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November Issue 2003

Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC, Presents Exhibition on Jewish Life in the South

The Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC, is presenting the exhibition, A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life, on view through Nov. 30, 2003. Through portraits, photographs, original documents, diaries, family memorabilia, and other artifacts, the exhibit recounts the long and eventful history of Carolina's Jews. As the final stop on the exhibition's tour, the Levine Museum will present a variety of programs and events in conjunction with the exhibit.

"This is a landmark exhibition," said Michael Feldburg, director of the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City. "Jewish South Carolinians set the standard for Jews in America, defining what it meant to be a Jew in America." A Portion of the People provides a rich telling of a special chapter in Carolina history that will change popular perceptions of the South's role in Jewish American history. In its inquiry into the nature of memory and identity, A Portion of the People speaks to audiences Jewish and non-Jewish, southern and non-southern.

South Carolina holds an important, yet often unrecognized place in American Jewish history. Prior to the Civil War more Jews lived in South Carolina than any other state in America and Charleston, SC, not only boasted the largest Jewish population in North America in the 1800s but was also the birthplace of Reform Judaism in America. The remarkable story of Southern Jewish life presented in A Portion of the People starts with the earliest documented presence of a Jew in Charles Town in 1695 and follows chronologically the history of Jewish arrivals through World War II. It tells a visual story of the great migration of Jews to the United States and is a documentary on how Jewish culture is alive today. The exhibition concludes with a present day photo essay by nationally acclaimed photographer, Bill Aron.

A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life showcases a remarkable group of objects and provides provocative investigation of the people and circumstances that produced them. The ground-breaking exhibition tells its story with more than 200 paintings, decorative objects, and artifacts drawn from private collections and institutions, many of which have never been exhibited publicly. A Portion of the People is studded with exciting objects including late 18th- century portraits depicting Southern aristocracy, mother and son hand painted miniatures, the Fundamental Constitution by philosopher, John Locke, a Masonic patent, signed by two of the four Jewish founders of Scottish Rite Masonry in Charleston, prayer books handwritten by Abraham Alexander, Emanuel de la Motta, and Issac Harby and a silver basket presented in 1840 to congregation Beth Elohim.

Dale Rosengarten, curator of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston and guest curator for this exhibition, has spent seven years researching the lives and artifacts of this richly textured culture to bring this exhibition to fruition. Rosengarten's inquiries prompted people to search through family collections for menorahs, religious documents and artifacts. The searches revealed dance cards and wedding menus stashed away in trunks or dresser drawers. The addition of these artifacts, never before on public display, bring to life the simple day-to-day story of Southern Jewish life and give the exhibition a unique personal dimension.

The exhibit was developed by a collaborative effort involving McKissick Museum of the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, SC, Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina and College of Charleston's Jewish Heritage Collection and Jewish Studies Program.

A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life, is sponsored in Charlotte by The Lerner Foundation, the Arts & Science Council and many more exhibition partners.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listing, call the Museum at 704/333-1887 or on the web at (www.museumofthenewsouth.org).

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