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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Final services set for Pine Bluff, McGehee congregations

The most recent Anshe Emeth building in Pine Bluff is now a nursing school.

Two Jewish communities in Arkansas are closing the doors for good on their synagogues this month, as final services will be held in Pine Bluff for Anshe Emeth on June 11 and for Meir Chayim in McGehee on June 17.

The Pine Bluff service will be at First Presbyterian Church, where the congregation has met in the chapel since 2003. Following the 10 a.m. service there will be a luncheon at Pine Bluff Country Club.

The Meir Chayim service will be at 7:15 p.m., with an oneg following.

Rabbi Eugene Levy, who retired as rabbi of B’nai Israel in Little Rock in 2011, has been visiting the two congregations in recent years and will officiate the final services.

Levy has been visiting Pine Bluff monthly for services for three years, except for this past High Holy Days. “I decided to be a congregant for the first time in 47 years” and visited family. Having a grandchild born on Kol Nidre night in California was also part of the decision.

He has been visiting McGehee every other month to lead services.

In both cases, past members, rabbis and student rabbis have been invited, and each congregation is expecting about 50 to 100 in attendance.

Levy said the communities don’t have the numbers or resources to keep the congregations going. “There are no young families,” he said, relating a common story in smaller Southern communities.

Many of the first generation of Jews in these towns became “the landed gentry,” ones who had stores, property and businesses, and the resources to build congregations. Within a couple of generations, the children and grandchildren were becoming professionals and moving to larger communities.

By the 1960s and 1970s, Levy said, few were coming back home after college, and there weren’t new people coming in. “Forty years ago, Pine Bluff had 200 families, now they have eight.” McGehee went from 50 to three or four now.

When Levy arrived in Little Rock in 1987, after the High Holidays he was urged to visit Pine Bluff. When he arrived, Rabbi Leslie Sertes, the last full-time rabbi at Anshe Emeth, was packing up his office, an odd time of year to do so. “He told me they just had the last class of the Sunday School, the last two confirmands” that May. “When that happens, if nobody is coming in… it’s just a matter of time.”

The Anshe Emeth members decided last year that this would be their final year.

Both congregations have been working with the Jewish Community Legacy Project, which works with smaller communities that know they will eventually need to close the doors in developing “legacy plans,” Noah Levine said.

Levine said both congregations were well on their way to closing when he got involved. He urges congregations to make these decisions while there is still a “viable board” and institutional memory. His role, he said, is as an “honest broker” to help congregations make the best decision for their situation, and help them know they are not alone.

The Jewish community in Pine Bluff dates back to the 1840s, and by 1855 there were roughly 10 Jewish families in the area, mostly merchants like Isaac Altschul.

Many of the local Jews served in the Confederacy, then after the Union captured the area, Jewish families hosted Jewish soldiers from the north.

After the war, Pine Bluff grew, as did the Jewish community. Anshe Emeth was established in 1866, and numerous other Jewish organizations were soon established.

Many in the Jewish community became cotton planters, including Sol Franklin, who planned to resettle 200 Jews from Romania as sharecroppers. The plan was never implemented.

By 1905 there were 425 Jews in Pine Bluff, which became the second-largest Jewish community in the state. L.E. Goldsmith and Simon Bloom served as mayor, and local state legislator Sam Levine was outspoken against segregationist opposition to Supreme Court rulings.

Meyer Solmson became editor of the local paper and was threatened by a local man who he had criticized in an article. Solmson wound up killing the man in self defense. He later moved to New York and became managing editor of Variety.

Another well-known Pine Bluff journalist is Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Greenberg, a nationally syndicated columnist now with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He recently wrote a column about the final Seder at Anshe Emeth.

“Some of us can still remember the little neo-Victorian temple in downtown Pine Bluff with all its nooks and crannies, wooden ceilings and floors, and the tucked-away rooms on the side where I taught at least a couple of generations of Sunday School students,” Greenberg wrote.

Anshe Emeth was the first synagogue officially chartered in Arkansas, beating Little Rock’s B’nai Israel by five days. While Anshe Emeth is closing on its 150th anniversary, B’nai Israel just celebrated its 150th anniversary as the largest Jewish congregation in the state.

In 1867, the first Anshe Emeth building was completed, and in 1873 the congregation joined the Reform movement.

In 1902, a larger building was erected as the congregation exceeded 130 families. Newcomers from Eastern Europe established an Orthodox congregation, B’nai Israel, in 1907. When immigration was stopped in the 1920s, that sapped the smaller congregation’s strength, and as the newcomers assimilated into the community, more wound up at Anshe Emeth.

