Quarter trying to distract herself from her sadness. Then she heard something that sounded like a party. She assumed it was a private holiday party, but she decided to check it out anyway. “Imagine her surprise when she stumbled upon Chanukah @ Riverwalk,” Rivkin said. “She was thrilled beyond belief! She told her daughter that Chabad had this party by the river and there was a dancing dreidel and latkes and music. She said it literally saved her Chanukah.” The other story was 18 years ago, when an elderly Jewish guest was staying at the Hilton Riverside hotel. Upon leaving the hotel, the sound of music caught his ear. He followed the music into the Spanish Plaza at the Riverwalk. As he neared the plaza he realized that it was Jewish music, and was stunned to see hundreds of people surrounding a large menorah, awaiting the lighting. “Overwhelmed with emotion, he burst into tears,” Rivkin said. As he calmed down he sought out the organizer of the event and explained the reason for his emotional reaction. “I am,” he exclaimed, “a survivor of the Holocaust. I can never forget how we were hunted as Jews in Nazi Europe. Seeing Jews, my people, publicly celebrating our holiday in a display of Jewish pride, has moved me deeply. Hearing Jewish music blasting in the streets has my heart quickening in joyous disbelief. This has been a real healing experience and I cannot thank you enough for hosting this event.” This year’s celebration will be on Dec. 22, starting at 4:30 p.m. The menorah lighting will be around 5:30 p.m.


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chanukah Four Seasons Gallery

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Four Seasons Gallery knows every season offers reasons to celebrate, and the Homewood shop sells an eclectic mix of art, jewelry and handcrafted gifts. “We are the purveyors of extraordinary M A HAPPY things,” said Laura Wilson, who owns Four SeaOM CARDS sons Gallery with her husband, Keith. “We have a lot of one-of-a-kind items and we represent te shayna more than 40 Birmingham area artists” as well e cover on as a few regional ones. zed cards. The Wilsons started with dealer space at the antity ordered. former Christopher House Antiques in 2004 and ventured on their own in March 2006, n’s Gifts opening Four Seasons Antiques and Art. morial Blvd “When we started, we sold art, antiques as Metairie well as (arts-and-crafts/mission-style) furniture and accessories,” said Laura Wilson. They moved to their current location in April 2008. “We don’t sell antiques any more, and we enstationery, etinghanced card our inventory with more local art and unique ffer locallly gifts.” One of those artists is Sarah Morgan. The cialty with University of Alabama at Birmingham doctor’s

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“hobby” involves making art out of sterling silver through a process called lost wax casting, the same process dentists use to make crowns and dentures. Some of her works include charm-sized menorahs and Stars of David that can be worn on necklaces, bracelets or used as tie tacks. Other artists featured at Four Seasons Gallery include Eddie Powell, who primarily paints textured trees and flowers, as well as Dori Boyd, who paints iconic sites in Birmingham. “Our artists can also do custom works. We’re also happy to order something if it’s not already in the store and we have much of our inventory for sale on our website,” www.4seasonsgallery. com, said Wilson. “We’re very focused on providing specialized service. We say we don’t sell art, we help customers make the perfect purchase.”

The Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau created five holiday cards this year featuring Huntsville landmarks — and one of them is Temple B’nai Sholom. The outside of each card features a different design and holiday message, with the B’nai Sholom card reading “Shalom from B’nai Sholom.” The inside of the cards are blank. Cards are available for $2 each at the Huntsville visitor center, 500 Church Street.


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December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life



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A love for olive oil and a belief in the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet inspired Vickie and Richard Bailey to open The Happy Olive seven years ago in Fairhope. On Oct. 14 they brought The Happy Olive mantra of “be happy, eat healthy, live well” to Lane Parke in Mountain Brook. The Baileys also own The Happy Olive pop-up shop in Mobile. “We were visiting our daughter and her family years ago in Northern Italy,” said Vickie Bailey. “There was something special about the way the olives were shaken off the tree, ground that night and enjoyed the next day in the freshest flavors you can imagine. That pure, simple diet of fresh, non-processed foods… changed our lives. We knew we wanted to share the Mediterranean diet and its healthy way of life with everyone.” The Happy Olive offers more than 30 artisan olive oils, such as basil, walnut, Persian lime, black truffle — all carefully selected by region of quality and harvest from Italy, France, Spain and Australia. Blended balsamic vinegars imported from Italy complement the oils, in flavors including cinnamon pear, fig and grapefruit. Richard Bailey trained with the renowned Maille mustard masters in New York City and The Happy Olive is one of only four stores in the U.S. to sell mustard crafted by a certified mustard sommelier. “We pride ourselves on carrying some unique gourmet foods, sauces and gift items,” said Vickie Bailey. The things we carry at The Happy Olive really fit well together.” The selection also includes Kentuckyaki, Kentucky-style spicy teriyaki sauce, along with a wide variety of sauces, jams, jellies, syrups, crackers, popcorns, teas and non-food gift items such as pottery, French linens, cookware, fair-trade art and crafts as well as some jewelry. A former educator and principal, Vickie enjoys educating customers about the origins of the products at The Happy Olive. “I just love learning and passing on that knowledge to others,” she said. Vickie said as they have done for the Fairhope location, they will host cooking classes, tastings and other events in Birmingham. Having lived years ago in Crestline, Vickie said she knew Mountain Brook would be an ideal location for the Birmingham store. “We’d get people coming down from Birmingham. When they visit the Fairhope and Mobile stores, they would encourage us to open up The Happy Olive in Birmingham,” she said. “We’ve been very pleased by the response so far.”

