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Shalom Y’all: Jewish Culture in New Orleans

The Jewish Federation celebrates New Orleans Jewish culture.

The Jewish Federation celebrates New Orleans Jewish culture.

I remember when I was in Jerusalem walking through the old city in the Arab Quarter looking for one souvenir to bring back with me I saw this tile that said “Shalom Y’all.” I knew I had to have it.

How incongruous, I thought, to see such a thing so far away from the South in the ancient and holy city.

The guy at the stall tried to get me to buy all kinds of other things, making me offers, collecting other ceramics. I had to deal with his disappointed and dejected face, obviously well-rehearsed, when I told him, “No, I just want this one.”

The tile now hangs in my kitchen underneath a Turkish plate with the Arab word for Allah, which is just a couple feet away from a statue of the Virgin Mary on top of my fridge. It’s my little homage, unintentional I assure you and now just realized, to all three Abrahamic religions, all gathered in my kitchen inches away from each another.

Shalom Y’all: Jewish Culture in New Orleans

Jewish people have played an influential and colorful role in the history of New Orleans, a majority Catholic town. Since Hurricane Katrina the Jewish population has grown. And for Jewish visitors to our city there is a lot of interesting cultural things to do.

As this article from ShalomLife relates:

Dine at Casablanca Restaurant, a kosher Middle Eastern establishment opened before the storm and still carries on. It offers the best cuisine in town and is noted for its hand-rolled couscous and delicious moussaka, and of course features a special Passover menu. For fare that is equally delectable but infused with New Orleans flair, check out the Kosher Cajun New York Deli for your dining and grocery needs. That the words ‘kosher’ and ‘Cajun’ are in the same sentence, let alone the title of an eatery demonstrates the wonderful quirkiness and accessibility of Jewish culture in the Big Easy.

The odd character of the city merges into every facet of one’s own culture, personality, or religion, creating something unique, positive, and ultimately satisfying.

The very first Rex of the old and venerable Mardi Gras parade was Jewish. A few years ago I saw where a local rabbi jokingly said, “In New Orleans even the Jews are Catholic.”

Jewish culture in New Orleans is an integral part of the multi-colored fabric of the Crescent City.


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