Elvis WAS A Shabbos Goy (Sorry I Didn’t Believe You, Mom)

imagesIf you didn’t know, my mother is an amazing storyteller.

It’s not just her books that are riveting, but her basic family lore. Her grandmother’s escape from Warsaw, growing up in bohemian Miami Beach in the 1950s, how I knocked my front teeth out the first day of JCC summer camp in 1976all told in fascinating and colorful detail.

Sometimes, however, I suspect her stories employ a certain poetic license. Now, I’m not saying she makes things up, but she has been known to embellish, like when she tells people my literary genius was evident at an early age because I analyzed John Steinbeck when I was 4. (I was 7, and all I got out of it was that Lennie should not be around pets.)

I’m just saying this is where I learned that sometimes creatively interpreting the truth makes it way more entertaining, especially at the dinner table.

For my entire life, I’ve heard about how my grandparents had a friend who knew Elvis Presley as a teenager. Not only knew him, but actually had him come over on Saturdays to act as a “Shabbos goysomeone who can turn the lights on and off and turn on the over during Shabbat, when those acts are forbidden to observant Jews.

This is a great story, right? The King of Rock swiveling his hips through the livingroom on Friday night to flip the light switch? That famous pompadour crooning “Wise men say…” along with the kaddish? It also sounds totally unlikely.

For the decade-plus I’ve been a digital yenta, I’ve been combing the interwebs for corroboration to no avail. I am ashamed to admit I have assumed my mother was either unknowingly repeating someone else’s fiction or had confused Elvis’ love of all things Jewish with her own teenage obsessions. But still, a good story.

But lo and behold, lookie what’s on the Tablet Magazine’s Vox Tablet podcast today: An interview with Harold Fruchter, a Jewish wedding singer who grew up in Memphis in a duplex in the early 1950s. Fruchter’s father was a rabbi, and when the family needed someone to flick a switch on Saturdays, the nice young man named Elvis would come upstairs to help out.

Fruchter recounts how Elvis called his father “Sir Rabbi,” and that his mother bought Elvis cufflinks for his high school graduation. The Man Who Changed Music Forever borrowed his Jewish neighbor’s record player so he could listen to his first recordings.

Mindblowing! I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Mom. The part about me being a genius is real, too, right?

Listen to the 8-minute podcast here.

T-Shirt of the Week: Hamsas for World Peace?

hamsa_hand_3_shower_curtainI think y’all know by now how I feel about hamsas: They’re my favorite.

I’ve got one on my key ring, one above the kitchen sink, three glued to my dashboard, several hanging in my closet and one always, always around my neck. I love them so much I’m thinking of ordering this one for the bathroom.

It’s more than an aesthetic attraction: It’s a symbol before my eyes to remind me of all of life’s blessings at all times. I don’t know that I’m so superstitious that I really believe in its protective powers, but listen, dahlink, it can’t hurt.

Most importantly, it serves as a token of peace: This symbol of God’s hand not only evokes the sacred feminine, but also represents common ground between Jews and Muslims: Writer Yaron Gordon explains:

The name “Hamsa” (“Hansa” in Sanskrit, or “Al Khamsa” in Arabic) is from the Semitic root word for five, and is a very ancient symbol in the Middle East…Some say that the Jews were the first to adopt the use of the Hamsa, as a protective amulet against the evil eye. Jewish lore sometimes calls the Hamsa the Hand of Miriam, referring to Miriam, the sister of Moses, or it is more generally called the Hand of God.The Hamsa hand is also a popular talisman with Muslims, who call it the Hand of Fatima, referring to the daughter of Mohammed. To the Muslims, the Hamsa refers to the five pillars of Islam.

Somebody tell Selena Gomez. (After Gomez’s uneducated pro-Hamas tweets, Supreme Yenta Joan Rivers eye-rollingly referred to her as “that college graduate.” Check the hilarious TMZ vid here.)

But let’s just be happy about today’s cease-fire extension. Perhaps by flooding the world with hamsas we can smother the hatred and violence. Or better yet, hold them up as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” in solidarity for Christian our brothers and sisters in Ferguson, MO.

