Jews have lived in the South since the late 17th century. As late as 1820, more Jews lived in Charleston, South Carolina than in New York City. Jews have been an important part of the South ever since they first arrived. Though they are less than 1% of the general Southern population, and less than 5% of America’s Jewish population, southern Jews have made a significant mark on the communities in which they lived. The mission of the ISJL History Department is to preserve this story of Jewish life in the South and make it available to a wider audience.
The ISJL History Department is actively collecting information and documents relating to every Southern Jewish community that has ever existed. You can see the fruits of this effort in our Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. The encyclopedia is a valuable resource for researchers, scholars, and people interested in their family history.
The History Department also houses a major oral history program that seeks to capture the stories of Southern Jews, especially in smaller communities where Jewish populations are on the decline. The ISJL Oral History Archive already houses over 500 interviews. We are committed to making its oral history collection a nationally recognized resource for scholars and students.
Under the leadership of Dr. Stuart Rockoff, the ISJL History Department is dedicated to documenting and preserving the legacy of Jewish life in the South.