Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shirtless in Toronto

Toronto was the northernmost destination on our synagogue photo safari last summer. Well known as the home of the Maple Leafs hockey team, a lesser known fact is its Jewish community numbers nearly 200,000, 14th largest in the world. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, during the great waves of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe, Jews settled in Toronto’s inner city. Usually poor and in need of social services, they turned to landsmanshaften, mutual benefit societies, formed by other immigrants hailing from the same shtetl.

In addition to the warmth of camaraderie from home, the landsmanshaften provided social services, loans, job contacts and medical assistance. And, they built synagogues. The three that we photographed were in Toronto’s Kensington District, not more than 15 minutes walk from one another. Each was established by immigrants who hailed from a particular European city. The three are known as Da Minsker (The Minsk), The Kiever and The First Narayev. Following the “birds of a feather” axiom, it’s better than even money that the founding fathers (and mothers) were from Minsk, Kiev and Narayev.

The Kiever squeezed between trucks and cargo
Our first photo-shoot appointment in Toronto was at The Kiever, which fronts on a small and charming urban park surrounded by Victorian era townhouses. It was so charming that a film crew working in the area had parked one of their huge vans along with a great deal of equipment right in front of The Kiever building. As a synagogue photographer, I hope for buildings with visual interest and charm. But clearly, being too photogenic can create competition for position and venue. I had to settle for some awkwardly squeezed shots sighted between trucks and cargo.

This mission accomplished, we cooled off over lemonade and corned beef sandwiches at a wonderful little outdoor restaurant right around the corner. Taking a huge chocolate chip cookie to munch on, we walked through a warren of narrow lanes for our photo-shoot appointment at Da Minsker. Our path took us through the Kensington Market district, a maze of small shops, many open to the street, manned by people of mostly Asian or Indian descent. In a rich cacophony of foreign accents, they offered everything from exotic foods to pedicures and rare books. 100 years earlier the voices and signs on these buildings were Yiddish and the foods were for those of Ashkenazi immigrants rather than organic foodies.

Rabbi Spero came bursting out of Da Minsker just as we arrived. He explained that he had to hurry to give a bar mitzvah lesson but that Joe, who we would find inside, would help with the photo-shoot. In a congregation where almost all of the congregants are elderly, a bar mitzvah is a rare and big deal. Sweating profusely, with tzi-tzis flying, the rabbi dashed down the street to give the lesson, leaving us to find Joe.
Da Minsker in Toronto's Kensington Market District
Inside the building we found a man absorbed in reading a Hebrew language newspaper. Was he Joe? “Yes” he replied laconically, “but I’m the wrong Joe.” Further, the right Joe had left a few minutes earlier on his bicycle. When he would return was anyone’s guess. Wrong Joe (WJ for the sake of brevity) attempted to call the rabbi on his cell phone but evidently during the bar mitzvah lesson he had his phone turned off. Graciously, WJ offered to show me the sanctuary in Right Joe’s absence. Unfortunately, WJ could not turn on the lights because they were controlled from a switch panel inside a locked box. Right Joe had the key.

We resolved to wait a while for Right Joe. Through the dim lighting I gazed with awe at the wonderful turn-of-the century sanctuary. Who could imagine that such a humble exterior masked such a gorgeous interior? As I studied the centrally located elevated wood bema, I noticed a man without a shirt dive behind a chair in the women’s balcony. This was certainly odd. I mentioned my sighting of the semi-clothed disappearing diver to WJ who was still trying to pry open the electrical panel box. WJoe climbed the steep winding stairs to the women’s balcony to investigate. Shortly, I heard someone shout “Leave me alone!”

A few minutes later WJ appeared back in the vestibule with a disheveled thirty-ish man who was buttoning his shirt. The shirt buttoner introduced himself and explained that he was a would-be real estate developer (who always wanted to be a Hollywood screenwriter/actor) who sometimes slept in the synagogue to guard it because of security issues in the somewhat sketchy neighborhood. The whole thing with semi-clothed women’s balcony mid-afternoon naps seemed kind of questionable to me but WJ seemed at ease with Mr. Aspiring Real Estate Developer. Better yet, the napper knew how to open the electrical box to turn on the lights. He simply slammed it really hard with the palm of his hand and the box flew open. With the lights on, the sanctuary’s old country charm was fully revealed.

