Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ambassador Dermer tells NOLA audience: Be strong and proud

Michael Weil, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, presents Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer with a Gary Rosenthal tzedakah box in the shape of a New Orleans streetcar.

While noting the challenges Israel faces, Ambassador Ron Dermer told a New Orleans audience to stand tall and be proud that Israel will be able to overcome whatever happens.

Dermer spoke at an Israel Bonds event at the Uptown Jewish Community Center tonight. Yesterday, he met with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in Baton Rouge, where Jindal hosted him and his wife for dinner and a three-hour meeting.

Jindal “is an incredible defender of Israel… with moral clarity,” Dermer said.

Before the public event, there was a private reception for Bonds supporters. Among those in attendance were Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy, who recently wrote an article on why Louisiana invests in Israel Bonds, told the crowd “my message is very simple. Buy Israel Bonds.”

He continued, “You already own some as taxpayers, and you have already made money.”

In June, Kennedy visited Israel for five days and said the visit convinced him that Israel is a good investment.

Dermer noted that Louisiana has purchased $18 million in Israel Bonds, and that 18 is a number of great significance in Judaism. Other significant numbers are three patriarchs, four matriarchs, 10 commandments and 12 tribes. “Once you get to 18 you pretty much have to double your investment,” Dermer said. “You get a small break at 40, but then have to go up in increments of 18.”

Senator A.G. Crowe and Rep. Valarie Hodges presented Dermer with resolutions from the Louisiana Legislature supporting Israel.

Dermer said the resolutions are important as “a message that Israel is not alone, and that message is heard loud and clear in Jerusalem.”

He said Israel is subjected to a triple standard — there is one set for dictatorships, one set for democracies and one set for democracies named Israel. He then observed that there might be a quadruple standard — for democracies named Israel that are led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The different standard “manifests itself when Israel has to defend itself,” he noted. During the rain of missiles from Gaza this summer, Israel exhibited great restraint but was still castigated. “I want one person in this room to tell me America would use less force if 200 million were in bomb shelters and missiles were flying into New York, Chicago.” Yet Israelis are labeled as war criminals for responding.

It isn’t difficult to find out what happens in war — all one has to do is sit around the dinner table and ask, since Israel has a citizen army. “When you libel the soldiers of Israel, you libel the people of Israel,” he said.

During the summer, Dermer said he drove critics crazy by asserting that the Israel Defense Forces deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, so he stated it once again in his New Orleans talk.

Over two thirds of the resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Commission — an oxymoron, he added — deal with Israel. He said that obsession keeps the commission from dealing with true international crises.

He spoke with a fellow ambassador from Burundi lately, who said his country had a conflict until 2004, with 300,000 killed.

Dermer said that the death toll on both sides during the entire span of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is 20,000. Yet conflicts like the one in Burundi are ignored while Israel is charged with genocide.

The Palestinian population in the territories has quadrupled since Israel captured the areas in 1967, a far cry from genocide.

Another way to compare the death toll is to note that the Nazi regime killed 10,000 Jews per day at Auschwitz in May 1944, so in two days the Nazis killed as many Jews as have died on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 70 years.

Dermer noted that Israel is uniquely challenged among all of the nations on Earth. One can start by looking at all of the neighbors.

Syria, he said, has collapsed and is a collection of areas controlled by different groups. Lebanon is “effectively governed by Iran through its proxy, Hezbollah,” which has 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel.

Gaza has fired 20,000 rockets into Israel in recent years and is still run by Hamas. Sinai “has become a Wild West of terrorism,” though the current Egyptian government is cracking down “in ways even Mubarak didn’t.” After Mubarak was overthrown, Morsi saw the terrorists as allies, but the current ruler of Egypt sees them as an enemy.

In Judaea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, “we are fortunate that in recent years we have not seen violence and terrorism en masse,” but it took hard work to achieve that. After Israel rooted out the terrorist infrastructure and built the security fence, terrorism was reduced dramatically.

He noted that Mahmoud Abbas, who runs the Palestinian Authority, is “not Hamas” in that he does not openly call for the destruction of Israel, but neither is he prepared to confront the killers.

Dermer mentioned last month’s attack at a synagogue in western Jerusalem. “As sick as it was to see Jews in prayer being murdered, it was no less sick to see people celebrating the attack. And they were celebrating not just in Gaza, but in Judaea and Samaria.”

