Special Documentary Showing Ushers in New TAMIU South Texas Jewish Heritage Collection
Posted: 5/24/12

Special Documentary Showing Initiates New
South Texas Jewish Heritage Collection at TAMIU

The  May 23, 2012 premiere of a new documentary film that shares the legacy of Laredo’s Jewish community has helped inaugurate the new South Texas Jewish Heritage Collection at Texas A&M International University.  A capacity crowd enjoyed the detailed exploration of that legacy in the film.

Created by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), the film was presented by oral historian and filmmaker Josh Parshall.  It was made possible with support from International Bank of Commerce (IBC) in honor of the late Lester Avigael, a longtime IBC board member and past president, who passed away in 2008. Avigael was a pillar of Laredo’s Jewish community. 

Avigael family members were present to debut the film and inaugurate the new Collection, to be housed in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library.

Josh Avigael, Selma Avigael, Elliot Avigael, Jack Avigael, Ray Keck

Inaugurating New TAMIU Collection

Family members of the late Lester Avigael were on hand for the launch of the new Texas A&M International University South Texas Jewish Heritage Collection this week.  Guests viewed a new documentary film tracing the legacy of Laredo’s Jewish community dedicated to Avigael.  Left to right are Avigael’s grandson Josh Avigael,  Lester Avigael’s wife, Selma, grandson Elliot;  son Jack Avigael and Dr. Ray Keck, TAMIU president.  The new Collection will be housed in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library.


Featuring interviews with members of Laredo’s Jewish community, the documentary is the cornerstone of the new Collection, said TAMIU Special Collections librarian Jeannette Hatcher, who also prepared a special exhibit about Jewish life in South Texas to be displayed in the TAMIU Student Center through June.  

“The interviews being gifted to TAMIU serve as a cornerstone of this Collection.  The film premiere also served to raise awareness that we are seeking additional donations of materials relating to this Collection.  For example, we are looking for books, diaries, correspondence, and photographs depicting the various aspects of the lives and activities of local Jewish families,” Hatcher explained.

TAMIU president Ray Keck welcomed the audience, encouraging them to share their family histories with the Collection.

“Your history should be a shared history and through the Collection it will be preserved, providing a lasting historical treasure for future generations and researchers.  We look forward to expanding the Collection with your partnership,” Dr. Keck said.

Agudas Achim, a Conservative congregation, partnered with the now-inactive Reform congregation, B’nai Israel. Together, they contacted the ISJL and commissioned a series of oral history interviews. Filmmaker Parshall spent a week in Laredo, interviewing 17 current and former residents of the community, collecting over 20 hours of interview footage. The edited 105-minute film seeks to tell the collective story of Laredo’s Jewish community.

Filmmaker Parshall said “The Laredo Jewish Legacy Project” is another element of the ISJL’s ongoing commitment to preserving and sharing the legacy of the Southern Jewish experience.

“The  ISJL’s Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, accessible online, includes histories for over 220 Jewish communities across the South, all available online. Researched and written by the staff of the ISJL History Department, these illustrated online histories trace the story of Jewish settlement, from its origins, to the rise of established Jewish communities and congregations, and sometimes to their eventual decline,” he explained.

The Texas section of the Encyclopedia, completed earlier this year, includes long histories of such large Jewish communities as Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas, as well as smaller towns like Palestine, Brenham, and Laredo, he said.

For additional information about the TAMIU South Texas Jewish Heritage Collection, contact Hatcher at TAMIU at 956.326.2404 or email jhatcher@tamiu.edu.

For information on The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), visit www.isjl.org, call 601-362-6357, or find the organization at www.facebook.com/theisjl

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu