January 12, 2017
What a great way to end the year! Leon’s famous latkes, wonderful fellowship, and our kinderlach performing a dreidel skit written by our ISJL fellow.
What a great way to end the year! Leon’s famous latkes, wonderful fellowship, and our kinderlach performing a dreidel skit written by our ISJL fellow.
Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood’s art gala enables community to purchase fine art, benefit community
Jan 12, 2017
The Myer Blumberg Social Hall of Temple Emanu-El, 188 N. Park Avenue in Dothan, will be filled with beautiful works of art Saturday, Jan. 21. It will also be filled with eager art enthusiasts looking to either start a collection or add to an existing collection.
This year marks the 39th year the Temple’s Sisterhood has hosted the Gala Art Auction and Exhibit. Tickets are $10 per person. A portion of the proceeds will be distributed to local charities. For their $10 participants will be treated to a reception, beginning at 6 p.m., featuring heavy hors d’oeuvres (salty, savory and sweet) as well as champagne or punch. While sampling the hors d’oeuvres, the participants will have the opportunity to see a preview of the works of art that will be up for bid.
The art auction will be conducted by a crowd favorite, Eric Steiner, of State of the Art.
“Eric Steiner does a wonderful job,” said Suzanne Geiger, publicity chair for the event. “He knows all of the information about the works of art. Whether a person is a newcomer or a veteran, they will feel at ease at the auction. They will understand what to do, because Eric is just that good.”
Geiger says the preview is the perfect time for art enthusiasts to see what is available.
“During the preview, the participants can put a card on a piece that they want to bid on,” she said. “Not every piece of art that is brought to the auction is put up for bid. But putting a card on a piece will help get it into the auction. A program for the auction also has every piece of art listed.”
The actual auction starts at 7 p.m. Purchasing a piece of art during this event comes with another benefit.
“All of the art is framed and ready to go,” Geiger said. “The art company can put the mountings on the works of art Saturday night or Sunday for no charge.”
For those who cannot attend the Gala Art Auction on Saturday, never fear. There will be another chance to make a purchase. It will come on Sunday, Jan. 22, during the “Take a Second Look” event, which will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Coffee, bagels and juice will be served while participants take a look at the works of art available for purchase.
“The event is entertaining and very educational,” Geiger said. “The people who attend learn a lot about art. We have people who come every year to add to their collections.”
Geiger says the art gala will feature several hundred pieces of art, including lithographs, engravings, etchings, water colors, silk screenings and Giclee prints. Some art work may be prints from special groupings that were mass-produced and actually signed by the artist. Others will feature a plate signature.
She also noted that the price of the art work is very reasonable. “Many pieces open for bidding at prices as low as $50 to $250,” Geiger said. “State of the Art supplies a varied collection of artists and styles with such masters as Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Miro, Delacroix and contemporary art from artists such as Rockwell, Behrens, Sargon, Patricia and Boulanger.”
Because State of the Art conducts 150 or more such events each year, Geiger says they are able to purchase editions directly from an artist or publisher. “This allows them to buy at better prices and pass the savings to the art customer,” she added.
Tickets can be purchased by calling Temple Emanu-El, 792-5001, or at the door.
From the Forward
This Filmmaker Captured Vanishing Jewish Communities Across America
January 10, 2017
By Thea Glassman
Early on in the new documentary “There Are Jews Here,” Mickey Radman introduces himself as one of the last Jewish residents in Latrobe, PA.
At 82-years-old, he quips that he’s considered the youngest of the town’s tiny Jewish community — a tight knit group of ten people, in a population of 8,195.
The group is so small, he notes, that if anyone skips out on services they won’t have enough men for a minyan.
“We understand that our time is relatively short,” Radman says. “There are no Jews moving to the neighborhood.”
Latrobe is just one of four populations explored by the film’s director Brad Lichtenstein, who set out to capture the disappearing landscape of Jewish communities across small towns and cities in America.
Along the way, he meets a diverse group of characters, each struggling with the same, seemingly hopeless set of obstacles that go hand in hand with a dwindling congregation.
In Laredo, TX, married couple Uri and Susie are torn between staying in their hometown or moving to a bigger city that could better support both their child’s Jewish education and Susie’s recent conversion.
Over in Butte, Montana, a congregation struggles to adapt when their only rabbi gets sick and can no longer make it in to lead services.
And in perhaps the film’s most heartbreaking storyline, there’s the closing of Latrobe’s 110-year-old synagogue.
“I was crying when we shot that scene,” Lichtenstein said in a recent phone interview. “You’re watching all the collected treasures of the shul being carted out the door and you understand the permanence of that moment.”
