The Southern Shmooze
October 2020
"... a little more tolerant
and a lot happier."
Last month, we received a generous donation in the mail accompanied by a very special letter. It reads, in part:
Thank you for the foundational work you are doing in order to bring to life the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience. I have lived all my 75 years in Lexington, MS, a small town which happened to be be blessed by the presence of a substantial and prosperous Jewish community which contributed much that was good to the life of our community and frankly to my own life. Its Jewish population made Lexington bright, a little more sophisticated, a little more tolerant, and a lot happier.

So, you see the Jewish experience in Lexington, at least, is part of the Christian experience there, too, or certainly for my family and everyone I knew growing up.

The museum you are creating is not just for Southern Jews, it is for their Christian friends, as well, and may God bless you in this undertaking.

Good luck with your opening next spring.

Don Barrett
In 1905 the Jews of Lexington formed congregation Temple Beth El. The Jewish population reached a height of eighty people in the late 1920s, and continued to meet for services–with dwindling numbers–until 2009.

With the help of Don Barrett and the generosity of Lexington native Morris Lewis, MSJE will proudly display one of Beth El's beautiful stained-glass windows.
Thank you, Don Barrett. Thank you not only for your financial support, but for putting down on paper something we are striving to accomplish at the new Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience creating a place where people of all backgrounds can see that with diversity comes strength, with tolerance comes prosperity, and with acceptance comes happiness.
From the Collection: When You're Smiling
Museum collections – including those at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience – are filled with what could be considered items of a “serious” nature: business documentation, religious and ceremonial objects, and family photographs, journals, and records. But amid the formal letters and staged portraits, we often come across items that are quirky, funny, heartwarming, or just plain old silly. This month’s collection highlight features just a few of the many items that brought smiles to our faces.

(Click each image to enlarge.)
Oh, to know the story behind this heart-felt money order message to Louis Davidson of Greenwood, MS, in 1945.
Before the days of “walk up music,” Temple Beth Israel’s 1960 sisterhood in Clarksdale, MS, was ahead of its time.
David Blumberg’s National Association of Life Underwriters campaign poster, c. 1950s. Must have been a Kefauver man.
Julius “Judy” Loeb colorfully illustrated his not-so-pleasant cruise experience in 1912. Could have been worse; just ask Molly Brown.
'Tis the Season (Still)...
Well, we made it through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the Jewish High Holidays. But wait, there's more! Now comes Sukkot followed by Simchat Torah (and there's actually another holiday nestled in between). Oy, what a season!
Sukkot celebrates the fruits of the fall harvest and commemorates the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in while wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. This autumnal holiday includes building and decorating temporary outdoor structures at a Jewish family’s house or synagogue and enjoying festive meals with family and friends. Many Jews also wave the lulav and etrog (four species of plants and a citron) and recite blessings. (Photo: Mendy Schechter of Chabad of Metairie)
Simchat Torah celebrates the renewal of the annual Torah reading cycle. Jews are commanded to read the Torah (Five Books of Moses) throughout their lives. On Simchat Torah, congregations around the world ceremoniously read the final verses of the last book of the Torah (Deuteronomy) and the first verses of first book (Genesis) without pausing to take a breath. It's a joyous holiday, complete with music, dancing, and sweet treats for the children. (Photo: Congregants of Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge dance with the Torah in 2019)
Growing Up Jewish in Selma, Alabama
A Conversation with Rusty Palmer
Sunday, October 11, 7:00pm Central
We had such a positive response from last month's program about Delta Jews that we're continuing the theme. This month we move over one state to Alabama and chat with MSJE vice-chair Rusty Palmer about growing up Jewish in Selma. Jews began arriving in Selma by the1830s, setting up shop to supply local farmers, and before long were making contributions to the town's civic and cultural life. In 1980, two hundred Jews called Selma home; today there are only four. Rusty's commitment to MSJE and its mission stems in large part to his formative years in that historic town.

This program is FREE, but registration is required to participate via Zoom.
You can also watch without registration on Facebook Live at (
The New Orleans Jewish Orphans' Home
A Conversation with Marlene Trestman
Thursday, October 29, 7:00pm Central
Join us for a conversation with Marlene Trestman, historian and author of the forthcoming Most Fortunate Unfortunates: New Orleans’s Jewish Orphans’ Home, 1855-1946. MSJE Curator Anna Tucker and Marlene Trestman will explore the history of the Jewish Orphans' Home in New Orleans and discuss artifacts that were considered and selected for the MSJE's opening exhibitions. Other topics of discussion include Supreme Court advocate and Home alumna, Bessie Margolin, and her legacy in light of the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
This program is FREE, but registration is required to participate via Zoom.
You can also watch without registration on Facebook Live at (
If you missed our program
Growing Up Jewish in the Delta,
you can watch a recording of it here:

And Speaking of Live Programs...

This Month in Southern Jewish History
NORTH CAROLINA: October 2, 1981
Harry Golden dies at his home in Charlotte. Golden published – and penned the contents of – The Carolina Israelite newspaper from 1942-1968 and counted among his subscribers Harry Truman, William Faulkner, and his good friend Carl Sandburg. Golden was also a prolific writer of often-satirical social commentary, publishing books of his essays, including "Only In America" and "For 2¢ Plain." He once wrote, “The Southern Jew of the city lives in constant fear of someone’s passing an anti-Semitic remark ‘to his face.’”
FLORIDA: October 9, 1951
Two sticks of dynamite left outside Miami's Temple Israel fail to detonate and are found by passing school boys who report their find to the police. In Florida, one dozen synagogues and Jewish community centers experienced similar incidences in the fall of 1951 alone, most linked to local KKK groups.
GEORGIA: October 5, 1879
The Atlanta Constitution newspaper reports negatively on the state of business in the nearby town of Covington and provides a back-handed compliment and "history" lesson.
MISSISSIPPI: October 18, 1875
The Jews of Greenville help to open the German and English School. An editorial in the local paper said, "The establishment of this school on a permanent basis is the highest ambition of our Jewish citizens. They appeal to the public to sustain their efforts to make Greenville as noted for its excellent educational advantages, as it is for enterprise in other businesses.” 
SOUTH CAROLINA: October 30, 1917
New York City names the Riverton St. Bathhouse for Dr. Simon Baruch, who spent years advocating for public health and the building of baths and pools for the city's poor. A native of Camden, SC, Baruch had been a surgeon for the Confederacy and later relocated to New York, becoming a renowned public health expert.
LOUISIANA: October 31, 1948
The Milton H. Latter Memorial Library is officially dedicated. Earlier that year, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Latter had purchased the St. Charles Avenue mansion with the intention of donating it to the city for use as a library. They named it after their son, Milton, who as a first lieutenant was killed on Okinawa on April 27, 1945. 
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to PO Box 15071, New Orleans, LA 70175

required distribution
as a recipient of a Donor Advised Fund

or other marketable securities

in your estate planning
Shalom. Make yourself at home.™️
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Banner images (l-r): Members of Congregation Beth Israel in Clarksdale, MS, c. 1910. Collection of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience; Blue Star campers, North Carolina, 2016. Courtesy of Blue Star Camps.