Texas Jewish Historical Society meets in Baytown

From left: Ruben Linares, Joan Linares, Denise Havenar, Bob Lewis (Tumbleweed Smith),  Susan Lewis, Sonny Gerber and John Havenar were members of the planning committee that set up the Texas Jewish Historical Society event in Baytown.

The Jewish community has been alive and well in Baytown for decades.

That was the theme Saturday during the three-day Texas Jewish Historical Society’s fall board meeting that took place around the city.

Among the various events which included a Shabbat Service, a panel discussion to discuss family histories and grouping up Jewish in Baytown, a walking tour, a dinner and their regular board meeting, the society held a talk on the Jewish merchants in early Baytown.

Joan Linares, chairman of this meeting and a board member of the historical society, was pleased with how the quarterly meeting – brought to Baytown – turned out.

“The mission is to preserve our Jewish history in Texas, and it’s been fantastic,” Linares said. “It’s been wonderful to bring all the people to Baytown and show off our city and our roots. They’ve said it’s one of the best meetings ever. To have the people coming back here, who grew up here, shows the love they have for the community.”

Linares said about half of those that attended the weekend’s events had roots in Baytown while others as far as New York and California have returned.

“We have had coast to coast and in between,” Linares said.

Tina Altman Lees and Carol Altman Arkin daughters of Natalie and Max Altman spoke about their parents and the establishment off Altman’s, located at 201 West Texas Ave. in 1950 and last until it’s closing in 1968. The store opened as Max Altman’s on 124 W. Texas Ave. in 1941.

Altman’s was a fashion store for both men and women.

“Mom and dad were very active in the Baytown Jewish community and ardent supporters of congregation, K’Nesseth Israel and Temple Emanu El in Houston where Tina and I were both confirmed and continued our education when there was no longer Sunday school in Baytown,” Carol Arkin said. “They were charter members of the Goose Creek Country Club and Dad was an auxiliary member of the police force. He was so proud wearing that badge.”

Outside discussions about the Jewish peoples’ influence and presence in the area, there were also points of emphasis that focused on Native American settlements, French traders, the Lynchburg Ferry, the Battle of San Jacinto, rice farming and local oil companies along with many others.

“I’ve been involved for 30 years or more and we travel to most of the conferences in the state of Texas and this has been done very nicely and we heard some interesting speakers,” Ben Rosenberg of Sugar Land, said. “We just learned what it’s like to have grown up in a smaller town in Texas. We hear similar stories everywhere we go, but they are all unique.

“Our organization has been around for 40 years now and have hundreds of members across the state … I think it helps keep the word that Jews are alive and well in Texas. Even though they are less in the smaller towns, they have moved to the bigger cities and made significant impacts there.”

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