What is the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative?

By Anthony Scannella
Dec. 2, 2015

The Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative is a partnership between Historic Columbia, the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina, the Columbia Jewish Federation, the Columbia Jewish Community Center, the College of Charleston’s Jewish Heritage Collection and the Richland Library.

Its goal is to collect images, documents and oral histories about Columbia’s Jewish community to shine more light on a less-represented part of the city’s history.

Originally proposed in April 2014 by Debbie Cohn, then marketing director at the Katie and Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center, it was in part a response to the dwindling number of Jews who had survived the Holocaust but whose experiences were not documented. Other concerns included a lack of awareness of Jewish community members’ influence and presence in the city’s history.

Historic Columbia is working with volunteers trained by the College of Charleston’s Jewish Heritage Collection to record oral histories of these community members, which will eventually find a home on the Jewish Heritage Collections website. Additional materials will also be housed at the Richland Library. The project is described as multidisciplinary, spanning multiple forms of media.

Historic Columbia debuted a walking tour highlighting the history of a number of Columbia’s Jewish merchants at the Nov. 7 fall meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina.

Robin Waites, Historic Columbia’s executive director and project coordinator, said the groups consider this the kickoff and that the goal is to have guided driving and walking tours available to the public in May.

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