Monday, July 26, 2010

Shir Chadash to celebrate Conservative 50th

This fall, Shir Chadash in Metairie will mark 50 years of Conservative Judaism in New Orleans. A weekend of celebration, reunion and honors will take place Oct. 15 to 17, and everyone who has been associated with the congregation or its predecessors is invited to take part.

Special honorees will include former rabbis and past leaders from the combined congregations of both Tikvat Shalom and Chevra Thilim, whose memberships merged in 1999 to form Shir Chadash. Both congregations have histories stemming back to the last century; the celebration recognizes the accomplishments of each since the move to the current synagogue campus.

The weekend will showcase achievements in the congregation’s religious and education programs, and the progress made since Katrina, especially the current leadership’s quest to grow Conservative Judaism in the area.

Anyone who was a Bar or Bat Mitzvah student of the congregation’s educators or lay tutors is invited to help recognize the contributions of so many individuals over the years. Those with memorable stories or photos from the congregation’s past are encouraged to email them to sandy@shirchadash.nocoxmail.com.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Israeli justice in Kagan controversy teaching at Bama Law

The Israeli judge cited by United States Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as her “judicial hero,” leading to controversy during her confirmation hearings, will be a visiting professor at the University of Alabama School of Law this fall.

Aharon Barak, retired president of the Supreme Court of Israel, is an advocate for the judiciary playing an activist role in society. A common criticism of the U.S. judiciary by conservatives is that judges are too activist, choosing to legislate from the bench instead of simply deciding whether a law is Constitutional. Israel, however, has no Constitution.

Robert Bork, whose failed nomination to the Supreme Court set the tone for future confirmation hearings, has repeatedly stated that “Barak might be the least competent judge on the planet.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on the Senate floor that the judge Kagan praises the most, happens to be perhaps the most activist judge on Earth. Her comments are troubling to anyone who believes in limited government and democracy and a limited role for judges.”

On June 29, Kagan said her praise of Barak came when she introduced him before he spoke at Harvard Law School, and said “I gave introductions to many, many people.”

Given that, the Orthodox Union’s Washington blog called the criticism of Kagan on what it called typical social convention “bizarre.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said Barak “is a celebrated Israeli hero, whose vision and perspective helped Israel to become a more democratic and just society. The insinuation that none of his admirers could be unbiased arbiters of American law is simply outrageous.”

Another Senator that criticized Kagan for her praise of Barak, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, wound up being the only Republican on the committee to vote for her nomination.
Barak will be one of three Israelis among six visiting professors at the Alabama School of Law this fall.

Barak will teach a course on Proportionality, which is the same course he teaches at Yale Law School. Barak was named dean of Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law in 1974, served as Israel’s attorney general from 1975 to 1978, was appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel in 1978 and served as its president from 1995 to 2006. He delivered Alabama’s fall 2007 Albritton Lecture, and earlier this year spoke at Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile.

His wife, Elisheva Barak, will teach a mini-course on Comparative Labor Law. From 1976 to 1978, Judge Barak clerked for the president of the Supreme Court of Israel, Justice Joel Sussman, and served as a legal assistant to the Court’s three subsequent presidents. She was appointed as judge in Israel’s National Labor Court in 1995 and named vice president of the Court in 2000.

Sharon Hannes will teach a mini-course on Corporate Theory. He is vice dean of the Buchmann Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University and head of the Tel Aviv–Berkeley Executive LL.M. Program.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Threefoot Building Faces Uncertain Future

Six years ago, as the historic Marks-Rothenberg Building in downtown Meridian was being restored to house the Riley Center, along with the historic Opera House next door, another major component in the master plan was turning the nearby Threefoot Building into a hotel to service the Riley Center.

Today, the centerpiece of Meridian’s skyline, built by members of the local Jewish community in the 1920s, remains vacant and largely untouched — and is now on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The building was previously on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s list of most endangered historic places in the state, and the state group submitted the Threefoot Building for the national list, which includes Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia, and Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, where Rosa Parks’ funeral was held.

In 2006, a contract was signed to purchase and develop the building, which had been vacant since 2000. Shortly after current mayor Cheri Barry took office, a developer pulled out, claiming a lack of support from the city. The agreement included city backing of a portion of the project’s financing.

Last month, Barry stated that plans are to stabilize the building and hold onto it for future renovation, especially given the current economic climate.

The Threefoot Building was immortalized by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as “a 15-story building on a three foot lot,” playing off the name of the prominent Jewish family that developed it. The building, located at 22nd Avenue and 6th Street, was both the pinnacle and the downfall of the family.

Abraham Dreyfus immigrated from Germany, and his name was transformed into Threefoot. He made shoes for the Confederacy, then he and his brothers arrived in Meridian to sell fine saddles and harnesses, then get into the wholesale grocery business. Later, the family went into the cotton brokerage business.

In 1890, Abraham’s two sons married into the Rothenberg family, combining their grocery businesses.
In the 1920s, Sam Threefoot and his family built Meridian’s only skyscraper, an Art Deco building that was completed in 1928 on the previous site of the Threefoot Brothers Wholesale Company. The Great Depression then hit, depressing the building’s occupancy rate. The building became a drain on the family’s finances, and the family lost the building. It continued on as an office building, but suburban development in the 1960s and 1970s led to downtown’s decline.

The building is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Olympics movement honors Froehlich

Birmingham’s Ron Froehlich, who in April was re-elected president of The International World Games Association, was awarded with the Olympic Order in a June 23 ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland. International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge led the ceremony.
IOC President Jacques Rogge, right, presents Ron Froehlich
with the Olympic Order

The IOC decorated Froehlich for his services rendered to the Olympic movement and his dedication to the Olympic Family. He became the IWGA president in 1992. This year, at the SportAccord in Dubai, he was confirmed in his office for another four-year term. The World Games are under the patronage of the IOC.

In addition to his responsibilities as IWGA President, Froehlich is on the IOC Olympic Programme Commission.

The award, which is the highest award of the Olympic Movement, also pays tribute to his 48 years as a sports administrator. Froehlich described himself and his dedication to sports saying: “I am a volunteer. And I am proud of it.”  Upon being asked what motivated him during almost five decades, he replied: “Everything that I do is for the athletes. They take center stage."

During his remarks at the ceremony, he said “It is a serious commitment that allows sports administrators to create opportunities for the millions of young people who participate in sport.”

He added, “The IOC and its constituents work to create the peaceful gathering of athletes from around the world through such events as the Olympic Games, the World Games, World Championships, and now the upcoming Youth Olympic Games. The reward of participating in these types of undertakings defies description. I am proud to stand together with my friends from the international Olympic Family on this journey toward sport solidarity.”

The ceremony in the IOC headquarter was held in the presence of the IOC Executive Board, the IOC members as well as friends and family. His wife Shirley and daughter Elana attended the ceremony.