The Southern Jewish Historical Society will hold its 45th annual conference virtually on October 21-24. The conference is hosted by the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina and free this year, but requires advance registration. Its theme is “Expanding the Archive(s) of Southern Jewish History,” and the speakers will include panels and lectures with national scholars.
The Tar Heel State can lay claim to being the soil on which the Southern Jewish Historical Society was born. There’s an irony in that fact. Called “a vale of humility between two mountains of conceit,” North Carolina was not thought to have the history of its aristocratic neighbors to the north and south, Virginia and South Carolina. That was true Jewishly too. Both had Jewish communities dating to colonial times, with synagogues in the 1700s.
Indeed, historians largely neglected the Jewish South. In 1957 Saul Viener of Richmond made an effort to create a Southern Jewish Historical Society, which proved sporadic, until 1976 when the American Jewish Historical Society met in Richmond for a conference on the neglected subject of Jews in the South.
In 1977 at the Raleigh-Durham Airport, Viener met Abe Kanof of Raleigh, later founder of the NCMA’s Judaica Art Gallery and David Goldberg, a UNC history grad student. Joining in support was Eli Evans of Durham, author of The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South. They organized a Southern Jewish Historical Society with Kanof as acting president. Its first conference was held in Raleigh in 1978, drawing 150. Subsequent conferences were held in Durham (1987); Raleigh (1994); Chapel Hill (2010); and Asheville (2012).
Information on the Conference can be found at https://jhssc.org/events/2021-sjhs-virtual-conference/.