I say hamsas for everybody, regardless of religion. The only remaining question is: Up or down? According to Gordon, it depends:

With the fingers pointed up, the Hamsa symbolizes a “stop sign” to the adversary, in other words, for protection. With the fingers pointed down, the Hamsa symbolizes God’s goodness and blessings coming down to the wearer or to the room where it is hung. The interpretation of the Hamsa is for the individual who owns it.

Tattoo one to your forehead for all I care, as long as you’re willing to high-five with the rest of humanity.

Sunday School Conflict

I swear it, us Jews have Hamas and Iran and the rest of the world aiming rockets and insults and hatred at us, and we still can’t get out of the way of our own.

Since I’ve lived in Savannah, the Jewish community has simmered with various conflicts that I’ve managed to skirt at their margins: Some have been shocking, like the 2006 conviction of a local Orthodox man for child sex trafficking, which people were still whispering about when we moved here. There is the ongoing effort to get the JEA pool open on Saturdays, and no one ever seems to agree on whether you have to go to both days of Rosh Hashanah services or if one will do. Mostly it’s been political quarrels that have divided people, like the awkward removal of our congregation’s rabbi after 20 years and the bitter fight over the new preschool and subsequent decampment of the Orthodox day school from the JEA.

I’ve known people on all sides of the scandals and issues (including the lovely woman who was married to the sex crimes monster) and I try to stay non-judgmental even though I am pretty terrible at it. For me, being Jewish is about faith in and love and heritage and tradition, and anything that distracts from that is a waste of my precious time. Whatever tsimmes is going on at the synagogue board meetings or behind the Federation walls seems so removed from lighting Shabbat candles over a delicious dinner after a hectic week, of reciting Sh’ma together at bedtime, of singing El Norah in the late afternoon trance of Yom Kippur.

Maybe I’m just a selfish schmendrick, but I’d rather leave the bureaucratic business of Judaism to those who have the time and will. I don’t like meetings and I don’t want to be treasurer of anything, ever. I have enough on my life’s plate other than doing a little volunteering at the Jewish Food Festival and a five-year stint teaching kindergarten to the Shalom Schoolers.

But I guess like Jacob wrestling with the angel, it’s rather impossible to be Jewish without conflict. The latest local discord comes from an incident that happened the morning before last year’s Jewish Food Festival at the Shalom School. New York writer Paul Berger did a pretty good job of objectively reporting what happened in a recent article in the Forward, which has been passed around the country and has garnered a slew of comments underneath it.

If you’re familiar with the issue, you already know that last that sunny October morning, the rabbi of Savannah’s Conservative congregation gave the fourth graders an inappropriate—and some believe damaging—lecture involving sex trafficking and prostitution.

Some of the kids were extremely upset by the rabbi, and their parents asked that he no longer be involved in the Shalom School for the rest of the year. (A few weeks ago the Shalom School announced that will be the case going forward into the new school year.)

Other children who were present on that day shrugged off the rabbi’s discussion of sexual abuse, and their families are upset that the first group of parents is dictating the direction of the school and denying their kids the scholarly presence of the rabbi.

As our Jewish karma would have it, this was my child’s class. But she was not there that day. I figured it was a shortened lesson because of the food festival, and I felt that allowing her sleep in was more beneficial to her health after a hard soccer game the day before. (If I thought she would get more out of a shortened lesson than an extra hour of sleep, I’d make her go. More on that later.)

Many of the families have left the Conservative congregation for our Reform synagogue, which doesn’t quite solve anything in a town as small as Savannah. The Shalom School is a cooperative venture between the two congregations; Hebrew instruction is on Wednesday afternoons at the Agudath Achim shul, Sunday mornings are spent learning about Jewish traditions downtown at Mickve Israel.

It’s been really difficult to navigate neutrality on this one. Because my child was not directly affected, I have had no point of reference to “pick a side.” I believe that the kids who were upset were telling the truth and honor their parents’ concerns. I also understand the viewpoint that the while the incident was weird and disturbing, it isn’t worth destroying the rabbi’s career over (finding another position at this point will prove challenging now that it’s been a national news story.)

There have been town hall meetings, which I haven’t attended, and private alliances formed that I am not a part of, because frankly, I didn’t and still don’t have a whole lot to contribute on the matter. I’m just over here washing laundry from camp and looking forward to burnt honeycakes for Rosh Hashanah and wondering if we will ever get it together to make a real sukkah in our backyard.

