The Southern Shmooze
March 2020
"Extra, Extra, Read All About Us!"
The Museum launched its official marketing campaign last month with an eye toward publicizing the MSJE locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. And we're already getting some great press: The Forward , Israel HaYom , The Gambit , The Jerusalem Post , Jewish News Syndicate , The Meridian Star , Boulder Jewish News , WDSU-TV ,  WWL-TV . Speakers at our press event included MSJE Executive Director Kenneth Hoffman, Board Vice-Chair Morris Mintz, New Orleans Jewish Federation CEO Arnie Fielkow, Senior Vice President of New Orleans & Co. Mark Romig, and Downtown Development District President Kurt Weigle. Klezmer music was played, bagels were served.
Are you, or do you know, a member of the press?
Get in touch with us for access to the latest news, images, and updates.
Board Member Spotlight: Rusty Palmer
After meeting at Tulane University and marrying, Suzanne and I merged two distinct Southern cultures: my upbringing in segregated Selma, Alabama, and Suzanne's from Laredo, Texas, with its more integrated Anglo-South Texas and Mexican cultures. Throw Jewish into the mix and we represent a blended and beautiful piece of the American quilt.
 
Our families immigrated to the South in the early 1820’s from France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia. Initially they settled in NY/Fall River, Selma, Laredo/Seguin and Natchez. Later, we spread to Atlanta, Miami, Birmingham, Nashville, and San Antonio. Our relatives included the famous, such as Judah P. Benjamin and Lillian Hellman, and the prominent, like Uncle Bill Lehman, a six term U.S. congressman from Florida. We had ancestors who fought in the Civil War (for the South), and my Uncle Russ fought and died outside Anzio, Italy, in 1944 after being shot down by the Germans.
More typically our families were businessmen and women, doctors, lawyers, therapists and community builders. Our combined families have over 18 degrees from Tulane in the areas of law, medicine, social work and business.
 
Suzanne and/or I have personally been at the scene of numerous historical events, such as lower Manhattan on 9/11, Centennial Park the night of the bombing, Hurricane Katrina, Pettus Bridge during the voting rights march, and playing on the first integrated athletic team in Tulane sports history.
 
I relate these stories as examples of the many experiences of being Jewish in the South. Everyone has a story to tell and we want to hear yours. But we need your help to make this museum a reality. So, please join Suzanne and me in making a contribution to the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience so our stories can be told.
From the Collection: Temple Bombing Letters
In the early morning of May 28, 1968, members of the Ku Klux Klan placed fifteen sticks of dynamite next to Temple Beth Israel, in Meridian, Mississippi. The ensuing blast destroyed walls, doors, and part of the religious school's roof. The perpetrators had earlier bombed Temple Beth Israel and the rabbi's house in Jackson, MS, in September 1967. Rabbis in both cities had spoken forcefully against the bombings of black churches and other racial violence during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Their statements drew the Southern Jewish community deeper into the struggle for racial equality.

Many Southern Jews chose to stay quiet out of fear or ambivalence; others did not. The story is complex and the experiences varied. Memories of those years are often sanitized to comfort our current sensibilities. This is not the best path forward for understanding history.
The day after the Meridian temple bombing, students at St. Patrick's School wrote letters of consolation and support to Rabbi Milton Schlager. These letters and others, proudly held in our collection, offered a moment of hope and grace, and the possibilities for building inclusive, peaceful communities together. Click each letter to enlarge.
Do you have a story to tell about the temple bombing in Meridian
(or Jackson, or Atlanta, or...)?
Say Hello to Our Two New Board Members
As the Museum grows ever closer to opening, we are pleased to announce the addition of two new board members: Deborah Lamensdorf Jacobs and Janis Rabin.
Deborah Lamensdorf Jacobs is a native of Cary, Mississippi. After attending college and working in New Orleans she moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1986. Her Atlanta community involvement includes serving on the boards of schools, social services agencies and leadership positions in philanthropic and cultural organizations. Deborah served as President of her synagogue, Congregation B’nai Torah.

