Explore Jewish Life in Chapel Hill and Durham NC

Jewish Life in Durham and Chapel Hill

Jews in Durham and Chapel Hill live in nearby towns but are united by their congregations, Federation, JCC, and day school.  Durham, once a textile and tobacco center, and Chapel Hill, a college town, are now cosmopolitan communities anchored by the hospitals and campuses of Duke University and the University of North Carolina. Nearby are the high-tech campuses of Research Triangle Park. The merchants who once dominated the Jewish community have now yielded to professors, doctors, scientists, retirees, and other professionals.

The Durham Chapel Hill Jewish Federation now estimates 11,000 Jews live in 4,000 households in a community that is rapidly growing. Chapel Hill’s historically small Jewish community now exceeds Durham’s.

The Institute of Southern Jewish Life traces Jewish community origins to the 1870s. A decade later Duke tobacco brought over 100 Jewish immigrant workers to roll cigarettes in its factory.

The Duke Center for Jewish Studies, the South’s first such program, was founded in 1943 while the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at UNC dates to 2003.  The campuses together have some 2,700 Jewish students.