From 1908 until after World War II, small groups of Yiddish-speaking immigrants operated branches of the Workmen’s Circle (Arbeter Ring) in more than fifteen southern cities. These local branches of the national fraternal organization established Yiddish libraries, hosted cultural events, participated in mutual aid programs, ran after-school Yiddish programs for children, promoted labor and left-wing politics, and organized themselves on a regional basis. This presentation will examine these activities in relation to the New South settings in which they took place and explore the meanings and legacies of the southern Workmen’s Circle. Josh Parshall will also speak briefly about the general work of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life History Department.
Dr. Josh Parshall has served as the Director of the History Department at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) since July 2017. This is his second stint at the ISJL, having previously worked as oral historian from 2009 to 2013. His academic interests include American Jewish culture and politics, Yiddish language and culture, and southern studies. Josh holds a Ph.D. from the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.