I wrote back "At least he wasn't Jewish."
My correspondent replied "He was born in the city of Kaplan; that's close enough"
This remark reminded me of something I had recently seen, and I checked the ISP list of people who had recently accessed this blog, and I found that, amazingly enough, just yesterday someone had used a link at Shirat Devora to come to Havolim, and his ISP was The Kaplan Telephone Company, from Abbeville Louisiana, which is indeed where the town of Kaplan is located. This was an awesome coincidence, and too remarkable to let it pass. You can't be here for almost sixty years and never hear of a place, and then twice in one day have it emphatically placed right in front of you. This is not a 'hint.' This is more like being grabbed by the lapels and shaken. I'm sure that something is going on on a spiritual level, but I can't know what that is until it unfolds. But for right now, I wanted to know how on Earth a town in the bottom of Louisiana got the name Kaplan, so we went to work. This is what I found: Kaplan was founded by a man named Abrom Kaplan in 1902, as described in this Wiki article.
More interesting, and with a picture, is this history of the town and the family. Here's the link, but I wanted to put the whole thing here. For one thing, Abrom looks eerily similar to my uncle, my father's brother. And another, it makes you think about the strange and winding road we have walked since the beginning of the Diaspora- and even before that, as our father Abraham wandered from his home to Canaan. I direct your attention in particular to the fourth paragraph of the article.
What follows is copyrighted by the Goldring-Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, reprinted with permission.
Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities - Kaplan, Louisiana
In the 20 years before the town’s incorporation, Abrom Kaplan had become a pioneer in Southwest Louisiana’s rice industry. He emigrated from Poland in 1885, after having spent his adolescence working in cigar and furniture businesses. After settling in Crowley, Kaplan opened a small store and speculated in real estate. He developed land, established local banks and credit unions, and financed the excavation of irrigation canals. Most significantly, Kaplan developed a crucial flood control method to keep salt water out and let bayou water in, allowing the rice crop to thrive across the region. Using this innovative irrigation system, Kaplan opened rice mills throughout Crowley, Abbeville, Gueydan, and several other towns west of the Mississippi River.
By the turn of the century, Kaplan was known as one of the region’s foremost industrialists, as well as southwest Louisiana’s largest tax-payer. As such, Kaplan began to represent the interests of rice farmers with prominent legislators both locally and nationally. In 1922, Kaplan went to Washington to attend a conference with Secretary of Agriculture Henry C. Wallace, and even dined with President Harding.
As Abrom Kaplan built his fortune, he began to bring his relatives to Southwest Louisiana. In 1915, Abrom paid for his nephew, Jack Kaplan, to immigrate to the United States from Poland. Jack worked under the tutelage of his uncle Abrom for two decades and by 1935, Jack and his brother-in-law Abe Tartak bought Liberty Rice Mill, one of Abrom’s many mills in the region. At the time of Abrom’s death in 1944, the Kaplan family owned the largest rice irrigation system in the world.
Despite the lack of Jews in town, Abrom Kaplan still strived to remain connected to the Jewish community. While Kaplan itself never had a permanent synagogue or Jewish cemetery, Abrom served as an officer of the Jewish Cemetery Association in Lafayette, where he was later buried. When Kaplan died, moreover, religious services were held at the Crowley Mason Lodge, which was said to have functioned temporarily as a synagogue for the few Jews in town. Kaplan’s first wife, Rebecca Lichtenstein of New Orleans, was also active in the area's Jewish life as a member of both the Crowley Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Jewish Sisterhood of Congregation Gates of Prayer in New Iberia.
At the same time, Kaplan’s small Jewish population was well integrated in the larger community. Abrom Kaplan helped fund the creation of several churches in the town, including the Kaplan Baptist Church. His grandson and son-in-law also helped fund the town’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church in later years. At its peak, the town of Kaplan served as a major shipping hub, complete with a post office, Catholic Church, school, telegraph company, and town newspaper.