Fall 2016 has been an exciting time for the Center for Southern Jewish Culture, even with director extraordinaire Dale Rosengarten on sabbatical! In September, we sponsored the first talk in the Jewish Studies Program’s “Jews and Elections” series. Acting Director Shari Rabin spoke about the 1860 Presidential election, a time in which sectionalism flourished and the country’s first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, was elected.
In October, we hosted Kimberly Hartnett, author of Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights, for a lively Sunday morning lecture. A New York transplant to Charlotte, Golden was an author and Civil Rights advocate with a colorful past and a quick wit. Hartnett, whose own mother worked for Golden, told his story with great honesty, empathy, and humor.
Also in town was Avigail Oren, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, who visited as our third Charleston Research Fellow. Avigail spent two weeks working with the Charleston Jewish Community Center collections in the Jewish Heritage Collection at Addlestone Library. This research helped expand the geographic scope of her dissertation, which examines how JCCs in the postwar decades debated whether they should solely enroll Jewish members or whether they should serve all of the ethnic and religious groups in their increasingly diverse neighborhoods.
Both Dale and Shari hit the road this fall, heading first to Greenville for the fall meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina, in commemoration of Congregation Beth Israel’s centenary. Among the highlights was a panel on the legacy of Max Heller, a European Jewish refugee who served as mayor of Greenville in the 1970s, that featured his widow Trude, herself a Holocaust survivor and still feisty in her nineties. A few weeks later, we were in Mississippi for the Southern Jewish Historical Society’s annual conference. After touring historic synagogues in Vicksburg and Port Gibson, we spent the weekend at Congregation B’nai Israel in Natchez, where the Jewish community has dwindled to about ten. Dale and Shari both appeared on the program, as did Samuel Gruber, a specialist in historic synagogue architecture who is working on the Center’s digital exhibit “Synagogues of the South.” Also in the realm of digital exhibitions, work has been moving along quickly on “Mapping Jewish Charleston.” Our crack team has almost completed the first historic “layer,” an ambitious interactive map for the early 1800s, and has made serious headway on a second, for the early 1900s. When completed, this project will offer an insightful – and visually beautiful – overview of where and how Charleston Jews worked, lived, and prayed from the colonial period to the present day.
There is even more to come at the Center this Spring. Shari Rabin will be teaching “Southern Jewish History” for the first time and there will be plenty of extracurricular events for students to take advantage of. As a Sunday speaker, we will be sponsoring Steve Krause, on April 2. He is the co-editor of a new book, To Stand Aside or Stand Alone: Southern Reform Rabbis and the Civil Rights Movement, based on interviews his father P. Allen Krause conducted as a young rabbinical student in the mid-1960s. Our next Charleston research fellow will be Lucas Wilson, a PhD student in Holocaust studies at Florida Atlantic University. He will give a public talk on “Portraits of the Post-Holocaust Home in Second Generation Oral Histories” on Wednesday, May 3 at 12:30pm in Arnold Hall.
Our biggest event of the year will be our “Evening with Kinky Friedman” on Thursday, March 30 at 7pm in the Simons Recital Hall (54 St. Philip Street). Among his many accomplishments, the iconoclastic Friedman founded the tongue-in-cheek country music band “Kinky Freidman and the Texas Jewboys” and was a Texas gubernatorial candidate. He will perform and participate in an on-stage conversation about his life and career. Tickets for this exciting event are free, but must be reserved ahead of time at tinyurl.com/kinkychs. If you would like to receive the latest information about the Center’s activities, sign up for our email list at http://jewishsouth.cofc.edu/contact-us/email-list/.