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Federation: 30 Jewish households displaced by Baton Rouge flood

Federation: 30 Jewish households displaced by Baton Rouge flood

NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster is on the ground in Baton Rouge

(Updated frequently)

Thirty Jewish families in the Baton Rouge area are known to have been displaced or experienced severe damage to their homes after this week's floods in central Louisiana, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

Described by FEMA Administrator Chris Fugate as "a hurricane with no wind," the storm dropped as much as 26 inches of rain on an already-saturated area this past weekend. So far, there have been 13 confirmed deaths and 20 parishes were declared Federal disaster areas.

The Red Cross said this was the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012. At least 40,000 homes have been damages, and over 80,000 have already registered for assistance from FEMA.

The Baton Rouge Jewish community numbers between 1,600 and 2,000, with two synagogues and a Chabad presence. While the Jewish institutions were not damaged, many congregants suffered losses.

Mark Hausmann, president of Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge, said "We are still in needs assessment mode, but most of the needs appear to be financial and manpower."

The synagogues, Baton Rouge and New Orleans Federations and Union for Reform Judaism representatives met on Aug. 19 to coordinate efforts. Both Baton Rouge synagogues are Reform. Ellen Sager, director of the Baton Rouge Federation, is among those with "significant" flood damage to their homes.

The Jewish Federations of North America launched an online relief appeal, with 100 percent of donations going to the Baton Rouge Flood Relief Fund to support the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge "as they meet urgent needs." Originally, both congregations set up their own relief funds, but at the Aug. 19 meeting it was agreed that the Federation site should be "the primary intake of donations for distribution to those in the Jewish community that have been affected by the flood."

The New Orleans Federation has made an allocation of $25,000 to the relief effort, and the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana has made a $10,000 grant from its general fund. JEF is also encouraging those with donor-advised funds to make allocations to the Baton Rouge Federation.

The New Orleans Federation is collecting gift cards to Rouses, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, Office Depot, Petsmart and Petco, which will be distributed by the Baton Rouge Federation to those who need them the most. Cards can be dropped off at the Jewish Community Campus in Metairie.

The New Orleans Federation is also recruiting New Orleanians who navigated through the post-Katrina bureaucracy to lend emotional support and advice to those in Baton Rouge, especially in dealing with insurance companies, paperwork and reconstruction.

Minnesota-based NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster is on the ground in Baton Rouge. After helping the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, the group started working on removing flooded items from homes and starting the rebuilding process.

Volunteers are needed, but need to coordinate by registering at the NECHAMA website.

JNOLA, the Federation's young adult group, will send a delegation of volunteers this weekend, meeting in Baton Rouge on Aug. 20 at 10 a.m.

Rabbi Peretz Kazen from Chabad of Baton Rouge said there are some in the Jewish community who “have lost everything."

They are reaching out to community members to assess needs and offer assistance with food, temporary living quarters and other arrangements. A Go Fund Me page has been set up to “give them a little relief to get them on their feet.”

His wife, Mushka, was a teen living in New Orleans when Katrina came in 2005. In the weeks that followed, her parents, Rabbi Zelig and Bluma Rivkin, played a large role in the recovery, and were recognized by President George Bush for their efforts.

When the Kazens' expected Shabbat guests started cancelling last week because of the weather, they decided to head to New Orleans for Shabbat and Tisha B'Av, then headed back to Baton Rouge to help after seeing the extent of the disaster.

Members of Beth Shalom Synagogue have been working all week, opening their kitchen to make meals for those who are in shelters and for the emergency operations center. They reported 12 congregants and six staff members had flood damage, and this week many members were in the home of Vicki Ferstel, clearing out flooded walls, flooring and furniture.

Before the efforts were combined into the Federation fund drive, Beth Shalom had a Tisha B'Av 2016 Flood Relief Fund, which will go toward the congregation's flood relief efforts, assisting congregants whose homes were flooded, and to pay their Rayner Learning Center staff while the school is closed and assist Rayner staff members whose homes flooded. B'nai Israel, which also had numerous congregants with flood damage, also had an online fund set up.

Jessica Yellin, religious school director at B'nai Israel, said "Many have lost everything and didn't have flood insurance. Even those with insurance are displaced and without transportation."

After Hurricane Katrina hit 11 years ago, Baton Rouge was a coordination point for the evacuated New Orleans Jewish community. When Hurricane Rita hit shortly after Katrina in 2005, Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge suffered roof damage that flooded the building.

Anna Blumenfeld Herman and Nadav Herman of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica arrived with a flatbed trailer filled with essentials for cleaning out flooded buildings and got to work with the other volunteers.

Torah Academy in Metairie is collecting supplies for Baton Rouge, especially during supply drop-off for students at orientation. Shir Chadash in Metairie is collecting $20 gift cards for Target and Wal-Mart, along with diapers, through Thursday night, to be sent to Baton Rouge via the Junior League.

Starting on Aug. 22, the Jewish Community Day School in Metairie will be holding a clothing, food, toys and tzedakah drive. Collection boxes will be in the Metairie JCC lobby.

Temple Sinai in New Orleans will have volunteers helping send supplies, meeting at the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street on Aug. 20 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Beth Israel in Gulfport, which had to completely rebuild after Katrina, is sending $500 each to both of the Baton Rouge congregations and collecting funds at its membership meeting on Aug. 21.

Chabad of Baton Rouge will have a community Shabbat dinner, open to all regardless of affiliation or observance level, on Aug. 19 at 7:15 p.m.

Beth Shalom will have a musical Shabbat service on Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. "as we raise our voice in both praise and the healing power of prayer." Newly-arrived Rabbi Natan Trief and musician Nick May will lead the service, which will be followed by an oneg sponsored by the Posner family "in honor of the valiant effort of so many people in our community this week and all the work ahead of us."


From Hollywood to Horror: Mobile hosting exhibit on documenting Nazi atrocities

From Hollywood to Horror: Mobile hosting exhibit on documenting Nazi atrocities

Seven decades ago, the world got its first glance at film shot by the Allies in the Nazi concentration camps. An exhibit about how that footage was gathered will open this month at the History Museum of Mobile.

Hollywood directors John Ford, George Stevens, and Samuel Fuller are known for American cinema classics like “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Shane” and “The Big Red One.” But their most important contribution to history was their work in the U.S. Armed Forces and Secret Services, filming the realities of war and the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

Few knew of that contribution, and how their confrontation with Nazi atrocities affected them for the rest of their lives.

Their documentation provides an essential visual record of World War II. “Filming the Camps” presents rare footage of the liberation of Dachau with detailed directors’ notes, narratives describing burials at Falkenau, and the documentary produced as evidence at the Nuremberg trials, among other historic material.

The exhibition, curated by historian and film director Christian Delage, was designed, created, and circulated by the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, and made possible through the support of the SNCF.

The Field Photographic Branch was created in the 1930s to train cameramen “in case of emergency.” Films supervised by Ford included footage from Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway.

In 1943, Stevens joined a team under General Eisenhower, the Special Coverage Unit, which filmed the Normandy landings. They were given specific instructions to document “evidence of war crimes and atrocities” and would later enter and document the Dachau concentration camp.

Their film documentation of World War II and concentration camp liberation was utilized as evidence during the Nuremberg trials — the first time movies were used in such a fashion. They served as inspiration for Hollywood cinema as well.

The exhibit’s artifacts include rare film footage, interviews, manuscripts, photographs, director’s notes, and additional video of World War II.

Last year, the exhibit was at the Atlanta History Center.

The History Museum of Mobile will open the exhibit on Aug. 29, and then host a series of accompanying events until the exhibit closes on Jan. 16.

The exhibit’s documentary will be screened on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., followed by a question and answer session with Delage. That day, there will be a workshop for Holocaust educators from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Sept. 7, there will be a War and Memory conference, “The Holocaust in Memory and History” at the University of South Alabama. Scholar presentations and roundtables will be at Seaman’s Bethel from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and at 7 p.m. there will be a keynote lecture by Brad Prager at the Faculty Club.

On Sept. 14, there will be a Learning Lunch at noon with Gary Scovil, producer of the film “We Remember.”

On Sept. 26, “Memory of the Camps” will be screened at 7 p.m. at the University of South Alabama’s Marx Library auditorium.

Dan Puckett of the Alabama Holocaust Commission and author of “In the Shadow of Hitler: Alabama Jews, the Second World War and the Holocaust,” will give a presentation on “Alabama and the Holocaust” on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at Spring Hill College.

On Oct. 20, Roger Grunwald, the child of survivors, will present his one-person drama “The Mitzvah Project” at 7 p.m. at Spring Hill College’s Mitchell Theater.

