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History of the Havurah of the High Country
The name, “Havurah” implies a group of Jews meeting for camaraderie.
In 1996, the late Ed Grad of Beech Mountain, placed a blind ad in the Mountain Times. He asked anyone interested in klezmer music, or in the Yiddish short stories that had recently been recorded by well known actors to contact him. To his surprise the phone started ringing and in a short while there were 26 people sitting in his living room. That was the birth of the Havurah of the High Country.
There were two more meetings that year. The members, or their family members, gave talks of interest. The following year there were 4 meetings again, in the home of the Grads and the Levys. The membership continued to provide the programs, and Havurah of the High Country grew.
Shortly, the entire membership could no longer meet at a home and the Grads arranged to have luncheon meetings at the Holiday Inn in Banner Elk. All were surprised by the amount of talent in the membership, and a good number of them provided interesting and educational material. But, its speakers were no longer limited to the membership. Additionally, Professors Horowitz and Hanft gave lectures. All discussed books and had book reviews, learned about Hebrew holiday music, the Chagall windows and other fun projects. And Havurah of the High Country continued to grow.
All continued to have planning meetings in respective homes. This began winter meetings in South Florida, to plan for the next summer. The summer of 2000 had five meetings and Saul Genet became Program Chairperson. He was able to arrange for many programs. Havurah of the High Country grew and needed a telephone committee.
Along with the Boone Jewish Community there were picnics, very well attended, at Wildcat Park in Banner Elk. Also, there were Shabbat dinners at the Holiday Inn and some potlucks early and late in the season when many of the members were not in the mountains.
Jewel Fogel started and led a Havurah of the High Country book club that that grew into a valuable part of the lives of its members. They meet in each other’s homes. Each member is expected to have read the book and to be able to discuss it. As a result, each meeting is vital and lively. They choose the books to be read and reviewed the summer before they meet again.
The greatest claim to fame is that as a group, and as individuals, Havurah of the High Country helped create the Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies at Appalachian State University and continues to support it and glow in its growth and work.
In 2005 the Grads retired from the leadership. The membership acknowledged their great work and had a plaque made for them in recognition of their contribution to its success.
Jack Lubin and his wife, Ruth, assumed the leadership of the Havurah. Growth reached the point where there were too many members for the Best Western Hotel, the successor to the Holiday Inn. They could not accommodate all of us at a luncheon meeting. Membership was too big, but how do you refuse a Jew who wanted to join us?
The planning committee had arranged excellent speakers. Ruth and Stan Etkin served as program chairpersons for a few years, followed by Linda and Neil Lentin, and Roz Silverman. There were more than 100 persons on the E-mail list. For more information, feel free to contact Leonard Hayet, the former Chair of the Havurah of the High Country, at telephone number 828-387-3625 or, L.firstname.lastname@example.org