Published On: Thu, Dec 24th, 2020

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience Is Coming to New Orleans

There is a strong Jewish presence in the American South.

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience will open in New Orleans next year after a delay caused by the Coronavirus crisis. The new museum replaces an older one which stood in Utica, Mississippi, since 1986.

The Museum will hold a collection of more than 7,000 artifacts. “We feel this will allow us to give the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience the robust welcome that we’ve been planning for,” said Jay Tanenbaum, Chairman, MSJE. Tanenbaum also cited the need to give business and tourism time to recover in New Orleans and ensure the safety of all staff and visitors.

The museum is designed by Gallagher & Associates, and Solomon Group and will be located at 818 Howard Avenue in New Orleans.

The new museum will explore the many ways Jews in the American South influenced and were influenced by the distinct cultural heritage of their communities, covering 13 states and more than 300 years of history – including Colonial, Civil War, World War II and the Civil Rights Movement.

Through exhibits, collections and programs focused on the unique and remarkable history of Southern Jews, the Museum encourages new understanding and appreciation for identity, diversity, and acceptance.

Following World War II, generations of young Southerners—Jews among them—left their small hometowns for more promising careers in larger cities. While Jewish culture thrived in the metropolitan centers, Jewish congregations dwindled in the smaller communities, and historic rural synagogues which had once flourished as centers of worship and heritage were abandoned. Judaic artifacts from these disbanded congregations have been scattered among individuals or lost altogether.

In many small towns, the story of the Southern Jewish experience survives only as a fading storefront or is represented by the remaining Jewish community members.

In 1986, in response to these trends, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience opened at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp, in Utica, MS, a summer camp for Jewish children. This project was the vision of Macy B. Hart, along with a group of like-minded supporters. The Museum served as an information center supporting the preservation of Jewish culture in the South.

The Museum preserves historical documents and artifacts and covers a geographical area that includes these 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

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