By that point, Lichtenstein said that the town’s congregants had already become something of an extended family to him.
“We attended synagogue with communities, we went to people’s houses for dinner, for Shabbat, for Passover,” he said. “I spent so many holidays with these families that the joke was when it was all over I finally got to have Hanukkah with my own family.”
It was during a time, he added, that he actually needed Judaism the most.
Prior to shooting, the director moved from New York, which he described as “default Jewish,” to Milwaukee, which he called “decidedly not.” He recalled teaching a class at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin, and one day capping the end of a joke he was telling with a Yiddish punch line.
An entire group of blank faces stared back at him.
“In some ways getting to film this movie was like coming home,” Lichtenstein said.
And for every heartbreaking day of filming he endured, there were the bright, hopeful moments as well.
In a Cinderella-esque twist, the documentary follows a congregation in Dothan, Alabama (population: 68,001, Jewish population: 143) that receives a $1M gift from a local businessman to help recruit Jews to move to their city.
Jewish families were invited to apply, and if chosen, received $50,000 and a whole lot of other major incentives — like assistance finding a job and a built-in community. Lichtenstein captures the story of one of those chosen families, as they make the big move from Los Angeles to Dothan, eager for a more intimate Jewish community.
Then there are the smaller, bittersweet moments.
For Nancy Oyer, who learned on the fly how to be a rabbi in her hometown of Butte, Montana, that means sometimes taking one for the team and being the only person singing during her mostly empty services.
It doesn’t bother her, though. She tells the filmmakers that she’s just happy to be up there.
“The best thing about living in Butte, Montana, is that you can be anything you want to be,” she says. “I get to be a rabbi.”
“There Are Jews Here” will screen January 12 at New York City’s American Jewish Historical Society (15 West 16th Street) at 7:00 P.M.
Thea Glassman is an Associate Editor at the Forward. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @theakglassman.
Original article can be found here: http://forward.com/schmooze/359583/this-filmmaker-captured-vanishing-jewish-communities-across-america/
Room for Jews
The documentary ‘There Are Jews Here’ tells the story of four struggling—yet striving—Jewish communities across the U.S.
By Jesse Bernstein
Udi Drukker walks through the San Antonio JCC with the rabbi as his children marvel at the size of main hall. Udi’s come to San Antonio from Laredo, Texas, to try and determine if it might finally be time to leave the city’s ever-shrinking Jewish community (of about ~130) for greener pastures. As he walks by Jewish resource after resource that they could only dream of back home, the tension is starkly visible on Udi’s face. You can see him thinking: Should I leave Laredo, a minuscule, struggling Jewish community, and head somewhere with more supportive Jewish infrastructure?
For most practitioners of Jewish geography, Laredo is off the map, somewhere in the vast expanse between Sherman Oaks and Scarsdale. But in Brad Lichtenstein’s There Are Jews Here, a new documentary on the Jewish film festival circuit, the focus is on four Jewish communities that are fighting to stay alive: Laredo, Texas; Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Butte, Montana; and Dothan, Alabama. For these communities, aging congregants and dwindling interest aren’t just peripheral issues—they’re existential threats.
In a way, these cities become little Anatevkas defining themselves in contrast with big city life somewhere else—at once proud of their resilience but envious of the ease with which larger communities can operate. But rather than be rooted out by some evil force, the only thing that’s squeezing them out is the march of time. Mickey Waldman jokes that at 82, he’s “one of the young ones” in the Latrobe congregation, but when it comes time to sell the building that the shul is housed in, he seems to take it harder than anyone.
Across four story lines, There Are Jews Here finds moments of tenderness in that struggle, as is rightly just as interested in how those communities live as it is in how they may die. There’s Nancy Oyer, president of the Butte congregation, fighting back tears as her migraines keep her from leading her handful of friends and neighbors in her typically guitar-heavy service. There are three generations of the Balk family, who drive 45 minutes into Latrobe every Saturday morning, making up 6 of the 10 needed for a minyan. And of course, there’s Udi’s wife, Susie, who converted when she married but still feels like a bit of an outsider; when the family does havdalah with Udi’s parents, she can only hum as the rest sing the prayers.
For some of these communities, their Jews seem to be perfectly suited to outsider status; shacharit attire in Butte tends towards jeans and ballcaps, and at a regional Hadassah meeting, there’s this gem from a Billlings congregation president: “If I was in a suburb of Philadelphia, I’d never be president of congregation, I’d be rebelling against the president of a congregation.” Perhaps the most interesting of the four storylines is that of the Los Angeles family that decides to move to Dothan. Local businessman Larry Blumberg has offered $50,000 to any Jewish family that moves to the area. Tantalized by the offer and the prospect of a tight-knit community, the Arenson’s accept, and seem to be happier for it. The Blumberg offer creates an entirely separate conversation that could be its own movie.
