In the next week, readers in the Deep South will find something new in their mailboxes -- Southern Jewish Life, a monthly glossy magazine that will replace Deep South Jewish Voice.

This new publication will feature and emphasize Southern Jewish communities, personalities, issues, culture and uniqueness.

As before, it will be sent to the Jewish communities of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and northwest Florida. Of course, subscribers from outside the main coverage area are welcome.

In the next week or so, a new website will also be launched to complement the magazine.


Ramah Darom, the Conservative movement's summer camp in north Georgia, is being commended for how it has handled a flu outbreak over the last week.

About 60 campers and staffers have come down with flu symptoms. Three samples selected and tested by the Georgia Public Health Lab returned positive for H1N1 influenza, commonly known as the Swine Flu.

According to an update from the camp, the H1N1 flu virus has been very similar to seasonal flu with mild to moderate symptoms and most infected persons have been recovering within 48 hours.

David Westfall, District Health Director of District 2 of Georgia, said: “I have been very impressed with the preparedness of Ramah Darom and the professionalism with which they have handled this outbreak. They are to be commended for their actions."

About half of the affected campers and staff are being treated in the infirmary. The other half are "no longer symptomatic" but the flu protocol is that they have to be separated from the rest of the camp for seven days. The affected campers are participating in "a full, daily program of typical camp activities" in a separate area of the camp.

One camper was briefly hospitalized and subsequently discharged.

Parents of all campers admitted to the infirmary with flu symptoms are notified immediately.

Ramah Darom CEO Fred Levick said, “The safety and health of our community is our top priority. We’re working closely with health authorities to monitor and care for those children and staff with symptoms and protect our general community, following all measures to limit the spread of the virus. We are fortunate that we have a facility that allows us to appropriately care for affected individuals, and safely and comfortably separate them to minimize the spread of illness.

“We were aware of this possibility, and it does not change anything concerning our care for the children, our protocols, the severity of the illness, or the separation period of seven days, which was instated at the immediate recognition of flu-like symptoms and remains appropriate for this flu strain. We have treated anyone presenting with symptoms as if they have tested positive for seasonal, Type A Influenza, and cared for them in a separate environment. This is the same course of treatment and management for H1N1. Our staff is well trained and specifically discussed health procedures even before our campers arrived, especially with so much attention focused on this flu strain over the past few months,” Levick said.

The camp has a state-of-the-art, fully equipped and supplied infirmary onsite, with a residential medical staff including at least two physicians and three nurses at all times. Additional medical support has been brought in to assist.

Ramah Darom has received guidelines from the CDC and is closely following national Ramah protocols in managing the situation and administering Tamiflu when appropriate within those guidelines. The camp medical team continues to collaborate with local hospitals and health care providers, District 2 Public Health, and the Georgia Division of Public Health, as well as experts across the country.

“We are always prepared for these types of situations, so we were able to react quickly following protocols we established months ago to insure camper safety. We are in ongoing, collaborative communication with our local hospital and health department, as well as state representatives. We are incredibly grateful for their support and expert guidance they are providing us. We are fortunate that our facilities allow us to safely treat and separate affected campers, while still engaging 400 campers and 200 staff members in our typical, daily camp activities,” Levick said.

In a letter to parents and other Ramah Darom families yesterday, Camp Director Geoffrey Menkowitz said "there are no changes to announce for second session campers. We expect to be able to fully operate a safe and healthy camp and provide an outstanding summer experience."

Ramah Darom has about 700 campers and staff.

New Orleans will be one of the communities featured in the Orthodox Union’s upcoming “Emerging Communities: Job and Home Relocation Fair,” to be held June 14 in New York.

The Fair comes on the heels of last year’s successful “Emerging Communities Fair,” in which residents from the New York metropolitan area were encouraged to consider relocating. More than 800 people attended to contemplate a move, with the biggest selling point being the more affordable cost of living an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle in the highlighted communities.

Responding to the vastly changed economic conditions since April 2008 when the first Fair was held, this year’s version will highlight opportunities to find gainful employment as well as affordable housing for those making the move.

New Orleans was selected to join the Fair because of its presence of Jewish life and resources, such as synagogues, learning opportunities, kosher establishments and other mainstays of a close-knit and warm Jewish community; relatively low cost of living; charm; and multiple employment opportunities.