Special Section articles by Lee J. Green 40

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


Tax code changes require careful year-end charitable strategies The end of the year is close, so the Birmingham Jewish Foundation is recommending strategies that could affect income tax liability while helping the community. It has been almost two years since the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was enacted, said Foundation Executive Director Sally Friedman, “so it’s important to review some traditional tax planning strategies, as well as to determine whether some new steps could help cut your federal and state tax bills.” First, one needs to determine which tax bracket they will be in. For those expecting to be in the same or a lower tax bracket in 2020, it may be beneficial to defer taxable income until next year or reduce this year’s taxable income. However, one of the key changes made by the 2017 tax act, the large increase in the standard deduction discussed below, must be factored into any year-end calculations. If next year’s tax bracket will be lower, look into shifting some tax burden to a future year. Tried and true strategies to consider for lowering your tax bill include deferring receipt of a bonus payment to 2020, accelerating remaining deductions into this year by prepaying a deductible expense, maximizing contributions to qualified retirement plans or making larger charitable gifts. “Put those saved tax dollars in your pocket rather than the government’s,” Friedman said. Next, analyze the changes in deciding whether to Itemize or use the standard deduction, and whether to consider “bunching.” A big change in the 2017 tax act was the dramatic increase in the standard deduction. For 2019, married couples filing jointly can claim a standard deduction of $24,400, a little more for those over age 65. Because of this increase, coupled with the $10,000 limitation to the deduction for state and local taxes and the elimination of other deductible items, far fewer taxpayers will be itemizing their deductions for the 2019 tax year. Those who itemized in the past might want to look at “bunching” those deductions into one year in order to exceed the standard deduction amount and claim the standard deduction in other years. One of the easi-

International Chanukah Celebration Vintage Doubloon Spinner $260 2727 Prytania Street The Rink, Suite 6 New Orleans LA 70130 On Dec. 6, international students from Delta State University attended Shabbat services and dinner at Adath Israel in Cleveland. The evening was also the congregation’s Chanukah celebration. Pictured are Daniel Himahy of Israel, Rabbi Harry Danziger, Paul Kossman, Rosi Becerril from Mexico, Fabiola Cardenas from Venezuela, Marcelo Cebajos from Colombia, Felipe Meireles and Victor Freitas from Brazil.

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est itemized deductions to bunch is that for charitable contributions. One way to accomplish this is to combine tax-deductible contributions that would otherwise be given in two or more years into one. One way is to make charitable contributions in the “bunching” year to a new or existing Donor Advised Fund offered by the Birmingham Jewish Foundation or other Jewish Federations/Foundations in the region. Claim the charitable deduction in the year you make the contributions and spread distributions to charities over several years. Another 2017 tax act change increased the annual cap on cash contributions to charity from 50 percent of adjusted gross income to 60 percent, which could make “bunching” even more attractive. For those over age 70-½ who are considering donating to charity, it may be more beneficial to make the donation from an individual retirement account. Many have used the IRA charitable rollover to transfer up to $100,000 each year directly from their IRAs to public charities such as the Jewish Federation, a synagogue or a community agency. Qualified charitable distributions can count against the “required minimum distribution” amount — but transfers to a Donor Advised Fund, supporting organization or private foundation do not qualify. An IRA Charitable Rollover is not deductible, but because it is not included in gross income, the net effect may be the same as it would have been had you made a charitable contribution. For those with appreciated investment assets that have been held for more than a year, there are reasons to consider gifting them to a charity, including to a Donor Advised Fund. Most taxpayers are able to receive a charitable contribution deduction for the full fair market value of the securities they are transferring to a charity, while avoiding paying any long-term capital gains tax on what they have gifted. Gifted appreciated stock held for more than one year may be fully deductible up to 30 percent of adjusted gross income, and any excess can generally be carried forward and be deductible for up to an additional five years. Opening a new Donor Advised Fund or adding to an existing one are certainly options for this, and donors are able to make grant recommendations from the fund in the future, both from earnings and principal in the fund. For more information on any of these, contact Friedman sallyf@bjf. org, (205) 803-1519, or a local federation/foundation professional in other communities. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax or financial advice. When considering gift planning strategies, one should always consult with legal and tax advisors.

Thanksgiving in Huntsville

After years of participation, for the first time, Temple B’nai Sholom hosted the Huntsville community interfaith Thanksgiving service, with about 250 in attendance on Nov. 24. 42