I can’t manufacture an outrage either way that I don’t feel. I just feel sad, since it seems the community has broken apart once again, right down the middle of my daughter’s Shalom School classroom.

The religious school year has started, and I’m way conflicted. Some parents are calling for background checks on all staff and better curriculum management, which is not unreasonable, yet as far as I know these demands haven’t been implemented. I know from experience that lesson planning can be challenging, but the coordination of particular topics definitely needs to be addressed, especially as the kids get older. If my child brings home one more set of plastic painted candleholders I’m going to go insane.

The drama that’s erupted out of the rabbi incident has been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back (an expression not actually in The Book Proverbs, in case you were wondering), and it turns out, many families have not been very happy with the two-synagogue partnership or Shalom School in general. Another group of parents is forming their own chavurah, an informal, clergy-less Sunday morning study group as an alternative to Shalom School, which sounds nice, especially since it might eliminate the need for another separate day for Hebrew lessons for our already-overscheduled kids.

Except that deep in my heretical heart, way way down in my seditious soul, I think Sunday School for Jews is dumb.

For centuries — millenia, even — Jews have gathered at synagogue on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. Sundays are for sleeping in or shopping at an empty grocery store while your neighbors are at church. Yet the Reform and Conservative movements insist that Jewish education take place on Sunday mornings, all the while complaining that young families never show up to synagogue.

Let me tell you something, Jewish leaders: No one–whether you are a frum Orthodox with a kosher kitchen or a bacon-eating agnostic–wants to spend both weekend mornings at synagogue. When are we supposed to tend our gardens, clean the shutters, make love and/or get lost in Home Depot?

Most Reform and Conservative Jews pretty much ignore the Saturday Sabbath to run errands and go to soccer games, then drop off their kids on Sunday mornings for some menorah crossword puzzles and read out of a textbook. This is not working.

If the point is to prepare our children for their bar and bat mitzvahs, then wouldn’t the best educational experience be attending the Sabbath services they’re eventually supposed to lead? And if another point is to foster Jewish community and joy through from generation to generation, wouldn’t it also be better to provide programming for everyone under the same roof on the same day?

If it were up to me, Shalom School would take place before services on Saturdays, and then the kids would help read Torah with some great singing and prayerful noise led by the elders, and afterwards everyone would have a nice nosh and go home for a nap. Then on Sunday we’d all be free clean out our garages or watch an entire season of Community on the iPad.

So if I haven’t registered my kid for Shalom School or Hebrew tutoring or a study group just yet, it isn’t because of any scandal. It’s my fundamental problem with the system itself. And it may never get resolved to my liking, and that’s cool, because my family’s Judaism lives in the candles, the prayers, the blackened honeycakes and our faith.

But it sure would be nice to commune with others without any conflict.

 

 

 

Kippah Clip Genius

Please forgive the unforgivable pun, but it sure is refreshing to see the interwebs blowing up with something positive coming out of Israel.

All over every gadget site this week and joining the ever growing list of examples of Israeli ingenuity—which includes cell phones, portable flash drives and the camera on the end of the hose they shove up you for a colonoscopy—is the Leatherdos, a multi-functional tool masquerading as a barrette.

enhanced-20787-1406490235-3Tel Aviv industrial design student (and obvious future Mossad recruit) Yaakov Goldberg came up with the Most Amazing Yarmulke Clip in History for his yeshiva buddies, and now every observant man in the world will be unclipping his kippah to measure the unkosher space between the slats in your terribly-built sukkah.

It’s good to know I can snatch this off someone’s head in synagogue next time a screw falls out of my sunglasses.

Of course, it still wouldn’t be kosher to use on Shabbat, unless it was an emergency, like if you found yourself locked on a moving trolley (wtf is a trolley coin, anyway?) and needed a chihuahua-tooth saw and tiny wrench to detonate a bomb. (Dammit! I’m sorry. There’s really no escaping the explosively tasteless humor around here.)

Anyway, Presbyterian divestment be damned, young Yaakov has a bestseller on his hands head—the $10 clip is already on back order.

Guessing it won’t be long before it’s standard IDF in rucksacks and on next year’s camp list.

