By 2nd year Education Fellow Rachel Blume.
It’s the height of the fall season. Football is in full swing, Barack Obama was just re-elected as President of the United States, people are starting to make preparations for Thanksgiving, and, as an ISJL Education Fellow, my schedule is filled to the max with fall community visits!
This means early morning airport trips, late night drives, and not much time spent in the comfort of my own home. As a creature of habit, the hectic travel of fall can be stressful to me. In addition to that, it’s the longest stretch of the year between visits home to my family. (Being from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I have it easier than most of my co-fellows on this count). One of the wonderful things about this job, though, is that certain congregations provide that same sense of comfort and community that I get with friends and family, which more than compensates for the time on the road. In particular, Shreveport, Louisiana has become my home away from home.
Just a couple of weekends ago, I was packing my bags to make the short (at least by ISJL standards) 3 and ½ hour drive over to Shreveport. Even though I knew I had a full weekend of leading services and programs, each mile that I drove it felt less and less like a business trip and more like a trip to visit my “other family.” I don’t even need my GPS to find Helaine and Bill Braunig’s home because I now know it so well; sometimes I even get the chance to hang out with their adorable grandson Billy (see above). I don’t have to worry about getting a tour of anything, because I already know where everything is. When I go to Shreveport, the usual anxieties of a work trip melt away. I feel at home.
The most common answer is that someone (a grandparent or great-grandparent) had a cousin or sibling who was already in the area. Many families have amusing, likely fictionalized tales of a newly arrived forebear getting off of a train at the wrong stop or landing in a small town by some other sort of accident.
In July, I interviewed Michael Korenblit, of Edmond, Oklahoma. He shared the story of his parents, Meyer and Manya Kornblit (the last name is spelled differently due to clerical discrepancies) and their immigration to the United States. There is much to say about Meyer and Manya, childhood sweethearts and Holocaust survivors who were reunited after World War II. They were married shortly after the war, and their oldest son, Sam, was born while the family was living in Eggenfeld, Germany. In the interview clip below, Michael tells how his family ended up in the small Jewish community of Ponca City, Oklahoma.
The clip is also available through the Ponca City article in our Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. The rest of Meyer and Manya’s story is recounted in Until We Meet Again, which Michael coauthored.
How did your family get to where they live today? Where did they come from originally?
In the South, we’re pretty familiar with hurricanes. Katrina, Isaac, Camille … we’re used to pretty regular encounters with powerful and potentially devastating storms. All this week, all of us down here have been watching the images on-screen, scrolling through the Facebook posts, and frequently checking in with our friends and families up North.
If there’s one silver lining around the awful storm clouds of a monster like Hurricane Sandy, it’s always the tremendous sense of community and human decency that are unleashed by these disasters. It brings to mind the word klal – “community.”
There will never be a storm mightier than Hurricane Klal – the swirling, powerful, whirlwind of communal compassion.
If you’re looking for a way to join in the effort, to help and to support all of our fellow citizens impacted by Hurricane Sandy, here are some ways that you can get involved, near or far away from where this storm struck:
- You can contribute online to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund established by UJA New York
- You can also give online to the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund
- You can give to the Red Cross, which is serving the entire impacted area
- You can give to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City
- If you are in New York, you can donate blood, help clean up the city, or contact your congregation, JCC, or other communal agency to see where the current most urgent needs may be
Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful Shabbat, all along the Eastern seaboard and all over the world. Be safe, be well, and shalom, y’all.