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Friday, April 22, 2016

Holocaust remebrances in the region

The son of a highly-decorated Nazi commander will be the keynote speaker for the New Orleans community-wide Holocaust commemoration.

Bernd Wollschlaeger, author of “Against All Odds, Change is Possible” will headline the event. At age 14 he asked his parents why the 1972 murder of Israeli Olympic athletes was referred to by reporters as Jews being killed “again” in Germany. After his father, who was a tank commander for the Nazis, insisted there was no Holocaust, Wollschlaeger sought out the local Jewish community, met survivors and attended a peace conference for Jewish and Arab youth — and struggled with his father’s role in the Holocaust.

Estranged from his parents, Wollschlaeger eventually converted to Judaism, moved to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a medical officer, then later moved to Florida where he is a physician.

In December, he spoke in New Orleans at an Israel Bonds event.

The May 1 program at the Uptown Jewish Community Center will be at 6:30 p.m. The event remembers and honors local survivors while educating the public about the Holocaust and teaching the importance of tolerance. The evening is free and open to the public.

Two musical selections will highlight the evening. Daniel Lelchuk, Assistant Principle cellist for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, will perform “Kaddish” by Maurice Ravel. A selection from “Brundibár,” a children’s opera being produced by the New Orleans Opera Association, will be presented by members of the cast. Written by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása, “Brundibár” was performed 55 times during World War II at the Czech concentration camp in Theresienstadt.

There will be three performances of “Brundibar” at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on May 14 and 15.

During the commemoration, the 11th Annual Educator of the Year award will be presented to Cindy Wooldridge, an English teacher at Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies in Metairie. This award recognizes local teachers who do an outstanding job integrating Holocaust education into their curriculum.

Additionally, high school delegates selected for the Anti-Defamation League Donald R. Mintz Youth Leadership Mission to Washington will be recognized.

The official state commemoration in Alabama will be on May 3 at 11 a.m. at the Capitol in Montgomery. Rabbi Steve Jacobs, the son of a Holocaust survivor, will be the keynote speaker. He is the Aaron Aronov Chair of Judaic Studies at the University of Alabama and author of several books on the Holocaust. The event is coordinated by the Alabama Holocaust Commission.

The Birmingham community commemoration will be on May 1 at Temple Emanu-El at 3 p.m. “Stories Remembered and Retold” will be the stories of Holocaust survivors who are no longer around, as told by their local second- and third-generation descendants.

The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center is teaming with the Levite Jewish Community Center, Birmingham Jewish Federation and local synagogues for the commemoration. Rabbis from the three congregations will participate, along with Cantor Jessica Roskin and Cantor Michael Horwitz.

The BHEC is also coordinating “Unto Every Person There Is A Name,” a reading of the names of children who perished in the Holocaust. Schools, churches, synagogues, businesses, and community organizations are participating in the city-wide reading.

On May 22, the BHEC will have an open house to celebrate the reinstallation of its art exhibit, “Darkness Into Life,” which features the stories of 20 Holocaust survivors who settled in Alabama, as told through the art of Mitzi Levin and the photography of Becky Seitel. The exhibit has been on display at Vulcan for the past year.

As part of the display, there was a production of “A Slippery Slope:The Consequences of Hate” at Vulcan on April 21.

As part of the 3:30 p.m. reception on May 22, there will be the dedication of a new art installation in honor of Phyllis Weinstein’s 95th birthday.

The Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham will take part in this year’s National Jewish Theater Foundation Holocaust Theater International Initiative Remembrance Readings.

This pioneering program involving a wide range of cultural and educational organizations uses theatrical content to create live events, held whenever possible at simultaneous times and dates in venues throughout the U.S.

Now in its second year, the program includes theaters, memorial museums, libraries, consulates, colleges and universities and JCCs from 11 states, and the celebrity involvement of Ed Asner. Remembrance Readings recognizes Holocaust Remembrance Day by using theater as a means to honor the victims of the Holocaust, their memories and stories.

The 5:30 p.m. program on May 2 will include Mindy Cohen, Michael Horwitz, Henry Lapidus, Marly Nadler, Marcia Nelson and Alexis Rothenberg. It is open to the community.

The Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama will present “A Slippery Slope: A Dramatic Reading with Music,” on May 15 at 2 p.m. at Chan Auditorium, the business administration building at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

The musical includes original poetry and scores by Deborah Layman, vice president of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, and Alan Goldspiel, chair of University of Montevallo’s Department of Music. The performance by The Seasoned Performers will include readings from personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors.

The performance is a combination of the traditional Klezmer melodies from Eastern European Jewish culture and African-American spirituals.

The music and readings together are used to parallel the struggles of Alabama’s Holocaust survivors and the Civil Rights Movement.

Montgomery’s community interfaith Holocaust service will be on May 1 at 3:30 p.m., at Temple Beth Or. The annual Auburn University at Montgomery Holocaust education program was held on April 6.

Tuscaloosa’s Temple Emanu-El will have its Yom HaShoah service on May 6 at 6 p.m.

Alexandria held its annual Holocaust commemoration on April 11. Manny Klepper of Lafayette spoke about how his family escaped to Moscow following Kristallnacht. He then made his way to Chicago and served in the U.S. Air Force, and moved to Lafayette in 2006.

Each year, Alexandria’s commemoration begins at the city’s Holocaust memorial and proceeds to Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria will also have a commemoration at Shabbat services, April 29 at 5:30 p.m.

The Baton Rouge Yom HaShoah memorial program will be on May 1 at Beth Shalom, at 4 p.m. Co-sponsored by Beth Shalom, B’nai Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, the event will include recognition of the Holocaust essay contest winners.

In Mandeville, Northshore Jewish Congregation will have a Yom HaShoah program on May 4 at 7 p.m.

On May 4, Gates of Prayer in Metairie will have a Faith Dialogue on the Holocaust, discussing the theological effect of the Shoah on Judaism and Christianity. The dialogue will be between Rabbi Robert Loewy and Father Stephen Rowntree, SJ, Parochial Vicar of Holy Name of Jesus and former Loyola University faculty member. The 7 p.m. program will begin with a Holocaust commemoration.

The Northwest Louisiana 33rd annual Holocaust remembrance service will be May 1 at 3 p.m., at St. Mary’s of the Pines. The Very Reverend Father Rothell Price, the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport, will chair the event.

The guest speaker is Joe Rosenbaum, one of the “Tehran Children.” Born in Cologne, Germany, in 1931, he and his mother and sister were expelled in 1938 while his father was visiting the United States. After spending time in Siberian labor camps, they were freed and eventually wound up in Tehran. There, the Jewish Agency negotiated the evacuation of over 900 children to Palestine, where he arrived in 1943.

There is also a literary competition for students in middle school through college.

Holocaust remebrances in the region

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fire destroys Metairie rabbi's home just before Pesach

Rabbi Gabriel Greenberg speaks at the Beth Israel 10th anniversary commemoration of Katrina last August.

A two-alarm fire destroyed the home of Rabbi Gabriel and Abby Greenberg of Beth Israel in Metairie on April 19.

According to information sent out by the congregation, the fire began in the kitchen and “consumed their home and nearly all of their possessions.” When the fire started, Rabbi Greenberg and the children were in the yard, and there were no injuries.

Bradley Bain, president of the congregation, said the community has already begun to assist, and asked that calls and texts directly to the Greenbergs be limited. Financial assistance and contributions of goods can be made through Rabbi David Posternock, the congregation’s administrator, in the Beth Israel office.

A GoFundMe campaign has also been set up for them. It can be viewed here. In less than 24 hours, the fund was close to its initial $50,000 goal, with 620 donations from around the world.

“Rebuilding will undoubtedly be a slow and painful process,” Bain said. “While the extent of the damage has yet to be fully assessed, we do know they will be temporarily uprooted and forever miss the heirlooms, sentimental objects, and mementos consumed in today's fire.”

They thanked the Jefferson Parish Fire Department for their efforts in extinguishing the blaze and keeping it from spreading to neighboring homes. It took less than 15 minutes to extinguish the blaze, but there was extensive water, smoke and heat damage.

