Tennessee State Library and Archives
History of Jews in Tennessee


Suggested archival resources at TSLA for further research into Jewish history:

Manuscript Collections:
Daniel May Papers
David King Papers
Fedora Small Frank Papers
Harry Klein Papers
Jewish Federation of Nashville Collection

Audio/Video materials:

A Caring Community, The History of the Jews of Nashville videocassette

This video is available for viewing at TSLA (by appointment only) and is available for purchase at the Archives of the Jewish Federation of Nashville on 801 Percy Warner Boulevard. Call (615) 356-3242 or email library@jewishnashville.org for more information.

Selected miscellaneous items:

(1) Scrapbook of Jacob S. Blumenthal of Rutherford County, Tennessee.

The scrapbook, which belonged to Jacob S. Blumenthal, includes a diverse selection of newspaper clippings, prints, drawings, cartoons, poems, and photographs. Some of the items pertain directly to the experience of living as a Jew in America.

(2) Christian Asmus architectural drawings of KKAI synagogue, Christian Albert Asmus Papers

TSLA has architectural drawings created by Christian Albert Asmus, a German non-Jewish architect who worked in Nashville from 1890 to 1945 and designed over 500 buildings in town. The Khal Kodesh (Holy Congregation) Adath Israel (KKAI) synagogue was chartered in 1876 and began as an Orthodox congregation, after the Vine Street Temple adopted the Reform practices. Later they became a Conservative congregation and moved to Gay Street. The KKAI synagogue designed by Asmus was built in 1901 and located on Gay Street. Their present building on West End Avenue was dedicated in 1950 as the West End Synagogue, a Conservative congregation.

(3) Rosenwald Foundation schools, from Record Group 91, State Board of Education

 Sears president and Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald established a foundation in 1917 dedicated to the “ well being of mankind.”  Through its focus on the plight of African Americans, the foundation constructed schools for black children in the South.  Affectionately called “Rosenwald Schools” they were built cooperatively with each community.  By the 1940s, there were more than 350 such schools in Tennessee.  Nationwide, the fund educated well over a half-million students.

(4) Hebrew Cemetery, Chattanooga, Map #602

Undated map of the Hebrew Cemetery nestled alongside the Confederate and Hamilton County cemeteries.  Reserved plots include those for the Ochs family of the Chattanooga Times, and the Weinfeld, Rosenthal, Lazard, Wassman, and Rosenfeld families. 

(5) Broadside of Romansky & Goldman, Fayetteville, Tennessee, 1873, Broadside Collection

Bartering goods and services was still common in the late 19th century.  In Fayetteville, Lincoln County, the firm of Romansky & Goldman offered groceries or cash in exchange for feathers, beeswax, metals, and ginseng. 

(6) Petition to Legislature, 1853, Record Group 60, Legislative Materials

Jewish merchants in Memphis request permission to open their businesses on Sunday. Because Saturday is the Hebrew day of worship, Jews wished to observe their “wholly [holy] Sabbath,” and reopen for business on Sunday.

(7) Hirsch & Co., Nashville, circa 1890s, Library Photograph Collection

Nathan Hirsch opened his Trade Palace on Market Street (First Avenue) in the late 19th century.  This unusual photograph shows people standing at the second floor windows and on the sidewalk showing off the store’s wares.  A closer look reveals displays of furniture, trousers, travel trunks, suits, framed photographs, and tall stacks of unidentified goods. 

(8) YMHA Halloween Party, early 1920s, Library Collection

Group photograph taken at a Halloween party for the Young Women’s Hebrew Association, circa 1922.  The picture appeared in the inaugural issue of “Nashville YMHA News,” October 1924.

(9) Werthan Bag Corporation, Nashville, Record Group 225, Trademark Registrations

Trademark for “Three Feathers Flour” registered with the Tennessee Department of State, 1939.  The paper sack was manufactured by the Werthan Bag Corporation for Trigonia Mills of Blount County. At the time, the bag company was run by Joseph, Bernard, and Albert Werthan, members of a prominent local Jewish family.  The film, Driving Miss Daisy, was based on the Werthan family.

(10) Steiner & Lightman, Walter H. Storer Photograph Collection, Tennessee Historical Society

Traffic eases south on First Avenue toward Broadway during flooding in 1937. Two prominent businesses dominate the scene: the Tennessee Central Railroad freight depot and Steiner & Lightman.  Owned by Morris Steiner and Harry Lightman, the business dealt mainly in scrap iron.

(11) Display window at Loveman, Berger & Teitlebaum, Library Photograph Collection

Located for most of its history at 5th & Union in Nashville, Loveman’s was “The Satisfactory Store” for family clothing and other dry goods.  This window display in an undated photograph celebrated the store’s 1862 founding. 

(12) Crematory oven at Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1945, Manuscripts Photograph Collection

Incinerated human remains photographed by a Lt. Grant, a Warren County native who participated in the camp’s liberation.  Located near the town of Weimar, Germany, Buchenwald was best known as the site of grisly Nazi medical experiments.  Some 56,000 Jews and non-Jews died there. 

(13) Photograph of Sol Schulman, Ellsworth Brown Papers

Soldiers of the 114th Field Artillery having a splash in a creek, probably at Camp Sevier, South Carolina, during training for World War I.   Lt. Ellsworth Brown, identified his buddy, back to camera, as “Sol Schulman, a naked Jew.”

(14)  Photograph of Dinah Shore (1916-1994), Ralph Morrissey Collection, Tennessee Historical Society

Singer and TV personality Fannye Rose Shore was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Winchester, Franklin County, Tennessee.  The family moved to Nashville in 1923.  A Vanderbilt University graduate, Shore overcame polio in childhood to become one of the most recognizable and popular entertainers of the 20th century.  This photograph was taken on the set of “The Dinah Shore Show” in 1955. 

(15) Trademark registration for Sholom Wine, Record Group 225, Trademark Registrations, Book 21

Recording trademarks are the responsibility of the Secretary of State. From 1897 – 1983, these books include an image of the actual trademark being registered in Tennessee. This page shows the registration of “Sholom American Kosher Sweet Concord Wine” by St. Julian Wine Co., Inc., of Paw Paw, Michigan. The trademark was signed and approved on April 26, 1950.

(16) Gay Street Synagogue (KKAI), taken on Yom Kippur, 1941, Library Photograph Collection

(17) For more photographs of the Vine Street Temple, also see the Ralph Morrissey Photograph Collection, the Library Photograph Collection, and the Tennessee Historical Society Photograph Collection

Tennessee State Library and Archives
403 Seventh Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: 615.741.2997 Fax: 615.741.6471