Texas Jewish Historical Society Hosts Gone 2 Texas Panel
The wandering Jews who settled in Texas were not just the banana peddlers, scrap-metal dealers, and Galveston-Plan immigrants of a century ago. More recently, during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, scores of Johannesburg Jews and Russian Refuseniks made Texas home. These ex-pats are the focus of a multimedia panel, Gone 2 Texas: Two Waves of Immigration, Soviet and South African.
Among the panelists are Alex Nason, a nuclear engineer who learned English when his family arrived in Texas from Moldova in 1981. Thirty years later, Alex was named Fort Worth’s B’nai B’rith Person of the Year.
Also on the panel are Joan and Boris Gremont, South African natives who moved to Texas in 1978 and spearheaded the Roots to Boots project of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society. This project has posted online dozens of oral history interviews with North Texas Jews from South Africa.
Panelists will compare and contrast reasons they made the trek to Texas, describe cultural shocks they experienced, and discuss how their foreign-born children have fared.
Panel moderator will be diaspora historian Mark A. Goldberg, director of Jewish Studies at the University of Houston. On display will be paintings by Russian artist Izakil Goldin, who immigrated in 1979, and Denis Benjamin, whose watercolors picture exotic flowers and animals of his native Cape Town.
The panel, to be held Saturday, April 14, from 10 a.m. until noon, will be at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth. The panel discussion is open to the public. There is a $15 charge for those who stay for lunch, sandwich platters from Yogi’s Deli.
The morning panel is part of the 38th annual gathering of the Texas Jewish Historical Society. The conference begins Friday, April 13, at 6 p.m. with Shabbat dinner and guest speaker former Congressman Martin Frost, who served North Texas on Capitol Hill for 26 years. During Shabbat evening services, which begin at 7:30 p.m., Rabbi Brian Zimmerman will give a sermon about the Heartbeat of Jewish Fort Worth.
Klezmer music—reminiscent of “Fiddler on the Roof”—is part of Russian-Jewish culture and part of the conference. The Society will host a Saturday-night Klezmer Havdallah and BBQ, beginning at 7:30 p.m., featuring “Klezzoup!,” a Fort Worth troupe of musicians who play the piano, saxophone, base, flute and trombone. ■