At Anshe Emeth, controversy over changes made by Rabbi Leonard Rothstein, who had previously been in Alexandria, La., led to a split in 1921 as 58 members left to form Temple Israel, the community’s third congregation. Rothstein left in 1923, and Temple Israel’s rabbi left the next year. With the two smaller congregations struggling and both without rabbis, they reunited in 1925.

B’nai Israel disbanded in 1950, but even with Anshe Chesed being the only congregation left, its numbers also started to decline. In 1961 a lot was purchased for a smaller building closer to where the members lived, and when the new building was completed there were about 85 members.

In the mid-1980s, when the last full-time rabbi left, the Jewish population was 175, down from over 450 in 1960. In 2003, the Anshe Chesed building was sold to Jefferson Regional Medical Center, which turned it into a nursing school. Since then, the congregation has met at First Presbyterian Church.

Levy said the service on June 11 will not be a desanctification of the building, as it is borrowed space in a church, but a desanctification of the congregation. A yahrzeit candle will be lit at the beginning of the service, the Torah will be carried through the congregation one last time, the mezuzah on the chapel taken down and the key will be presented to the minister.

At the service, all of the names of members who have died from the last 148 years will be read. “We feel we need to do that,” Levy said.

The Torah is being sent to a congregation in Guatemala through the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Levine said the yahrzeit plaques will be relocated to House of Israel in Hot Springs, archival documents have been sent to the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, and congregants are arranging for perpetual care of the cemetery.

For most congregations that close, “that is the number one concern, that they have enough money set aside as an endowment” to keep the cemetery maintained.

McGehee closing

In addition to McGehee, Meir Chayim served Dumas, 20 miles away. Gus Waterman was the first Jew to move to the timber town of Dumas, in 1879, and became the town’s first mayor. His son founded the University of Arkansas Law School. The Dante family established a department store, and later a garment manufacturing plant. Son-in-law B.J. Tanenbaum started the United Dollar Store, which grew to 200 stores before being sold to Dollar General.

Jerry Tanenbaum has become very involved internationally in the Reform movement, including as founding chairman of the Association of Reform Zionists of America/World Union North America, and was long-time chairman of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp.

McGehee got a later start, blooming as a higher-ground refuge after the great flood of 1927. Many Jews from flooded-out Arkansas City moved their stores to McGehee, while others were in the cotton business. Many Jewish merchants were seen as reviving the area after the flood by assisting farmers with obtaining supplies when banks refused to issue loans.

By the 1940s, there were over 120 families in the area, Rose Ann Naron said. They had met informally in homes for years, then in St. Paul Episcopal Church, but decided it was time to start a congregation that would serve several towns.

Rabbi Morris Clark from Pine Bluff had been leading services, but World War II gas rationing ended those trips.

During a B’nai B’rith meeting in 1946, David Meyer proposed the formation of Beth Chayim. The name was changed soon after to honor a member of the Jewish community who had died in action in Italy during World War II, Herbert M. Abowitz, whose Hebrew name was Meir Chayim.

The congregation affiliated with the Reform movement and started fundraising throughout the region for a building. Much of the lumber came from trees on members’ property, and the Gothic-style building was completed in 1947.

“The sanctuary was designed to seat 150 people on red velour theater type seats,” Naron said. A Sunday School wing, recreational hall and kitchen were also in the building.

The sanctuary has 10 identical stained-glass windows. A Ten Commandments tablet flanked by lions of Judah was placed over the ark, it had formerly been at Temple B’nai Sholom of Bastrop, La., which closed in 1923 and was demolished in 1939.

The Ten Commandments on the front of the building came from the 1872 building of Temple Beth El Emeth in Camden, one of the first four congregations in Arkansas. It closed in 1927.

In 2005, a Torah from Meir Chayim was loaned to Temple Or Hadash in Fort Collins, Col., where Rabbi Debra Kassoff, who had been the traveling rabbi for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, had been visiting rabbi. The loan was arranged by Linda and Lester Pincus of Dermott, cousins of Or Hadash member Patzi Goldberg.

The Meir Chayim building is now on the market, with a list price of $57,000. According to Sims Realty, the sale is pending.

The June 17 service will desanctify the building. As the congregation is used to Friday night Torah readings, there will be a reading, after which the Torah will be presented to the congregants who dedicated it.