And the countdown until one of these in confiscated by a TSA agent starts now…

Do I Want to Know What You Think About Israel?

images-2A friend messaged me last week: “Dying to know what you think about Israel!”

I knew I’d be called out sooner or later. I’m aware I haven’t posted anything about Israel here or on Facebook, not even to share particular articles that have helped me gain a better understanding of what’s been happening in this latest go round of insanity and violence.

(Now that we’re here, however, this one is particularly enlightening.)

Mostly, I’ve stayed quiet because I don’t feel like I have anything useful to add. There are many people with brains far bigger than mine weighing in on the IDF’s excessive force, Hamas’ misappropriation of humanitarian aid and dead children all over the place. Plus, I just don’t have the stomach to go keyboard-to-keyboard in the comments section of obvious anti-Semitic and historically erroneous propaganda.

Let’s face it: Nothing coming out of a computer in Savannah, GA is going to lift a blockade or neutralize rockets or talk sense into anybody halfway around the world. The world is better off with my hippie peace prayers, said and felt sincerely for every person, everywhere.

But if I’m being really honest, I haven’t jumped into the increasingly hostile conversation because I don’t want to lose any more friends. Back in California, I once almost ruined a four year-old’s birthday party by arguing Israel vs. the Palestinians with one of my neighbors. Another time I also threw a plate of falafel back at some asshole in the middle of my neighborhood’s community festival for selling to me with a note attached to the plate that said “Free Palestine from the Israeli Nazis.”

These confrontations made me so angry I could barely speak. They also made me afraid. These were people who screamed in my face about burning rubble in Gaza and then condoned the vandalism of an American synagogue as understandable retribution. They were anti-Semitic but wouldn’t admit it, condescendingly “explaining” that “I don’t have anything against Jews, I just think Israel is evil.”

Living in the South for the past eight years, I’ve gotten used to a more benign, even welcoming attitude towards Israel, which creeped me out at first and still makes me nervous since it often seems attached to an evangelical agenda.

Truth be told, I’m just not interested debating Israel’s “right to exist” or its right to defend itself. Nor am I interested in doing a ring-around-the-rosie dance to usher in the End Times.

My thoughts on Israel? I am amazed at how a few kibbutzniks have turned a dusty sliver of land into a bustling, fruit-bearing economic nexus in a mere 65 years. I am astounded how Jewish people have created a democracy among hostile neighbors after being decimated in the Holocaust (actually, “decimated” is an understatement, since it literally means to annihilate a tenth of the population. The Six Million killed in WWII were a full third of the world’s Jewish population.)

I am grateful for the advances in technology and medicine that come from Israel’s laboratories (your cell phone? Invented in Tel Aviv.) I am humbled that even in times of war, Israeli doctors treat their enemies.

I’m also definitely not someone who thinks Israel can do no wrong. I think the right-wing settlers and their anti-Arab vehemence are an embarrassment. I think the situation in Gaza—and the West Bank, which will eventually play in—is complicated and convoluted and sad.

Still, when I see other Jewish people posting anti-Israeli sentiments and then read about the looting and intimidation of Jewish businesses and college students in Paris and Belgium and Boston, I want to ask, “Do you think they don’t mean you?”

When I see the posts that portray the abject, undeniable suffering of the people of Gaza that fail to make mention of Hamas’ use of Palestinian children to build tunnels so they can kill Israeli kindergartners, I want to cry out with the injustice.

When I see that a synagogue in Miami was covered in swastikas this morning, I have to put aside my fear of taking sides. That the world would respond so quickly with anti-Semitism only strengthens the reasoning and resolve of the Jewish state.

I stand with Israel, always and proudly. My heart goes out to all who are in pain. I’ve also had enough of the hateful one-sided posts that portray Israelis as brutal and Palestinians as victims. Yes, they are victims—of a fundamentalist terrorist regime that would sacrifice every one of them to destroy Israel and America. Anyone who has seen the tunnels and rockets can no longer deny that Hamas leaders are lying when they claim they want peace.

I like to think I’ve curated my friend list with intelligent, compassionate people, and I don’t have to agree with them all the time. So far, I haven’t defriended anyone for their sympathies. But I am going to start commenting and sharing some of the thoughtful, factual posts that present the truth about Israel.