December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


Happy Chanukah

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Radical Buffoons Making Unique Imprint on New Orleans Theater Scene Five years after arriving in New Orleans, Jon Greene has set down theatrical roots with The Radical Buffoons, and looks to use comedy to spark big conversations while developing the next phase of theater in New Orleans. The Radical Buffoons are kicking off their third season this month with “RAP Unzel,” a family production that takes a seemingly radical stance of not being a Christmas-related show despite being staged in December. Greene grew up attending a Jewish Day School in the Washington area, which gave him the philosophical background for his theatrical work. “As a Jewish guy growing Jon Greene in “Balloonacy” up in the ‘90s in the Maryland area, I had a healthy dose of Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar — the relationship of Judaism to humor as a mechanism for social change,” he said. “Good comedic work thrives on forcing an audience to accept contextual parts of a narrative,” which echoes his Judaic studies when growing up. “The Talmud is rife with nuance” and isn’t black-and-white. “The Talmud is constantly questioning the primary source… nothing is sacred, because everything needs to be questioned.” The Radical Buffoons are “comfortable taking swings at the hard conversations with comedy,” challenging perceptions and norms, Greene said. He attended Boston University, earning a degree in fine arts. He spent the next 15 years traveling as a performing artist and director, including time in Italy, South America and the Dakotas. While at Boston University, he spent a semester in Italy, studying commedia dell’arte, the Italian street theater that inspired the comedies of today. “Commedia is based on toeing the line between appropriate and inappropriate,” he said, and has a history of standing with the downtrodden in society. After living overseas for a while, Greene found himself in New York in 2012, going through the end of a relationship. A friend, who was living in the Garden District of New Orleans, “knew how miserable I was in New York,” and urged him to visit for the weekend. He begrudgingly agreed, and the moment he stepped out of the airport in New Orleans “I knew in my bones… I had to live here.” It took a little while, because he had to finish a contract in Asia, and a couple of other opportunities popped up, such as being in the Dakotas doing a masked comedy play about Don Juan that toured underserved communities and had a message of questioning economic authority. “Finally, I realized if I didn’t just pick up and move, I would never do it,” so he sold almost everything he had, got a car and arrived in New Orleans in September 2014. “It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” he said. The New Orleans theater scene can be a challenge, because “this city

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December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

culture is literally theater everywhere,” from street performers to Mardi Gras parades — so aside from the big shows, there isn’t a tradition of sitting in a room for a couple of hours. “I’ve always made theater that is like Mardi Gras in a room, so I lucked out,” he said. It took him a while to adjust “to what it means to be Jewish in New Orleans versus what it means to be Jewish in the northeast corridor.” When he arrived in New Orleans, “everyone was having very deep conversations about race, antisemitism, our relationship to Israel, Confederate monuments,” and everyone was taking themselves so seriously when talking about these issues. His theatrical training has “allowed me to point the group to asking the big questions, without taking ourselves too seriously,” taking the pressure off and promoting conversations. While New Orleans “is a challenging city,” it “constantly rewards me,” and is the first place he has lived where he has been able to make his living in theater. Three years ago, the Rockfire Theatre Company approached him to direct a production of “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” which he loves, but he cautioned them about how big of a production it is. He told them he would form an LLC and raise money to match Rockfire’s resources, so they could double the budget. “The project was so big and I believe the work we do requires a lot of work from our artists, so for the production to be equitable we needed to help enlarge the budget so they could be paid for the work they do,” he said. Greene viewed it as a means to an end, not the start of a new group or a long-term plan for himself. He had always “balked at the idea” of being an artistic director, but enjoyed the process during “Mr. Burns,” which led to a production of “The Dumbwaiter,” and the Radical Buffoons emerged. The name came from Lisa D’Amour, a Broadway playwright from New Orleans, who saw one of the shows Greene had written for Le Petit Theatre and thanked him for “bringing all that radical buffoonery to Le Petit.” The Buffoons are now a fully-functioning theater company, doing three shows a year. “We built our program design on what we felt the community was asking for,” he said. One track is mainstage adult works that have “big ideas, very physical, very socially provocative, and there has to be an element of humor” and pushing boundaries, he said. Last year, that show was “Barbecue,” which he described as an “enormous racial satire which flips the script on conversations on differences and similarities of race.” The concept is “a trashy white family” throwing a barbecue for the youngest, wildest sibling, but it is really an in-

culture tervention. After a while, the lights go down, then the story picks up again — with a black family in the same characters. The story “ping-pongs back and forth,” he said. “We did that play because it made us nervous,” Greene said. “We had no idea how audiences would react at all.” There were concerns the show would be divisive, but “actually, it was incredibly unifying. Our incredibly diverse audience laughed together, gasped together and walked out talking with people they didn’t know, asking what the heck was that show.” The second emphasis is a lab show, an experiment with collaboration as its “core focus.” Last year’s show was “Stories Without Words,” and the idea is what gets created when people involved in one aspect of theater work with others from different areas. “Some performers had done only dance shows, some only theater.” The third emphasis is young audiences, modeled after what the New Victory Theater in New York is doing. Greene said the idea is that “work for families has to be every bit as artistically and financially curated as the work for adults. Just because it’s a kids show, we can’t punt on design, rehearsal.” He sees it as an investment in “the artistic experience that new audiences have.” It was during last year’s young audiences show, “Balloonacy,” that another philosophy emerged for the new group. A reviewer asked Greene why they were doing a show in December that had nothing to do with Christmas. “I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong,” he said, but there are a lot of people in New Orleans who do not celebrate Christmas, and “why not provide a variety of opportunities?” He asked, “how would I feel if I had a child and I took them to see