Shabbat and yahrzeit candles will be lit, and the names of all deceased members will be read, just as in Pine Bluff. All of the yahrzeit lights will be turned off, and the eternal light will be removed.

Levy said these will be physical acts of closure and finality.

Naron said many of the Judaic items are going to the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica and to the ISJL for a future museum.

Revenue from the building’s sale will go to a scholarship fund so Arkansas children can attend Jacobs Camp “in Meir Chayim Temple’s name, so our legacy can continue,” Naron said.

These congregations will join two others in Arkansas that have recently closed their doors.

In Texarkana, Mount Sinai Congregation held its final service on May 16, 2014, then the remaining members decided in May 2015 to sell the building. They published a memory book, with “The Congregation That Helped Grow Rabbis” in the front, referring to the numerous rabbis and student rabbis that have served the congregation since the 1890s.

Mount Sinai, formed around 1885, purchased a former Episcopal church building, which burned in 1892 when a neighboring grocery caught fire. A new building was dedicated in 1894, and by 1917 there were 50 member families.

Mount Sinai was an off-and-on member of the Reform movement, but in the 1930s also hosted a small number of Orthodox families for a minyan on Saturday mornings, with Reform members helping them reach the required 10. During World War II the congregation hosted many Jewish soldiers from nearby bases, and the community grew after the war.

A new building was dedicated in 1949, two blocks into Texas from the state line, and through the 1980s membership continued to be around 40 families. But by 2015 there were only six or seven families remaining.

The congregation’s Judaica has been offered to the families who dedicated the various pieces.

Phil Bishop of Curt Green and Company said the property is still on the market with a list price of $139,000 for the 6,000-square-foot building. Over the past year they have “had several ‘lookers’ and have one couple still interested in converting it to residential for their family.”

El Dorado’s community started as the town experienced an oil boom in 1922. By 1927 there were 124 Jews with short-lived Orthodox and Reform congregations. The oil business went bust during the Great Depression, but the economy picked back up after World War II and Temple Beth Israel was formed with the encouragement of the Arkansas Jewish Assembly.

The Beth Israel building was completed in 1955. The congregation was never large enough for a full-time rabbi, and by the 1980s there were just six Jewish families remaining.

Rachel Myers, museum and special projects coordinator at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, said the El Dorado congregation has been inactive for years but has been letting the local Mennonite community use the building.

Last year, the remaining handful of El Dorado’s Jews officially deeded the building to the Mennonites and moved the remaining Judaica out, bringing it to Jackson for future use in the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience and in active congregations in the region.

Final services set for Pine Bluff, McGehee congregations

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Reimer to succeed Cohn at NOLA's Temple Sinai

A "gut reaction" by Rabbi Matthew Reimer has led to his being named the new rabbi at Temple Sinai in New Orleans, effective July 1. He succeeds Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn, who has led Louisiana’s largest Jewish congregation since 1987 and will become the emeritus rabbi.

Reimer, 41, said that when he decided to apply for the position, he had never been to New Orleans, but knew it has "a great reputation, great culture."

A native of West Orange, N.J., Reimer was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2007. He was a music major at Vassar, then spent a year in Israel after graduation, studying, traveling and working as a musician.

He also has been the high school and youth program director at Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City.

Before being ordained, he was rabbinic intern for two years at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City, focusing on outreach to Jews in their 20s and 30s.
From 2008 to 2013 he was assistant rabbi and then associate rabbi at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, N.J. In 2014 he became interim rabbi at Port Jewish Center in Port Washington, N.Y. Most recently, he has been rabbi of the Shul of New York, a “shul without walls” that is all-inclusive and emphasizing spiritual growth and compassion.

Because his entire life has been in the New York/New Jersey area or Israel, he said that he and his wife were committed to geography playing a role in where he would apply, rather than just applying anywhere. When he saw that Temple Sinai had an opportunity, he approached her "and asked, what do you think?"

After a Skype interview, he came to New Orleans for a long weekend and "really got a taste of how vibrant the city is and the community is."

He sensed that New Orleanians "are so incredibly proud of their city and so civically minded to making the city what they want it to be," and showed "what it meant to not only live in a place but live with a place and feel a sense of responsibility for a place." That sense was a huge attraction.

Reimer is prepared for the transition of moving to a new region and in leading a congregation that has not had a rabbinic change since 1987. One area of emphasis, he said, is "creating opportunities for young people... to really feel a sense of ownership of their Jewish journeys."

While assistant rabbi of the New Jersey congregation, in 2010 he launched a monthly musical Shabbat service in Manhattan to follow those from that community who had moved to the “big city,” especially those in their 20s and 30s who were not otherwise engaged in the community.

