Members of Birmingham's Jewish community prepare lunch for about 200 guests at Grace Episcopal Church in Birmingham. The kitchen serves the disadvantaged every day, and the Jewish community works the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter lunches.
Deep South File :: Birmingham Jewish Social Action Committee Thanksgiving Lunch at Community KitchensPosted by DSJV at Thursday, November 24, 2005 11.24.2005
Members of Birmingham's Jewish community prepare lunch for about 200 guests at Grace Episcopal Church in Birmingham. The kitchen serves the disadvantaged every day, and the Jewish community works the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter lunches.
(JTA) -- Ariel Sharon resigned from Israel's ruling Likud Party. The prime minister met today with Israeli President Moshe Katsav to ask him to dissolve Parliament and authorize early elections, and then announced his own move. "I am resigning from the party and forming a new one," Sharon was quoted as telling the Likud secretariat in a letter.
Sharon's new party is expected to capitalize on mainstream support for his decision to withdraw Israeli soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip. According to media reports, it will be called the National Responsibility Party.
Polls suggest that even in his new party, Sharon may have difficulty beating his chief rival, Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz, in elections expected in March.
On Nov. 9, retired Israeli Brigadier General Dov Sedaka found himself in the role of comforting Jordanian officials in Birmingham following a terror attack in Amman.
Then again, this is the story of the Middle East, where even the unusual can be affected by the unexpected.
Sedaka was part of a visiting delegation from Rosh Ha'Ayin, in Birmingham for an unprecedented sister city signing. The Nov. 9 ceremony was a unique trilateral signing of sister city agreements by an American city with both Israeli and Arab cities.
The signing took place at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located in the area where internationally-known civil rights demonstrations took place in 1963. Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid said "maybe that kernel that started in Birmingham 42 years ago for peace among peoples is spreading all over the world."
Birmingham's Sister City Commission signed its ninth and 10th agreements with Rosh Ha'Ayin, and with al-Karak, Jordan. The Israeli and Jordanian cities did not sign an agreement with each other, but with numerous joint appearances during the four-day visit, the mayors discussed educational and cultural initiatives.
Birmingham's history with Rosh Ha'Ayin began 25 years ago when the Kimerling family built a community center in what was then a forgotten Yemenite development town. The cities were paired under Project Renewal, then kept a very active friendship through the 1990s. Now, Rosh Ha'Ayin is a bedroom community with high-tech industry in the center of Israel, and is still connected with Birmingham through Partnership 2000.
Ruth Lamonte opened the signing ceremony by saying "I think I have been wishing for this for 30 years. I can't tell you how pleased I am." Lamonte, chair of the Sister Cities Commission, has been an activist for the Palestinians for three decades, since her time as a Fulbright lecturer in Jordan.
Lawrence Pijeaux, director of the Civil Rights Institute, asked "what better place to have an agreement between Birmingham, Israel and Jordan" than a place commemorating a "non-violent movement that improved race relations around the world."
Kincaid echoed that theme, noting that "42 years ago we were torn in racial strife... we have managed to heal that rift and we are fully ensconced in the 21st century."
The signing between Birmingham and al-Karak took place first, with three sets of documents, in Arabic and English, being signed. One set goes to each city, with the third going to the international agency that oversees sister cities.
The Birmingham-Rosh Ha'Ayin agreement, in Hebrew and English, was then signed. All three mayors then shook hands, with al-Karak Mayor Mohammed Maita and Rosh Ha'Ayin Mayor Moshe Sinai shaking hands in front of Kincaid in an arrangement reminiscent of the famous Rabin-Arafat and Rabin-Hussein handshakes at the White House in the early 1990s.
In his remarks, Maita spoke of his town's tradition of "extending the hand of friendship to other nations." He spoke of the hopes for peace, and for trade opportunities. "We appreciate the United States' partnership in the Middle East, to help us in so many ways."
Sinai told Kinkaid that "it is very important that you... took the initiative and invited us here together."
Sinai stressed that Israel feels it is important "that peace will not only be between nations and states, but between people, children." Now, he added, comes the hard work of following up and expanding relations and activities.
Before the visit, there had not been any ties between Rosh Ha'Ayin and al-Karak, but Sinai said he and Maita discussed several ideas, including a youth exchange, especially tied to music. Rosh Ha'Ayin has a world-famous youth mandolin orchestra and a newer music conservatory.
Another idea is to have a film exchange during the communities’ respective film festivals. Internet links between schools is another possibility, and the joint ties with Birmingham will be an avenue to help facilitate relations.