A film series will start on Oct. 23, with screenings at Spring Hill College LeBlanc at 2 p.m. “Imaginary Witness” will be screened on Oct. 23, with “Night and Fog” on Nov. 13 and “Son of Saul” on Dec. 4, in collaboration with the Mobile Jewish Film Festival.

On Oct. 24, Matt Rozell will present “Photographs from a Train Near Magdeburg” at the University of Mobile’s Ram Hall, at 11 a.m.

David Meola will present “Reflections on a Concentration Camp: Encountering Bergen-Belsen” on Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m., at Mobile Public Library.

Paul Bartrop will speak on “The British Dimension: Filming the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen in April 1945,” at the University of South Alabama’s Marx Library auditorium, on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.

First Baptist Church of Mobile will host “Conversations on Holocaust Liberation and Rescue” on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m., and Ahavas Chesed will host “Memories of Agnes Tennenbaum,” a Holocaust survivor who died in Mobile on May 30, on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.

The museum, at 111 Royal Street, is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for ages 13 to 17, $5 for ages 6 to 12 and free for ages 5 and under.

Jewish community launches response to Baton Rouge flooding

Jewish community launches response to Baton Rouge flooding

Volunteers prepare meals at Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge (from the congregation's Facebook)


(Updated frequently)

Relief efforts are underway following the historic flooding in Baton Rouge and central Louisiana, and the Jewish community is working to assess the situation and provide aid.

Parts of the region received up to two feet of rain in two days from a tropical system that parked itself over the state, inundating rivers and streams and causing widespread flooding. At least five people have been killed and there have been thousands of water rescues.

In Baton Rouge, Governor John Bel Edwards and his family had to evacuate a flooded Governor’s Mansion, and the Louisiana State University campus flooded. For a time, all major roads west of New Orleans to Baton Rouge were closed by flooding, including a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 12 from Covington to Baton Rouge.

The Baton Rouge Jewish community numbers between 1,600 and 2,000, with two synagogues and a relatively-new Chabad presence. None of the Jewish institutions have been damaged, but both synagogues are compiling lists of members who have been affected by the flooding.

Rabbi Peretz Kazen from Chabad of Baton Rouge said there are some in the Jewish community who “have lost everything,” while others have been “going through a lot waiting in their homes, surrounded by water.”

They are reaching out to community members to assess needs and offer assistance with food, temporary living quarters and other arrangements. A Go Fund Me page has been set up to “give them a little relief to get them on their feet.”

The Jewish Federations of North America launched an online relief appeal, with 100 percent of donations going to the Baton Rouge Flood Relief Fund to support the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge "as they meet urgent needs."

Beth Shalom Synagogue, which is not far from areas that were severely flooded, cancelled Tisha B’Av services on Aug. 13. The next day, members were working at Celtic Studios, a large film facility that has been turned into an emergency shelter.

Today, volunteers are filling the Beth Shalom kitchen to make meals for those taking refuge at the studio. They also brought jambalaya to a shelter at St. John's United Methodist Church and are collecting "desperately needed baby supplies."

The congregation "will continue our efforts as long as we can. We are also thinking about how we can help families that will need to rebuild."

Beth Shalom has launched a Tisha B'Av 2016 Flood Relief Fund, which will go toward the congregation's flood relief efforts, assisting congregants whose homes were flooded, and to pay their Rayner Learning Center staff while the school is closed and assist Rayner staff members whose homes flooded. Besides the online effort, checks can be sent to the congregation, at 9111 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge LA 70809.

The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans said it has "received initial reports of severe losses incurred by congregants of Temple B'nai Israel." B'nai Israel has launched a relief fund online. The Federation and Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans are coordinating information with Baton Rouge counterparts.

After Hurricane Katrina hit 11 years ago, Baton Rouge was a coordination point for the evacuated New Orleans Jewish community. When Hurricane Rita hit shortly after Katrina in 2005, Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge suffered roof damage that flooded the building.

The New Orleans Federation said in a statement to the community that it is making a special allocation toward the Baton Rouge relief effort. "This is just the first step in many we will take to aid our neighbors in south Louisiana — just as they helped us in 2005."

The New Orleans Federation is collecting gift cards to Rouses, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, Office Depot, Petsmart and Petco, which will be distributed by the Baton Rouge Federation to those who need them the most. Cards can be dropped off at the Jewish Community Campus in Metairie.

The New Orleans Federation is also recruiting New Orleanians who navigated through the post-Katrina bureaucracy to lend emotional support and advice to those in Baton Rouge, especially in dealing with insurance companies, paperwork and reconstruction.

Minnesota-based NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster is on the ground in Baton Rouge. The first step was assisting the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, which serves 25,000 meals daily and lost 120,000 pounds of food to the flood. In a post, NECHAMA said it is "vitally important that they get back online and fast."

NECHAMA is also assessing household needs and securing a base of operations. They are looking for volunteers to help with clean-up in Baton Rouge, but volunteers need to register on the NECHAMA website.

JNOLA, the Federation's young adult group, will send a delegation of volunteers this weekend, meeting in Baton Rouge on Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. There is also a JNOLA Happy Hour for Baton Rouge gift card drive, Aug. 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Tracey's Original Irish Channel Bar.

The Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana is encouraging those with donor-advised funds to make allocations to the Baton Rouge Federation.

Torah Academy in Metairie is collecting supplies for Baton Rouge, especially during supply drop-off for students at orientation. Shir Chadash in Metairie is collecting $20 gift cards for Target and Wal-Mart, along with diapers, through Thursday night, to be sent to Baton Rouge via the Junior League.

Starting on Aug. 22, the Jewish Community Day School in Metairie will be holding a clothing, food, toys and tzedakah drive. Collection boxes will be in the Metairie JCC lobby.

Temple Sinai in New Orleans will have volunteers helping send supplies, meeting at the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street on Aug. 20 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Chabad of Baton Rouge will have a community Shabbat dinner, open to all regardless of affiliation or observance level, on Aug. 19 at 7:15 p.m. Reservations can be made here.


Israeli driver set to make history in NASCAR debut

Israeli driver set to make history in NASCAR debut

For the first time, an Israeli driver will take the wheel at a NASCAR Xfinity Series race this weekend, and a Florida attorney hopes it will be inspiring for the Jewish community.

With a boost from Sarasota’s David Levin — and indirect assistance from Duck Dynasty — Alon Day will be in the No. 40 Dodge on Aug. 13 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Course. (Update: He qualified 22nd out of 40 on Aug. 12). The race will begin at 2:30 p.m. Central and will be televised on USA Network.

An environmental and waterfront property attorney, Levin is a “huge football fan,” as is his wife. She has also been a long-time NASCAR fan, and about 12 years ago when he was looking for something to follow after football season ended, she suggested he try NASCAR.

He noticed an “absence of Jewish participation behind the wheel” and was looking for a way to rectify that in a sport with a fan base that is seen as overwhelmingly Christian.

In early April, he was watching the broadcast of a race at the Texas Motor Speedway, and saw Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson give the invocation, which included a prayer “that we put a Jesus man in the White House.”

Levin said that prayer “was a kick in the butt.” Many who give invocations understand the audience is diverse and do non-denominational prayers, he said. “Those that don’t, you just accept that. I thought that one was a little over the top.”

At Talladega on April 30, he sponsored a car in the Xfinity series, which is one step lower than the Sprint Cup series. The Florida Waterfront Law car was driven by Johnny Jackson.

The Xfinity series is a mixture of newcomers and experienced drivers trying to make the Cup series, but some Cup drivers also choose to compete there.

While there, Levin reached out to the team owner, “that if he would find a qualified Jewish driver I was certain there would be plenty of corporate support for him.”

It would also attract interest from the Jewish community. “Even my mom would tune in to watch that,” he said.

Shortly after that discussion, NASCAR named its NASCAR NEXT participants, with Alon Day as one of the 11 selected drivers. The program identifies and develops up-and-coming drivers.

A few weeks later, Levin met and interviewed Day in Charlotte. “He was such an impressive personality,” he said.

A native of Ashdod, Day began as a Go Kart racer as a teenager, finishing second in the Israel Karting Championship. He then set off for Europe, competing in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge and the German Formula Three Championship, where he placed in the top 10 in both of his seasons.

He came to America to race briefly in Indy Lights, then returned to Europe and started racing in the FIA GT series in 2013.

In 2015 he started racing stock cars in the Whelen Euro Series. Despite having to learn about stock cars, he finished second in the series and won the Junior “Jerome Sarran” Trophy as rookie of the year. Over the last two seasons, he won five races in the European series.

They have identified seven Xfinity races as a plan for the fall. The first two are road tracks — this weekend in Ohio, and Aug. 27 at Road America in Wisconsin.

After the first two, NASCAR will assess his results and determine if he can go on to other races.

