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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
1/3/19 6:13 A

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i remember all that from reading the obit

NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/2/19 6:32 A

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The obituary mentioned that he had a heart condition.

He was a very interesting fellow. Once the yeshiva closed, he turned to invention, and created an effective add-on for the iPad. I was sure that Apple would correct the design flaw once they realized it, but thus far apparently not. The rabbi got a lucrative deal and was doing well. I wonder how his death will impact the partnership with Daymond John. His kids could surely benefit, if their arrangement were still in force.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/2/2019 (06:33)
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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
1/2/19 5:47 A

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yes he was so young.

NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/1/19 9:05 A

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Not important. Just was really surprising, he was so young.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
1/1/19 9:03 A

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I saw the obituary but don't recall any mention of a wife or divorce. sorry

NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/31/18 11:52 A

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Was the rabbi divorced? The obituary mentioned children and more than a dozen siblings, but no wife.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/31/18 11:50 A

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I vaguely remember a school on the same grounds. It's been a very long time since I was there. I do recall that the property was a beautiful one, though. I used it regularly.

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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
12/31/18 11:37 A

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no the yeshiva is not attached to Sabes. There is a day school called the Helicher Jewish Day School. It is a private K-8 school named after a family who donated a huge amount of money. the school is physically attached to the back of the JCC. a Yeshiva was started at a former synagogue that folded about 7 years ago in St. Louis Park. Hwy 7/belt line blvd. area. the old B'nai Emet if you remember tasht shul

NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/31/18 8:45 A

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I don't recall a yeshiva being connected with Sabes.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
12/31/18 6:45 A

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yes I had heard about that Rabbi who passed away. the Heilicher school that he taught at is attached to the Jewish Community Center that I go to 6 days a week.

PHEBESS's Photo PHEBESS Posts: 45,161
12/30/18 11:24 P

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In St Thomas, there were many many people with Spanish Jewish last names - some knew that they were descended from Jewish people, others didn't. Of course, the problem was compounded by the fact that many slaves took the last names of their owners, so it was hard to know who was actually related to someone Jewish, and who wasn't.

For example, in synagogue we had members who were named Maduro, Colón, Morón, de Castro, Robles. But these were common names on island, so people with the same names didn't know if they were also Jewish or not.

And then there were more European Jewish last names that were equally common - I had a student who was named Yasmine Levine. Another was Samuel Moses. African Caribbean, attending church, but with these nice Jewish names.


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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/30/18 10:39 P

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I fixed it. I rarely type from my phone as it is so limited. When using apostrophes it is not apparent on the phone that it is other than apostrophes. Only once posted do I see what I have wrought.

EDIT: You are correct, I missed the quotes and gobblygook from this thread. It must have been the other thread that was corrected. All good now.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 12/30/2018 (22:44)
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SYLPHINPROGRESS's Photo SYLPHINPROGRESS SparkPoints: (107,921)
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12/30/18 10:07 P

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I was referring to the characters that appear a few times in your post, perhaps because you're posting from your phone? I'm never sure whether they replace characters you use or are gratuitous additions.

Just recalled: My Toledano friend told me long ago that he'd been told by his father that Christians took de Toledo and that Jews took Toledano. I have no idea and my friend never took it as gospel. I mention this to throw another wrench in the pot.

Oh, "Jamestown" has begun. There are too many ugly goings-on for my taste, but I'm not ready to chuck it. Alas, I missed "Victoria" again.

Edited by: SYLPHINPROGRESS at: 12/30/2018 (22:11)
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12/30/18 9:26 P

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"De la" in Mexico did not have any diacritical marks, just straight alphabet. The man I have in mind was de la Torre, so no place name either.

I know to what you refer as far as German goes, but beyond a passing knowledge of that, I could not speak with any authority about the European languages.

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12/30/18 8:49 P

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It was more than whiskers in the old photos. They weren't the clearest, to be sure, but the black hats and what often appeared to be long, black coats.

I amend my earlier note here. It may be that the Jewish peddlers who journeyed from the midwestern cities sent their goods by train to their various stops and, upon arrival at the first, rented horse and cart rather than driving all the way west. After a time, they began to settle in the west and had goods sent by rail. There was an Orthodox merchant in the "Little House on the Prairie" TV series probably later in its run. (At least I think it was "LIttle House.") Then, again, research would turn up corrections and/or further history.