A lot of the outreach to younger Jews "can take place outside the walls of the traditional synagogue, but the traditional synagogue can create those opportunities for them."

He also looks to build upon the social action and outreach work that Cohn has done for the last 30 years at Temple Sinai.

Reimer was on the editorial committee for Behrman House’s Siddur Mah Tov, a family-friendly siddur aimed especially at ages 5 to 10, and available in Reform and Conservative editions.

In 2003, he was a quarterback on the Israel National Flag Football team that came in second at the Flag en Champagne tournament in France, knocking off the U.S. team that was the world champion. The Israeli team fell to Pygargues, France, in the finals.

Reimer’s wife, Leah, is an anesthesiologist and they have four young daughters.

Temple Sinai held a Golden Gala honoring Cohn on May 21, at which it was announced that Reimer would be the new rabbi. The 700-family congregation's membership officially approved the hire on May 27.

Reimer to succeed Cohn at NOLA's Temple Sinai

Friday, May 27, 2016

New Chavurah, Kehillat Shalom, to start in B'ham next month

Unity Congregation on Birmingham's Southside will be hosting Kehillat Shalom.

A new Chavurah has formed in Birmingham and plans to start holding weekly Shabbat services next month.

Kehillat Shalom is an entirely lay-led group that had its first organizational meeting on May 23, to get a sense from the 20 in attendance as to what they want to see in the group.

Barry Ivker said this is part of a national trend of smaller groups that are more close-knit, informal and flexible than traditional congregations.

The group’s Facebook page defines a chavurah as “a small group of like-minded Jews who assemble for the purposes of facilitating Shabbat and holiday prayer services, sharing communal experiences such as lifecycle events, and Jewish learning.”

The group’s mission “is to be a congenial group that meets for worship, celebrating Jewish holidays in a ‘traditional’ Conservative manner, friendship, support and shmoozing.” It will be egalitarian.

The group has a Torah on loan, is seeking a second Torah, and received chumashim and prayer books from a congregation in New Hampshire and Shir Chadash in Metairie, among other sources. Kehillat Shalom officially incorporated on May 27.

The group is renting space on a monthly basis at Unity Congregation on Highland Avenue, and will hold services Saturdays at 10 a.m. The first official service will be on June 18, though some are planning a service on June 11 to work out the kinks.

Fred Benjamin said the sanctuary, which holds about 125, is non-denominational, with no religious symbolism of any kind. Even the stained glass window is abstract.

At the initial meeting, the group considered four locations. Jacob Halpern attended to offer space at Beth-El, the city’s established Conservative congregation. Halpern, Beth-El vice president, said Beth-El “has reached out to those in our community considering other options for Jewish practice. We have offered space to allow multiple groups within our congregation to practice as they would like within the broad tent of Conservative Judaism.”

Most of those involved in the chavurah have been active at Beth-El and were vocally opposed to recent controversial personnel moves at the congregation. But Fran Ivker noted that the chavurah concept has been discussed among them for several years.

The group's name comes from a desire to get together in an atmosphere of peace, and they emphasize they are putting any past issues aside and looking forward in a positive manner.

Barry Ivker said this is not a new synagogue, nor are they trying to set up a congregation to compete with anyone else.

They stated that participants in the chavurah are welcome to continue membership and involvement in the community’s other religious institutions.

The chavurah will offer programming according to the wishes of the group. “People can openly express their feelings, then we vote,” Fran Ivker said.

Barry Ivker said there has been some interest expressed in Bar/Bat Mitzvah training, for example.

Benjamin added, “it’s in the very formative stage and open to suggestions.”

They will not prepare food at Unity, because the kitchen is not kosher, but plan to have potluck lunches following services.

“We’re looking forward to getting started,” Benjamin said.

New Chavurah, Kehillat Shalom, to start in B'ham next month

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Alabama anti-BDS bill signed into law

Knesset Member Hilik Bar honored Alabama Sen. Arthur Orr at the Alabama-Israel Task Force Leadership Gala near Decatur on April 9 (photo courtesy AITF).

As Israel started its national memorial day on the evening of May 10 for the 23,477 who have died in defense of the Jewish state since 1860, a signing ceremony in Montgomery demonstrated Alabama’s continuing commitment to Israel.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed SB81 into law during the afternoon of May 10. The measure prevents Alabama governmental entities from entering into contracts with companies that participate in boycotts against individuals, entities or nations with whom Alabama enjoys “open trade.” Though Israel is not specifically mentioned, the bill is part of a national effort against the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement that seeks to isolate Israel economically, culturally and academically.

