Multicultural History
 

Jewish History in New Orleans

St. Joseph
Businessman and philanthropist Judah Touro, founder of Touro Infirmary
Katz & Besthoff
Drugstore tycoons Gustave Katz and Sydney J. Besthoff, better know by the initials of their stores, K&B.
Krauss
Krauss
NOMA
New Orleans Museum of Art
Delgado Community College
Delgado Community College
Woldenburg Park

The Jewish community has existed in New Orleans since French Colonial times. Through periods of social and economic success, and even times of exile and persecution, the Jewish population of New Orleans has grown and contributed to the city for over two centuries.

Background

The first Jewish immigrant came to New Orleans circa 1724. This Dutch Sephardic Jew, named Isaac Monsanto, was followed by a small population of Jewish immigrants who sought to pursue a new life in America.

By the mid-1700s, a small amount of Jews had trickled into the city to seek new opportunity. Shortly after their arrival, the French colonists decreed that they be expelled from New Orleans, with the Code Noir (Black Code). Despite an order for their exile, many members of the small Jewish community were still able to establish their own shops and businesses.

However, after taking control in 1769, the second Spanish governor took further measures to expel certain successful Jewish merchants, due to his perceived threat to Spanish economic power. Even the family of Isaac Monsanto, the first Jewish New Orleanian, had to temporarily flee to Florida.

Even with such treatment the Jews persevered, and continued to return to the city through the changing colonial regimes. In fact, Jewish history says the first New Orleans congregation, Gates of Mercy, began in 1827 with a man named Isaac Solis. Rumor has it, Solis couldn’t find any unleavened bread to eat during Passover, so was inspired to build a solid base for Jewish life in the city.

In addition to the first Jews of New Orleans that came from Western Europe, a new wave began arriving from Eastern Europe. These Dryades Street Jews, so named after the Central City neighborhood where they settled, tended to be Orthodox, working class, and somewhat removed from bustling city life.

Leadership and Community

The Jewish community developed into a small but prominent population in New Orleans. Successful community members, like Judah Touro, a New England Jew of Dutch descent, steadily amassed a fortune as a merchant and businessman. After building a small fortune, Judah was able to contribute many philanthropic works, including funding the congregation that became Touro Synagogue in 1850 and the Touro Infirmary, which grew into the enormous hospital it is today.

After the development and growth of these communities, the Jewish population grew stronger, despite some anti-Semitism and resistance by local authority. In fact, the Krewe of Rex’s first King of Carnival in 1872 was Jewish. But by the early 20th century, Jews were excluded from elite Mardi Gras krewes and other social organizations no matter how wealthy or prominent they were in city’s structure.

Nevertheless, Jews continued to be leaders in the city. Many of New Orleans beloved retail stores have been Jewish-owned: the former Canal St. department stores Krauss and Maison Blanche, the dearly missed K&B Drugs, and the still functioning Adler’s, Hurwitz-Mintz, and Rubensteins.

And Jewish philanthropy to New Orleans did not stop with Touro. Isaac Delgado founded Delgado Community College and the Museum of Art in City Park; Isidore Newman began one of the city’s top college prep schools; and the city can thank Malcolm Woldenberg for Woldenberg Park.

Jewish Community Centers

Over the decades, the Jewish community’s focus gradually shifted farther uptown and is now dispersed throughout the city and into Metairie. Jewish Community Centers in both New Orleans and Metairie and congregations across the metropolitan area keep New Orleans Jewish life thriving. Check out the following list of Jewish religious and cultural venues all over the city:

Jewish Community Center-Uptown
5342 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 897-0143
www.nojcc.com

Goldring-Woldenberg Jewish Community Center-Metairie
3747 W. Esplanade Avenue
Metairie, LA 70002
(504) 887-5158
www.nojcc.com

Touro Synagogue
Touro Synagogue
Temple Sinai
Temple Sinai
Congretation Gates of Prayer
Congretation Gates of Prayer
Casablanca
Casablanca Restaurant
Kosher Cajun Deli
Kosher Cajun Deli

Synagogues

Touro Synagogue
4238 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 895-4843
www.tourosynagogue.com

Temple Sinai
6227 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70118
(504) 861-3693
www.templesinaino.org

Congregation Gates of Prayer
4000 West Esplanade Avenue
Metairie, LA 70002
(504) 885-2600
www.gatesofprayer.org

Kosher Restaurants

Casablanca Restaurant
3030 Severn Ave.
Metairie, LA 70002
(504) 888-2209

Kosher Cajun Deli
3519 Severn Ave.
Metairie, LA 70002
(504) 888-2010
www.koshercajun.com

Judaica Shops

Dashka Roth Contemporary Jewelry & Judaica
332 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-0805
www.dashkaroth.com

L’Dor V’Dor Judaica
3519 Severn Ave.
Metairie, LA 70002
(504) 455-4450

Naghi’s
633 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 586-8373
www.naghis.com

M.S. Rau Antiques
630 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-5660
www.rauantiques.com

 
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