There are glimmers of hope, however small. The Balk family watches as their eldest daughter has the final bat mitzvah in their little synagogue; though the building will be gone, the memory of it will remain with her and with an archivist who comes by to preserve as well (which leads into an expertly done montage of photos and a video of happier, better attended days). And in the closing scene of the film, the Latrobe Torah is joyfully celebrated at a Jersey Shore ceremony.
There Are Jews Here will have its New York premiere on January 12 at the American Jewish Historical Society.
Original article can be found here: http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/221298/there-are-jews-here-documentary-small-jewish-communities
Son tells father’s story of courage at Holocaust service
Jan 28, 2017
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds was taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
In January 1945, when he heard the Germans announce that all Jewish prisoners of war in Stalag IXA were to report the following morning, he issued an order.
Edmonds, the highest ranking soldier in the American section of the camp, ordered all of his more than 1,000 men – Jews and non-Jews alike – to report that morning.
When the camp commander saw that all the prisoners were standing in front of their barracks, he turned to Edmonds and said “They cannot all be Jews!” Edmonds replied, “We are all Jews.”
Edmonds was threatened at gunpoint but did not waver.
“According to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank and serial number,” Edmonds told the German officer. “If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes.”
The German commander backed down and around 200 Jewish soldiers stayed in captivity with the others until they were liberated shortly afterward.
Edmonds’ son Chris, the pastor at Piney Grove Baptist Church in Maryville, Tenn., said he found out about his father’s courageous act in 2009 while searching his father’s name on the Internet.
He found an article from the New York Times written in 2008 about former President Nixon’s search for a home in New York in the late 1970s, several years after he announced his resignation.
It mentioned Lester Tanner, one of the prisoners held at the Ziegenhain stalag who told the story of Edmonds defying the camp commander.
Because of his actions, Edmonds’ father was the first American serviceman to be recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.
When Edmonds was recognized posthumously in late 2015, more than 26,000 individuals and only four other Americans had received the title that recognizes non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Edmonds shared his father’s story as guest speaker at the Holocaust Remembrance Day service at Temple Emanu-El in Dothan Saturday night. He is scheduled to speak at Trinity Baptist Church in Headland at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Edmonds said his father entered the service at age 21 and became a master sergeant in a little over a year.
Original Dothan Eagle story can be found here: http://www.dothaneagle.com/news/local/son-tells-father-s-story-of-courage-at-holocaust-service/article_ebc51c02-e5bc-11e6-8815-3bb28756cc3c.html
ORIGINAL URJ ARTICLE can be found at: https://goo.gl/q88uMX
How Religious Diversity Can Strengthen Your Community
By Stephanie Butler , 12/20/2016
With the winter holidays approaching, many Jewish parents – in our community and others – face the annual task of reminding our children’s teachers that not all students celebrate Christmas. Last year, when I expressed concerns about this issue to our local school superintendent, he responded with the heart of a teacher, offering me an opportunity to highlight this issue at a specially created program this year for the school district’s administrators and representatives from numerous faith communities in our area.
I jumped at the opportunity and quickly formed a small planning committee that included Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith of Temple Emanu-El in Dothan, AL, a fellow congregant, Barbara Minsky, and me. Recently, the school administrators gathered with representatives from 10 different faith communities (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Religious Science, Freethinkers, Catholic, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist, and Presbyterian) for a session that was engaging and enlightening for all.
Dothan’s mayor, Mike Schmitz, always a good friend of the Jewish community and a proponent of strong inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural relationships within our community opened the program, speaking about the beauty of Dothan’s diversity and the power of community when we all work together.
I followed the mayor, providing a summary of the religious communities in our area. No one was surprised that Baptists comprise 50% of the population in our local area, but many attendees were amazed that the percentage of Catholics, at about 3%, is as high as it is and that our local Muslim community is larger than the Jewish community.
Barbara Minsky reviewed the laws governing religion in the public schools, reminding school leaders that individual students may pray in school, but teachers and administrators may not encourage religious activities by students. She also noted that although students may distribute religious literature to their peers – and even proselytize – they may not harass other students. Here in the Bible Belt, what is and isn’t permissible in this realm is of concern to all of us who belong to minority religious groups.
