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New Orleans is not a typical Southern city. The Jews who have settled in New Orleans from 1757 to the present have had a very different experience than others in the South. New Orleans was a wide-open frontier that attracted gamblers, sailors, con artists, planters, and merchants. Most early Jewish immigrants were bachelors who took Catholic wives, if they married at all. The first congregation, Gates of Mercy, was founded in 1827, and by 1860, four congregations represented Sephardic, French and German, and Polish Jewry. The reform movement, the largest denomination today, took hold after the Civil War with the founding of Temple Sinai. Small as it is in proportion to the population of New Orleans, the Jewish community has made contributions that far exceed their numbers in cultural, educational, and philanthropic gifts to the city.
The Jewish presence in northwest Louisiana actually predates the establishment of Shreveport in 1836. From the very beginning, Jews have been part of the city's civic, social, and mercantile life. Pioneer settlers began holding services in private homes in the 1840s, and by 1858 the community was sufficiently large enough to consecrate a Jewish cemetery and the first Jewish benevolent association, a forerunner of today's North Louisiana Jewish Federation. In 1859, the first congregation was founded. In The Jewish Community of Shreveport the rich history of this influential and vibrant citizenry is chronicled by well-known Louisiana historian Eric J. Brock, archivist of Shreveport's B'nai Zion Temple. Nearly 18 decades of Jewish life in Shreveport are depicted in over 200 vintage images, many of which are previously unpublished. Both of the city's synagogues, B'nai Zion and Agudath Achim, are represented, as are many of the rabbis, business leaders, political leaders (including three mayors), and laypeople from the community's long history.
"With Hurricane Katrina epilogue featuring photography by David Rae Morris"--Cover.
Early in the 1800s, American Jews consciously excluded rabbinic forces from playing a role in their community's development. By the final decades of the century, ordained rabbis were in full control of America's leading synagogues and large sectors of American Jewish life. How did this shift occur? Who Rules the Synagogue? explores how American Jewry in the nineteenth century was transformed from a lay dominated community to one whose leading religious authorities were rabbis. Zev Eleff traces the history of this revolution, culminating in the Pittsburgh rabbinical conference of 1885 and the commotion caused by it. Previous scholarship has chartered the religious history of American Judaism during this era, but Eleff reinterprets this history through the lens of religious authority. In so doing, he offers a fresh view of the story of American Judaism with the aid of never-before-mined sources and a comprehensive review of periodicals and newspapers. Eleff weaves together the significant episodes and debates that shaped American Judaism during this formative period, and places this story into the larger context of American religious history and modern Jewish history.
The early days of Louisiana settlement brought with them a clandestine group of Jewish pioneers. Isaac Monsanto and other traders spited the rarely enforced Code Noir banning their occupancy, but it wasn't until the Louisiana Purchase that larger numbers colonized the area. Immigrants like the Sartorius brothers and Samuel Zemurray made their way from Central and Eastern Europe to settle the bayou country along the Mississippi. They made their homes in and around New Orleans and the Mississippi River delta, establishing congregations like that of Tememe Derech and B'Nai Israel, with the mighty river serving as a mode of transportation and communication, connecting the communities on both sides of the riverbank.
Nashville's Jewish community traces its beginning to 1795 with the birth of Sarah Myers, the first Jewish child born here. Her parents, Benjamin and Hannah Hays Myers, were both from prominent pre-Revolutionary War families in New England and stayed in Nashville just one year before moving to Virginia. The next few settlers--Simon Pollock, a doctor, in 1843; the Frankland family in 1845; Andrew Smolniker and Dr. H. Fischel, a dentist, in 1848; and E. J. Lyons in 1849--stayed only a few years before moving on to Memphis, New Orleans, or elsewhere. The first to stay and achieve prominence was Isaac Gershon (later changed to Garritsen), who in 1849 opened his home on South Summer Street for High Holy Day services and in 1851 formed the Hebrew Benevolent Burial Association, purchasing land that still serves as Nashville's Jewish cemetery. The first Jewish congregation, Mogen David, followed in 1854. The Jewish population of Nashville, which began with five families and eight young men in 1852, today numbers about 7,500.
After the end of World War II, Americans across the United States began a mass migration from the urban centers to suburbia. Entire neighborhoods transplanted themselves. The Jewish Community of Metro Detroit: 1945 -2005 provides a pictorial history of the Detroit Jewish community's transition from the city to the suburbs outside of Detroit. For the Jewish communities, life in the Detroit suburbs has been focused on family within a pluralism that embraces the spectrum of experience from the most religiously devout to the ethnically secular. Holidays, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals have marked the passage of time. Issues of social justice, homeland, and religion have divided and brought people together. The architecture of the structures the Detroit Jewish community has erected, such as Temple Beth El designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, testifies to the community's presence.
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