Marilyn reviews A Jewish Community in Memphis in A Biblical People in the Bible Belt: the Jewish Community of Memphis, Tennessee, 1840s-1960s by Selma S. Lewis. (Mercer University Press, 245 pages.
David Hart arrived in Memphis in the 1840s and was recorded to be the first Jewish resident in Memphis. Since then, the Jewish community has grown in leaps and bounds and has contributed greatly to the community in such capacities of businesses, education, government, medicine, and social services. In fact, Mr. Hart opened Hart’s Inn and Saloon in downtown Memphis.
Since Ms. Lewis has recounted the philanthropic efforts of the Jewish community until the1960s, it is likely her readers recognize several names and businesses that have left legacies. Many names in education, government, and medicine will be familiar but all are worth mentioning.
If you want to pursue your knowledge of the influence of the Jewish population here in Memphis, please consider visiting the Memphis and ShelbyCounty Room on the 4th floor (History Department) at Benjamin Hooks Library. You can also find plenty of information at www.memphislibrary.org/Dig Memphis. Dig Memphis is the Digital Archives of Memphis Public Library.
This is the scope of Ms. Lewis’ work that is integral to the collection:
“The Selma Lewis Collection was given to the Memphis and Shelby County
Public Library and Information Center by her daughter, Jane Lewis Ross in April
of 2000. The collection includes a wide range of newspaper clippings and
correspondence, with some photographs and publications. The greater portion
of the collection is composed of local Jewish history and biographies. Also
included are manuscript copies of The Angel of Beale Street: a Biography of Julia
Ann Hooks; A Biblical People in the Bible Belt: the Jewish Community of
Memphis, Tennessee, 1840s-1960s; and Lewis’ dissertation “Social Religion and
the Sanitation Strike.” She also wrote “Diversification and Unity, MIFA, 1968-
1988,” a study of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association.
Also of importance are the transcripts of oral interviews with
representative members of the African American community, which were
conducted by Selma Lewis and Marjean Kremer in 1978 as part of the research
for the Pink Palace Museum exhibit “Historic Black Memphians.” These
transcripts were given to the Library by Mrs. Lewis during her lifetime. In
summary, the collection provides significant information pertaining to the history
and life of the Jewish and African American communities of Memphis.”