He suggested that a good peace plan would be “mutually agreed neighbor swaps.” Israel would take Canada and give Syria to the United States as a neighbor. “We’re taking Mexico and you can have your pick,” he said.

He quipped that the only places willing to take him up on that type of offer are the states that border New Jersey.

Despite those challenges, Israel has only one “existential threat,” a nuclear Iran. Iran already controls the governments in Sana, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, and the Iranian leadership doesn’t hide its desire to wipe Israel off the map.

But Dermer said that’s not the extent of it. “They want Riyadh for breakfast, Jerusalem for lunch and New York for dinner.”

Under no circumstances should Iran be allowed to have any nuclear weapons capabilities. Despite Iranian insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful and for power generation, Dermer said that is a farce. One does not need centrifuges, enriched uranium and underground bunkers for a peaceful program.

Likewise, Iran is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. The only use for those is to carry nuclear payloads. And they aren’t for Israel, as Iran already has missiles that can reach Israel.

Dermer was asked about the proposed Jewish nation bill before the Knesset. He said reaction to it has been “misplaced concern” and “no one in Israel will undermine Israel’s democracy.”

He invoked the saying about not watching sausage or legislation being made, saying there were several versions of the bill floating around, many with provisions that have raised alarm bells but which no Israeli government would allow to pass the Knesset.

He said Israel is a democratic state rooted in Jewish practice, and stating that Israel is a Jewish state would not alter individual rights of any citizen, regardless of religion or origin.

“Any law that will pass the Knesset will anchor the democratic character of Israel and Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

He was also asked about how to counteract anti-Israel material online and in the media. “The best antidote is the truth,” he said. “But you have to say it over and over again.”

Surveys have shown that those who follow Middle East events closely overwhelmingly back Israel. It is those who follow events superficially who are more prone to side with the Palestinians.

Despite everything, Dermer said one should step back and marvel at Israel’s accomplishments. “We defied the laws of history” by not disappearing.

Israel is a global technological power. “In cyber, Israel is China,” he said. “Israel is exporting gas to Arab countries. We also exported snow machines to Russia for the Winter Olympics.”

For 100 generations, the Jewish people dreamed about the land of Israel, now there have been three generations with “the privilege to live that dream."

There is a responsibility to secure that dream for future generations, Dermer said, but “we will weather that storm, because we are a very strong people.”

The worst thing one can do is “bow our heads, be nervous… and refuse to walk into the arena because you might be attacked,” Dermer said. “We have to stand proud.”

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Foundation shaken: Filler critical of UAB football termination, questions explanation

Jimmy Filler (photo by Rabbi Barry Altmark)

With the decision by University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray Watts to close down the university’s football program still drawing national attention, a leading booster is calling the decision-making process and explanation into question.

Jimmy Filler said the president’s assertion on ESPN’s Dec. 6 edition of College Gameday that nobody came forward with commitments for additional resources for the program “is not telling the truth.” Watts has said that discontinuing the program was purely a financial decision.

Filler is a long-time leader in Birmingham’s Jewish community. A past president of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, Filler currently heads the Federation’s Next 100 Years long-term endowment initiative that has secured over $40 million in commitments, and he has been the local chair for Israel Bonds for many years.

Gameday aired from Waco, Tex., site of that day’s Baylor-Kansas State game. After the UAB segment aired, one fan held up a poster with the rallying hashtag #FreeUAB, and the Big 12 fans chanted “UAB.”

After weeks of speculation and a couple of days that saw demonstrations on campus, Watts met with the team on Dec. 2 to inform them that this had been the program’s final season. The rifle and bowling teams were also terminated.

Filler responded by saying it was a “sad day for UAB, its students and the city of Birmingham. The university will never be the same. The asterisk has been moved to UAB from Pacific,” the last school at that level to drop football. Pacific ended its program in 1995.

On Oct. 28, Filler had announced the establishment of the UAB Football Foundation to support the team. In the announcement, he said the foundation would work with the administration, business leaders, the city government and the University of Alabama Board of Trustees to raise the program’s profile.

The foundation would ensure UAB students “have a comprehensive college experience which includes a football program that builds tradition and pride in our University and Community.”

The initial announcement pledged to raise funds to build an on-campus practice facility, and was seen as another step toward the program’s rising fortunes. This year, attendance more than doubled to rank fifth among 14 Conference USA teams, and the team became bowl eligible for only the fourth time ever. The team’s only bowl appearance was in 2004.

