Down Home Exhibit To Be Online! The Jewish Heritage Foundation, in connection with the Duke Center for Jewish Studies, is proud to be working on bringing the Down Home exhibit to the web. This interactive website will embody the spirit of the Down Home exhibit, celebrating Jewish life in North Carolina, and the enduring spirit of Jewish immigrants. Down Home shows how Jews have integrated into Tar Heel life by blending their own traditions into Southern culture, while preserving their ethnic and religious traditions. The online exhibit will integrate the artifacts, recreated environments and personal stories of the physical exhibit, while preserving the virtual experience for generations to come. We will post the initial images of this online exhibit soon so check for updates.
Down Home Inspires Original Music Composition! JHFNC is excited to announce a collaboration with The Triangle Jewish Chorale to commission a cantata based on our film, exhibit and book, Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina. This original piece will explore the Jewish immigrant experience in North Carolina and celebrate the enduring communities around the state. The cantata will speak with words and music, articulating the voices of generations of Jewish residents who have made North Carolina their home.
Alejandro Rutty, composer and music professor at University of North Carolina, Greensboro, will write the score. Under the direction of Lorena Guillén, the Triangle Jewish Chorale will perform portions of this new work at fall concerts this year and the full premier will be in early 2013 Plans are underway for performances to be held initially in Greensboro and Durham with perhaps additional recitals in Charlotte and Raleigh. Check back for updates on this new project inspired by Down Home!
May is Jewish American Heritage Month!
As we celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month in May, promulgated by an Act of Congress in 2006, Jewish communities will be pushing their way to the front of the line in claiming historical firsts.
If you want to know where to find the first Jew to settle in English-speaking America, look down home to Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
In 1585, on Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to America, the twenty-two settlers included one Jew, Joachim Gans.
We know quite a bit about Gans. In his mobility, his minority status as a Jew, and his search for economic opportunity, he was not very different than the North Carolina migrants of today.
Joachim Gans was a native of Prague, from a family famous for both its Jewish and scientific learning. He had studied metallurgy, and when Queen Elizabeth herself sought to develop the mining industry in England, she summoned Gans from Germany. Raleigh sent Gans to America as leader of a mineralogical team to find minerals and Indian artifacts. Archeologists have uncovered his assayer’s oven at Fort Raleigh.
Returning to England with Sir Francis Drake, Gans resumed his work in the mines. In 1589 at a Bristol inn, a carpenter was shocked to hear Gans deny the divinity of Jesus. He repeated this alleged blasphemy in both Hebrew and English before a minister. “What need has Almighty God for a son?” Gans asked. “Is he not almighty?” He confessed that he was a circumcised Jew. Arrested as “a most wicked infidel,” Gans was sent to prison in London.
Joachim Gans’ fate is unknown, but he had friends in high places and no record exists of his execution. Likely he returned to Europe. Gans’ story—and much more—are told in our Down Home Book and Film, both available on this website.
And so North Carolina stakes its claim as the birthplace of Jewish American Heritage….
Yom Hashoa Story
Below is Leonard Rogoff’s article which appeared in the News and Observer on April 15, 2012.
Therese Sternglanz, born in Tarboro in 1881, “disappeared” in eastern Europe in 1942, a North Carolina victim of the Nazi Holocaust.
We know little about her but enough to imagine her life.
Her parents David and Sary Sternglanz were Jewish immigrants from Bavaria who settled in Tarboro after the Civil War. In 1878, the year Therese’s parents married, Tarboro was home to nearly 100 Jews, most, like the Sternglanzes, were recent immigrants. In Bavaria, Jews had endured restrictions about where they could live, trades they could practice, or even if they could marry. Most were poor. They emigrated after the European revolutions of 1848 failed, when hopes were crushed for Jewish emancipation in an enlightened Germany. From the ports of Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia they followed sea lanes and rail lines to mill and market towns across North Carolina. As they had in their native Germany, they peddled and opened stores, bringing commerce to the countryside. In 1878, according to Atlanta’s Jewish South newspaper, Jews owned some dozen stores in Tarboro. David Sternglanz ran a grocery while Sary worked as a milliner.
The Sternglanzes joined “our crowd,” a German-Jewish social circle. They gathered for holidays, games of whist, and parlor singing. The community center was the clubroom of the B’nai B’rith Lodge, which David Sternglanz helped organize. In the year Therese was born, her father was elected president of Congregation B’nai Israel, Children of Israel. Therese would have been among several dozen children attending Sabbath School. These Jews clung to their German kultur, and very likely she was educated in German.
