Panel to focus on history of Jews in Durham

Jun. 14, 2013 @ 05:02 PM

Durham County Library will host a panel discussion on the history of Jews in Durham with historians Leonard Rogoff and Karin Shapiro and with Lynne Grossman and Robert Rosenstein. Both Grossman’s and Rosenstein’s families have lived in Durham for generations.

The program will begin at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro Street.

From 2:30 to 3 p.m. the library and Museum of Durham History invite members of the community to bring in artifacts about Jewish life in Durham for a temporary display, and to share the personal stories that make those objects come alive. Display space will be provided. Durham klezmer band, Freylach Time, will play traditional Yiddish music during this portion of the program.

A discussion exploring Durham’s rich Jewish history will begin at 3 p.m.

Jewish merchants and cigar rollers first arrived in Durham in the 1870s and soon thereafter began to establish religious institutions, such as the Jewish cemetery and a house of prayer. The first major synagogue built by this community stood in the parking lot area of the current Durham Public Library.

Jews played a role in Durham’s civil rights struggle. The mayor during the Civil Rights era was a Jewish merchant, “Mutt” Evans.

Leonard Rogoff is a research historian for the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina, and Karin Shapiro is a visiting associate professor of history at Duke University. Both have researched the Jewish South extensively. Shapiro’s exhibit, “Beth El Synagogue – the first 125 years” will be on exhibit at the library through July 15.