If "de la" "or "de" was surrounded by the squiggly marks, it may be as you were told. The surnames themselves would have to be place names, I think, as in "de Toledo." Alternately, "Toledano" is a well-known Moroccan-Jewish name. Do you think that Spanish is an exception, say, to all the "de," "du" and "de la" names in French and Italian and all the "vans" and "vons" in the Germanic languages? That is, that a Jewish name "rule" doesn't apply to other languages? I wonder.

Edited by: SYLPHINPROGRESS at: 12/30/2018 (20:51)
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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/30/18 6:25 P

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I am not so sure that whiskers would be a defining Jewish characteristic in the 19th century or earlier. I believe it was the fashion of the time as well. Now if you had said payot, then possibly. But that level of Orthodoxy I do not believe went out West. I could be wrong.

I like the Wyatt Earp connection, too. That was very interesting. Also the connection to the local Indians that they intermarried with.

History can be utterly fascinating and unearth unexpected goodies.

On the Aish website, there was a link to how the Jews ended up in Mexico. I did know the story because I had met a descendent of the Carvajal family when I was down there.

I believe I mentioned it earlier in another thread a long time ago that it is my understanding that all "de la" in front of surnames, in Mexico, were Jews. I had a neuroanatomy professor who told me that his grandparents dressed in black and lit candles, but did not know why. Apparently, what he was trying to say is they were descendants of the "Conversos", the so-called "Hidden Jews". People along the border on the Texas side, I had read an article some years back, had discovered that they were also descendants of these people. I find all of this very fascinating.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 12/30/2018 (22:42)
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12/30/18 6:00 P

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Fun links.

I've known of the Gomez House for many years, but have never gone.

The Ms. Marcus-Mr. Earp connection is especially tasty. I'd never read anything about Jews heading westward, but gleaned that the first were the men who'd load goods onto their horse-drawn carts and ride out from Chicago and St. Louis, e.g., to peddle the things that people needed but were in too short supply or not at all locally. Some of the early clues were photos of the men, hatted and bearded, on the long, lonesome roads. I've mentioned before that, during the summer I spent in Cheyenne, ca. 1979, and worked for three weeks in a western-wear store for the novelty of it, I was interested to learn that the owner was Jewish, as were a number of other downtown merchants. I never asked if he knew what took his ancestor(s) there or from where, but chose to assign the story in my own head.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/30/18 12:59 P

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And this, about how Jews helped settle the West (interesting stuff):

www.aish.com/jw/s/Jews-in-the-Wild-W
es
t.html


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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/30/18 11:39 A

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Found this:

www.hvmag.com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine
/A
pril-2016/The-History-of-the-Gomez-MR>ill-House/


It doesn't answer your question, but interesting nonetheless.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/30/18 11:34 A

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I saw the children, and I also saw no mention of a wife, which was curious.

No clue. Others went west without stopping in NY or similar, which I thought was unusual.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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12/30/18 10:29 A

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Did you see that Minnesota's Rabbi Weiss is one of [at least] 15 children?

Those are nice pieces about Shomre Israel and Stein Yeshiva. Nu, do you have any info on why Orthodox first went to Poughkeepsie in particular? Were there particular opportunities or were they exercising pioneer spirit? I'd think that the first wave moved there from down here. A little googling turned up nothing.



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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/30/18 9:04 A

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I just learned that the rabbi died. He was very young:

www.startribune.com/obituary-rabbi-m
os
he-weiss-survived-the-shark-tank-butR>-true-love-was-education/393189371/


Edited by: NUMD97 at: 12/30/2018 (09:05)
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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
12/30/18 9:00 A

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now i find that very interesting

NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/30/18 8:54 A

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There was a rabbi from Minnesota who was the head of a yeshiva there that folded, and he ended up, on of all things, "Shark Tank." He invented a sound improvement for the iPad called SoundBender. He made a deal with Daymond John and it appears to be quite successful.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 12/30/2018 (09:10)
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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
12/30/18 8:32 A

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very interesting. Minneapolis got it's first Yeshiva about 8 years ago. The synagogue hubby and I married in folded and merged into another larger Conservative synagogue. The Jewish community here in Minneapolis wanted to keep the building in the Jewish community and after about 1 year, a Yeshivah took the buioidng over.

NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/29/18 5:13 P

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Thanks, Phebess.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Before I explore anywhere I need to travel, I check out the local synagogues, and if the community has kosher food, especially meat. Then it becomes viable, if present.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 12/29/2018 (17:13)
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PHEBESS's Photo PHEBESS Posts: 45,161
12/29/18 4:32 P

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Interesting!

