Drywall, Poker and Rick Recht: This Week in Southern Jewish Life, Aug. 14

above: the water tower at Marks, Mississippi
Marks was founded by Leopold Marks who was born in Germany, immigrated to the US in 1868, and two years later wound up in Friars Point.  After earning enough to buy a small steamboat, he opened a trading post in 1874 that became the town which is named after him.  He was the area’s first representative to the Mississippi Legislature.

Around the South: Week of Aug. 14, 2015

Several Katrina commemorations are planned in New Orleans, including a Beth Israel weekend with the Topoloskys and a community dinner on Aug. 23, a joint Reform Shabbat service on Aug. 28 and a community-wide event at the Uptown JCC on Aug. 30, with a collection of items for the Youth Empowerment Project.

Beth Israel in Gulfport, whose previous building in Biloxi was damaged beyond repair by Katrina, will have a low-key commemoration on Aug. 28, starting at the site of its previous building.

Hearing from Congress: In Mobile, Rep. Bradley Byrne will speak about his trip to Israel this week, at Springhill Avenue Temple on Aug. 23 at 2 p.m. Beth Israel in Metairie will hear from Rep. Cedric Richmond, who will discuss his thoughts on the Iran nuclear deal on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.

A columnist for the Chicago Tribune wrote a piece about how she is a little envious of the post-Katrina resurrection of New Orleans and wishing for a metaphorical levee breach of Chicago to accomplish the same there. Among the incredulous responses is one from David Kaplinsky, who now lives in Chicago after being displaced from New Orleans by the flood.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, national president of RespectAbilityUSA.org, has a piece in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger about the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and “signs of positive change in Mississippi.”

Israel announced a major natural gas production deal worth billions of dollars in the coming years. Texas-based Noble Energy has a large piece of it.

A Jewish woman from Orlando lost an arm to an alligator attack as she was swimming in a central Florida river last weekend.

The latest recognition for Shaya in New Orleans? A list of six “coolest Israeli-inspired dishes you can get in America” in the Forward, and there’s just one from outside the New York to Philadelphia area. 

Maharat Rori Picker Neiss of Bais Abraham Congregation writes about being arrested in the Ferguson anniversary demonstrations in St. Louis.

After 30 cars and buildings were vandalized near an Orthodox shul in San Antonio this week, Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church — and founder of Christians United for Israel — came by to express support for his longtime friends and film a video response.

Another Jewish connection for Elvis: This year’s Elvis auction included a pendant that Sammy Davis Jr. gave him.

Rabbi Alexis Berk of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans will receive the Forum for Equality’s Acclaim Award, Sept. 26 at the Westin Canal Place. She will receive the Faith and Equality Award as part of the evening recognizing those who are building a Louisiana of equality.

The Atlanta Jewish Federation is sponsoring Book It To Shabbat, a PJ Library family Shabbaton at Ramah Darom the weekend of Oct. 16. Registration is open, and you don’t have to be from Atlanta. 


A pioneer of Jewish rock music will be in concert in Birmingham on Aug. 15. Rick Recht will perform at a free community show at the Levite Jewish Community Center, starting at 8:30 p.m. with Havdalah. The evening is organized by Robin and Hilton Berger in celebration of their children’s B’nai Mitzvah that morning at Temple Emanu-El, Mason, Adison and Kyra. Additional support comes from the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, LJCC and N.E. Miles Jewish Day School.

The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center will have its L’Chaim event on Aug. 23, recognizing Holocaust educators in the area and honoring Brenda and Fred Friedman.

Bloom Hillel at the University of Alabama will have a Welcome Back Barbecue and Patio Party, Aug. 23 at noon. There will be games and prizes, with live music by the Voodoo Saints.

Chabad of Alabama will have a Persian Shabbat on Aug. 21. Services will be at 6:30 p.m., followed by a Persian cuisine Shabbat dinner. Reservations here.

Temple Beth Or in Montgomery will have a Night of Fun hotdog dinner and Bingo on Aug. 20 at 6:30 p.m. The $10 admission includes dinner and two beverage tickets. Bingo cards are $5, and additional beverages are $2. Reservations are requested.