Maita expressed the hope that "this will open the door for peace."
Aviv Ezra, deputy consul at Israel's Consulate in Atlanta, said the signing was a "win-win-win situation" unlike any he had ever seen. "May we see this as a stepping-stone to an even brighter tomorrow."
After the ceremony, the three mayors went across the street to Kelly Ingram Park for pictures. While in the park, Chef Clayton Sherrod stopped by to present Maita and Sinai with copies of his "Simply Southern" cookbook.
Also, a passerby called out to Kincaid, who explained what was happening there. The passerby then said, "I have to come over and shake their hands, then."
Visitors then mingled at a luncheon of Middle Eastern food in the Institute's lobby. The luncheon was partially sponsored by the Birmingham Jewish Foundation.
Scotty Colson, director of the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission, commented "this was our Camp David."
But those in attendance were jolted back from their ebullience upon learning of the terror attacks in Amman that day.
Seeing the city
The mayors toured numerous places in Birmingham during their joint visit. On Nov. 7, they visited the University of Alabama at Birmingham, then met with the Birmingham Area Consortium for Higher Education at Samford University on Nov. 8.
Also on Nov. 8, the delegations visited City Hall and were presented with keys to the city by Kincaid.
On Nov. 10, the Israelis returned to UAB and visited the music program at Birmingham-Southern, while the Jordanians met with local experts on physical disabilities.
Sinai also met with the Birmingham Jewish Federation's Israel-World Jewry Bureau to brainstorm on future projects. Birmingham, along with New Orleans, has been partnered with Rosh Ha'Ayin under Partnership 2000, and Sedaka heads the project in Rosh Ha'Ayin.
Project ideas included having teens from Rosh Ha'Ayin compete on Birmingham's team in the annual international Maccabi games, and having a leadership training workshop in Birmingham for youth from Rosh Ha'Ayin and al-Karak.
There was also discussion of expanding an initiative in Rosh Ha'Ayin schools to replace textbooks and notebooks with laptop computers, and connecting the two communities for joint projects over the Internet.
Meir Serrouya, head of the Rosh Ha'Ayin Music Conservatory, spoke about growing the 300-student conservatory as part of a plan to make Rosh Ha'Ayin Israel's "city of music."
Birmingham signed its first sister city agreement with Hitachi, Japan, in 1982. Other sister cites for Birmingham are Anshan, China; Guediawaye, Senegal; Gweru, Zimbabwe; Pilsen, Czech Republic; Pomigliano D’Arco, Italy; Szekeshfehrevar, Hungary; and Vinnitsa, Ukraine.
Fans of irreverence can rejoice -- the Krewe du Jieux will march in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
The Jieux is one of 17 sub-Krewes in the Krewe du Vieux, which holds one of the earliest parades each year. According to Joel Nitzkin, captain of the Jieux, the parade will be at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 11.
"The spirit of New Orleans is very strong," Nitzkin said, "and we are strongly committed to bringing this town back, with all its old culture and traditions, better than ever."
He added, "whether or not we would parade this year was never in question."
The weekend begins with the Friday evening coronation on Feb. 10. At the party, a "Shabbat and schmooze pot luck dinner" held at a Krewe member's home, the Krewe gives out rewards for the year and crowns its annual King of the Jieux and Jieuxish American Princess. A King David cake adapts a popular Mardi Gras tradition, witha dreidel substituting for the baby Jesus.
The Krewe gathers around 3 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Den of Muses for final parade preparations. The Krewe du Vieux Ball is held at the end of the parade route.
The Krewe also holds a Passover Seder each year, along with other events during the year.
The Krewe du Jieux is the only Jewish Krewe that marches in Mardi Gras. It began at a Seder at the home of Angie Mason in 1996. Unaware of the history of Jewish exclusion from Mardi Gras, Philadelphia transplant L.J. Goldstein suggested that a Jewish Krewe be formed, modeled after the Zulu Krewe, poking fun at Jewish stereotypes. Instead of coconuts, he suggested, gold bagels could be thrown.
Also at the Seder was Keith Twitchell, "Poobah of Publicity" for the Krewe du Vieux. There was an opening for a sub-Krewe, he said, and if they could round up 12 people to march, a Jewish Krewe was possible.
Krewe du Vieux is the only parade that marches through the French Quarter. It is held a week before the major parades begin, and the floats are pulled by horses. It also has a reputation of being quite bawdy, though the Jieux generally have one of the more tasteful floats.