A branch of Richard's family started a yeshiva in both Brooklyn and Monsey, NY. He occasionally is in contact with them, but, well, I try to avoid Orthodox traditions. I get too frustrated with the way I'm treated as a woman.

Edited by: PHEBESS at: 12/29/2018 (16:33)
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12/29/18 1:40 P

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For anyone interested, here is an article on our origins in Poughkeepsie. This is how my father's family was able to come to America in the early 1920s:

www.schomreisrael.org/history.html

This is us, too, in lower Westchester:

steinyeshiva.org/about/mission-state
me
nt


The shul is next door. A few years back, I took my aunt to see the shul. There is a large plaque in the lobby dedicated to our antecedent. We met with the rabbi, too, and told him of our relationship to the founder.

The link says NYS established the charter for the yeshiva in 1986, but I believe that it was in existence decades earlier. Certainly the shul was. I attended a wedding there in the early 1970s. And we had a memorial service for one of our local relatives in 1973.





Edited by: NUMD97 at: 12/30/2018 (08:59)
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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/29/18 12:37 P

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And in Yonkers, another shul and a yeshiva. I pass it often on the Thruway.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
12/29/18 7:03 A

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impressed that your family founded a shul. my mother's monther used to keep kosher. my grandfather used ot mix up the plates and put them away in the wrong cabinet. oy. yes both grandparents were Jewish

NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/28/18 9:08 P

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Yes.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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SYLPHINPROGRESS's Photo SYLPHINPROGRESS SparkPoints: (107,921)
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12/28/18 8:28 P

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Do descendants of the first Nus still live there?

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
12/28/18 1:41 P

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The Orthodox Poughkeepsie shul and community was founded by my family well over 100 years ago. I do not know precisely the details of how they got their meat, but they did make it work.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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SPORTSPHOTOG's Photo SPORTSPHOTOG SparkPoints: (72,920)
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12/28/18 10:11 A

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That's not a New York thing, but a global thing. The rise in anti semitic attacks has increased exponentially, thanks to the rise of the populist movement here and abroad.

Sandy
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12/28/18 9:39 A

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All well and good, but it is separate from the discrimination that manifests in a few ways, from attitude to ugly comments to beatings of Orthodox Jews in city streets that have been in the news in the past few months.

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12/28/18 9:01 A

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For those of us who live in the New York metropolitan area, we have no idea how spoiled we really are. When I used to travel a lot for business, I always made a point of seeking out the local synagogue, just to learn about the Jewish population in the area. We have it so easy. TO keep kosher. To be Jewish. Even when I lived in Poughkeepsie, only an hour and a half north of New York City, we had to buy a quarter of a cow at a time because kosher meat was not readily available.

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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
12/28/18 6:15 A

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Being from New York and New Jersey I can't imaging living in the deep south either. Hard enough living in Minnesota --- where there is at least a decent size Jewish popultion in the metro twin city area. but still, we all still hear "I never met a Jew before" among locals, even in the metro aea

PHEBESS's Photo PHEBESS Posts: 45,161
12/28/18 2:29 A

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Wow. I can't imagine ever living in the southern US - it's a whole other culture. The Pacific NW is enough of a difference from NY that we all had major culture shock when we moved. I can't fathom moving to Alabama.

And it just seems weird to be PAID to move their and try to renew the Jewish population. Really.

I have to say, some of the things they talked about, some of the situations, were exactly what I dealt with in the VI. I think any place where Jews aren't part of the mainstream population will be like this.




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12/27/18 5:49 P

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You're forgiven....this time.

Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
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12/27/18 5:35 P

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Mea culpa, mea culpa, pardon, pardon.

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12/27/18 10:54 A

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"Launched June, 2008":

www.nydailynews.com/news/world/man-o
ff
ers-50-000-jewish-families-relocate-R>alabama-town-article-1.322261


Not exqctly 200 years ago.

And I noted to Gwynn that both husband and wife were both converts to Judaism prior to their meeting each other.

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12/27/18 9:58 A

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Thanks, Sandy. I didn't connect the reference to my question.

Although I can understand Blumberg's desire, the whole project seems too odd and anachronistic. It smacks of the early 19th century and times when railroad execs, others who stood to gain and/or the government made generous offers to lure settlers westward. I don't think that land grants ever were offered to groups of Jews.

Edited by: SYLPHINPROGRESS at: 12/27/2018 (09:59)
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12/27/18 8:56 A

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Since they mentioned the Pittsburgh tragedy, it was very recent.