She is intrigued by how Jewish communities evolve, flourish, and adapt to challenges all over the world. Her special interest is the Jewish communities in the South. Her ancestors immigrated from Minsk and southern Poland in the late 1800s and settled in Mississippi around 1890. They were merchants and cotton farmers for many generations. 

Deborah is pleased to join the board of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience to share the impact, heritage, and experience of Jews in the South and celebrate the current diversity, involvement and impact.

Deborah is married to Lou Jacobs, MD. They are the parents of two sons and together they enjoy travel, outdoor activities and the arts. 
Janis Rabin is National Vice President and Executive Director of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science (ACWIS) in Southern California. Prior to moving to Los Angeles in 1991, Janis started her professional non-profit career with ACWIS in 1989 in Jackson, MS. She was responsible for development in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arizona. In 2019, she received the inaugural Marshall S. Levin Award for Excellence in Fundraising from ACWIS. 

Before joining ACWIS, Janis was a professional volunteer. She was the first female president of Beth Israel Synagogue in Jackson, a member the executive committee for the National Young Women’s Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal and active with the National Council for Soviet Jewry.      
 
Originally from New Orleans, throughout her life, Janis was involved in her family's retail business. She credits her grandparents, originally from Poland, for teaching her the meaning of philanthropy and helping to shape her love of Israel and the traditions of the Jewish people over many summers in their Bogalusa, LA, home.
 
Janis is married to Stan Alfred, MD. They are avid sports fans and enjoy spending time with the loves of their lives — their children and grandchildren.
This Month in Southern Jewish History
March 7, 1914
Leo Frank loses his last state appeal for a new trial in the murder of Mary Phagan, and his execution date is set for a month later. However, his defense team files for an extraordinary motion before the Georgia Supreme Court and the execution is stayed while that hearing is conducted. The court denies him a new trial and his lawyers appeal to the US Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision, Frank's murder conviction is upheld.
March 10, 1855
David Wise, of New Orleans, advertised his slave depot on Baronne St. By the time of the Civil War, New Orleans was the largest slave-trading city in the South. Southern Jews owned slave in comparable numbers to their white non-Jewish neighbors, and a few, like Wise, were slave traders. This fact has been used--and widely exaggerated--by anti-Semites, but it is one of the uncomfortable truths of Southern Jewish history.
March 15, 1886
Fiction writer Thyra Samter Winslow is born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where her parents ran a dry-goods store. An avid writer in her youth, Winslow made a career from writing more than 200 short stories, in popular magazines of her day and in published books. She set many of her stories in her native Arkansas. Like other Southern writers (William Faulkner, Truman Capote), Winslow was lured by Hollywood and contributed to several films in the 1930s.
March 21, 1928
Samuel Ullman dies in Birmingham, AL, at age 83. A native of Germany, Ullman immigrated to the US at age 11, settling in Port Gibson, then Natchez, and finally Birmingham. Ullman was a successful businessman, important religious leader, and influential civic voice. During his long tenure on the Birmingham board of education, he advocated for improved educational opportunities for African American students. He is best remembered today as the author of the poem "Youth," beloved throughout Japan to this day.
March 21, 1938
Ernst Borinski arrives in New York aboard the Queen Mary fleeing rising anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. He served in the US Army during WWII and afterward took a job teaching sociology at Tougaloo College, a college for black students in Jackson, MS, where he taught for many decades. He was one of more than fifty Jewish refugees who were welcomed at HBCUs--Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
March 24, 1894
The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper, in Alabama, reveals efforts by local whitecappers to threaten and intimidate local Jewish merchants, including Levin & Son, Rosenberg Brothers, and J. Isears. Whitecapping was the name given to sporadic acts of violence against African Americans, but also against Jews. These attacks and threats flared up in areas of the deep South in times of economic distress--and were generally perpetrated at night or in disguise. Some whitecappers were affiliated with the KKK, but not all were.
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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