If anyone feels the need to defriend me for that, I completely understand.

 

Nits, Rats and Poison Ivy: A Trifecta of Repugnance

Once upon a time back in 2006, I wrote a post called “Mold, Diarrhea and Escargot,” a detailed and repulsive summary of the grossest and most disgusting day in the life of any Jewish mother, anywhere, ever.

That day has now been eclipsed by a perfect storm of biblical afflictions that probably should win some type of award except that I don’t want it commemorated in any form or fashion. However, if you want to buy me a sympathy drink after reading this, I won’t turn it down.

First, when we dropped the children off at their lovely, green Jewish summer camp, the cursory nurse check revealed three tiny little white blobs on my daughter’s heads. I mean miniscule, tiny flecks that could have been dandruff or remnants from a spitball fight she had with her brother. But when the nurse pointed at them, I knew. NITS. Lice eggs. Lousy. Literally.

I tried not die from shame since I know that having nits or lice doesn’t mean you’re dirty or that you are a bad person. It’s pretty common among kids these days, though I had never had to deal with it before my daughter’s Girl Scout troop has passed them around for an entire year (if there was a badge for nits, we’d OWN it.)

I don’t know how or where she got them this time, but I was not real thrilled to douse her head in chemicals once again. It turns out the poison doesn’t work anyway, because apparently regular lice has mutated into a super organisms that are taking over the planet. I took the nurse’s advice and combed and combed through the girl’s hair with tea tree oil under a bright lamp; I did the same to her brother just in case. And El Yenta Man’s. And mine. We were up past midnight combing through each other like baboons. I didn’t spot any bugs, and everyone got a clean bill of health the next day.

But STILL. We are the NIT family. The nurse was so kind and sweet, reassuring us that we weren’t the only nit family, and that she would quietly check Little Yenta Girl from time to time to make sure those little buggers stay away. If they don’t, I’m sure I’ll get one of those “Hello-this-is-Camp-nurse-it’s-not-an-emergency-we-just-wanted-to-let-you-know” types of calls.

In the meantime, while the kids are enjoying themselves, prayfully nitless, El Yenta Man and I have been enjoying even more revolting adventures. After reveling in a lovely childless dinner out on our first evening alone, we returned home to thinking that we would, *ahem*, make the most of our aloneness. Except we weren’t alone.

As EYM went to grab a water from the pantry, he found a bigass rat in there, that was, in his words, “clamboring all over the sugar and shit like Templeton from Charlotte’s Web.

Again, if shame could kill a person, I WOULD BE DEAD ALREADY.

How. Could. This. Happen. TO ME? My pantry is so freaking clean you can eat off the shelves. I even finally got the Tupperware tub for the dog food.

Except that there was a RAT eating the pistachios, which means I am a horrible housekeeper and all-around terrible balabusta. And basically useless, since all I could think to do was scream and swat at it with the broom.

EYM grabbed the BB gun and started shooting up the place, tiny metal balls bouncing off the tile floor like we were surrounded by enemy fire in Vietnam. Fifteen minutes later, my beautifully organized pantry lay in ruins and we’d pulled out the sideboard, the baker’s rack and the refrigerator. EYM had the gun pointed on it as we slid the wine cooler back for its last stand, but at the last minute I begged him not to kill it. I opened the door and it scuttled out, tail dusted in Whole Foods organic flour.

I had just started putting everything away when I heard my husband whisper, “Oh no.” He was staring at a long cardboard tube on top of a pile of potential art supplies hoarded by Little Yenta Girl. The faintest of scratching sounds emanated from it. “Oh no NO NO NO.” He climbed up on top of the sideboard, peered into the tube and screamed like a little girl.

YES OMFG ANOTHER RAT.

EYM actually shot the bb gun into the tube (not recommended), and a bionic rodent performed the terrifying ninja feat of climbing UP out of the cardboard tube, across EYM’s feet and out into the dining area, trailing tiny drops of blood on the wood floor. EYM finally cornered it in the girl’s bedroom, but not before ransacking the place, pulling the mattresses off the beds, pulling out drawers, flinging finger puppets and toys around the room and turning her room—which yes, I just cleaned and made all pretty for her when she came home from camp without nits—into a war zone that looks like it had been hit with rockets by Hamas. (Oh shit, sorry. Too soon? It’s been a terrible week for so many. Prayers and blessings for safety for all.)

