Jewish Holiday Notices in Newspapers – Part II

(I am actively looking for employment opportunities. If you know of one that might be a good fit, please let me know.)

Introduction: Map of Jewish Holiday Notices in Newspapers

In my last post, I summarized why Jewish holidays would ever be announced in a newspaper in the United States, pre-1865, in a place like Wheeling, West Virginia or Olympia, Washington. Newspapers reported news and news came from the “outside.” This “outside” reached these seemingly far-flung places because these towns had a post road, or a railroad depot, or a canal that passed through. News would carry, allowing for new article topics, such as an upcoming Jewish holiday.  Newspapers from other cities would also be delivered and articles would be copied and reprinted (see Viral Texts for more on this if you are interested). Many of the articles, in fact, are reprints of one another.

Here is a cartodb map with a post road layer (you can remove if you so choose) with a heatmap layer demonstrating the density of the announcements over time:

Jewish Notices and Newspapers Methodology

This projects specifically looks at Jewish holiday notices for three different (and arguably the most important) Jewish Holidays. These are the days that Jews, even the most non-observant, tend to celebrate because they are that important.

  • Passover or Pesach – Usually in March or April. Celebrating and recounting the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
  • The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashana – Usually in September or October.
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur – Comes 10 days after the Jewish New Year. The most important day of the year in Jewish calendars.

Using Chronicling America, I did an advanced search and compiled the articles that were relevant to each holiday:

  • Passover or Pesach – I used the box “…with any of the words:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Passover, Pesach, Matzah, Matzoh, Matza, Matzo
  • The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashana -I used the box “… with the phrase:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Rosh Hashana, Rosh Ha Shana, Rosh HaShauna, Rosh Ha Shauna, Jewish New Year, Hebrew New Year, (I also found results when I filed through the Yom Kippur results because many of the articles would mention both holidays)
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur – I used the box “… with the phrase:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Yom Kipur, Yom Kippur, Yom Kipour, Yom Kippour, Yom Kipor, Yom Kippor, Yom Kipoor, Yom Kippoor, Day of Atonement

I then went through each result and added them, if they were relevant, using the Zotero extension for Chrome to my Zotero repository. Their relevance was based on whether they fell during the time of year the holiday occurred and whether their content was a notice or description of the holiday. The only bug with this process was the fact that I had to enter the titles of the articles, the publication’s name, and the place of publication manually because Zotero doesn’t read the metadata correctly for Chronicling America. Please note, the article titles that are in brackets [ ] mean that there was no title for the article. I created the title in brackets. I then exported each Zotero collection to csv (download them through my Github repository, link below).

I then added coordinates to the data based off of the place column using a basic geocoder. I also created a csv with all of the data combined. This csv had an additional column which identified the holiday that each article centered around.

I then uploaded each of the csv’s to Cartodb. I used their SQL API along with a leaflet library and called the table I had created from the “Combined Jewish Notices” csv. I used the call to create this comprehensive map where you can filter by the holiday which the article announced. Each point offers a link to the newspaper page where the announcement is located and (most of the time, depending on Chronicling America’s OCR) highlighted.

The Map!

Click here to see the map in a larger version!

A Favorite Article

The first article that I thought was particularly fascinating was from Passover of 1865. I didn’t realize that President Lincoln was assassinated during the holiday. The New York Herald published an article entitled “How the News was Received in the Jewish Synagogues.” The article describes the mourning rituals of three congregations in New York City. It is interesting to read the different descriptions, and also to think about what the author (who may not have been Jewish) noticed and detailed regarding the different synagogues.

Jewish Holiday Notices in Newspapers – Part I


Why Jewish Holiday Announcements in the American Press (pre-1865)?

(I am actively looking for employment opportunities. If you know of one that might be a good fit, please let me know.)

Newspapers are somewhat of a fascination for me. Two summers ago, I worked on Ryan Cordell’s Viral Text project. I learned about and visualized how articles from newspapers spread and were reprinted in the United States during the 19th century. For this project, Jewish Notices and Newspapers,  I took some of what I learned working at Viral Text’s two summer’s ago and applied my knowledge to another fascination of mine: religion and Jewish religious praxis in American life during the pre-Civil War era.

