Jews in the South

By Leonard Dinnerstein; Mary Dale Palsson | Go to book overview
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Section 1 Jewish Life in the Antebellum and Confederate South

Jews in the colonial South lived, for the most part, like others in the community save for their religious practices and the political restrictions placed upon them. They earned their living as merchants, traders, storekeepers, artisans, sawmill operators, butchers, and even plantation owners. They exhibited, in the words of Jacob Marcus, the dean of American Jewish historians, "a readiness, if not an eagerness, to adapt themselves to the life and culture about them" and hence modified a number of Old World religious practices. For example, although orthodox Judaism decrees a day of rest on the seventh day, a number of Jews conducted business on Saturdays.

Records of Jewish experiences in the colonial South are scanty, and many assumptions have been made on the basis of guesswork. People have been identified as Jewish if they had Jewish-sounding names, but no one knows how many Jews lived in the southern colonies. Five hundred is a maximum guess, although there may not have been even three hundred at the time of the American Revolution. Intermarriage

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