The second rat was not as lucky as his compadre; he died after taking about 50 bb’s to the body (a la Willem Dafoe in Platoon) and couple of butts from the gun. Even though he kills and guts fish, regularly, EYM was terribly traumatized at the violence of it all, and I heard him apologizing the rat as he finished him off. It was really awful, y’all. I still haven’t been able to go in there and clean up.

To top it all off, both El Yenta Man and I are suffering from a wicked, weeping, itchy, full body-swathing case of poison ivy, probably from consoling ourselves with too much alone time in the backyarden.

A trifecta of the most disgusting things ever, all in one week. If you can top that, I would really, really like to know.

 

Camp Packing Blues

Oy, it’s that time of year again when I crawl into the attic to shlep down the plastic drawers and the duffel bags large enough to hide several dead bodies.

The Yenta children are off to Jewish camp next week, and as usual, no one is anywhere near ready. The nice people at camp always provide a handy-dandy checklist to follow, yet somehow, I remain farmisht.

Who owns 25 pairs of freakin’ underpants? Why must I send two bars of soap when it takes three months to disappear a shared one? Does a hoodie count as a jacket or is it a long-sleeved shirt?

Plus, Little Yenta Girl’s feet have basically doubled in size this year, and it turns out that clown-sized sport sandals are expensive and hard to find. Also, Young Yenta Man now uses a vast arsenal of hair products that may require its own Hoffa-sized duffel (I suspect the Gum Tresses Wax Gristle may contain unkosher ingredients.)

What this family needs is several pairs of extra socks and a whole lotta luck.

PRO_AL_1355499206_MTov_500_compactOh, what’s this?! Mazel Tov knee socks from ModernTribe.com! If I send each kid to camp with a pair, does that make up for only sending one toothbrush?

I bet they help Lil’ Yenta Girl crush it in the gaga court.

 

 

 

 

Thoroughly Modern Abby: Savannah’s First Jewish Mother

44127092_132244189224-1In honor of Mickve Israel’s upcoming 281st anniversary, Yo, Yenta! is featuring guest blogger and all-around balabusta Phoebe Kerness.

THOROUGHLY MODERN ABBY: The story of Abigail Minis, founding member of Congregation Mickve Israel, business entrepreneur and independent woman.

Abigail Minis, one of the original Jewish settlers of the colony of Georgia and one of the original members of Congregation Mickve Israel, is considered to be one of the most foremost women in American Jewish History.

On July 11th, 1733, she arrived in Savannah at the age of 32, along with the 40 other original Jewish settlers, on the ship the William and Sarah. She was accompanied by her husband Abraham Minis and her two oldest daughters, Leah and Esther.

Welcoming her in Savannah was a rough and primitive environment lacking access to the necessities of life. She devoted herself to her children. Over a period of 11 years, Abigail gave birth every two years, followed by her youngest child four years later at the age of 47. In total, she gave birth to nine children, five girls and four boys, and raised eight of them to adulthood.

Possessed of a hearty constitution, Abigail survived her pregnancies and births at a time when pregnancy death rates were high. When Abraham died in 1757, she went on to display fortitude of will and wisdom. Upon his death, Abraham stipulated Abigail as the executrix of his estate to insure that she had the wherewithal to support, educate and to bring up their children.

By the time of his death, Abraham had established himself as a successful planter and businessman. Abigail took over his businesses and doubled his fortune. She invested in real estate in and around Savannah. In 1764 she opened the Minis Tavern which was to become a highly successful enterprise.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, she convinced Royal Governor Wright to grant her and the children safe passage and protection in Charleston until the British were defeated. She hired someone to manage her affairs in Savannah in her absence. At the same time, she assisted the Continental army with money, food ammunition and uniforms. When the War ended she returned to Savannah, regained control of all her properties and businesses, again doubling her fortune and continuing to increase her real estate holdings.

Abigail Minis died in October of 1794 at the age of 93. She was survived by her five unmarried daughters and six grandchildren. Her sons had all predeceased her. She was way ahead of her time and would have been hailed as such by the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970’s. She was a single mother, a well-respected citizen and a shrewd business woman. To have lived to be 93 in the 1700’s was remarkable.

