Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina

Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina

Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina

Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina

Synopsis

A sweeping chronicle of Jewish life in the Tar Heel State from colonial times to the present, this beautifully illustrated volume incorporates oral histories, original historical documents, and profiles of fascinating individuals. The first comprehensive social history of its kind, Down Home demonstrates that the story of North Carolina Jews is attuned to the national story of immigrant acculturation but has a southern twist.

Keeping in mind the larger southern, American, and Jewish contexts, Leonard Rogoff considers how the North Carolina Jewish experience differs from that of Jews in other southern states. He explores how Jews very often settled in North Carolina's small towns, rather than in its large cities, and he documents the reach and vitality of Jewish North Carolinians' participation in building the New South and the Sunbelt. Many North Carolina Jews were among those at the forefront of a changing South, Rogoff argues, and their experiences challenge stereotypes of a society that was agrarian and Protestant.

More than 125 historic and contemporary photographs complement Rogoff's engaging epic, providing a visual panorama of Jewish social, cultural, economic, and religious life in North Carolina. This volume is a treasure to share and to keep.
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Published in association with the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina, Down Home is part of a larger documentary project of the same name that will include a film and a traveling museum exhibition, to be launched in June 2010.
A sweeping chronicle of Jewish life in the Tar Heel State from colonial times to the present, this beautifully illustrated volume incorporates oral histories, original historical documents, and profiles of fascinating individuals. The first comprehensive social history of its kind, Down Home demonstrates that the story of North Carolina Jews is attuned to the national story of immigrant acculturation but has a southern twist.

Keeping in mind the larger southern, American, and Jewish contexts, Leonard Rogoff considers how the North Carolina Jewish experience differs from that of Jews in other southern states. He explores how Jews very often settled in North Carolina's small towns, rather than in its large cities, and he documents the reach and vitality of Jewish North Carolinians' participation in building the New South and the Sunbelt. Many North Carolina Jews were among those at the forefront of a changing South, Rogoff argues, and their experiences challenge stereotypes of a society that was agrarian and Protestant.

More than 125 historic and contemporary photographs complement Rogoff's engaging epic, providing a visual panorama of Jewish social, cultural, economic, and religious life in North Carolina. This volume is a treasure to share and to keep.

Excerpt

“I thought my stories were going to die with me,” said Lena Gordon Goldman, a ninety-eight-year-old resident of a Greensboro retirement home. Relative to Virginia and South Carolina, North Carolina is often thought to have no or little Jewish history. Biographies, dissertations, and local histories have focused on individuals and communities. Some extraordinary archives and oral histories have been collected, but they have not yet been assembled into a whole. Down Home gathers North Carolina Jews into a community.

The stories recounted here are many and speak with different and sometimes contradictory voices. Down Home, in both format and contents, reflects the diversity of its subject. At its core is a narrative history spanning North Carolina’s past and present, from Roanoke Island in 1585 to the Research Triangle in 2009. To bring that history to life, interpolated into the narrative are exemplary stories, portraits, and texts. Stories present oral history in original voices; portraits offer profiles of significant personalities or organizations; and texts present primary documents from newspapers, memoirs, and public or synagogue records. Collectively, these gatherings of history comprise a Jewish heritage, a folklore that roots Jews in North Carolina.

Down Home joins a growing list of state Jewish histories. Typically, these books argue for the uniqueness of their state’s Jewish community. Mark Bauman in The Southerner as American: Jewish Style argues that the story of southern Jews is but a variation on an American theme, more closely attuned to the national story of immigrant acculturation than to the specific history of the largely Protestant South. He further suggests that even more significant than regional identity is local environment. Much in Down Home supports these arguments. There are many Souths, but there are many North Carolinas, too.

North Carolina often seems more a gathering of localities than a unified state. Appalachian Asheville is quite different from the Old South port of Wilmington, and Charlotte’s Sunbelt skyline little resembles Mount Airy’s main street. North Carolina divides into three geographical zones—coast, piedmont, and mountain—that developed distinct cultures and economies. English settlers created a plantation society on the coastal plain, importing African American labor. The Piedmont drew Scotch-Irish and Germans. From its hardscrabble agrarian roots, it grew into the state’s industrial heartland. The mountains, settled by Germans and Scotch Highlanders, sheltered fiercely independent Appalachians. North . . .

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