At the historic Hebrew Union Temple, the group learned more about the space Delta Jews occupy in the region's history and culture. Temple Vice President Benji Nelken explained the general principles of Reformed Judaism, then delved into the reality of being a southern Jew. The discussion spurred questions of identity -- white, southern, Jewish -- not only for Benji, but also for the participants themselves. In the video below, participant Les Kohn discusses how the visit relates to his own perspective on Judaism.
The group reflected on the discussion in the synagogue's museum, which houses items ranging from a Holocaust Torah to signs reading "Shalom Y'all."
Listen to participant Rebecca DiBrienza discuss how her experience at the temple will affect her teaching below:
Adjacent to the temple, participants wandered through a museum documenting the 1927 flood. The exhibit covered the science behind the levee breach, while newspaper clippings, historical artifacts, and quotes from survivors added a human element to the disaster.
The group also had the opportunity to stop by the Greenville History Museum, which documents the everyday lives of the city's residents.
Guest scholar Dr. Charles Wilson spoke to the workshop after lunch, teaching about the historically diverse religious factions found within the Delta.
He also discussed how the strong tradition of oral expression found in the South influenced the church, musicians, and even southern politicians.
The lecture shed light on everything from church fans as a form of advertising to modern day politics and the relationship between religion and different political agendas.