Alabama Holocaust Education Training Sessions Planned

The Anti-Defamation League and the Alabama Holocaust Commission will present four teacher education seminars across the state, and are teaming with Temple Emanu-El to do a community program in Birmingham on Oct. 26.

“What Our Students Should Must Learn About the Holocaust” will be at Emanu-El at 7 p.m. Deborah Batiste from the ADL will lead a version of her “Echoes and Reflections” program, which she has done over 150 times in 33 states since 2005. She is a lead author of the curriculum, which was created by the ADL, the USC Shoah Foundation and Yad Vashem.

The curriculum addresses how the large quantity of items to be taught in a given school year often reduces the Holocaust to facts and figures. “We must teach our students about the Holocaust in ways that challenge them to consider critical moral issues, human behavior, and the dynamics of being a citizen in a democratic society.”
The Oct. 26 program is open to students, teachers and the community.

The 6-hour workshop for middle school and high school teachers will be held in Birmingham on Oct. 26, Florence on Oct. 28, Montgomery on Nov. 1 and Bay Minette on Nov. 3. A multimedia curriculum guide with DVD will be supplied to all participants. After completing the entire workshop and completing an evaluation, participants will be given curriculum notebooks and teaching resources. CEU credit will be provided, and reimbursement for substitute teachers will be available.

For more information or to register for the workshops, go to

Chanukah Gift Wrapping Set for Oct. 16

It may be time for the High Holy Days, but in New Orleans thoughts are already turning to Chanukah. On Oct. 16, the Jewish Children’s Regional Service will hold its annual Chanukah Gift Wrap-a-thon, relying on volunteers of all ages to help wrap thousands of small Chanukah gifts for JCRS clients in a seven-state region.

The party will be at the Goldring/Woldenberg Jewish Community Campus in Metairie from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a break at 11 a.m. for the Dan Nichols concert.

The agency sends packages with eight Chanukah gifts — one for each night — to children in the region, which includes Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Some of these children are recovering from natural disasters, some have Special Needs, and some are new immigrants. They may have parents who are deceased, disabled, in prison, or deployed overseas. Almost all come from families who are struggling to stay afloat in the current economy.

Gifts are also sent to Jewish residents of adult care facilities in the region.

Refreshments will be served at the wrapping party, and there will also be a viewing of that day’s New Orleans Saints 3:15 p.m. road game against Tampa Bay. Child care will be available in the afternoon for ages 3 to 7.

Israeli Company Picks Mississippi For Major Investment

An Israeli company that converts biomass to biofuels is establishing its U.S. headquarters in Mississippi, and plans to invest up to $1 billion to establish several operations across the state. On Sept. 2, the Mississippi Legislature met during a special session and passed a $100 million economic development package for the project.

HCL CleanTech, based in Herzliya, anticipates creating 800 jobs in the state, with an average salary of $67,000 plus benefits. “HCL CleanTech shows how Mississippi has become a top site for high-tech, high-skilled manufacturing, with high paying jobs for our citizens,” said Governor Haley Barbour.

The company plans to establish its headquarters in Olive Branch, a small-scale commercial facility and research and development center in Grenada, and three large-scale commercial plants that the company intends to locate in the Booneville, Hattiesburg and Natchez areas. The incentive bill included a $95 million loan and $5 million grant that could be used for training, infrastructure or equipment.

“HCL CleanTech is delighted to receive this incentive package from the State of Mississippi to move our company’s headquarters, R&D and four commercial factories to Mississippi. Just as the Midwest, with its thriving agriculture, created significant economic wealth since the 1970’s, the Southeastern wood basket carries the enormous potential to be the nexus for a new breed of industries, ranging from renewable plastics to drop-in biofuels. We thank Governor Barbour for his vision and business acumen that put Mississippi at the core of this new industrial revolution,” said HCL Cleantech’s CEO Philippe Lavielle.

“We’re excited that the state will be the place where Israeli technologies will join the best of U.S. forestry, engineering and manufacturing to extract great values from wood,” added Eran Baniel, General Manager & VP Business Development of HCL Cleantech Ltd. in Israel. The plants will be located in areas that have plentiful pine tree supplies, with the first plant opening in 2012. The Natchez plant is slated for 2015, with Booneville and Hattiesburg opening in 2017 and 2019.

The American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Southeast has been involved with HCL CleanTech since they first began to look at the U.S. market. “We have supported their successful efforts for BIRD Foundation funding, and are very excited that they have chosen to make this very impressive investment in the Southeast,” added Tom Glaser, AICCSE president.

The company established a pilot facility in Oxford, N.C. last year, and that facility will relocate to Mississippi.

Ironically, the foundations of the Israeli company’s technology comes from German efforts during World War II. Figuring that the Allies would cut off German access to fossil fuels, they adapted a process to use concentrated hydrochloric acid to hydrolize wood chips into sugar, fermenting the sugars into ethanol using yeast. After the war, the U.S., Russian and British armies sent engineers to study the process.

When HCL CleanTech was allowed access to the reports, they found the reason this process never continued on a large scale was the cost of recovering the acid. The HCL CleanTech founders solved that problem and produce sugars at a lower cost than corn mill sugars, in a process that is 80 percent more environmentally friendly and uses virtually no virgin water.

The sugars can be used in pet foods, cosmetics, lubricants and a wide range of other products.