“After his successful fall debut, our plan is to have him run a full season in 2017,” Levin said. By limiting him to seven races this year, he would still be regarded as a rookie next year.

But the first, biggest hurdle is financing. He pulled $60,000 from his retirement account to guarantee Day’s first two races and has been looking for sponsors to ensure the other five.

Unlike basketball or football, where the team pays the athlete, in racing, the driver secures a spot behind the wheel by paying the team through the sponsorships they get on their own. And fielding a competitive car “is incredibly expensive.”

Levin said it has been a “hugely uphill battle” convincing the many Jewish-owned companies he has contacted to sponsor something they have “never seen on their marketing radar.”

He said there is a perception that NASCAR is “solely a Southern, Christian redneck sport,” and aren’t aware of the fans’ demographics. Studies have shown that NASCAR fans are the most fiercely loyal to sponsors, much more than football, basketball or other sports. Also, he point to television ratings in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, which are three of the top five markets for NASCAR broadcasts.

He is promoting the “unique” opportunity to capitalize on what would undoubtedly be a human interest story. “There will be a lot of attention focused on Alon.”

And there isn’t a lack of Jewish fans for NASCAR. A Jewish law professor who is a NASCAR fan recently called Levin to thank him for his efforts.

Levin hopes publicity about Day’s first races will help lead to sponsorships, or “his racing career will be very short-lived.”

Day can become a sports role model for Jewish children, Levin added, and the Jewish community needs to step up and support Day. He has also set up a GoFundMe page.

Another angle for gaining support is through evangelical Christians who are NASCAR fans and passionate about Israel. Levin said he is just starting to learn about that.

While many national journalists covering NASCAR are Jewish, Birmingham’s Rabbi Barry Altmark was a photojournalist covering NASCAR for five years and Birmingham’s Eli Gold was the long-time voice of NASCAR before parting ways with the Motor Racing Network this spring, there have been very few Jews on the track.

In 2007, Jon Denning started 20 races in NASCAR’s entry-level Whelen American Series, finishing first four times. Unable to find sponsors, he mostly left racing.

Denning reportedly had to deal with crew members who insulted Jews and minorities, and others who tried to convert him to Christianity.

In 2012, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame as the only member of the Auto Racing category.

Overseas, there have been a few Jewish drivers of note. The legendary Sir Stirling Moss of Britain, regarded by many as the greatest all-around racing driver of all time, had a “partially” Jewish father and he was bullied for it in school.

Birmingham's Emanu-El to debut original Klezmer service

Birmingham's Emanu-El to debut original Klezmer service

Alan Goldspiel

Cantor Jessica Roskin of Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El said it is rare for a congregation to have the opportunity and ability to commission an original musical composition, let alone an entire service. On Aug. 26, Emanu-El will hold the world premiere of “The Klezmer Shabbat Service,” composed by Alan Goldspiel, who chairs the Department of Music at the University of Montevallo.

Goldspiel said he was going on sabbatical and wanted to compose a Klezmer-style service. He approached Roskin to see if she knew of anyone who might be interested in commissioning such a work.

As it turns out, Roskin was looking to commission a piece in recognition of the Ruth and Marvin Engel Cantorial Chair at Emanu-El. Goldspiel recalled, “I spoke maybe three seconds” before Roskin jumped at the idea.

Roskin explained that the cantorial chair “ensures that we will always have the funds available to have a Cantorial position at Temple Emanu-El, and to provide monies for cultural arts programming and a professional choir during the High Holy Days.”

The work, she said, will be in honor of the Engel family and “a tribute” to the Birmingham Jewish community.

A classical guitarist, Goldspiel moved to Montevallo in 2008, after 13 years teaching at Louisiana Tech University. Goldspiel has performed world premieres at New York’s Carnegie and CAMI Halls, been featured on NPR radio stations from coast to coast, and performed in the critically acclaimed Goldspiel/Provost Duo. He has been a soloist with the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, Monroe Symphony Orchestra, Vermont Philharmonic, Sinfonie-by-the-Sea, Red Mountain Chamber Orchestra, and he served as an Artist-in-Residence for North Carolina’s prestigious Visiting Artists Program, presenting over 80 concerts throughout that state.

He was the 2013 recipient of an Escape to Create Residency in Seaside, Fla., and was awarded the 2014 Alabama Music Teachers Association State Composition Commission.

In June, the Alabama State Council on the Arts awarded him a music fellowship grant, saying “Goldspiel’s compositions exhibit a variety in thematic melodies that are well suited for musicians and audiences. His work is imaginative and explores new musical ideas.”

His Klezmer odyssey began six years ago, when the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center asked him to perform Klezmer music at the opening of the “Darkness Into Life” exhibit.

“I said I don’t play Klezmer music,” Goldspiel said, but Deborah Layman insisted that is what they wanted. “Of course, I’d heard Klezmer music before, I just didn’t play it.” He put together a trio, but “getting musicians who had never heard it before to play it was a challenge.”

The trio soon became a quintet, the Magic Shtetl Klezmer Band, and has since played numerous times in the region.

“I became fascinated with” Klezmer, he said. “It had touched a part of who I am” after being a “stranger in a strange land” as a New Yorker in the South for so many years.

For his sabbatical, he wanted to “do something that puts everything together that I’m interested in.” But he figured it would be an odd mix — Klezmer and the sacred? Klezmer and classical guitar? But it all came together in an 18-composition service, done in the Reform tradition.

Another challenge was working with Hebrew texts in a musical form that took its phrasing and inflections from Yiddish. He visited YIVO in New York to gain more historical understanding of Klezmer, and came across the “holy grail” of recordings on Edison cylinders, where people “went out into the fields in Eastern Europe and made recordings of people singing Klezmer tunes.”

The research and composition took about a year, but he had to complete four pieces for a “taste” in January. The 18 pieces total about 55 minutes of music, “a significant undertaking,” he said.

The Klezmer Shabbat Service is scored for a soprano soloist, accompanied by a four-part choir and five-part band of violin, clarinet, classical guitar, stand-up bass and drum set.

Roskin will be the soloist, and Paul Mosteller will conduct the 12-member choir and the ensemble. Some pieces are for the entire ensemble, while others are for a soloist and a single instrument.

Though there aren’t any additional performances scheduled, Goldspiel said he would love to take it elsewhere. He also plans to write more music in Jewish styles, including a “more introspective” Shabbat service.

Roskin said “this musical work will always be associated with our Temple, and will be noted by the other congregations who perform it around the country.”

The service will be on Aug. 26 at 5:40 p.m., followed by a heavy hors d’oeuvres and champagne oneg.

There will also be a Grafman Legacy Luncheon to meet Goldspiel and learn about the service, Aug. 25 at 11:30 a.m. Lunch reservations are requested by Aug. 22, with a $10 suggested donation.

Maccabi Gold: This Week in Southern Jewish Life, August 4

Maccabi Gold: This Week in Southern Jewish Life, August 4


Above: Maccabi Games delegations from New Orleans and Birmingham have been competing this week in St. Louis. Birmingham will be one of the host cities for the 2017 Games. Birmingham has already medaled, with Adison Berger taking silver and gold in the 200-medley and 400-freestyle swimming relays, and Talia Fleisig and Hannah Halpern winning gold in dance.


Around the South: Week of August 4, 2016 

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has decided to move Alabama and Mississippi from the Atlanta Consulate’s territory to the Miami Consulate.

Poll shows 80 percent of Louisiana voters completely reject David Duke, though he has more support among younger voters.

Meanwhile, suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore leads a poll of hypothetical gubernatorial candidates in Alabama for 2018, but when you add the “second choice” it looks like he will have an uphill climb to put together 50 percent.

University of Alabama System Chancellor Robert Witt was honored by Zeta Beta Tau at their international convention in Atlanta. While he was president of the University of Alabama, he oversaw efforts to increase Jewish enrollment, and at the 100th anniversary of Alabama ZBT he was made an honorary member.

Limmud New Orleans announced that the next Limmud weekend will be March 16 to 18, 2018. This weekend, Limmud is co-sponsoring a scholar in residence weekend at Beth Israel in Metairie with Zoe Jick. Jick is the director of the English Beit Midrash at the Secular Yeshiva at BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change. She received a MTS in Jewish Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Jick is a Wexner Graduate Fellow, and an alumna of many Jewish programs including Pardes, Yeshivat Hadar, Kivunim, and EIE. She currently lives in Tel Aviv. On Aug. 5 there will be a community Shabbat dinner following the 7 p.m. service, reservations are required. Reservations are $18 for member adults, $9 for ages 5 to 12; non-members are $25 and $18. On Aug. 6, Jick will lead a text study following the BINA model, following the morning service, at approximately 11:30 a.m. 

