Abstract

The major purpose of this paper is to describe recent changes in the geographic distribution of the Jewish population of the U.S. South and to discuss competing theories as to why small southern Jewish communities have been declining over the past few decades. First, this paper discusses the increase in Jewish population of the South Census Division, from 330,000 in 1937 to 1,264,000 in 1997. However, when one defines a "Jewish South," omitting Florida and Maryland/DC, the increase is not nearly as striking, and most of it is spatially concentrated in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and northern Virginia. Second, this paper examines the geographic distribution of the Jewish population in the South in 1997. At the MSA scale, Southeast Florida (507,000) and the Washington/Baltimore corridor (244,000) are the two largest centers. Atlanta (77,000), Dallas (45,000), and Houston (42,000) can be seen as secondary centers. Third, this paper discusses the significant gains made by some larger metropolitan areas and the loss of small southern Jewish communities. By 1997, 44 southern Jewish communities that had existed in 1960 had ceased to exist, or had dropped below 100 members. More than 20 other small (100-499 person) Jewish communities lost population during this period. Only six small Jewish communities (three in Florida) showed significant growth. Finally, the paper examines the history of anti-Semitism in the South, the changing occupational structure of southern Jews, the intermarriage and assimilation of the southern Jewish population, and the general population decline of small southern towns. All these factors help provide explanation for the decline of the Jewish population in small southern towns.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-6929
Print ISSN
0038-366X
Pages
pp. 52-74
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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