When I researched for my senior thesis  at Haverford College this past year, I found a treasure trove of different newspaper articles from Louisiana and Mississippi (pre-Civil War) announcing a variety of different Jewish holidays. Who knew?! Often times, the South and other parts of the U.S. are thought of as remote havens of Judaism (whatever that means) and especially during the pre-Civil War period these areas are not considered centers of Jewish religious praxis. While the evidence below does not offer conclusive evidence that these areas were centers of Jewish religious praxis, they definitely had Jewish life, and prominent enough Jewish life at that to be featured among the most prominent news of the day.

So, why were articles about Jewish life featured in newspapers, despite the fact that Jews made up a tiny portion of the American populace? I venture to guess for three main reasons:

  • Jews owned businesses. In my thesis I wrote:

“While it is impossible that Jews dominated every town’s businesses or every industry, statistics of American Jewish businesses from the mid-19th century do illustrate the prevalence of Jews in commerce. Rowena Olegario, in her article ‘”That Mysterious People”: Jewish Merchants, Transparency, and Community in Mid-Nineteenth Century America,’ supplies a table of statistics which illustrates the high proportion of Jewish-owned clothing businesses during the mid-19th century. In Springfield, Illinois, for example, between 1841-1869, ‘Jews owned more than half of clothing establishments.’ In 1860 Cincinnati, ‘Jews owned 65 out of 70 clothing businesses.’ And in Indianapolis during the 1860’s, ‘Jews owned 70 percent of all clothing stores'”(Olegario, 166)(Eckstein, 9).

When Jews, as a large percentage of business owners in certain industries, would close up shop on seemingly random days (for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, or Pesach), non-Jews would take notice because it would affect their buying patterns and probably the city’s economy for the day(s) that their businesses were closed. Take this wonderful article I found in the New Orleans Times entitled “Red River Correspondence.” In my thesis I analyzed this article and wrote:

“’This is the first day of the Jewish New Year,’ the correspondence writes, ‘and as a consequence all the stores with very few exceptions are closed, and country people wander about the town from place to place, vainly endeavoring to find some place to do a little trading; for you must know that all the principal dry goods stores in Alexandria are kept by Jews’ (Red River Correspondence). The ‘Red River Correspondence’ clearly demonstrates the concentration of Jews in the dry goods business in Alexandria, due to the detail that ‘all the principal dry goods stores in Alexandria are kept by Jews.’ In addition, because it is ‘the first day of the Jewish New Year’ and ‘all the stores with very few exceptions are closed,’ according to the correspondent, it then follows that the non-Jewish ‘country people wander about the town from place to place, vainly endeavoring to find some place to do a little trading.’ Thus “country people” depend on the Jewish business community in their town” (Eckstein, 8-9).

If you look at many of the articles I found for this project, you see a similar thought process. Because Jews are primary traders or affect business in such an extreme manner, everyone wants to know, “Where are the Jews?”. Hence, they write these notices regarding Jewish holidays in order to raise awareness and answer questions.

  • Judeo-Christian Religion. I am not an expert on this, but I don’t particularly like this term because I think that it is a misnomer used to make Judaism and Christianity appear philosophically similar when they often times are not. However, if you look back at the newspapers, there is a certain sense that Judaism is Christianity’s parent religion and that Judaism has an exoticism and ancient character that give it authority. Sometimes, it seems that the authors write their stories because they are fascinated. It is a little bit like a freak show at a circus, with Judaism taking center stage (I don’t mean disrespect. That is the best way I can describe what I am attempting to convey).


Never Again HC

Dear Haverford Community,

We were made aware of a very offensive and antisemitic Yik Yak conversation that took place among Haverford students on the night of Wednesday, May 4, 2016, the night of Holocaust Remembrance Day. We find the statements you will read dangerous and hateful. They do not reflect the values of trust, concern, and respect that the Haverford community supposedly holds dear. As Jews, we feel targeted and deeply hurt. Below you will find the full conversation.