theater, and the only thing we saw was Christmas plays… and Christmas is the only thing that is important this time of year.” Likewise, there are plenty of Christian parents who have “seen nine Christmas plays and are Christmassed out.” Ironically, he had already done Christmas productions in New Orleans. When living in Singapore, he was exposed to pantos, a British farce on Christmas themes, with “stupid slapstick, songs and dances, stock characters… It’s exactly what I love, it’s over the top, theatrical, interactive, it’s a whole event for the audience,” including throwing candy from the stage. When he first experienced Mardi Gras, he figured that “If there was ever a city to do a Panto, this is the one.” The new artistic director for Le Petit Theatre also wanted to do a panto, so he wrote and directed two big Christmas pantos for Le Petit. This year’s December family show, “RAP Unzel,” is about a boy who has a big head of hair, is new to town and is kind of vulnerable. His father had recently died, and his mother decides that the only way to keep him safe from other kids is to keep him in his room, though he dreams of musical stardom. “It’s a story about positivity and self-image,” Greene said, and for students who have been in school uniforms for the last four months, there is a sense of “follow your NOLA, kids, be your weird.” It’s also a statement on helicopter parenting. The show evokes “happy feelings… they’re going to feel all the things you feel at a Christmas play, just not in the context of Christmas.” Written by Jeremy Rashad Brown and directed by Torey Hayward, “RAP Unzel” is appropriate for ages 6 and up. Performances will be from Dec. 14 to 29 at the Southern Rep Theater’s Sanctuary Stage. Ticket information is available at



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• December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

Yotam Haber, former assistant professor of music at the University of New Orleans and composer of “A More Convenient Season,” a work commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, received the prestigious Azrieli Foundation’s Commission for Jewish Music. Established in 2014, the biennial Azrieli Music Prizes offer opportunities for the discovery, creation, performance, and celebration of excellence in music composition. Two of the three prizes recognize excellence in new Jewish music. Israeli-born Australian composer Yitzhak Yedid received the Prize for Jewish Music, and Keiko Devaux was selected for the Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music, and will write a new work for 14 musicians that draws on her combined history as a Japanese-French-Canadian. Each of the winning composers receives a total prize package valued at over $200,000 Canadian. The Jewish Commission is awarded to encourage composers to creatively and critically engage with the question, “What is Jewish music?” It is given to the composer who displays the utmost creativity, artistry and musical excellence in proposing a response to this question in the shape of a musical work. Haber has been awarded to write a new song cycle for voice and ensemble, continuing his ongoing investigation into the music of the Jewish community of Rome, using text by modern Israeli poets sung by mezzo soprano in conjunction with, or in opposition to, traditional cantillation and liturgical texts. In speaking about Haber’s proposal, the Jury declared his music, “fascinating, beautiful, clever and moving. The application of his craft and skill to his compositions demonstrates that he has all the makings of a great composer. The recognition that he has received to date speaks to the high calibre at which he is pursuing his profession.” Haber was born in Holland and grew up in Israel, Nigeria, and Milwaukee. He is currently associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory and artistic director emeritus of MATA, the non-profit organization founded by Philip Glass that has, since 1996, been dedicated to commissioning and presenting new works by young composers from around the world.

Morton Katz was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of Loyola University of the South located in New Orleans. He is an alumnus of the Loyola Law School, where he received his Juris Doctorate in 1969, and he previously served as chairman of the Loyola Law School Alumni Association. Katz is also an emeritus member of the Loyola Law School Visiting Committee. The function of the Loyola University Board of Trustees is policy making and sound management. The Board of Trustees is currently monitoring and overseeing various initiatives such as Transforming Loyola 2020, a plan designed to guide the University into the next decade.


COOKBOOKS TLV: Tel Aviv: Recipes & Stories from Israel is filled with so much terrific photography that it’s almost as if the author, Jigal Krant, made the intention to marry recipes with a coffee table book... and that’s a good thing, because TLV is spending quality time out in the open rather than on the shelf. There are compelling stories with almost every dish; the instructions are straight-forward; everything looks beautiful and comes out completely delicious. This is one of those cookbooks that makes one consider checking every single recipe off the list until they’ve all been made. Fabulous. Adeena Sussman’s Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen gets going with breakfast like a cheesy asparagus sheet pan pashtida and tahini smoothies, and moves on through the everyday and holidays with dishes that just plain turn out good: za’atar chili feta bread, melted green cabbage, ricotta dumplings with pistachio-cilantro pesto. Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking by Einat Admony and Janna Gur reminds us of how, rightly, some of the most incredible cooking can be found in little roadside stands and convenience store kitchens and on your Bubbe’s stovetop. Real food. We’re completely into dishes here like Yemenite curry shakshuka, chicken liver schnitzel, and an Iraqi chicken and rice casserole called tbit. Nidal Kersh has written Jerusalem Food: Bold Flavors from the Middle East and Beyond from his Palestinian perspective. He talks about the complicated situation in Israel and can be pointed, so keep that in mind. If you’re up to mixing some politics with food, or are just looking for great recipes from this part of the world, what falls away is ‘they’ and ‘we’... and what rises to the top is the commonality of what we all enjoy. Nina Safar’s Simply Kosher Cookbook includes over 100 recipes that are meant to be quick, with ingredients likely already on hand. While most of the dishes here aren’t impressive on a having-company-over level, they’re interesting enough and can blissfully get you through the week with a minimum of effort. Writing something as all-encompassing as to be called The Jewish Cookbook is a big ask, but Leah Koenig comes through with what really is a reference. While not as splashy as some others, and a little short on pictures, it is going to be one of those to reach for again and again: over 400 thoroughly-researched recipes from Jewish communities across the globe.