A quickly-moving Norovirus outbreak sickened over 100 campers and staff at the URJ's Greene Family Camp in Texas.


Alabama 

The Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center at the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham will be having a big wheel race at Cahaba Brewery to raise funds for the ECLC’s Healthy Lifestyle Initiative. While this is a family friendly event, all racers must be adults. Prizes will be awarded to the winners of the race. Each team will be provided a big wheel and will be able to take it home and decorate it however they would like. On Aug. 7 at 2 p.m., the teams will bring their big wheel to Cahaba Brewery and compete. T-shirt sponsors are $500, Big Wheel teams are $150 and a limited number of racer slots are $50. To participate, contact Beth Lovett or Stephanie Salvago at the LJCC. 

Birmingham’s Bais Ariel Chabad Center is holding a new six-week Jewish Learning Institute course, “Strength and Struggle: Lessons in Character from the Stories of Our Prophets.” The course starts on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m., running for six Wednesday nights. There is also a Thursday option at 11:30 a.m. starting Aug. 18. The course uses Biblical characters as inspiration in overcoming struggles and becoming stronger from them. Gaining perspective through emotion, beating burnout and breaking out of routines are among the topics to be explored. To register, call (205) 253-4408. There is no charge or obligation for those who want to sample the first session.

The Jewish War Veterans Post 608 will host their next meeting on Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. in the Levite Jewish Community Center Board Room in Birmingham. Rabbi Barry Leff, interim rabbi at Temple Beth-El this year, will speak on “Taharat HaNeshek: Purity of Arms, the Israeli Defense Force's Doctrine of Ethics.” Leff served in the U.S. Army Security Agency from 1972 to 1975. The meeting, which had originally been announced as later in the month, is free to the community. There will be a light brunch of bagels, cream cheese, coffee and water served. Reserve to Donna Berry, (205) 879-0416.

Sam Tenenbaum will sing the National Anthem at the Birmingham Barons game on Aug. 4.

The next Torah On Tap with Rabbi Steve Silberman of Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will be on Aug. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Alchemy Tavern.

Birmingham’s Collat Jewish Family Services states that the summer slowdown has hit the CJFS Food Pantry. Especially needed are high-protein items such as canned tuna, salmon or chicken; canned (not dried) beans, peanut butter and soup, but all shelf-stable foods are welcome. Taking advantage of sale items is a great way to extend the mitzvah. The CJFS Food Donation Box is in the Levite Jewish Community Center lobby, and the food pantry is at the CJFS office. To help, contact Jennifer Nemet at (205) 879-3438.


Florida Panhandle

Temple Beth-El in Pensacola will have its ninth annual no limit hold’em poker tournament on Aug. 20. Doors will open at 4:15 p.m. with play starting at 5 p.m. Rebuys are available until 7:15 p.m. Registration is $100 in advance for the first 100 participants, $110 at the door. Rebuys are $100. Registration and rebuys are for $3,000 in chips, with a one-time $5,000 add-on at 7 p.m. for $100. Blinds start at 25/50, going up every 45 minutes until 7 p.m., then every 30 minutes until 9 p.m., every 20 minutes after that. There will be free food and a cash bar. Non-cash prizes go to the top nine finishers, including a Large Green Egg for first place and a large flat-screen television for second place.

The Pensacola Jewish community will have a farewell to Tal Itzhakov, who has been the community Shlicha for the past year.


New Orleans/Louisiana

Shir Chadash in Metairie will have Shabbat services and dinner to welcome Rabbi Deborah Silver on Aug. 5. Services will be at 6:15 p.m., with dinner to follow. Reservations by July 29 are $12 for adults, $6 for ages 4 to 12, $40 maximum per family. Vegetarian options are available and must be requested when making the reservations. Shir Chadash will also have a minyan and men’s club breakfast on Aug. 7 at 9:15 to welcome Rabbi Silver.

JNOLA and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New Orleans, part of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, will partner with the ADL on “Reflections on Law and Race: a Candid Discussion on Public Safety” on Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ashe Cultural Center, 1712 O.C. Haley Blvd., New Orleans. This event will highlight three area experts, who will be speaking on race relations and law enforcement from three different perspectives, especially in the aftermath of the shooting of Alton Sterling, followed by the killing of three Baton Rouge police officers. The speakers are Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU; Raphael Meyers, Criminal Investigator for Louisiana State Police; and Ethan Ashley, Director of Community Engagement at the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. The evening will include comments from the speakers, a Q and A, and an open discussion. RSVP here.

The New Orleans Synagogue Softball League will have its playoffs on Aug. 7 at LaSalle Playground at 9 a.m. In the semi-finals, Gates of Prayer will meet Touro, while Shir Chadash will play Beth Israel. The championship game will be approximately 10:30 a.m.

JNOLA and Moishe House will have Expedition Jew Orleans, a Jewish New Orleans bus tour, led by Julie Schwartz. There will be breakfast at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 21 at Audubon Park, followed by the tour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $10 and reservations are due by Aug. 15.

Rabbi Peretz Kazen is leading a series of weekly learning experiences about contemporary issues at Chabad in Baton Rouge. The Jewish Learning Institute series began on July 26 with ‘Once Upon a Rabbi: An Overview of Rabbinic Ordination.” Upcoming topics are “A Clever Opponent: Battling the Evil Inclination” on Aug. 9, “The Case for Mezuzah” on Aug. 16, “Better Than Perfect: When the Righteous Fail” on Aug. 23, and “Beware of Blood: What’s so Bad about Animals’ Blood?” on Aug. 30. Registration is required and can be done on the Chabad website. Classes are free but there is a required textbook, which is $18.

Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge will have a Shabbat service and oneg welcoming Rabbi Natan Trief, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.

New Orleans attorneys Sam Winston, Jonathan Friedman and Rose Sher, have been busy developing and planning with their Israeli counterparts in their Partnership 2Gether sister city of Rosh Ha’Ayin a series of video conferences to discuss and highlight American and Israeli law. “American Law Structure and Practice” is the first in a series of video meetings that will take place over the next 12 months. Future video conferences will deal with Israeli law, military law, religious law and structure. The first video meeting will take place on Aug. 8 at 8:15 a.m. at Jones Walker, LLP, and will include a light continental breakfast. To RSVP, e-mail here.

The next Morris Bart Sr. Lecture Series event at the Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans will discuss HIV in New Orleans. Narquis Barak, a Harvard-trained anthropologist, is coordinator of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Project in New Orleans, one of 20 metro areas involved in the study. At the 11:45 a.m. talk on Aug. 8, she will discuss populations at high risk for HIV in New Orleans and the social, economic, and political factors that affect behavioral risk. She will also present findings from research conducted from 2009-2015 on injection drug use and opiate overdoses in the city. Lunch will be available with reservations by Aug. 4. There is no charge for members, $10 for non-members.

The New Orleans Jewish Community Center will have Free Yoga in the Park on Aug. 7 at 8 a.m., at Audubon Park at the corner of Magazine and Exposition. JCC yoga instructor Kelly Bond-Osorio will lead Neighbor Namaste, a beginner-friendly morning vinyasa practice outside. All levels and abilities are welcome. Neighbor Namaste is free and open to the public. Children and dogs are welcome as long as they are supervised.

Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans is offering a structured 4-week session to help identify, manage and alter unhelpful thinking patterns. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, participants can build awareness and recognition of negative thinking to respond to challenging situations in a more effective and efficient manner. This group will meet Wednesdays at 4 p.m. from Aug. 10 to 31, at the JFS office in Metairie. The cost is $225 for an individual assessment, plus 4 group sessions. Sliding scale fees based on household income are available. To register, contact Lauren Miller, LMSW by calling (504) 831-8475 ext. 163.

Mind Matters at the Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans is enrolling for the fall. The group is designed specifically for those concerned about their memory. In this boot camp for the mind, participants will discover techniques to improve memory, participate in stimulating discussions and learn from others undergoing similar challenges. It runs from Sept. 13 to Dec. 6, Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information or to register, contact Allison Freeman, Mind Matters Director, at (504) 897-0143.

Gates of Prayer Sisterhood in Metairie will host a Family Havdalah, Mitzvah and Movie Night on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m., to assemble school supply bags for underprivileged children. Pizza and snacks will be served, followed by a screening of “Zootopia” while adults schmooze. Cost of entry is school supplies.

Gates of Prayer in Metairie announced it will start hosting the monthly meetings of PFLAG on the second Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m., starting Aug. 11. Monthly meetings are a way for parents, family and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people as well as members of the LGBT community to meet in a loving, non-judgmental, confidential and understanding environment. Anyone in the community is welcome to attend.

The joint Reform summer services in New Orleans have shifted to Temple Sinai for August.