I could never conceive of moving to the deep south, both as a New Yorker and a Jew. It's just too different from what I'm used to. And I'm having a feeling of deja vu as if we've had this conversation before.

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12/27/18 8:32 A

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When was the article published? The only clue was mention of 2016, so it was in the past two years.

Interesting that their son is "Nick" and Lisa had converted some time before getting married.

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12/27/18 6:06 A

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Bottom line, Gwynn, they were out of their element, and were missing their family and community in NY.

What I also thought was interesting was the woman and the man both chose to convert to Judaism independent of each other before they met and married. That was an unusual twist to the story.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 12/27/2018 (06:06)
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GWYNANNE1's Photo GWYNANNE1 Posts: 4,222
12/27/18 5:51 A

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amazing story. need to digest it

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12/27/18 4:47 A

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From The Washington Post:

DOTHAN, Ala. — She was already going to be late to the church, where once again she would try to explain her religion, even though it seems like most people in her town never really get it.
And now the latkes are burning.

Lisa Priddle wonders why she is trying so hard, why she is prepping and cooking and buying Hanukkah dreidels for people in the small Southern city that she and her husband moved to because a Jewish millionaire paid them to come build up the Jewish community there.
Given an offer of up to $50,000, she and Kenny picked up their lives and came to Alabama, but now they must think seriously about the anti-Semitism they’ve experienced, about moments you don’t forget, about that lingering feeling of being on the outside.

Maybe, she has been thinking lately, it is time to give up. A week before, the Priddles even invited a real estate agent over to look at the house. But the couple have been tortured by indecision since.

The choices: They can sell their home and return to New York, where their beloved synagogue and the grandchildren they’ve barely gotten to know await. Or they can try to reignite the zeal that led them here, to a town named for a suggestion in Genesis: “Let us go to Dothan.”
“I think this place is great,” Lisa says. The latkes sizzle in their pan.
And then: “And I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I don’t want to say it. But it’s very hard to be a Jew here.”
Wanted: Jews. Will pay.
When the Priddles first heard about Dothan, Ala., it seemed too good to be true. But the magazine advertisement was clear: A local millionaire, Larry Blumberg, wanted to pay Jewish families up to $50,000 each to move to his town.
Lisa was so excited that she ran out of the bathroom holding the copy of Reform Judaism magazine and shouted to Kenny: “We’re doing this.”

“It might be nice,” Kenny eventually agreed, “to come build the South.”
Jewish communities have shrunk nationwide in the face of extensive intermarriage and increasing American secularism. The phenomenon is more pronounced in the South, a region that is home to 37 percent of the U.S. population but just 23 percent of U.S. Jews, according to the Pew Research Center.

Many synagogues in small towns no longer have enough members to hang on. The Jewish Community Legacy Project, a nonprofit, has helped 14 synagogues close down over the past 10 years and is working with 47 more on closure plans.

Blumberg didn’t want that fate to befall the synagogue of his youth, Temple Emanu-El. So in 2009, he hit on an unusual idea — to pay families to move to Dothan, a town of 65,000 far from everything, two hours southeast of Montgomery and northwest of Tallahassee.

“All these small towns, their synagogues have closed,” said Blumberg, whose company Larry Blumberg & Associates manages dozens of hotels and other properties across the Southeast. “This is a nice place to live. It really is. I just wanted to see if we could perpetuate it.”
Maintaining a visible Jewish population in Alabama, he also argues, will ward off ­anti-Semitism that otherwise might fester in a state where 86 percent of residents identify as Christian and most of the rest are nonreligious. Just 1 percent identify with any non-Christian religion.
“I felt it was so important that people try to have this kind of open dialogue,” he said. “Today, particularly. When I started this 10 years ago, it wasn’t nearly this bad.”

Other Dothan Jews embraced Blumberg’s idea. They love their city’s laid-back attitude, its warm Southern neighborliness, its historic synagogue building with close-knit members who support one another even in the current absence of a full-time rabbi. They loved the idea of more families arriving to inject new life into the temple.

The Priddles felt drawn by that vision of teaching tolerance by their daily example. They also liked the ad­ven­ture of it all. So in 2011, they rented out their house near Schenectady and moved to Dothan.

Lisa, a registered nurse, quickly found work at a hospital. But Kenny, who had been the facilities manager at their New York synagogue, struggled to find steady employment in Dothan’s smaller labor market before finally becoming an in-home aide for elderly patients.
Seven years later, Lisa and Kenny, now 57 and 63, are deeply invested in Temple Emanu-El, a community of under 100 members where they do a little bit of everything, from leading services to managing the building’s upkeep to corralling their friends in a bowling team called the “Mitzvah Misfits.”