The 1997 theme was "Krewe du Vieux Goes Deep" in celebration of that year's Super Bowl in New Orleans. At first, Krewe du Jieux considered doing a float celebrating Jewish football players, but shelved that idea for "The Offensive Line."
The 17 Jieux marched wearing blue football jerseys decorated with Stars of David, and yarmulkes atop their helmets. They carried "offensive" signs, with statements like "Funny, you don't look Jieuxish," "Show us your Tzitzit" and "Jieux Oughta Try It."
The Panorama Brass Band accompanies the float, playing Klezmer through the streets while Krewe members dance, hand out bagels and other "throws" based on that year's theme.
Nitzkin said the Krewe has lost roughly one-third of its 42 members from last year, due to problems with homes, jobs or schooling for children. His Uptown home had "trivial" external damage, but as with just about everyone else, had to remove a refrigerator that had been without power for weeks.
In his area, near the Tulane campus, "about half the people are back and about half the businesses are open," but areas where flooding occurred "are still ghost towns."
The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans will host the first Jewish community meeting in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina on Nov. 21 at Shir Chadash at 7 p.m. At the meeting, there will be updates on the community's Jewish agencies, rebuilding and reopening plans, and the latest information on the community's future.
The Federation recently mailed a survey to the Jewish community mailing list, asking for updated information and a sense of what percentage of the community plans to return, and in what time-frame. A large percentage of the surveys will have to be forwarded by the Postal Service.
Even if one has resettled elsewhere and has no plans to return to New Orleans, the Federation requests that the survey be filled out.
The survey is also available on-line at www.jewishnola.com.
CLAL to hold programs in Louisiana
Rabbi Irwin Kula and Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, also known as CLAL, will be in Baton Rouge on Dec. 12 and New Orleans on Dec. 13 for a series of programs, including a program of healing and recovery.
Times and locations will be announced shortly.
Many groups from across the country are offering to come to the New Orleans area to help with rebuilding.
An adult mitzvah corps from Temple Shalom in Succasunna, N.J., has offered to come down the week of Dec. 26, to assist individual homeowners or businesses that need help. The group has built five Habitat for Humanity homes, and has liability coverage.
Those desiring their assistance can contact Teri Gross at the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, (713) 729-7000, ext. 364, or email@example.com. The service is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Other groups have also offered assistance, and once the Federation resolves liability issues, information will be posted so matches can be made.
Chanukah in New Orleans
Dashka Roth, a Judaica shop in the French Quarter, is teaming with artist Gary Rosenthal and the New Orleans Jewish Community Center for a Chanukah homecoming celebration, Dec. 20 at the Uptown JCC, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The party will include latkes, music and Chanukah gifts created and donated by communities across the country.
The New Orleans Jewish Day School has announced that it will not reopen in January, but will remain closed until August 2006.
According to a letter distributed by the school, the delay is because of the "few numbers of students returning to the New Orleans metro area and to NOJDS."
Anyone interested in enrolling for 2006-07, or for further information, should contact the school at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (504) 887-4091.
Financial relief grants of $700 per adult are being offered to Jewish individuals who have experienced financial distress following Hurricane Katrina.
The money was provided to the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans by United Jewish Communities after the Federation made a grant request.
According to the Federation, "This financial assistance is being distributed with a sense of love and caring for our community. While we know that this doesn't begin to cover the economic losses that that we all face as a result of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, we hope that it will provide some immediate financial relief."
The grant program is being implemented nationally through Jewish Federations and the national Association of Jewish Family and Children's Agencies. UJA and AJFCA notified local agencies across the country to expect needs-based financial assistance requests from evacuees.
Evacuees in Louisiana should contact Jewish Family Services at the nearest office — New Orleans/Metairie, (504) 831-8475; Baton Rouge (225) 379-7393; or Mandeville (985) 264-1619.
Those outside the area should contact the nearest Jewish Family Services.
Baton Rouge education assistance
The Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge is offering financial educational assistance for displaced Jewish students from New Orleans. One-time grants of $1000 per student will be provided directly to the student's parents, or in the case of college students to the student him/herself.
To qualify, a student must be Jewish and have been a permanent resident of the Greater New Orleans area on Aug. 29, who is now displaced from New Orleans and enrolled at a college or university in Baton Rouge, Hammond, or Lafayette.
Elementary or high school students must be enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade at a Baton Rouge private school or East Baton Rouge Parish public school.
Forms are available from the Baton Rouge Federation, or online at jewishbr.com.
More information: Rabbi Martha Bergadine, (225) 379-7393.
