Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. A table of 10 can be reserved for $500, and sponsorship opportunities are available. The event will be from 6 to 9 p.m., and one must be 21 or older to attend.
The event is a benefit for Beth Israel, which in May celebrated its first anniversary in the new post-Katrina synagogue building in Gulfport.
For more information, contact Liz Kessie, (228) 547-1515 or go to cbiwinetasting.com.
The biennial brings together hundreds of executive directors, JCC presidents and board members for four days of presentations, focus groups and panels.
The 2012 biennial is tentatively scheduled for May 6 to 9 at the Hilton Riverside. The JCCA joins a growing list of national Jewish organizations hosting their annual or biennial events in New Orleans, the largest of which will be the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly this November.
An unprecedented 13 inches of rain inundated Central Tennessee on May 1 and 2, causing the Cumberland River to overflow into Nashville and drawing comparisons to the New Orleans flooding following Hurricane Katrina five years ago.
The Gordon Jewish Community Center became a Red Cross shelter, with over 500 evacuees at the peak. According to the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, 49 Jewish families — comprising 102 individuals — have either severe or catastrophic damage to their homes. Nashville’s Jewish population is estimated at 8,000.
Nashville Federation Executive Director Steve Edelstein said “We have no idea what the intermediate to longer terms needs of our clientele may be, but some people have lost everything.”
The GJCC sports director received a phone call in the early afternoon of May 2 as the rain began to wind down, saying a nearby Red Cross shelter was at capacity with 140 people needing to find refuge. He mobilized the JCC, and that night almost 200 slept in the gym and auditorium.
Judy Saks, editor of Nashville’s Jewish Observer, said so many volunteers started streaming to the GJCC that they eventually had to turn some away. That likely won’t be the case as families try to cope with the cleanup and rebuilding.
The city’s five synagogues and other Jewish institutions had little or no damage from the rain and flooding. The community Lag B’Omer picnic was cancelled; the site was under four feet of water.
Jewish Family Service Director Pam Kelner immediately contacted the New Orleans JFS to get advice on the best way to deal with the aftermath. The agency then started giving checks of $700 per person to those in the Jewish community who were displaced, to help with clothing, food and shelter.
The Nashville Federation has a donation mailbox on the Internet, at jewishnashville.org., and has collected over $50,000. The Federation is also serving as coordinator for Jewish volunteers.
The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans sent $2500 to help with the recovery effort, and Edelstein said several individuals in New Orleans also sent donations. The Birmingham Jewish Federation sent $1500 to the relief effort from an emergency fund.
According to the Jewish Federations of North America, “Large-City Federations have united in an act of collective responsibility, pledging upwards of $100,000.”
Another name familiar to post-Katrina New Orleans, Nechama, is now in Nashville. The Jewish disaster relief organization, based in Minnesota, has volunteers helping clean houses. Saks said Nechama will likely be in Nashville for a month, and on May 23 a meeting was planned for all community members with property damage, so Nechama can provide expertise on cleanup and the hazards that may be lurking in damaged homes.
The story of one of the South’s most beloved names in retailing begins with a smuggling operation out of Nazi Germany. That story will be recounted by Hans Sternberg, author of “We Were Merchants: The Sternberg Family and the Story of Goudchaux’s and Maison Blanche Department Stores,” at the Young Family Lecture, May 23 at Touro Synagogue in New Orleans.
Eli Evans, regarded as the pioneer writer of Southern Jewish history, will join Sternberg for the program. Evans is president emeritus of the Charles Revson Foundation in New York, and author of books including “The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South,” “Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate” and “The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner.”
The noon lecture and brunch is a presentation of the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana.
With a mercantile line extending back five generations to a small shop in eighteenth-century Germany, the Sternbergs were born to be retailers. In 1936, as Nazi harassment of Jews intensified, Hans’ father, Erich, smuggled $24,000 out of Germany and settled in Baton Rouge. His wife and three children joined him a year later, and Erich bought Goudchaux’s and set about transforming it from a nondescript apparel shop into a popular department store.
In 1960, Hans and brother Josef took over the store until it was sold three decades later. The book details the manifold challenges of operating the store — from planning financial strategies and creating marketing campaigns to implementing desegregation and accommodating the repeal of blue laws.
Through a myriad of transforming events — including the death of Erich in the 1960s and the purchase of New Orleans retail icon Maison Blanche in the 1980s — the Sternbergs successfully maintained the company’s core values and remained an institution synonymous with quality and customer service.
At its height, Goudchaux’s/Maison Blanche operated 24 stores in Louisiana and Florida and employed more than 8,000 people. In 1986, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not noted that the Main Street store was the longest building in the world built as a department store — 971 feet in length.
With the economic downturn of the early 1990s, Hans made the difficult decision to sell the business, thus bringing an end to the Sternbergs’ centuries-long mercantile tradition.
Hans is currently chairman and CEO of Starmount Life Insurance Company.
“Hans Sternberg is a Louisiana legend whose story has resonance for Jews across America,” said Evans. “The story of a family that fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s to build success that began in Baton Rouge and spread throughout the South is compelling, as is the warmth of Hans’ delivery. It is also the story of how emigrants helped build a family, a life and a community that came to love and respect them.”
The May 23 discussion and presentation will feature a window into his life through photographs of Sternberg’s family and stores. The presentation will be historical, sociological and a study in the Jewish roots behind a successfully executed business empire, from creation to the exit sale of the stores.