Sanctuary of Da Minsker
Lights on and our access assured, WJ left for his weekly pinochle game. Then, the sometimes shirted napper said that he had to leave for 30 minutes and would lock the building so that no unsavory characters could enter while we were photographing. “Could we exit the building if we finish before you return” I asked. No, the building would be fully locked without any means of exit. Being a bit claustrophobic, I began worrying about what happens if he doesn’t come back; it’s ninety degrees and stuffy in here; this old building may be a fire-trap. There’s no way we’re staying locked up in an old building in a rough part of Toronto dependent upon a person who does partially disrobed napping in the women’s balcony to let us out when or if he comes back. At times like these it really pays to have a smart, quick thinking wife. Before he could leave, or even know what was happening, she turned on the charm, engaging the now-shirted napper in conversation, barraging him with questions about his work, life, Jewish geography, all sorts of stuff while I hurriedly took photographs.  As he poured out his life story replete with unrequited loves, I focused and shot, focused and shot. Soon I had my photos and she had his entire life story as well as curriculum vitae.

Whatever happened to Right Joe?  That’s the $64,000 question.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Munich, Madame X and the Black Synagogue

To get to the Besançon, France synagogue we walked a half-mile in a light drizzle carrying our photo gear. It had been raining for two days. Since our next synagogue photo-shoot was in Luxembourg five days later, giving us time for sightseeing in the interim, we scanned weather forecasts looking for a place that didn’t promise more rain. A half-day of autobahning put us in cool, but dry Munich, Germany. The morning after our arrival we decided to look for a synagogue. So much for sightseeing! We were amazed to find a stunning, ultra-modern synagogue and Jewish Community Center dominating central Munich’s Sankt Jakob’s Platz.
Ohel Jakob on Sankt-Jakob-Platz
The cornerstone of the Ohel Jakob Synagogue was laid November 9, 2003, exactly 65 years after the Kristallnacht pogrom and destruction of the city’s synagogues. The building’s simple geometric form and placement in the Platz is a bold “in your face” architectural statement in the city where Hitler attempted to kick-off his political movement with his famous Beer Hall Putsch.

Interior - Ohel Jakob

After a short explanation of our mission to photographically preserve synagogues, permission was given to photograph Ohel Jakob later in the day. We returned an hour later laden with photo-gear.  Before the photo-shoot, we lunched at the delightful kosher restaurant in the adjacent Jewish Community Center. Two German ladies took seats next to us. They were fluent in English and somehow we became engaged in conversation. They explained that although they were not Jewish they had come to the Center for a lecture. One lady, who I shall refer to as Madame X, said that she was interested in Jewish culture and was studying Hebrew. Madame X stated emphatically that we should not fail to photograph the Black Synagogue in nearby Augsburg, the town where she resides. She explained that the Black Synagogue was unique because it was one of very few in Germany that was not destroyed during the Shoah. We had no idea what constituted a Black synagogue but were greatly intrigued by the possibility of documenting a rare, original, pre-World War II German synagogue.

The non-Jewish, Hebrew-studying, Jewish-culture-immersed Madam X said she had connections at the Augsburg (Black) Synagogue and thought she could arrange a photo-shoot for the next day. We should call her the following morning to confirm.  By the next morning she had arranged our photo-shoot through her Hebrew teacher and the synagogue’s Cantor.

On our way to Augsburg, we made a short detour to the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. This ghastly camp was one of the earliest, serving as a model for the many that were built later.  Continuing on to the Black Synagogue of Augsburg we met the Cantor, the Hebrew teacher and Madam X. It was only as we entered the synagogue’s sanctuary that we understood why it is referred to as Black. Because it is! 
Augsberg's "Black Synagogue"

In 1913, the Augsburg Jewish community hired Fritz Landauer, a young Jewish architect from Munich to design a new synagogue for their burgeoning congregation. Landauer, a practitioner of modernist architecture collaborated with Dr. Heinrich Lömpel to design a building that is often described as Art Nouveau in style yet actually combines Moorish and Oriental details with Art Deco forms. Ahead of their time, the synagogue’s predominantly black interior looks like a futuristic creation by the Adams Family and Darth Vader. As we were ogling this incredibly impressive and unique work of architectural art, the cantor suddenly burst into song. Echoing off the marble walls and dome, his operatic voice filled the cavernous space. His spontaneous a cappella concert for just the four of us in this awe inspiring synagogue was a magnificent, humbling and spiritual experience.

