Synagogues expert Wolfson visiting several Southern communities

Update Jan. 1: Due to the Dec. 25 tornado, the event at Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile on Jan. 11 has been cancelled.

Visionary Jewish educator Ron Wolfson, who has visited hundreds of synagogues across the continent, will be visiting several communities in a Southern swing this month.

Wolfson is the Fingerhut Professor of Education at the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism) in Los Angeles where he has been a member of the faculty since 1975, was co-founder of Synagogue 2000 and is co-president of Synagogue 3000.

His visit is being coordinated by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Wolfson said that as a native of Omaha, Neb., he admires and appreciates the work ISJL does in serving Southern Jewry. “The ISJL is justifiably lauded for its laser focus on providing the human and material resources that truly help to sustain Jewish living in the area,” he said.

While admitting he couldn’t say no to ISJL founder Macy Hart, he said he was also attracted to do this tour by a promise of “the best grits this side of heaven.”

“This is an exciting example of the main mission of the ISJL,” said ISJL Programming Director Ann Zivitz Kimball, “partnership and sharing of resources to make high quality Jewish Programming possible across the region.”

Wolfson will have two main addresses in the Southern communities: “Be Like God: God’s To-Do List for Kids,” which is the same title as one of his books, and “Building Good Tents: Envisioning the Synagogue of the Future.”

He will start his Southern tour on Jan. 4 at Temple Sinai in New Orleans, doing the Blackman Memorial Lectures. He will speak on “God’s To-Do List” at the 6:15 p.m. Shabbat evening service. On Jan. 5 he will do a 6 p.m. Havdalah program on “Building Good Tents.” Both books will be available for signing. The Havdalah event will be at the home of Julian Feibelman, and RSVPs are required to the Sinai office, (504) 861-3693.

On Jan. 7, he will speak at Gemiluth Chassodim in Alexandria.

He then travels to Birmingham for two programs at Temple Beth-El. At 4 p.m. on Jan. 9, he will speak at a community-wide program aimed at Jewish students, ages eight to 12. Through a Birmingham Jewish Foundation grant, every participant will receive a copy of “Be Like God.”

At 7:30 p.m., he will speak on “The Spirituality of Welcoming: How to Transform Your Congregation Into a Sacred Community.” He said the new synagogue “is a spiritual center for all those who set foot inside… where relationships are paramount, where worship is engaging, where everyone is learning, where repair of the world is a moral imperative.”

On Jan. 10, there will be a joint community program presented by the Pensacola Jewish Federation and the community’s two congregations, Beth-El and B’nai Israel. “God’s To-Do List” will be at 7 p.m., at First United Methodist Church.

On Jan. 11, he will be the speaker at Springhill Avenue Temple’s Fran and Paul Brown Scholar in Residence program. The Mobile congregation will have a brief Shabbat service at 7 p.m., followed by his talk, “Building Good Tents.”

The Baton Rouge weekend will be a collaboration of Beth Shalom, B’nai Israel, the Baton Rouge Jewish Film Festival and the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge. Venues were not set as of press time.

The weekend begins with a Lunch and Learn at noon on Jan. 12. There will be a Havdalah and dessert program at 7 p.m.

On Jan. 13, he will lead a family education workshop, “Be Like God” at 10 a.m., along with a “bagel nosh.” The workshop will be followed by his “Building Good Tents” address at the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge annual meeting and luncheon at 12:30 p.m.