The various faith leaders, including clergy, parents, and community members, then spoke candidly with school administrators in small groups. Highlights of this dialogue for school leaders included:
Studying verses from the Koran
Learning how isolated Seventh Day Adventist students can feel during the winter holiday season
Understanding that “nones,” atheists, and agnostics are present in the community in greater numbers than they originally thought
Learning about the diversity within Christianity
Being introduced to the basics of Buddhism and Hinduism
For the faith community volunteers, the session demonstrated that school leaders are eager to know more about students’ cultures and beliefs and teachers seek to be inclusive, but sometimes they just don’t know quite where to begin.
By far, the overriding message of the gathering is that much more binds us together than separates us. I am hopeful that despite our differences, this feeling of oneness will persist and that the interfaith session will serve as a catalyst to ensure that every child in our school system feels safe and respected – during the holiday season and throughout the school year.
Each year, Temple members volunteer to wrap gifts at the Wiregrass Mall. All funds raised go to the House of Ruth, a grass roots, non-profit dedicated to providing safe, temporary shelters for battered women and their children. Mid-December wrapping proved to be much quieter than our normal Christmas Eve gig, but we appreciate everyone who showed up and Loretta for leading the project.
Each year our religious school children buy small Chanukah treats and gifts for their families in the Judaica shop. We couldn’t do it with out the patient help of our Sisterhood members helping the children to shop wisely and wrap gifts. Thank you ladies!
At last night’s Community Interfaith Service, Rabbi Lynne and Rob Goldsmith were given a key to the city by Dothan’s Mayor Mike Schmitz. They were honored for their many good works on behalf of, not only the Jewish community, but of the people of Dothan.
Read more about the event from the Dothan Eagle below:
Interfaith service brings Dothan faith community together
Nov 23, 2016.
Barriers of faith and identity fell for at least one night Tuesday as local residents filled Temple Emanu-El in Dothan for the ninth annual Dothan Area Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.
The event brings members of Dothan’s various faith communities together each year to interact with one another and to express their thanks.
“If six faiths can come together and share coffee and cookies that should give us hope that this can be accomplished in a larger way throughout the country,” Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith said.
Rev. Dr. Sam Persons Parkes delivered a message concerning the artificial boundaries people tend to erect between each other and how God and various adversities can break down those divides.
“I believe the divine intentionally haunts the border between them and us,” he said.
In addition to Parkes’ message, the event also including readings from Buddhist, Christian, Hebrew, Hindu, Muslim and New Thought texts.
Brian Seidman, president of Temple Emanu-El said the annual service spoke well of Dothan residents’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. Seidman said several interfaith events are held throughout the year, and that more awareness of these events could foster a greater spirit of community among local residents.
Karen Nanning attends the Dothan Area Interfaith Thankgiving Service each year.
“It’s heartwarming and uplifting, especially after this year,” she said.
Kris Doss said he enjoys how the service brings people who may not ordinarily socialize with one another together.
“Sunday is one of the most segregated days of the week,” he said. “This brings people together and encourages respect for one another’s beliefs.”
During the event, Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz recognized the contributions Goldsmith and her husband, Rob, have made to the community. The Goldsmiths will soon move to Colorado to be closer to family.
From the Dothan Eagle:
Posted on Nov 14, 2016 by Jim Cook
Newly released ACT Aspire test scores revealed positive growth for the Dothan City Schools in student achievement, with some Dothan schools scoring among the best in the state.
Dothan City School Superintendent Chuck Ledbetter announced the results at the Dothan City School Board meeting on Monday.
“We’re very excited about our scores,” he said.
Ledbetter said ACT Aspire scores have risen for the city school system. He also announced some standout performances by local schools, including:
Montana Magnet School – No. 1 in state in third grade math scores.
Heard Magnet School – No. 13 in state in third grade math scores.
Montana Magnet School – No. 2 in state in fourth grade math scores.
Heard Magnet School – No. 3 in state in fourth grade math scores.
Montana Magnet School – No. 5 in state in fifth grade math scores.
Heard Magnet School – No. 1 in state in fourth grade math scores.
Beverlye Magnet School – No. 6 in state in sixth grade math scores.
Carver Magnet School – No. 4 in state in sixth grade math scores.
Carver Magnet School – No. 6 in state in seventh grade math scores.
Ledbetter said that considering the small amount of local tax revenue the city schools received compared to other top performing school systems in the state, Dothan’s achievements are impressive.
“Nobody’s getting more for their money than the Dothan City Schools,” he said.
On Monday the city school board approved a new contract for Cloverdale Elementary School Principal Aneta Walker. The board also approved contracts for mentoring services with SpectraCare, 360 Ministry Outreach, Healthy You and Ladi Vee’s Etiquette and Consulting, LLC.
The board also recognized Jimmy Berry, a student at Selma Elementary School, who saved a fellow student from choking earlier this year.