SPECIAL FOR THE AJT //

Nearly 1,500 guests, congregants and newsmakers were on hand late last month to take part in Ahavath Achim’s spectacular 125th anniversary celebration.

More than 1,500 people turned out to celebrate AA Synagogue’s anniversary late last month. PHOTO / Ahavath Achim

More than 1,500 people turned out to celebrate AA Synagogue’s anniversary late last month. PHOTO / Ahavath Achim

The crowd – which included Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, City Councilman Michael Julian Bond and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens – was treated to a memorable evening filled with excitement, nostalgia, love and celebration.

Attendees also got an up-close and personal glimpse of the synagogue’s future.

“You could feel the electricity in the air,” said Robert Wildstein. “The evening provided invaluable momentum as we continue to build our future and create a vision for the next 125 years.”

The highlight of the night was the premiere of Reunion, Renewal, Ruach!”, a documentary by Bobby Ezor. The film – narrated by Broadway star Tovah Feldshuh, written by Vincent Coppola and filmed by DeWitt Smith – traces Ahavath Achim’s illustrious history and its path forward into the 21st century in the form of interviews, archival photos and rare audio recordings.

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During the one-hour screening, the audience responded with laughter, tears and applause as fading memories were brought to life. In her narration, Feldshuh used the voice and mannerisms of Golda Meir, the former Israeli prime minister, to sum up the evening:

“Some people love you, and some people love you and show up. You showed up.”

Outside the Buckhead synagogue’s storied gold doors, spotlights added to a festive scene that included a number of classic cars, including Manny Fialkow’s ’57 Thunderbird and ’65 Mustang, Bobby Ezor’s ’56 Corvette and Mark Cohen’s ’39 Buick Sedan.

Meanwhile, a seven-piece orchestra – including AA’s own Scott Glazer on bass, Andy Margolis on drums and Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal on guitar – set a musical mood for another of the evening’s highlights: Craig Taubman treated everyone to his original arrangement of “Eits Chayim Hi,” performed by soloist Melissa Cohen and accompanied by violinist Karla Tievsky and pianist Alan Dynin.

Additionally, Scott Kaplan and Valerie Habif did an outstanding job serving as co-masters of ceremony, and Cantor Robert Lieberman and the Ahavath Achim Choir led the congregation in song.

At the conclusion of the film, Rabbi Arnold Goodman – AA’s spiritual leader from 1982 to 2002 – took center stage and offered up a powerful sermon. Then AA senior Rabbi Neil Sandler closed the evening with the Shehecheyanu, the communal prayer of celebration.

“It was an evening I will never forget,” said Carol Zaban Cooper.

Afterwards, in Srochi Hall – its walls adorned by nearly 150 photographic composites spanning the decades – guests were offered cappuccino and desserts created Wendy Haber. Childhood faces of many past and current Atlanta leaders lined the room., and the crowd lingered for nearly two hours.

“How wonderful to see representatives from so many of Atlanta’s synagogues sharing in our synagogue’s simcha,” said Bobby Ezor, the event’s chairman. “This is the way it should always be, one Jewish family.”

Meanwhile,Reunion, Renewal, Ruach!” will be featured on Georgia Public Broadcasting and submitted to a number of upcoming Jewish film festivals around the country. The film is also being considered for use as an educational tool in Jewish day schools and for newcomers to the Atlanta Jewish community.

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