The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing by former Obama speechwriter Adam P. Frankel is the story of his trying to learn the history of his family, from his Survivor grandparents on. Imposed obligations on him as a young person, a shattering discovery of secrets, and generational trauma — all of which make him feel a wreck — ultimately leads him to try to make peace, move on and find forgiveness. The Cut Out Girl: A Story of War and Family Lost and Found is Bart van Es’ journey of discovering the origins of Lien, a girl

his Dutch grandparents took in, and who continued to live with the family after the war. Using government documents and sources to fill in gaps, we come to better understand her experience, the motivations of governments and organizations, and humble but world-changing actions of citizenry to save Jewish children during the Holocaust. Besides Lien’s own healing, the author gains a new respect for the experiences of his own children, and in particular, his adopted daughter.

Renia’s Diary: A Holocaust Journal is Renia Spiegel’s diary as a Polish

teenager (with typical teenage entries about friends and the opposite sex), and as things progress, we see her world getting smaller and smaller. She goes from ghetto into hiding, and is ultimately murdered by the Nazis. Though the actual journal doesn’t give us incredibly insightful views of what’s going on politically, her sister’s notes add depth. A worthwhile read.



Not at all a new collection of photographs, here we have an insider look at Friedlander’s first 50 books, one by one, with interviews, quotes, inspirations and a smattering of photographs from each. Interesting to learn from the photographer how access was gained to his subjects, and especially his relationships in New Orleans with Larry Borenstein and Allan Jaffe (to the memory of both of whom he dedicates the book), and how he considers the city “heaven.”

CHILDREN Kugel for Hanukkah? by Gretchen M. Everin, illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown. Preschool - Grade 3. Each night’s gift seems strange and unrelated until the last night, when it all comes together. Grover’s Hanukkah Party by Joni Kibort Sussman, illustrated by Tom Leigh. Board book. Sweet Grover counts all the great things the number eight has to do with the holiday. Noah and the Eight Trucks of Hanukkah by Nancy Rips, illustrated by Marina Saumell. Preschool - Grade 3. Noah loves trucks and becomes the shamash to his menagerie, each gifted from a different family member. December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life



Bama lands top wheelchair basketball recruit Peter Berry played for U.S. team at World Maccabiah Games in Israel

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Peter Berry of Houston, regarded as the No. 1 wheelchair basketball prospect in the nation, officially signed a full scholarship to play college ball at the University of Alabama. The ceremony was held on Nov. 13 at the Emery Weiner School, a Jewish school for grades 6 to 12, where Berry is a senior. At the ceremony, his cousin Noah signed with Cal Poly’s tennis team. Peter Berry and Noah Berry sign their college letters of intent In 2011, when Berry was 9, his family was involved in a distracted all-tournament. He is also a two-time All Amerdriving crash that killed his parents, Robin and ican player. Most recently, he was named tournament Joshua Berry. He and his younger brother, Aaron, were paralyzed from the waist down, and MVP at the national Woodbury Adaptive Basketball Tournament in Minneapolis, which their sister, Willa, was seriously injured. After the wreck, Simone and Matthew Berry, concluded on Nov. 4. In 2017, he also played on their aunt and uncle, took them in and raised Team USA’s wheelchair basketball team at the 2017 World Maccabiah games in Israel. them. During their therapy at TIRR in Houston, He is also a starting member of the TIRR their aunt brought them to a TIRR Memorial wheelchair softball team, which won the 2018 Hermann Junior Hotwheels wheelchair bas- World Series. ketball game, where they met Abraham HausIn 2016, Hausman-Weiss had his own Alaman-Weiss, a team member who later signed bama signing ceremony at Emery Weiner. Now with Alabama. Having played basketball before a senior, Hausman-Weiss is majoring in astrothe wreck, Peter and Aaron joined the Hot- physics. wheels the next week. Alabama’s men’s wheelchair basketball team Born in Los Angeles, Hausman-Weiss was 19 won back-to-back national championships in months old when the family moved to BirmingMarch, while the women’s team won its sixth ham. He attended Birmingham’s N.E. Miles national title. In January 2018, Alabama opened Jewish Day School before moving to Houston a $10 million facility custom designed for and in 2011 when his father, Rabbi Scott Hausdedicated to the Adapted Athletics program, man-Weiss, became senior rabbi of Congregathe first of its kind on a college campus in the tion Emanu-El in Houston. United States. In August 2011, Abraham Hausman-Weiss, At the signing ceremony, Berry told KHOUwho was born with spina bifida, had spoken TV that “I couldn’t have done it without the at Beth Yeshurun Day School, where the Berrys attended at the time, giving advice to the people I was surrounded by — my supporting students on how to treat the Berrys when they cast — my coach Trice (at TIRR) taught me to would return to the school a few weeks later af- stick my chest out and keep my head up, and ter spending three months at Shriners Hospital that’s really the only option I had.” Earlier this year, Berry attended a wheelchair for Children in Chicago. In 2015, the Junior Hotwheels celebrated basketball camp at Alabama, telling WBRC-TV their second national championship in three that “All of these kids were punched straight years, with Hausman-Weiss and the Berry in the face in the beginning of life, or at some brothers playing key roles. TIRR again won the point in their life. And so with hard work and national championship in 2018, with Berry be- dedication and perseverance and just proving ing named MVP of the national championship to yourself and to others that you’re capable of game, and in 2019 he was selected first-team really achieving anything.”