Laura Newman Eckstein ’16

Daniel Konstantinovsky ’16

Michelle Parris ’16

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~Martin Niemöller (source)

Senior Thesis

Shabbat Cotton by Bill Aron
Shabbat Cotton by Bill Aron
Shabbat Cotton by Bill Aron

Yesterday I handed in my senior thesis, a project I have been working on for over a year. Suffice it so say, turning it in feels like one of the biggest accomplishments of my life thus far. I would like to once again thank my thesis advisor, Dr. Molly B. Farneth for all her help and support during this process.

Though I have allowed the thesis to be available to scholars worldwide, I want to make it available to anyone else who might be interested. Feedback is welcome!

Creative Commons License
On the River, On the Road: Lower Mississippi Peddlers and their Judaism, 1820-1865 by Laura Newman Eckstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at



When there’s no “undo” or no “reset”

René Magritte
The False Mirror
Le Perreux-sur-Marne, 1928, Credit MOMA

Today, at least in my world, technology is a bodily appendage. Today, as the stitching between technology appendages and people seems to only strengthen, I think it can be easy to forget that the features technology offer don’t necessarily seep into the body. For instance there is no “undo,” and “reset” option.

René Magritte The False Mirror Le Perreux-sur-Marne, 1928, Credit MOMA
The False Mirror, Le Perreux-sur-Marne
By René Magritte, 1928, Credit MoMA

Approximately six weeks after I began taking medication daily for acne, I began losing my vision; day by day, hour by hour. After EXTREME healthcare measures and a wonderful support system, over the next months, my eyesight has returned; though not to its full capacity. My eyes are in pain after a day of schoolwork; I can no longer pick up a book anytime I want to read. My symptoms are always changing, but some days I see floaters, black dots in my line of sight, other times I see auras and hazes, and sometimes a film colors my entire visual field. I write this NOT asking for pity or sympathy, but because I am crying out for an “undo” button or even a “reset” option. But this cry is futile, because humans are not technology.

My psyche, over these last few months, is slowly resetting  adapting. In order to survive I must acknowledge there is no “reset,” no “undo,” no “buying a new body.” Instead I embrace what eyesight I do have, treasuring the miracle of the human body’s “humanness;” its ability to cope with the blind spots that are the most natural parts of life. Perhaps, in some sick and beautiful way, my vision is better than ever before.

An Almost Wordless Wednesday

Good Morning! It has been a while. Here’s an almost wordless Wednesday. Here are photos of different aspects of Southern Jewish Life I have been exploring: plantations, trade, transportation, and ritual.

Farm Cultivation, ca. 1900, Norman Studio, Natchez, Mississippi (Courtesy Louisiana State University Digital Collections)
Steamship Jno. A. Scudder fully laden with cotton bales moored just off the river bank, ca. 1890, Natchez, Mississippi, Norman Studio (Courtesy Louisiana State University Digital Collections)
Synagogue, ca. 1880, Natchez, Mississippi, Norman Studio (Courtesy Louisiana State University Digital Collections)

The Confederate Streets of South Carolina

After watching Jon Stewart’s on-point and poignant words regarding the tragic shooting at the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, (watch it here before you continue reading!) I was curious about his statement that “the roads [in South Carolina] are named for Confederate generals.” I wanted to see the prevalence of  Confederate Generals’ names as opposed to African American leaders’ names on street signs in South Carolina . For the African American leaders’ names I referred to those inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. For the Confederate Generals, I picked four famous generals with connections to South Carolina. I used Google Maps to find all the streets with variations of these names (e.g. Robert E. Lee Ave. and Robert E. Lee Blvd.) in South Carolina.

Confederate Generals:

African Americans inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame:

  • Mary McLeod Bethune
  • Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
  • Maude Callen
  • Septima Poinsette Clark
  • Marian Wright Edelman
  • Ernest A. Finney, Jr.
  • John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie
  • Benjamin E. Mays, Ph.D.
  • Ronald Erwin McNair, Ph.D.
  • Matthew Perry
  • Philip Simmons
  • Robert Smalls

I found that for the 12 African Americans listed, they only had 10 streets named after them in South Carolina, while these 4 Confederate Generals had 44 in total. How’s that for disparate ratios!

