Jews in the South

By Leonard Dinnerstein; Mary Dale Palsson | Go to book overview

The New Orleans Jewish Community

Leonard Reissman

T HE JEWISH community in New Orleans differs from most others in the United States and especially those outside the South.1 By its variance, however, it exposes some interesting features of community organization that are worth considering. For here is a Jewish community that seems to stand so close to the larger community in which it is located that there is danger of its being overwhelmed. More so perhaps than in most other American-Jewish communities, New Orleans appears to give substance to the fears of benign assimilation that have always dominated Jewish history. Yet, in fact, the community has survived and has flourished for well over two centuries.2

The impression of social fragility comes with the recognition that the usual community supports are absent from New Orleans. For one thing, there are no solidly Jewish neighbourhoods, no self-created ghettoes that bolster community consciousness by the dense presence of Jews living together. Although more than half of the 10,000 Jews in New Orleans live in an area circumscribed by not more than a three-

____________________
1
The statistical data used in this analysis are taken from my study, Profile of a Community, prepared for and published by the Jewish Federation of New Orleans in 1958. I wish especially to stress that the views presented here are my own and should not be interpreted as necessarily those of the Federation. Data were obtained by interviewing a 10-percent probability sample of all known Jewish households in the city obtained from a master list of organization membership or otherwise known to the Federation.
2
One estimate is that the Jewish community is almost 250 years old, which is quite old by American standards. Leo Shpall, The Jews in Louisiana ( New Orleans: Steeg Printing and Publishing Co., 1936), 18.

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