Interior view - "Black Synagogue"
Our visits to the striking Ohel Jakob Synagogue of Munich and the remarkable Black Synagogue of Augsburg were the serendipitous by-products of simply looking for a little sunshine during a rainy week in Europe. As so often happens in our synagogue photography efforts, the unplanned excursions yield amazing results. 

Enjoy a virtual visit to Ohel Jakob and the Black Synagogue by clicking on either synagogue name.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Synagogue Safari, Summer 2013 and The Butcher of Boston

When we arrived back in Los Angeles our car’s speedometer read almost 10,000 miles more than when we had departed on our trans-continental safari five weeks before. We were hunting big game, shooting synagogues, photo-shooting that is. In preparation for the safari, I had spent four months selecting the targets, arranging photographic permissions and access. In all, we planned to photographically document 35 synagogues ranging from humble shuls established by early immigrants to modern architectural wonders erected by their offspring.

Locating and selecting synagogues to photograph is no small chore. There is no comprehensive list of synagogues. Many synagogues are not affiliated with any of the mainstream Jewish movements. I use every information source available to find synagogues, lists, books, word-of-mouth and internet searches. From this huge list, I cull those that have special interest such as oldest in a particular state, unusually fine architecture or artwork, home of a particular Jewish movement or scholar, etc. Arranging photographic permission is the next and most challenging step. Synagogues that are large enough to have fulltime staff are relatively easy to get in touch with, however the vast majority of synagogues aren’t that large. Even small synagogues tend to have websites, yet if a phone number is shown there is no one there to answer except during services, when the phone is definitely not answered. If an email address is shown, inquiries almost never receive a response.

Walnut Street Shul - Chelsea, Massachusetts
The case of the Walnut Street Shul in Chelsea, Massachusetts is a good example of the detective work required to gain photographic access. My research revealed that this particular shul, dedicated in 1909, is a very fine example of a shul built by working class Jewish immigrants who crossed the Atlantic in steerage class around the turn of the century. The sturdy stone and brick building with a fancifully painted ceiling survives, though most of its congregation have prospered and moved to the suburbs. Only a handful of older Jews remain in the neighborhood, clinging to this building that was the center of their community for so many years. How to contact them?  Trolling the internet, I found mention of a Rabbi Nochum Cywiak who had once served the shul. My internet searches failed to find the good Rabbi but did turn up a glatt kosher butcher in the Boston area by the name of Cywiak. Not a common name. So, on the chance that one Cywiak might be related to another, I phoned the butcher at his place of business. When I explained my mission, that I was searching for Rabbi Cywiak, he exclaimed, “That’s my father!”  Mr. Cywiak said that his father was no longer affiliated with the Walnut Street Shul because the congregation was too small to need or afford a rabbi. However, he quickly gave me contact information for the gabbai, a cordial gentleman who welcomed my photographic documentation efforts.
Dealing with un-staffed synagogues is kind of like football: there can be all manner of fumbles. We had made an appointment to photograph the synagogue in a somewhat remote town in the northern Great Plains. After driving 235 miles, we waited in front of the synagogue. And we waited, and we waited. Finally, I called the synagogue president on his mobile phone. He explained that he had been called out of town on business but had arranged for a person to meet us. Calling us back a few minutes later, he explained that the person who was to meet us had inadvertently forgotten the rendezvous and gone on vacation. “So sorry. Maybe next time” he said. 235 miles from nowhere, I felt like a bride who had been left at the altar. There wouldn’t be a next time. As my wife, dog Harley and I stood in front of the synagogue pondering our next move, a red-haired lady walked by pushing a baby carriage. A brief bit of conversation ensued. Although not Jewish, she gave art lessons from her nearby home and some of her students were Jewish. For some insane, convoluted reason that I no longer remember, she had keys to the synagogue. Bingo! We’re in.  The moral: talk to the locals.

Speaking of talking to locals, we arrived in Jefferson City in the late afternoon and went for a walk into town to check out the restaurants for dinner later. Just two blocks from our hotel, we spotted a wonderful old synagogue that we hadn’t known about. Of course, it was locked. However, in the parking lot of an adjoining building, a lady was getting into her car. We asked her if she knew how we might gain access to the building. She happened to have a friend who was recently married there and was on her honeymoon. She got out her cell phone and called the honeymooner. No answer. But she thought she remembered the name of the groom’s parents. Later, back at the hotel, I looked up the name and called. As it turned out, there was a Sisterhood meeting at the synagogue that evening and they were thrilled to have us take photographs. I don’t know how much of a meeting they had, as after the photo-shoot, we spent a delightful hour visiting with the group.