The fire began just before 4:30 p.m. in the oven as it was self-cleaning. Bain urged everyone “to be diligent in our Pesach preparations, especially when it comes to the self-cleaning cycle of our ovens.”

The Greenbergs have been at Beth Israel since June 2014. The congregation was flooded out of its previous building in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and rebuilt in Metairie, dedicating its current building in 2012.

“Our community has demonstrated time and again its resiliency and devotion,” Bain said. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with Rabbi Gabe, Abby, and the family.”

Dahlia Topolosky, whose husband Rabbi Uri Topolosky was rabbi of Beth Israel before Greenberg's arrival, said "we are very shaken" by the news, as this had previously been their house. Their new congregation, Beth Joshua in Rockville, Md., is collecting contributions.

Rabbi Topolosky said he had heard from more than a dozen people in his area of suburban Washington this week that their ovens had been broken by the self-clean cycle while preparing for Passover. He urged people not to use it, saying "Fire officials and oven repair workers that I have spoken to consistently report the dangers of this feature."

He said an oven and oven racks may be kashered for Passover by cleaning it out and then setting it to broil or the highest setting, usually 550 degrees, for at least 40 minutes.

Fire destroys Metairie rabbi's home just before Pesach

Monday, April 18, 2016

Many Jewish groups participating in GiveNOLA on May 3

The third annual GiveNOLA Day is scheduled for May 3, and several non-profits in the Jewish community will be looking for donations.

The 24-hour online fundraiser organized by the Greater New Orleans Foundation goes from midnight to midnight, with a minimum donation of $10. All donations made on that day give the nonprofits the opportunity to earn lagniappe dollars, awards and hourly prizes.

Awards include most money raised, most unique donors and randomly-drawn $1,000 hourly prizes. Donations to the Lagniappe Fund will be distributed to all agencies in proportion to what they raised on May 3.

This year, there are 731 non-profits participating. Among those in the Jewish community are the Anti-Defamation League, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, Hadassah, Jewish Children’s Regional Service, Jewish Community Center, Jewish Community Day School, Jewish Endowment Foundation, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, National Council of Jewish Women New Orleans Section, Northshore Jewish Congregation, Shir Chadash, Tulane Hillel.

Last year, there were 10 Jewish organizations participating, with a total of $137,981 raised. The Federation led Jewish organizations with $89,110 raised from 147 donors, plus a $3,000 bonus for coming in third overall in funds raised among all groups.

This year, the Federation will have several Power Hours, where individual donors have offered matching funds of up to $1,000 for gifts made during those hours. Any new gift or increase over a previous year’s gift also receives a 25 percent match from the Goldring and Woldenberg Family Foundation, so a gift of $50 equals $112.50 for the Federation.

The Federation has set a goal of triple chai, or $54,000, so the theme is to forego the triple chai latte and help the Federation hit triple chai.

JNOLA will have a GiveNOLA Happy Hour on May 3 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Tracey’s Original Irish Channel Bar. There will be a raffle every half hour, drinks and fried pickles.

In all, GiveNOLA Day raised $4.083 million through 34,539 gifts last year. The participating non-profits have to be in the Greater New Orleans area but donors can be from anywhere. Donations are made through the GiveNOLA website.

Many Jewish groups participating in GiveNOLA on May 3

Friday, April 15, 2016

Israel Thanks Alabama; New Rabbi for Shir Chadash: This Week in Southern Jewish Life, April 15

Above: Hilik Bar, deputy speaker of the Knesset, addressed a joint session of the Alabama Legislature on April 7, thanking the state for its continuing support of Israel, dating back to a first-of-its-kind resolution in 1943 calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. He also spoke at the Alabama-Israel Leadership Gala near Decatur on April 9, a gala fundraiser for the Alabama-Israel Task Force partnership with the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot. 

Around the South: Week of April 15, 2016

Shir Chadash in Metairie announced Rabbi Deborah Silver will succeed Rabbi Ethan Linden.

The Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson is set to embark on this year’s Passover Pilgrimage, visiting 16 communities during the holiday.

NECHAMA concludes its flood relief deployment in the Shreveport area.

JazzFest Shabbat will be on April 29 at Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, featuring Grammy winner Jon Cleary, and it’s the event’s 25th anniversary.

Passover Seders are not far away, and the reservation deadline in many communities is this week. Here’s a list of Seders in the region

Over 40 North Carolina rabbis have expressed opposition to HB-2, the controversial new law in that state that “weakens the legal protections of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender brothers and sisters.”

Two 16-year-old girls from a South Florida Chabad community were found safe after wandering off from a class trip to Orlando.

After posting a picture of himself in Jerusalem, Mississippi’s Morgan Freeman stood up to the Israel-haters who went on the attack.

The Forward has “A New Orleans Seder, Israeli Style,” featuring Alon Shaya and his Passover menu.

Christians United for Israel will have its second annual Eastern Regional Forum, an all-day learning event at The Church at Chapelhill in Douglasville, Ga., west of Atlanta, on April 21. Speakers include Pastor Dave Divine, CUFI Georgia state director and pastor of the Church at Chapelhill; Pastor Jay Bailey of Solid Rock Church, CUFI Region 6 director; CUFI Outreach Coordinator Kasim Hafeez; CUFI national Diversity Outreach Coordinator Dumisani Washington; CUFI Eastern Regional Coordinator Pastor Victor Styrsky; and CUFI Watchman Project Director Erick Stakelbeck. Topics include “Radicalized Islamic Terrorism and How It Threatens the U.S,” “My Journey from Anti-Semite to Zionist,” “Destroying the Myths of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict,” “Anti-Semitism and the Battle Against Israel on College Campuses” and how churches can stand with Israel. Pre-registration is required and is $10. Registration is on the website.

Emily Nomberg, a junior at The Altamont School in Birmingham, announced that she has committed to play lacrosse at Rollins College after high school graduation. She is a three-year starter for Mountain Brook High School, and was named to the All-State team last season as a defender. This past year, Nomberg played travel lacrosse for X-TEAM, a national team led by Crista Samaras and coached by Michelle Ruth, among others. The Rollins College Tars, located in Winter Park, Fla., play in the Sunshine State Conference, and are currently ranked fourth in the latest IWLCA DII Coaches Poll. She will play either defense or mid-fielder when she joins the Tars team in the fall of 2017.

The National Council of Jewish Women in New Orleans applauded the Louisiana Senate for passing an equal pay for women bill; it now goes to the House.

Hebrew Union College announced its 2016 graduating class.

Tupelo native Jonathan Cohen, former director of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, will receive the Doctor of Jewish Nonprofit Management degree, honoris causa, from the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management, at the Los Angeles graduation on May 16 at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.

The next Taste of Jewish Memphis weekend, which seeks to recruit 100 new families to Memphis, will be May 20 to 22.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Southeast will have its 2016 Atlanta Gala on May 2, honoring the Lone Soldiers of the IDF. Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of the British Army, will be the keynote speaker.

PJ Library has launched a new program for ages 9 to 11, PJ Our Way. Through JCRS, New Orleans is a pilot community. Those elsewhere who attend Jacobs Camp or Ramah Darom will also be able to enroll.

The Jewish Federation of Chattanooga is holding a five-kilometer Night Run Chattanooga on April 16 to support coexistence among Christians, Jews and Muslims through soccer. The “glow event” night run and one-mile walk on the Riverwalk will begin at 9:30 p.m. at the Manker Pattern Tennis Club.

An anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $25,000 in contributions to the University of Alabama Hillel by May 31.

The Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana is administering the Goldring first-time camper incentive grants of up to $1,000. The grants are available to those in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and the Florida panhandle attending a sleepaway Jewish camp for the first time.

Birmingham's Knesseth Israel is holding a fundraising raffle, with 500 tickets available at $100 each. The winner will have the option of a Jewish or Christian tour of Israel for two, or $5,000. The tours include airfare. The winner will be drawn at a reception on May 12, one need not be present to win. 


Vanderbilt’s Amy Jill Levine will visit Huntsville this weekend for a series of events at Temple B’nai Sholom and area churches.

It looks like construction on the 16-story high-rise apartment building planned for next door to Temple Beth-El in Birmingham is about to get started.