community Israel Lacrosse coming to Birmingham for 2021 World Games Israel will be well-represented at the World Games 2021 in Birmingham, as World Lacrosse announced that Israel will be participating in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The lineups were announced on Dec. 4 in Colorado Springs. Only eight countries will compete in each tournament. Along with Israel, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Japan and the U.S. are in both tournaments. The men’s teams from Germany and Ireland will compete, as will the women’s teams from the Czech Republic and New Zealand. There has already been a significant Alabama connection to Israel Lacrosse. Birmingham’s Olivia Mannon, a rising senior at Fresno State, played on the Israeli national team at the 2019 Women’s European Lacrosse Championships, held in Israel in July. The Israeli team won silver at the tournament. Ella Duvdevani of Birmingham played for the U19 Israel team that finished 17th at the World Championships in Canada in August. That team made international headlines for an effort spearheaded by Duvdevani’s father, to have the Israeli team’s parents equip Kenya’s team with new cleats after discovering, during the Israel-Kenya match, that the Kenyans did not have suitable footwear for competition. At the same event, a U15 World Lacrosse Festival was held, with Birmingham’s Ilana Touger playing for the bronze-medal Israeli team. In September, Zachary Pall of Mobile was on Israel’s team at the World Lacrosse Indoor Championship. Israel placed fifth out of 20 teams. The World Games announcement came the day after an online fundraiser to help build Israel’s first dedicated lacrosse field, in Ashkelon. The lacrosse training center will also reportedly be the first in the Middle East. In late September, World Games CEO Joachim Gossow visited Israel to promote the World Games, and met with the Israel Lacrosse Association leadership. He also suggested that Israel look into trying to become the host for the 2029 Games. Qualification for The World Games 2021 was based primarily on final placement at the 2017 women’s and 2018 men’s World Championships organized by the Federation of International Lacrosse, now World Lacrosse. National teams competing in The World Games 2021 will be comprised of senior-level players, and utilize the new, 6 v 6 international disciplines and playing rules currently being finalized by World Lacrosse. The World Games 2021 Birmingham will take place July 15 to 25, with 3,600 athletes from over 100 countries competing in at least 30 unique, multidisciplinary sports. The World Games was established by the International World Games Association, an organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The World Games 2021 Birmingham marks the 40th anniversary, and 11th edition, of the international, multi-sport event. Women’s lacrosse made its debut in The World Games in 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland, while 2021 will mark the first time men’s lacrosse has been included in The World Games. The United States defeated Canada to claim top honors in the women’s competition in 2017.


Camp Sabra holding 50th anniversary Camp Sabra, a Jewish co-ed resident camp in Rocky Mount, Mo., is turning 50 in 2020. To celebrate, camp alumni ages 21 and up are invited to come back to camp for a reunion from Aug. 28 to 30. Alumni will enjoy camp activities and take part in special programs, campfires and song sessions while catching up with their bunkmates, counselors and camp directors of summers past. For more information and to register securely online, go to https:// December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life


community Holocaust survivor Irving Roth to speak near Pensacola

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As the number of Holocaust educating young and old about survivors dwindles, there will the perils of anti-Semitism and be an opportunity in the Floriprejudice, traveling the country da panhandle to hear the firstto share his story. His book, hand account of Irving Roth, “Bondi’s Brother,” tells that stoage 90, who survived Auschwitz ry. and Buchenwald concentration After meeting Randy Neal, camps. western regional coordinator Roth will share his story of for CUFI, a decade ago, Roth survival and grit at a Chrishas spoken at hundreds of CUFI tians United For Israel Night to events. He is involved with Irving Roth at Congregation Honor Israel, Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. at CUFI because of the shared Micah in Nashville, Nov. 17 Pace Assembly Ministries, near passion in advocating for Israel Pensacola. and fighting global anti-Semitism. He will also speak at the Jefferson Performing A group of CUFI supporters in Panama City Arts Center in Metairie on Jan. 14, in a program Beach, Fla., recently started Bikers for Zion, coordinated by Chabad of Louisiana. motorcyclists who ride in support of Israel. Born in Kosice, Czechoslovakia, in 1929, Moved by hearing Roth’s story, they asked Roth Roth lived through the horrors of multiple con- for permission to include his Auschwitz numcentration camps. ber, A-10491, with the phrase “Never Again,” on Roth and his brother were captured toward the group logo. During an April visit to Panama the end of the war, having been hiding in City, Roth was made a member of the group, Hungary. They were sent to Auschwitz, then and was given membership no. 1. marched to Buchenwald when the Russians “By telling and retelling our stories of survival were closing in on Auschwitz. That was the last and determination, I believe we will be able to time he saw his brother. fully realize a better tomorrow,” Roth said. Roth was 16 years old when he was liberated Roth is the director of the Holocaust Refrom Buchenwald on April 10, 1945, by two U.S. source Center – Temple Judea of Manhasset, soldiers — U.S. Army Corporal Rick Carrier New York, and spends his free time touring and an African-American soldier whose name the United States, Canada and Europe to speak he never knew, but who had entered his bar- about his experiences. racks bearing chocolate. He received the Spirit of Anne Frank OutCarrier had been looking for a supply dump standing Citizen Award from the Anne Frank but instead stumbled on the camp. Center USA for promoting human rights and Roth admits in interviews that he had never social justice, and for conceiving, developing seen a black person before. “I tell people you and initiating the Adopt a Survivor program, may not know what the Messiah looks like, but which has been instituted in high schools and I do. One is black and one is white.” colleges nationally and internationally. After the war, Roth moved to New York in In November, he spoke at the Gordon Jewish 1947 and served in the U.S. Army in Korea. Community Center in Nashville, in a program The first time he returned to Auschwitz in coordinated by Chabad of Nashville. After that 1998, Roth realized the importance of keeping program sold out, just a few days before Roth’s his memories from five decades earlier alive in arrival a second talk was quickly scheduled at the minds of Jewish youth. He is now devoted to Congregation Micah, and it also sold out.


