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New Temple Sinai Jewish History Center exhibit details merchant life

Jewish History Center will present part of project at Ackerman Exhibition Hall

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 7/7/19

A new exhibit coming to the Temple Sinai Jewish History Center will detail the merchant experience in South Carolina.

"A Store at Every Crossroads: Documenting the Stories of South Carolina's Jewish Merchants" will premier in the center's new …

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New Temple Sinai Jewish History Center exhibit details merchant life

Jewish History Center will present part of project at Ackerman Exhibition Hall

Posted

A new exhibit coming to the Temple Sinai Jewish History Center will detail the merchant experience in South Carolina.

"A Store at Every Crossroads: Documenting the Stories of South Carolina's Jewish Merchants" will premier in the center's new Ackerman Exhibition Hall at 15 Church St. on Thursday, Aug. 1, with a talk given by exhibit curator Lynn Robertson at 6:30 p.m. followed by an opening reception.

The exhibit, a component of The Jewish Merchant Project, is presented by the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina and the center and documents the merchant experience through a statewide survey, a website featuring an interactive map, illustrated narratives and the exhibition.

"For more than 300 years, Jewish people have made their homes in South Carolina. Originally welcomed as traders and merchants, they settled first in Charleston, Georgetown and Beaufort but soon looked beyond these cities for opportunities to sell goods and set up shop," Robertson said. "After 1865, Jewish merchants - many of German origin - filled the commercial gaps on main streets left by the economic upheaval of the Civil War. Beginning in 1881, the mass immigration of East European Jews to America brought these newcomers to the South, as well. Many, supplied and guided by regional wholesalers, began their life in America as peddlers. By 1900, Jewish-owned stores were fixtures on downtown streets in cities as well as in small towns across the state."

Robertson said few of the founding families remain behind the store counter more than 100 years later.

"That is why it is an important goal of the Jewish Merchant Project to connect with the memories of the descendants of those pioneering families in order to capture a fuller understanding of Jewish life in our state," she said.

The Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina was founded in 1994 to encourage the collection, study and interpretation of the state's Jewish history and to increase awareness of that heritage among Jews and non-Jews. To date, more than 500 oral histories pertaining to that goal have been recorded.

"The impetus for the JHSSC came from the late Sen. Isadore Lourie who realized the small-town life of South Carolina's Jews was quickly disappearing," said Rachel Barnett, program director.

The project is supported by the Norman and Gerry Sue Arnold Foundation and the Stanley B. Farbstein Endowment at the Coastal Community Foundation.