BY ARLENE APPELROUTH / AJT //
When I read the first paragraph of Ivan Millender’s letter (AJT, Sept. 13), the first thing I thought was, “I have arrived. Here’s a reader who not only appreciates my columns, and admits he reads them, but he also understands the religious and cultural conflicts that frame my existence and often provide the incentive for my writing.
As a columnist, I write to share my personal experiences, observations and feelings. The feedback I get is that most people find my columns entertaining. As I continued reading Mr. Millender’s well-crafted letter, I realized that he really didn’t understand or know me at all.
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I do not speak with a heavy New York accent, which Mr. Millender finds unattractive. Even though I admitted in a column that I didn’t want my children to grow up with a Southern drawl and sound like Jimmy Carter, I never said that people who have Southern accents aren’t smart or sophisticated.
They just sound different than what I had become accustomed to, and sometimes I just have difficulty understanding what they are saying. Just as when I first met my uncle Fishel who emigrated from Poland to England, his Yiddish and English was different than what I was accustomed to.
To classify me with carpetbaggers is simply inaccurate.
Carpetbaggers, by definition, remain outsiders while they exploit their environment. Within months of moving to Atlanta, Dan and I were on a waiting list for a table at Chastain Park. We became members of the Atlanta Jewish Community Center, the Atlanta Zoo and Atlanta’s Alliance Theater. We began supporting Atlanta’s cultural institutions early on and continue to do so
Within a few years of adapting to life in Atlanta we were active at the Atlanta Jewish Federation on a committee called “Shalom Atlanta,” where our responsibility was to inform other newcomers of what was available with Atlanta’s Jewish Community.
I was asked to volunteer my writing skills and help create slide shows and documentaries for several Jewish non-profits.
I disagree with Mr. Millender’s insinuation that I have felt like an outsider and been someone who takes, rather than gives to this community.
He also wrote that he believes the Appelrouths have “Jewishly matured” Given that we were in our thirties when we moved here and have called Atlanta home for more than thirty-five years, it’s simply logical that our maturity is a function of time.
Our three, now adult, children are proud to call themselves Southerners from Atlanta. Dan, a native of Key West, has always considered himself a Southerner.
We are all products of our conditioning and environment. I can consider myself a New Yorker and still feel settled and happy to live in the South. But please don’t think of me as a carpetbagger. It just isn’t so.
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.