Gwinnett Picnic Says Hello, Columbus Alumni
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Gwinnett Picnic Says Hello, Columbus Alumni

Nearly 200 people connected to the city in southwestern Georgia gather for the first time in 25 years.

Rachel Fayne

Rachel is a reporter/contributor for the AJT and graduated from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. After post graduate work at Columbia University, she teaches writing at Georgia State and hosts/produces cable programming. She can currently be seen on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters.

(From left) Liz Becker Lee, Mary Jane Becker and Reva Shapiro volunteer at the registration table.
(From left) Liz Becker Lee, Mary Jane Becker and Reva Shapiro volunteer at the registration table.

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.

Host Linda Satlof Birnbaum welcomes the group.

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.”

Reva Shapiro (left) and Terri Vogel Pesso pause from providing significant help with greeting and feeding reunion attendees.

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.

Images of Columbus synagogues, families and memories serve as an eye-catching focal point for the picnic.

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.

Mark Weinstein (left) and Rabbi Larry Schlesinger greet each other.

“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.”

Almost 200 former residents of Columbus attend the reunion for the Jewish community April 22. It is believed that 238 Jewish Columbus alumni live in the Atlanta area.
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