Added Evans: “’We Were Merchants’ is a book that is factual enough to be used as a text in business schools. It gives behind-the-scenes views in business deals, community involvement and the spirited ideas behind the creation of a Southern retailing empire that put its customers at the very center of its business. It is unusual for a reader to be taken inside the intricacies and personalities of a business deal and given the opportunity to almost participate in the personal and economic issues faced in building, running and ultimately selling a department store chain.”
The book also is a window on Baton Rouge, from how the Jewish community fit into civic life to the turmoil of the civil rights era and the development of suburbs to the detriment of downtown shopping.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which is the national organization of Federation Jewish Community Relations Committees, will hold its annual African-American/Jewish Community Leaders Mission in Birmingham this year.
This is the third year that JCPA is organizing the mission. The previous two times, New Orleans was the destination. There, the groups explored issues of poverty and race with the backdrop of Katrina recovery, developing action strategies for participants to bring back to their own communities.
The Birmingham mission, which will be June 20 to 23, will include visits to Kelly Ingram Park, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, as well as a day trip to Selma and Montgomery. There will also be volunteer opportunities.
The Birmingham Jewish Federation's JCRC will help the JCPA develop the framework and itinerary for the trip. BJF Associate Executive Director Joyce Spielberger participated in the 2009 Mission, along with Marquita Furness Davis, Commissioner for Children's Affairs for the State of Alabama.
The Federation plans to focus on programs such as Sisters/Chaverim, which were initiated to promote stronger ties between women of different faith groups and ethnic backgrounds. Sisters/Chaverim was recognized by the Birmingham Urban League and the JCPA as a model program.
"We are honored to have been chosen as this year's site for this very important experience," said Spielberger. "This will give us a great opportunity to showcase our wonderful community and the ways that we, here in Birmingham, work together to make life better for all."
The second annual “Kicking for Kids” tournament will kick off summer at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center, raising money and awareness for children’s programs at the JCC.
Twelve teams will participate in the double-elimination tournament on May 23 at the Uptown JCC. Teams consist of 12 to 22 people per team, ages 21 and up. Team registrations were due on May 3 with final rosters turned in by May 10. Each team must have at least one JCC member and at least four female players. Registration is $400 per team.
All participants receive a T-shirt in the team’s color, food and drink during the day, pool access for the family, and if a participant joins the JCC at the gold level on game day, the joining fee is waived. The winning team wins a JCC pool party for up to 50 guests.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Babysitting is available for $3 per hour up to age 7, with reservations in advance.
Part of the strategy will include purchasing “extras” from the referees before each game. There is no limit to the number of extras purchased, but only two of each type of extra may be used per game. The extras include “Add An Out” for $25, “Extra Foul” for $5, “Steal A Base” for $10 and “Take An Out Away” from the other team for $25.
By Alan Smason
With the theme “L’dor v’dor” — “from generation to generation” — members of Congregation Beth Israel began the exciting and bold step of breaking ground on April 18 on a parcel of land in Metairie that will serve as their new spiritual home.
The land purchased from Congregation Gates of Prayer this past year is on a plot adjacent to Metairie’s only Reform congregation, which is also the place Beth Israel has called home since 2006. That was when Rabbi Robert Loewy and his congregation extended an invitation to members of the Hurricane Katrina-destroyed Lakeview Orthodox congregation to meet in a small chapel and multi-purpose room at the rear of their building.
Rabbi Uri Topolosky, whose appointment as spiritual leader of Beth Israel three years ago has galvanized the tempest-tossed synagogue and directly brought about the rebuilding effort, expressed thanks to the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, community leaders and colleagues for their support of the congregation in the times since the flooding.
He noted that the very first groundbreaking described in the Torah occurred when Jacob slept upon 12 stones, representative of the 12 future tribes, and experienced the famous dream of the celestial ladder. Topolosky recalled the Jewish patriarch as holding up his stone pillow and declaring: “’This stone, which I have set up as a pillar shall become a house of God,” he quoted the scripture. “’And whatever You will give me, I shall repeatedly tithe it to you.’ ”
He amplified the theme for the groundbreaking by noting that the message that resonated most with him was the Hebrew word “ehven” (stone) formed by three Hebrew letters of an aleph, bet and nun, the first letter standing for av (father) and the second letter standing for ben (son). “I think what he is also saying is that the foundation for that house of God will be built on the combination of av and ben – on the strength of generations. With the blessing of ‘l’dor v’dor’.”
Event chair and former Beth Israel president Mike Gertler invited members of the Gothard and Katz families to be recognized for exceptional “cornerstone” gifts of $100,000 each to the $3.5 million capital campaign.
Congregation Beth Israel president Roselle Middleberg Ungar was presented with a plaque bearing the image of a shovel by her son Hal. The plaque acknowledged her stewardship of the capital campaign that has brought in nearly $2 million. Ungar reminded attendees that several naming opportunities for various rooms and places in the structure are still available.
Mildred Covert was asked to deliver some words on behalf of the older congregational members, tying together the former spiritual home of the congregation on Carondelet Street in Central City and the former Lakeview site with the new synagogue site.
Members of the Beth Israel executive board and present administration – along with representatives of the Gothard and Katz families – donned helmets and broke ground with ceremonial gold shovels, signifying the beginning of the first phase of construction, expected to be completed in 2011.
Over a dozen children from the synagogue were also given an opportunity to break ground with plastic shovels and replicas of hard hats along with Covert, signifying the ceremonial joining of the older generation with that of the newest members.
The plans for the new synagogue, along with detailed drawings were on display at the event. The plans were drawn up and submitted by Brawer and Hauptman, a Philadelphia architectural firm that specializes in synagogues. Several select committees and the Beth Israel general membership have tentatively approved the plans. The next major move by the congregation will be to put the work out for bid by interested construction firms.