Monthly Archives: June 2013

Shabbat Cotton

Shabbat-Cotton-236x300In the early days of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, photographer Bill Aron hit the road, capturing images of life in the Jewish South. These photographs led to a book, Shalom Y’All: Images of Life in the Jewish South, and also became an exhibit, Bagels & Grits, which still finds audiences through the ISJL’s museum department.

This image, Shabbat Cotton, remains one of the most iconic from this photographic series. Taken in Cary, Mississippi, at the home of the Lamensdorf family, the cotton in the background was due to be harvested – and the shot had to be snapped quickly, so the work could go on! The moment was captured, the cotton fields yielded their offering, and as the sun set, another week ended.

Shabbat shalom, y’all!

Posted on June 28, 2013

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Vinyl for Hipsters vs. Vinyl for High Holy Days: Or, “Old School Columbia Records”

This blog post was written by Anna Stusser, a summer intern currently working in the Museum Department at the ISJL.

record1Vinyl records capture the imagination. In my hometown of Olympia, Washington, independent craft artists fashion bowls to and household items out of vinyl, appealing to the local indie market. In Brooklyn, the hipster set has revived an interest in vinyl records. I, too, have always seen the charm in the shape and vintage appeal of record players – which is why I became so excited when, in my first few days interning at the ISJL, I found some vintage LP records in the ISJL collection.

It is hard to imagine that modern day hipster twentysomethings, smoking cigarettes on a Brooklyn stoop, have anything in common with a small early-twentieth Southern Jewish congregation. (Other than maybe being Jewish – apparently, Jewish hipsters are their own subculture, and they’re into vinyl!)

But here they were, vintage vinyl records that would be prized today in Brooklyn, donated to the ISJL’s museum collection by a congregation in Columbia, Tennessee. Why were these vinyl records important to the daily life of their congregation? Why would Jews have vinyl records that they would consider important enough to donate to a museum that dedicates itself to Southern Jewish ethnography?

record coverAfter discussing it with my supervisor and reviewing the titles of such records (some example: Kol Nidre and Eili, Eili), I began to understand that these vinyl records had been something less trendy, and more functional. More meaningful.

To listen to Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky Singing Aneinu, as featured on one of the records, you can play this recording on YouTube (unfortunately not available as an embedded video, but worth a listen!).

Jews worshiping in Columbia, Tennessee, in the first half of the twentieth century, had no full time rabbi to guide them. Many of the Jewish people living in the area commuted into Nashville for their spiritual needs. However, in the early part of the 1900s, a group of people started the Khal Kadosh Congregation, a name which means “Holy Community.” Bilingual services were held in Hebrew and English for a congregation of 16, just barely above the size of a minyan, took place on the second floor of community member Isaac Wolf’s store. Although they had no permanent location, the small congregation acquired an Ark and a Torah. The records from Columbia very likely supplemented the services provided. Unfortunately, Khal Kadosh did not survive past 1926, so we do not know for sure.

But it’s a likely conclusion that the Jewish people living in Columbia utilized vinyl records out of necessity, because that was the technology that was available at the time. Back then, vinyl wasn’t vintage. It was cutting edge.

Small congregations like the one once found in Columbia, TN, still exist today. In the South, many of them are served by the ISJL’s rabbinic department, led by Rabbi Marshal Klaven. From Skype B’nai Mitzvah lessons to sending out his Taste of Torah weekly emails, today’s virtual resources have replaced those found on vinyl. 

Do you remember vinyl – or as a young adult, are you discovering it for the first time? We’d love to hear your vinyl stories, especially if you’ve ever listened to recordings of Jewish music!

Posted on June 26, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Around The Jewish South – This Week!

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It’s a big week in the Jewish South! Summer camp is in full swing, and the air is full with the smell of popcorn, the sounds of baseball bats cracking against baseballs, and Jewish educators coming together in Jackson, Mississippi.

Hey, just like summer everywhere, right? Here’s what we’re talking about:

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are playing in the College World Series – led by a Jewish coach (uncle to a former ISJL Fellow, no less)!

The ISJL Education Conference is in full swing – yesterday, today, and tomorrow, with more than 150 participants, presenters, and vendors learning and networking together in the heart of Mississippi! 

shulbus

The ISJL History Team is conducting research and writing histories of Jewish communities in Virginia for the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities!

And all of these events are leading to several fascinating stories underway, from staff, interns, and riveting Southern Jewish voices.

What’s filling your summer days this week?

Posted on June 24, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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