Alabama becomes the eighth state to sign such a measure into law. Iowa became the seventh, on April 28. About 20 states have been considering similar legislation this year.

Introduced by Sen. Arthur Orr from the Decatur area, the bill passed the Alabama Senate 30-0 on April 7, an hour before Israel’s Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Hilik Bar, addressed a joint session of the Legislature.

Bar said the Alabama Legislature’s message is “You boycott Israel, we boycott you. And that’s a very brave thing to do.”

The House passed the bill on April 28 — the middle of Passover — by an 84-5 vote, and it was sent to Bentley on May 3.

John Buhler, co-chair of the Alabama-Israel Task Force, has been working with legislators on the bills. He said it is “very timely and appropriate to be signed on the very eve of the two-day memorial and celebration of Israel's Remembrance Day and Israel's Independence Day.”

Earlier in the session, the Legislature unanimously passed a joint resolution specifically condemning the BDS movement and reaffirming support for Israel. Orr introduced Senate Joint Resolution on Feb. 2, and the House passed it on Feb. 9.

“Alabama's elected representatives who defend the inalienable right to free speech understand that the goals and activities of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement in this state are harmful to the State's relationships with Alabama's Jewish citizens, our friend and ally Israel and have a deleterious impact on the academic and educational environment,” the resolution stated.

Alabama has a long history of support for Israel, starting with a 1943 resolution that passed the Legislature unanimously, urging the establishment of a Jewish state five years before Israel’s independence. That measure was the first such statement of support from a government in the United States.

In 2006, Governor Bob Riley declared "Stand With Israel Day" in Alabama. The Legislature also passed resolutions of support for Israel during conflicts in 2001, 2012 and 2013.

"Alabama has proved for more than 70 years that our support is unwavering," Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey said. "As the first state in the country to call for the establishment of the State of Israel, Alabama stands committed to the existence and establishment of the democratic state in the Middle East."

In April 2015, Tennessee became the first state to formally condemn BDS, by a combined 123-1 vote between the two houses. The effort was spearheaded by Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a Christian pro-Israel group. She worked with Christian and Jewish groups to promote the bill, which was seen as a template for other states to follow.

Georgia and Florida have also passed bills barring contracts with those who boycott Israel. In Florida, the state will create a list of companies that support boycotts of Israel and also prohibit state pension funds from being invested in companies that follow the BDS movement.

Legislators in Georgia and Florida reported strong and vocal opposition from BDS proponents, but the anti-BDS initiatives had strong support among their colleagues.

“BDS is discrimination cloaked in the language of human rights, but at its core, the effort to single out Israel is anti-Semitism, plain and simple,” said The Israel Project CEO Josh Block. “I congratulate the people of Alabama, their legislators and their governor, for seeing through this dangerous ruse and standing strongly with the Jewish state against misguided efforts to attack and delegitimize America’s closest ally in the Middle East.”

Alabama anti-BDS bill signed into law

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn: “This is where I was really called” to be

The first time Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn looked out from the pulpit of Temple Sinai in New Orleans, the vast historic sanctuary was empty.

It was 1979 when Cohn, the rabbi at Beth Israel in Macon, Ga., was visiting New Orleans for the wedding of a congregant’s son who had gone to the Tulane School of Medicine. “I had known of the historic significance and uniqueness of Temple Sinai” and wanted to see it while he was in town.

He was “drawn to it as a major congregation in the history of our movement” and “practices and attitudes I thought could well match up with my own.”

Melanie Feldman brought him to tour Sinai, where he thought “this was the place I needed to be.” While on the pulpit, he turned to his wife, Andrea, and said “if we ever get a chance, I want to come here.”

In 1987, he said, “our wish came true.”

Now, 29 years later, Cohn is describing his time at Temple Sinai as “a complete and comfortable fit.” This summer he is stepping down as senior rabbi at Temple Sinai — but he’s not going away.

“I love being a rabbi and I think I can be very useful,” so he will continue to be active in community work on behalf of Temple Sinai, look for teaching and preaching opportunities and be available for life-cycle events. He will also maintain a dialogue with his successor as a resource so the new rabbi “will have a clear understanding of how we have come to be who we are as a congregation” as the new rabbi leads Temple Sinai in the 21st century.

“I’ve wanted to be there for the person who follows me. It’s what you do when you love something,” he said.

