Happy Chanukah

Happy Chanukah

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.

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Sisterhoods 39th annual Gala Art Auction and Exhibit


Sisterhood’s 39th annual Gala Art Auction and Exhibit

January 23, 2017

Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood’s art gala enables community to purchase fine art, benefit community

Elaine Brackin

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.

Original article can be found here: http://www.dothaneagle.com/news/dothan_progress/temple-emanu-el-sisterhood-s-art-gala-enables-community-to/article_cfd19d0e-d8d3-11e6-8d73-2b91229c7c32.html


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This Filmmaker Captured Vanishing Jewish Communities …


This Filmmaker Captured Vanishing Jewish Communities …

January 23, 2017

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 glassman@forward.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/


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Room for Jews from Tablet Magazine

Room for Jews from Tablet Magazine

January 23, 2017

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

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Son tells fathers story of courage at Holocaust service


Son tells father’s story of courage at Holocaust service

January 30, 2017

Son tells father’s story of courage at Holocaust service

Jimmy Sailors
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


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Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith looks toward retirement

Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith looks toward retirement

Ordained in June 2007, she moved to Dothan in July of that year to become the rabbi of Dothan’s Temple Emanu-El, a temple struggling with growing its membership with the closest other Reform Jewish congregation nearly 100 miles away.

“One of the difficulties of living here is that we are a small community and we don’t have any other Jews around,” Goldsmith said. “… So to be a Jew here, in a remote Southern congregation, is much more difficult than to be a Jew up North where you are surrounded by other Jews in different communities.”

Temple Emanu-El had around 35 families in its membership when Goldsmith became rabbi. It reached a high of about 70 families and now has nearly 60 families. The small congregation is itself like a family, Goldsmith said.

This makes leaving very difficult.

After 10 years as Temple Emanu-El’s rabbi, Goldsmith is retiring. This Friday when she leads the temple’s annual Neighbor Night, where community members and non-Jews are invited to attend a worship service, it will be her last. The temple has hosted Neighbor Night for 20 years, and Goldsmith has led the service each year since she arrived.

Goldsmith will serve Temple Emanu-El through June. In July, she and her husband, Rob Goldsmith, plan to move to Colorado to be closer to one of their sons. Rob Goldsmith is executive director of the Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services of Dothan, the organization that has overseen a relocation project that reimbursed Jewish families up to $50,000 to help them relocate to Dothan. It was a solution to the temple’s membership problem that garnered national attention. In the last 10 years, the congregation and number of children in the temple’s religious school have both grown.

But it’s the temple’s interfaith efforts that Rabbi Goldsmith said she is most proud of from her time in Dothan.

Since her arrival, Goldsmith has been a member of Women in Ministry, a group that brings together female ministers from different faiths and denominations. Women in Ministry started the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service now held each year. Goldsmith has also been involved in regular interfaith gatherings held at Evergreen Presbyterian and has taught classes with the leaders of St. Columba Catholic Church in Dothan as well as the Rev. Lynn Smilie Nesbitt, an associate pastor at Dothan’s First United Methodist Church, located across the street from Temple Emanu-El.

“I think the community in general in Dothan has become more aware of minority religions,” Goldsmith said. “I think the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, for sure, has opened a lot of people’s eyes and the fact that it’s publicized and people look forward to coming back to it every year. I think that’s really good. The interfaith community has grown by leaps and bounds since I’ve been here and I love that.”

Goldsmith had been an accountant for 25 years when she decided to go to rabbinical school. She was 50 years old and had to spend a year studying Hebrew before attending Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. It took five years before she was ordained.

When she applied to Temple Emanu-El, she liked that the congregation was looking for a rabbi to partner with in solving its declining membership problems. Many congregations she looked at wanted a rabbi to come in and tell them how to solve their problems.

“They wanted a rabbi with a big ‘S’ on their chest – a super rabbi,” said Goldsmith, now 65. “This congregation’s application said we have a problem with membership but we think we have a solution and we need a rabbi who will partner with us. I looked at that and said, ‘Oh, wow.’ Even though they only had 40 families, which is really tiny to have a full-time rabbi, there’s a lot of promise in this congregation.”

In 10 years and in all her contact with people of other faiths, Goldsmith said she has never experienced anti-Semitism. Although, she has had people call the temple and try to convert her to Christianity.

She knows non-Jews are often curious about the Jewish congregation, which is why the Neighbor Night Service is held. Goldsmith said she hopes those who attend will realize that people of different faiths have more in common than not in common.

“If we exist in our own little bubbles, and we’re doing the kinds of things that God told us to, how much more can we do if we all get together and do it?” Goldsmith said. “We all have things we know God wants us to do, and if we can do them together, even though we may differ in the way that we worship God, it’s awesome. It’s absolutely awesome.”

From the Dothan Eagle.

Original story can be found here: http://www.dothaneagle.com/lifestyles/local/rabbi-lynne-goldsmith-looks-toward-retirement/article_68f1bb92-f2f4-11e6-acf3-b7a378f0570b.html

Mardi Gras Fun!

Mardi Gras Fun!

A few years ago, Dothan started a new Mardi Gras tradition when a local krewe decided to organize a hometown parade. It started off small, but has grown by leaps and bounds each year. Emanu-El lucked out…the parade route goes right past the temple! It has become an annual tradition amongst temple friends to meet up in the parking lot for a fun day.