The Southern Shmooze
December 2019
Happy Chanukah / Hanukkah / HakunaMatata
When temperatures dip below 70º, Southern Jews know that Chanukah-- the Festival of Lights -- can't be far off. This eight-day festival commemorates the Israelites’ defeat of the Syrian/Greek army in 165 BCE and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is well-known in modern times for its nightly candle lighting, adding one light each night to celebrate this ancient miracle. Chanukah has become particularly popular with children, who receive gifts each night, just as Israelites brought offerings to the Temple.

During Chanukah, children also play a simple betting game with a spinning top, called a dreidel (well, they did before video games were invented). The four sides of the dreidel have the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hay , and shin for the Yiddish words nicht (nothing), gants (all), halb (half), and shtel ayn (put in).
The stakes are pennies or nuts or chocolate coins, called gelt. Depending on which letter on the dreidel lands face up, the spinner either takes all of the pot, takes half, puts one into the pot, or does nothing. The letters on the dreidel also have come to stand for the phrase Ness gadol haya sham -- a Great miracle happened there . Of course, in Israel, they say, Ness gadol haya po -- a great miracle happened here.

Whether you are here in New Orleans, there in Israel, or anywhere in between, we hope you have a joyous holiday season. And if you'd like to shtel ayn to help ensure the Museum's successful opening in 2020, you will have gants our thanks!

Images from The Roanoke Times, Roanoke, Virginia, January 10, 1893 .
Exhibit Update
If you've visited the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, the MAX in Meridian, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, or the International Spy Museum in D.C., then you've seen the talented work of our world-class exhibit designers, Gallagher & Associates.

Creating museum exhibits is a combination of writing a book, filming a movie, compiling an archive, designing a building, solving a complex math problem, teaching a class, and hosting a daily party for your friends and for strangers. How do you condense an unlimited story into a limited space? Who do you design for--those who already know the story, those who are new to it, or some magical combination of the two? Which artifacts can tell both a specific and a general story? And how can you challenge your visitors and get them engaged--engaged in learning, sharing, contemplating, and yes, even debating?

Over the past two years we have been working hard with Gallagher & Associates to design a museum that successfully educates, entertains, and most importantly engages of visitors. We think you're going to like what you see!
From the Collection: Chanukah in Viet Nam
In winter 1972, Army Air Force Reserve Cpt. Joseph Flanz received an unexpected gift from the women of the Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood, in Meridian, MS. It had traveled 9,267 miles from Mississippi to Bien Hoa, Viet Nam. His handwritten thank-you letter, in turn, was likely a surprise to the women’s organization:
11 February 1973
Dear Mrs. Meyer,

Please excuse my delay in writing, but with a cease-fire and all coming, I have been pretty busy getting ready to go back home after serving 17 months in Viet Nam. I am the recipient of the Christmas ditty bag which was sent by your sisterhood to me here in Bien Hoa. I think it was extremely appropriate that I received your generous gift, because I am Jewish and know the Sisterhood will understand how surprised and happy I was. So I will consider it a Channukah/ Christmas gift. All the other members of my team received gifts from Meridian and were very glad to get them. It is nice to know that we are appreciated. It is also nice to know that you ladies will not ever have to send any more ditty bags to Viet Nam. Once again, thank you and God be with you.
Yours truly, 
Joseph N. Flanz
While little else is known about Cpt. Flanz, this gift is representative of Temple Beth Israel’s 150-year history of interfaith fellowship, including its financial support of a neighboring Lutheran church that struggled after its founding in 1869.

Just as the Meridian Sisterhood brought light and hope to Joseph, we hope this holiday season brings the same for you and your loved ones, both near and far. 

