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A Portion of the People:
Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life
Edited by Theodore Rosengarten and Dale Rosengarten
University of South Carolina Press, 2002
Hardcover, $34.95 (288 pages)
ISBN:  1-57003-445-1

“In the year 1800, South Carolina was home to more Jews than any other place in North America.”  With that line from the inside flap of A Portion of People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life, the course is set for a cultural journey that shows how this population directed to some part the economy, politics and society of South Carolina and the region. 

This book is hard to fit in a peg, perhaps due to the talents of the couple behind it.  It is a history, an exhibition reference as well as a photo-essay.  In the introduction, Theodore Rosengarten states that this book will dispel three myths: (1) there were no Jews in the South; (2) the typical southern Jew came in steerage in 1900; and (3) that the Sephardim all settled in New York and Newport. 

Essays by Deborah Dash Moore, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Jack Bass, and Dale Rosengarten – create an historical and society timetable of the growth and contribution of South Carolina’s Jewish community.  Bill Aron, author of Shalom Y’all, contributes a photo essay depicting South Carolina Jews in various roles: hunters, retailers, farmers, artists, as well as the roles at the synagogue.  The book provides a catalogue of the items exhibited; a glossary; a bibliography; acknowledgments and index. 

A Portion of People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life compliments the ongoing work at the Jewish Heritage Collection of the College of Charleston’s Robert Scott Small Library.  Over 300 interviews for oral history have been completed.  

Theodore Rosengarten, a teacher, writer, and community activist, holds a B.A. from Amherst College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. The author of Tombee: Portrait of a Cotton Planter (National Book Critics Circle Award) and All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (National Book Award), Rosengarten was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1989. 

Dale Rosengarten is curator of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston Libraries.  She holds a B.A., a M.A., and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.  As curator of the Lowcountry Basket Project at the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum, she wrote the exhibition catalogue, Row Upon Row: Sea Grass Baskets of the South Carolina Lowcountry


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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