Here we are, having used up much of your eyeball time and I haven’t even gotten to the point of this blog: to tell about this summer’s 10,000 mile USA synagogue safari, so I’ll just touch upon some high points. That’s not easy either, because the 35 synagogues turned into 39 and there weren’t any low points.

Temple Beth El - Architect Minoru Yamasaki
 Among the most amazing modern synagogues documented on the trip were those in Glencoe, Illinois and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan both designed by Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the World Trade Center. (Talk about keeping up with the Joneses.) These unique structures remind me of gossamer wings floating in their lushly wooded surroundings. Then there was Synagogue B’nai Jacob of Woodbridge, Connecticut, a modern-day stained glass extravaganza and The Park Synagogue of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a remarkable and serene Art-Deco structure sprawling across a spacious green campus replete with a family of gamboling deer. Another star in the modern sky was in Rochester, New York , Temple Sinai, an airy, vaulted concrete shell with a glass bema wall visually bringing the forested outdoors right into the sanctuary.

There were fine historic synagogues too. In Jefferson City, Missouri, we photographed the little white-washed brick synagogue, mentioned above, that lays claim to being the oldest continually used synagogue west of the Mississippi River.  Less active but no less historic, nestled in New York’s Adirondack Mountains we found Beth Joseph Synagogue of Tupper Lake. Janet Chapman, 92 years young and the keeper of the keys at Beth Joseph is a veritable fountain of information.
Temple Berith Sholom, Troy, NY. - Victorian Era
Leaving Tupper Lake, we drove to the very active Berith Sholom of Troy, New York, a fine example of Victorian architecture. In the historic old central city of Philadelphia, we photographed two decisively different immigrant shuls that resonated with us as much as the city’s Liberty Bell. (Unlike that symbol of freedom, there were no long lines waiting to get into the shuls.) Old, central Philadelphia is composed of ethnic neighborhoods with row houses of various eras dating back to Colonial times. Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras Israel is a big name for a small row-house shul founded in 1876. Continuing to hold services on a regular basis, this little orthodox shul, a rebuilt colonial row house, is the last remains of one of the largest Jewish populations of the United States. The shelves are stocked with old Hebrew books covering topics from how to deal with witchcraft to proper hairstyles for women and dietary rules.

We also photographed opulent, palatial synagogues built between the wars. These I describe as “jaw droppers” as my mouth simply gapes open and my eyes go wide upon entering their magnificent domed sanctuaries. To mention a few such sensational synagogues: Rodef Shalom of Pittsburgh (Arts & Crafts era style), KAM-Isaiah of Chicago (Byzantine style), as well as Tifereth Israel of Cleveland and Ohabei Shalom of Brookline, Massachusetts. Typically, these impressive edifices were built by immigrants, or their children, who had made it good in America.
Tifereth Israel - soon to be re-purposed
These were not the houses of worship of those who had just stepped off the ship. In most instances, the populations of Jews who built these temples have left those neighborhoods, moving to suburbs or trendier areas. These once impregnable edifices of faith have in many cases become endangered or unsustainable. We find it particularly important and meaningful to photographically document these before they are re-purposed, like Cleveland’s gorgeous Tifereth Israel which is soon to become part of Case Western University for multi-use as a concert and exhibition hall.

To photograph in detail 39 synagogues all across the continent meant we were moving pretty fast. We found out just how fast when, upon getting home, we found a photographically taken speeding ticket from the State of Maryland awaiting.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Painted Synagogues of Moravia

At a sidewalk café in Vienna my wife, Ronnie, and I gorged on obscenely delicious pastries. Embarrassingly, unable to make a choice from the broad selection, we had ordered one of each.  Our tourist guide book lay on the table among the remnants of our unforgettable indiscretion. Sticky with icing, cream and meringue my index finger rested on a photo of an incredibly ornate building interior with walls lavishly decorated with Hebrew script and colorful designs.  “What’s this?” I asked Ronnie. Studying the guide book she replied that it was the synagogue in a town named Boskovice in the Czech Republic only a day’s drive away. With extensive Hebrew writing and detailed painted designs on the walls and ceiling, the little synagogue was not just unique, it was absolutely gorgeous. Having never before seen a synagogue that was even remotely similar we resolved to drive to Boskovice the very next day.
Boskovice Synagogue

