Center Talk

By Shari Rabin, Director

2018 is whizzing by at the Center for Southern Jewish Culture. Our research fellowship continues to attract outstanding talent. In January, we hosted journalist Sue Eisenfeld, who gave a Sunday talk on her current project, “A Yankee’s Journey Through the Jewish South,” and in March, University of Virginia graduate student Brian Neumann spoke about his research on the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s at a brown bag lunch.Brian told us he had not considered including Jewish perspectives in his work until seeing our call for applications, so we consider his visit a special success!

We’ve also continued to nurture our relationships on campus, serving as sponsors of a major conference on Reconstruction hosted by the College’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World program. In the lead-up to the conference, we brought Professor Michael R. Cohen, chair of Jewish Studies at Tulane University, to Charleston for a discussion of his new book Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era.

During Maymester, Center Associate Director Dale Rosengarten, with her husband Ted, led a study abroad trip to Europe, “Tracing the Holocaust: Poland, Germany, the Netherlands.” They are continually amazed by how much of the story has yet to be told.   In June, I traveled to Philadelphia for the American Jewish Historical Society Scholars’ Conference, where we were one of four institutions co-sponsoring the official reception. On an exciting personal note, my first book, Jews on the Frontier: Religion and Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America, was awarded the National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies and named a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Besides making me feel very good, these honors bring attention to the Center and shine a light on the history of American Jews who settled in the hinterland.

The summer has also brought us two more research fellows. Dr. Joshua Furman, who founded the Houston Jewish History Archive in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, consulted with Dale and Harlan Greene—Head of Special Collections and faculty affiliate of the Center—on the origins and evolution of the Jewish Heritage Collection. Dr. Kristin Brill is slated to visit in August from Keele University in the UK to research the fiery Charleston-born Confederate Eugenia Levy Phillips.

During the Fall semester, I will be teaching “Southern Jewish History.” The class will result in an exciting student-curated exhibition of southern Jewish family photographs, to be displayed on the third floor of the Jewish studies building. For our first presentation of the new academic year, the Center will host Joshua Parshall, historian at the Institute for Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi, and expert on the history of the Arbeiter Ring, or Workmen’s Circle, in the South. Save the date for his Sunday talk September 2!

We’re cooking up an inspiring program for Spring 2019, namely, an event featuring food historian Marcie Cohen Ferris and James Beard Award–winning chef and author Michael Twitty, as part of a College-wide initiative on “Global Foodways.”