Lately, though, they’ve started to feel worn down by the demands of the tiny Reform synagogue with 56 families and to yearn for the vibrant congregation ten times larger that they left behind. While most of the Priddles’ Jewish friends in Dothan say they have never experienced ­anti-Semitism in the town, Lisa and Kenny can quickly recount times when they’ve felt the sting of discrimination. Since 2016, they’ve also watched warily as anti-Semitism has worsened around the country.

Eleven families have moved to Dothan since Blumberg started paying them, and Blumberg says he’ll pay for at least six more who commit to stay at least three years. But almost a decade into the experiment, seven of the 11 families have left.
Now, Lisa and Kenny wonder whether they might make eight.

Crosses, Christmas trees, ‘you-know-who’s name’

Lisa and Kenny pack up the latkes and drive to the massive Methodist church that dwarfs the Priddles’ synagogue across the street.
The Jewish couple committed when they came here to share their faith with whomever they could, and on this day, they had been invited to the church to explain Hanukkah to a group of about a dozen adults with mild dementia.
Lisa walks in flustered as the participants chat at round tables above the strains of a Christmas soundtrack.
She starts to speak slowly. “We are Jewish,” she says. “I moved here eight years ago from New York, where there were lots of Jewish people.”
Alabamians, she tells her listeners brightly, “have always been very welcoming and kind to us.”
It’s not entirely true, she thinks, as Kenny circles each table, handing each participant a latke and a shiny new dreidel.
One Alabamian shocked Kenny by stating her belief that Jews make hamburgers with babies’ blood. Another, who had hired Kenny as a home health-care aide, asked him recently where he went to church, and when he told her that he was Jewish, he got a call from the agency that night saying the patient no longer considered Kenny a good “fit” to care for her.
Lisa looks out at the people in the room, at the glittering miniature Christmas tree on every table, and decides then and there to share some of her fears as a Jew in America. She brings up the killing of 11 Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in October.
“It’s a vulnerable time for all of us as we gather together in groups now,” she says, her eyes flitting across the tables to see how people are reacting.
Then, hopefully: “Does anyone have any questions?”
The room is silent at first, and as Kenny tries to fill the gap by offering seconds on latkes, Lisa wonders whether they understood her or just don’t know what to say.
A woman at the front table pipes up: “Can you talk about matzoh?” she asks. Another woman asks about potato knishes and gefilte fish.
That’s all.
A few minutes later, Lisa and Kenny toss the rest of the burned latkes in the church’s trash can and walk away, not sure whether they made any difference. “I don’t know why I got so nervous,” she says.
They both have the day off, but they head to the hospital where Lisa works to visit a friend who is ill. Once inside, Lisa decides to poke her head into the case management office to check on her co-workers. The first person she sees, as always, is Janice.
And as always, Lisa remembers that prayer.
Janice knew, Lisa is sure of it. Lisa had told Janice many times that she was Jewish, that she didn’t believe in Jesus. But still, when her fellow nurses threw a celebratory lunch for Lisa — to thank her for her hard work when she switched from full time to part time at the hospital and picked up a new job reviewing case files for an insurance company — Janice stood up and said she wanted to lead a prayer.
“In you-know-who’s name,” Lisa remembers wryly. It still rankles.
Today, Lisa smiles, and Janice greets her warmly.
Lisa glances around the office. So many of the cubicles remind her of her outsider status, their wooden crosses and their pastel plaques etched with New Testament verses: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”
Lisa has learned to talk faith in the workplace, too, something she never did in New York. Before she and Kenny head toward their friend’s hospital room, she passes one of her co-workers, a cheerful blonde nurse named Jackie.
Lisa asks her how her recovery from surgery is going. “I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s prayers,” Jackie says.
Lisa responds without missing a beat. “Praise God for that.”
On the elevator, Lisa sighs and turns to her husband. “It’s sort of overwhelming,” she says.
Close friends, but fearful for the future
Later, in the evening, Lisa and Kenny and 10 other Dothan Jews gather to celebrate the third night of Hanukkah at the home of fellow members of their synagogue. They laugh about wicks that just won’t light as they kindle the flames of the menorah.
This is the holiday that first sparked Lisa’s sense of belonging among the Jewish people. She was just 11 years old when she listened to the mother of one of her sixth-grade classmates teach their class about Hanukkah. “I don’t know if it was the flame from the candle or the chocolate or the Hebrew. I think it was the Hebrew singing,” she recalls. She decided then and there that she “felt Jewish,” and as an adult, she formally converted. Kenny also became Jewish as an adult, inspired by the Torah study discussions at the synagogue where he worked as the facilities manager for 20 years.

