By Jennifer Stollman
Daughters of Israel, Daughters of the South examines southern Jewish womanhood throughout the Antebellum and Civil struggle eras. In an overwhelmingly Protestant South, Jewish girls created and maintained particular American Jewish identities via their efforts in schooling, writing, spiritual observance, paid and unpaid exertions, and relationships with Christian whites and enslaved African-Americans. This booklet examines how southern Jewish girls fought proselytization via their non secular convictions, challenged anti-Semitism utilizing private and non-private writing, maintained a particular southern Judaism, promoted their very own prestige and legitimacy as southerners, and labored diligently as accomplice ambassadors.
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Additional resources for Daughters of Israel, Daughters of the South: Southern Jewish Women and Identity in the Antebellum and Civil War South
For examples, see the offering books for Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, found in the Jewish Heritage Project at the College of Charleston, and Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, Georgia. 30 Once synagogues were built, southern Jewish women continued to fund their maintenance through contributions. For example, as recorded in Charleston’s Congregation Beth Elohim’s offering books, several women made yearly pledges. From 1810-1811, three prominent women in this southern Jewish community, Mrs.
In this space, deploying the currently accepted and understood discourse of ancient Israelite experiences allowed Gross access to public print in order to vocalize her concerns regarding the crisis and to demonstrate her loyalty to the southern cause. In this instance, her Judaism was not a marker of difference but served as a galvanizing mechanism for Jews and Christians alike. To draw the analogy between Israelites and Jews, Gross wrote: We Pray—we wait—we hear! Thou speakest—and we go! Our Strength is the Almighty Arm, Wo to the Northerners, Wo!
2 Setting up Jewish women as the scapegoats for the disintegration of American Judaism may have proven to be an effective strategy and encouraged Jewish women to be faithful to Judaism, but it did not reflect reality. Scholars must contextualize these women’s responses and activities. First, southern Jews not only lived in an environment dominated by Christian principles but inhabited an entire region whose laws, customs, and culture were wholly influenced by Christian doctrine. Second, the heightened evangelical atmosphere in the South encouraged a tremendous resurgence in anti-Semitism.