Rabbi Uri Topolosky, of OU member synagogue Congregation Beth Israel, declared, “We applaud the Orthodox Union for recognizing the value of smaller communities and how they uniquely contribute to the overall fabric of Jewish life in America. Our community in New Orleans, for example, boasts a rich history of Jewish immigrant life and a proud, ongoing story of Jewish philanthropic activity related to the city’s cultural and economic development. New Orleans has also been a celebrated hub for travelers, both personal and professional, and our Jewish community continues to serve a vital role in enhancing and enabling their stay.

“Congregation Beth Israel is honored to participate once again in this year’s fair for emerging communities as a means of sharing the strength of our Jewish community with young families looking to be a part of an affordable community where they can make a difference, and also to share with others the inspiring story of our revitalizing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In particular, our synagogue has rebounded from total devastation, re-energized our community, attracted new faces, and is about to break ground on a new building.”

He added that New Orleans has a kosher deli and an upscale Moroccan restaurant, a kosher market, a mikvah, JCC, Day School, and an eruv (boundary). New Orleans’ renowned Cafe Du Monde is also now certified kosher.

Beth Israel launched the “Minyan Project” — a commitment to relocate 10 young families to the community by offering financial incentives, job assistance, and Southern hospitality.

Topolosky said “This past year, two new families moved here to join this exciting community — perhaps the only place in the country where you can help shape the redevelopment of an entire city, redefine the image of a whole Jewish community, and even help rebuild a synagogue community and its spiritual home. This is a community where you can make a difference.”

At the fair, Topolosky will also present the OU with a gift in thanks for the help the organization provided New Orleans with in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At its Annual Dinner in April 2008, the OU presented Rabbi Topolosky with a check for $235,000 toward Beth Israel’s building campaign. Afterwards, Rabbi Topolosky declared, “The check received at the dinner was truly a major boon for us in our efforts to build a new home for our congregation.”

Other communities at the fair include Houston, Atlanta and Memphis.

The big difference from last year is the emphasis on jobs, in addition to the lower cost of living. Communities are not expected to guarantee jobs, but have communal representatives to help job seekers find positions.

New Orleans will welcome two major events with Union of Reform Judaism leadership this month.

On June 12, the URJ will hold its board meeting in New Orleans, and that night URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie will speak at the community’s joint summer Shabbat service. The program during the 6:15 p.m. service will be a panel on “How We Did It: Managing as Congregations Through Difficult and Trying Times.”

Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, the Reform movement established a Save Our Synagogues fund that kept the local Reform congregations open during the recovery.

From June 25 to 28, the Men of Reform Judaism will hold its 42nd biennial convention in New Orleans. This is the second time the organization has met in New Orleans in a show of post-hurricane support.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center, will be the keynote speaker. The convention includes hands-on Katrina relief projects with the Kingsley House.

On June 26, John Shalett of New Orleans will be installed as the North American president of Men of Reform Judaism. He will become the third member of Temple Sinai to hold that position, following Roger Jacobs and Irving Shnaider. Temple Sinai Rabbi Edward Cohn and Gates of Prayer Rabbi Robert Loewy will officiate at the installation.

The June 26 service will be at 7:15 p.m.

A Louisiana State University graduate, Shalett has spent his entire career as a social worker while serving in various administrative, executive and teaching positions. While living in Southern California he served as President of Temple Beth Israel, Pomona, Calif., and as a board member of the Eastern Region of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. He and his wife, EllenRae, were honored by their congregation by being bestowed the Crown of the Good Name Award in 1991. Upon leaving California, the Temple Beth Israel Board of Trustees bestowed honorary life membership to John and EllenRae.

After returning to New Orleans in 1990, he served as President of the Gates of Prayer Brotherhood and also as a board member of Jewish Family Service of New Orleans. He was first elected to the board of the then National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods in 1997.

In addition to the MRJ position, he will also serve as President of the Jewish Chautauqua Society. He serves on the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns Executive Committee and will join the Board of the Union for Reform Judaism in June 2009.

The partnership between Birmingham and Rosh Ha’ayin will be recognized this summer by Sister Cities International at its annual convention in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Birmingham and Rosh Ha’ayin became official sister cities in 2005, though the Birmingham Jewish community has a relationship with Rosh Ha’ayin going back to 1981.

Rosh Ha’ayin is also paired with the New Orleans Jewish community through Partnership 2000 of the Jewish Agency, and many programs involve all three communities.

The award will be for innovation in youth and education programming for American cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000.

