New Exhibit:  “A Store at Every Crossroads: Documenting the Stories of South Carolina’s Jewish Merchants”

The Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina (JHSSC) debuted a  new exhibit entitled “A Store at Every Crossroads: Documenting the Stories of South Carolina’s Jewish Merchants” on Saturday, May 18, 2019. The exhibit is located at the College of Charleston’s Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library in the rotunda and in the Special Collections gallery. It will be on view through the end of the year.

The exhibit is a component of The Jewish Merchant Project, which 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,” says Lynn Robertson, curator of the exhibit. “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 lamented that, “More than 100 years later, few of the founding families remain behind the store counter. 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.”

“The impetus for the JHSSC came from the late Senator Isadore Lourie who realized the small-town life of South Carolina’s Jews was quickly disappearing. What better way to celebrate our 25th year than to open this exhibit about South Carolina’s Jewish merchants, realizing Senator Lourie’s commitment to securing the history of South Carolina’s Jewish community,” says Rachel Barnett, program director, JHSSC.

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