The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Jews in the South. Edited by Leonard Dinnerstein and Mary Dale Palsson.
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973. Pp. viii+392.
Bibliographical essay, notes. $12.50.)
The homogenization of American culture was the subject of a Phi Beta
Kappa address by the late Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley in the
I930s. The influence of national television and radio is eradicating the dis-
tinctive cultural expressions of the different sections of America. The easy
and rapid movement of peoples from one region of the land to another is
diluting the particular way of life characteristic of each separate region.
The North, South, East, West, Middle West, and Southwest were each
distinctive in the sound of language, the style of living, and the flavor of
food. The standardization of the nation is almost complete. This collection
of essays on Jews in the South is a telltale footnote to Shapley's thesis.
During the antebellum period of American history, Jewish life in the
South was essentially different from that of coreligionists in the North.
Southern Jews owned slaves, bought and sold slaves, treated slaves kindly
or meanly, in the same way as their Christian neighbors. In 185o Sam
Rothschild of Louisiana sold his boat and stock for a Negro girl and then
traded her off in New Orleans for tobacco. The more prominent Jews,
leaders of the religious and philanthropic societies of the Jewish communi-
ties, advertized slave auctions. Slavery was a business and a way of life in
the old South. Jews engaged in both the commercial and social mores of
the general community. Bertram Korn, in one of the more perceptive essays
in this volume writes: "The significant thing is that being Jewish did not
play any discernible role in the determination of the relationship of Jew to
slavery" (p. 131).
The Jew in the South today is hardly distinguishable from his Christian
neighbor. The disappearance of slavery made room for the problems of
emancipation culminating in the Supreme Court decision on desegregation
of public schools. The problems of the Jew in the South now read like those
of his fellow-Jews in the North. The style of Jewish life is not noticeably
different in Atlanta or Chicago. Jewish life has been homogenized too!
The editors of this volume have collected papers previously published and
have arranged them under general headings of historical periods. Like any
collection of essays by different writers, some are better than others. The
papers of Korn and Lowi are scholarly and revealing. The essay on Rich-
mond by the Bernsteins is too pejorative to be useful. The bibliographical
essay demonstrates the paucity of material available on the subject.
A lay reader will profit by reading these essays since they do portray the


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 26, 2015.