The Miraculous Nature Of Jewish History; Feeling At Home With Frank Lloyd Wright

    Birmingham Jewish Federation Update
    Monday, July 17, 2017
     Knesset Speaker’s Dramatic Return To Russia
    Picture is of Yuli Edelstein addressing
    the upper house of the Russian parliament.
    To be Jewish, is to be part of continuing miracles. The endurance of our peoplehood, despite obstacles and tragedies over the centuries, is one of history’s most dramatic and inspiring sagas.
    Another one of these miracles occurred recently — one that will resonate especially with those Birmingham Jews who worked so hard in the 1970s, 80s and 90s to help our Jewish brothers and sisters in the former Soviet Union emigrate to Israel and other lands of freedom.
    Reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
    “Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who was born in the Soviet Union and imprisoned in a labor camp in the 1980s by Soviet authorities for his Jewish activities, came full circle on June 28 in Moscow and addressed the upper house of the Russian parliament.”
    Added the story: “Introduced at his appearance in parliament by the chairwoman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, one of the most powerful politicians in Russia, she noted Edelstein’s birth in Ukraine and his studies in Moscow and that he had moved to Israel in 1987.”
    “She failed to mention the period that he spent in the labor camp due to his pro-Zionist activities, which included his efforts to teach Hebrew at a time when Soviet authorities were seeking to stamp out expressions of Jewish identity and efforts by Soviet Jews to emigrate,” the Haaretz story added.
    The full story is worth reading. It is a tribute to the unbreakable will of those Jews such as Edelstein who were willing to stand up to the Soviet empire, the powerful sense of renewal and purpose that so many Jews have found upon immigrating to Israel, and what can be achieved when we Jews act collectively on behalf of one another.
    In Birmingham, through the Birmingham Jewish Federation, our community and friends of our community played a significant role in helping Edelstein and neatly 1,000,000 other Jews leave the former Soviet Union. We did this through demonstrations and other forms of advocacy, fundraising, and resettling families in Birmingham who chose to come to the US.
    The heroes though are people such as Edelstein, who risked their lives to lead the Soviet Jewish movement. They no doubt knew — and had an unshakable belief in their hearts — that when it comes to Jewish history, miracles can happen when the Jewish people work together.
    — Richard Friedman, Executive Director
     
    Rosenbaum House Worth The Visit
    By Richard Friedman,
    BJF Executive Director

    The Rosenbaum House in Florence, Alabama

    It’s not everyday that you feel at home in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. But that’s just what happened to me a couple of weeks ago when my wife Sally and I visited the Rosenbaum house in Florence, Alabama.

    Florence, in the northwest corner of the state, is about a two hour drive from Birmingham and we drove up for a quick getaway weekend. In addition to the Rosenbaum house, there are other attractions in the general area including the Alabama Music Hall of Fame; Ivy Green, which was the childhood home of Helen Keller; and a museum celebrating the life of “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy who was born in Florence.  Each of these site visits was worthwhile and enlightening.

    The Rosenbaum house, now a public museum, is the only house in Alabama designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was built in 1940 for Mildred and Stanley Rosenbaum. Learning more about Wright’s impact on architecture was interesting.

    What was additionally interesting was that the Rosenbaums were Jewish, as our tour guide noted in his opening remarks, and they led active Jewish lives. There were signs of Judaism throughout the house — a menorah on a bookshelf and several mezuzahs on doorposts. Stanley also gave money to help the state of Israel and support people living there.

    This Jewish ambiance deepened the experience and made me feel at home in the house. That’s the power of the connectedness Jews feel toward one another even if we don’t always know one another, especially here in Alabama where we are small in number. (About 12,000 out of a population of 5,000,000.)

    Stanley, a Harvard graduate and a college teacher, also was an advocate for civil rights and helped open doors for African-Americans in the Florence area.

    The guide at one point mentioned how connected the Rosenbaums were to Florence’s “large” Jewish community.  How large it was he didn’t know for sure.  According to the Institute for Southern Jewish life, the area, at its peak, had about 60 Jewish families which is not large at all. But many of those families were leaders in the business and civic life of the area, creating an impact and visibility disproportionate to their numbers.
    Though he designed almost every detail of the house, even including some of the furnishings, Frank Lloyd Wright never saw the Rosenbaum house. Nonetheless, Wright’s presence is everywhere. You also feel the Rosenbaums’ presence.  It’s not hard to imagine Mildred, Stanley and their four sons sitting down on a Friday night for a noisy Shabbat dinner. It’s that juxtaposition — and a sense of feeling at home — that made the visit to the house even more interesting.

    Click for more on the Rosenbaum house

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