The Southern Shmooze
May 2020
 (we think)
Love in the Time of Quarantine
We Southern Jews know a thing or two about diseases and quarantines--or at least our Southern ancestors did. Throughout the 19th century, yellow fever continually posed deadly risks, with particularly bad outbreaks in 1833, 1853, and 1878. The last major epidemic of Yellow Jack, as it was often called, occurred in New Orleans in 1905.

Jewish history in New Orleans has a direct connection to yellow fever: the loss of life and the economic damage to the city from the 1878 epidemic were factors in the decision by congregations Shangarai-Chesset and Nefutzot Yehudah to merge into what is today known as Touro Synagogue.

But through the travails of disease and quarantine, life--and love--went on, as shown below...
The Times-Democrat , New Orleans, LA, October 28, 1897
Helena, Oct. 27.--To-night at the Lotus Clubrooms, this city, Mr. Julius Levy and Miss Viola Schwartz, both of this city, were married in the presence of a large and fashionable audience. Judge John Ike Moore, county and probate judge, officiated. Rabbi Samfield, of Memphis, had been engaged to perform the ceremony but was detained on account of the quarantine regulations. Then Rabbi Becker, of Pine Bluff, was wired, but he, too, was prevented from reaching the city, as he was not permitted to pass through Clarendon, which has quarantined against the world. In this emergency Judge Moore was called upon. There were four groomsmen and four bridesmaids, a best man and a maid of honor. The wedding was followed by a reception and an elaborate supper. Owing to the prevailing trouble on account of the yellow fever the young people did not make a contemplated wedding trip.
We hope you are staying healthy and staying home with someone you love if you can. We will continue keeping you up to date on our progress as we stay the course toward opening the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience. Reach out if there is anything we can do for you or if you have any questions or suggestions for the us.
Exhibit Update: On the Road Again
As we move into the fabrication phase of our exhibit development, it's time to get our peddler's cart ready for the spotlight. It will play an important part in telling the story of the Southern Jewish experience in the 19th century. But a few of its boards need mending and a few of it's pegs need replacing.

Peddling transformed the landscape of the American South. This ancient profession of walking and selling supplies carved new pathways between towns, provided consumer goods and valuable skills, and opened a window to the larger world. Peddling also allowed Jewish peddlers and their non-Jewish customers to interact across religious, racial, and social lines.
Peddling provided the first career step for many young Jewish immigrants in the South. However, it was neither a guarantee of success, nor was it without hazards. Wild animals, loneliness, physical rigor, and the dangers of traveling in unknown territory combined to make peddling a risky venture. Even so, thousands of Southern Jews took up their packs and carts and set out across the region. 

Peddlers were the foot soldiers of the Jewish merchant network. A store owner in Natchez, MS, might send peddlers to seek new customers in surrounding rural areas. That same store owner might acquire merchandise from Jewish wholesalers and manufacturers in New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and New York. As time went on, credit would be advanced, relationships would be strengthened, and reputations would be made or lost.  
Peddling provided a rare chance for rural Americans to interact with Jews. Peddlers were often welcomed into their customers’ homes for food and a place to sleep. Long distances between neighbors and the self-sufficiency of isolated households encouraged hospitality and socializing between Jews and Christians.

Do you have ancestors who were peddlers in the South?
We'd love to hear your story.
Did You Know?
May is Jewish American Heritage Month
The Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are all paying tribute to the generations of Jewish Americans who have helped form the fabric of American history, culture and society. Check out their offerings here:

The National Museum of American Jewish History is also serving as a portal for information and programming, and can be accessed here:

Both of these sites are heavy on New York and the Northeast -- another reason the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience is so badly needed!
From the Collection:
Walking in "God's own country"
Seventy-five years ago this month, Adolf Philippsborn became an American citizen. Philippsborn was born in 1888 in Potsdam, Germany, and as a young man was ordained as a rabbi. In 1933, heeding warnings that the newly installed Nazi government had targeted him, Adolf left Germany for France with only a briefcase. His wife, Gertrude followed a week later. In 1937, Adolf’s name appeared in a German newspaper along with other Jews who had been stripped of their German citizenship. Stateless and with no passport, the Philippsborns were unable to immigrate to America.
The Philippsborns’ papers in the MSJE Collection reveal their subsequent travels from France to Belgium to the Netherlands. In early 1939, the Dutch government issued a one-way document that allowed Adolf and Gertrude to immigrate to the United States in April of that year. In 1942, in the midst of World War II and the Holocaust, Philippsborn delivered an address, typed out in a small notebook, to Temple Moses Montefiore in Marshall, Texas. After living for years as a stateless refugee, his words speak to the devotion Philippsborn felt toward America:
You think you know America since you were born in this country, educated in its schools and inspired with American ideals. Ask one of those newcomers from Europe, whom Hitlerism deprived of the right to work and to breathe, whom the Gestapo chased from country to country, he will tell you that he does not take America’s freedom for granted, but that from the very moment that he came to these shores, he realized that he walked in “God’s own country." Thus, on every morning he thanks God anew for America “the beautiful," now his homeland.

