The Southern Shmooze
August 2019
Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer
It's August. It's hot. What else is there to say? Here's a photo from our collection of the Eighth Annual Southern Interstate Young Judaean Convention, Birmingham, AL, August 21-24, 1927. Let us know if you can identify any of these beautiful people.
Renovation Update
The renovation work continues at 818 Howard Avenue. New concrete slabs have been poured, walls are being roughed out, and our atrium is being converted from open-air to air conditioned. Outside, our parking lot is getting resurfaced and our beautiful rooftop gathering space is taking shape. The building owners tell us that they are on track to turn over our portion of the building on time for us to ready our mid-2020 opening. Throughout all of these renovations, workers are carefully protecting the 100-year-old exposed brick and ceiling beams that give our building its special charm.

If you are in town and wish to take a hard-hat tour of the building, please contact us ( but don't wear your best shoes ): .
We sooo wanted to write our names in the
wet cement. Have you ever done that?
What will it be? An interactive exhibit? Our Museum Store? A restroom? Only time will tell.
From the Collection: The Crazy Quilt
While quilts might be the farthest thing from your mind during this hot summer weather, they’re definitely on ours as we select artifacts to be exhibited in the Museum. Our MSJE Collection Highlight this month features a Victorian “crazy” quilt, made by the friends and family of Bertha Loeb in Canton, Mississippi. This particular quilt has a patchwork history to match its design: Bertha Loeb’s friends and family, members of the Jewish Ladies’ Sewing Circle, quilted the 76" x 76" asymmetrical spread in 1885. MSJE records suggest that the quilt was then raffled off in support of Canton's Temple B’nai Israel, which had only recently opened its doors following set-backs from the yellow fever epidemics of the 1870s. 
The design of the quilt reflects how this group of Jewish women from Mississippi were themselves interwoven with the popular fashions of the day. Note the Canton quilt’s use of silk and detailed embroidery: this trend of incorporating fine fabrics in crazy quilts rose in popularity following the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, which featured decorative arts from Japan and embroidery from Great Britain. Despite its nod to trends of the day, the Canton quilt carries its own specific charm. Names including “Mary,” “Leon,” and “Sam” were sewn into the fabric among embroidered beetles, keys, and flowers.
From design to creation, our Canton crazy quilt stitches together numerous histories in its fanciful design, and we are grateful to Isabel Wile Goldman, niece of Bertha Loeb, for donating it to the MSJE permanent collection. Do you have your own Southern Jewish quilting story? Let us know!
Jewish Confederates? Yep.
"Modern-day Jews are very uncomfortable with the notion that antebellum Southern Jews owned slaves and that a few were in the business of slave trading. After all, Jews are unique among people in telling the story of their own enslavement ...." So wrote Robert Rosen in his 2001 book, The Jewish Confederates.

Yes, some Jews owned slaves--in about the same percentage that non-Jews owned slaves. And about 2,000 Jews fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-65). This is far fewer than those who fought in the Union Army, but there were more Jewish military officers in the South than in the North. Louisiana senator Judah P. Benjamin (pictured above on the Confederate $2 note) served as the Confederacy's attorney general, secretary of war and secretary of state. He has often been called the "brains of the Confederacy."

 While relatively little studied in the vast world of Civil War scholarship, some historians and documentarians in recent years have turned their attention to the experiences of Southern Jews during the conflict. It's a fascinating story, one that gives us an opportunity to confront difficult aspects of our own history, whether our families were in the South by the 1860s or not. It also challenges us to think about how our actions today will be viewed by our families in the future.
Do you have a family story about life during the Civil War?
Click below to share it with us.
Ask the Director...
We get many questions from Museum supporters, the press, and interested people about the Museum's past, present, and future. Here are two common questions we receive and our Executive Director Kenneth Hoffman's answers:

1. Will MSJE be a Holocaust museum?

No, but we will include an exhibit about how Southern Jews reacted to the Holocaust and feature Holocaust survivors who made new lives for themselves and their families after moving to the South following the war. We plan to include some wonderful oral histories.

2. What kind of exhibits will the Museum have?  

The Museum has the challenge of presenting more than 300 years and 13 states’ worth of Southern Jewish history in 9,000 square feet of space. Obviously, we cannot be--and will not try to be--encyclopedic. But we will feature exhibits that explore Jewish immigration, Colonial Jewry, Jewish merchants and civic leaders, Jews and the Civil War, Jewish activism in the South, and Southern Jews in areas of popular culture, like literature, movies, and music. We are also creating an interactive gallery where visitors can learn the basics of Judaism by exploring our wonderful collection of Southern Judaica.
Meet Our Intern
As the summer draws to a close, we'd like to highlight the great work our interns have accomplished over the past few months. Rachel is a rising junior at Tulane University who is majoring in Psychology and Economics. Here's her reflection about working with MSJE:

"The MSJE gave me such a unique opportunity this summer to learn so much about both museum operation and Southern Jewish history. Because I have never worked in a museum setting before, I had a lot to learn, but everyone at the MSJE was so knowledgeable and helpful in catching me up. Now, I know the importance of archival boxes, cotton gloves, accession numbers, image tracking, among so much more!

Coming into this internship, I thought I knew a decent amount of Southern Jewish history as I have been a part of several Southern Jewish communities in my life—but there was so much that I had to learn--and still do. I’ve loved getting to research Jewish towns, the trends that many follow, and their impact on the world.

I am very thankful for the opportunity I received at the MSJE this summer and I look forward to visiting the museum in 2020!"

Thanks for all of your hard work, Rachel! Check back in September to see the reflection from our other summer intern, Sam.
Shop Till You Plotz !
A BIG thank-you to everyone who is supporting the Museum by choosing MSJE for their AmazonSmile charity. If you haven't yet, it's a simple and fun way to help MSJE while shopping online:

  • Choose: Support Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience by shopping at AmazonSmile/MSJE (see below)

  • AmazonSmile is an Amazon charitable foundation. Same products, same services, same prices, same everything, except they donate .5% of your purchase price to us. You don't have to do anything but...

Also, don't forget to support your local retailers, too! They are the backbone of your community's economy.
We can't do this without you...
Banner images (l-r): Song-leading at Southern Conclavette, Southern Federation of Temple Youth (SoFTY), 1969-1970, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Anshe Sfard Synagogue on Carondelet Street, New Orleans, Louisiana