| behind the stickers
We’ve traveled 196,464 miles across the following 13 states in 2011. To see our impact on the map of the South, click here.
Peaches are Georgia’s most famous crop. Jewish planter Raphael Moses of Columbus was the first to sell the fruit outside of the state, shipping his peaches to New York in 1851. Using champagne baskets instead of the traditional pulverized charcoal to ship them, Moses was able to keep his peaches fresh during their journey North.
Few would associate the Grand Ole Opry with Jewish life, but in fact for many years Nashville’s Orthodox congregation Sherith Israel was located right next to the famed Ryman Auditorium, longtime home of Nashville’s most famous radio show. Old members still tell stories of Opry fans wandering into the wrong door and finding men chanting Hebrew prayers rather than country stars like Roy Acuff and Hank Williams.
One thing most Arkansas Jews have in common is their love of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Fayetteville, the home of the university, has seen recent growth in its Jewish community. Temple Shalom, founded in 1981, has recently built its first synagogue, with the help of a Palestinian-American contractor who waived his usual $250,000 fee to help the congregation achieve its dream of a permanent home. Temple Shalom is an ISJL Education Partner.
Pensacola, Florida is the home base for the Navy’s Blue Angels flight team. The Florida panhandle has several military installations, as well as Jewish congregations. The ISJL Education Department works with congregations in both Pensacola and Panama City, where several of the members serve in our country’s armed forces.
Since Katrina, the New Orleans Jewish community has worked to rebuild itself along with the city itself. In 2006 and 2007, the ISJL partnered with the Jewish Women’s Archive to produce “Katrina’s Jewish Voices,” a large-scale oral history project documenting the impact of the storm on the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A unit on “Katrina’s Jewish Voices” is featured in the ISJL High School Curriculum.
Jews have been involved with the Kentucky Derby as both horse owners and trainers. In fact, in 1936 when Bold Venture won the Derby, the winning owner, trainer, and even jockey were all Jewish! Kentucky will be added to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities in 2012.
The Jewish history of Mississippi is inextricably linked with the state’s most famous crop: cotton. As the Mississippi Delta emerged as the South’s most fertile cotton-growing region, Jews flocked to the area, setting up shop in most every Delta market town. As mechanization and global competition has hurt the Delta’s cotton economy, the Jewish population of the Delta has dropped sharply. Nevertheless, small, but active congregations remain in Cleveland, Greenwood, and Greenville.
South Carolina is home to the oldest and most historic southern Jewish community. Charleston’s Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded in 1750, is older than the United States itself, and was the country’s first Reform congregation. Even the city’s Orthodox congregation, Brith Shalom Beth Israel, predates the Civil War.
North Carolina’s vibrant Jewish communities in Lake Norman, Winston-Salem and Asheville partnered together to host four presenters from the ISJL Southern States Jewish Programming Series in 2011. They hosted author Ellen Bernstein, performer Batsheva and musicians the Bal Shem Tones and Amir Gwirtzman.
The ISJL is actively involved in the Sooner State. Congregations in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City are ISJL Education Partners. Earlier this year, Temple Beth Ahaba in Muskogee closed its doors after 100 years of existence. Rabbi Marshal Klaven of the ISJL worked with the remaining members of the congregation and helped deconsecrate their synagogue building.
Alabama is home to the Talladega Superspeedway, home of several NASCAR races. During the average race at Talladega, cars travel 500 miles; the average ISJL staffer drives much further during one of their community visits, though they don’t drive quite as fast!
Everything is bigger in Texas, including its number of Jewish communities. The Texas section of the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities will have 54 community histories, twice as many as the next largest state. Currently, there are 46 Texas histories online.
From our base in Mississippi, Virginia is in many ways “the final frontier” of our South. It was the last of the 13 states to have an ISJL Community Partner, and is the only state in the region where the ISJL rabbi has not visited. The History Department does not plan to start tackling the state for its Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities until 2013. Nevertheless, with your support, the ISJL will continue its growth and eventually blanket the Old Dominon.