After arriving in Boca Raton, Florida, and spending a lovely Shabbat with the Century Village friends of my brother and sister-in-law, we started our American Odyssey of 10,000 miles across America. We spent our first days in the Deep South going through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. In each state we visited one or two attractions that the AAA website listed as the best.
We visited the National Civil War Naval Museum, the Coca Cola Space Science Center and the George Washington Carver Institute. We did not find much Jewish life in these areas, but as we passed the Civil Rights Memorial and drove along though Selma, Alabama, we did notice a Jewish Star on a building and stopped to investigate. It was the Mishkan Israel Synagogue, but it was closed.
At Vicksburg we toured the military park and the recently flooded areas off the Mississippi River. The first Jewish community we visited was Temple Bnei Israel in Monroe, Louisiana. It was not an Orthodox congregation, but they welcomed us and we had an interesting discussion with those who gathered that evening about life on a settlement in Israel.
As I mentioned in my previous article, we usually requested home hospitality in return for the evening program. Monroe turned out to be very special. Our contact person explained that the homes in Monroe were small and that she could not find accommodations for the four of us in a home. One member of the congregation, however, owned a “small motel” and he would be happy to invite us as his guests for the evening and give each couple a room. One of our purposes in requesting home hospitality was to be able to spend the evening with a local family, learn about the Jewish community, and to also tell them about our community. Since they could not find a host, we reluctantly agreed.
Our first clue about the surprise that awaited us was the beautiful white stretch limousine parked in front of the Atrium Hotel. This “small motel” turned out to be a boutique hotel where each of us received a 2.5 room luxury suite for the night. We greatly enjoyed the health club, swimming pool and Jacuzzi, provided by Mr. Hadad. Now if only we could spend each night of the trip in such luxury…
From Louisiana we headed for Texas and the East Texas Oil Museum. The very interesting exhibits told us how oil was discovered in the 1930’s and how oil fueled the American victory in WWII. We drove on to Dallas where we would spend Wednesday evening and we were dreaming about finding a kosher restaurant for our first splurge of the trip. When I called one of our hosts for the evening, Sandra and Stanley Cohen, to tell them our plans, they insisted that they had already prepared dinner for us and we must come to them. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked dinner and spent the evening schmoozing about the Dallas Orthodox community.
Later that evening we drove to the Kennedy Memorial and the “Grassy Knoll” and toured downtown Dallas, before Avi and Martha dropped us off at our other host family, Linda and Steve Blasnik. The next day we headed for Ft. Worth, the Cowgirl Museum, with its beautiful costumes, and the Texas Stockyards, where we watched the cattle drive and toured the exhibits. We then headed to Houston for Friday and Shabbat and for our first restaurant meal at Susie’s Grill.
(To be continued)Dov Gilor
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