Jewish Community Day School in Metairie has a unique opportunity for its upcoming 2016-2017 school year. Through a generous donor’s contribution, one 2nd grader and one Kindergartner will each receive a 50 percent tuition discount. Eligibility is restricted to any child new to the school, entering Kindergarten or Second Grade, with synagogue membership. Email to learn more. 


Mississippi 

Beth Israel Sisterhood in Jackson will have its annual Membership Tea on Aug. 14 at noon; contact the office for details.

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BHEC's L'Chaim Gala to honor Betty Goldstein

BHEC's L'Chaim Gala to honor Betty Goldstein

When “March of the Living,” an annual student trip to Poland to visit Holocaust sites, opened to adults in 1994, Birmingham’s Betty Allenberg Goldstein signed up. “It was life-changing,” she said.

She came back with a passion for Holocaust education, and on Aug. 21 will be the honoree at the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center’s L’Chaim gala.

As a friend and longtime supporter of the BHEC, Goldstein has worked behind the scenes for years to raise awareness of the importance of Holocaust education.

“Anyone who knows Betty Goldstein knows that her energy and enthusiasm are boundless,” said L’Chaim co-chair Joel Rotenstreich. “Betty is a giver, doer, goer, helper, and more. She is all heart, and the first one there.”

As part of the 1994 trip, she visited Auschwitz with a group from Birmingham. “I haven’t been the same since,” she said. “I became interested in the BHEC because their mission is to eradicate the hatred and intolerance that are rampant today. What they’re doing is more important than ever. They work hard to teach tolerance to schoolchildren. We have to start when they’re young, so when they become adults, they won’t have prejudice in their hearts.”

The event will be at the Morris Sirote Theatre at the Alys Stephens Center, which has a personal connection. She and Sirote attended the center’s groundbreaking in 1993, and she suggested that he consider endowing one of the performance venues there. He did so, and the 350-seat theater bears his name.

“Morris would be so pleased to know that the BHEC chose this theatre for the L’Chaim event this year,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein is particularly impressed with students’ creative expressions in response to Holocaust studies. “You can tell that children have really learned the lessons of the Holocaust when they create art, poetry, and performances that tell the stories.”

In Goldstein’s honor, this year’s program will feature scenes from “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” a play about the children of the Terezin concentration camp, performed by drama students from Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City.

Dominique Linchet of the Alabama School of Fine Arts will give a teacher’s perspective.

The event also features the favorite music of the honoree each year, and Goldstein immediately requested Frank Sinatra. Pianist and vocalist Ray Leach will perform Sinatra standards, along with Cantor Jessica Roskin.

For Goldstein, Sinatra songs bring back happy memories of her long relationship with Sirote, Goldstein’s significant other for 17 years. She and Sirote traveled extensively together and especially enjoyed seeing Frank Sinatra perform. “We loved dancing to Sinatra’s songs,” she said.

The event will be on Aug. 21 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for students, with patron levels starting at $250. Tickets may be purchased online here.

Alabama Chancellor gets national ZBT honor

Alabama Chancellor gets national ZBT honor

Robert Witt, chancellor of the University of Alabama System, was honored at the Zeta Beta Tau International Convention in Atlanta on July 23 with the Riegelman-Jacobs Award for Outstanding Interfraternal Service.

Earlier this year, during the University of Alabama ZBT chapter’s centennial celebration, Witt was made an honorary brother in ZBT, the world’s first Jewish fraternity.

From 2003 to 2012, Witt was president of the University of Alabama. During his nine-year tenure, he spearheaded an ambitious plan for academic growth and achievement that has positioned Alabama as one of America’s fastest-growing public universities.

He also put an emphasis on enlarging the Jewish enrollment at Alabama, and during his time as president the Alabama Hillel moved to a new facility next to a new Temple Emanu-El building on campus.

Under Witt’s guidance, the University of Alabama’s Greek community has doubled in size, becoming the largest community in the United States. He has championed housing reforms and diversity in organizations, among many efforts.

“I have known Bob Witt for over 10 years, and I am proud to call him my friend. As President of the University of Alabama, and then later as Chancellor, he was responsible for the entire Greek System having its greatest period of growth in numbers, influence and relevance. There was nothing he couldn’t help you accomplish,” said Zeta Beta Tau Foundation President Bruce H. Weinstein, a 1970 alumnus of Alabama ZBT. “In particular for ZBT, he oversaw and spearheaded increasing Jewish enrollment, which was directly responsible for Psi Chapter doubling its size to over 100 brothers. He was recently made an honorary ZBT, and there is no one more deserving of this award than our new brother.”

“Zeta Beta Tau is glad to have Dr. Robert Witt, a long-time advocate for diversity and academic achievement, be a part of our Brotherhood,” said International President Matthew J. Rubins, Kappa (Cornell University) ’90. “He has promoted the mission of ZBT throughout his career. We are grateful for his service to ZBT and to the Fraternity community at large.”

“It is a great honor to be selected to receive the Riegelman-Jacobs Award and to be named an honorary brother of ZBT. I am proud of the leadership, service and many contributions of our country’s Greek organizations and particularly proud to be affiliated with ZBT at The University of Alabama,” Witt said.

Israel shifting Ala., Miss. from Atlanta to Miami Consulate

Israel shifting Ala., Miss. from Atlanta to Miami Consulate


Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, pictured here speaking at the Conexx gala in June, is currently Consul General at Israel's Consulate in Atlanta.

On Jan. 6, communities around the Southeast were relieved to find out that Israel would not follow through on plans to close the Atlanta Consulate. Now, that has turned to surprise as Alabama and Mississippi are being shifted away from nearby Atlanta and added to the Miami Consulate’s territory.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been contemplating some consolidation as a cost-cutting move, and Philadelphia’s Consulate wound up being cut, not Atlanta. With that, a realignment was announced in April, adding Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri to the Atlanta consulate’s footprint on Aug. 15, along with a staff increase.

Previously, the Atlanta consulate’s territory was Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas. Louisiana and Arkansas are served out of the Houston Consulate.

The Atlanta Consulate confirmed the realignment, which is to take place in mid-August, but referred any further questions about the decision to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As of press time, the Ministry had not responded to questions about the change.

Federations and other groups in Alabama and Mississippi that work with the Consulate were not yet aware of the change. Ariel Roman-Harris, director of media and cultural affairs at the Consulate in Miami, said a formal announcement had not yet been made as “we’re still in the transition period” with a new Consul General and a departing Deputy Consul.

“We’re very thrilled about the change” and “very keen on learning about the region,” Roman-Harris said. “We’re taking the torch from Atlanta and we’re going to run with it.”

For Israelis living in Alabama and Mississippi, the shift means traveling to Miami instead of Atlanta for Consular services.

Laura King of Huntsville said the Alabama-Israel Task Force has “enjoyed good relations with both the previous and now current ambassador in Atlanta, and I believe we can do the same in Miami. We hope to continue to enjoy good strong support from them for our future mutual goals, especially pushing the Alabama Israel ties that bind.”

She said the Miami Consulate will be pleasantly surprised to find strong support for Israel from the Christian community in Alabama and Mississippi.

Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr., said “Mississippi values our steadfast relationship with the nation of Israel and the country’s consulate in Atlanta. We look forward to building even stronger cultural and economic ties in the future with the Miami Consulate.”

Before this change, the Miami Consulate was responsible for Florida and Puerto Rico.

Conventions, termites and Duke: This Week in Southern Jewish Life, July 29

Conventions, termites and Duke: This Week in Southern Jewish Life, July 29

Above: Over 125 Conservative youth visited Birmingham's Temple Beth-El as part of the USY on Wheels and Camp Ramah programs. They overnighted, visited civil rights sites and led minyan on July 27. 

Around the South: Week of July 29, 2016

As candidate qualifying ended in Louisiana, former Klan leader David Duke declares in crowded U.S. Senate race.

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is back — this time, touting a video that claims Israel was behind the recent attacks in Nice and Munich.

Meanwhile, Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, who is on the House Armed Services Committee, launched into an anti-Israel tirade and compared Jews living in the territories to “termites.”

 Israel is sending a record delegation of 51 athletes to the Rio Olympics. Included in the team is Ziv Kalontarov, who is a member of the Auburn University swim team.

The biggest Israeli winner in Rio? A large presence for Israeli technology, security and sports equipment.

In the Jerusalem Post: Linda Grodner and daughters Gila and Kayla have made aliyah. They lived in Birmingham until 2009, when they moved to Houston after Brian Grodner was diagnosed with cancer. He died three years ago.

Rabbi Barry Leff, who is interim rabbi at Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El this year, writes about his early experiences in this “exotic” location.

