Close to 200 former residents of Columbus gathered inside a Pinckneyville Park pavilion April 22 for a reunion of the Jewish community.
The picnic in Peachtree Corners was the first communal gathering in 25 years, and Columbites came from five states, including Oregon, to join the party.
Many attendees were affiliated with either of Columbus’ synagogues, Temple Israel and Shearith Israel Synagogue, but many other were connected to the group. Husbands and wives of Columbites and children of former residents ranging in age from 2 to 96 attended.
Linda Satlof Birnbaum served as the host of the event, for which organizers connected with more than 360 alumni of Jewish community in the southwestern Georgia city.
While guests milled around under the pavilion on a rainy day, Birnbaum led the Shehecheyanu and Hamotzi. Old faces reunited, and new ones met as everyone filled the wooden picnic tables and sat for a barbecue lunch.
“Putting this picnic together has been a true labor of love,” Birnbaum said in her welcome speech. “Your enthusiastic response in attendance and the readiness of so many to help be a part of its fruition is the most beautiful part about it.”
Although she emceed the afternoon gathering, many members of the Columbus community pitched in to help. A group of women sat behind a table, welcoming people and accepting payments for the picnic, and others staffed the food stations.
A table with posters of memories and photos from the Columbus congregations served as a centerpiece for the afternoon.
Terri Vogel Pesso was born in Columbus and lived there most of her life. She said the reunion was emotional for her.
“Columbus has a special part of my heart,” she said. “So many people migrated from Columbus to Atlanta, and because of that, the community there has dwindled significantly. The local temple has relocated to a much smaller building. It’s evidence we need to stick together wherever we are.
“People are coming up to me and telling me I look like my mother; my mother has been gone for years now. Where else can you get that? This feels like home.”