“The Lost Key,” a film about how a sexual relationship can transcend the physical and become spiritual, will be screened at Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center on April 17 at 10 a.m. A discussion will follow with Rabbi Yossi Friedman, whose father was the filmmaker.

For A-Day Weekend, the University of Alabama Hillel will have a Sunday brunch, April 17 at 11:30 a.m.

Chabad at the University of Alabama will have a Mexican Shabbat, April 15 at 8 p.m. Services start at 7:30 p.m.

There will be a special screening of “Rosenwald,” a documentary about philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, at a place that is building a Rosenwald-style school. The April 24 screening at the Burritt Museum’s Baron Bluff in Huntsville is being sponsored by Margaret Anne Goldsmith. A special invitation to the 2 p.m. screening has been issued to North Alabama alumni of the Rosenwald Schools. Later this year, the Burritt Museum is slated to break ground on the Burritt Community School, a replica Rosenwald school, which will be a field trip destination for fourth graders to learn about one-room schoolhouses and education in the early 20th century.

Sam Tenenbaum will be signing his book, “The Unmasked Tenor: The Life and Times of a Singing Wrestler,” April 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Barnes and Noble at the Summit in Birmingham. The signing is part of the Spring Southern Writers Festival.

Theatre LJCC’s “Alice In Wonderland” continues at Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center, with performances on April 16 at 7 p.m. and April 17 at 2 p.m.

In conjunction with the ongoing exhibition of “Darkness Into Life,” which chronicles the lives of Holocaust survivors who then made a new life in Alabama, Vulcan Park and Museum will host a performance of “A Slippery Slope: The Consequences of Hate.” The musical includes original poetry and scores by Deborah Layman, vice president of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, and Alan Goldspiel, chair of University of Montevallo’s Department of Music. The performance by The Seasoned Performers will include readings from personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors. The music and readings together are used to parallel the struggles of Alabama’s Holocaust survivors and the Civil Rights Movement. The performance will be on April 21 at 5:30 p.m., doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 for Vulcan members and $10 for non-members.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation is doing a March to Passover as part of the Annual Campaign, trying to raise as many “new” dollars through new gifts and increases by Passover, April 22. A grant from the Birmingham Jewish Foundation matches those gifts dollar-for-dollar.

Collat Jewish Family Services is seeking volunteers to serve as substitute teachers in its ESL program. Classes meet on Monday and Wednesday mornings, but volunteers will not need to volunteer for all of those dates. No prior teaching experience required. Substitute teachers will facilitate reading aloud and lead discussion of articles on various topics. For information, contact Amy Peetluk here, or 879-3438.

Florida Panhandle 

From March 31 to April 3, the Pensacola Opera performed “Out of Darkness,” a three-chapter work bearing musical witness to those who were caught up in the Holocaust — but there is still one more chance to see it. Temple Beth-El in Pensacola will host a free performance on April 17. There will be a wine and cheese reception at 6:30 p.m. and the performance at 7:30 p.m. The work, commissioned by Music of Remembrance and first performed at MOR Holocaust Remembrance Concerts in Seattle, is by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer.

A 2016 Days of Remembrance ceremony will be held April 20 at 10 a.m. at the Naval Support Activity Panama City Long Glass Conference Center. Reservations are due on April 15 by emailing here. U.S. citizens whose names are on his list should be able to drive in after showing photo ID. Foreign nationals will have to fill out forms. Doors open at 9:30. The first video presentation will begin at 9:45, and the official start is 10 am.

New Orleans/Louisiana 

The Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana will have its annual event on April 17 at noon, at the Westin Canal Place in New Orleans. Betty Meyers will receive the Tzedakah Award, James Spiro will receive the Young Family Award for Professional Excellence and the Helen Mervis Jewish Community Professional Award will go to Wendy Goldberg. Former Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan will be the guest speaker. For reservation information, visit here.

The New Orleans Section of The National Council of Jewish Women will have its Spring Gala, An Evening on Lake Pontchartrain, on April 16 at La Maison du Lac. There will be live music by Eddie Veatch and his Guys who perform everything from “Blue Room” to “Bayou Blues.” The Patron party begins at 6 p.m., followed by dinner, dancing and celebrations from 7 to 9:30 p.m. General tickets are $100, with patron levels starting at $200. Underwriter levels range from $1,000 to $5,000.

The New Orleans JCC will host an in-person NPR interview with Marian Berkett, the state’s first female lawyer. She will share lessons learned over the last 103 years. Retired Judge Miriam Waltzer will introduce her. Lunch will be available at the noon program on April 21. Reserve here.

Tulane’s Jewish Studies department will have its inaugural Jewish Studies Colloquium, “Kol Minei Dvarim — All Different Things” on April 17 from 12:30 to 6 p.m. The colloquium will feature Seth Applebaum, Bellarmine University; Shaina Hammerman, Independent Scholar; Kateřina Čapková, Institute of Contemporary History, Prague; Gennady Estraikh, New York University; Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin-Madison. It will be at Rodgers Memorial Chapel and is free and open to the public.

Jewish Family Service of New Orleans will hold the 31st Annual Passover Food Distribution on two dates: April 17 and 20. The program is a collaboration of donors, staff, board members, synagogues, New Orleans-area Jewish agencies and volunteers who provide over 130 deliveries of Passover food and ritual objects to individuals and families in need in the community. Those who know a family in need, or wish to volunteer or contribute, visit the website or call (504) 831-8475 for more information.

The Chabad Center in Metairie is holding a community Shabbat dinner, April 15 at 8 p.m., with a 7:30 p.m. service. Reservations are required.

On April 17 at 4 p.m. B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will host a talk by Rabbi Mark Glickman, interim rabbi of Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge. He will discuss his new book, “Stolen Words: The Nazi Plunder of Jewish Books,” the little-known story of how the Nazis collected and warehoused a vast number of Jewish books once they determined that book burnings were ineffective and drew negative attention.

Israeli-born pianist Tal Zilber will be in concert at Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria on April 17 as a tribute to Ruth Anne Bindursky. The free concert at 3 p.m. is part of the Temple concert series sponsored by the Fuhrer-Bindursky Fund, and will be the first since Bindursky’s death on Dec. 29, 2014. Together with her brother and sister, she established the fund in 1988.

Red River Radio in the Shreveport area will air a series of Passover-related broadcasts this month. “Why This Night” with Rabbi Ismar Schorsch will air on April 17 at 6 p.m. “The Passover Story with the Western Winds” will air on April 20 at 7 p.m., followed by “Passover Dreams” on April 21 at 7 p.m. “A Musical Feast for Passover with Itzhak Perlman” will be on April 25 at 1 p.m. “Passover — A Time To Cross Over” will be on April 26 at 2 p.m., and “The Four Cups: A Celebration of Passover” will be on April 27 at 2 p.m.

Gates of Prayer in Metairie will have a JazzFest Shabbat service on April 29 at 8 p.m., featuring Klezmer clarinetist Seth Kibel, accompanied by Sean Lane.

Jewish Community Day School and JNOLA will have a Family Chocolate Seder on April 17 at 2:30 p.m. at JCDS. Local clergy will lead a chocolate and kid-friendly version of the Passover Seder. After the Seder, there will be Passover-themed activities in the JCDS classrooms. RSVP.


Beth Israel in Jackson will have its 4-person scramble golf tournament on April 30 at Deerfield Country Club, with lunch at 11:30 a.m. and a shofar start at 1 p.m.

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Israel Thanks Alabama; New Rabbi for Shir Chadash: This Week in Southern Jewish Life, April 15

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Deborah Silver announced as new Shir Chadash rabbi

Shir Chadash in Metairie, the only Conservative congregation in the New Orleans area, announced that Rabbi Deborah Silver will succeed Rabbi Ethan Linden this summer.

Lisa Finkelstein, president of the congregation of over 300 families, made the announcement today in the congregation’s weekly email that the contract has been signed and Silver will begin on Aug. 1. “We look forward to her arrival with great anticipation,” she said.

A native of England, Silver is believed to be the first British woman ordained at the Ziegler School in Los Angeles, and will be the first female rabbi for Shir Chadash. She was ordained in 2010 and has been assistant rabbi at Adat Ari El Synagogue in Valley Village, Calif.

