BY ARLENE APPELROUTH / AJT //
It was apple juice that brought the Appelrouths to Atlanta. Here’s why.
We were living on a naval base north of Chicago when it was time for our daughter’s first dental appointment. Having avoided refined sugar while being diligent about dental hygiene, I expected good news.
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He said my three-year-old required three root canals. I was shocked. My husband called his cousin Phil, an endodontist, to see if he could help us understand how this happened. After a few questions it was clear it was my fault.
I frequently put her to sleep with a bottle of apple juice which causes teeth to rot.
The mystery solved, Phil asked where we planned to settle after Dan finished his obligation to the US Navy. We hadn’t decided.
“I always regretted not settling in Atlanta after my army stint at Warner Robbins,” Phil said. “Call my army buddy in Atlanta. “He’s a cardiologist and probably knows if Atlanta could use a rheumatologist.”
The wheels were set in motion.
I wish I could say I was happy with the decision, but I wasn’t. I knew the public schools weren’t good. I didn’t want my children growing up sounding like Jimmy Carter. I heard southerners still argued about the Civil War and flew the Confederate flag.
I was a native New Yorker and a graduate of the University of Florida. How could I move to a state whose football team was my alma mater’s biggest rival? Hershel Walker would have everyone rooting for the Dawgs.
None of that mattered.
What mattered was this: Atlanta was booming. Well- credentialed professionals willing to work hard could make it. Plus, we heard Atlanta had a warm, wonderful Jewish community.
In July, 1977, we arrived in what was touted as the cultural center of the southeast.
We had neither friends nor family in Atlanta. Dan was going to hang his shingle near Northside Hospital where he didn’t know any physicians.
Every time I got into my car I got lost. It was mind-boggling to live where streets changed names without warning. Riverside became Dalrymple which became Spalding.
And all those Peachtree Streets.
I put a compass in my car. What a joke.
The compass installed, I asked whether Dunwoody was north, south, east or west.
“We don’t talk like that,” replied one driver who looked at me like I was from another planet, “you have to learn how the streets go.”
Frustrated, I kept driving; and kept getting lost.
I entered a racquetball tournament at the Jewish Community Center, on Peachtree Street. In a place flooded with ALTA tennis players, I was relieved to find other racquetball players. At the end of my game, a man asked for my phone number. He said he was watching me and thought his wife Bobbi and I would be well matched.
I gave him my number and met his wife. Not only did we play great racquetball but we also became close friends.
Atlanta wasn’t feeling so lonely.
One Sunday, when our family was picnicking at Zaban Park, we were thrilled to find Rabbi Don and Marilyn Tam. They were friends from Florida whom we had lost track of. Don worked at The Temple as an assistant rabbi at a time when Atlanta’s Jewish population was growing rapidly and needing new synagogues.
We had yet to affiliate with a synagogue and were one of 20 families who chipped in $50 to hire a rabbi for the high holidays.
Hundreds of unaffiliated Jews showed up and Temple Emanu-El was born.
My husband led services for the first six months until Rabbi Tam was available to become the founding rabbi. For years, during high holidays, Dan would serve as lay cantor, sharing the bimah with his friend, a popular rabbi at a fast growing congregation.
By then, I was happier living in a place where both Dan and I were active and felt appreciated for what we had to give to this community.
I always told everyone I knew I was a writer, even though at first I was mostly carpooling and trying to find my way around. One day I got a phone call from Carey Rosenthal, the husband of a woman I carpooled with.
Active at the Jewish Community Center, he needed a writer for a documentary about the JCC preschool. I volunteered and began establishing my professional identity. Finally, Atlanta was beginning to feel like home.
Our involvement with the Jewish community provided the warmth and connection we needed. We loved our new, growing synagogue. Our children played on sports teams at the JCC and loved JCC camps. They were campers first and counselors when they got older.
During the 36 years we’ve lived here, Atlanta has grown into the cosmopolitan, world class city it was rumored to be in the 1970s. Just as there has been tremendous growth and development in Atlanta, I’m grateful for opportunities my family found here.
My son David carried the Torch during the ’96 Olympics. Jed was Valedictorian of his 1994 Pace Academy class, and Michelle’s academic skills, honed at Westminster, earned her a competitive scholastic scholarship, granting her in-state tuition at the University of Texas where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
Now I have a GPS and my children, who are regular nachas providers, don’t sound like Jimmy Carter. Atlanta was a good choice after all.
About the writer
Arlene Appelrouth earned a degree in news-editorial journalism from the University of Florida and her career as a writer and journalist spans a 50-year period; she currently studies memoir writing while working on her first book.