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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 1, 2014 / 5 Menachem-Av, 5774

The beauty of blight

By Paul Greenberg




JewishWorldReview.com | It's not every day that the New York Times blog devoted to photography -- it's called Lens -- runs a piece about Pine Bluff, Ark. (pop. 47,000). But it did just the other day when Evelyn Nieves' blog post featured the work of William Widmer, a photographer out of New Orleans who was driving through Pine Bluff on his way back home from an assignment in Kansas City, and was stopped cold by what he saw. The town had captivated him. The photographer would wind up spending the rest of the day in Pine Bluff walking its streets, snapping photos, and trying to figure out how soon he could get back. So he could take more pictures of what can't be pictured, only felt.

I understand. I went to Pine Bluff for the first time in the middle of a long-ago summer looking for a job to tide me over for a year till I could get back to graduate school in history, and wound up spending 30 years there. Through a lot of the town's ups and downs, mainly downs. I should have realized from the start that I'd walked into history all around me, or maybe sociology. Specifically, a chapter of John Dollard's classic study, "Caste and Class in a Southern Town."

That bright weekday morning now more than 50 years ago in the past, I walked out of the Pines Hotel on Main Street and looked right and left, wondering which way the Pine Bluff Commercial could be. That's when a tall, sunburned country type in khaki approached. Yes, he knew where the Commercial was, whereupon he took my elbow and steered me gently to the far edge of the broad sidewalk. So he could point out just how to get there -- over the railroad tracks, past this store and that, which he named one by one, till I'd get almost to the courthouse and there I'd find it on the same side of the street. It was quite a different experience from any I'd had asking for directions in the place I'd just come from -- teeming New York City.

I was definitely back in the South. It was as though this man had all the time in this world and the next to show me the way. And maybe he did because over the years I began to think of him as one of those angels you come across in life without knowing it at the time.

I can understand why Mr. William Widmer's first sight of Pine Bluff caught his artist's eye. "It was a clear, crisp Southern winter day," he recalls, "and downtown was still and vacant. That first walk, the light was perfect down Main Street." Yes, I can imagine it -- even see it, hear it, feel it. The boarded-up storefronts, the echoes of the life that was once there, the now abandoned hulk that was the Pines Hotel, the crumbling old Saenger theater ... the whole afterlife of a Southern town.

To quote Evelyn Nieves of the Times' photo blog: "To visit Pine Bluff, Ark., for the first time is to know it suffers from a broken heart. Main Street, jilted by fickle industries with more attractive suitors, is a hologram of itself -- rows of two and three-story buildings, empty, faded, barely alive."

Last time I visited, all that was left of one old building at Fourth and Main was a huge pile of rubble. They said it collapsed early one evening after absorbing years of vibrations from the freight trains rumbling past on the tracks that run down the middle of Fourth, but I figure it just gave up hope. Luckily it happened when, this being downtown Pine Bluff in 2014, not a living soul was in sight.

Since then another old building on Main has started to shudder and shake, and even lost its top floor, which just collapsed one day. The malice of time keeps striking poor old Pine Bluff, which over the years I would come to think of as my home town.

Of course someone like William Widmer who lives in New Orleans, where decay is an art form, would be charmed by Pine Bluff's present-day air of desolation, and appreciate the last after-shocks of all those lived lives, the palpable residue of lost dreams. And want to capture it on film.

Oh, the stories I or any other old-timer could tell him -- of old times there not forgotten, of antebellum mansions complete with grand ballrooms and frame roadhouses where a tinkly piano still played ragtime, of highbinders who ran savings-and-loans into the ground and the sharecroppers who turned Main Street black on Saturdays when they came into town to get their week's provisions, of good country people and old-fashioned lawyers whose word was still their bond....

They were all there in that Southern version of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," enough of them to keep a Faulkner absorbed for years and assure Flannery O'Connor of an inexhaustible storehouse of grotesques -- if only there were still a Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor left to write about them. But now those authors, too, are ghosts, doomed to immortality. And it is left to a William Widmer to record the last tangible remains of the intangible.

Pine Bluff had already started its slow slide downhill by the time I arrived, and the velocity of its decline had only gathered speed by the time I left with the decidedly mixed feelings of hope and regret that every expatriate from Pine Bluff knows. And shares when we run into each other in Little Rock or Fayetteville, or in the lobby of the Peabody in Memphis.

As for those sophisticates I run into who speak of Pine Bluff only dismissively, they don't get it. They don't understand how their disdain says less about Pine Bluff than about their own shallowness. They don't understand the beauty of blight.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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