Silver has a Master’s degree in Hebrew Studies from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, England, and an MA in Theory and Practice of Literary Translation from the University of Essex, England.

She worked in theater and publishing, co-authoring “The Young Person’s Guide to Saving the Planet” for Virago Press in 1990 and acting as Senior English Editor of the “Oxford English-Hebrew Dictionary of Current Usage.”

Silver then practiced law and was an associate professor at BPP Law School. Having grown up at a time when women were not rabbis, she fulfilled a life-long desire and entered the Ziegler School. While there, she co-edited the “Walking With” series of books with Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson. She also taught ethics at the Conejo Valley Florence Melton Adult Mini-School.

She won the Whizin Prize for Jewish Ethics in 2009 with her responsum about fair trade, and recently became a qualified yoga instructor.

Linden, who has served Shir Chadash for seven years, was recently named the new director of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires in New York. The congregation will have a camp-themed community sendoff for the family on June 5 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Deborah Silver announced as new Shir Chadash rabbi

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Knesset Deputy Speaker Addresses Joint Session of Alabama Legislature

Hilik Bar, the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, has a message for Alabama: Thank you.

Bar, said to be the highest-ranking Israeli official ever to visit the state, spoke to a joint session of the Alabama Legislature on April 7. He was invited by Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey, who he met with before his address.

Afterward he also met with House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who said “the vast majority of Americans will always stand with Israel.”

Ivey said “Alabama has a long and proud history of support for the State of Israel,” which Bar spoke about in his address.

Bar was in Alabama and Georgia for the week, touring with Eeki Elner, founder of the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot. The main public event during their visit was an April 9 Alabama-Israel Leadership Gala, held near Decatur as a benefit for ILI and the Alabama-Israel Emergency Preparedness Disaster Response Initiative.

Bar, who has also spoken to the Ohio Legislature, said he is traveling to speak against the boycott-Israel movement known as BDS, for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, “and what is the intention — it’s not promoting human rights.”

Bar is a member of Zionist Union, the main opposition party in Israel’s government, formed by a merger of Labor and smaller center-left parties before the last election. The party has 24 seats in the Knesset.

Bar started his message to the Legislature by saying that he is the grandson of the only member of that branch of his family to survive the Holocaust.

While that was happening, “it was the great state of Alabama that stood as a great beacon of light among nations, and stood up for the Jewish people.” In 1943, the Alabama Legislature unanimously passed a resolution expressing support for a Jewish state in the land of Israel, “the first and only state at that time to clearly state its support.

“It is by the grace of God I am able to stand here and extend a hand of friendship and partnership,” Bar said. “It is my pleasure and my duty to thank you, the people of Alabama, for that historical resolution.”

That commitment continues, as Alabama unanimously passed a resolution in February denouncing the BDS movement and reaffirming support for Israel.

Bar said BDS attracts supporters through nice slogans, but BDS is “not just a movement of protest” but one that calls for “the total destruction of Israel and the people of Israel.”

Another bill, which would prohibit Alabama government entities from entering into contracts with companies that boycott individuals or nations “with whom this state enjoys open trade” passed the Senate unanimously just before Bar’s address. The bill, which does not explicitly mention Israel but would have the effect of barring contracts with those who boycott Israel, had its second reading in the House on April 13 and is pending its third reading.

Bar spoke about how Israel and Alabama are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism and defending justice. He spoke of the desire for peace in the region while acknowledging “we live in a tough neighborhood.”

In strengthening ties between Alabama and Israel, Bar said “there are many opportunities for mutual projects and further cooperation,” mentioning the high tech, medical and agricultural fields in particular. “The sky is the limit. Let us do more to explore the possibilities.”

While the delegation was in Ivey’s office, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker informed the group that Abe Berkowitz will be inducted into the Alabama State Bar’s Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame next month.

The announcement about Berkowitz, who died in 1985, led to a discussion of his activity on behalf of Israel, which included leading the effort to pass Alabama’s 1943 resolution about a Jewish state.

Berkowitz was also involved in the secret Sonneborn Institute, a small group of individuals who smuggled war materiel to the Haganah for Israel’s War of Independence.

Among the others working with the Sonneborn Institute was Al Schwimmer, who was credited with forming Israel’s Air Force through smuggled surplus airplanes, financed through the Sonneborn Institute. He was profiled in Nancy Spielberg’s recent documentary, “Above and Beyond,” a film she decided to make after seeing Schwimmer’s obituary.

Elner noted that Schwimmer’s last act of service to Israel was co-founding ILI with him, and was full of praise for Schwimmer as a mentor and role model. “He trained me in my commitment for Israel,” Elner said.

Berkowitz joins Edward Friend Jr. as the Jewish members in the Hall.

In Georgia, Elner and Bar met with the lieutenant governor, who expressed support for a Georgia-Israel Leadership Initiative that would provide funding to bring Georgia students to Sderot for leadership training.

Bar called ILI “one of the most important things happening now in Israel.” While there are other leadership development institutions, Bar said he was attracted to ILI because of its decision to be in Sderot, a place routinely under threat from Gaza, rather than the safer confines of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Elner and Bar also attended events with the Jewish communities of Montgomery and Huntsville, and spoke at Calvary Assembly.

Knesset Deputy Speaker Addresses Joint Session of Alabama Legislature

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

OPINION: Standardizing the date of Easter — why should we care?

In the last few weeks, and New Orleans magazine had articles on the effort to standardize the date of Easter.

Most years, Easter falls during Passover, but on occasion — like this year — they are a month apart. Easter is very early while Passover is very late.

For New Orleans (and Mobile), the date of Easter is particularly important because counting backwards, it sets the date for Mardi Gras and the whole parade season, which this year ended very early, meaning a very short window to get your fill of king cake and tourist dollars.

Standardizing the date of Easter — most proposals mention the Sunday following the second Saturday of April — would make the season more predictable and ensure a decent length to parade season.

There’s also the issue of different Christian groups observing Easter on different dates already, a theological conundrum that many leaders, including Pope Francis, want to correct. Imagine if different factions of Judaism observed Yom Kippur on different days.

Naturally, the date of Easter is a topic about which a Jewish publication should not have anything to say. Right?

Historically, the Jewish world has tried to lay low during Easter, because of the narratives surrounding the crucifixion. Forget the December dilemma, over the centuries Easter was when it was most hazardous to be a Jew in a Christian society.

However, the date of Easter is tied to the Jewish experience, and standardizing it would reverberate historically. Unlike Christmas, Easter is tied to the lunar calendar, not the solar calendar, and the lunar calendar is how Jewish holidays are determined.

Those of us in the Jewish world are used to our holidays shifting around over the secular calendar; for Christians, Easter and the observances tied to it are the only experience with the lunar calendar system.

The events surrounding the crucifixion are said to have taken place at the start of Passover. In fact, many churches hold modified Passover Seders in the belief that the Last Supper was a Seder, though a careful reading of the gospel accounts has clues that would rule that out.

The resurrection that Christians celebrate is said to have been discovered on Sunday following the beginning of Passover, so that is when the early Christians celebrated Easter. But they had one problem — relying on the Jewish calendar.

Because 12 lunar months are 10 or 11 days fewer than a solar year of 12 months, a formula was devised by the ancient rabbis to add a leap month in 7 out of every 19 years. That way, the spring festival of Passover stayed in the spring; the harvest festival of Sukkot remained in the fall.

Centuries later, Islam would adopt the lunar calendar, but without the leap month. Their holidays are not seasonal, so it does not matter to them that their holidays shift through the seasons, getting earlier each year according to the solar calendar.

Passover’s timing each year was declared from Jerusalem. To schedule Easter, the early church had to know when Passover would be, so they had to go to the Jews — you know, the people who rejected the whole resurrection and salvation thing.

Fed up with having to go to the Jews to find out when their Christian holy day would be, at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. a rule was adopted placing Easter on the Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which was decreed to be March 21.

That way, they didn’t have to check with us any more.

This year, the Jewish calendar has a leap month, moving Passover to late April, one of the latest dates it can start. But since Purim — which is on a full moon — happened on March 24, the first Sunday after that was March 27, so Easter was early this year.