By the time he passed away in 1967, Philippsborn had served as rabbi for congregations in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi, and represented the Southeast as an executive board member for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
Do you have an artifact you would like to donate to the MSJE?
Charles Zucker's Legacy Lives On
Charles Zucker (1925-2014), affectionately known as "Uncle Charlie," supported numerous Jewish causes throughout his life and believed in the power of education to change lives. He always looked to help others and cherished his many friendships. With a generous grant from the trustees of the Charles Zucker Fund, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience established the Charles D. Zucker Jewish Studies Internship Program, in 2018. It now serves as a living testament of his commitment to keeping the Jewish community engaged and strong, from generation to generation.

Although not exclusive to Tulane University, MSJE has already engaged nine Tulane student interns over the past two years. These interns have gained real-world museum experience in research, design, and the day-to-day tasks involved with building a new museum.
This spring and summer, we are pleased to welcome Nicolette Levy as our newest Zucker Intern. Nicolette is a first year MA student in the Art History department at Tulane. Her research centers on the commodification of religious objects in the early Renaissance. Nicolette has worked with institutions like the Newcomb Art Museum and private collectors to help them organize and manage their art collections. She plans to pursue a career as a museum curator, and is thrilled to be joining the MSJE as an intern. Nicolette is most excited about working with artifacts from the collection to help create an interactive narrative of Jewish life in the South. 

Join us for a Live Update via

"Everything You Wanted to Know About the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience (but were afraid to ask)"

Monday, May 11, 2020
12:30 PM Central Time
Mark your calendar for Monday, May 11, 2020 , when our director, Kenneth Hoffman, will be the presenter in the next installment of the New Orleans JCC's Morris Bart Lecture Series . Kenneth will talk about the Museum's progress and show off some of our latest acquisitions. Oh, and there will be a Southern Jewish quiz!

If you have questions about the Museum or Southern Jewish history, please EMAIL them to us ahead of time. Kenneth will answer as many of your questions as he can (or will at least make something up).

Join this presentation on May 11 by clicking here:
This Month in Southern Jewish History
May 3, 1883
Carrie Marcus Neiman born in Louisville, KY, to Jewish German immigrant parents. The family moved to Texas, where Carrie gained retail and fashion experience working for a local department store. In 1907, Carrie, along with her husband and brother, opened Neiman Marcus in Dallas, one of the first stores in the South to sell high fashion ready-to-wear.
May 6, 1884
Judah P. Benjamin dies in Paris, France, at the age of 72. Benjamin had been a Louisiana plantation owner, US senator, and secretary of state for the Confederacy. He escaped Union capture at the end of the Civil War, making his way to England where he became a well-respected lawyer. British law students still read "Benjamin on Sales."
May 12, 1887
Regina Kaplan born in Memphis, TN, to Jewish German immigrant parents. She graduated top of her nursing school class and served with the Red Cross during WWI. For 35 years Kaplan served as superintendent and administrator of the Leo N. Levi Hospital in Hot Springs, AR, where she also founded the first nursing school in the South to admit men.
May 13, 1840
The Natchez Free Trad er announces the presidential electors for Democratic candidate Martin Van Buren, including Chapman Levy. Levy had moved to Mississippi after a successful career as a lawyer and legislator in Columbia, SC. In Mississippi he became involved in state politics and was even offered the nomination to run as governor, heading the Democratic ticket.
May 20, 1923
The Popular, one of the largest department stores in El Paso, TX, advertises Mah Jong in the El Paso Times . The Popular was founded and run by Hungarian Jewish immigrant Adolf Schwartz. The mah jong craze soon subsided, but has long remained popular with Jewish women.
May 25, 1903
The Atlanta Constitution reports on the local Kishinev Relief Committee's fundraising efforts. In the previous month, Jews in Kishinev, Bessarabia, then part of the Russian Empire, suffered through a violent pogrom, or anti-Jewish riot. International outrage followed, along with relief efforts across the United States, including in many Southern cities.
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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