Local San Antonio Resident Leads the New Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience

New Orleans museum accepting stories and artifacts to open in early 2021

By Eva Laporte

NEW ORLEANS, August 12, 2020 – The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience (MSJE) has named two new members to its board of directors. The museum, set to open in early 2021, aims to be the epicenter for the unique history of Jews in the American South, while engaging its visitors on American values through dynamic and interactive exhibits.


“We have landed a group of exceptional individuals for our board at MSJE,” said MSJE board vice chairman and resident of San Antonio, Texas Rusty Palmer. “With their help I believe we will do a great job chronicling the remarkable experiences and culture of Southern Jews.”


Museum exhibit concept

Rusty and his wife Suzanne share one such story in the rich tapestry of the Southern Jewish experience. Coming from a family of Russian immigrants, Rusty grew up in the Deep South. He left his hometown of Selma, Alabama, to attend Tulane University. Here he met his wife Suzanne Mandel from Laredo, Texas. He went on to attend business school at the University of Texas at Austin and then the two settled in New Orleans where they raised their family. Eventually, they moved to San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina. Moving throughout so many smaller Jewish communities in the South led him to see the importance of documenting these stories.


“There’s a thread to our experiences,” he shares. “For people like me that grew up in Southern small towns, many of us went on to colleges and professions that took us to more urban Southern towns. This Jewish history of our families and lives keeps us more connected. Those stories of successful immigration and community building with neighbors will present an often unknown and under appreciated contribution in the growth of our community.”


When asked what he feels this new museum will accomplish, his answer is quick and succinct. “Every family has a story, and this is how we share it,” he says. The museum welcomes readers to share their unique Southern Jewish experience today at msje.org/share/.


Concept of museum hallway

Located in the New Orleans Museum District, the 13,000-square-foot renovated historic building will explore the many ways Jews in the American South influenced and were influenced by the distinct cultural heritage of their communities, covering 13 states and more than 300 years of history – including Colonial, Civil War, World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. Curators are currently accepting artifact donations. With many people still at home, now is a good time to explore your family archives and to speak with older relatives to collect personal family stories. Visit msje.org/our-collection for more information.



Opening in early 2021 in New Orleans, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience explores the many ways that Jews in the American South influenced and were influenced by the distinct cultural heritage of their new homes. Through exhibits, collections and programs focused on the unique and remarkable history of Southern Jews, the Museum encourages new understanding and appreciation for identity, diversity, and acceptance.


Visit www.msje.org for more information or follow the Museum on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to the monthly newsletter, The Southern Shmooze, for regular updates.

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