Hebrew Script Ceiling of Synagogue Hallway
Boskovice is a small market town near Brno in southern Moravia. The synagogue sits among the narrow lanes of the section that was once the Jewish ghetto. Following the Holocaust there were only 12 Jewish residents in Boskovice, the last dying in 1996. The building is now owned by the Jewish Community of Brno which maintains it as a Jewish museum and venue for art exhibitions, concerts and cultural events. The gracious, English speaking, museum-synagogue director, Ondrej told us a good bit about the synagogue and Boskovice’s Jewish history. Originally opened in the mid-sixteen hundreds the building has been renovated multiple times over the centuries. By the 19th century the ghetto had an estimated 2,000 inhabitants and the synagogue grew to become a center for Talmudic study. The Hebrew text embellishing the arches, vaults and fluted columns are passages from the Torah, prayers and names of congregants, while the curling floral motifs and architectural details are typical of Moravia.
Boskovice Synagogue Sanctuary

After a spellbinding hour with Ondrej, it was late in the day. He accompanied us to a picturesque inn about 7 kilometers away. This storybook-perfect inn was a series of interconnected cottages surrounding a courtyard, all in a leafy forest with our room adjacent to a brook. True to our vision of a Moravian country inn, there was a charming dining room complete with a huge roaring fireplace where we and our new friend enjoyed a memorable evening and a bottle of Moravia’s finest wine.

At the synagogue the next morning we met Ondrej for an escorted walk around Boskovice’s once-upon-a-time ghetto quarter. As we walked through an old arched gateway he said, “This gate and the wall defined the Jewish ghetto. However as relations were good between the Christians and Jews, they both went back and forth. In fact, in many places there was no wall -- the Christian houses simply backed up to the Jewish houses.” Our tour complete, Ondrej concluded, “If you liked Boskovice, you simply must see the synagogues in Třebič and Holesove.”

Arriving in Třebič we found a bustling community centered about an oblong town garden-piazza. We set out on foot to find the tourist information bureau, intending to get directions to the synagogue. In front of us, we saw a sign pointing to “Jew Town”.  Following the sign, we headed through a dark passage between two buildings and over a pedestrian bridge crossing the bucolic Jihlava River to a hill covered with old masonry and stucco buildings. This hill with its curvy cobblestoned lanes, too-cute-to-be-true picturesque buildings and all of the charm of a Breughel painting was once the old Jewish quarter.
Třebič Synagogue
The Synagogue, dating from 1669, sits in the center of Jew Town only a short walk up the hill from the bridge. Although there are no longer any Jews living in Třebič, the city has restored the Synagogue, keeping it open as a Jewish museum and exhibition-event venue. There we met a charming young lady with impeccable English skills who, for the paltry price of 2 Euros admission, escorted us through the museum in the second floor women’s gallery and around the old ghetto. She explained that by the 17th century 60% of Třebič’s population was Jewish and the town was the center of Moravian Jewish culture. In 1848 emancipation laws freed Jews to live wherever the wished. Consequently, during the following half-century Třebič’s Jewish community declined to a couple hundred as most Jews migrated to larger cities. The handful of Jews who returned from the Holocaust had dwindled away by 1952 when the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Elaborately Painted Sanctuary of Třebič Synagogue

Like the synagogue in Boskovice, the Třebič Synagogue’s walls are decorated with Hebrew text, yet the fresco wall paintings are much freer, less repetitive and geometric. Our guide explained that although she was not Jewish she was studying Hebrew with a goal of conversion to Judaism. She said her fiancé also plans to convert. They are purchasing one of the incredibly cute old houses in Jew Town where they will live after their marriage next year.

