Welcome Back to Mississippi

The ISJL's new historian isn't new to the Jewish south

In May, after accepting the position of Director of History at the ISJL, I came to Jackson for a few days to look for housing and meet in person with some of the staff. I arrived at the airport on a Sunday afternoon, picked up my car and, without consulting my phone or a GPS, drove to a friend’s house to have a beer and meet his two-year-old son. I was about to start a new job, sure, but I was also returning to a familiar place. It felt good.

You see, this isn’t my first time moving to Mississippi. I worked for the ISJL as their oral historian from 2009 to 2013. (This isn’t even my first Southern & Jewish blog post.) So when I actually started my new job last month, I already had greetings in my inbox from a number of friends and colleagues from my earlier work. I’ve heard from former summer interns, oral history interviewees, fellow scholars of American and southern Jewish history, local Jewish historians from across the region, and ISJL board members. In addition to all that, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the new staff members who have joined the ISJL in my four-year absence.

So, as I re-acclimate myself to the ISJL office and start work on my first projects—like speaking at the Lincoln County Historical Society in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and planning for updates to the ISJL’s Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities —I get to enjoy the excitement of a new position with the comfort of a warm homecoming. I promise that my future blog posts will be packed with hard-hitting historical content, but for now I wanted to acknowledge the wonderful welcome back that I’ve received.

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