Over the course of decades, their chosen faith became crucial to their identities. They raised their children Jewish. At their New York synagogue, Kenny set up every event; Lisa taught classes and performed as a cantorial soloist. When they left for Dothan, the 500-family community presented them with a plaque: “To Lisa and Kenny, the Heart and Soul of Our Congregation.”
Every day now in Dothan, they miss that bustling synagogue.
After they sing the blessings, everyone gathers in the living room at the home of Karen and Terence Arenson, another couple who moved to Dothan through the relocation project.
The Arensons are delighted with their decision to raise their daughter, Emily, who was 6 when they moved from Los Angeles in 2014, in Alabama. “Dothan is a great place to live, an awesome place to bring up a kid. Much slower pace of life, lower cost of living. People in the Deep South are super friendly,” Terence says.
Tonight at their Hanukkah party, they’re screening the PBS documentary “There Are Jews Here,” about Jews in four small communities across America — including the Arensons in Dothan.
Everyone cheers when they see the family on-screen.
Later, they grow somber when the filmmaker enters a building in Laredo, Tex., that was once a synagogue. Today, there are 130 Jews in a city of 248,000 people, according to the movie, about one-fourth the number there were in 1980, and that building stands abandoned.
“I just don’t think that can happen in Dothan,” says Leon Minsky, a lifelong Southerner.
“It won’t,” vows Karen.
But Lisa is less sanguine. “That could happen here,” she says. She watches a synagogue closing down in Latrobe, Pa., in the movie, and as an aging congregant gives away the Torah scrolls, Lisa chokes up.
“God, this is so sad,” she says, and turns to look at Kenny, their faces illuminated by the glow of the television screen.
“I don’t want to be another family that leaves,” she says.

Dedication

The next morning, Lisa’s cellphone rings. It’s her son Nick, calling from New York. She tells him that she and Kenny are leaning toward staying in Dothan.
“Mom, I was really looking forward to having dinner together again, family dinners,” Nick says.
She is working from home, reviewing claims for the insurance company on her computer, but her mind keeps drifting.
She thinks about the day after Thanksgiving, when she and Kenny sat down to make their holiday shopping list. They knew right away that they wanted to get their aging dog, Shadow, a set of steps for climbing up on the bed. But they were stumped about what their grandchildren might enjoy.
“Wow, I know my dog better than I know my own grandchildren,” Lisa remembers thinking.
She turns away from the computer and begins to cry, her resolve draining.
When Kenny arrives home and finds her in the kitchen, still emotional, she brings up the movie and the grandchildren. Then, trying to lighten the mood, she teases him about the new contraption for boiling eggs that he had purchased on a whim.
“We used to peel 200 eggs for Seder” at their New York synagogue, Kenny reminisces.
“And they were perfect,” Lisa says. “No little digs in the whites.”
They sit in silence for a moment, remembering those huge Seders.
Finally, Lisa speaks: “So we have someplace to go back to.”
“The mortgage is about the same as here,” Kenny replies, and Lisa adds, “The heating costs are huge.” And then: “But New York state doesn’t tax groceries.”
It’s the same litany they have been reciting over and over. Why to stay, why to leave.
“Oh my God, bagels! And Italian food,” Kenny says.
Lisa sighs. “I have waffled on this so much.”
Kenny leans back in his chair. “When you know, you let me know,” he says. “I think I’m ready to go back.”

The sun had set. It was time to light candles, another night of Hanukkah. Another night of singing those Hebrew words that had helped Lisa discover as a child what was always in her soul.

“I feel more relaxed already,” Lisa whispers, as they sit in the dark, staring at the flickering flames, gazing at the menorah’s metalwork figure of a man wrapping his arms lovingly around his wife. Kenny gave her this candle holder when he proposed. They took it to Dothan. They clung to their vision of a Jewish home, and they clung to each other, and, now, in the glow of the candles, Lisa knows what will come next.

They will leave Alabama.

Julie Zauzmer is a religion reporter. She previously covered local news at The Washington Post and at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Democracy Dies in Darkness
© 1996-2018 The Washington Post


Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.
~ Goethe

Dare to dream.
~ Me


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