Rabbi Eytan Yammer of Knesseth Israel in Birmingham is among those who signed an op-ed from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah graduates seeking to “bring together parts of the Orthodox community that are becoming estranged from each other,” addressing in particular the divine authorship of the Torah and the acceptability of Partnership Minyanim with greater female participation.

The Techstars global accelerator in Atlanta just selected 10 startup companies from around the world for an intensive three-month workshop. Two of the 10 are Israeli.

“Nice Jewish kid from New York” now serving in the Israeli military as a sharpshooter — and playing Mississippi Delta blues on slide guitar.

A Jewish inmate on death row in Kentucky sues for access to kosher meals, they were revoked after he purchased a non-kosher rotisserie chicken from the prison commissary.

The New York Times highlights Bayer Properties’ redevelopment of the historic Pizitz building in downtown Birmingham in an article on “The Many Faces of Innovation in U.S. Cities.”

A Texas Klan group apparently distributed flyers in some Houma neighborhoods.


Alabama

Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center continues its Lunch and Learn with the Rabbi series on Aug. 3, with guest speaker Robbie Medwed from SOJOURN.

The Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center at the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham will be having a big wheel race at Cahaba Brewery to raise funds for the ECLC’s Healthy Lifestyle Initiative. While this is a family friendly event, all racers must be adults. Prizes will be awarded to the winners of the race. Each team will be provided a big wheel and will be able to take it home and decorate it however they would like. On Aug. 7 at 2 p.m., the teams will bring their big wheel to Cahaba Brewery and compete. T-shirt sponsors are $500, Big Wheel teams are $150 and a limited number of racer slots are $50. To participate, contact Beth Lovett or Stephanie Salvago at the LJCC. 

Birmingham’s N.E. Miles Jewish Day School was given a large shipment of fashion jewelry. The school will have an accessory show and sale on Aug. 3 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the school gym, with earrings, bracelets, necklaces and more. Wine and snacks will be served. The sale will be cash or check only.

The Jewish War Veterans Post 608 will host their next meeting on Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. in the Levite Jewish Community Center Board Room in Birmingham. Rabbi Barry Leff, interim rabbi at Temple Beth-El this year, will speak on “Taharat HaNeshek: Purity of Arms, the Israeli Defense Force's Doctrine of Ethics.” Leff served in the U.S. Army Security Agency from 1972 to 1975. The meeting, which had originally been announced as later in the month, is free to the community. There will be a light brunch of bagels, cream cheese, coffee and water served. Reserve to Donna Berry, (205) 879-0416.

You Belong in Birmingham will have its annual Cantina Happy Hour on Aug. 3 at 5:30 p.m., with complimentary appetizers and happy hour specials on margaritas.

Sam Tenenbaum will sing the National Anthem at the Birmingham Barons game on Aug. 4.

The next Torah On Tap with Rabbi Steve Silberman of Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will be on Aug. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Alchemy Tavern.

At Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, Alison Levin will be the guest speaker on July 29. She is the granddaughter of Charlotte Goldberg and daughter of Tracy Levin. While she was raised in Birmingham, she "grew up" in Vanuatu. She spent the last 2 years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer on an island in the archipelago of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Her primary assignment was literacy development, and her secondary projects focused on environmental education, gender equality, and community wellness. She lived without running water, electricity, or other basic conveniences, but always felt she had more than enough. Throughout the inevitable ups and downs of her service, she learned invaluable lessons from the Ni-Vanuatu about resourcefulness, generosity, and, of course, kindness. Levin will be sharing her experience with the congregation during the 5:40 p.m. service. 

The Huntsville Community Chorus Association is presenting “Fiddler on the Roof,” July 29 to Aug. 6, with community members Jeff Lapidus as Tevye, Paul Kunitz as Lazar Wolf and Gabi Lapidus as Shandel. A block of tickets has been reserved for Temple B’nai Sholom for the 2 p.m. performance on July 31. Contact Pam Rhodes to be part of the group.

Birmingham’s Collat Jewish Family Services states that the summer slowdown has hit the CJFS Food Pantry. Especially needed are high-protein items such as canned tuna, salmon or chicken; canned (not dried) beans, peanut butter and soup, but all shelf-stable foods are welcome. Taking advantage of sale items is a great way to extend the mitzvah. The CJFS Food Donation Box is in the Levite Jewish Community Center lobby, and the food pantry is at the CJFS office. To help, contact Jennifer Nemet by email or (205) 879-3438.


Florida Panhandle 

The next Nite on the Town for Temple Beth Shalom in Fort Walton Beach will be on July 30 at La Famiglia at Harborwalk in Destin, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The Pensacola Jewish community will have a farewell to Tal Itzhakov, who has been the community Shlicha for the past year. The event will be at the home of Cindy and Terry Gross on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. 

The next Pensacola Torah on Tap will be on Aug. 2 at 5 p.m. at Gulf Coast Brewery. The topic will be “Judaism and Sports: The Good, The Bad and the Foreign.”


New Orleans/Louisiana 

Shir Chadash in Metairie will have Shabbat services and dinner to welcome Rabbi Deborah Silver on Aug. 5. Services will be at 6:15 p.m., with dinner to follow. Reservations by July 29 are $12 for adults, $6 for ages 4 to 12, $40 maximum per family. Vegetarian options are available and must be requested when making the reservations. Shir Chadash will also have a minyan and men’s club breakfast on Aug. 7 at 9:15 to welcome Rabbi Silver.

JNOLA and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New Orleans, part of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, will partner with the ADL on “Reflections on Law and Race: a Candid Discussion on Public Safety” on Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ashe Cultural Center, 1712 O.C. Haley Blvd., New Orleans. This event will highlight three area experts, who will be speaking on race relations and law enforcement from three different perspectives, especially in the aftermath of the shooting of Alton Sterling, followed by the killing of three Baton Rouge police officers. The speakers are Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU; Raphael Meyers, Criminal Investigator for Louisiana State Police; and Ethan Ashley, Director of Community Engagement at the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. The evening will include comments from the speakers, a Q and A, and an open discussion. RSVP here.

Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge will have a Shabbat service and oneg welcoming Rabbi Natan Trief, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.

New Orleans attorneys Sam Winston, Jonathan Friedman and Rose Sher have been busy developing and planning with their Israeli counterparts in their Partnership 2Gether sister city of Rosh Ha’Ayin a series of video conferences to discuss and highlight American and Israeli law. “American Law Structure and Practice” is the first in a series of video meetings that will take place over the next 12 months. Future video conferences will deal with Israeli law, military law, religious law and structure. The first video meeting will take place on Aug. 8 at 8:15 a.m. at Jones Walker, LLP, and will include a light continental breakfast. To RSVP, e-mail here.

The Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans will have its next Lunch and Learn with the Rabbi, featuring Rabbi Rivkin, on Aug. 4 at noon. Reserve by Aug. 1.

The next Morris Bart Sr. Lecture Series event at the Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans will discuss HIV in New Orleans. Narquis Barak, a Harvard-trained anthropologist, is coordinator of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Project in New Orleans, one of 20 metro areas involved in the study. At the 11:45 a.m. talk on Aug. 8, she will discuss populations at high risk for HIV in New Orleans and the social, economic, and political factors that affect behavioral risk. She will also present findings from research conducted from 2009-2015 on injection drug use and opiate overdoses in the city. Lunch will be available with reservations by Aug. 4. There is no charge for members, $10 for non-members.

Jewish Community Day School in Metairie will have a free open Sunday Swim Day for families at the JCC Metairie pool, July 31 from 10 a.m. to noon and Aug. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. There will be light refreshments served.

The New Orleans Jewish Community Center will have Free Yoga in the Park on Aug. 7 at 8 a.m., at Audubon Park at the corner of Magazine and Exposition. JCC yoga instructor Kelly Bond-Osorio will lead Neighbor Namaste, a beginner-friendly morning vinyasa practice outside. All levels and abilities are welcome. Neighbor Namaste is free and open to the public. Children and dogs are welcome as long as they are supervised.

Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans is offering a structured 4-week session to help identify, manage and alter unhelpful thinking patterns. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, participants can build awareness and recognition of negative thinking to respond to challenging situations in a more effective and efficient manner. This group will meet Wednesdays at 4 p.m. from Aug. 10 to 31, at the JFS office in Metairie. The cost is $225 for an individual assessment, plus 4 group sessions. Sliding scale fees based on household income are available. To register, contact Lauren Miller, LMSW by calling (504) 831-8475 ext. 163, or email here.

The next TRIBE Shabbat will be on July 29 at The Columns Hotel. TRIBE is for members of the 20s/30s community. There will be shmoozing, food, drinks at 7 p.m. and a musical Shabbat service at 7:30 p.m.

Temple Sinai in Lake Charles will have a Family Night Film and Reuben Dinner, July 29.

