Aus Nordcarolina: The Jewish American South in German Jewish Periodicals of the Nineteenth Century

in European Journal of Jewish Studies
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For many German Jewish papers of the nineteenth century, the United States of America was held up as an ideal. This holds true especially for the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, then Germany’s most influential Jewish publication. In America, Jews had already achieved what their co-religionists in Germany strove for until complete legal emancipation with the formation of the German Empire in 1871: the transition from ‘Jews in Germany’ via ‘German Jews’ to ‘Germans of the Jewish faith.’ Thus, the experiences of Jews from Germany in America represented the post-emancipation hopes for those who had remained behind.2 When examined for the representation of Jewry living in the American Southern states,3 it becomes apparent that German Jewish papers in their coverage of America largely refrained from a regionalization. Most articles and accounts concerning Jewish life in the South do not show any significant distinctiveness in the perception of the region and its Jews. The incidents presented or the comments sent to the papers might in fact have occurred in respectively dealt with any region of the United States at the time, barring anything that remotely dealt with slavery or secession prior to 1865. When the Jewish South was explicitly dealt with in the papers, however, it either functioned as an ‘über-America’ of the negative stereotypes in respect to low Jewish piety, or took the place of an alternative America of injustice and slavery—the ‘anti-America.’ Jewish Southerners who actively supported the region during the Civil War, or who had internalized the South’s moral values as supporters of the Confederacy and/or slavery were condemned in the strongest words for endangering the existence of ‘America the Ideal.’ As the concept of the United States and its Jewish life is represented in a largely unrealistic manner that almost exclusively focused on the positive aspects of Jewish life in America, the concept of the Jewish South was equally far from being accurate.

European Journal of Jewish Studies

The Journal of the European Association for Jewish Studies (Formerly: EAJS Newsletter)




Mathilde Kohn’s Diary, January 1867, Kohn Family Papers, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH.


Johanna Philippson, “Ludwig Philippson und die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums,” in Das Judentum in der Deutschen Umwelt 1800–1850: Studien zur Frühgeschichte der Emanzipation, eds. Hans Liebschütz and Arnold Paucker (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1977), 246.


Johanna Philippson, “Ludwig Philippson und die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums,” 246.


Quoted in Johanna Philippson, “Ludwig Philippson und die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums,” 247.


Johanna Philippson, “Ludwig Philippson und die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums,” 248.


Sonja L. Mekel, “ ‘Salvation Comes from America’,” 7.


Uri R. Kaufmann, Kleine Geschichte der Juden in Baden (Karlsruhe: G. Braun, 2007), 69; Franz Hundsnurscher and Gerhard Taddey, Die Jüdischen Gemeinden in Baden: Denkmale, Geschichte, Schicksale (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1968), 173.


In 1860, some twenty-five thousand Jews lived in Southern states and in 1880, some thirty thousand. See the individual numbers for the states in Jacob Rader Marcus, To Count a People: Jewish Population Data, 1585–1984 (Lanham, New York and London: University Press of America, 1990).


Johanna Philippson, “Ludwig Philippson und die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums,” 290.


Quoted in: Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2004), 91, 94.


James William Hagy, This Happy Land: The Jews of Colonial and Antebellum Charleston (Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 1993), 93.


Bertram W. Korn, “Jews and Negro Slavery in the Old South, 1789–1865,” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 1 (1961): 175–6. Billy Simons, ‘Uncle Billy’ in Mayer’s correspondence, has entered Southern Jewish historiography as ‘Old Billy’ or ‘Uncle Billy.’ See also: Ralph Melnick, “Billy Simons: The Black Jew of Charleston,” American Jewish Archives 21 (1980): 3–8.


See: Anton Hieke, “Jews at the Cape Fear Coast: A Portrait of Jewish Wilmington, NC, 1860–1880,” Southern Jewish History 13 (2010): 1–43.


In 1861, Der Israelit, announced the editors of the American Jewish Messenger, also distributed this German Jewish periodical in New York. “Advertisments,” Der Israelit 2 (1861): 260.


By 1840, of the thirteen slave states, only North Carolina had preserved the restrictions of Article 32 of its constitution, i.e. the religious test barring non-Christians from holding executive offices in the state; in the North three out of twelve (New Jersey, Rhode Island and New Hampshire) did so. Jacob Rader Marcus, United States Jewry 1776–1985, Vol. I (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989), 495.


Robert N. Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 348–9. Episcopalian Franklin J.[Israel] Moses (1838–1906) was perceived as belonging to the ‘Jewish race’ as was contemporary British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who was a Christian as well. On the perception of Jews in America in the nineteenth century, see Leonard Rogoff, “Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew,” American Jewish History 85, no. 3 (1997): 195–230.


Leonard Rogoff, Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 82–3. In respect to Jews in the South, Governor of North Carolina Zebulon B. Vance (1830–94; governor 1862–65 and 1877–79) is possibly best-known for his philo-Semitic public oration “The Scattered Nation,” in which he repudiated common anti-Semitic prejudices and called on the gentiles for a true integration of Jews into the American society. It is both an example for an individual appraisal of Jews in the post-war South as well as the existence of anti-Semitism. See: Marcus Schnitzer, ed. The Scattered Nation by Zebulon Baird Vance (New York: Wolfer, 1916) The Internet Archive, (accessed Sept. 15, 2011); Selig Adler, “Zebulon B. Vance and the ‘Scattered Nation,’ ” The Journal of Southern History 7 (1941): 357–77,; Leonard Rogoff, “Is the Jew White?”


  • Der Israelit [Mainz], Masthead.
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  • K.K. Beth Elohim in Charleston, SC, seeking the service of a Rabbi; Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums 16 (1852): 95.
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  • Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (MD) advertising for a Rabbi; Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums 23 (1859): 395.
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  • K.K. Beth Elohim, Charleston, SC; Postcard ca. 1930, Collection of the Author.
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