Currently on View at The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans:
Shalom Y’all: A Snapshot of Southern Jewish LifePhotographs and Memories from Bill Aron and Vicki Reikes Fox
Award-winning photographer Bill Aron, chronicler of Jewish communities around the world, and writer Vicki Reikes Fox, a native of Mississippi, have dedicated many years to capturing the convergence of two interwoven communities-one Southern, one Jewish. The result of their creative collaboration is Shalom Y’all: Images of Jewish Life in the American South. Based on an original project by the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Jackson, Mississippi, this exhibition of nearly 40 black-and-white photographs is a comprehensive look at the contemporary Southern Jewish experience.
Shalom Y’all began when Vicki Reikes Fox, the founding project director of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Mississippi, made a disheartening discovery at a thrift shop in Mississippi. Tossed into a box was a musty red velvet ark curtain, something very sacred to her Jewish heritage. Inspired to preserve the unique tie between Southern and Jewish cultures, she recruited Los Angeles photographer Bill Aron (From the Corners of the Earth: Contemporary Photographs of the Jewish World) to work with her.
Aron’s photographs, accompanied by stories compiled by Reikes Fox, introduce Southern Jews, descendants of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish settlers who arrived in the South, some as early as the 1700’s, seeking freedom, opportunity, and adventure. Enterprising and industrious, these immigrants and their descendants revered the beauty and character of the South. They embraced Southern hospitality and acquired Southern accents while maintaining the ritual and traditions that bind them to the Jewish people. From fighting for the Confederacy and serving in political office to playing football and entering beauty pageants, they participated in all facets of Southern life. At the same time they built synagogues throughout the region and established a Jewish communal network from Charleston to Lake Charles, from Durham to Dothan, and from Jackson to Jacksonville.
Bill Aron’s work is part of many permanent collections including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Skirball Cultural Center, the Art Institute of Chicago, the International Center for Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, the Jewish Museum, and the National Museum of American Jewish History. He has had over 20 solo exhibitions and has contributed to a number of books. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
Vicki Reikes Fox has worked in museums for over 20 years as a curator and educator, and was the founding project director of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience. Born in Savannah, Georgia, she was raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
The Jewish Art Salon (JAS) is a 501.c.3 non-profit organization. It is a global network of contemporary visual artists and art professionals. Established in 2008 and based in New York City, JAS has over 400 members and over 2,000 participants. Through its 60+ shows, events and collaborations in the US, Europe and Israel, JAS has reached approximately 30,000 individuals since its inception. JAS provides important programs and resources, and develops lasting partnerships with the international art community and the general public.