On Nov. 4, a group of former players called the B Club released a letter to Watts noting the program’s success this year and what football means to other universities, but raised an alarm over a study “being conducted to determine whether to discontinue the UAB Football Program.”

They noted that first-year coach Bill Clark’s contract has not been extended beyond 2016, nor had any non-conference games been scheduled past that time-frame. It is common for teams to commit to non-conference games up to 10 years in advance, and for coaches to receive at least a four-year commitment.

“UAB Football is poised to become Birmingham’s team,” the former players stated, but the program “has never enjoyed the unconditional support from some in powerful positions,” which has affected the program over the years.

Not mentioned in the letter but noted later, when UAB renewed its contract to play at Legion Field this past summer, UAB insisted on a one-year deal.

The university’s team began on the club level in 1991, working its way up to Division I-A, now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision.

UAB is governed by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, which also oversees the Tuscaloosa and Huntsville campuses. For years there have been suspicions that the board has been trying to kill off UAB football, or at least make it difficult for it to survive.

In 2006, UAB was poised to hire Jimbo Fisher, who is currently pursuing national titles as the head coach of Florida State. The system board blocked the hire, though Fisher’s contract would have been for $600,000 per year, subsidized by UAB boosters. Clark’s contract is $500,000 per year. At Florida State, Fisher now has a base salary of $4.1 million.

In 2011, the board killed a plan for an on-campus stadium. The team played at Legion Field, which with well over 70,000 seats was deemed too large, and because it was not on-campus it was not conducive to pre-game activities.

After the former players openly raised questions last month about what was seen as a “plot to kill UAB football,” neither Watts nor Athletic Director Brian Mackin would say whether the team would play beyond 2016, further fueling speculation. On Nov. 6, Watts said there was a year-long strategic planning study that included a full review of athletic department programs.

Many observers have charged that the study wasn’t about whether the football program could succeed, but how best to shut it down.

Watts insists that the Alabama Board of Trustees had no role in shutting down the program.

An analysis by John Archibald in the Birmingham News showed that UAB’s athletic program is subsidized by about $18 million per year. Student fees are part of the subsidy.

Without subsidies, 36 universities have a larger athletics deficit in terms of percentage, with schools like Rutgers and UNLV losing money at twice the rate of UAB.

The UAB department’s finances rank in the middle of Conference USA’s schools, according to Archibald, and South Alabama, Troy and Alabama State all lost over $10 million on athletics last year. The only university in the state to turn a profit was Alabama’s athletic program, which had expenditures of $112 million.

The UAB athletic department’s expenses last year were $27.5 million.

On Nov. 25, Filler said the foundation would raise about $5 million this year and much more over the next decade, but only if Clark’s contract were extended, opponents were scheduled beyond 2016 and the administration expressed a commitment to support the program at a level that would enable it to compete for conference championships.

Filler said the foundation would be able to raise tens of millions of dollars for capital improvements. “If UAB's administration makes a genuine commitment to UAB Football, they will have an opportunity like never before to create public-private partnerships,” he said.

But the day before the announcement came, Filler told that in the weeks since he announced the foundation’s formation the university’s administration has not reached out to him once. “It’s a done deal,” he said. “They don’t want me to raise money.”

Harold Ripps, who was honored at this year’s Israel Bonds event in Birmingham, was on board with Filler in committing to the foundation.

Echoing Filler’s charge was Justin Craft, former UAB Letterman Club president, who said Watts never approached any donors regarding funds for the program. Major UAB donor Don Hire also said he was never asked but would have contributed to help keep the football program going. The student-athlete academic center is named for him and his wife.

In terminating the program, Watts said it would cost an additional $49 million to fund UAB football over the next five years, money he said the school does not have. He also said that nobody had “come forward with a commitment of any additional resources.”

A summary released by UAB said philanthropic support to cover that amount would be “unrealistic.” The $49 million that was cited includes capital improvements, such as an indoor practice facility.

Those facilities were the wish list of what coaches said months ago that they would like in order to be competitive. CBS Sports reported that UAB is one of very few schools that have no debt service on facilities.

Despite the elimination of football, UAB will not cut its athletic budget, but will redirect funds to other sports to make them more competitive, the statement said.

With the regular season over, the players’ only hope of wearing the green and gold one more time is to receive a bowl bid. Meanwhile, numerous younger players are being courted by other schools looking to add talent to their rosters.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Chanukah Events in the Region

Pictured here: The 2013 Krewe du Jieux Chanukah Second Line parade in New Orleans.

