By Miriam Karp
Looking for a nice place to beat the end of winter, can't-wait-for-spring blues? Want to stroll on ocean beaches and catch some champion golf before the summer crowd hits?
Consider South Carolina for the climate, beaches, low prices, and golf. American readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine continue to rate Charleston among the top ten US travel destinations year after year. The 28 million annual visitors spending $7 billion dollars attest to the Palemetto State's enjoyable ambiance and amenities.
Jews Welcome Here
Think of the historic South as a close-minded place where a Jewish presence is unwelcome? A glimpse into the Triangle State's intriguing Jewish history may surprise you.
Which state was the first to grant Jews voting rights? Which has a constitution where its founding fathers specifically state that Jews are welcome-the most liberal religious tolerance in the world at that time? New Hampshire? Massachusetts? Guess again. Head south for the answer, to South Carolina.
Jews in South Carolina have enjoyed a long and complex 300 year history. In 1800, the Jewish population was 2,000, more than any other state. Many became successful tradesmen and merchants. Among them were Revolutionary War heroes and faithful sons of the Confederacy. Though Jewish families had some hardship adapting to their new environments -mostly families who lived in small, rural South Carolina towns that offered no kosher food, synagogues, rabbis or potential suitors for their daughters- most Jewish immigrants found South Carolina an easily adaptable place where they could prosper.
Jewish mercantile businesses flourished throughout South Carolina, with many storefronts in Charleston, Abbeville, Spartanburg, and Anderson. Playing a vital role in the community, Jewish South Carolinians held political positions throughout its history, dating back to the Confederacy when Judas B. Benjamin served as Secretary of State under Jefferson Davis.
The fascinating history of South Carolina Jewry was featured this year in a new exhibit at the McKissick Musuem at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, "Portion of the People," and can also be pursued at the College of Charleston Jewish Heritage Collection. A recent South Carolina ETV show, the "Land of Promise" explored the state's saga.
Jewish life today enjoys a revitalized dynamism that has characterized the post Civil Rights South. The best of both worlds, a slower paced genteel hospitality with an open-minded progressiveness that has affected blacks, Jews and all minorities
Enough abstract historicating about the past; let's get practical about the present. What was that about beaches and golf courses?
Many beaches circle the seaport city of Charleston. Folly Beach, fifteen minutes by car from downtown Charleston, is a popular surfing destination in South Carolina. Folly Beach also has a beautiful bird sanctuary where you might even spot a Bald Eagle.
The Isle of Palms is a luxury resort area with costly hotels and well kept golf courses. Kiawah Island, 21 minutes drive from Charleston has a ten-mile stretch of continuous white sand beach. It is ideal for nature lovers, as miles of bike and hiking trails run through marshland and forests filled with magnolias, pines, and oaks.
Farther off coast, Hilton Head Island is famed for being one of the best resort islands in the USA. Don't miss the spectacular Magnolia Gardens. As early as 1900, Magnolia Gardens near Charleston was noted in the Baedeker Guide as a must-see for international visitors. It includes a tropical garden, a 125-acre waterfowl refuge, and other theme areas. Middleton Place next door is America's oldest formal landscaped garden.
Northwest of Charleston, Cypress Garden is a swamp-garden with paths going through nearly 200 acres of marsh and swampland. Deep-sea fishing is popular in this area. Tour operators offer half-day and full-day fishing trips to the Gulf Stream year round.
Picturesque Charleston was founded in 1670. It has 73 pre-Revolutionary buildings, and 136 other buildings from the late 18th century. More than 600 buildings erected before the 1840s still stand and historic plantations are in the area. Beth Elohim on Hassell Street is an 1840 synagogue of Greek Revival design.
With a Jewish population of 5,000, Charleston Jews will proudly remind you that "The Jewish presence in America started here." Three synagogues, a Jewish day school, and a small kosher grocery are in town.
Charleston is the home of the spring Spoleto Festival. This premiere American arts festival features over 120 performances including opera, jazz, theater, dance, symphonic and chamber music and may be the most important arts festival in the U.S.
The Grand Strand is a 60-mile stretch of white sand beach along the South Carolina coast. Many resort towns including well-known Myrtle Beach line the Grand Strand.
North Myrtle Beach is famous for its youthful orientation while the southern part has a more family-style atmosphere. Entertainment options range from theme theaters presenting extravagant musical shows to standard seaside activities.
Chabad of Myrtle Beach is busy year round. Summer tourists appreciate the minyan, mikvah, Shabbos hospitality, classes, glatt kosher restaurant and day camp. Many Israeli vendors hawk their wares along the beach, and then come to Chabad to recharge Jewishly. The day school has grown from a small pre-school to 115 students through 8th grade, and was featured in People Magazine for its creative Holocaust observance. So, dump the sand out of your sneakers and drop in for some chicken soup, southern style.
Myrtle Beach claims to be the Golf Capital of the World. An average winter temperature in the fifties Fahrenheit promotes year round play on over 100 golf courses. In addition to outlet malls, the area is famed for its unique boutiques offering a variety of specialty merchandise.
Columbia, the state capital, is the center of everything, geographically and culturally. It is the hub of the arts, education and history, a home of fascinating museums, archives and libraries, and the gateway to many of South Carolina's beautiful recreation lands and waters.
The city's 2,500 Jews are characterized by pride and dignity in their heritage and in all they've accomplished. They are drawn to Columbia by the University of South Carolina, the capitol, and by Fort Jackson, which is home of the army's chaplain school.
All three Columbia congregations help sustain the day school and the mikveh, which are run by Chabad for the whole community. Chabad has been in Columbia for 16 years. Their development of the day school 11 years ago, the mikveh 5 years ago, the Jewish Learning Institute with college-level adult learning, is appreciated and supported by all in this wonderfully cooperative and interdependent community.
Shabbat services, an ample supply of kosher foods in the Publix supermarket and innovative holiday activities at USC are enjoyed by guests to Columbia.
This small state, 40th in size, is a gem of natural splendor and variety. The Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwest corner of the state gradually give way to the Piedmont Plateau in the middle, and the sea level coastal region, with 187 miles of coastlines. Upstate Greenville County offers the Whitewater falls, dropping about 900 feet. The Cherokees call this range the Great Blue Hills of G-d.
Kosher Expeditions offers a Southern tour featuring historic treks down oak shaded cobblestone alleys, home and garden walking tours, plantation tours, and lectures on all aspects of Southern life, and, of course, Kosher food. More information is available at Kosher Expeditions.com.
So, relax and enjoy this beautiful state...... and don't be surprised to be greeted by a hearty "Shalom, y'all!"
The immigrants started out as peddlers, and then established businesss. Over forty stores on upper King St. were closed in observance of Shabbat. The men held daily prayer services above their shops, and the women kept kosher homes.
* South Carolina was the first place in the western world to elect a Jew to public office.
* Charleston's congregation, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded the country's first Hebrew Benevolent Society and the first Hebrew Orphan Society.
* In 1800, Charleston boasted the largest Jewish population of any town in the United States.
* Georgetown, South Carolina, has had six Jewish mayors, including three before 1818.
Picture Captions: Kids in a South Carolina Jewish camp on a roll.
Southern Jewish pride
East European immigration doubled Charleston's Jewish population of 700 in 1912. The 'greenhorns' neighborhood was called 'Little Jerusalem.'
Rabbi Hirsch Zvi Levine served as Charleston's Cantor, Kosher Slaughterer and Mohel circumcisor, besides authoring his own Torah commentary. "One man must do the whole business here," wrote the Congregation's president in 1858.