19 July 2008

West Virginia: Jews of Appalachia, July 22

The Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, West Virginia will host historian Deborah R. Weiner to discuss her book, Coalfield Jews: An Appalachian History.

The event begins at noon Tuesday, July 22, as part of the library's Lunch With Books Program.

Weiner is a research historian and family history coordinator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and director of Historic Jonestown, Inc., both in Baltimore.

The book is the first extended study of Jews in Appalachia, and explores the mass migration of Eastern European Jews to America and the effects of the coal boom (1880-1920) on settlements and culture. It won the Southern Jewish Historical Society Award “for the book making the most significant contribution to the field of Southern Jewish history published during 2003-2006.”

Jewish immigrants traveled to southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia to investigate opportunities during the coal boom, and some were successful in business, establishing numerous small Jewish communities.

Weiner used a wide range of primary sources in social, cultural, religious, labor, economic and regional history, personal statements, interviews, oral histories and archival sources to produce a picture of a little known piece of American Jewish life. The descendants of these families should find information about their ancestors and their way of life.


  1. Back in April, I interviewed Dr. Weiner about 'Coalfield Jews' on the Appalachian History blog. Her comments are at:

  2. Dave,

    Thanks for the information.