Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CUFI Plans Alabama Night to Honor Israel

Christians United for Israel will have its first Alabama Night to Honor Israel, Sept. 22 at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. David Brog, CUFI executive director and author of “Standing with Israel,” will be the keynote speaker.

The event was announced on March 22 at a series of CUFI events at the Summit Club in Birmingham and the Word of Faith Christian Center. There was a pastors breakfast, which included representatives of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, an African-American pastor’s luncheon, and a solidarity meeting at the church.

Louisiana Nights to Honor Israel have been held in Shreveport for several years, and there have been similar events for Mississippi in Jackson. Last fall’s Jackson event drew about 2,000 — more than the entire state’s Jewish population.

Rev. Michael Stevens of Charlotte, N.C., CUFI African American Outreach Director, spoke at the March 22 events. He said CUFI now claims over 600,000 members just five years after it was started by Rev. John Hagee of CornerStone Church in San Antonio, Tex., and the goal is to have 1 million members in the next year.

Walter McKee, CUFI Alabama State Director, said “when a cause is in God’s plan, it will work.”
Stevens said CUFI is an organization with only one purpose — to support Israel, setting aside differences in theology and doctrine within the Christian community.

Rev. R.W. Gibson of Word of Faith said while the event will be in Birmingham, the coalition is being built across the entire state.

Several mentions were made of Alabama’s unique role in Israel’s founding. In 1943, Alabama’s legislature became the first to officially call for the establishment of a Jewish state in its ancestral homeland.

Stevens asked why, if the goal is to unify pro-Israel support, was there a separate event for African-American ministers. He noted that the African-American community and the Jewish community have “shared experiences and parallels of pain,” noting that both groups were “slave children” from Africa.
He also noted that there is repair work to do, as the contemporary face of anti-Semitism in America is that of Louis Farrakhan. He also noted troublesome past comments Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have made about Jews.

He reminded those in attendance that in the 1960s, Jews “were the ones who marched with us.”
CUFI also works to try and reassure the Jewish community that its pro-Israel sentiments are genuine and have no strings attached. Many in the Jewish community feel evangelical support for Israel is part of a plan to convert Jews, or that it stems from Christian end-time theology.

Stevens acknowledged the concerns, saying he’s not sure all Jews trust him when he shows love to Israel. He decried the “replacement theology” that Christianity replaced the covenental relationship Jews have with God. “You can’t replace a population of people because we feel we have an anointing on our lives… you can’t get our Christianity without the rootedness of Judaism.

“We’ve got to put our differences down,” he said.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Coalition Suggests Alternative for Farrakhan's Jackson Visit

A coalition of Jackson-area religious leaders, including representatives of Beth Israel Congregation and the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, criticized the March 25 address of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement annual conference.

Beth Israel Rabbi Valerie Cohen, Institute Rabbi Marshal Klaven, Rabbi Debra Kassoff, Macy Hart and Bea Gotthelf were among two dozen signatories to the statement.

Over 3,000 attended Farrakhan’s address at Jackson State University, where he called for change in education and criticized U.S. involvement against his friend, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He also stated that Jews control the mainstream civil rights movement.

Also speaking at the four-day conference were former Washington Mayor Marion Barry, former Agriculture Department director Shirley Sherrod, and Medgar Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams.

Farrakhan has drawn controversy for decades, with inflammatory rhetoric aimed at whites, Catholics, Jews and homosexuals. He has referred to Judaism as a “gutter religion,” and his organization claims Jews controlled the slave trade. Last year, the Nation of Islam published two books about the “anti-black behavior” of Jews.

The religious leaders’ statement said Farrakhan’s selection as keynote speaker “at a convention commemorating the Civil Rights Movement and honoring one of its many enduring messages — “Respect for All” — is not only perplexing, it is downright offensive.”

Instead of calling for “silence,” the signatories called on delegates to the conference to inform themselves of Farrakhan’s history and not allow “potentially hate-filled or divisive rhetoric to divide our ever-improving community.”

To that end, the statement urged attendance at two other programs, “more in tune with the Civil Rights Movement and the lessons it offers.” Hank Thomas spoke of his experiences as a Freedom Rider in 1961 as part of the Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series at Millsaps College.

That evening, Beth Israel hosted a Shabbat service with Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Regional Bishop for the Mid-South Diocese of the Fellowship of International Churches and Senior Pastor of New Horizon Church International. The service was entitled “Civil Rights and Tolerance in a Diverse Community.”
Cohen said, “It is quite special when two religious leaders are able to unite in this way, so I hope this service will lead to more in the future.”