Following is a listing of Chanukah events in the Deep South:


Knesseth Israel in Birmingham will have its annual Chanukah Latke Bar and Bingo on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. Ammong the varieties will be carrot and potato latkes, cumin scented beet latkes, leek latkes, potato latkes and zucchini apple latke fritters.

Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El will have its annual Family Fun Day on Dec. 14 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, with games, doughnuts and a bounce house. The Brotherhood’s Chanukah lunch and raffle will be at noon. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have its Chanukah celebration on Dec. 14 with a religious school event at 11 a.m., followed by the Sisterhood Chanukah lunch at 11:30 a.m. Cost is $12 for adults, $6 for children over the age of 5. At 12:30 p.m. the youth group will work on “the next great viral video” for Chanukah. The Men’s Club will also sponsor a blood drive from 9 a.m. to noon.

Chabad of Alabama will have its Chanukah Winter Wonderland on Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. in Birmingham with the annual Ice Menorah lighting. The party that follows includes Chanukah crafts, latkes, doughnuts, a pasta bar, salad bar and hot cocoa. Cost is $10 per adult, $6 per child, up to $36 for a family. Reservations are requested.

Temple Emanu-El in Dothan will have its Chanukah potluck on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m., supplying Leon’s Luscious Latkes, drinks and doughnuts. Side or main dishes for 8 to 10 are requested. Cost is $8 for adults, $4 for children under 10, with reservations requested by Dec. 17.

Chabad of North Alabama will have its fifth annual public Menorah lighting on Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m., at Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville. The lighting will be at 5 p.m. There will be sufganiyot, hot chocolate, pavement performers, music and entertainment, and children’s activities.

Etz Chayim in Huntsville will have its annual latke party on Dec. 14 at 11:30 a.m., sponsored by Sisterhood, with Bingo sponsored by the Men’s Club.

The annual Chanukah Fry Fest at Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville will be on Dec. 19 at 5:45 p.m. Anything that can be fried is fair game. Fried chicken, latkes and salads are definitely on the menu, plus surprises. Last year there were fried biscuits. The suggested donation is $10 per family.

B’nai Sholom will host a community menorah lighting at Big Spring Park on Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at Pane e Vino.

Mobile will have its first-ever public Chanukah menorah lighting at Bienville Square on Dec. 16. The event is organized by the new Chabad of Mobile and starts at 6:30 p.m.

The free event includes latkes and doughnuts, children’s crafts, glow-in-the-dark Chanukah T-shirts, a fire juggler and a raffle for a Kindle Fire. All of this is a play off of Chanukah being the holiday of light, Goldwasser said.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson has been invited to light the shamash.

Bienville Square is also the site of Mobile’s Christmas tree lighting, which took place on Nov. 21.

On Dec. 21, Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will have a Chanukah dinner to introduce three new babies to the congregation. Further details will be forthcoming.

Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile will have a family Chanukah dinner on Dec. 19 after the 6 p.m. Shabbat service. There will be a group menorah lighting and the “famous Men’s Club Latkes.” Reservations are requested by Dec. 10, and are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 10.

The Jewish Federation of Central Alabama will have a young adults “Light it Up for Chanukah” Happy Hour, Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m., at Pine Bar in Montgomery.

Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery will have its annual Chanukah Hoopla, with a latke and hot dog lunch on Dec. 7 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There will be a food bazaar and gift shopping, with a Kids Korner of activities.

Temple Beth Or in Montgomery will have a Chanukah family service and dinner on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. Services will be in the sanctuary, followed by dinner in the social hall. Dinner reservations are required.

Tuscaloosa’s Temple Emanu-El will have a Chanukah party on Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m. Families should bring their favorite menorah, two candles and a pot-luck dish. The congregation will provide latkes and soft drinks.

Florida Panhandle

PJ Library and the Pensacola Jewish Federation will have a Chanukah celebration, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Barnes and Noble Booksellers on Airport Boulevard.

On Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m., there will be a Chanukah party for Pensacola Young Jewish Professionals, at the Fleekop home. Temple Beth-El will have its Chanukah Shabbat and party on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

Chabad of the Emerald Coast will have a Grand Menorah Lighting on Dec. 21 at 4 p.m., at Harborwalk Village in Destin.

Beth Shalom in Fort Walton Beach will have a Family Chanukah Night on Dec. 19, with families encouraged to bring their menorahs for a group lighting at 7:30 p.m. Chuck London will tell the Chanukah story.

