Devoid of a Southern accent, people often ask me where I’m from. They are surprised that I’m from Connecticut. The next question is usually to ask how I got here.
I tell them I got to Mississippi on a lucky opportunity. In 2006, I was a junior at Brandeis University, looking for a unique summer internship. I was interested in museums, so when I came upon the listing for an internship at a Jewish museum in Mississippi, I was sold. The only things I had ever learned about Mississippi (or the South in general, really) were that events from the Civil War and Civil Rights movement took place there, and that it was hot. But Jews in the South? That was a story I knew nothing about, so I applied – and, long story short, had one of the most transformative summers of my life. So much so that after graduation, much to my mother’s chagrin, I made the permanent move to Mississippi to work full time for the umbrella organization of that Jewish museum – the ISJL.
I now have the pleasure of welcoming new interns and Education Fellows to Jackson each summer. The mission of the ISJL is so compelling that we recruit students and recent graduates from all over the country. Over the summer, adventurous folks – most of whom are “not from around here” – travel all over the region, learning about cultural traditions, working with community partners, and often breaking down stereotypes they may have had about the South. There’s also usually occasions for ice cream, county fairs, and blues festivals.
This week, the Museum, History, and Community Engagement Departments are posting our new summer intern listings for 2013. If you or someone you know has an adventurous spirit and is interested in getting hands-on experience on a wide range of projects in an alternative part of the country, I highly encourage you to check out our site with more information about the internships.
It’s that time of year again. Just when Southerners are celebrating football and the waning summer heat, the holiday shopping season descends upon us. Since I’m sure all of you have been under a barrage of flashy ads for early bird deals and cyber discounts, I thought I’d give your consumerist minds a break and share a few images from a simpler shopping era.
Before big box stores or online shopping, a customer would walk into a local store and be taken care of by a member of the family that owned the business. And if you were doing your shopping in the South, you would very likely visit a shop owned by Jews. Shopping is a Southern Jewish tradition. Most immigrants started as peddlers and later built retail stores, establishing network of merchants across the region. While Jewish shop keepers did not observe the religious aspects of Christmas, the season of gift-giving was something to celebrate.
I envy the clients of the Alligator Store in Alligator, MS and Schwartz Store in Bay City, TX. You can tell by the looks on the owners faces their customers got great service.
Like today, the holidays were a big money maker, so stores were quick to cater to their clientele. Below is a shop in Laredo, Texas, decked out for Christmas.
Before you get too nostalgic, fear not! Not all of these shops are memories of the past. La Perla in Laredo is still run by members of the Norton Family today. So take a break from Amazon once in a while and venture out, after Black Friday of course, into the world for a personal experience and encourage these great traditional businesses to stick around.
Where have you been shopping lately? What are some of your favorite local family businesses?
As stated in one of our last posts about the hurricane, we are familiar with what the devastation of hurricanes looks like in the South. But the recent photographs of flooded cities coming out of New York and New Jersey during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy remind me of other stunning photos captured during a massive flood in this region that goes back further than Katrina or Camille.
These images are from a collection of photos and documents that once belonged to Marshall Levitt of Greenwood, MS. They depict the Flood of 1927, a devastating flood on April 21st , caused by a weather system that brought huge amounts of rain to the Upper Mississippi River Region and resulted in the levees breaking. It caused water to cover nearly one million acres of the Mississippi Delta, ten feet deep in ten days, and covered much of the area for months.
While Greenville, MS infamously suffered the worst of the flood, the expansive impact of the water can be seen in these photos which were taken over 50 miles away to the east of the river in Greenwood, MS.
At the time, The Mississippi River Flood of 1927 was the nation’s greatest natural disaster, affecting an estimated population of 185,495. Clearly, the scope of Hurricane Sandy’s damage is much larger. I hope for my friends and family in the Northeast that years from now, after a successful recovery, the photos captured from this storm will seem just as unbelievable as these from Greenwood do today.