The first public event of a year-long Birmingham initiative, "The Holocaust: Remembrance and Reflection," will be Nov. 20 at 4 p.m., at the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
Cantor Daniel Gale of Temple Beth-El will be joined by Oral Moses of Kennesaw State University for "Songs of Struggle, Songs of Faith: Celebrating the African-American and Jewish Musical Traditions."
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Committee and the Birmingham Museum of Art have been spearheading a year of Holocaust-related programming, centered around two exhibits that will be in Birmingham next year.
"Through the Eye of the Needle: The Fabric Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz" will be at the Museum of Art starting Feb. 26, and "The Children's Story: Children's Drawings from Terezin 1943-1944" opens the next week at the Civil Rights Institute.
A teacher training workshop took place in September, with about 100 teachers in attendance. Already, area schools have reserved 40 buses for students to view both exhibits, and docents are being recruited for the exhibits and special programs at both venues.
Karen Allen and Jim Sokol are chairing the project.
Gale and Moses performed "Songs of Struggle" at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan last year. They first became friends at the University of Michigan.
Moses, a bass-baritone, performs regularly throughout the United States and Europe, singing opera, oratorio and recitals with special emphasis on the art song repertoire by African-American composers. He has had numerous successes with opera companies, performing major roles in "Le Nozze di Figaro," "Regina," "La Boheme," and "Die Zauberflote," among others.
In addition to Moses' responsibilities as professor of singing at Kennessaw State University in Atlanta, annual recital tours in Germany round out his performing schedule.
Interfaith trip meeting
The final component of "The Holocaust: Remembrance and Reflection" will be an interfaith trip from Birmingham to the Czech Republic and Israel next May.
There will be two informational meetings for those who are considering joining the group. Shalmi Barmore, the founder and former director of Holocaust education at Yad Vashem, will be the guest speaker. He will also be the scholar-in-residence for the trip while the group is in Prague.
The meetings will be at Sirote Permutt on Nov. 29 at 5 p.m., and at the Civil Rights Institute on Nov. 30 at 8 a.m.
The Prague portion of the trip includes visits to the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter, the Jewish Museum, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral and the Terezin concentration camp. William Cabaniss and his wife, Catherine, who are from Birmingham, are planning a reception at the residence of the American Ambassador to the Czech Republic for mission members.
In Israel, the group will visit Masada and the Sea of Galilee, the towns of Nazareth and Tzfat, and Birmingham's sister city Rosh Ha'ayin. In Jerusalem, the group will walk the Via Dolorosa, gather at the Western Wall and meet with Ethiopian Jews.
The trip will be from May 7 to 18.
The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life is continuing its Southern States Literary Series with two tours this fall.
The series is a series of discussions and book signings with leading authors of newly released works on the Jewish Experience, creating a vibrant literary circuit throughout the ISJL's 12-state region. By bringing a tour to three or four communities in a small area, these smaller communities are able to attract programs they could not do on their own.
The "poet laureate" of Southern Jews, Eli Evans, shares his impressions of the Jewish South in an Arkansas trip this month. Author of "The Provincials," "The Lonely Days Were Sundays," and "Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate," Evans has spent much of his career explaining the unique story of southern Jews to audiences around the country.
Recently retired as head of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Evans has been a longtime board member of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience and the Institute of Southern Jewish Life.
He begins his tour on Nov. 7 at First Presbyterian Church, Hot Springs, at 7 p.m. The tour continues at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m., and at Northwest Arkansas Community College’s Wal-Mart Auditorium on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.
Professor Stephen Whitfield, the Max Richter Chair in American Civilization at Brandeis University, will travel to Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, and Jackson, Tenn., next month. Author of numerous important books, Whitfield is one of the foremost experts on the history of American Jewish culture. His topic in Tennessee will be the cultural response to the popular musical "Fiddler on the Roof."
Based on the Yiddish short stories of Shalom Aleichem, "Fiddler on the Roof" became the longest running musical in American history and continues to entertain audiences around the world. Dr. Whitfield will examine how this play about Eastern European Jews transcended religious and cultural boundaries to resonate with audiences of all backgrounds.
He will speak at Linebaugh Library in Murfreesboro on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m.; Lambuth University in Jackson on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.; and the Jewish Cultural Center in Chattanooga on Dec. 11 at 2 p.m.
All presentations are free and open to the public.
Anne Rice isn't your typical Shabbat evening speaker, and her latest book, "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" might not seem to be a normal discussion topic at a synagogue.