Naturally, when a new rabbi arrives there will be some changes and a time of adjustment. He also wants to help the congregation adjust to someone new, who will have new ideas. “No one expects a clone of Cohn,” he said.

Cohn reflected that when he arrived, he felt there were some changes that needed to be made, “but I appreciated where they were.” The congregational leadership “knew they needed to make some changes,” and some of today’s leaders “have the same thought” now.

“Fresh leadership, fresh energy” often brings changes that hadn’t been considered before, he said.

A native of Baltimore, Cohn graduated from the University of Cincinnati, then was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1974. He later received a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Paul School of Theology.

He started as an assistant rabbi at The Temple in Atlanta, followed by his pulpit in Macon from 1976 to 1979, the New Reform Temple in Kansas City and Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh before moving to New Orleans.

In addition to the historic orientation of the congregation, he was also attracted by how the congregants were “so decent.”

Working with Cantor Joel Colman for 17 years “has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life,” he said. “We’ve accomplished things together we’d never imagined we would be able to do.”

Temple Sinai is regarded as a liberal congregation. With the backdrop of today’s societal fight over same-sex marriage, Cohn has officiated at such unions. It was very early in his tenure that he delivered a sermon entitled “Adam and Steve.” As sermon titles are displayed on the marquee outside, “it stopped traffic on St. Charles Avenue,” he said.

Even before Cohn arrived, the congregation was known for its inclusion of interfaith couples, long before even fellow Reform congregations did. “We did not have any ambivalence or uncertainty over officiating at interfaith marriages,” though not under every circumstance. The previous two rabbis officiated interfaith weddings, “so I wasn’t anything new.”

“We have integrated interfaith married couples completely into the life of the congregation,” Cohn said. At Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, the non-Jewish grandparents take part in the generational passing of the Torah. “Somewhere along the line, they were cooperative. They helped make the marriage work” and should be recognized for enabling the raising of Jewish children.

In the greater community, he points with pride to the Holocaust memorial at Woldenberg Park on the riverfront, which he spearheaded over several years until it was built. “I’m very proud of it,” he said, noting that it draws a “remarkable” 700,000 viewers per year.

Cohn was also founding chairman of the City Human Relations Committee, which has been involved in numerous highly-charged issues over the years.

The committee was active in moving the Liberty Monument, which had been in the neutral ground on Canal Street. The 1891 monument’s origin was to honor white supremacy in the state, though by 1993 other inscriptions had been added. Today, the monument is between a parking deck and floodwall, away from the crowds.

Reflecting on today’s battle over Confederate monuments in the city, Cohn said “we really anticipated the moving of the monuments 20-some years ago.”

He also faced down Klan leader David Duke at a city council meeting.

As with anyone who has been in New Orleans more than a few years, Katrina was a major event in Cohn’s rabbinate. Much has changed, he said, “fortunately a lot of it for the better.”

He considers the 18 years he was in New Orleans before Katrina to be “in preparation for dealing with the challenge.”

That was “a time of bonding with people at a depth that was just unexpected and uncommon,” he said. The spirit of working together across congregations and organizations continues.

Now, he is looking forward to the celebration of New Orleans’ tricentennial in 2018, having recently been appointed by the mayor to be the Jewish community representative on the tricentennial’s cultural diversity committee.

Cohn said the Jewish community needs to find a way to “appropriately celebrate the role New Orleans has played in the life of the Jewish community, and that the Jewish community has played in New Orleans. And it’s more than Judah Touro.”

Temple Sinai’s Gala on May 21 will be honoring Cohn for his 29 years of service to the congregation. There will be a patron party at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner and cocktails at 7:15 p.m., special presentations and a silent auction. The event is black tie optional. Tickets are $150, or $75 for those under 35 years of age. Patron levels start at $275.

Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn: “This is where I was really called” to be

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Events in region celebrate Israel's 68th birthday

In mid-May, several communities in the region will have celebrations for Israel’s 68th birthday.

In New Orleans, there will be a community-wide Yom Ha’Zikaron, Israel memorial day, service led by members of the Jewish Clergy Council of New Orleans on May 11 at 6:30 p.m., followed by an Israel Independence celebration at 7 p.m.

The celebration will include a dessert reception and performance of “Israel Story — Live!” Using a combination of radio-style storytelling, live art, music, singing, video, and other multimedia magic, the show provides an intimate glimpse of modern Israeli life. “Israel Story” is an Israeli radio show inspired by the slice-of-life stories featured on “This American Life.”