Mind Matters at the Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans is enrolling for the fall. The group is designed specifically for those concerned about their memory. In this boot camp for the mind, participants will discover techniques to improve memory, participate in stimulating discussions and learn from others undergoing similar challenges. It runs from Sept. 13 to Dec. 6, Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information or to register, contact Allison Freeman, Mind Matters Director, at (504) 897-0143 or here.

Gates of Prayer Sisterhood in Metairie will host a Family Havdalah, Mitzvah and Movie Night on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m., to assemble school supply bags for underprivileged children. Pizza and snacks will be served, followed by a screening of “Zootopia” while adults schmooze. Cost of entry is school supplies.

Zoe Jick will lead a scholar in residence weekend at Beth Israel in Metairie on Aug. 5 and 6. Jick is the director of the English Beit Midrash at the Secular Yeshiva at BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change. She received a MTS in Jewish Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Jick is a Wexner Graduate Fellow, and an alumna of many Jewish programs including Pardes, Yeshivat Hadar, Kivunim, and EIE. She currently lives in Tel Aviv. On Aug. 5 there will be a community Shabbat dinner following the 7 p.m. service, reservations are required. Reservations are $18 for member adults, $9 for ages 5 to 12; non-members are $25 and $18. On Aug. 6, Jick will lead a text study following the BINA model, following the morning service, at approximately 11:30 a.m. Her weekend is co-sponsored by Limmud.

Gates of Prayer in Metairie announced it will start hosting the monthly meetings of PFLAG on the second Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m., starting Aug. 11. Monthly meetings are a way for parents, family and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people as well as members of the LGBT community to meet in a loving, non-judgmental, confidential and understanding environment. Anyone in the community is welcome to attend.

The joint Reform summer services in New Orleans are at Gates of Prayer in Metairie in July. On July 29, there will be a potluck dinner at 6:15 p.m., with the service to follow at 8 p.m.

Sharknado 4 will take over Pizza Nola on July 31, starting at 1 p.m. Scheduled guests include Ann Mahoney from “The Walking Dead,” Rob Kerkovich from “NCIS: New Orleans,” Kerry Cahill and Thomas Murphy from “Free State of Jones.”

PJ Library and Torah Academy are partnering for Babies, Bubbles and Bagels, for all kids aged 0-3. The next morning of parent-toddler fun is on Sundays, July 31 from 10 to 11 a.m. at Torah Academy in Metairie. Activities will include sensory-motor play, water activities, music time, bubbles, story reading, and crafts. The cost is $5 per session, per family. Contact Bonnie Lustig or Rivka Chesney.

Jewish Community Day School in Metairie has a unique opportunity for its upcoming 2016-2017 school year. Through a generous donor’s contribution, one 2nd grader and one Kindergartner will each receive a 50 percent tuition discount. Eligibility is restricted to any child new to the school, entering Kindergarten or Second Grade, with synagogue membership. Email to learn more.


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Here we go again: Anti-Semitic former Klan leader David Duke running for Senate

Here we go again: Anti-Semitic former Klan leader David Duke running for Senate

He’s back.

After threatening earlier this year that he would challenge Rep. Steve Scalise for the U.S. House, on July 22 former Ku Klux Klan leader, neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier David Duke filed instead to run for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana.

In a video posted on his website that morning, he said “European-Americans need at least one man in the United States Senate, one man in the Congress who will defend their rights and heritage.”

When qualifying ended, there were 24 candidates to replace the retiring Sen. David Vitter.

Louisiana’s election process places all candidates from all parties on one ballot, and if nobody reaches 50 percent on Nov. 8, the top two regardless of party meet in a runoff on Dec. 10.

With 24 candidates in the race, some see Duke as relying on his base of support to be enough to propel him into a runoff as the other 23 candidates divide the pie into thin slices.

While there has been a mixture of concern and consternation in the Jewish community, Jewish organizations have been relatively quiet. Due to their non-profit status, they can neither endorse nor actively oppose candidates for public office; doing so would endanger their tax-exempt status.

Duke has run for office numerous times since 1975, winning once. He ran for the Louisiana Senate in 1975 and 1979, the U.S. Senate in 1990 and 1996, the U.S. House in 1999, and for president as a Democrat in 1988 and as a Republican in 1992.

His best-known race came in 1991, when he made his way into a runoff with ethically-challenged Edwin Edwards for governor of Louisiana. “Vote for the crook, it’s important” became the rallying cry of those looking to ensure Duke did not win that race.

His only victory was when he ran for the Louisiana House from Metairie in 1989, riding an anti-tax wave as Louisiana was considering ending the homestead exemption for property taxes. In a special election, he received 33 percent of the vote and faced John Treen in the runoff. Treen, who had received 19 percent in the primary, lost by 227 votes.

In his 1990 and 1991 races, Duke received over half the white vote statewide.

In 1989, at the opening of a Holocaust exhibit at the Louisiana Capitol in Baton Rouge, Holocaust survivor Anne Levy of New Orleans vocally and publicly castigated Duke, who argued he didn’t deny the Holocaust, he just says it was exaggerated.

The Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism was formed, keeping that aspect of Duke’s personality in the forefront, and ultimately deflating his popularity.

In 2002, he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion for using raised funds at casinos and home improvements, confirming what many in the white supremacist movement had been saying about him for decades, going back to charges (that were later dropped) that in 1972 he raised campaign funds for George Wallace’s presidential bid but pocketed the money.

Duke, who in the 1980s founded and ran the National Association for the Advancement of White People after six years as Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, served 15 months in prison in 2003 and 2004.

While he spends a lot of time among anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups in Europe, he has been kicked out of the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy in recent years.

Reaction to his campaign announcement was swift and vocal from Republicans in Louisiana and around the country.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Ward Baker said voters can pick from several Republican candidates in the race “who will have a great impact on the Bayou State and the future of our country. David Duke is not one of them.”

He added that the NRSC would not support Duke “under any circumstance.”

Roger Villere, chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana, said Duke “is a convicted felon and a hate-filled fraud who does not embody the values of the GOP… David Duke’s history of hate marks a dark stain on Louisiana’s past and has no place in our current conversation. The Republican Party of Louisiana will play an active role in opposing David Duke's candidacy.”

Because Duke is a registered Republican, he was able under state election law to pay a $300 fee to be listed as a Republican on the ballot, independent of the party’s wishes. After qualifying ends, one may not change that designation.

The state Republican party is considering a measure that would enable the party’s central committee to strip a candidate of the GOP label by a two-thirds majority vote.

Many Republican candidates for U.S. Senate also immediately stated their opposition to Duke.

Col. Rob Maness said “I'll be damned if I allow David Duke or any agitator to make a mockery of the great state of Louisiana” and stated a DenounceDuke website.

State Treasurer John Kennedy said “David Duke's brand of hate is not wanted or welcome. Without question, I condemn his entrance into the race.”

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat, said “David Duke’s destructive rhetoric and legacy have the potential to rip our state and our country apart. Louisiana knows better. I vow to stand up to anyone seeking to divide rather than to unite our people.”

Rep. John Fleming said he “has always rejected all forms of racism, discrimination, and prejudice” and is “wholly focused on uniting all Louisiana voters of all races, creeds, and religions behind his hopeful message of freedom, liberty, and security.”

Rep. Charles Boustany said “I strongly denounce the racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism of David Duke. His views are a relic of ancient history and are repugnant to Louisianians… David Duke’s candidacy in this race will be a disgraceful sideshow, and nothing more.”

Settlements-as-termites analogy bites Ga. Congressman at anti-Israel panel

Settlements-as-termites analogy bites Ga. Congressman at anti-Israel panel

Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson has apologized for comments made at a Middle East panel on July 25 where he referred to Israeli settlements in the territories as “like termites that can get into a residence and eat it up.”

The comment was made as part of a roundtable called “Progressive for Palestine: Is the U.S. Ready to Rethink Policy on Israel,” sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, both of which promote the boycott-Israel movement. It was held in conjunction with the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

At the panel, he also charged that “Jewish people” claim Palestinian homes if someone does not spend a night there. “The home their ancestors lived in for generations becomes an Israeli home and a flag goes up.”

Johnson is in his fifth term in Congress and serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

After the remarks were reported, Johnson tweeted to ADL that he had made a “poor choice of words” and wrote “apologies for offense,” but “point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.”

The ADL tweeted back that they “appreciate @RepHankJohnson’s clarification here” but ADL Executive Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that “no ‘point’ justifies referring to human beings in such an abhorrent, inappropriate manner.”

Johnson responded “you’re right… I sincerely apologize for the offensive analogy. Period.”

David Wolpe, senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, said in Time magazine that it wasn’t an apology, just an expression of regret that some were offended by the remark. He noted that the Nazis had classified people as vermin to be exterminated, so the termite analogy is “base and vile.”

