Congregation Shaareth Israel

Lubbock, Texas

Feldman Dinner

Congregation Shaareth Israel had a dinner honoring Marvin Feldman. I dressed in my best suit, and wore a heavy overcoat as it was 32 when I left for Temple. I arrived a little before 7 pm for the Hors D'oeuvers. They were in the Library which over the next half hour became very crowded. Breads and crackers were there for the chopped liver and cream cheese & lox. Fresh vegetables, Red wine (or cranberry juice). It was catered by AT YOUR SERVICE and had several people walking about with the wine. They describe themselves on their business card as a unique food catering service, run my a Cindy Mayer in Lubbock. They had a cute phone number: 744-food. During this first part, a four piece group (violins and cello) from the Coronado High School Orchestra played classical music at the entrance to the sanctuary.

About 7:45 people drifted into Feldman Hall where 8 tables, plus the head table were set up for 8 people each. I heard we had 60 people, but might have had more as all the tables were nearly full. The tables had a single tropical flower as a centerpiece which sat in a glass vase, floating on water. The vase sat on a mirror which had 10 low lit candles and a sprinkling of clear jewels (actually plastic). It was very pretty, and the hall was lit mostly by the candles at the onset.

They brought some of the overhead lights up, and served the first course of rolls and salad. The salad looked like what would shoot out of the side of my lawnmower. No lettuce, but an assortment of green leaves, some with stems. This was supplemented with honey-roasted walnuts, apple, orange, and a sweet rashberry sauce. Everyone raved. I left quite a few green leaves on my plate. Ice tea was in everyone's glass, and they served a white wine. The main course was a third of a tomato, baked whole, covered with cheese and herbs, rice with various herbs and green onion, and a large piece of chicken, rolled into a log, with creamy herb sauce inside, the whole thing inside a crusty bakery shell (looking like a Mexican chimichunga). It was very tasty and I ate it all. Dessert saw a beautiful and original design. What first appeared as ice cream, was in fact colored whipped cream, scooped into a white chocolate shell, topped with another color whipped cream, and the whole floating in a sea of thick rashberry sauce. Quite good, and accompanied with coffee.

Sometime after 9 pm, the talks, praise, jokes and awards were started. Lou Wolfson was Master of Ceremonies , and started out with one of the jokes from the Jewish Joke Book I lent him. It went over big. The dinner of course, was to honor Marvin Feldman who 11 years ago broke the stalemate as to whether to have a new Temple or not. He was an independent business man, and pledged $200,000. He stipulated that the new Temple must be on 4 acres for future growth, and several members donated the land. Another member pledged $60,000. With these pledges, the congregation went ahead and entered the new building debt free.

Before we got into all the speeches, we were entertained by two members of the Temple's choir: the pianist and the female soprano. She sang three songs, "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess; a hebrew song; and a selection from an opera. She is a semi-professional opera singer, and has a fantastic voice. Many people gave talks and provided a unique and possibly the most comprehensive history of Jewish life on the South Plains. Pictures and video movies were taken, and I encouraged Norma Skibell (a founder with her husband Albert) to have her talk in particular typed up. A few Jews came and went from Lubbock in the late 1920's, but by 1932, several Jews came and stayed and formed the roots of Jewish culture and religion in Lubbock (and West Texas). Marvin Feldman himself was born in Lubbock 1927 and said tonight he was not only the first Jew born here, but had the first circumcism (and the scars to prove it). Most of the first Jews were merchants, tailors, businessmen. They went through numerous buildings for their places of worship, and many times had only laymen as leaders (i.e. no certified Rabbi). This building is architectually impressive so that we can feel like a real presence in the city, which is dominanted by larger churches.

The original Jews in Lubbock were Orthodox. They meet in a house. As the numbers grew, a building with only a sanctuary was obtained. There were many such buildings over the years. The building before this new Temple was on Q and 23th. No parking lot, so some members got tickets for parking in the wrong places. Feldman, who left Lubbock years ago to go to Amarillo, then Dallas (where he still lives), went to Israel and returned with a Torah , which he gave to the Lubbock congregation rather than Dallas. Many years ago, the congregation came into the temple to pray, and found their books mysteriously gone, and replaced with the new American Reform prayer books. Overnight, the congregation went from Orthodox to Reform. This fit the members better as they could now understand the prayers read in English. Over the years, Hebrew was less and less understood by the younger members. However, as a reminder and stipulation, the congregation agreed to require yarmulkes in the sanctuary. During the transition to this new building, the congregation met in a small room of a Baptist Church, and used a closet for the Ark. Members now see our beautiful torahs in a large ark in the sanctuary, and in the middle is a tiny torah. Three years ago, during Simchat Torah, the congregation was marching the torahs around the shul. In comes the kindergarten class, joining in marching around the shul, and carrying a tiny torah they had made in class. That special torah now resides in the ark.

Yes, the speakers had some funnies as well as history and praise to pass out. Lou opened with a story just as we were finishing our dinners. A fellow was a regular customer at a restaurant, and the owner comes by to ask how dinner was. "Excellent" he says "but I could have wished to have had more bread." "Oh" the owner exclaims, and asks the waiter over. "How much bread did you serve this man?" "Two slices" replied the waiter, "as is customary." "Next time make it four slices" says the owner. A few days later, the customer returns, has dinner, and the owner comes over to ask the usual. The customer says "The dinner was excellent, except that I would have liked to have had more bread." The owner immediately gets the waiter over and asks him how much bread was served. "Four slices," replies the waiter, "just as you ordered me to do." "Well next time give him eight slices." Sure enough, a few days later the customer returns to the restuarant and orders dinner. After dinner the owner comes by to ask how it went. "The meal was excellent as usual" the customer replies, "except I would have liked to have had more bread." The owner is shocked, and demands the waiter report to him immediately. "How much bread did this man get with his dinner?" "Why eight slices" says the waiter, "exactly as you commanded." "Well," says the owner, "the next time this customer has dinner here, go into the kitchen, get the largest loaf of bread we have, cut it in half, and give him both halves." Days later, the customer returns for his usual dinner. The owner approaches him after his meal, and with obvious confidence asks how things went. "As usual, the dinner was excellent", replies the customer, "but I see you're back to your old ways of serving only two slices of bread."

If you must know, I typed these jokes from memory, as I remember them told tonight. I had a great evening. Good food, pleasant conversation, people I'm comfortable with, and of equal importance, a sense of pride and tradition to be part of the young and growing Jewish community. An awareness that this process of Jewish continuity ( and survival) occurs all over the world, and must continue. The Jewish community was there for me in Baltimore, but as a child, I accepted it without appreciating it. After all, Baltimore is such a Jewish ghetto, I thought being Jewish was natural and easy. In Pittsburgh, it was more for my children, and again the Jewish community was big and mature. In Lubbock, I've needed it for me, and here it has barely a foothold. It gives one more appreciation for how tenuous Judaism is in the world, and how tenacious it must be to continue.

Well, I've gotten mushy, and you have stopped reading, so goodnight. Ric Feb. 11, 1995

Richard Dasheiff (new member at the time, and living in an apt alone for a year in a new job, waiting for my wife and two children to join me while trying to sell my house in Pittsburgh).