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community in Birmingham, Highland Tribe, Chabad of Alabama, Knesseth Israel, Temple Emanu-El and Temple Beth-El. Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center will hold a Day at the J, for guests to try out the LJCC, on Jan. 12. For members, the day begins with the LJCC annual meeting, at 10 a.m. The Monroe Museum Directors Board is planning the first-ever Museum Month Celebration for January, and Temple B’nai Israel will be taking part. Their Precious Legacy Museum will offer tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 18, followed by a challah-making demonstration that will provide recipes for those attending. The congregation also has a Virtual Museum at Chabad of Huntsville is starting a new Kids in the Kosher Kitchen series, monthly on a Tuesday at 4 p.m. Primarily for ages 6 to 11, the series is $60 for all five sessions, $15 for a standalone. The “Brachot edition” will explore the different blessings over food, along with the cooking class. On Jan. 14, the class will do s’mores challah and cheese calzones. Feb. 11 is “cookies galore,” March 17 is rainbow fruit skewers and edible chocolate fruit arrangements, April 21 is kid-approved salad bar and pickle making, and May 19 is milkshakes, sorbets and grape juice ices. Bais Ariel Chabad in Birmingham will have its annual Great Wall of Chinakah kosher Chinese dinner, Dec. 25 from 5 to 8 p.m. The menu includes sesame chicken, beef lo mein, chicken lo mein, Mongolian beef, Chinese mixed vegetables, fried rice, white rice and egg rolls. Reservations by Dec. 20 are $20 per adult, $10 per child, going up to $30 and $20 on Dec. 21. Chabad of Baton Rouge will have a Chanukah Chinese dinner on Dec. 25, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. There will also be movies for adults and children, along with a menorah lighting. The event is free and open to the community. The Brotherhood of Temple Beth El in Pensacola will host Chinese and a Movie, Dec. 24 at 6:30 p.m. This year’s film is “Analyze This” with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro. Dinner reservations are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 10, free for active duty military. Temple Emanu-El in Dothan continues its tradition of staffing the Wiregrass Commons Mall gift wrapping booth, in support of the House of Ruth, on Dec. 24. Shifts of one or two hours are available, and the goal is to have four to six wrappers at all times. Shifts will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El and Temple Beth-El will staff the gift wrap booth at Brookwood Village again this year, and is adding The Summit, at the former Charming Charlies location, on Dec. 24. The gift wrapping is a large fundraiser for Family Promise. At least five volunteers are needed per shift, and the project runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pensacola’s Temple Beth El is organizing Christmas Morning at Ronald McDonald House, cooking and serving brunch for the guests. For those who want to help but are unable to attend on Dec. 25 at 8:30 a.m., the house has a wish list. Hadassah Baton Rouge will do its annual Gift Wrap Fundraiser from Dec. 15 to 24 at Barnes and Noble in Perkins Rowe. The Birmingham Jewish community will once again serve Christmas lunch at Grace By Day, the daily kitchen at Grace Episcopal Church in Woodlawn. Volunteers are needed to cook, serve and pick up donated items for the annual event. The Jewish community takes over the kitchen every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Jackson’s Beth Israel will once again serve Christmas lunch at Stewpot, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m. December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life



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Longtime Homewood residents Ginny and Joe Levins knew their city “kneaded” a fresh bagel shop, so they took matters into their own hands by opening Homewood Bagel Company. What started as a pop-up shop in March 2017, doing mostly catering and weekend pickups at Icing on the Cookie, has developed into a permanent location in that spot that opens later this month, in time for Chanukah. “We have always loved bagels,” said Ginny Levins. “Joe’s aunt and uncle own a bakery in California and my family owns a couple of restaurants in Mississippi,” the Pig Out Inn and Fat Mamas Tamales in Natchez. “There wasn’t a fresh bagel shop in Homewood so a few years ago we got some advice from Joe’s family on how to make bagels and starting making them for our family.” The Levins now have four kids. They made fresh bagels and brought them to some holiday parties in December 2016. When friends asked them where they got the bagels, they said they made they made them from scratch. “The friends told us we should open our own shop, so that planted the seed.” The attorneys by day launched the pop-up shop, and much of the time couldn’t keep up with the demand. When the owner of Icing on the Cookie said earlier this year that he was leaving the space, the Levins thought the timing was right to open Homewood Bagel Company full time. continued on page 53


December 2019 • Southern Jewish Life

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Others point out that comedy works in threes. On Nov. 21, Benjamin Netanyahu was brought up on multiple charges of corruption. Bibi, the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history, was expected to put up a years-long battle to avoid becoming the longest serving prime minister in Israeli prison. Netanyahu’s popularity is represented in his name, literally “giver of Yahoo,” in recognition of being the Israeli Al Gore by bringing the internet to the Promised Land. Supporters quickly crafted a new slogan to contest his alleged dirty dealing: “nobody puts Bibi in a corner.” Doug Brook’s year in review is not as early as those who started playing Christmas music on Nov. 1… for Christmas 2020. To read past columns, visit For exclusive online content, like facebook. com/rearpewmirror.

