Friday, August 26, 2016

An Atlanta Weekend

An Atlanta Weekend by Aaron Ginsburg

Rabbi Marc Mandel asked me to write about my visit last weekend to Atlanta. I went to Atlanta for the bar mitzvah of Adam Haber, son of Larry and Marcia Haber, grandson of Charles and Miriam Lasky z.l.  With Marcia’s brother’s Marc, Jay, and Robert, their children, my brother-in-law and sister Alan and Beth Levine, and the Haber relatives, I could have easily been at a family event in Newport, where most of us were born. And not only did we have star-power, we had minyan power!

Temple Beth Tikvah Roswell, GA Sanctuary
The Bar Mitzvah was at Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia. I was told it was modeled after a Chabad synagogue design. If so, it had much more finesse, with pink stone and a translucent dome. And with stadium seating there was not a bad seat in the house.

The Rabbi’s sermon would not have been out of place at Touro Synagogue. The theme was the official Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius. Faster, Higher, Better.  Although it sounds ancient, the motto was composed by Dominican preacher Henri Didon, 1840-1900, for a sports competition. His friend, Pierre de Coubertin proposed it as the official motto of the Olympics. 

Temple Beth Tikvah, Roswell, GA lobby
Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner pointed out that the motto was “not fastest, hIghest, strongest. In other words, it’s not just about the destination, its about the journey.” In terms of the parsha, Parashat Vaetchanan, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11, Moses desperately wanted to enter Israel, and complained to the Almighty that it wasn’t fair. G-d replied, “Rav lecha, Enough! Go up to the Pisgah and see the valley (and all the people stretched below). Look at all that YOU have accomplished, and that you have mattered to all those whom you have carried all these years…

The Olympians are the ones who had the commitment, dedication to forge on, who never gave up and managed to go where others could only dream. And that was the real prize.”

She quoted Rabbi Harold Kushner, “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning…”  She commented, “There is a difference between success and significance. When we look at our own life’s journeys-what will we discover? Are we only looking to be faster, higher or stronger-OR is there something more?"

The Temple Synagogue, Atlanta
While I was in Atlanta I met with some Dokshitz descendants. Many Jewish Newport families, including mine, trace their origin to this shtetl, now in Belarus. One of the places we considered meeting was at a synagogue called “The Temple.” The congregation was the first official one in Atlanta, founded in 1867. Leo Frank, a member of the congregation, was lynched in 1913 by an anti-semitic mob. The Jewish community lived in a climate of fear for many years. 

Rabbi and Mayor after
Temple Synagogue bombing
Times change, and forty years later Temple senior Rabbi Jacob Rothschild was an outspoken opponent of segregation. On October 12, 1958, a bomb consisting of 50 sticks of dynamite was placed at the Temple’s north entrance, and did $100,000 worth of damage. The reaction was overwhelmingly supportive, unlike in 1913.  Mayor William Hartsfield posed with the Rabbi in the rubble. Atlantans raised $140,000 to repair the damage. A half-hearted attempt to convict the perpetrators failed.

Accompanied by my sister Beth Levine and her husband Alan, I met with cousins Caryl Paller and Donna Darrocot. Their grandfather, Hyman Kaminkovitz, was born in Dokshitz. Their great Aunt Sarah Shleifer was married to Hyman’s brother Ruben.  Her brother Jacob Schleifer married Sarah Kusinitz, a cousin of the Newport Kusinitzes. Hyman changed his last name to Minkovitz; Ruben changed his last name to Mink. I got to know them after I discovered Hyman’s 1915 naturalization petition, where he declared that he was born in Dokshitz. When I contacted them, they knew about the name change, but not about Dokshitz.

Also present were cousins Robbie Dokson and Stanley Baum. Robbie’s great-grandparents, Barnet Dokson( Dokshizkyn), and Sarah Markman were also born In Dokshitz. Robbie and Stanley are related thorough their great great Dokshizkyn grandparents, and Stanley's grandmother Lena Dokson was a sister of Robbie’s grandmother  Manie Dokson Dokson (she was married to a cousin). 

Andrew Dietz,who grew up in Connecticut, also joined us. Dietz and Teitz are different ways of spelling the same name, from the first letters of the words Dayan Tzedek, righteous judge. Andrew’s grandfather Shmuel Dietz was born in Dokshitz. In 1912 he settled in Springfield, MA.

Andrew and Robbie met at a Southeast Region Anti-Defamation-League board retreat. They were paired in an icebreaker. Andrew told Robbie that his grandfather was born in Dokshitz. An astonished Robbie replied, “Hold it buddy!” 

We met at a pub/restaurant called Gordon Biersch in downtown Atlanta. Although beer was featured on the menu, most of us ordered iced tea.  I reviewed the recent activities of the Friends of Jewish Dokshitsy.

The Swan Hous at the Atlanta History Center
Before catching my flight Monday evening, I visited the Atlanta History Center. The 33 acre site includes a museum devoted to Atlanta history, a circa 1850 farm, and a 1928 mansion. The mansion reminded me of Bellevue Avenue, although by Newport standards,  it was pint sized. With the exception of one maid, all of the servants commuted to work. 

Atlanta is a large amorphous blob spreading over the red Georgia soil. Tomorrow I will commute from my apartment in Foxboro to The Jewel of Aquidneck Island, Touro Synagogue and join the Kehillah Kedusha in service to the Ubershter.

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