That is, until one hears of Rice's work in researching first-century Judaism to provide an authentic backdrop to the book.
Rice will speak at Birmingham's Temple Emanu-El on Nov. 11 at the 5:45 p.m. service. She acknowledged that on her current book signing tour, this is the only synagogue scheduled, but said she would be "delighted" to speak at others.
The visit came about as a result of Rice's Nov. 12 panel discussion at Southside Baptist Church. Rabbi Jonathan Miller will be speaking as part of the 6 p.m. presentation. While the program was being organized, Miller asked Rice if she would be interested in speaking at Emanu-El.
She will also have a book signing at the Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.
Known for her "Vampire Chronicles," in this book Rice set out to show "how rich and varied life was, and what it was like for a family of carpenters in Nazareth" in the time of Jesus.
In 1998, Rice returned to the Catholic Church, and this book is part of her spiritual journey. She said her previous works prepared her to tackle this subject, portraying Jesus as a 7-year-old growing up in the Land of Israel.
When writing her vampire novels, she would get into the mind of the vampire "to examine the whole metaphor from the inside out."
"I like to take the character people usually work around and get into that person's mind." Taking the first-person point of view "is what interests me the most."
She researched the time period, studying archaeology and historical accounts. She noted that she does not write anything that contradicts the gospels, but takes "the Jesus of faith and put him against a historically accurate background." Among the topics she explored was the effect of Herod's death on the region, and what the mood was when Rome had to come in and quell riots.
She said most people have a very simplistic view of that time period, which was formative to both Christianity and Judaism. Many people see the story of Jesus' life as "Jesus against the Jews."
While she enjoyed the film "Passion of the Christ," she "felt it was completely reasonable" for Jewish leaders to be disturbed by it. She said the film "didn’t go the extra mile" to highlight the tensions of Jewish life at the time, and that all of Jesus' followers were Jews.
"I really tried to get it right, to portray the scribes and rabbis as the way they saw themselves," she said. That is important because "the impact of Judaism on Christianity is pervasive."
In learning about the Judaism of the first century, she was struck by "how totally religious the view of every aspect of life was," and how that affected the development of Christianity.
Rice acknowledges that her research wasn't perfect — she noted that critics on Amazon have already called her out for referring to the "Tribe of David" instead of the "House of David."
Her appearance during Shabbat services at Emanu-El will be more of a discussion with Miller than a lecture, she said.
The First Friday program previously scheduled for that night, where Miller was to speak with Rev. Ed Hurley of South Highlands Presbyterian Church and Rev. Stephen Jones of Southside Baptist Church about their interfaith trip to Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, has been rescheduled for Dec. 2.
Members and alumni of Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement of Hadassah, are organizing a Caravan for Katrina that will bring four 24-foot trucks to communities around the eastern United States, with the ultimate destination being a United Way relief center in Jackson.
Two trucks will work their way around the Southeast, and two in the Northeast, starting Nov. 10. Each truck will be stopping along their route at local Young Judaea groups to pick up relief supplies. Kids, parents, families and community members will be meeting the trucks with dozens of boxes filled with donated items. Donations will include supplies such as non-perishable food, blankets, new children's books and toys.
The members of Young Judaea see this project as an inherent responsibility. "It was a terrible thing that happened to the people of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi," said 17-year-old Elana Rothenberg, president of the New Jersey region of Young Judaea, "and I believe it is the duty of the youth of this country to rise and up and participate in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region."
Sara Sands, a 17-year-old New Orleans resident and president of the Southern region of Young Judaea, agrees. "Judaeans are compelled by nature to become involved in the world. I speak for the entire community when I say that any initiative, food drive, clothing drive, or new shelter is a good and necessary thing. The power of a single act should not be underestimated."
The first truck will pull out from the Jewish Educational Alliance in Savannah, Ga., on Nov. 10, heading to Charleston, S.C. and Durham, N.C. Another truck will start in Miami, Fla., and work its way north.
Northern trucks will start in River Edge, N.J. and Waltham, Mass.
On Nov. 20, the caravan will arrive at the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Atlanta at 8:30 a.m. The caravan will travel to Agudath Israel/Etz Ahayem in Montgomery, where it will stay from noon to 2 p.m., then Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
The caravan will arrive in Jackson on Nov. 21.
Copyright © 2007, Deep South Jewish Voice All rights reserved.
dsjv :: Jewish News with a Southern Accent
PO Box 130052
Birmingham, AL 35222
Alabama Office 205.322.9002
New Orleans Office 504.780.5657
Main Email email@example.com