As an example, Wolpe said if anyone tried to claim that Black Lives Matter is like a termite undermining American democracy, “the outcry would be long and loud, and entirely justified.”

On July 26, at a panel outside the Democratic National Convention, Johnson clarified and apologized further. “We must work to promote policies that support a two-state solution and encourage trust between both sides,” he said.

The statement said Johnson “regrets the misinterpretation of his comments. He did not intend to insult or speak derogatorily of the Israelis or the Jewish people. When using the metaphor of termites, the Congressman was referring to the corrosive process, not the people.”

Restating his tweet, he said “Poor choice of words — I meant no offense. The point is settlement activity has slowly and deliberately undermined Palestinian land claims.”

Wolpe tweeted that Johnson “reached out to me & offered a full apology for the language, the imagery and the hurt he caused. He was very gracious.”

Dov Wilker, Atlanta regional director of the American Jewish Committee, said that apology or not, “we are still concerned about his rhetoric.”

Wilker said Johnson never mentioned anything resembling Palestinian responsibility for the ongoing situation, including incitement and terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

Though in the past he had traveled to Israel with AIPAC and J Street, in May he was “in Palestine” and noticed a growing “sense of hopelessness” among Palestinians.

J Street, whose PAC is supporting Johnson’s reelection, welcomed his clarification and blasted the Free Beacon for “irresponsible headline writing designed to stir controversy” and advance “their political agenda.”

Ironically, Johnson was elected in 2006 as an antidote to Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who had made a series of embarrassing statements while in Congress, many of which were anti-Israel.

Just two days before Johnson’s remark, McKinney was touting an online video that purported to show that Israel, not Islamic extremists, was behind the recent terror attacks in Nice and Munich.

Florence rabbi leads online weekday services

Florence rabbi leads online weekday services

Rabbi Nancy Tunick of Nashville, who serves Temple B’nai Israel in Florence, is now doing online Ma’ariv services through the Sim Shalom online Jewish Universalist synagogue.

Tunick is a founding rabbi for the Union of Jewish Universalist Congregations, a movement that also includes Rabbi Judy Ginsburgh of Alexandria. She will be one of four rabbis leading the online services, on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Central time. Other services are held Monday to Friday, and 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays.

A live chat feature allows participants to type in the name of those in need of healing, while singing the Mi Shebeirah prayer, as well as names for the Mourner’s Kaddish and Yahrzeits.

The services can be accessed here.

Natchez tricentennial focus of SJHS annual conference

Natchez tricentennial focus of SJHS annual conference

B'nai Israel, Natchez

This year, Natchez is celebrating its 300th birthday, and as part of the celebration the Southern Jewish Historical Society will hold its annual convention in Natchez, “Jews in the Southern Hinterland.”

The conference will be Nov. 4 to 6, starting in Jackson with an optional tour to Vicksburg and Port Gibson. A tour bus will leave Jackson at 9 a.m. for Anshe Chesed and the Jewish cemetery in Vicksburg, followed by lunch at the B’nai B’rith Literary Club building.

The group will then head to Natchez, stopping in Port Gibson to visit the historic Moorish-style Gemiluth Chassed building. A non-touring bus will leave the Jackson airport for Natchez at 1 p.m.

At 3:15 p.m., there will be a welcome event at Temple B’nai Israel in Natchez, with a history of the community given by Teri Tillman and Jennifer Stollman.

After dinner at Rolling River Bistro, there will be Shabbat services at B’nai Israel, led by Rabbi Jeremy Simons of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Robin Amer will give the keynote address, “Growing Up with the Last Jews of Natchez.”

There will be a series of panel discussions on Nov. 5, starting with “Standing on Ceremony: Jews and Gentiles in the South.”

“Acts of God: Responding to Epidemics and Disasters in Southern Jewish Communities” will discuss Yellow Fever, the flooding of Bayou Sara, La., and Marlene Trestman’s research on the children who lived at the New Orleans Jewish Orphans Home from 1856 to 1946.

Lunch will be at Carriage Hall, with Steve Whitfield speaking on “Jews Against the Ku Klux Klan,” with an introduction by Macy Hart.

The afternoon discussion will be on “Family History and Jews in the South.” After a membership meeting, there will be optional Natchez tours, including a Jewish Natchez tour with Tillman and Mimi Miller, visiting the Jewish cemetery, Under the Bluff, and historic homes that used to belong to Jewish merchants.

Other tours include the William Johnson House, Grady Photography Collection at First Presbyterian Church, Longwood Home and Melrose Plantation.

On Nov. 6, the opening discussion will be “Southern Synagogues and the Gentile World,” followed by “Diaries and Memoirs from the Jewish South” moderated by Dale Rosengarten and Adam Meyer.

The buses will depart for Jackson at 12:30 p.m.

Accommodations are available on Nov. 3 at the Hilton Jackson, and during the conference at the Natchez Grand Hotel.

Registration information is available here.

Birmingham's connection to Yaacov Agam on display

Birmingham's connection to Yaacov Agam on display

Mazel Tov Rainbow, 1993, from the private collection of James Altherr and Perry Umphrey

Birmingham’s relationship to famed Israeli artist Yaacov Agam is explored in an exhibit currently on display at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts.

“Yaacov Agam: Metamorphic” features over 30 small works by Agam, entirely from private collections in the Birmingham area. The exhibition highlights works spanning multiple decades with a strong emphasis on Agam’s popular Agamograph technique, which utilizes lenticular printing to create different images in a single artwork when viewed from multiple angles.

Agam visited Birmingham last summer to sign “Complex Vision,” his work on the front of the Callahan Eye Hospital at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, just blocks from AEIVA. Originally installed in 1976, “Complex Vision” was disassembled in 2014 for a year-long restoration project.

The AEIVA exhibit will be displayed through Aug. 20. It is curated by John Fields, and supported in part by Judy and Hal Abroms and AEIVA members.

Filler, Ripps helping UAB blaze path back to football

Filler, Ripps helping UAB blaze path back to football

Two leaders in Birmingham’s Jewish community made large gifts toward the effort to revive football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

On June 28, the UAB Department of Athletics announced a $1 million commitment from Jimmy Filler, the largest gift to date, and on July 6 a $500,000 gift from Harold Ripps was announced.

The gifts are toward the Football Operations Center, a $22 million project that is to open before the 2017 season.

Filler and his wife Carol, along with Ripps, have been longtime supporters of UAB and are members of the Champion Club, a group who provides the philanthropic leadership within UAB Athletics. Filler also serves as an active member of the UAB Athletics Campaign Committee, while Ripps is on the campaign committee and the UAB Athletics Foundation board.

“UAB Football is good for the city of Birmingham and is good for UAB,” Filler said. “A strong UAB means a strong Birmingham, and football is an important component in declaring that message. My family is very passionate about both UAB and Birmingham, and we want to support the effort in a strong manner.”

When the UAB administration shuttered the football program on Nov. 30, 2014, a day after the team became bowl-eligible for the second time in program history, Filler was a vocal critic of the decision. After tremendous public pressure, the decision was reversed on June 1, 2015, with the team returning for the 2017 season.

“Jimmy Filler’s loyalty and dedication to the Blazer family is exemplified by this unprecedented gift,” Director of Athletics Mark Ingram said. “We couldn’t be more grateful for his donation and his unwavering support of UAB Athletics, the university and the entire Birmingham community. Gifts such as this have made the vision of building the Football Operations Center become a reality.”

“We are grateful for the Fillers’ generous commitment that keeps this campaign’s momentum growing,” head coach Bill Clark said. “With increasing support throughout Birmingham and beyond, I am confident UAB Football is poised for unprecedented levels of success.”

“UAB is the leading entity that impacts the city of Birmingham,” Ripps said. “What benefits UAB will benefit Birmingham as a whole, and the success of UAB Football is definitely a major component in this city’s positive momentum. I want to see both UAB and Birmingham be successful and it takes investments like this and others to make it happen.”

“The amount of support we have received from UAB enthusiasts like Harold Ripps has been incredible,” Ingram said. “Harold is a valued member of the UAB family and we couldn’t be more appreciative of his generous donation. The Football Operations Center will elevate our program and Harold’s gift has been instrumental for this project.”

“The contribution made by Harold Ripps continues to show the incredible support we have received from individuals passionate about making a difference in Birmingham,” Clark said. “Gifts like this support the notion that the sky is the limit for UAB Football. Here is another statement that we intend to pursue excellence in everything we do on and off the field.”

Construction on the UAB Football Operations Center, which will house office space, meeting and film rooms, athletic training facilities, locker rooms and a weight room, is scheduled to begin later this summer in anticipation of opening prior to the start of the 2017 season.

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