B’nai Israel in Panama City will have a Chanukah luncheon on Dec. 21 at 11 a.m., with performances by the religious school. The lunch is $5 for adults, free for teachers, religious school students and their parents.

New Orleans

Chanukah returns to the Riverwalk this year.

After two years at the Lakeview Mall in Metairie, the Chabad-sponsored event returns to Spanish Plaza at Riverwalk on Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

There will be a menorah lighting at 6:15 p.m., a hot latke bar, a Dreidel House kids activity center and face painting. Yoel Sharabi will also be in concert.

Parking will be available at the Hilton lot for $5. Rain location will be the Riverwalk indoor food court.

Chabad will also hold its Celebrity Chef Latke Cookoff for Young Jewish Professionals on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Uptown Chabad. In addition to celebrity chefs, Chabad throws in an amateur to compete against the professionals.

The annual Mobile Menorah Parade is scheduled for Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m., leaving from Chabad Uptown. A party will follow at Chabad Uptown.

The Chabad Chanukah party for Israelis in New Orleans will be at 6 p.m. on Dec. 21, at Chabad in Metairie.

The Chabad Family Chanukah Party will be at Chabad in Metairie on Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. There will be pizza, "make your own doughnut" and a family menorah lighting at 7 p.m. Cost is $12 for adults, $8 for children by Dec. 17, $15 per adult and $12 per child after.

Chabad is also offering its olive press workshop at Temple Sinai in Lake Charles, B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge, Stepping Stones Montessori, Touro Synagogue, Chabad Hebrew School and Woldenberg Village.

There will be a pre-Chanukah Kosher Day at the Whole Foods, Arabella Station, on Dec. 8 from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Jewish Children’s Regional Service will have Latkes with a Twist on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. at Bellocq. More information here.

On Dec. 14, the community Chanukah celebration at the Uptown Jewish Community Center includes a free concert by Israeli music icon David Broza at 2:30 p.m.

The first night of Chanukah, there will be a celebration of Jewish education at the New Orleans Pelicans game against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 16. Children from the Jewish Community Day School will sing the National Anthem, and there will be a post-game on-court photo. A percentage of group ticket sales will benefit Jewish children’s education in New Orleans. Discounted balcony seats are $14 and lower level tickets are $32, and should be reserved through the Day School by Dec. 8. Tipoff is 7 p.m. and tickets can be picked up at Will-Call.

The Gates of Prayer Sisterhood in Metairie will have Vodka and Latkes on Dec. 14 at 1 p.m., in preparation for the congregation’s Chanukah dinner on Dec. 19. The Dec. 19 interactive musical service will be at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Reservations are required for dinner, adults are $10 and children ages 2 to 12 are $5.

On Dec. 19, Touro Synagogue will have a Chanukah family dinner of fried chicken and latkes, featuring Matthew Noel, the Magic Yoyo. The dinner, which follows the 6 p.m. service, is $15 for adults, $10 for children and $54 for families.

Temple Sinai in New Orleans will have a Chanukah bazaar sponsored by the Sisterhood on Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be a bake sale by the parents of the Religious School, hot dogs and latkes. The latkes are donated by Alon Shaya from Domenica.

The Temple Sinai Chanukah on the Avenue will be Dec. 19 starting with Shabbat services featuring the Sinai Puppets at 6:15 p.m. At 7 p.m. there will be the menorah lighting On The Avenue, followed by a latke dinner. Reservations for the dinner are $16 for adults, $8 for children ages 6 to 12, free for ages 5 and under.

JNOLA, the group for Jewish young adults in New Orleans ages 21 to 45, has Chanukah in the Quarter on Dec. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Evangeline. Admission to the “party with a purpose” is $10, and half of the proceeds go to Second Harvest Food Bank. There will be a menorah lighting, latke bar and the first cocktail is complimentary.

Jewish Community Day School students will perform a Chanukah Musical play entitled "Glowin' Down the Bayou" at the Metairie school. This original production, written by JCDS Faculty members Lauren Gisclair and Aleeza Adelman, will be held Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. in the JCDS cafeteria. The musical takes place in New Orleans where the children go on a journey to find the candles for the Chanukiyah. Their adventures will take them to Cafe du Monde, the Audubon Zoo and the Superdome in search of the candles for the first three nights of Chanukah. The music will include popular Chanukah favorites such as "The Dreidel Song" as well some original songs including "Let it Glow!" The production is open to the community and is free of charge.

