No Mezzuzahs on Modern Home Tour

Architecture and historic preservation are a BIG deal in Savannah. Looking at pretty houses is probably one of the top reasons people visit, second only to eating at Paula Deen’s restaurant.

Legions of tourists stroll dreamily among antebellum townhomes, gawking at the Gothic flourishes on every street corner, some even making it a mile south of downtown district to the blocks of Victorian loveliness. Most stop there. Construction in this city began at the river in 1733 with General Oglethorpe’s master plan; architectural style evolves as you move south, and it’s only so walkable in the heat. You’d have to skip over the 20 or so blocks of perfectly nice but somewhat characterless brick ranch homes built in the late 40’s (including Casa Yenta) to get to Savannah’s trove of mid-century modern gems, a good coupla miles away from the madding crowds.

It’s a bit of a shame that these gorgeous homes don’t get any real attention lathered upon them, since in my opinion they’re way more interesting than the old dames up front. They’re the ones with the crazy futuristic lines, huge sunken living rooms and monster picture windows; some have indoor pools and at least two or three still have those wacky central vacuum systems. Every time I’m lucky enough to visit one I just want to don a hulahoop Judy Jetson frock and drink a big ass martini.

Whole neighborhoods of modern design were fabricated in the 50’s and 60’s–and lots of Jews moved in. A couple of these areas, Habersham Woods and Fairway Oaks, are walkable to both the Orthodox and Conservative shuls and still house a big portion of the city’s Jewish population.

So why in Sam Hill would someone schedule a tour of Savannah’s Mid-Century Modern Homes–on Yom Kippur??

I had a couple of tribal real estate friends call me all kinds of pissed off about it, including Beth Vantosh, because obviously, they have treasures on the market that would be wonderful to display or would just like to be part of an event showcasing their own homes. But it turns out it wasn’t the local organizers who chose the dates:

DOCOMOMO (a shortened version of “documentation and conservation of the modern movement”) is a national organization that contacted its state chapters, who in turn garnered participation from local historic preservation organizations. Terri O’Neil, the very nice program director I spoke with at Historic Savannah Foundation was extremely apologetic about the situation and let me know that HSF had already nixed that date for their annual meeting because their many Jewish members wouldn’t be able to attend. She suggested that maybe HSF should have passed on helping oversee the event, but didn’t want to leave the tour without any kind of local organizing support.

I told her I completely understood. I don’t blame the brilliant and amazing folks at HSF at all: Such a tour is part of their mission and programming; the show must go on.

The real responsibility lies with the national DOCOMOMO organization, who chose to schedule dozens of tours of fabulous homes across the country on a day that would be a little like arranging a firefighter fashion show on 9/11.

No, it’s not a huge deal; after all, none of us expect the world to come to a halt on Jewish holidays, even the most important ones. But it shows an appalling sense of insensitivity.

Especially for a group with a well-heeled board of directors out of–whaaaaat? New York? A shanda, I tell ya.

4 thoughts on “No Mezzuzahs on Modern Home Tour

  1. The Alzheimer’s Association is having their annual walk on Yom Kippur and therefore we cannot participate. I called to let them know why we will not have a team this year and they were most embarrassed and apologetic. The real test will come if they do this again or if they consider this when scheduling in the future.

    I know that the world does not have to come to a stop just because it is a Jewish holiday, but the insensitivity is sad and we all know that no one would dare consider scheduling these events on Christmas or Easter…

  2. By the way, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is not on Yom Kippur all over Georgia, just Atlanta’s walk. The one is Savannah is the following week.

  3. If you are going to have a celebration/charity fundraiser for a disease perhaps one should consider honoring the doctor/scientist whose groudbreaking work and discoveries contributed to the knowledge and well being of a society. Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr Alois Alzheimer, a Jewish medical neuro scientist who discovered the disease. What better way to honor his memory than by having the memory walk on Yom Kippur. Love it. I don’t begrudge people’s ignorance of the Jewish calendar, or the planning of events on our most important holidays, as long as they don’t mind not having Jewish support.

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