Further complicating things, with the precision of modern astronomy, sometimes the equinox moves to March 20. In 2038, that is the case, and there is a full moon on March 21. But since Christianity officially fixed the date of the equinox as March 21, Easter won’t be observed until after the full moon in April. In 2038, Passover starts on April 19, Easter will be April 25.

Why should the Jewish community care when Easter is? In the grand scheme of things, it matters little to us, just as Christians aren’t affected by when Muslims observe Ramadan.

But in this era, when there are good relations between Christians and Jews — something which has been relatively rare over the last 2000 years, the date of Easter is a reminder to Christians of our common origins.

Today, a great number of Christians, especially in our region, learn about Judaism to better understand their own faith and where it came from. Hebrew roots explorations are common, and the determination of Easter is a demonstration of Christianity’s Jewish roots.

To establish a fixed Easter based on the solar calendar would sever that link. On some level, it would put a historical distance between our faiths at a time when so many are exploring what we share.

If different Christian groups can unite under a common Easter date for the first time in centuries, more power to them. If the proposals, some of which have been around for a century, never come to fruition, that’s their choice as well. This is not our battle.

Nevertheless, in a move toward convenience there would be something historic lost, and it should at least be taken into consideration.

OPINION: Standardizing the date of Easter — why should we care?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Passover Pilgrimage a 16-community road trip for ISJL rabbis

With Passover coming up, it is time for the rabbis at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life to hit the road for the sixth annual Passover Pilgrimage.

Rabbi Jeremy Simons, Director of Rabbinic Services, and Rabbi Matthew Dreffin, Associate Director of Education, will visit numerous smaller communities in eight states during Passover.

This year, ISJL has developed a reading, “A Seder Supplement from the South,” which was shared in their recent CIRCA newsletter. The reading, which will be done at all of the Passover Pilgrimage events, speaks about strangers seeking peace and equality. “No longer do we conduct our seders in darkened rooms, alone and afraid… From Seminole to Statesville and from Paducah to Pensacola, we celebrate our tradition and we share it with our neighbors.”

At the 16 communities on the itinerary, Simons and Dreffin will each conduct services, lead Passover seders, offer educational programs, facilitate dialogue, and more.

Each year, the events draw a diverse crowd and foster shared community experiences. During their time on the road, the rabbis will also conduct home visits and share stories of the seder experiences, city to city.

The journey began on March 22 with Simons leading a Seder at Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Greenwood. On April 22 he will visit Anshe Chesed in Vicksburg, then Roseph Sholom in Rome, Ga., on April 23; Shalom b’Harim in Dahlonega, Ga., and Camp Coleman on April 24; Upper Cumberland Jewish Community in Crossville, Tenn., on April 25; B’nai Israel in Jackson, Tenn., on April 26; Am Shalom in Bowling Green, Ky., on April 28. He will finish at Temple Israel in Paducah, Ky., on April 29 and 30.

Dreffin will start on April 22 with visits to Mishkan Israel in Selma and Beth Shalom in Auburn. On April 23 he will visit Shomrei Torah in Tallahassee, then B’nai Israel in Panama City on April 24.

On April 25, Dreffin will lead a program at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Jackson, then head to Arkansas to visit United Hebrew Congregation in Fort Smith on April 26 and Temple Shalom of Northwest Arkansas in Fayetteville on April 27. He will continue to B’nai Israel in Monroe on April 27 and finish at B’nai Israel in Natchez on April 29 and 30.

Passover Pilgrimage a 16-community road trip for ISJL rabbis

Friday, April 8, 2016

B'nai Sholom, Huntsville churches team up for Amy Jill-Levine weekend

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 an interfaith scholar in residence weekend in Huntsville.

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 in Huntsville as the guest of Temple B’nai Sholom, Church of the Nativity (Episcopal), First Presbyterian Church and Trinity United Methodist Church the weekend of April 15.

All of her talks are open to the community at no charge.

On April 15 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a dinner at The Cooper House of Central Presbyterian Church. Reservations, which are $20 per person, are required. After the dinner there will be a Shabbat service at Temple B’nai Sholom, during which Levine will address the general theme of how Jews and Christians use and read scripture differently. An oneg will follow.

The April 16 lectures will be at Church of the Nativity. There will be morning sessions at 9:30 a.m. for “Jesus in his Jewish Context: Piety, Practice, Prayer and Politics” and 11 a.m., “The Bible and Sexuality.” At 1:30 p.m. she will address “How Jews and Christians Speak about the Middle East Differently.” There will be a lunch served between sessions, reservations are $12.

On April 17, Levine will deliver sermons at First Presbyterian Church at 8 a.m., “Finding the Pearl of Great Price” and 11 a.m., “Dangers on the Road to Jericho: The Good Samaritan in his Time and Ours.” She will lead Sunday School at Church of the Nativity at 10 a.m., speaking on “How to Hear a Parable: The Laborers in the Vineyard.”

Dinner or lunch reservations may be made by contacting one of the host organizations.

B'nai Sholom, Huntsville churches team up for Amy Jill-Levine weekend

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Abraham Hausman-Weiss returning to 'Bama as highly-touted athlete

Abraham Hausman-Weiss displays his MVP award at the 2015 conference championship.

Abraham Hausman-Weiss will be coming back to Alabama, this time as a highly-touted athlete for the University of Alabama.

Regarded as one of the leading players in the country in wheelchair basketball, Hausman-Weiss signed a letter of intent on April 5, giving him a full scholarship to Alabama to play for the Alabama Adapted Athletics’ men’s wheelchair basketball team. The ceremony was held at the Emery/Weiner School in Houston, where he will graduate in a few weeks.

Hausman-Weiss plays for the defending national champion TIRR Memorial Hermann Junior Hotwheels in Houston.

During the 2015 national tournament, Hausman-Weiss, team captain and two-time All-American, shot an “absolutely unheard of” 67 percent from the field, said TIRR Coach Trice Ham.

In February, at the Varsity Regional Tournament in Tulsa, he was conference MVP, MVP of the championship game, won the Academic All-Conference award and the Commissioners Award for the student with the highest GPA, while leading the Hotwheels to their sixth consecutive Southwest Conference championship.

In the conference championship game on Feb. 28, a 60-44 victory over the Dallas Junior Mavs, Hausman-Weiss had 31 points.

Ham called Hausman-Weiss “the best high school wheelchair basketball player in the United States” and the No. 1 recruit of the 2016 class. “He’s the hardest worker I have ever coached,” he said.

Born in Los Angeles, Hausman-Weiss was 19 months old when the family moved to Birmingham. He attended Birmingham’s N.E. Miles Jewish Day School before moving to Houston in 2011 when his father, Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss, became senior rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in Houston. Rabbi Hausman-Weiss had been director of adult Jewish outreach at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El since 1999. In December 2013, he became the rabbi of the new Shma Koleinu congregation.

Hausman-Weiss was born with spina bifida. He began swimming and doing track and field at a young age at Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, the largest Olympic and Paralympic training center in the country. In first grade he won first place in numerous national track and field events, including a national record in discus.

In first grade, he saw the Lakeshore wheelchair basketball team play and knew that is what he wanted to pursue.

Before last year’s tournament, Hausman-Weiss commented, “I love the comradery of this team. When we moved here from Alabama I was looking for a team and started reading about the Hotwheels and thought, wow, they’re a really good team.”

Houston Jewish community members also on the Hotwheels with Hausman-Weiss are the Berry brothers, Peter and Aaron. In 2011, they were paralyzed in a wreck that killed their parents, Robin and Joshua Berry. During their rehab at TIRR their aunt brought them to a Hotwheels game, where they met Hausman-Weiss. Having played basketball before the wreck, they joined the Hotwheels the next week.

In August 2011, Hausman-Weiss had spoken at Beth Yeshurun Day School, where the Berrys attended, giving advice to the students on how to treat the Berrys when they would return to the school a few weeks later.

The Alabama program began in 2003 with a women’s wheelchair basketball team, and a men’s team was added in 2006. They compete in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

The Alabama men’s team won the national championship in 2013, the women’s team won it all in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2015.

On March 12, the third-seeded Alabama men lost the national championship game as the University of Wisconsin Whitewater won its third national title in a row.