Programs between Rosh Ha’ayin and Birmingham the past few years include an “E-Pals” program, which connects students in the Birmingham city and Hoover school systems via email with peers in Rosh Ha’ayin, and an educators’ exchange, through which Birmingham area teachers visited Rosh Ha’ayin and then hosted teachers from Rosh Ha’ayin at their schools.

In 2008, the Meitav Vocal Ensemble from Rosh Ha’ayin performed throughout Birmingham and New Orleans. In Birmingham, there were joint concerts with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Gospel Choir and the Huffman High School choir.

Another 2008 project was involving Rosh Ha’ayin in Birmingham’s “Read It Forward” program. The Jefferson County Library Cooperative sought to have as many local citizens as possible read “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Residents of Rosh Ha’ayin read Hebrew translations, furnished by the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, and held programs about the book.

Another project has been E-Pals, connecting students in Birmingham city and Hoover school systems via email with peers in Rosh Ha’ayin, and an educators’ exchange, through which Birmingham area teachers visited Rosh Ha’ayin and then hosted teachers from Rosh Ha’ayin at their schools.

Additional programming took place last year as the Birmingham International Center honored Israel and Jordan.

“We are so proud of this international honor,” said Joyce Spielberger, assistant executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, who is the Federation’s staff coordinator for the partnership. “I think it says a lot about our Jewish community, our broader community and the people of Rosh Ha’ayin.

“Many people have played a role in the development of this partnership,” Joyce added. “This award is indicative of the great work and outreach done by volunteers from both the Jewish community and broader Birmingham community.”

The Birmingham Sister City Commission, which oversees Birmingham’s 11 Sister City partnerships, is dedicated to global cooperation, cultural understanding and economic development between the people of Birmingham and cities around the world. The Federation’s Rosh Ha’ayin committee works closely with the Sister City Commission to advance the Birmingham-Rosh Ha’ayin partnership.

Birmingham’s relationship with Rosh Ha’Ayin began when Birmingham’s Max and Tillie Kimerling provided the funding to build a community center in Rosh Ha’ayin, at the time a development town of 14,000, mainly Yemenite Jews who fled their villages after Israel was established.

The Birmingham Jewish community’s official ties to Rosh Ha’Ayin began in 1981 with Project Renewal, with the pairing coming from the existing relationship with the Kimerling family.

Dr. Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University, will be presented with the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at the graduation ceremonies for Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati on June 7.

Cowen will deliver the graduation address to the Class of 2009, at the Isaac M. Wise Temple.
Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, will make the presentation. Ellenson said Cowen “is an eloquent spokesman who has provided dynamic leadership to numerous corporations, civic and national counsels, and boards; he is a prolific author who represents the epitome of the academic ideal; and, with vision and energy, Dr. Cowen rescued Tulane University from the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.”

Cowen is Tulane University’s 14th president. He also holds joint appointments as the Seymour S. Goodman Memorial Professor of Business in Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and Professor of Economics in the School of Liberal Arts.

Cowen came to Tulane in 1998 from Case Western Reserve University where he was a member of the faculty for 23 years. He is the author of four books and over 100 academic and professional articles, essays, and reviews, and is the recipient of several national awards and honors.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded half of Tulane’s Uptown campus and all of its downtown Health Sciences Center, and dispersed its faculty and staff around the country for an entire semester. Under Cowen’s leadership the campus was repaired and 87 percent of its students returned for classes in January 2006.

On Dec. 8, 2005 the Board of Tulane approved Cowen’s Renewal Plan, a sweeping effort that strengthens and focuses the university’s academic mission while strategically addressing its current and future operations in the post-Katrina era. In response to Katrina, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin appointed Cowen to the city’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission and charged him with leading a committee to reform and rebuild the city’s failing public school system.

Having rescued his campus from disaster, Cowen visits Cincinnati at a time when there is a cloud over HUC’s future. The board of governors of HUC-JIR will meet next month to discuss various ways of dealing with the school’s financial problems, including whether to keep open just one of its three campuses in Los Angeles, New York and Cincinnati. Other alternatives include merging some academic programs while keeping more than one campus open.

In a letter to members of the college community, Ellenson said HUC faced a deficit this year of $3 million and was “in the most challenging financial position it has faced in its history — even more so than during the Depression,” because of declines in its endowment and in dues paid by Reform congregations across the country, among other funding problems.

(From staff and JTA reports)

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