Hollis Watkins told WAPT-TV that the group selected Farrakhan to speak because “The minister is one, and he may be the only one, who is not afraid to speak up and tell the truth about that which he knows, and that is one of the reasons he has some enemies.”

Jackson City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, at a news conference, called Farrakhan a great spiritual leader and humanitarian.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UNO's Pasternack finalist for Auerbach Award

The term “rebuilding” doesn’t do justice to what Coach Joe Pasternack had to do this season at the University of New Orleans. Faced with the loss of all his scholarship players except for one, he had to completely rebuild a team that nevertheless finished the season 16-6, and earned him a nomination as finalist for the Red Auerbach College Coach of the Year Award.

The Auerbach Award is presented annually by the Jewish Coaches Association and is named for the legendary Boston Celtics coach who won nine NBA championships as coach and seven as general manager. The winner was to be announced at the Final Four in Houston, the weekend of April 1 to 3.

A coach in Tennessee was also named a finalist, and his name isn’t Bruce Pearl — it’s Josh Pastner, who guided the University of Memphis to a 25-9 record in his second season, winning the Conference USA tournament and narrowly losing to Arizona in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Memphis was one of the beneficiaries of New Orleans’ turmoil, with Charles Carmouche transferring there. It was part of an exodus of UNO players following the announcement that the school was dropping from Division I to Division III, where there are no athletic scholarships. Current players already under scholarship were then able to transfer to schools that offer scholarships without having to sit out for one year, as is generally required for transfers.

The drop in division came due to a large deficit in the athletic budget, and the failure of a vote in 2009 to raise student athletic fees. Enrollment at UNO had also dropped sharply since Hurricane Katrina, and the school was on a waiver allowing it to field fewer teams than necessary for Division I eligibility.

In early March, UNO decided instead to go to Division II, joining the Gulf South Conference.

Last summer, Pasternack found himself on the road looking for players, but without scholarships to offer. He managed to assemble a roster, and “we really didn’t know what to expect.”

On a mission, “the kids came together and played as a team when there was nothing to play for.” The team finished first among Division I independents, having lost its Sun Belt Conference affiliation as part of the transition.

The only similar move recently was when Birmingham-Southern dropped from Division I to Division III. Pasternack noted that BSC decided to put their basketball program on a one-year hiatus, while “we had to play the games.”

A New Orleans native, Pasternack became the UNO coach in 2007, with his squad defeating then-No. 21 North Carolina State that season, the first UNO victory against a Top 25 team since 1993.

This was the final season of his contract, and a renewal is currently on the table. Before coming to UNO, he was student manager at Indiana under Bobby Knight, then was assistant coach at the University of California.

He is “very appreciative” of the recognition by the Jewish Coaches Association, but noted his players “are the ones that deserve all the credit.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Governor Bentley to Address State's Largest Synagogue

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley will be the guest speaker for Shabbat services at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El on April 15. Elected to the Alabama House of Representatives from the Tuscaloosa area in 2002, Bentley was elected governor last year.

Hours after his inauguration, he made waves during a speech at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church when he spoke about “brothers and sisters in Christ,” saying those who had not accepted Jesus were not his brothers and sisters.

Emanu-El Rabbi Jonathan Miller was among the participants in an interfaith group that sat down with Bentley two days later, where he apologized to those who were offended by the remarks.

The April 15 service will begin at 5:40 p.m., followed by a Shabbat dinner. Advance reservations are required for the dinner, which is $10 for adults and $5.50 for children ages 5 to 11.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Camp Scholarship Contest for Type 1 Gaucher Patients

Shire Human Genetic Therapies is teaming with Southern Jewish Life magazine to sponsor an essay contest that will enable a child in the region who is living with Type 1 Gaucher Disease to attend a non-profit Jewish overnight summer camp. The winner receives a four-week session at the camp, plus air transportation to the nearest regional airport.

The contest is open to those in the Southeast entering fourth through tenth grade, who have a confirmed diagnosis of Type 1 Gaucher. The essay topic is what it is like to be diagnosed with and live with Type 1 Gaucher.

Essays should be 200 to 400 words, and should be sent to editor (at) sjlmag (dot) com by March 31, or mailed to Southern Jewish Life, P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham AL 35213. A panel will judge the entries, with a final decision being made by April 18.

