05 June 2008

North Carolina: Jewish heritage project

For more than four centuries, there has been a Jewish presence in North Carolina, and an ambitious new undertaking - a multi-media cultural offering - is documenting this history, "Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina."

The Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina (JHFNC) has raised $1 million towards producing the project, with only another $250,00 remaining to reach the budget, according to a press release. Public and private funding has included corporate, state and individual family gifts from throughout the state.

Down Home will tell the over 400-year history of Jewish settlement in North Carolina in a multi-media project that will include a traveling museum exhibit, a broadcast quality documentary film, a richly illustrated book published by UNC Press and public school educational programming with a teacher’s guide. The written and oral histories, photographs and artifacts chronicling the story of immigrant Jews and their contributions to the communities in our state will travel in the museum exhibition to North Carolina’s major history museums.

The Down Home film will debut this fall at the Museum of History in Raleigh and will be shown in venues throughout the state in 2009.

According to the JHFNC website:

Fragments of North Carolina’s Jewish history can be found on the shelves of libraries, museums, and archives. But the stories that make this history come alive remain forgotten in attics and closets, and waiting in the memories of community elders. As letters and photographs fade, as parents and grandparents pass away, and as small-town synagogues close and their records disappear, this heritage may be lost forever.

The research material for the project will be the largest body of historical records about North Carolina's Jews. The permanent home for “The North Carolina Jewish Collection” will be at the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. It will be professionally preserved and available to scholars.

The JHFNC is also working with a university libraries consortium from across the state (Duke University, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UNC-Charlotte) that hold Jewish North Carolina collections. A master guide is planned to aid those interested in this subject.

Established in 1996, the JHFNC is the state’s only Jewish historical organization. It collects and preserves artifacts and records North Carolina's Jewish settlement history while conducting programs to examine and portray the state's Jewish experience. Its slogan is "Honoring History. Celebrating Culture. Connecting Communities."

Learn more about the project in a movie trailer for the "Down Home" exhibit here.

Read more here .

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