06 May 2008

Deep South: Jewish resources

if you have roots in southern US states, if you're trying to find information about ancestors who lived in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northwest Florida; about synagogues and institutions in this geographical region, then consider contacting the Deep South Jewish Voice, the paper that covers this area.

The DSJV carries, in addition to its regular international and US Jewish news, local Jewish history stories, such as this one on French Jewish history in the South.

Last year, sociologist Anny Bloch-Raymond gave two talks on Jewish life in New Orleans in a series co-sponsored by the French Consulate in New Orleans, the Alliance Francaise of New Orleans, and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

Bloch-Raymond, with a master's in American civilization from the University of Paris, and a PhD in social sciences from the University Marc Bloch, Strasbourg, is a member of the National Center of Scientific Research at the Center of Social Anthropology. She teaches Jewish culture in the anthropological department of the University of Toulouse LeMirail and in the Institute of Jewish Studies.

She's working on a new book - "Jewish Migrants from the Banks of The Rhine to the Banks of the Mississippi" - and her current field of research is migration from France and Germany to the American south during the 19th-20th centuries.

The two programs were "Languages, ways of cooking and religions: French inspiration, Jewish rites, and Creole practices" and "From the banks of the Rhine River to the banks of the Mississippi: a long story of the presence of the French Jews in Louisiana."

The first explored how French Jewish immigrants in New Orleans adapted their cuisine to include Creole traditions.

The immigrants who settled in New Orleans maintained their French Jewish heritage even if they had adjusted it. Cooking combined French and Southern mode, gumbos and matzo balls, gefilte fish, kugels, and pecan pies. Many families compiled their own recipe books. Some became professional cooks, such as Beulah Ledner, who created a French doberge adapted from Austrian cake, and opened a bakery in New Orleans in 1933, becoming very successful.

Her second talk focused on the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine who, in the mid-1880s, left their homes, landed in New Orleans and mainly settled in small towns along the Mississippi River.

They gave their names to the towns of Geismar, Klotzville, and Marksville in Louisiana. They owned plantations in Bunkie, White Castle, and Reserve. There are still dry goods stores and general stores bearing their names: Abraham Levy, Wolff, Lemann, Lorman, Fraenkel. They were founding members of synagogues in New Orleans, Donaldsonville, Alexandria, and Opelousas, along with the German migrants that they married ...

Other resources for the area include the private, non-profit Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), dedicated to providing educational and rabbinic services to isolated Jewish communities, documenting and preserving the rich history of the Southern Jewish experience, and promoting a Jewish cultural presence throughout a 13 state region.

The Institute began as the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in 1986. Now a subsidiary of the ISJL, the museum helps to define southern Jewish culture through traveling and permanent exhibits. In recent years, the Institute has dramatically expanded cultural offerings in both small towns and big cities throughout the South.

Innovative regional programming includes annual Jewish film festivals, concerts highlighting cross-cultural music, literary programs, dance and theatre performances, and other activities that promote artistic interpretation of the Southern Jewish Experience.


  1. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Just stumbled across your blog and am very interested in your writing. I am also working on a family geneology that goes back to Alsace-Lorraine villages around the late 1800's. In particular, Ingwiller and Rothbach. My family also came into New Orleans and took the steamboat from New Orleans up to Washington, LA. Still compiling my information from Germany and France. I started this blog, but realized early on that the blog would not meet my needs with regard to the amount of information I have, so I'm going to write a book about my family's migration to the United States. I am going to include the Franco-Prussian war etc.. I'm running out the door right now, but would like to possibly meet with you and pick your brain.
    My "incomplete" blog is http://haashirsch.blogspot.com/
    The Samuel Haas Empire
    M. Troy Weinstein-Opelousas, Louisiana

  2. anny bloch11:39 AM

    giv eme more details about your family and I cna hel p you to connect ot French alsatizn genalogy
    sie mail and families.
    I also have just published a book in French about the history of yfamilie slike yours
    I met an old lady Hirsh in Opelousas, the Psners and Rebecca Manouvrier and there was Haas family in the cemetery..
    Also have a look at the site Alsatian judaism .;there is a lot informaiton about Rothbach and Ingwiller