Israeli jazz ensemble in New Orleans The Israeli Jazz ensemble 4 Flute Flight will be in New Orleans next month for the Jazz Education Network 11th Annual Conference, and will also be at Temple Sinai. The ensemble was established in 2013 by Matan Klein, a flutist and composer, upon his return to Israel after a long stay in the U.S. The ensemble combines four unique flute voices with an energetic acoustic rhythm section performed by outstanding young musicians from Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts in Tel Aviv. The band fuses Jazz with Brazilian and Middle Eastern music. The band was invited to perform in the 2015 JEN convention in New Orleans. Their conference performance at the Hyatt Regency will be on Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. on the Conservatory Stage, Elite Foyer L1. On Jan. 10 they will be at the 6:15 p.m. service at Temple Sinai.

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The Levins said they will open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, serving a wide variety of fresh bagels, spreads, lox, breakfast and lunch bagel sandwiches, wraps, potato salad, tuna salad, yogurt, coffees and more. “If anyone has a good whitefish salad recipe or wants to make some we could buy, we’d love to add that to the menu,” said Ginny. Joe said his aunt and uncle, as well as Bodo’s Bagels at the University of Virginia, where Joe graduated from college, influenced their bagel making and Homewood Bagel Company. “It’s a proper New York-style bagel,” he said. “It’s all about the malt you boil your bagels in. Also our proofing process is unique. It involves two separate rises of the dough and it takes up to 18 hours.” All the bagels are made by hand, not machine. “The best compliment we got was that someone from New York said our bagels were as good or better than those in New York,” Joe added. Some of the more unique bagels Homewood Bagel Company serves include pepperjack jalapeno, asiago rosemary and chocolate chip. The less-traditional spreads that went over well at the pop-up shop and are featured on the current menu include pickle and dill, pimento and green olive, funfetti as well as peanut butter. They will also have some seasonal bagels and spreads. Homewood Bagel Company seats 20 people and the Levins said they will continue to do catering as well as pick-up. On Dec. 7, they are catering a Bar Mitzvah and the restaurant is available for night-time simchas. Ginny said they have been pleased about the community response from the pop-up shop and the excitement building up for the permanent Homewood Bagel Company. “We’re so happy by the way the community has embraced us and we’re ready to give them a very special place,” she said.

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It’s the time of year for year-in-review columns. This is strange, since Rosh Hashanah was only a couple months ago. However, in the past couple of months a year’s worth of notable events have happened, so here is the year in review for 5780. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Anti-Defamation League reported that the “OK” hand gesture has been adopted as a hate symbol. In an era where the dictionary defines “bad” as “good” and “down” as “up for it,” the ADL reminded that it’s not just the current administration ensuring that nobody knows what anything really means anymore. On Oct. 10, the day after Yom Kippur, the Big G realized that the Book of Life was sealed so well the day before that it couldn’t be opened for reference throughout the year. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Almighty declared, “So, this year we’ll be winging it.” On Oct. 22, Jews around the world concluded the yearly reading of the Torah and started it over again. It’s reread every year so people can find new things in it each time. Most Jews are set up to achieve that goal — of finding new things in the Torah readings this year — by not doing it in previous years. On Oct. 26, the Torah reading heard ‘round the world reported that the world was, in fact, created. This came as a surprise to only some of the people in attendance, who were reassured by the Torah also recording that people were created. Efficiency experts insisted that, with a little planning and forethought, the Creation process could have taken only four days — a position supported by advocates for a four-day work week. On Oct. 27, the nation remembered how, one year prior, a shooter invading the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh harshly reminded the world that it’s easier to destroy than to create. On Oct. 31, in the spirit of Israel being a land flowing with milk and honey, Washington became a land flowing in peaches and mint. On Nov. 5, Israel approved plans to add cable cars in Jerusalem. Still in negotiation is how to get kosher certification for Rice-a-Roni, the other San Francisco treat. On Nov. 7, Marilyn Monroe’s menorah was auctioned for over $112,000. On Nov. 8, Google reported a spike in searches for “Marilyn Monroe Jewish” resulting in information about her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller and related conversion. On Nov. 18, the United States changed yet another decades-long policy by declaring that it no longer recognized Israeli settlements in the West Bank as being illegal. Critics pointed out that the administration has a questionable track record in recognizing what illegal actually means. Nevertheless, this was the latest attempt to satisfy both sides at once as part of the administration’s highly self-touted secret plan for Middle East peace, which is so secret that as of this writing nobody in the administration has any idea what it is. On Nov. 20, a third Israeli election within 12 months became likely when a majority coalition in the Knesset once again couldn’t be formed. After nearly two thousand years, the Talmudic precept that for every two rabbis there are three opinions has spread to politicians. Pundits are hopeful that the third Israeli election will finally follow the recent example of their American allies in demonstrating how a major national election can bring consensus and harmony throughout the land.

5780 In Review already? It has been a busy couple of months…

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