ReJewvenation will meet this year at the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham. Taught by Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Jonathan Miller, the class is open to Jews who want to understand their heritage better, committed Christians who want to learn about Judaism, interfaith couples and those exploring conversion to Judaism. The classes meet on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the LJCC, except for an Oct. 22 session at Emanu-El where Cantor Jessica Roskin will lead a session on Jewish music, worship and ritual objects. Sessions start on Aug. 20 and run to Nov. 5, with a reunion on Jan. 7 at Emanu-El. Registration is through the Emanu-El office.

Christians United for Israel will have a pastor and ministry leaders’ luncheon at the Westin in Huntsville on Aug. 18 at 11:30 a.m. Lyndon Allen will be keynote speaker.

Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss returns to Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El on Aug. 14 for the 5:40 p.m. service. Hausman-Weiss is rabbi of Shma Koleinu in Houston.

Knesseth Israel in Birmingham will have a Wake Up to the Shofar welcome back barbecue lunch on Aug. 16. The group will meet at the Ruffner Ball Fields on Ruffner Road, just behind downtown Irondale, at 10 a.m. There will be a hike and the blowing of the first shofar of the year in a natural setting, followed by lunch.

The Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center at the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham is hosting a Pancake and Pajamas breakfast in the LJCC auditorium on Aug. 16 from 8 to 10 a.m. The community is invited to attend — in pajamas.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will introduce Shabbat B’Yachad, a new Shabbat service with a breakfast and schmooze at 9 a.m., and a one-hour abbreviated service at 9:30 a.m. It will be family-friendly and interfaith-welcoming. Participants can choose to stay afterward for the rest of the traditional service and luncheon. The first Shabbat B’Yachad will be on Aug. 15.

Florida Panhandle 

The eighth annual Temple Beth-El Poker Tournament in Pensacola will be on August 15. The event will be held at a different venue than the one in the original announcement (contact the office for details). Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. and no-limit hold’em play begins at 6 p.m. The buy-in is $100 for the first 100 who pre-register, or $110 at the door. Re-buys of $100 are taken until 8 p.m. Registration and re-buys are for $3,000 in chips, and there will be a one-time add-on of $5,000 in chips at 8:15 p.m. for $100. There will be free food and a cash bar. The top nine players will receive non-monetary prizes, with first place being a Large Green Egg and second place being a flat-screen television.

On Aug. 15 at 7 p.m., B’nai Israel in Panama City will have Havdalah on the Beach at Richard Seltzer Park. There will be a conversion ceremony to welcome a new member of the community, followed by a group outing to an area restaurant.

Chabad of the Emerald Coast will have a Shofar Factory on Aug. 23, details TBA.

New Orleans/Louisiana

The annual Harriet Wainer Kugler Memorial Mah Jongg Tournament will be held at the Uptown Jewish Community Center in New Orleans on Aug. 16. The event begins with a jazz brunch featuring the Dave Boswell Trio. The two-round tournament follows, with open seating. Participants can register individually or may bring their entire game. Both rounds of play will be played in place, without rotating seats. Registration for the tournament is $35. Tournament prizes and door prizes will be awarded.

The Aug. 21 joint Reform Shabbat service at Gates of Prayer in Metairie will be an Unplugged Shabbat with Kol Simcha and a potluck dinner. After the acoustic service, participants are asked to bring a main course, vegetable, salad, appetizer or casserole for 10, and let the office know in advance what will be brought. The service will be at 6:15 p.m.

Anshe Sfard in New Orleans will have its next Young Jieux-ish Adult Shabbat dinner on Aug. 21. Services will be at 7 p.m., followed by dinner at 8 p.m.

On Aug. 16 at 2 p.m., Agudath Achim in Shreveport will have an installation ceremony for its spiritual leader, Cantor Neil Schwartz.

Shir Chadash in Metairie is having a new member Shabbat. There will be a dinner following the Aug. 21 6:15 p.m. service, and a special Kiddush lunch following the Aug. 22 service. Reservations are requested by Aug. 17. The dinner is $12 for ages 6 and up, with a maximum of $40 for a family. 

B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will have an open house and Sunday brunch on Aug. 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for members and those who might be interested in membership.