This artifact was generously donated to MSJE by Carol Appel. Do you have artifacts you'd like to donate? Let us know about your Southern Jewish artifacts from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Did you know that you can easily set up a monthly donation to MSJE? Well, you can and it's as easy as clicking Recurring Donation when giving online.
This Month in Southern Jewish History
December 2, 1735
Mordecai Sheftall is born in Savannah, Province of Georgia, two years after his parents immigrated from England. Sheftall served as a colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, becoming its highest ranking Jewish officer. He helped defend Savannah, lent a considerable amount of his fortune to the American cause, was captured and served time on a British prison ship.
December 7, 1863
Maj. Simon Mayer, of the 10th Mississippi, Confederate Army, writes in his dia ry: On the 7th all quiet in front – weather dark and cloudy. Today meets the Congress at Richmond, as also does the Congress at Washington. Both have fearful responsibilities before them. The people of both Countries will look to them for relief from the miseries and calamities of direful war.
December 7, 1893
Paula Herskovitz Ackerman is born in Pensacola, FL. She taught religious school at Temple Beth El, eventually marrying the rabbi there, William Ackerman, and relocating with him to Meridian, MS. When her husband died in 1950, Congregation Beth Israel asked her to assume his position. Despite the refusal of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to sanction her, she agreed, becoming the first American woman to lead a Reform congregation.
December 11, 1879
Gertrude Weil is born in Goldsboro, NC. Schooled as a teen in New York, she became the first woman from North Carolina to graduate from Smith College. She took that liberal education back to Goldsboro, where she organized Women's Suffrage Leagues, lobbied for tighter child labor laws, and helped Jewish refugees coming to North Carolina in the 1930s and 40s. In the 1960s she chaired the state's Interracial Committee.
December 16, 2011
A statue of Uriah P. Levy, the Navy's first Jewish commodore (admiral) is erected outside Mikveh Israel Synagogue on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. In 1834, Levy, who had earlier led the effort to abolish flogging in the Navy, purchased Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home, Monticello, restoring it to its original splendor and preserving it for future generations.
December 17, 1862
Union General Ulysses Grant issues his infamous Order No. 11, expelling all Jews from his military district in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. In his effort to curtail black market smuggling of Southern cotton, Grant singled out "Jews and other unprincipled traders." Following outcries from American Jews, the press, and some members of Congress, President Lincoln revoked the order three weeks later.
December 27, 1966
William Scott Goldberg is born in Tulsa, OK. He became a bar mitzvah at Temple Israel there, played football at University of Georgia, and then pro football with the Rams and the Falcons. But it was as a professional wrestler that "Goldberg" made his mark, becoming WWE's 1998 Rookie of the Year, winning multiple world championships, and being induced into the Hall of Fame in 2018.
From the Director...
During Chanukah it's a tradition to eat foods fried in oil. Down South, you'd think it was Chanukah all year long.

The idea is to remind us of the Miracle of the Oil -- one day's worth of sanctified oil in the rededicated Temple in Jerusalem lasting eight days until more could be prepared. While the real miracle was the Jewish victory over the superior Syrian/Greek forces in 165 BCE, the oil story is responsible for potato latkes. Hey, we'll take it!

Here's my mom's (Paula to those who know her; Bubbe to those who love her best) recipe for potato latkes. Notice the mix of specific and vague instructions, the brand loyalties, and the responsa . The stains on the card represent decades of love and latkes in Baton Rouge!
Happy Chanukah,
Kenneth Hoffman, Executive Director
Support MSJE and get a 2019 tax break...
  • Give online safely and easily at:
  • Mail a check to: MSJE, PO Box 15071, New Orleans, LA 70175
  • Designate MSJE as a recipient of your Donor Advised Fund
  • Donate stock or other marketable securities
  • Donate from your IRA's required distribution

For more information about any of these ways t o support MSJE,
contact Asia Stamey at .  
If They're Not Shmoozin'...
Know someone who likes to shmooze and would like to receive The Southern Shmooze ? Share this sign-up link with them: . And t hey can enjoy past issues of our newsletter here:
Banner images (l-r): Song-leading at Southern Conclavette, Southern Federation of Temple Youth (SoFTY), 1969-1970, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Anshe Sfard Synagogue on Carondelet Street, New Orleans, Louisiana