Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Charles Wilson

Relational Format



There once was a significant Jewish population that settled throughout the South and made a life as prominent members of their communities. I wanted to know what life was like for these people, and I wanted to know why the Jewish population dwindled over time in the South. In short, I wanted to learn about the Southern Jewish experience. I read many scholarly articles about Jews in the South in order to see Jews in a historical context, and I relied on memoirs and autobiographies to provide personal accounts. I also watched documentaries on Jews in the South in order to get a clearer picture of contemporary Jews. I needed to layer historical accounts with personal recollections in order to really understand the Southern Jewish experience. I found that early Jewish immigrants found success in their communities because of their unique business relationships. They opened general stores and performed other jobs that their towns needed, and they often served both black and white customers. Their success allowed their children to attend college outside of the South, and their children often did not return to their small towns where Jews were the minority. One goal of Jewish immigrants was to assimilate into Southern culture, and a high rate of intermarriage also attributed to the decline of the Jewish population in the South. Today, small towns in the South have almost no Jews, but larger Jewish communities in larger Southern cities are continuing to grow.

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