The Natchez Democrat reported that the plant is seen as a huge boost for the timber industry in that part of the state, which has been struggling since the closure of an International Paper plant in 2006. The HCL plant is said to need 1 million tons of wood per year, while the International Paper plant used 1.2 million tons annually at its peak.

Delta Jewish Open Weekend in mid-October

The 24th annual Jay Mosow Memorial Delta Jewish Open, a homecoming for Jews from the Mississippi Delta, will be held this year the weekend of Oct. 15. The weekend kicks off with the annual dinner party at Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville, starting at 6:30 p.m. A steak dinner will be served, teams will be formed and mulligans sold.

The golf tournament begins with a shofar start at 9 a.m. at Greenville Country Club. This year, there will be a putting contest at 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be available following the four-player scramble. There will be cash prizes for the top three teams, and all par 3 holes have prizes for holes in one. There is a $10,000 prize for a hole in one on the 14th hole.

Proceeds from the weekend benefit the Henry S. Jacobs Camp and the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Donations and tee box sponsorships are accepted. Reservations should be made by Oct. 1. For entry forms, contact Alan Silverblatt, (662) 887-5878 or (662) 887-5538; or Barry Piltz, (662) 332-8218 or (662) 332-3322.

Birmingham's Beth-El Eliminates Religious School Tuition

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El has made a major policy change in its religious school program — no tuition fees for members, and the school is now open to children of non-members, with at least one Jewish parent, at a “modest” rate of $360 per child annually.

The board passed the new policy last month, “emphasizing the value of Jewish education.” The change takes effect with the school year that was to begin on Aug. 28. Once enrolled in the school, all students in grades 3-12 will also automatically be enrolled in a Jewish youth group. As a Conservative congregation, it has Chaverim, Kadima and United Synagogue Youth chapters.

According to Beth-El Executive Director Bob Greenberg, the policy is “based on the belief that Jewish education should be the right of every Jewish child, not a privilege… this policy will enable unaffiliated Jewish families to embrace Jewish learning without impediment.” Greenberg began as Beth-El executive director this summer after previously serving as head of school at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School.

The change comes as Rabbi Ira Flax takes over the education and youth programs. Flax is an ordained rabbi who served as a military chaplain at Maxwell Air Force Base and other locations.

Challenge Grant: New Orleans Moishe House Seeks Local Support

To help ensure the future of Moishe House in New Orleans, the national Moishe House is announcing the Rubin Family Foundation Challenge Grant to attract local support.

Moishe House engages Jewish young adults in their 20s and develops emerging Jewish leaders. The innovative organization now counts 37 houses in 14 countries around the world. Since 2009, Moishe House has concentrated its fundraising efforts on building local community partnerships with donors and Jewish organizations.

Most recently, Moishe House has launched its innovative program in San Diego, Detroit and Vancouver through the development of strong local partnerships with donors, foundations and Jewish Federations.

Additionally, over the coming months, Moishe House will open new houses through this local partnership development model in New York, Phoenix, Miami and a house in San Francisco geared towards young adults from Russian-speaking families.

“Currently, there are several Moishe Houses where less than 25 percent of the program costs are funded by the local community — including New Orleans,” said David Cygielman, CEO of Moishe House. “Given this, we are focused on leveraging The Rubin Family Foundation Challenge Grant to build upon our recent success in developing strong local community partnerships and to enable Moishe House to raise the money needed to grow beyond our initial funding from a small group of national donors. It is absolutely critical that we secure funding from the local community in order to keep these houses open and thriving into the future.”

Jen Kraus Rosen, chief operating officer of Moishe House, said their model is “based on a local funding strategy and every house has to have local support in place,” and if they can’t raise “33 percent of the house’s costs from locally designated sources by May, we simply do not have the funding to keep them going.”

Moishe House New Orleans, located in the Garden District, is a unique, vibrant and inclusive residential home where young Jews in their twenties come together to explore their Jewish identity, build strong personal connections with their peers, and meaningfully engage in community service. Over the past few years, Moishe House New Orleans has achieved tremendous success, including features on PBS and the front page of the Times-Picayune.

Since opening in May 2008, Moishe House New Orleans has attracted over 4.000 participants through over 200 programs including programs to help rebuild the local community.

Recent events for the New Orleans Moishe House have included a Shabbat dinner with the AVODAH Jewish Service Corps and an alumni event, Iron Chef cooking night, Independence Day barbecue, a locally-produced products Shabbat luncheon at Shir Chadash, Shabbat on Lake Pontchartrain, blueberry picking outing in Mississippi, and an “ethical taste test” at Green Charter Elementary. They also partnered with the Jewish Newcomers program and AYLA, the New Orleans LGBTQ Jewish group, for a Shabbat dinner and service.

Through April 2012, the grant, from Moishe House board member Ron Rubin, will match each new dollar donated to Moishe House New Orleans with two dollars of additional support, offering an incentive of up to 200 percent.

In addition to New Orleans, The Rubin Family Foundation Challenge Grant is being concurrently launched in seven other communities.

Birmingham house plans fall opening

The Birmingham Moishe House is one step closer to reality. In mid-August, Moishe House began taking resident applications for the Birmingham house.

The house will be located on 21st Way off Highland Avenue, in a house next door to Temple Beth-El that is owned by the congregation. Nevertheless, Moishe House is a community-wide initiative not connected with any particular stream of Judaism.

Vikki Grodner, president of Beth-El, said she anticipates the house opening in late fall, after the High Holidays.


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