The Alabama program is currently building a $10 million facility for the Adapted Athletics program. The Adapted Athletics facility will be a two-story building which will include a game venue for wheelchair basketball, locker rooms, a workout/training room, team meeting rooms and study halls.

University President Stuart Bell recently said “the University of Alabama will be the first school in the country to have an arena dedicated strictly to collegiate adapted athletics."

After Hausman-Weiss’ signing ceremony, it was off to Louisville for this year’s National Wheelchair Basketball Association tournament, which features 88 teams in different age divisions. The TIRR Hotwheels will be seeking to defend their national title, coming in as the No. 3 seed among the 16 junior varsity teams.

The tournament will be held April 7 to 10.

Abraham Hausman-Weiss returning to 'Bama as highly-touted athlete

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

At 25, Touro’s JazzFest Shabbat an essential part of the experience

Jon Cleary will headline the 25th JazzFest Shabbat on April 29.

Now in its 25th year, JazzFest Shabbat packs the sanctuary at New Orleans’ Touro Synagogue and has become a traditional part of a major New Orleans cultural event.

This year, the tradition has a twist, as the calendar dictated that JazzFest Shabbat will be on the second Shabbat of the two-weekend event, instead of the usual first Shabbat. The first Shabbat is the first night of Passover, so the Seder takes priority.

“We want to make sure everyone knows it’s on the second weekend,” said Touro Cantor David Mintz, adding that “there are many out-of-town JazzFest regulars who make JazzFest Shabbat part of their trip.”

Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen will headline this year’s service, on April 29. On Feb. 15, Cleary’s “GoGo Juice” won the Grammy for best regional roots music album of the year.

Also appearing will be the Panorama Jazz Band and Touro Synagogue Choir, with Music Director Terry Maddox.

JazzFest Shabbat began in 1991 with Cantor Steve Dubov. The idea was to invite guest musicians to participate in Shabbat services. “It evolved into something so special for the Touro community and for New Orleans,” Mintz said.

“It’s a regular Shabbat service,” Mintz said, “but it’s so much more than that,” with tunes for the liturgy representing a wide range of styles, including jazz, blues, R&B, Cajun, Zydeco and funk, resulting in a uniquely New Orleans spiritual experience.

“Each year the excitement seems to increase as we bring in these great guest artists,” Mintz said.

The first year, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars were featured. Ben Schenck, a founding member of that group, is now clarinetist and bandleader of the Panorama Jazz Band, which continues to take part in the service. “We’re so grateful for that partnership,” Mintz said. The band also plays at Touro’s Simchat Torah celebration.

Headliners in recent years include Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, Marcia Ball, John Boutte, Joe Krown, Walter Wolfman Washington and Russell Batiste Jr. Last year, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band headlined.

While Mintz is a relative newcomer to the tradition, currently finishing his second year as cantor at Touro, he said one of the greatest JazzFest Shabbat memories that congregants continue to speak about is the 2010 service when Allen Toussaint was the guest artist.

Paul Shaffer, who was David Letterman’s band leader on “The Late Show,” happened to be in attendance. Mintz said Toussaint and Shaffer knew each other, so Toussaint called Shaffer up to perform with him. They closed the evening with a version of “Adon Olam” to the tune of “When The Saints Go Marching In,” which can be viewed on YouTube.

Toussaint’s influence is also part of this year’s event, as he did the horn arrangements for several of the songs on Cleary’s “GoGo Juice,” and in 2012 Cleary did an album of Toussaint’s songs, “Occapella.”

Mintz has added a tradition of original music composed for the service, commissioning New York composer Toby Singer. A former High Holy Days music coordinator for Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, Singer arranged several pieces for JazzFest Shabbat last year and is doing a new setting of “Hashkiveinu” for Mintz and Cleary.

Mintz was thrilled to have this year’s headliner win a Grammy just weeks before the event. “To have them recognized on a national stage in the same year we celebrate our 25th anniversary, it is so special.”

Cleary was raised in a musical family in rural Britain, and in his teens became a fan of funk. Three of his favorite songs were either written or produced by Toussaint, and his attraction to New Orleans was furthered after an uncle visited the city and brought two suitcases of local singles back to England in the early 1970s.

The moment he could leave school, Cleary traveled to New Orleans, and upon arrival went right to the Maple Leaf, getting a job as a painter at the club while hanging out with Roosevelt Sykes and James Booker.

One night when Booker was a no-show, the club’s owner told Cleary to take the stage for an impromptu debut performance. As time went on, he decided to stay in New Orleans rather than return to England, landing gigs with many New Orleans legends.

He toured internationally with Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Dr. John and Bonnie Raitt. He left Raitt’s band in 2009 to devote himself to his own music and his New Orleans sound. “GoGo Juice” is his eighth album.

The JazzFest Shabbat service begins at 7:30 p.m., and as with all Shabbat services, is open to the public at no charge. Doors open at 6:45 p.m., and seats fill quickly.

The evening begins with a 25th anniversary celebration and fundraiser at 6 p.m. There will be an exclusive performance by Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, a patron dinner and VIP seating for the service. Patron levels are $150 to $1,000, with a $50 category for children accompanying an adult patron.

For those unable to attend, the service will be streamed online, live from the main sanctuary.

“It’s pretty exciting, what has happened here over the last 25 years,” Mintz said.

At 25, Touro’s JazzFest Shabbat an essential part of the experience

Monday, April 4, 2016

Changing Mississippi: Three to be honored at Rabbi Nussbaum Awards dinner

Madeline Iles will speak about changing the Historic Natchez Tableaux (seen here in a 2007 file photo) last year, to no longer romanticize the pre-Civil War South, and to include black perspectives on slavery. File photo.

Three Mississippians — two who have been active in the Civil Rights movement since the 1960s, and one who has made a more recent impact — will be recognized at Millsaps College’s Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Civil Justice Awards Dinner.

The Nussbaum dinner and lecture series honors the former rabbi of Jackson’s Beth Israel Congregation, who was active in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and was the target of Klan bombings at Beth Israel and at his home.

Each year individuals are recognized for their selfless contributions to the civil rights movement in Mississippi and beyond. Two years ago, the award and lecture series was expanded to honor more contemporary work around civil and social justice issues.

The April 14 dinner will honor Madeline Iles, Constance Slaughter-Harvey and Hollis Watkins. The event will be at the King Edward Hotel ballroom, with a social hour at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.

On April 15, Iles will deliver this year’s Nussbaum Lecture, “Change from Within: Bringing Balance and Truth to the Historic Natchez Tableaux” at noon in the Gertrude Ford Academic Center at Millsaps. The lecture is open to the public.

Iles, a senior at Millsaps, was one of the two queens at the Historic Natchez Tableaux in 2015. The Tableaux, part of the Natchez Spring Pilgrimage since the 1930s, was a show that depicted a “fairy tale” view of Natchez before the Civil War.

While blacks had once taken part, during the awakening of the civil rights era of the 1960s, they abandoned the show that they felt glorified slavery, leaving the cast all-white.

Iles had taken a Mississippi history class at Millsaps in her sophomore year, causing her to examine what she could do to help and what her role was in the state’s civil rights atmosphere.

She was able to secure internships with Rev. Ed King, who was involved in Jackson’s movement in the 1960s, and with Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell, whose reporting on civil rights led to the reopening of the case that resulted in Byron De La Beckwith being convicted for the murder of Medgar Evers.

In 2009, local best-selling novelist Greg Iles, father of Madeline Iles, had urged Natchez leaders to make changes that would make Tableaux more accurate historically. As a child, he had carried the Confederate flag in the show, not realizing the truth about that era. After being seriously injured in a 2011 car accident, he wrote the acclaimed “Natchez Burning,” a novel about of white supremacist violence in the 1960s, set in Natchez.

When Madeline was asked to be one of the two queens, she sought changes that her father had urged, and the garden club, facing dwindling crowds in recent years, was receptive to the idea of including the black experience in the show.

In a Founders Day speech at Millsaps last year, she said the show was “one of the most politically incorrect spectacles to survive into the 21st century.”

In the weeks leading up to the 2015 performances, Greg Iles tossed many old scenes, redid several others to show the reality of slavery and wrote a new ending that dealt with the reality of Southern defeat in the war.