Not only was Jon Stewart right when he said “the roads [in South Carolina] are named for Confederate generals,” but he can also add on that there is a clear disregard for honoring the African American leaders of South Carolina.

Please note that this was done hastily and I apologize in advance for any errors. If you have any thoughts, comments, questions, or suggestions, feel free to contact me and I will respond as promptly as possible.

Don’t blame me!

I promise, I really was going to write a blog post yesterday, but the power went off at 11:30 and didn’t go back on until 4:30. I went in search of a bookstore with a coffee shop that would have power, but I didn’t find one. Everything was closed due to the lack of power which was a result of a fire at the substation (whatever that means). I ended up at a coffee shop on Ludlow (don’t I sound like a local), which seemed to be the only place with power in a 2 mile radius from HUC. It reminded me a bit of Tea Chai Té, a place I frequently haunt in Portland. It had a  tea menu, slow service, and community journals to write in. It made me miss my friends (shout out to Adrienne, Alan, and Ceara <3).

I have been thinking a lot about the plantation database I am building. I am really shocked by some of the plantations that still exist today and their website designs. They seem nostalgic for a time when slavery was though of as acceptable (let’s move on people! not acceptable!). It is also hard because I have never learned my tech skills in a formal setting, I learn by myself, on the go, or with the librarians from Haverford, Laurie Allen and Mike Zarafonetis. I am still having trouble thinking about how to create the front-end for a database, which program to us,  ensuring that the aesthetics are pleasing, and that it is user friendly. I leave you with a few photos from this morning, the first day that the sun has shone in the morning.

Reading Room
Reading Room
Though almost everything is in an online catalog, there is about 10% of the archive that one can only find through the card catalog
Though almost everything is in an online catalog, there is about 10% of the archive that one can only find through the card catalog
Where I work everyday
Where I work everyday
The desk where you sign in and request archives.


Good Morning

Its my second day here and I am invigorated… well sort of. I woke up, got up to quickly, became dizzy, and hit my head on the floor while trying to reach the wall… not a great way to start my day. But my head ache has dissipated and I am sitting in the archives as we speak. Yesterday I didn’t spend a long time here because I had to get groceries and shampoo, but today I am here 9-5pm, like I hope to be every Monday – Thursday, (Friday 9-3pm, because of Shabbat). The archives are pretty amazing. Yesterday, I pulled three collections. The first was a set of photographs of my great grandfather Louis Israel Newman, a prominent Rabbi of Rodeph Sholom in New York City. I was just curious to see what they had, it wasn’t anything new, but it was still neat to see them. I haven’t pulled his sermons or his correspondence yet, perhaps later this summer.

I also pulled to collections relating to my research. One dealt with the Hyams family, related to Judah Benjamin, the secretary of state (among other titles) for the Confederacy. They were a prominent South Carolina family and it was particularly interesting to read their obituaries. They reminded me of my great-great uncles’ obituaries from Wilmington, North Carolina that had almost overly- assimilated tones. This may be something to explore further, examining the obituaries of Jews in the Delta region?

I also examined a collection from the Blantonia Plantation in Mississippi. This plantation became the site of Greenville, Mississippi, a large Jewish community on the Mississippi after the River destroyed the original site of  Greenville.

Many more collections and interesting folders of materials today…will update soon.

My workspace for the next 2 months #americanjewishhistory #jewishhistory #southernjews #reformjews #hebrewunioncollege

A photo posted by Laura Newman Eckstein (@lauraneckstein) on



From the Terminal

In the Philadelphia airport waiting for my flight:

So far a 50 ish year old Israeli man flirted with me and asked me to have a smoke with him

A woman, I don’t know if she’s on my flight; mumbled something at me and when I said “what?” She just smiled knowingly.

Then when I was washing my hands in the bathroom a woman identified me as a hiker and asked for tips on hiking in the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been there

It’s only been 50 minutes in the terminal…