While the choice of camp is up to the winner (within the guidelines of the contest), selection of a camp also depends on whether space is still available for a four-week session at that camp. The camp must be a Jewish non-profit overnight camp. In our region, such camps include Ramah Darom, Barney Medintz, Coleman, Darom, Henry S. Jacobs, Judaea, Greene Family and Young Judaea. A list of such camps, used by the New Orleans-based Jewish Children's Regional Service, is here.

The winning essay will be published in Southern Jewish Life in early summer and posted on the website, www.sjlmag.com. Entrants will need to submit a confirmed diagnosis for eligibility.

About Type 1 Gaucher:

Type 1 Gaucher Disease is an autosomal recessive disease and the most prevalent Lysosomal Storage Disorder, with an incidence of about 1 in 20,000 live births. It is also the most common genetic disease affecting Ashkenazi Jewish people (Eastern, Central and Northern European ancestry), with a carrier frequency of 1 in 10.

Type 1 Gaucher Disease results from a specific enzyme deficiency in the body, caused by a genetic mutation received from both parents. The disease course is quite variable, ranging from no outward symptoms to severe disability and death. Carrier status can be detected through blood or saliva to identify potential carriers of the Gaucher gene. Gaucher disease can be diagnosed early through a blood test. Effective treatments are available for some variants of the disease.

Shire HGT is a leading biopharmaceutical company that focuses on such rare diseases as Fabry disease, Hunter syndrome, Gaucher disease, hereditary angioedema, and metachromatic leukodystrophy—patients whose very lives often hinge on the discovery and delivery of extraordinary medicines.

Guidelines:

The contest is open to students entering grades 4 through 10, in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas. Proof of residency in region required, along with proof of diagnosis. Shire HGT and Southern Jewish Life can not be held liable for any injury or other incident that occurs at or traveling to/from the camp. Shire HGT and SJL make no claims as to the availability of space at the winner’s preferred camp. Winner will need to do the usual application procedure for the preferred camp. Only overnight Jewish non-profit camps are authorized for this contest. Funding is being coordinated through Jewish Children’s Regional Service in New Orleans, through a grant from Shire HGT.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Corned Beef Lunches in the Region

Temple Beth Or in Montgomery kicked off the season of Jewish food on Feb. 27 with its annual Jewish Food Festival. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, corned beef luncheons and other similar events are being planned across the region.

Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville planned its annual corned beef luncheon for March 3, and Temple Sinai in Lake Charles is holding its sale on March 14.

Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria will hold its corned beef sale on March 15. In addition to the sandwiches, tickets are being sold for cheese pies.

Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile holds its annual corned beef luncheon on March 17. Box lunches are $10, prepaid only, with reservations requested by March 10. Orders can be picked up from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and delivery is available for 10 boxes or more.

On March 23, the Sisterhood of Beth Israel in Jackson holds its 44th annual Bazaar, a celebration of Jewish food that draws hundreds every year. The bazaar also includes a silent auction and white elephant sale.

Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge will hold its corned beef sale from April 10 to 12, with a sandwich-making party on April 9 at 7 p.m. Lunches will be available for pickup on April 10, and for delivery on April 11 and 12.

Temple Emanu-El in Dothan will hold its annual Deli Day on April 28. Last year, the small congregation sold almost 1250 lunches.

On May 15, Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will host the second annual Kosher Barbecue Contest. Already, 25 teams have signed up for the competition. Events will be open to the community from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Scottsboro: A Southern Tragedy, a Jewish Controversy


Editor's Note: This piece is part of a series of articles, "Not Just Black and White: The Jewish Community and the Civil Rights Era."

Eighty years ago this month, nine black youths were arrested in Scottsboro, and the subsequent miscarriage of justice would spark the modern Civil Rights movement — and color the way Jewish involvement in civil rights would be perceived for decades to come.

On March 25, the Scottsboro Boys Museum will hold an 80th anniversary event featuring Dan Carter, author of “Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South.”

The museum opened in the historic Joyce Chapel Methodist Church in February 2010. Almost immediately, the United Methodist Church told the Scottsboro-Jackson County Multicultural Heritage Foundation that it was going to sell the building to a private individual, and they had a couple of weeks to raise the money if they wanted to purchase it. A brief extension was granted, and the foundation was able to raise the $75,000 — half from local legislators and half from a northern foundation that gave the stipulation that there be some recognition of defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz (pictured above right with the Scottsboro Boys) there.

In its first year, the museum drew about 1200 visitors. Museum Founder Shelia Washington thinks roughly two-thirds of the visitors have been from the north, and about two-thirds have been white.

