Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Where are you from? Who are you?
It is a normal part of conversation when meeting a new person to ask, “Where are you from?” Most of us, including me, have several answers to that question. There are actually two cities that I consider myself to be from, but I wasn’t born in either of them!
So… where is this new Southern Jewish girl “really” from?
The short answer:
I am from New Orleans. I always clarify that I am not a Sabra of New Orleans, but have lived in the New Orleans suburbs since I was 4 years old. And if another Jew is asking where I am from, inevitably they will also ask, “Which camp did you go to?” The answer, Henry S. Jacobs, another of the places that I am from. And the next question would be… “Which Synagogue do you belong to?” The answer, Temple Sinai, one of my home bases.
The medium answer:
I am from New Orleans, however both sides of my family are from Mobile, Alabama. No matter how you slice it, I am truly a Southern Jew. Because of that connection to Mobile, throughout my life I’ve been there for holidays, b’nai mitzvah, weddings, funerals, family visits—so I truly feel as if I am not only from New Orleans, but also from Mobile! Whenever I visit there, people in the Jewish community identify me by my mother’s and my paternal grandmother’s maiden names and I absolutely LOVE it!
The longer answer:
I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, where my father was transferred for a time. So by happenstance, that’s where I was born—but it’s not really where I’m “from”; the honest answer is that I am from New Orleans, and both sides of my family are from Mobile. I’m from the heart of the Jewish South.
Of course, my ancestors lived in “the old world” before I wound up in New Orleans. Some of my ancestral names are: Olensky, Prince (Peretz), Zivitz, Goodman, Landsman, Scott and Greif. They were from: Poland, Romania, Austria, England, Scotland and Germany. And though a few settled in Memphis and Birmingham, the majority settled in Mobile.
Who am I? By history, faith and tradition, I am primarily a product of Eastern Europe, Germany, and the American south. My family roots were firmly embedded in both The Temple and The Shul on Springhill Ave in Mobile decades ago. Those roots still hold firm. From there grew the trunk of my tree and all the branches that have grown to develop my personal and Jewish identity.
So now, it’s your turn, dear reader: Where are you from?