The Atlanta Jewish community: From immigration to assimilation
Jews have lived in Atlanta ever since the city was founded; however, there is very little written about their impact on society in the Southern historical records. Even though the Jewish population of Atlanta was just 26 in 1850, constituting just 1% of the city's total population, Jews played an important role in the development of the town's civic affairs. Despite representing a minority, Jews owned more than 10% of Atlanta's stores (New Georgia Encyclopedia), proving that Atlanta was becoming one of the best Southern cities for Jews to live in.
In the 1870's and 1880's the Atlanta Jewish community was relatively small at 500, with a majority of German decent. As the city grew, it rapidly attracted Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.
While the German Jews willingly provided monetary support to the new immigrants, the two Jewish groups did not associate with each other at first. Interestingly, this was largely due to the fact that the new Eastern European immigrants did not want to assimilate. Eventually, the Eastern European Jews took on some American ways and assimilated into Southern society through various lifestyle changes (Shankman, Atlanta Jewry).
Today, the Jewish population of Atlanta is 120,000 and is continuously growing. Many of Atlanta's Jews are active in the professions as well as business, education, and politics (New Georgia Encyclopedia), which attracts other Jews to the metropolitan area.
This project aims to explore how Jewish immigrants assimilated into the Atlanta community through education business, language, civic involvement, fashion, religion, and food. It was through these main aspects of community engagement that Jews were able to prosper and be highly respected in the unique southern environment of Atlanta.
Header photo citation: Photo courtesy of flickr user Mike Boening Photography