In 2004, a historical marker was placed by the courthouse in Scottsboro, causing controversy. There is no marker in Paint Rock, but one is planned for this spring.

“Jew Money from New York”


The case began with the March 25, 1931 arrest of nine black teenagers ages 12 to 19, after a group of white boys jumped off the train and said they had been attacked. The train was stopped at nearby Paint Rock, and as the blacks were being arrested, two white girls accused them of rape. At the time, the death penalty was usually handed down for blacks convicted of raping white women.

This case was no different, as all but a 12-year-old defendant were sentenced to death. The NAACP and the American Communist Party appealed the rushed trials, which were completed less than six weeks after the arrests. The Alabama Supreme Court issued a stay of execution less than three days before the scheduled date.

The American Communist Party in New York became interested in the case, as did the NAACP, which offered the services of Clarence Darrow for the appeal. The defendants chose to let the Communist Party’s legal wing, International Labor Defense, handle the appeal. ILD attorneys found out the girls in question were prostitutes in Tennessee, with a mixed-race clientele.

In March 1932, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed seven of the eight convictions, with Chief Justice John Anderson dissenting. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that due process had been denied the defendants.

The case was sent back to lower courts and a change of venue was allowed, to Decatur. At that point, the ILD retained New York attorney Samuel Leibowitz, who had never lost a murder trial, and had no connection to the Communist Party. One major thrust of his defense was to point out the lack of blacks on juries in the area, a line of argument that led to National Guard troops protecting him.

In the retrial, Leibowitz’s grilling of one of the girls led to resentment in the community that a Yankee Jew, sent by the Communists, was badgering a Southern white woman. The National Guard even had to raise the drawbridge on the nearby Tennessee River upon learning that a mob was coming to deal with Leibowitz.

Toward the end of testimony, the other girl finally showed up after visiting New York. She recanted her testimony, saying the blacks never touched either of them. But her stylish clothes were noticed, and had been paid for by the Communist Party, destroying her credibility.

Hatred of Leibowitz locally hit its heights with the prosecution’s closing arguments. The prosecutor thundered, “Is justice in the case going to be bought and sold in Alabama with Jew money from New York?”

The jury returned guilty verdicts.

Until the closing argument, there was some hope for an acquittal, but those at the trial remarked that using the Jew card damaged the standings of Southern Jews more than all the huge 1920s Ku Klux Klan demonstrations.

Charles Fiedelson, associate editorial writer for the Birmingham Age-Herald, noted that many in Decatur “took for granted that a Jew was a Communist or at least in secret sympathy with the reds.” In his book, Carter notes that Feidelson said the Jews of Alabama “leaned over backwards to show they were not sympathetic with the ILD.”

The defense moved for a new trial, which was granted and the guilty verdicts were set aside. New trials were ordered and a different judge — one who had not stated that he believed the defendants were not guilty — was assigned. The trials took place in late 1933, led to convictions, which were once more overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1935 because of the exclusion of blacks from juror rolls.

After the 1933 convictions, which stunned Leibowitz, he vowed to defend the Scottsboro Boys “until Hell freezes over.

“It'll be a merry-go-round, and if some Ku Kluxer doesn't put a bullet through my head, I'll go right along until they let the passengers off."

The new trials took place in 1936 and 1937, with guilty verdicts. Haywood Patterson was sentenced to 75 years, but escaped from prison in 1948. When he was caught, the governor of Michigan refused to extradite him. He was arrested for stabbing a man in a bar fight, then died a year later in prison.

Clarence Norris was sentenced to death, but the sentence was reduced to life in prison. He escaped in 1946 and went into hiding. He was found in 1976 in New York, and was pardoned by Alabama Governor George Wallace.

Andrew Wright and Charlie Weems were paroled in the 1940s. Ozie Powell was shot by an officer during an altercation during a prison transfer in 1936, pled guilty of assaulting the officer and was released in 1946.

The four others had all charges dropped in 1937.

Jewish Reaction


After the first convictions, the Scottsboro Boys became a cause celebre for Northern Jews. Murray Friedman, in “What Went Wrong? The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance,” said there were two reasons why — awareness of the growing threat to civil liberties of Jews in Germany at the time, and that two Jewish attorneys were key parts of the defense team.

There were frequent demonstrations in Harlem, and the Forward and Morgen Journal wrote over 100 articles on the case.