The post-war years were hard times. Merchants went bankrupt. Though Jews were the least likely of America’s immigrants to resettle in their countries of origin, the Sternglanzes returned to their native Nordlingen, Bavaria. After Germany unified, Jews were granted civil rights and religious freedom. Many abandoned the countryside for cities where they rose into the middle-class. The Sternglanzes, however, resumed their village ways.
Therese seems not to have had a happy life. In 1902 she married Leopold Neuburger, a horse dealer from nearby Ellwangen. Their first child, Hans Siegfried, died at four months. In 1904 their daughter Gertrud Bianca was born. After 22 years of marriage, Therese divorced Leopold and retook the Sternglanz name. With the death of her parents, Therese relocated to Munich, where her married daughter lived.
Munich was the cauldron of Nazism, the site in 1923 of Adolf Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. The first concentration camp, Dachau, was on the city’s outskirts. Starting in 1933, the first of some 400 anti-Jewish decrees would have circumscribed her life. The Nazi noose tightened slowly, and Therese’s daughter and son in law left Munich. On the streets Therese would have seen Nazi thugs assault Jews and smash their store windows. Jewish businesses were closed and Jewish employees were fired. Synagogues were destroyed. On Kristallnacht, 1938, if Therese did not hide in terror, she would have encountered rampaging Nazi mobs A thousand Jewish men were sent to Dachau. Anti-Jewish curfews restricted Therese’s ability to walk the streets, and she was denied public transit. Rationing allowed her meager food. As a Jew, she was forbidden to own a radio, camera, or appliances. In 1941 she was required to wear a yellow star. By autumn, 1941, the government had confiscated some 1500 Jewish apartments, and we do not know if she was among the homeless Jews conscripted into forced labor to construct a camp that would become a deportation center to the death camps. In November 1941, nearly 1,000 Munich Jews were deported eastward.
German-Jewish families in North Carolina like the Weils of Goldsboro, Meyers of Enfield, Sterns of Greensboro, and Katzensteins of Warren Plains received desperate, heart-rending letters from German cousins pleading for sponsors to America. Therese’s American birth should have opened doors, but by 1942, she was 61, divorced, and alone. Did she have a birth certificate? Or the funds to immigrate? She would need to brave lines at an American consulate, a hateful Nazi bureaucracy, and an unwelcoming U. S. State Department. Records tell us that Therese was deported from Munich in 1942, and did not survive the war, but exactly when, where, and how did she die?
We know enough to imagine a death for Therese Sternglanz.
In April, 1942, 343 Jews were sent from Munich to a transit camp in Poland and from there to the death camps. Or, months later, she may have been among the some 300 Jews shipped to a ghetto and then to Auschwitz. Or, among the 1,300 Jews packed in 24 transports and sent to the Theresienstadt camp. She may have suffocated in a gas chamber, been shot by a mobile death squad, or died of hunger or disease. Or she may have been among the hundreds to commit suicide.
We do know this about Therese Sternglanz from a German Holocaust registry. Born: Tarboro. Resident: Munich. Deportation: Destination unknown.
We’ve received new information about Therese, the Holocaust victim born in Tarboro. Joan Pollak of Philadelphia has an autograph album from her great grandfather Alexander Heilbroner of Tarboro with the signature of ‘..little cousin Therese’. Joan informed us that Therese Sternglanz was deported to Theresienstadt on July 11, 1942.
Welcome to our new website! We have added features to be more inviting for you to use and participate. There is a blog and we encourage you to add your ideas and thoughts about being Jewish and living in North Carolina. Also view the statewide calendar to share Jewish cultural and educational activities occurring across our state. If you know of an event happening in your community that may be of interest to others, please post it. We hope this will generate ideas for a rich and vibrant Jewish community in North Carolina. We would especially like representatives of whole regions in North Carolina to submit events so we can stay current.
Down Home will open in Charlotte at the Levine Museum of the New South on February 25th. We are especially excited since Down Home will have an extended stay to overlap with the Democratic National Convention. Check out the Museum website for other related events. Additionally Charlotte will host some other related programs sponsored by UNC Charlotte.
Our website has a new section titled, Jewish Studies on Campus. There are over 35 North Carolina college faculty teaching a variety of Jewish related courses. Four campuses have Jewish Studies Programs, which have a rich offer of lectures and films often open to the general public. Several other schools have Jewish studies faculty and plans to hire additional faculty to launch new Jewish Studies Programs. So check back to our calendar list for updated events on college campuses.