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Smart talk April 27



Welcome to the (free) camp
It hasn’t gotten much attention in Central Arkansas, because first-year enrollment is open only to kids from Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison counties, but a deluxe summer camp is opening this summer on the shores of Beaver Lake, thanks to a multi-million-dollar gift from Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton through the Walton Foundation.

Camp War Eagle will welcome some 2,400 kids this summer and a two-week session, worth almost $2,000, will be free to kids from families with income below $60,000. The camp, set on more than 380 acres on a peninsula in the lake, will have a couple of 300-foot water slides, basketball and tennis courts galore. Open to children 7 to 17, the camp will emphasize Christianity, patriotism and the environment, according to an article in the Morning News. For more about the “Christian sports and adventure camp,” go to

The other side of Mayberry
John Dilulio, the former director of the Bush administration’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, was quoted as saying that the administration was more concerned about politics than faith. “It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis,” Dilulio said.

“Mayberry Machiavellis” has a ring to it, especially in Arkansas, where a candidate named Andy Mayberry seeks the Republican nomination for Congress in the Second District. He is making much of his name, which reminds people of the old and very popular TV sitcom, “The Andy Griffith Show,” set in the fictional and very wholesome town of Mayberry. Andy Mayberry says that he wants to take the TV Mayberry’s values to Washington. Dilulio’s reference to “Mayberry Machiavellis” makes that sound like not such a good idea.

Historic Helena temple closing
Temple Beth-El in Helena, which was founded in 1867, will close this weekend with a deconsecration ceremony signaling the decline of the Jewish community there.

“Like a lot of small town Jewish congregations in the South, the population has become smaller over several decades,” said Stuart Rockoff, the director of the history department at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss. “There are no children and the remaining members are quite elderly, so they decided to formally close the temple.”

Rockoff said the closing is not unique in the region. Jewish temples in Blytheville and Clarksdale, Miss., also have shut their doors in recent years.

The ceremony in Helena this weekend will be a homecoming of sorts, featuring a special service by a visiting rabbi.

“Lots of people raised there but who don’t live there anymore will be coming back,” Rockoff said. “It will be both celebratory and somewhat somber.”

The historic building will be donated to the state for use as a cultural center, and its two torahs will be sent to congregations in Cincinnati and Russia.

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