The Jewish Eye
Dixie Diaspora: An Anthology of Southern Jewish History
Reviewed by Boris Segel - April 14, 2009
The history of Jews in the American South has been overshadowed by an academic prevalence to focus on the larger Jewish communities in the Northeast. In recent years, however, this trend has begun to change as more historians and researches discover the vibrant and diverse history of Jews in the South. In Dixie Diaspora: An Anthology of Southern Jewish History Mark K. Bauman has gathered together some of the finest essays on the subject of Southern Jewish History. These essays serve to highlight current issues in this burgeoning field and to show just how much information is left to be discovered and the numerous areas of the Southern Jewish experience that have yet to be explored. In all, there are sixteen essays in this book, all written by outstanding scholars in their respective fields. The essays cover the breadth of the Southern Jewish experience and they cover a range of topics from the Jewish settlers who arrived in Savannah, Georgia in 1733 to the modern-day push by members of the Southern Baptist Convention to convert Jews to Christianity.
The essays in this anthology include:
You can see, simply by scanning the list of essays, the broad scope of this anthology, both in terms of place of time. The essays not only look at the Southern Jewish experience on a community level, but they also delve into the personal experiences of well-known figures such as Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston, to the unsung women who organized Jewish communal life in more than one hundred different towns scattered throughout the Appalachian coalfields. The essays are organized into five thematic sections covering Jews and Judaism, Small-Town Life, Business and Governance, Interaction, and Identity. Each section, as well as the book itself, begins with a compelling introduction by Mark K. Bauman that places the book, and its essays, in context with Southern History in general, as well as to the Jewish-American experience as a whole.
- A "Haven of Benignity": Conflict and Cooperation Between Eighteenth-Century Savannah Jews, by Mark I. Greenberg
- Southern Rabbis and the Foundation of the First National Association of Rabbis, by Gary P. Zola
- The Mixers: The Role of Rabbis Deep in the Heart of Texas, by Hollace Ava Weiner
- East European Immigrants and the Image of Jews in the Small-Town South, by Lee Shai Weissbach
- Jewish Women in the Central Appalachian Coal Fields, 1880-1960: From Breadwinners to Community Builders, by Deborah R. Weiner
- The Dixie Diaspora: The "Loss" of the Small Southern Jewish Community, by Ira M. Sheskin
- Jewish Commercial Interests Between North and South: The Case of the Lehmans and the Seligmans, by Elliott Ashkenazi
- Philip and Morris Dzialynski: Jewish Contributions to the Rebuilding of the South, by Canter Brown Jr.
- Role Theory and History: the Illustration of Ethnic Brokerage in the Atlanta Jewish Community in an Era of Transition and Conflict, by Mark K. Bauman
- Nativism, Bigotry and Anti-Semitism in the South, by Howard N. Rabinowitz
- "Notorious in the Neighborhood": An Interracial Family in Early National and Antebellum Virginia, by Joshua D. Rothman
- Closing Ranks: Montgomery Jews and Civil Rights, 1954-1960, by Clive Webb
- Interaction and Identity: Jews and Christians in Nineteenth Century New Orleans, by Scott M. Langston
- Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew, by Leonard Rogoff
- The Braided Identity of Southern Jewry, by Stephen J. Whitfield
- "How to Win the Jews for Christ": Southern Jewishness and the Southern Baptist Convention, by Eliza R. L. McGraw
Dixie Diaspora is a fascinating book to read, both as a foray into an often overlooked aspect of Jewish history and culture, as well as for the unique perspective that it provides into Southern History. As such, this book is essential reading for anyone with a personal or academic interest in Southern Jewish history and culture. In addition, each essay contains endnotes that will prove useful to anyone seeking to explore this subject in greater detail. Dixie Diaspora is also ideally suited for use as a class text in university level classes on the American South and Southern Jewish history, as well as a supplemental text in Jewish studies or general survey courses in American Jewish history. Best of all, these essays are also eminently readable, making them accessible to general readers with an interest in this vibrant and still developing chapter in Jewish history.
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- Coalfield Jews: An Appalachian History, by Deborah R. Weiner.
Focusing primarily on the period from the early 1880's - 1920, this insightful book provides a survey of the immigration of Eastern European Jews to central Appalachia during the coal boom of this period. It also provides details about Jewish communal life and the various Jewish communities that developed throughout the region - many of which still exist today.
- Kindler of Souls: Rabbi Henry Cohen of Texas, by Rabbi Henry Cohen II.
An intimate portrait of one the foremost American Rabbis, one who influenced not only Jewish history, but also the history of Texas.
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