We visited six historic painted synagogues in the villages of the Czech Republic. Each signficantly different from the others, each with its own stories, each are irreplaceable relics of the area’s Jewish past. They are highly accessible from Prague where you can visit the Jewish Museum of Prague, one of the World’s most extensive collections of Judaic art, as well as four incredible synagogues. Tours and guides are available to take you to these treasures or you can do as we did: simply rent a car with a GPS and head out for a memorable Jewish vacation. The entire country is only half the size of Indiana so it’s easy going. Better yet, these are painted ladies that your wife can visit with you!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Last Jew and the Rope Walker

Visiting synagogues and sites of Jewish interest in exotic locations is a great vacation focus for the Jewish traveler. Yet, you don’t have to travel long distances to find fascinating examples of Jewish history and culture.  Only fifty five miles south of Dallas lies the town of Corsicana, Texas where recently the last Jew in Corsicana treated us to a tour of the amazing Moorish style synagogue, the Jewish cemetery and a juicy bit of local Jewish lore.
Temple Beth El, Corsicana, Texas
In the 1800s many Jewish immigrants ventured west from the crowded port cities where they had entered the United States. With little capital and few marketable skills some became itinerant peddlers. When opportunities presented themselves, these peddlers put down roots, established mercantile businesses and fledgling Jewish communities arose.

The Houston and Texas Central Railroad arrived in Corsicana in 1871. A thriving economy based on cotton, cattle and oil lured more and more Jewish families to the area. By 1898 sixty families organized a Jewish congregation and began construction of Temple Beth El, which was completed in September of 1900. The building is a spectacular example of Eastern European wood and gothic masonry motifs modified for American frontier construction. Similar structures with a large central rose window, flanking arched windows, twin octagon towers and onion domes also exist in Charleston, West Virginia and Butte, Montana.  Attesting to the wealth of the Corsicana Jewish community, the stain glass rose window with a Mogen David and the Ten Commandments below were created in the august studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Corsicana’s Jewish community expanded as a result of a major oil boom in the 1920s. Attracted by the region’s prosperity, the total number of Jewish families rose to approximately 200, almost equally divided between the Orthodox and Reform congregations.  Jews were active in every facet of local life. The importance of Jewish merchants and businessmen was most apparent during the High Holy Days when Jewish owned establishments closed their doors and economic activity came to a virtual standstill. When the oil played out and the city’s economy declined the Jewish community migrated to places offering greater economic and cultural opportunity such as Dallas and Houston. By 1981 the congregation had dwindled to the point that it was disbanded.

The building, with its distinctive architecture, octagonal towers and two onion domes, was in a state of disrepair and scheduled for demolition. A group of concerned citizens formed "Save the Temple," and held dinners, styles shows and musical reviews, and with the help of private donations and state and local grants, were able to raise more than $100,000 to restore the building. It was deeded to the City of Corsicana, rededicated in 1987, and is now used for activities and club meetings.  The interior of the building, aron kodesh, bemah and all remained unchanged. Once a month, a rabbi travels from Dallas to hold services in the historic synagogue for the Jews of the surrounding counties.
Corsicana Synagogue Interior
 After photographing the synagogue we visited the impressive and impeccably maintained Jewish cemetery where one of the tombstones is carved with only the two words: “Rope Walker”.  Our tour guide, the last Jew in Corsicana, told us that very little is known about the deceased, not even his name. He had been hired to perform a publicity stunt to attract customers for the grand opening of Meyers & Henning Dry Goods Emporium. 

It was a hot day in 1884. The mayor of Corsicana was there and a band was playing. The stunt had been advertised widely by M & H as an “astounding, astonishing, amazing, unbelievable, never seen before or ever again act of strength, gravity and defiance of common sense.”  The man would walk a rope strung across Beaton Street from the second story of M & H, catty-corner across the 5th avenue intersection to the roof of Jackson’s Saloon and Gentlemen’s Relaxation Salon. Making the feat even more difficult, the man, having only one good leg and one wooden leg, would walk the rope with a cast-iron stove on his back.

The band began to play. The mayor cut the red ribbon and the peg-legged man started across the rope twenty feet above the ground. When he reached the middle of the rope, the end attached to Jackson’s Saloon suddenly slackened causing the tightrope walker to fall. The cast iron stove fell on him, crushing his chest. He lingered in great pain and by evening, when it was evident that he would die, he asked for a rabbi. As Corsicana had no rabbi, the owner of a downtown grocery store, Bernard Simon, came to him and the man painfully whispered the Shema. The only other thing he said, also in perfect Hebrew, was to ask that he be “buried with my people.”  To this day he lies with his people in the Corsicana Jewish Cemetery.
"To this day he lies with his people in the Corsicana Jewish Cemetery"