Although documentation is scarce that verifies that Abigail Minis’s family was active in Savannah’s Jewish community, it is reasonable to assume so. The Minis and Sheftall families, the only German Jewish families in the earliest days of the colony, were close in business as well as cultural background. Reverend Bolzius, the Salzburger minister who lived in Ebenezer and who had friendly connections with Savannah’s German Jews, commented on the strict tradition of the two German Jewish families.

Abigail Minis was buried in the Mordecai Sheftall cemetery and her husband and two of their sons were buried in the original Jewish Burial Plot in the area of the present monument at Bull and Oglethorpe Streets. Philip Minis, Abigail’s son, was the first parnas of Mickve Israel after its post-Revolutionary reorganization. Finally the ultimate confirmation: descendants of Abigail and Abraham Minis were connected with the Savannah Jewish community and Mickve Israel for about 260 years.

Mickve Israel’s Museum Committee wants to remind our congregants that, although women have not always held official positions of leadership in American Jewish congregations as they do today, women have always been leaders in our Savannah congregation.

Abigail Minis set very high standards for generations of Mickve Israel women who followed her. She was a true heroine of Congregation Mickve Israel and Savannah, one of the foremost women in the history of American Jewish life, and a thoroughly modern woman.

 

Who is like you, Friday Night Live?!

com_friday-night-light_062014_539_332_c1Y’all know I am a Craig Taubman groupie from way back, and it saddens me that the Silver Fox recently retired from leading the epically joyous Friday Night Live services at Temple Sinai in Los Angeles.

I’m sorry I never got to attend, though 2007′s Hallelu in Atlanta was a small taste of Taubman’s wonderful musical and communal legacy.

By all reports, the last gathering blew off the roof, including this truly rockin’ rendition of “Mi Chamocha” featuring New Orleans clarinet riffs and a killer rap from hiphop’s Jewish heart, Kosha Dillz:

I’m pretty sure rapping would cause considerable plotzing among regular Friday night congregants of historic Congregation Mickve Israel, but maybe Craig and Kosha would consider a reunion if they’re ever down Savannah way?

Throw Out the Lox! Vita Smoked Salmon Recall

218Well, here’s every Jewish mother’s worst nightmare:

The package of lox (or as I’ve heard it referred to, “smoked salmon”) I bought at Publix last week for some nice bagel sandwiches to take to a beach picnic has been recalled for the presence of a certain vile bacteria.

According to an email from the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture received yesterday:

Vita Food Products, Inc. of Chicago, Ill., is notifying the public that it is recalling 1,878 pounds of Vita Classic Premium Sliced Smoked Atlantic Salmon due to possible contamination of Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

The email did not mention the also common symptoms of stomach cramps and diarrhea. Gross.

The product was sent to Hannaford stores in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, H-E-B stores in Texas, and Publix stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina beginning on April 7, 2014.

Yep yep, Publix. In Savannah, Georgia. At Twelve Oaks Shopping Center, to be precise.

The packages are vacuum sealed, black in color and bear the Vita logo centered at the bottom. Product from this lot can be identified by a SELL BY AUG 17 2014 date and lot number 00764B, which can be found on the right side on the front of the package. The 4oz size of this product is the only size subject to this recall.

All of the above. Darn.

Well, that sucks.

A shame this alert went out the day AFTER Little Yenta Girl and I ate the sandwiches.

After an evening of a rumbly, unhappy tummy, I managed to, erm, expel the offending Listerical mononucleuses or whatever those little fuckers were.

My girl’s digestive reaction was not quite as fast, yet she appears to be much better after a day of seltzer water and a double dose of probiotics to help her gut’s good bacteria kick out the interlopers.

Vita is offering a refund for the contaminated yuck lox if I sent it the product label, but that would have required touching it and no, just no. Anyway, the minute I got the email alert and discovered it was a match, I made Yenta Boy take it from the fridge with a paper towel, wrap it in two plastic bags and throw in the outside trash can.

But now our favorite protein snack will be tainted in my mind. Maybe not forever, but there’s something about diarrhea that turns a person off.

In the meantime, we’re going to stick to hummus. Or maybe not. Dammit.