Atlanta's William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum is looking across the state for evidence of early Jewish life for the State of Georgia Project.
The Bremen received, in 1999, a $15,000 grant from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board to identify and survey Georgia's Jewish communities. Ruth Einstein joined the museum as special projects coordinator; the archivist is Sandra Berman.
"Albany, Bainbridge, Cleveland: Families in those towns and others have added to the Breman's collection of life in Georgia. Berman estimates that the museum has 'several thousand' photos and more than 50 taped histories.
"Dalton, Eatonton, Franklin: They were merchants, farmers, peddlers, Civil War veterans, rabbis. Georgians.
"Berman and Einstein have driven up interstates and down narrow country roads tracking family histories. They have crawled under synagogues and crept to the top of department stores, looking for treasures in the dust. "Sometimes," said Berman, "you are absolutely amazed at what you find."
Time is not their friend as the state's smaller Jewish communities are "drying up." Einstein has a state map, studded with push pins indicating the places she's visited for information.
Among the finds, which include birth certificates, death notices, love letters and photos, are about two wheelbarrows' records from Macon's Temple Beth Israel, founded 1859.
Berman wants to expand the search to Alabama, while the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (Jackson, Mississippi) is also cataloging southern Jewish congregations.
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