The evening is free and open to the community.

The Jewish Federation of Central Alabama will hold a regional ISRAELfest68, showcasing Israeli life, culture and spirit. The event will be on May 15 at the Wynlakes Golf and Country Club in Montgomery from 5 to 8 p.m.

The event will feature a variety of traditional Middle Eastern food, a salute to outstanding leaders dedicated to Israel, special guest speakers, a silent auction, an 8-foot replica of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, craft activities and dancing for the kids, merchandise, door prizes and more.

At the center of the celebration is live entertainment by Shimon Smith, a leading Israeli singer and former emissary to Israel who served in central Alabama, as well as a performance by Israeli stand-up comedian Yuval Haklat.

Tickets for ISRAELfest 68 are $18 for adults and free for children under 13.

There will also be an Israel Memorial Day commemoration at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem in Montgomery on May 10 at 7 p.m.

Birmingham Celebrates Israel will be at the Levite Jewish Community Center on May 15 at noon. There will be Israeli food available for purchase, a kids’ zone with games and rides, music and a bike parade. There will also be Israeli and Jewish products for sale, a Western Wall replica for placing a message, Israeli football, cotton candy, and much more. Admission is free.

Also, Israeli radio and television personality Amit Farkash, whose song “Millions of Stars” became identified with the Second Lebanon War, will be the guest speaker at an Israel Memorial Day event in Birmingham.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation is co-hosting the event at the Levite Jewish Community Center on May 11 at 7 p.m. The program is open to the community.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War. Captain Tom Farkash, brother of Amit Farkash, was killed in a helicopter crash during the war. The song was composed by a friend of his, and she sang it for the first time at her brother’s funeral. It quickly became famous in Israel.

Amit Farkash played the lead role in Israel’s version of “High School Musical” and co-starred on the television series “Split.” She is now portraying Dana in the series “The Nerd Club.”

In Mobile, there will be an Israel Independence Day celebration on May 15 at 5:30 p.m. at Ahavas Chesed. After an Israeli Memorial Day ceremony, there will be a "South Meets Israel" celebration with a Mediterranean dinner and a Jazz band. Reservations are $8 for adults, $5 for children.

Huntsville will have a celebration at Temple B'nai Sholom on May 22 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a picnic lunch at noon.

On May 15, Baton Rouge Hadassah will celebrate Israel Independence Day at B’nai Israel at 6 p.m., with food, dance and a film about Jerusalem.

Pensacola’s Israel celebration will be on May 15 at 12:15 p.m. at B'nai Israel. A memorial service at 11:30 a.m. will precede the festival.

Events in region celebrate Israel's 68th birthday

Monday, May 2, 2016

Theresienstadt children's opera "Brundibar" coming to World War II Museum

The New Orleans Opera and the National World War II Museum are collaborating on a production of Hans Krasa’s Holocaust-era children’s opera “Brundibar,” but it will involve far more than the three performances this month.

“Brundibar” was performed 55 times in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust, after which Krasa and just about all of the other participants were deported to Auschwitz and killed.

The only remaining survivor from the production, Ela Weissberger, will visit New Orleans for the productions and a series of educational events. She played “cat” in all 55 performances. She “will not only relate her personal story of struggle and survival, but also her casting as the role of the cat in Brundibar, and what the staging of this opera around the world means to her today.”

Also coming to New Orleans will be the Butterfly Project, which is making 1.5 million ceramic butterflies to memorialize the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered by the Nazis.

The local production came about through a meeting between New Orleans Opera and the World War II Museum to brainstorm collaborative projects, musical performances that would further the museum’s mission of accentuating all aspects of World War II.

During the meeting, the planned pavilion that will focus on the Holocaust was mentioned, which led Opera Conductor Robert Lyall to reflect on a couple of productions that are Holocaust-related and which could be done at the museum.

They wanted it to be done somewhere around Holocaust Remembrance Day, which would be after the Opera’s season concluded and before the end of the school year.

As the Opera and the museum started discussing “Brundibar,” they consulted with many in the Jewish community, especially Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn and Cantor Joel Colman of Temple Sinai, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the Jewish Endowment Foundation.

For the opera company, this is a smaller-scale production without drawing national opera figures. Instead, the cast is students from the New Orleans area. Tryouts were held at Temple Sinai in January.

“We decided early on to make it an interfaith production,” Lyall said. “It wouldn’t be exclusively Jewish or exclusively non-Jewish kids.”