The Jewish Babies Club at the Day School will have a Chanukah music program on Dec. 19 at 11 a.m.

The 10th annual Krewe du Jieux Chanukah Second Line Parade will depart from Molly's at the Market on Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. The Brass-Arabian Spectacular Band will lead the parade through the French Quarter. The parade will conclude with a menorah lighting and beignets at Cafe du Monde, around 7:30 p.m.

Shir Chadash in Metairie will have a Sisterhood dinner and game night on Dec. 22, and there will be a Latke and Chai-Nese dinner on Dec. 24 at 7 p.m.

Beth Israel in Metairie will have its annual Chanukah party and Chinese dinner, Dec. 23 at 6:30 p.m. There is no charge for members and a suggested donation of $18 for non-members.


Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge will have a community candle lighting and potluck dinner, Dec. 19 at 5 p.m., followed by 6 p.m. service.

B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will have a coffeehouse Chanukah celebration, Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m. After Havdalah there will be a latke dinner and party with a community menorah lighting, open mic for singing and poetry, dreidel games and a white elephant gift exchange. Cost is $8 for adults, $4 for children, reservations are due by Dec. 15.

In Lafayette, Temple Shalom will have a Chanukah Songfest at Shabbat services on Dec. 19. There will be a dairy dinner at 6 p.m., followed by services. On Dec. 21, the congregation will have a Cajun Chanukah party, with "Daniel and the Lions," Daniel Gale, Henry Hample, Steven Cohen, Thomas David and Drew Simon playing Cajun and Chanukah music. There is no admission charge for the event, which will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Food and monetary donations to FoodNet are being accepted, and proceeds from the sale of traditional Chanukah foods will benefit the congregation.

Rabbi Judy Caplan Ginsburgh will lead a Chanukah celebration and family night at Temple Sinai in Lake Charles on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

B’nai Israel in Monroe will have a Shabbat service on Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. conducted by Harvey Rappaport. He will give a history of Jewish music through Chanukah. On Dec. 19, Rabbi Barbara Metzinger will conduct a Chanukah Seder with the 6 p.m. service.

B’nai Zion in Shreveport will have a Chanukah service on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m., followed by an oneg with latkes.

Shreveport’s Agudath Achim will have a covered dish dinner and group menorah lighting on Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. Dairy or pareve dishes are encouraged. Shabbat services will follow the dinner.


B’nai Israel in Hattiesburg will have a covered dish supper and Chanukah Party on Dec. 20. Student rabbi Simon Stratford will lead a lighting of the Chanukah candles, and there will be plenty of Bingo and latkes.

Beth Israel in Jackson will have its Chanukah dinner on Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. The menu will include brisket, latkes, vegetables, salad and dessert. Reservations are requested by Dec. 16. The dinner is $10 for adults in advance, $15 at the door. Children ages 7 to 13 are $5, and under 6 are free.

Chabad of Southern Mississippi will have its giant Menorah lighting on Dec. 18 at Edgewater Mall in Biloxi, starting at 6:30 p.m. There will be latkes, doughnuts, Jewish music and candle making.

The Beth Israel family Chanukah party in Gulfport will be on Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. with a dairy potluck dinner. Latkes will be provided.

The University of Mississippi and Oxford Jewish community will have its Latke Study Break on Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom, next to the Subway. Latkes will be provided by My Michelle’s Catering. The suggested donation is $5, free for students. The event is open to the greater community.

Monday, December 1, 2014

David Broza concert concludes Jewish Cultural Arts Month in NOLA

Jewish Cultural Arts Month concludes on Dec. 14 with a 2:30 p.m. community Chanukah celebration featuring David Broza. The month, hosted by the New Orleans Jewish Community Center, was sponsored by Cathy and Morris Bart.

One event, the appearance of author Tova Mirvis on Dec. 11, had to be rescheduled when it was learned that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer would be speaking at the Uptown JCC that evening. As of press time, the Mirvis appearance had not been rescheduled.

One of Israel’s best-known singers and songwriters, Broza’s music fuses the three countries where he has lived — Israel, England and Spain. He is also known for humanitarian activism, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Broza is currently touring for his latest album, “East Jerusalem West Jerusalem,” presenting the story of the album that was made in the East Jerusalem, Palestinian studio Sabreen, with Israeli, Palestinian and American musicians and produced by Grammy winner artist Steve Earle along with some tracks produced by Steve Greenberg. Four days after the New Orleans concert, a film based on the album will screen in Jerusalem. It has already been screened at a couple of festivals in the U.S.

