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About Us

President's Message 

In 1978, when I moved to Memphis from suburban Detroit to go to graduate school, I remember my mother’s horrified look and her first question: “Are there Jews in Memphis?” To be quite honest, I didn’t know the answer. I only intended to stay here for a year, finish my degree, and move on. Fate intervened when I met my wonderful husband, a native Memphian and, to my mother’s delight, a nice Jewish boy. I was going to be a Southerner!

By the time we married in 1982, I had learned that Memphis had an active Jewish community, comprised of people from all over the spectrum of Jewish practice and lifestyle. It took more time, however, to come to appreciate their deep historical roots and significant contributions to the fabric of life in Memphis and the Mid-South. After nearly 40 years here, I am still learning new things that make me proud to call Memphis my home.

My interest in Jewish history was piqued when I began my own search for family roots. Both my parents were immigrants – my father born in Poland and my mother in Canada where her family fled from Rumania and Russia. Why did they come to America and how did they get here? What social, economic and political pressures did they overcome? As I expanded my search I became fascinated with the brave immigrants who spread beyond the big cities to the small towns and communities of the Mid-South.

The Jewish Historical Society of Memphis and the Mid-South collects, preserves, presents, and interprets the history of the lives of Jews in this region. It is only by honoring and recounting our past that we can ensure the survival and stability of our Jewish communities and heritage. The JHSMM does this through its Oral History Project, its partnership with the Temple Israel Archives, and through a wide variety of programs and presentations, all free to the public, on various aspects of Jewish history.

In these challenging times, a sense of where we came from is critical to knowing where we are going and how we can get there. I hope you will join with the JHSMM as we celebrate our past and look to our future. It is an honor to serve as your president. I would love to hear from you. Your story is our story and I hope you will share it.

Mimi Clemons


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