The History of New Orleans’ Jews (Part 3: The 20th Century and Beyond)

by Kosher River Cruise Kosher Tour Operator
We are at the final leg of our little history lesson on the Jewish community of New Orleans. We hoped you are learning much from this, and if you are interested in more insights into the heritage of the New Orleans Jews, feel free to come with us on our Jewish cruises to the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

We have finished going through the early history up to the 19th century development of the New Orleans Jews. Now, we will move closer to the present and see how they fared in the 1900s.

The Continuing Growth

Jews in New Orleans, and Louisiana as a whole, would continue enjoying a prosperous life in the city. Although there would always be anti-Semitic sentiments, it did not stop them from living in relative harmony with the other cultures around them. You can see this for yourself when we go on our New Orleans city tour after the Mississippi kosher cruise has run its course. 

At the end of the 19th century, the Jews had turned the Dryades Street area into their main neighbourhood. They had kosher delis, shops, and department stores. They would cater to many races, including African Americans.

The Jews had formed small congregations based on their ethnicity—Polish, German, and so forth. In 1904, many of the smaller ones combined into a single group, the Orthodox Beth Israel. The German Jews were considered elite for their wealth and outnumbered the others.

Some of the well-known establishments in New Orleans that were founded by Jews include Krauss, Maison Blanche, K&B Drugs, Adler's, Hurwitz-Mintz, and Rubenstein’s.

Turning Anti-Semitism into Strength

In spite of the success the Jews had in economic and political circles, they would mostly be shunned in most of the high social circles in New Orleans, even until modern times. So instead of focusing on holding parades and balls as the rich people of New Orleans did, the Jews would instead use their resources for the betterment of the city. During our tour lectures on the great Jews who contributed to New Orleans and Louisiana, you will begin to realize just how much they have been a boon to this southern state.

Felix Dreyfous, for instance, was a member of the state legislate who fought against corruption and improving the region’s flood control (a prevalent problem in the Mississippi area). He also created the City Park. Isidore Newman helped create the New Orleans Stock exchange and became its president. In 1903, he funded the Isidore Newman Manual Training School which would soon turn into one of the city’s best college preparatory schools. 

Isaac Delgado would build the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Delgado Community College. Edgar Stern and his wife Edith founded the Stern Fund which supported charities and institutions. Lucile Blum would establish the Louisiana State Arts Council and Louisiana Council of Music and Performing Arts.

And so, even if the city’s Gentile elite would not accept them, at least the rest of the city would enjoy the contributions of the Jews. And so can you! On our Jewish tour in New Orleans and other cities in Louisiana, we will be visiting many of the places that these influential Jews have left behind as part of their legacies.

The Modern Day Jews of New Orleans

As the years went by, New Orleans would remain an important tourist spot and port, although it would not experience the economic prosperity it once had. The Jewish population remained in the thousands, and many would shift from businesses to having professions instead. 

Hurricane Katrina was a turning point for the New Orleans Jews—and for the city as a whole. Many Jews had flooded homes, and even the synagogues did not escape being damaged. The synagogue of Beth Israel suffered the worst and was flooded by ten feet of water. Their Torahs did not survive the storm.

Many of the Jews would return to the city after Katrina, but some decided to relocate elsewhere. The community struggled with all their institutions in New Orleans, but with the help of their neighbouring communities in other cities, they managed to rebuild and revitalize. Now they are returning to their old, lively selves and have several community centers, kosher restaurants and stores scattered throughout the city. And you can witness just how well they have recovered from this calamity while on our Jewish tour in New Orleans.

So, are you interested in seeing the city of New Orleans as well as the other Jewish communities in Louisiana? Then join us and embark on a Jewish vacation of a lifetime with Kosher River Cruises!

Check here for the 1st and 2nd Part of this article:
The History of New Orleans’ Jews (Part 1: Early History)
The History of New Orleans’ Jews (Part 2: 19th Century Growth)

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