They also faced the challenge of recruiting skeptical local blacks to fill roles in the reworked show.

During all of this, she worked on a Millsaps honors project that will result in a documentary film about the historic change.

Constance Slaughter-Harvey was the first African-American judge in Mississippi, and was the first African-American and woman elected president of the National Association of Election Directors. She founded the East Mississippi Legal Services and was vice chair of the Mississippi Supreme Court Gender Fairness Task Force.

She began her career with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and then established her private law practice in Forest. In 1984, she became Assistant Secretary of State for Elections and Public Lands with Secretary of State, Dick Molpus.

In 1998, the University of Mississippi’s Black Law Student Association was named in her honor. Tougaloo College inducted her into its alumni Hall of Fame in 2000 and named her its Alumna of the Year two years later. In 1999, Thomas and Ann Colbert honored her with the establishment of the Constance Slaughter-Harvey Endowed Chair in Political Science/Pre-Law at Tougaloo.

Hollis Watkins was the first Mississippi student to become involved in 1961 in the Mississippi Voting Rights Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Born near Summit, he attended Tougaloo and became involved in voter registration efforts in McComb. He was involved in the fist sit-in there, and was jailed for over a month.

CBS News gave him hidden equipment to record efforts to register voters, the footage was aired at the time and recently released on DVD. He was active in Freedom Summer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democrat convention.

A founder of the Civil Rights Veterans of Mississippi, he is co-founder of Southern Echo, which builds intergenerational grass-roots community organizations for African-Americans.

The awards and lecture series are underwritten by John Bower, a close friend of Nussbaum’s.

Changing Mississippi: Three to be honored at Rabbi Nussbaum Awards dinner

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Passover Seders in the Deep South

Many congregations in the region are hosting community Seders. Contact the congregation office for reservations. In most cases, accommodations can be made for those with financial difficulties. For congregations that have Seder on only one of the two nights, people in search of a Seder can often be paired with congregants who have extra space at their tables.

Beth Shalom in Auburn and the Auburn Hillel will have a community Seder on April 22 at 6 p.m.

Knesseth Israel in Birmingham will hold a community Seder on April 23 at 8 p.m. It is open to the community, and reservations are $18.

For Shabbat HaGadol on April 16, Knesseth Israel will have a chocolate Seder at 1:15 p.m., “for children up to 120 years old.” The event will discuss “our liberation from chocolateless Egypt, the journey to Sinai where we received the recipe for chocolate, and the land flowing with chocolate milk.”

Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El will hold a first night Seder for congregants and guests of all faiths, April 22 at 6 p.m. Reservations are $25, $10 for ages 6 and under. Bring a bottle of wine or grape juice. Reservations are due by April 18.

The Temple Beth-El Milleni-Els in Birmingham are hosting a second Seder on April 23 at the home of Emily and Rabbi Joseph Robinson. The Seder will be at 8 p.m. and reservations are $10.

The Bais Ariel Chabad Center in Birmingham will have a community Seder on April 22 at 7:30 p.m., with dinner served by 8:45 p.m. Reservations are $36 for adults, $18 for children. They also have a Passover catering menu with an April 13 deadline, and Shmura matzah available for $18 per pound.

Temple Emanu-El, Dothan, will have a Seder on April 22 at 6 p.m. Reservations are due by April 15 and are $28 for adults and $14 for children.

Etz Chayim in Huntsville will have a community Seder on April 22, catered by Holy Cow. The cost is $36 for adults, $18 for teens ages 13 to 18, $10 for ages 7 to 12, and free for ages 6 and under.

Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville will have Seder at Cooper House on April 23, starting with a Dance out of Egypt at 5 p.m. Reservations are $40 and children 12 and under are $15 with a paying adult. Reservations are due by noon on April 21.

Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will have a Seder on April 22 at 6:30 p.m., following a brief 6 p.m. service. Reservations are $35 for adult members, $40 for non-members. Ages 10-13 are $10, under $10 free. Reservations are due by April 18.

Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile will have a Seder on April 22 at 6 p.m. Reservations are due on April 13, and are $35 for members, $40 for guests and $20 for ages 13 and under.

Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery will have a second Seder on April 23 at 7 p.m. Reservations are required by April 14 and are $25 for adults, $15 for ages 6 to 13. Children 5 and under are free.

Temple Beth Or will have its Seder on April 22 at 6 p.m. Reservations are $25 for adults, $10 for ages 6 to 12, children 5 and under are free. Deadline is April 13. A brief Shabbat service will be held at 5:15 p.m.

Temple Emanu-El in Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama Hillel will have a community Seder on April 22 at 6 p.m.

Chabad at the University of Alabama will have a Seder on April 22 at 8 p.m.

Chabad of the Emerald Coast in Destin will have its Seder on April 22 at 7:30 p.m. Reservations are $36 for adults, $20 per child, and are due by April 8.

Beth Shalom in Fort Walton Beach will have its Seder on April 23 at the Eglin Air Force Base Bayview Club. Reservations are $38 for adult members, $12.50 ages 3 to 10, with a family maximum of $90, or single-parent maximum of $55. Non-members are $48 for adults, $16 for ages 3 to 10. No reservations will be accepted after April 13. To enter the base, those without military ID must provide name, date of birth, Social Security number and those over 16 must provide a photo ID. The Social Security numbers will be shredded after the event.

B’nai Israel in Panama City will have its annual Seder with Rabbi Matt Dreffin of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, April 24 at 6 p.m. Reservations are $30 for member adults and $10 for children, $40 for non-member adults and $15 for children, and are due by April 21.

B’nai Israel in Pensacola will have its community Seder on April 22 at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are $25 for adults, $15 for ages 12 and under.

Temple Beth-El in Pensacola will have its Seder on April 22 at 6 p.m., catered by Porta Bello Market. Reservations are due by April 13, and are $30 for adult members ($35 for non-members, space permitting), $20 for teens, college and military, $18 for ages 5 to 12.

Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge will have a community Seder on April 23 at 7 p.m.

B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will have a second night Seder on April 23 at 6 p.m. Reservations are $35 for member adults and their guests, $45 for non-member adults and $15 for children under 16. Reservations are due by April 12.

Temple Shalom in Lafayette will have Passover Across America, April 23 at 6 p.m. at City Club at River Ranch.

Temple Sinai in Lake Charles will have a Seder with Rabbi Barry Weinstein on April 22 at 6 p.m. at Reeves Uptown Catering.

The Northshore Jewish Congregation in Mandeville will have a second night Seder on April 23 at 7 p.m. Reservations are $18 for adults and $9 for ages 12 and under.

B’nai Israel in Monroe will have a community Seder on April 28 at 6 p.m., with Rabbi Matt Dreffin of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Registration by April 8 is $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Students age 13 and above are $18, ages 6 to 12 are $15 and ages 5 and under are free. Registration rises by $5 after April 8.

Beth Israel in Metairie will have a community Seder on April 23 after the 7:20 p.m. service. Reservations are $36 for adult members, $54 non-members. Ages 6 to 13 are $20 for members, $36 for non-members.

Shir Chadash in Metairie will have a community Seder on April 22 at 7 p.m. Members of Beth Israel in Gulfport are also taking part. Cost is $36 for members, $45 for non-members and $18 for ages 12 and under. There will be a separate child-friendly Seder at 5:30 p.m. Seating is limited and reservations are requested by April 11.

Gates of Prayer in Metairie will have a second night Seder on April 23 at 6 p.m., catered by Melanie Blitz. Reservations are due by April 15, and are $25 for adults ($30 after April 15), $10 for ages 4 to 12. Children under 4 are free.

Anshe Sfard will have a home-cooked community Seder on April 22. Reservations are $25 for members and those under 30, $30 for non-members age 30 and above, and $13 for ages 12 and below. Rabbi Polsky will be hosting guests for Second Seder on April 23.

Temple Sinai in New Orleans will have a Seder on the second night, April 23 at 6 p.m. Reservations are due by April 18. Member cost is $30 adults and $10 for ages 12 and under; non-member cost is $35 and $12 respectively. College students can reserve for $5.