His hit song “Yihye Tov” (It will be good), written after the Camp David peace accord with Egypt, has become the anthem of the peace process and was included on the “Shalom Chaver” CD that was released after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Broza was awarded a Spanish royal medal of honor by Spain’s King Juan Carlos I, for his longtime contribution to Israel-Spain relations and his promotion of tolerance.

In 2010 Broza released the album “Night Dawn: the unpublished poetry of Townes Van Zandt” to worldwide acclaim.

The concert is free and open to the community, and a reception will follow.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NOLA's Pollack shapes glass into holy, secular items

On a crisp October weekend near Tuscaloosa, amid the hundreds of artisans and self-taught artists at Kentuck displaying pottery, paintings and letterpress prints was a New Orleanian with a wide range of glass mezuzahs and Chanukah menorahs, and a couple of Torah pointers.

Judaica is a large portion of what Andrew Jackson Pollack makes in his New Orleans studio. An Atlanta native, Pollack was enamored by a visit to JazzFest and decided to move to New Orleans in 1997 to attend Loyola University.

He was already an artist in a family of artists. His mother, who did ceramics, was making glass beads when he was 12, and “I went from making beads of clay to making beads out of glass when I was 15.” Naturally, his first efforts at glass, the beads, were a natural fit in New Orleans.

He enrolled in glass blowing classes at the New Orleans School of Glassworks and Printmaking. Before long he became a member of the faculty, coordinating the lampworking department.

He has also studied at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, working with some of the top artists in glassmaking.

Pollack left the New Orleans School shortly before Katrina hit and established his own studio. With the flood, “we were lucky” being Uptown. An aunt and uncle lived in Lakeview by the 17th Street levee breach and had 10 feet of water in their home.

Pollack had gone to Atlanta just before the storm, and they remained there for eight months while their relatives lived in their Uptown home, until the Lakeview house was habitable. “We knew we were coming back,” he said.

Upon returning to New Orleans, he established Andrew Jackson Pollack Designs and started looking for clients and wholesale accounts, continuing “one person production but as more of a business.”

Fashioning Judaica goes back to the beginning of his artistic career. “Probably one of the first things I tried to make out of glass” was a mezuzah, he said.

He came up with a Judaica line of designs after Katrina when he began wholesaling. Though he has certain designs, “none will be the same” as he does everything new.

He does about a dozen Chanukah menorahs per year. He also does Kiddush cups, dreidels, Torah pointers and even a Seder plate. He estimates that in 20 years working with glass he has done “a couple thousand” mezuzahs.

Aside from Judaica he does sculptures, perfume bottles, candleabras, jewelry and goblets, among other items.

Currently, a lot of his work includes birds, especially Louisiana birds such as pelicans. “I really enjoy bringing out their personalities” with the glass, he said. A few years ago, fish dominated his works, as he has been a scuba diver for years.

He no longer goes the wholesale route, because “I find I can only make so much.” There are a few places he has worked with for years that carry his pieces, but “it’s hard to keep up as one artist” who makes everything as a one-of-a-kind piece.

Pollack is also a home brewer, and this month was scheduled to do a show of beer-related glassware at The Avenue Pub. He also reclaims beer bottles that have the labels etched into the bottles, turning them into drinking glasses.

His works are carried at Rhino Gallery at Canal Place, and at Dashka Roth in the Quarter. He teaches classes at YAYA Creative Glass, and goes to art festivals from Texas to Georgia. His works are also available through his website.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Gourmet latke bar, JCRS musical legacy at Chanukah event

Jewish Children’s Regional Service will host “Latkes with a Twist,” a community-wide Chanukah celebration, on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. at Bellocq at The Hotel Modern. The event will go on as planned though there was an Israel Bonds event featuring Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer scheduled for 7 p.m.

The evening will feature live music by Mark Rubin, a past JCRS aid recipient and member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, a complimentary latke bar by Chef Alon Shaya of Domenica, drink specials and a silent auction.

Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased at the JCRS website or by calling the JCRS office at (504) 828-6334.

Funds raised through the event will support the PJ Library program, which provides free monthly gifts of books and music to Jewish children through age 8. In addition, proceeds from the event will enable JCRS to directly assist greater numbers of vulnerable Jewish youth and families with college aid, Jewish summer camp grants, and assistance to families with children with special needs.

