West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center and Sleepy John Estes Home in Brownsville, Tennessee
Jewish friends from Chattanooga and Atlanta on Umbrella Rock, Lookout Mountain, 1921.
Reprinted with permission from Chattanooga Jewish Community by Joy Effron Abelson Adams, www.arcadiapublishing.com

Statewide Jewish History and Culture is Focus of New Delta Heritage Center Exhibit

The story of Jewish immigration to Tennessee and how they embraced the culture they found here is documented in an exhibit, opening January 27 at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, in Brownsville, Tenn. Bagels & Barbeque documents the influence of the Jewish community in Tennessee.

Dental student Celia Rich (center) in Nashville’s first ladies’ dissecting class, 1896.
— Courtesy Archives of the Jewish Federation of Nashville

The exhibit begins with the saga of early Jewish settlers emigrating from Europe and chronicles life of Jewish families during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The exhibit focuses on the historic contributions during this period. Stories of the huge wave of immigrants, who arrived between 1880 and 1924, who were fleeing anti-Semitic laws and mob violence, are followed by those of Tennessee Jews during World War II.  More than 1,000 Tennessee Jews served their country in the armed forces.

As the young left to seek their fortunes after the war, Tennessee’s Jewish population declined to less than 17,000 in 1960. The Civil Rights era raised ongoing challenges for Tennessee Jews. The Nashville Jewish Community Center was dynamited in 1958, while a Chattanooga synagogue was destroyed in 1977.

Bagels & Barbeque: The Jewish Experience opens at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center January 27 to March 27, 2011. The Center is located just off of Interstate 40 at Exit 56 in Brownsville, Tenn., and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. There is no admission fee.

Humanities TennesseeTennessee State Museum

Bagels & Barbeque: The Jewish Experience in Tennessee is a joint project of the Tennessee State Museum in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Jewish Community Federation of Greater Chattanooga, Knoxville Jewish Alliance, and Memphis Jewish Federation, with the participation of other Jewish communities around the state. The exhibit’s statewide tour is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Interstate 40 at Exit 56 (behind McDonald's) • 121 Sunny Hill Cove • Brownsville, Tennessee 38012 • 731-779-9000