Touro Synagogue in New Orleans will have a first night congregational Seder on April 22 with an abbreviated Shabbat service at 6 p.m. and the Seder at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are requested by April 15 and are $30 for members, $13 for ages 2 to 12 and $40 for non-members. Vegetarian meals are available upon request.

The Krewe du Jieux will have its 20th annual KreweSeder Passover potluck dinner on April 23 at the home of "Shabbos Queen" Simone Levine and her consort, "King of the Jieuxs" Will Harrell.

Agudath Achim in Shreveport will have a Seder on April 23 at 6 p.m. Reservations are $18 for adults, $10 for children ages 4 to 12 and a family maximum of $50. Non-member rates are $25 and $15, respectively, with a $70 maximum.

B’nai Zion in Shreveport will have a community Seder on April 22 at 6:30 p.m. Early bird pricing was due by April 1, with a reservations deadline of April 8. Cost is $45 for members, $18 for ages 5 to 12 and $20 for students 13 and above. Non-member adults are $50 and non-member students and ages 5 and up are $20. After April 8 reservations are space-available, and are $50 for member and non-member adults, $20 for ages 5 to 12 and $25 for students 13 and above or non-member students ages 5 and up.

Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville will hold its Seder on April 22 at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are $30; ages 7 and under are free. Reservations are due by April 18.

Beth Israel in Jackson will have a congregational second Seder on April 23 at 6 p.m., with seating capped at 100. Reservations are due by April 10 and are $25 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 and up.

A community Seder in Oxford, Miss., is tentatively scheduled for April 30 at 6 p.m., at a place to be determined.

Passover Seders in the Deep South

Friday, April 1, 2016

NECHAMA starts flood relief deployment in Shreveport

Photo courtesy NECHAMA

NECHAMA: A Jewish Response to Disaster has deployed to the Shreveport area following extensive flooding from record rains in mid-March.

A slow-moving storm dumped over two feet of rain in some areas, with widespread flooding in at least 26 Louisiana parishes. Additional flooding has affected Texas and Mississippi.

By March 18, several parishes had requested assistance from NECHAMA, and on March 21 the deployment began “at least initially” in Bossier and Caddo parishes.

At the height of the flooding, 25,000 were under mandatory evacuation orders.

NECHAMA is leading volunteer teams in mucking and gutting out flooded homes, removing flood-damaged possessions, tearing out walls, carpets and floors. Currently, there are over 650 flood-damaged homes on the list just for Caddo Parish, mainly in underserved areas.

Kathy Plante, director of the North Louisiana Jewish Federation, sent out a community notice on March 21 that NECHAMA was coming, urging volunteers and contributions from the community. Further announcements were made at Purim celebrations and the community Hadassah service at B'nai Zion on March 25.

The community housed the initial team and coordinated meals for the first several days, until they could establish a home base at a church that had showers and a kitchen.

A call has gone out nationally for volunteers to help with the relief effort, and for donations to help support the projects. On March 25 an Americorps team arrived and was settling in at NECHAMA’s base of operations.

According to NECHAMA, they are "the only voluntary organization currently providing flood cleanup assistance day-to-day in the Caddo area."

The organization is still coordinating volunteers in Texas a year after floods hit part of the state.

Based in Minnesota, NECHAMA began with a group of friends who went to Des Moines to volunteer after flooding in 1993. The group has been in the region many times, from Hurricane Katrina to the 2011 tornado outbreak in Alabama and Mississippi.

B’nai Zion in Shreveport had several members report flooding. Educator Helaine Braunig said "at least one religious school family had to evacuate their home in Bossier, and one of our former students who is now a resident of Monroe had floodwaters in her home."

Rabbi Yonatan Sadoff of Magen Avraham in Omer, Shreveport's sister community in Israel, sent a prayer of safety for the communities of northern Louisiana.

B’nai Israel in Monroe reported a leak in its roof from the 24 inches of rain, affecting the archive room but losses will be “at a minimum” thanks to quick work of interns.

NECHAMA starts flood relief deployment in Shreveport

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tastes and Torah: Arkansas Jewish Food Festival prepares for thousands

There are Jewish food festivals, and then there is the Arkansas Jewish Food and Cultural Festival.

The Jewish Federation of Arkansas is preparing for over 15,000 visitors to the April 10 event, held at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

This year’s festival is about much more than the food. There will be an opportunity to take part in Project 613, an educational and outreach effort of Congregation Etz Chaim of Bentonville. The congregation is restoring a 200-year-old Torah that was taken by the Nazis during the Holocaust and warehoused in Prague. The congregation has been holding educational and letter writing fundraising events, and the scroll and scribe will be at the festival.

The festival will include traditional Jewish foods: corned beef sandwiches, kosher hot dogs, cabbage rolls, blintzes, kugel and more, as well as homemade Jewish treats including rugelach, babka, challah, and chocolate-covered matzah. Israeli dishes, such as falafel, hummus, and Israeli salad, will also be available.

Visitors are invited to bring a bag of non-perishable food items to donate to the Arkansas Foodbank.

The festival will also feature booths on Jewish and Israeli culture. At the ever-popular Ask-the-Rabbi booth, visitors can learn about Judaism itself, from Jewish holidays to life-cycle customs. At a replica of the Western Wall, visitors can leave a note of prayer, just as people do at the actual wall in Jerusalem. Judaica, jewelry, and other gift items created by local Jewish artists will be on display and for sale. Inflatables and other activities will be available for kids.

Entertainment throughout the day will include contemporary and traditional Jewish music by local and regional musicians.

The Jewish Food and Cultural Festival brings together the Jewish communities from throughout the state of Arkansas who take pride in sharing their traditions with others. “It is incredible how our Jewish community volunteers come together to make the Festival happen,” explained Marianne Tettlebaum, JFAR Executive Director. “We are so excited to share and celebrate our food and culture with the broader community.”

Proceeds from the festival go to benefit the Federation’s work in the community, which includes allocations to Jewish and non-Jewish charitable organizations, financial assistance to Jews in need, scholarships and other resources for Jewish children and families, and funds to support charitable work in Israel.

Tzedakah Boxes will be located throughout the stadium for people to deposit tickets they purchased but did not use; proceeds from the boxes will be divided among local charities that the Federation supports.

War Memorial Stadium has ample free parking, indoor concourse locations for food booths and shopping, and the opportunity for kids to run around on the football field.

Tastes and Torah: Arkansas Jewish Food Festival prepares for thousands

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New Orleans a pilot community for PJ Our Way

For 10 years, PJ Library has sent free Jewish books to children up to age 8 across the country every month. Now, PJ Our Way is being launched for those ages 9 to 11.

The older students’ initiative was launched in 10 communities nationwide in 2014. Another 24 communities were just added to the pilot program, including New Orleans, administered by Jewish Children’s Regional Service.

In the Southern Jewish Life coverage area, only those in the New Orleans area are currently eligible for PJ Our Way, with one exception. PJ Our Way also has a few summer camps under the pilot project, so those attending Ramah Darom or the Henry S. Jacobs Camp and participate in the program there will be eligible year-round, even if they do not live in a pilot community.

It is expected that the program will be rolled out nationally before long.

Participants in PJ Our Way will go online at the beginning of each month to select one of four titles that have been reviewed by a panel of educators, parents and students. Each title will have a synopsis, author biography, ratings, reviews and video trailers created by other PJ Our Way members.

“We’ve thought a great deal about how to engage older readers by giving them more say in what they read and then giving them creative platforms to talk to their peers about the books,” said PJ Our Way Director Catriella Freedman.

Members can also take on-line polls and quizzes, post their own reviews and videos, participate in monthly interviews and challenges, and comment on blog posts. In this way, they are able to interact with their same-aged peers throughout North America who have read the same Jewish-themed books.

There is also a Parents Blog, where parents are invited to read about each book and find suggestions for family conversations.

“We believe these stories and their values help shape young people in their understanding of being Jewish, and it’s our hope that PJ Our Way will ultimately build a strong community of young Jewish people,” said Harold Grinspoon, Founder of PJ Library and PJ Our Way.

As part of the New Orleans implementation, JCRS plans social programming for members, including book clubs, themed social gatherings and holiday-specific functions.

To sign up for PJ Our Way, click here.

New Orleans a pilot community for PJ Our Way