JCRS now annually serves 35 percent of all Jewish youth in Greater New Orleans. In 2013, JCRS reached more than 1500 youth across seven mid-South states.

Sponsors to “Latkes with a Twist” include Bellocq, Domenica, Herman Herman & Katz, The Hotel Modern, Rubensteins, Sazerac and Wisznia.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interfaith learning with Jewish scholar of Christian Bible in NOLA, Miss.

Amy Jill-Levine, a self-described “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt,” will be the featured speaker at two scholar in residence weekends, in New Orleans and Greenwood, Miss.

Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences in Nashville. Her books include “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” and “The Meaning of the Bible: What The Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us.”

She will be the 2014 Usdin Lecturer at Temple Sinai in New Orleans, in conjunction with Trinity Episcopal Church. On Dec. 12 she will speak at the 6:15 p.m. Shabbat service at Sinai, discussing “Hearing Jesus’ Parables as Jewish Stories: Pearls, Pharisees, and Tax Collectors.”

On Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. she will speak on “How Jews and Christians Read Scripture Differently,” in a 6 p.m. program at the home of Joan and Julian Feibelman, Jr. Space is limited and reservations are requested to Temple Sinai.

On Dec. 14 she will speak at Trinity’s morning services, discussing “The Prodigal Son: Hearing the Parable through Jewish Ears” at 9 a.m. and “The Good Samaritan as a Jewish Story” at 10:30 a.m.

The Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Greenwood is partnering with Ahavath Rayim and the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi for a weekend with Amy Jill-Levine entitled “Jesus and Judaism: Why the Connection Matters.”

The weekend will begin with a Shabbat service at Ahavath Rayim, a “traditional” congregation that is the last historically-Orthodox congregation in the state. Rabbi Jeremy Simons from the Institute of Southern Jewish Life will conduct the 6:15 p.m. service on Jan. 16. Afterward, Levine will speak on “How Jews and Christians Read Scripture Differently.”

There will be three sessions at the Church of the Nativity on Jan. 17, starting with breakfast at 8:45 a.m. “Hearing the Christmas Story through Jewish Ears” will be at 9:15 a.m., followed by “Hearing the Parables through Jewish Ears” at 11 a.m.

Lunch from the Delta Bistro will be available for $14, pre-registration is required.

At 1:15 p.m. Levine will lead a session on “Understanding Jesus in His Jewish Context.” This session is intended for those who teach, preach and study the Christian Bible.

On Jan. 18 at 10:30, Levine will deliver the sermon at the Church of the Nativity’s Eucharist service.

The Jan. 17 seminar is free, but donations are encouraged. A block of rooms has been reserved at the Alluvian Hotel, which is across from the church and five blocks from Ahavath Rayim.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ramah Darom launching four-week camp for teens with autism

Ramah Darom, the Conservative movement’s summer camp in north Georgia, announced the launch of a new Tikvah Program for summer 2015 and the addition of Audra Kaplan to its professional staff.

The Tikvah Program will offer a four-week summer experience for children ages 12 to 17 years who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Kaplan, who will direct this new program, is a clinical psychologist with extensive experience in Jewish camp and in working with children with disabilities.

Geoffrey Menkowitz, director of Ramah Darom, said “We are thrilled to be able to open our doors wider and give more children the opportunity to experience the magic of our camp. The Tikvah program will enhance the entire camp, enabling us to teach our campers by experience what a truly inclusive Jewish community can look like and inspire them to bring that model home to their schools and synagogues.”

Debra Michaud, president of the Ramah Darom board, added “As we celebrate the 18th anniversary of Ramah Darom, this is a significant milestone for our organization. We are proud to build upon our commitment to being an inclusive community, which began with Camp Yofi and will continue with this exciting program.”

With this new program, Ramah Darom will build upon the expertise gained from 10 years of running its nationally recognized Camp Yofi — a 5-day camp for families of children with ASD. Ramah Darom will also expand the reach of the National Ramah Tikvah Network of programs in the Ramah overnight and day camps across North America that serve Jewish children, teens, and young adults with a variety of disabilities.

Camp Ramah Darom’s Tikvah Program will be the first program in the Southeast focused on providing a traditional, immersive, Jewish summer camping experience to Jewish teenagers with autism spectrum disorder. The program will be fully integrated into a community that is steeped in Jewish celebration, learning, and ritual.