Originally composed in 1939 for the children of the Jewish orphanage in Prague, the show premiered in a cramped attic theater in Theresienstadt on Sept. 23, 1943, to an audience of prisoners, camp leaders, and Swedish Red Cross workers who were monitoring conditions at the camp.

The story itself is about a fatherless sister and brother. Their mother is ill, and the doctor tells them she needs milk to recover. But they have no money. They decide to sing in the marketplace to raise the needed money. But the evil organ grinder Brundibár chases them away.
However, with the help of a fearless sparrow, keen cat and wise dog, and the children of the town, they are able to chase Brundibár away, and sing in the market square.

While the Nazis used the show as a propaganda tool in portraying a model camp, the Jewish viewers equated Hitler with Brundibar.

Lyall said it is important to take what can be simply viewed as a charming children’s story and put it in its context and significance for audiences.

After 75 years, he said, it is an amazing set of circumstances that enables the show to be performed at all.

The performances will be preceded by a 15-minute short opera, “Friedl,” about Friedl Brandeis, who was “largely responsible” for the large amount of children’s art that came out of Theresienstadt.

Lyall explained that education and art were forbidden at the camp, but Brandeis persevered. The work was written for the Los Angeles Opera before a 2013 run of “Brundibar.”

Brandeis hid a large amount of artwork in suitcases, which emerged again after the war. The 5,000 pieces of art were “how much she could cram into a couple of suitcases.”

Of the 15,000 children sent to Theresienstadt, fewer than 100 survived.

Lyall said the local production will use the original dialogue instead of more recent attempts to make it more grand. Likewise, a recent version by Louisiana native Tony Kushner isn’t being used because of changes in the story.

“I’m respecting the original text and the original intent of how it was presented” in the camp, Lyall said.

There will be a series of events in conjunction with the performances.

Temple Sinai will host the Butterfly Project’s “Not the Last Butterfly” documentary film on May 12 at 7 p.m. There will be a reception, butterfly painting and discussion with the filmmaker.

The Butterfly Project was formed in 2006 at San Diego Jewish Academy, partly inspired by the Paper Clips project of Whitwell, Tenn. Over 200 communities worldwide have participated in the project, which will use the 1.5 million ceramic butterflies as inspiration worldwide, for Holocaust education and anti-bullying initiatives.

Schools around the world can dial into a Webinar with Weissberger, “Testimony from Theresienstadt: Ela Weissberger and her Story of Survival” on May 13 at noon.

All audiences are welcome to view and participate. The museum says the webinar is ideal for grades 5 to 8. Upon registering, teachers will receive curriculum materials related to the program.

Weissberger will be at the 6:15 p.m. Shabbat service on May 13 at Temple Sinai.

On May 14, the Butterfly Project will have a family workshop at the WWII Museum at 2 p.m. Children ages 8 to 12 are invited to design ceramic butterflies with Weissberger, who will also glaze one of the butterflies.

Each of the butterflies made at the museum will be incorporated into a temporary public display. Advance registration is required, and one adult per three children must attend. Participants are invited to attend the “Brundibár” dress rehearsal directly following the workshop.

There is no charge to participate, but space is very limited. Regular museum admission charges will apply to those who want to spend the day at the museum.

The “Brundibar” performances will be May 14 at 7:30 p.m., and May 15 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Tickets are $20 for adults, $5 for children.

The Boeing Center includes restored warbirds hanging from the ceiling. Those were the planes being piloted by U.S. forces during the opera’s original run at Theresienstadt.

In 1998, J. Greg Thomas, a teacher in rural Alabama, did a tour of “Brundibar” with an entirely non-Jewish cast and using their original accents to show the universal message.

The tour performed in October 1998 in Nashville, as special guests of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission’s annual Holocaust Conference for High School students, with Weissberger in attendance.

In 2014, children and adults from Ars Nova School of the Arts in Huntsville performed “Brundibar” during “Voices from Terezin” at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church. Weissberger introduced those performances as well.

Theresienstadt children's opera "Brundibar" coming to World War II Museum

Friday, April 22, 2016

Holocaust remembrances 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.

Also in Huntsville, there will be a Days of Remembrance program on May 3 at 11 a.m., at Bob Jones Auditorium in the Sparkman Center. Esther Levy of Birmingham is the keynote speaker.

The Mobile commemoration will be on May 4 at 7 p.m., at Springhill Avenue Temple.

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 18 at 6:30 p.m., with speaker Laura Aysen, a fellow of Tulane University's Southern Institute of Research and Education.

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 remembrances 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