Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History

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Overview

Jews have long been a presence in the American South, first arriving in the late seventeenth century as part of exploratory voyages from Europe to the New World. Two of the nation’s earliest Jewish communities were founded in Savannah in 1733 and Charleston in 1749. By 1800, more Jews lived in Charleston than in New York City. Today, Jews comprise less than one half of one percent of the southern population but provide critical sustenance and support for their communities.

Nonetheless, southern Jews have perplexed scholars. For more than a century, historians have wrestled with various questions. Why study southern Jewish history? What is the southern Jewish experience? Is southern Jewish culture distinctive from that of other regions of the country, and if so, why?

Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History addresses these questions through the voices of a new generation of scholars of the Jewish South. Each of this book’s thirteen chapters reflects a response with particular attention paid to new studies on women and gender; black/Jewish relations and the role of race, politics, and economic life; popular and material culture; and the changes wrought by industrialization and urbanization in the twentieth century. Essays address historical issues from the colonial era to the present and in every region of the South. Topics include assimilation and American Jewish identity, southern Jewish women writers, the Jewish Confederacy, Jewish peddlers, southern Jewish racial identity, black/Jewish relations, demographic change, the rise of American Reform Judaism, and Jews in southern literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This anthology of original essays is the most recent addition to the widening body of work on the history of the Jewish South, a neglected area of research until about 30 years ago. This collection covers an extensive chronology, from the first Jewish settlers in the South in the 1730s up to the present day, and debates what it means to be both Southern and Jewish. The book serves the dual purpose of offering an introduction to the field and furthering discussion of the Southern Jewish experience in the United States."—Library Journal

"The anthology provides thirteen fascinating articles on a variety of topics including southern Jewish women writers, African American-Jewish relations, Jewish peddlers, Jewish Confederates, and the blossoming of Reform Judaism in the region. The book will delight erudite scholars and 'snowbirds' who go 'south' to escape the cold weather and would like to learn how Jews shaped the region."—Jewish Book World

“An area of history long neglected . . . this book is a must-have for anyone interested in the American Jewish experience.”—Virginia Jewish Life

“Jewish Roots in Southern Soil now stands as the best one-volume treatment of the history of Jews in the American South. The thirteen essays, foreword, and excellent introduction are well written, engaging, and informative. The methodologically diverse approaches enliven the volume without rendering it overly eclectic. The editors Marcie Cohen Ferris and Mark I. Greenberg have collected representative, top-rate scholarship that is sophisticated enough for academics while remaining accessible for undergraduate students.”—Journal of American Ethnic History

Library Journal
This anthology of original essays is the most recent addition to the widening body of work on the history of the Jewish South, a neglected area of research until about 30 years ago. This collection covers an extensive chronology, from the first Jewish settlers in the South in the 1730s up to the present day, and debates what it means to be both Southern and Jewish. The book serves the dual purpose of offering an introduction to the field and furthering discussion of the Southern Jewish experience in the United States. It is similar in scope to such recent books as Dixie Diaspora: An Anthology of Southern Jewish History (ed., Mark Bauman). Although that collection was of previously published pieces, the volumes share some authors and subjects. There is enough unique content in this new collection to justify its purchase, particularly for its exploration of the diversity of culture within Jewish populations in the South. Recommended for academic libraries, particularly ones with strong collections in the areas of Southern history and Jewish cultural studies.-Elizabeth White, Univ. of Georgia, Athens Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

MARCIE COHEN FERRIS is the Associate Director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies and Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is author of Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South (2005). MARK I. GREENBERG is Director of the Florida Studies Center and Special Collections Department at the University of South Florida and has published widely on southern Jewry. He is the author of University of South Florida: The First Fifty Years (2006). ELI N. EVANS was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Yale Law School. He is author of The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South; Judah P Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate; and The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner. He is president-emeritus of the Charles H. Revson Foundation and chairman of the advisory board of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Table of Contents

Foreword - eli n. evans
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Jewish Roots in Southern Soil - marcie cohen ferris & mark i. greenberg
One Religion, Different Worlds: Sephardic and Ashkenazic Immigrants in Eighteenth-Century Savannah - mark i. greenberg
American, Jewish, Southern, Mordecai: Constructing Identities to 1865 - emily bingham
“The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword”: Southern Jewish Women Writers, Antisemitism, and the Promotion of Domestic Judaism jennifer a. stollman
Entering the Mainstream of Modern Jewish History: Peddlers and the American Jewish South - hasia diner
Jewish Confederates - robert n. rosen
“Now Is the Time to Show Your True Colors”: Southern Jews, Whiteness, and the Rise of Jim Crow - eric l. goldstein
The Ascendancy of Reform Judaism in the American South during the Nineteenth Century - gary phillip zola
A Tangled Web: Black-Jewish Relations in the Twentieth-Century South - clive webb
An “Intense Heritage”: Southern Jewishness in Literature and Film - eliza r. l. McGraw
Dining in the Dixie Diaspora: A Meeting of Region and Religion - marcie cohen ferris
Jewish Antiques Roadshow: Religion and Domestic Culture in the American South - dale rosengarten
The Fall and Rise of the Jewish South - stuart rockoff
Jewish Fates, Altered States - stephen j. whitfield
Selected Bibliography - eric l. goldstein and marni davis
About the Contributors
Index
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