Rabbi Jordan Goldson will be teaching Intermediate Hebrew at B’nai Israel, Baton Rouge, on Wednesdays from Aug. 19 to Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. The class will include Hebrew grammar and verb forms, and is for those who know some Hebrew but want to be on a higher level. Fee is $36 for members, $65 for non-members, plus $35 materials fee for those who do not already own the textbook.

Barbara DiBartolo is teaching a Hebrew Crash Course at Temple Sinai in Lake Charles. The first semester is Aug. 15 to Dec. 19, with the second semester from Jan. 3 to May 28. The class meets from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and there is a maximum enrollment of 10 students. The class is for adults with little to no Hebrew reading experience, or those who want to reinforce their Hebrew skills.

The annual Introduction to Basic Judaism class at Temple Sinai in New Orleans will kick off on Aug. 23. Rabbi Edward Cohn teaches the 20 informal 75-minute classes on Sundays at 9 a.m. There is no charge, and the classes are open to anyone interested in exploring Judaism, including interfaith couples, those considering conversion, and Jews who are looking for a refresher into the faith of their birth. Classes will include Jewish theology, prayer, holiday observances and life cycle rituals. Registration is requested through the Temple Sinai office.

New Orleans Hadassah is changing things up for this year’s major fundraiser. Last year, BraVeaux raised over $55,000 for breast cancer research at Hadassah Hospital. This year’s event will be the Mad Hatter’s Hadassah Tea Party, a champagne jazz brunch on Oct. 18 at 11 a.m. at the Pavilion of the Two Sisters at City Park. A Mad Hatter Build a Hat program will be at the Jewish Community Campus in Metairie on Aug. 23 at noon.

Gates of Prayer in Metairie will have a blood drive with Ochsner Blood Bank on Aug. 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All Ochsner blood donors will be entered into a drawing for two plaza level tickets to a New Orleans Saints home game.

Shreveport’s Chai Mitzvah will meet on Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at B’nai Zion.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge will have its End of Summer Pool Party on Aug. 16 at the Bocage Racquet Club, from noon to 2 p.m.

Beth Israel in Metairie will have a guest speaker on Aug. 15. Rebecca Gerbert, Southwest Regional Synagogue Initiative Deputy Director of AIPAC, will discuss AIPAC’s position on the Iran nuclear deal. The talk will be at the Kiddush following the 9 a.m. service.

New Orleans Hadassah will have a New Members and Associates Celebration wine and cheese party, Aug. 16 from 3 to 5 p.m.  Contact the local chapter for location.  A guest speaker from the American Cheese Society will give advice. Reservations are $36 and limited to the first 40 who respond.

Project Talmud Summer 2015 will be at the Uptown Chabad in New Orleans on Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. The theme will be perspectives on teshuva, with a talk by Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, then a “rookie symposium” of new shluchim for Tulane, Baton Rouge and Mississippi, followed by the music of Teshuva. There will be a dessert buffet. The event is free and open to the community.

Touro Synagogue Rabbi Alexis Berk will lead weekly meditative walks through Audubon Park on Wednesdays throughout Elul, from Aug. 19 to Sept. 9. Meet at the St. Charles entrance at 8 a.m. Dogs and strollers are welcome.

New Orleans Section of the National Council of Jewish Women is looking for six women who want to learn, network and take action for progressive social change. Starting this fall there will be six seminars about NCJW, culminating in the NCJW Washington Institute. Applications are available here.


Christians United for Israel will have a Standing with Israel event at Jubilee Revival Center in Vicksburg on Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. Pastor Lyndon Allen, CUFI Central Region Coordinator, will be the guest speaker.

Beth Israel in Gulfport will have a general membership meeting and dinner on Aug. 23 at 4:30 p.m., with guest speaker Samantha Dubrinsky, director of community impact and special projects at the Birmingham Jewish Federation. In the last few months she was on a Jewish Agency solidarity trip to France after the Charlie Hebdo attack, and recently was on a fact-finding trip to Ukraine’s Jewish community.

Members of Beth Israel in Gulfport will check out the new MGM Park with an outing to see the Biloxi Shuckers play, Aug. 24 at 6:40 p.m. Group ticket information is available from Beth Israel. 

Beth Israel Sisterhood in Jackson will have its annual brunch, Aug. 23 at 10 a.m. Contact the office for location.