But in the South, Leibowitz became the prototypical “northern Jew working to undermine Southern values,” wrote Leonard Dimenstein in “Anti-Semitism in America.” The fact that he was sent by the Communists was even worse.

That rallying cry would affect Jewish participation and effectiveness in the Civil Rights battles even into the 1960s. Northern Jews would flock to the South, often encountering resistance from Southern Jews who had to live with the repercussions of their visits.

Integration was seen by the Klan white supremacists as a “Jewish-Communist” plot to destroy America. That perception was reinforced by the fact that as many as half of white Northern demonstrators and activists that came South to work for civil rights were Jews.

The Scottsboro case was also the first instance of Southern rabbis having to be careful where they stepped.

Rabbi Joseph Gumbiner of Mishkan Israel in Selma was appalled by the case and spoke out, infuriating his congregation and prompting an emergency board meeting. A few years later, he would move west, and returned to participate in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march.

Rabbi Benjamin Goldstein of Temple Beth Or in Montgomery attended a 1933 rally in Birmingham for the Scottsboro Boys. Upon returning to Montgomery, he was told to stop speaking out or leave. He resigned, and then moved to New York after numerous threats, noting that anyone taking “an impartial attitude toward the conduct of the Scottsboro case is immediately branded a communist and a nigger-lover.”

Rabbi Morris Newfield of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, who was president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, was asked to investigate Goldstein’s departure, and concluded that it was based more on religious disagreements. A few Beth Or members disagreed with that conclusion, and a second body was formed to probe further; Newfield chose not to participate since he did not want anyone to think the new body had a member who came in with his opinion already formed.

Newfield was a member of the Independent Scottsboro Committee, formed in 1936 to help bring justice to the case — not necessarily because everyone believed the defendants were innocent. The main goal was to remove Leibowitz from the case, since it was assumed by then that a Jew from New York, sent by the Communists, could not win an acquittal, but an Alabama lawyer might have a better shot.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, rabbis who were very public about civil rights did so at the risk of their jobs, if not their lives.

Update: In August 2012 there was an effort to get official pardons for the Scottsboro Boys who had not been pardoned. Governor Robert Bentley has said he has no legal authority to issue them, and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles said they are not allowed to grant posthumous pardons. Bills will be introduced into the Alabama Legislature in 2013 to give the authority in this case.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

JCRS Speakers: From Foster Care to Success

On March 27, two former New Orleans foster children will give their perspectives in “Overcoming Life’s Challenges and Making Your Life Count.” Their 11 a.m. address at Temple Sinai will be part of the annual meeting for the Jewish Children’s Regional Service, and is open to the community.

Marlene and Robert Trestman grew up in the former St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans, before their parents died. After being orphaned, they were in separate New Orleans foster homes, recruited with the assistance of JCRS.

In a Yom Kippur sermon last year, Marlene stated that their father died in the state mental hospital in Jackson when she was 8; their mother died of cancer when she was 11. Their “severe decree… was tempered by a century of Southern Jewish organizations that graciously accepted the obligation of tzedekah — of social justice.”

The roots of JCRS come from the Jewish Children’s Home, established in 1856. After the home closed in 1946, JCRS started providing non-residential services for Jewish children in a seven-state region from Alabama to Texas. It is the nation’s oldest existing Jewish child welfare agency, and the only regional one.

Marlene was admitted to the Isidore Newman School as a Jewish orphan, as per the school’s charter. She went on to Goucher College and received her law degree at George Washington University. She is currently a Special Assistant to the Maryland Attorney General, having served continuously as an Assistant Attorney General since her graduation from law school 30 years ago. She is the recipient of numerous academic, professional, public affairs, volunteerism, and consumer advocacy awards and recognitions.

She noted that supporters of the Home and JCRS hold a belief that “through tzedekah a beneficiary can become a benefactor — and that an orphan can become an advocate for social justice. And in my case, that a ward of the state could become its legal advisor.”

Robert went to Carnegie-Mellon, then received his doctorate and doctoral degrees at Tennessee. Currently, he is executive director of Correctional Managed Care of Connecticut, which provides care to all jails, prisons and halfway houses in the state. He is a professor of medicine, psychiatry and nursing, at the University of Connecticut and the former clinical chair of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City. He is the author of over 300 articles and abstracts in the field of psychiatry and the past president of the Personality Disorders Foundation.

Their presentation will be preceded by a JCRS business meeting at 9 a.m., which is also open to the community. The 155-year-old agency funded over 1000 youth last year in a variety of services.

