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Simon Sibelman
A Portion of the People: 300 Years of Jewish Life in Charleston

Tuesday 23.01.2024


In the 1690s, Jews began arriving in Charles Town, South Carolina, drawn there by economic possibilities. By the 1730s, a census indicated ten Jewish families had permanently settled in the rapidly expanding city. By the American War of Independence, 200 Jews supported the Patriot cause and even created the “Jew Company” in the army. Over the coming decades, more than 500 Jews were residents in the city and played significant roles in the political and economic life of Charleston. Jews were active in the American Civil War and during Restoration they continued to engage in the life of the city. This lecture will explore the rich heritage of Jewish life in Charleston and the impact the community had throughout the deep South.

Simon Sibelman

an image of Simon Sibelman

Born and educated in Richmond, VA, Prof. Simon Sibelman received his BA from the University of Richmond where he majored in French and Russian with minors in history and art history. He taught French, Russian, and dramatic arts at the St. Christopher’s School for Boys in Richmond from 1971 through 1981 when he left to pursue his doctorate in London and Paris. His focus was on the impact of the Shoah on French literature, especially Franco-Jewish writers. His doctoral dissertation thesis was later published as his first book, Silence in the Novels of Elie Wiesel. He taught at the Sprio Institute for the Study of Jewish History and Culture, eventually also serving as the director of Adult Studies. Returning to the US in 1990, he taught until 2009 at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award (1992), the TRISS Endowed Chair for Humanities (1999–2009), and the John N. Rosebush University Professorship (2003). In 2009, he returned to Richmond to assume the position of assistant executive director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum and in 2011 as its executive director. In 2013 he assumed the position of director of the Center for Holocaust, Judaic, and Peace Studies and was named the first Leon Levine Distinguished Professorship. Upon retiring, he moved to Massachusetts where he is a freelance lecturer.