The Southern Shmooze
August 2020
"Calling All Greenies..."
Did you know that Tulane University in New Orleans has the nation's third highest percentage of Jewish students among American colleges?

Did you know that the chair of the Tulane Department of Jewish Studies, Dr. Michael Cohen, serves as the Museum's senior historic advisor?

And did you know that MSJE offers Tulane students semester-long internships, giving them real-world experience in the museum and Jewish community fields?
As we near our opening, the Museum continues to strengthen its relationship with Tulane. Our board chair, Jay Tanenbaum , one of our vice-chairs, Rusty Palmer, board members Robert Roubey and Deborah Lamensdorf Jacobs, and our director Kenneth Hoffman are all proud Tulane graduates (a proud Newcomb College graduate, in Deborah's case). Our other vice-chair, Morris Mintz , has deep Tulane connections. His family recently created a research studio in the School of Architecture and his grandparents’ names are memorialized on Tulane’s Hillel House.

Are you a Greenie, or do you have a child or grandchild at Tulane? If so and you want to promote a vibrant Jewish environment in New Orleans, there's no better time to support MSJE that right now!
Pssst: if you went to Bama, LSU, UT, Ole Miss, Rice, UK, Vandy, Georgia, UNC, Duke, UVA, FSU, or any of our fabulous Southern universities, we're calling YOU, too!
From the Collection:
Meeting a "nice Jewish boy (or girl)"
Growing up Jewish in the South, especially in the small-town South, could mean having limited opportunities to date other Jews. While not exclusive to the South, Jewish fraternities and sororities, social clubs, and courtship weekends once played important roles for Jewish college (and high school) students across the region.

Here at MSJE we hear stories of train rides down from the Mississippi Delta to New Orleans for football games and ZBT mixers, shenanigans of SAR teens from Chattanooga heading to Philadelphia for a Midyear Convention, and all-out efforts to out-do previous years' Ballyhoos (Atlanta), Jubilees (Birmingham), and Falcons (Montgomery). These annual conclaves included breakfast dates, lunch dates, tea dance dates, early evening dates, late night dates, cocktail parties, and formal dances, with the goal of meeting "a nice Jewish boy" or "a nice Jewish girl” who could well become a spouse.

Recently, the Museum received a donation from the family of Irma Rae (nee Bloch) and M.K. Erdreich that shows how important these organizations and events were to Jews in Alabama in the early-mid 20th century. Take a look...
In 1937, Birmingham hosted the Pi Tau Pi Bama Bound Conclave. Events included the Dixie Jamboree formal dance and Santa's Nightmare pajama party, along with Shabbat services and a trip to see the famous Vulcan statue.
Irma Rae from Selma dated M.K. from Birmingham on and off again until they married in 1940. She had at least one date with him at the 1939 Pi Tau Pi Conclave Alouette , in Seattle. No information on how her date with Norm Berlowitz went.
Here are several dance invitations Irma received and later pasted in her scrapbook. The Harmony Club was the Jewish social hall/country club in Selma. Many Jewish communities established their own clubs in response to restrictions on Jewish membership at other private clubs.
You may have heard of Jewish Atlanta's annual ball, because of Alfred Uhry's play The Last Night of Ballyhoo . Similar affairs, although smaller, were hosted in other Southern cities, like Montgomery and Birmingham. Like Ballyhoo, these were often attended only by the upper-middle class of Jewish society.
A Most Excellent and Benevolent Gentleman
How did Jews fit into their 19th century Southern communities? That question has many answers, and it's one that the Museum's staff, board, and historical advisors have been exploring as we create our exhibits.

One way to find an answer is to scour the newspaper archives. If you were to do a search for the names of Jewish residents, you would find stories of Jewish aldermen, school board members, fraternal society brothers, and even mayors. Among the countless ads for their general stores, you would find reprints of rabbis' sermons, announcements of religious school confirmations, and descriptions of synagogue dedications attended by city dignitaries and local clergy.

Yes, you would also find occasional stories of antisemitism and tension, but you would be more likely to find heartfelt testaments to lives well lived and well served--like this paean to Benhart Cohen, in the Vicksburg Weekly Sentinel .

We don't know much about Mr. Cohen, but we surely know what his friends thought of him: philanthropic, high-minded, liberal, amiable, industrious, honest ...

What do obituaries like this say about the Southern Jewish experience? We think they say a lot!
Much the same can be said of the 20th century and beyond. Our Museum family extends heartfelt condolences to our chair Jay Tanenbaum and his family on the recent passing of Jay's father Jerry Tanenbaum. May his memory be for a blessing.

Read about Jerry Tanenbaum's Southern Jewish
life and legacy here .
Our Next Live Program
L'Dor V'Dor:
Preserving Your Family Story for the Next Generation
Sunday, August 23, 7:00pm Central
Stuck at home with nothing to do? Do you have stacks of fading photographs, dog-eared documents, and crumbling scrapbooks in the attic and don’t know how to preserve them?

Join MSJE Curator Anna Tucker for an informative workshop focused on preserving your family’s history. Anna will provide easy-to-follow techniques to preserve documents, photographs, and artifacts, followed by a discussion on how to research and record your family’s stories.
This program is FREE, but registration is required to participate via Zoom.
 You can also watch without registration on Facebook Live at (
Missed July's program, What's Southern About Texas Jewry (and what's not)?
You can watch a recording of it here:

And Speaking of Live Programs...
This Month in Southern Jewish History
LOUISIANA: August 1, 1837
New Orleans businessman Judah Touro ensures the city in The Times-Picayune that there is enough ice to go around during the hottest month of the year. Along with properties on Canal Street, Touro owned several warehouses packed with ice shipped down from frozen lakes up north.
ALABAMA: August 19, 1903
M. Newfield advertises in The Birmingham News about an upcoming meeting. M. Newfield is Rabbi Max Newfield of the city's Temple Emanuel. He served as presiding officer (Wise Master) of his chapter. His participation and high rank in the Masons was not unusual throughout the South, where Jews regularly participated in fraternal orders like the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Woodmen of the World.
KENTUCKY: August 20, 1914
Louisville-born lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is elected president of the newly created Provisional Executive Committee for Zionist Affairs. While not originally a Zionist, Brandies had come to believe that a Jewish homeland was important both politically and spiritually. He was strident in his belief that Zionism was consistent with American patriotism.
TENNESSEE: August 23, 1878
Memphis officially declares a yellow fever epidemic. More than half of the city's 45,000 residents flee the city, including most of its Jewish citizens. Rabbi Max Samfield and city alderman David Gensburger, among others, stayed behind to assist the afflicted. Seventy-eight Jews were buried in the B'nai Israel cemetery that summer.
NORTH CAROLINA: August 25, 1989
Congregation Beth Shalom of Hickory dedicates its new synagogue building. Formed in the 1930s, it originally met in the Moose Hall and the Lenoir-Rhyne College auditorium, before building its first synagogue in 1958. A small congregation of about 45 families, Beth Shalom welcomed Rabbi (and Duke professor) Kalman Bland to preform the dedicatory services for its second.
GEORGIA: August 26, 1927
Sam Massell is born in Atlanta, Georgia. After serving in the US Army Air Force, he graduated from University of Georgia, became a successful realtor, and entered politics, serving as president of Atlanta's Board of Alderman for eight years. He won his 1969 mayoral bid and served as Atlanta's first Jewish mayor from 1970-1974.
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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