Reservations are not required, but those planning to attend are asked to call (504) 828-6334 to ensure adequate seating. The agency plans to invite the City Council, city department heads and others who “JCRS feels would take pride in hearing what two New Orleanians, from our city’s public housing projects and foster homes achieved, as a result of the collaborative work of New Orleans’ social service, agencies, schools and organizations.”

Friday, March 4, 2011

You Are the Key: Israeli Security System makes Birmingham debut


Residents of Birmingham’s Faush Metropolitan Manor by downtown Woodlawn don’t have to worry about having a key to the building with them — they are the keys to the building.

On Feb. 23, Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, visited Birmingham for a demonstration of SafeRise, his company’s biometric security and access control system. Faush is the second low-income assisted living facility in the country to install the system.

After retiring from 40 years with the Israeli military, Farkash founded FST21 to become a leading provider of intelligent controlled access and automation solutions and services. Headquartered in Rishon Lezion, the company has its American office in Burlington, Mass.

Birmingham’s ION247 did the installation and is looking to make Birmingham “the hub of this new technology,” said ION247 President Ed Welden. His firm is preparing to install systems in Mobile, St. Petersburg and Houston, and a second Birmingham installation is in the works.

SafeRise combines three technologies — facial recognition, voice recognition and behavior pattern identification — to identify who is supposed to enter a building. Unlike conventional systems, there is nothing an authorized user needs to do except stand in front of the camera for a second or two — no need for key cards, key fobs or fingerprint recognition.

Anyone who the system does not recognize, such as a guest, is asked to respond to questions from the automated system. Instructions are placed by the speaker. After a guest states who he is visiting, the resident or employee is contacted automatically, and then has the option of whether to admit the guest.

According to Farkash, the technology is just another innovation that came from Israel’s security necessity. “Unfortunately, Israel is the laboratory for world-wide terror, for facing huge global challenges.”

One challenge comes from the wave of Palestinian terrorism that led to the erection of a security barrier and checkpoints. With up to tens of thousands of Palestinians looking to cross into Israel for work daily, how does one make sure only those who should enter Israel are allowed through with a minimum of inconvenience, and still find the one or two suspicious individuals in that crowd? It was a “huge challenge to give the Palestinians the opportunity to work in Israel but not to give them an open door for terror.”

The system allows “the appropriate people to enter very fast” while the “system works with someone suspicious.”

Avi Lupo, CEO of FST21 America, said the technology will “enable the door to know you.”

This need will grow as the world continues shifting in demographics. In a generation, 80 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, making security in large buildings even more necessary.

At first, FST21 was concentrating on high-end residential developments, business and government settings, figuring those would be most in need of security systems. At a trade show in late 2009, Bill Gorodetzer of the Michaels Organization in New Jersey saw the system and “immediately made a connection with what our company does — affordable housing, especially high-rise, with a vulnerable senior population.”

Michaels is the largest affordable housing owner and developer in the nation.

Lupo said companies that rely on human guards can see an immediate return on investment, even when the system supplements guards instead of replacing them. “It’s the highest security with the highest convenience.”

The system can cost up to $60,000.

Gorodetzer said the most telling comment from a resident where the system replaced around-the-clock security guards was that “when we had guards, we didn’t feel less secure, we felt insecure.”

Jean Howell, a resident at Faush, noted the old method with key fobs “wasn’t working too well,” and every time the power went out, so did the electronic keys. She loves the new system, especially because “if you have a lot of packages, you don’t have to put your packages down to find your keys.” For those with walkers or wheelchairs, the convenience is even more apparent.

While facial recognition technology has been criticized as being easy to fool, SafeRise combines three technologies. The behavior recognition aspect can detect if someone is acting suspiciously, and can tell if an authorized user is experiencing difficulty, such as a medical emergency or being in danger.

The system was installed at Faush in January. For someone to be added to the system, they are given a one-time code by the building management, stand in front of the camera, give the code and the camera does a quick scan. There is no need for an iris scan or fingerprint detection, Lupo said. “Just be yourself, walk toward the camera.”

The system is also in place at a police station in Bal Harbor, Fla., and a Jewish school in Los Angeles.

At the Birmingham demonstration, Farkash presented a copy of “Start-Up Nation” to Rev. Erskine Faush, who is builder and chairman of Faush-Metropolitan Manor. “Start-Up Nation” is a recent bestseller about Israel’s high-tech industry. Faush said the technology “is going to be a blessing to a lot of people.”

Birmingham Mayor William Bell also visited the demonstration.