A tale of two histories: 150 years of Jewish history in Tidewater and Israel

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Other News


At Tidewater’s celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, visitors to the Sandler Family Campus’ Fleischmann Lounge saw a collage of photographs, news articles, and scanned documents telling a 150-year-old story.

Through a partnership with Portsmouth’s Jewish Museum and Cultural Center, the timeline intertwines pieces of Tidewater’s Jewish history alongside transformative events in Israel – all taking place over the past 150 years. Now, the timeline will move to a larger space – the Leon Family Gallery, located on the second floor of the Sandler Family Campus.

Beginning in 1873, 150 years before Israel’s 75th anniversary this year, the timeline marks important events in Tidewater – such as Temple Israel’s cornerstone dedication in 1954 – alongside events in Israel such as the election of Golda Meir as Israel’s first female Prime Minister in 1969, and the start of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Articles from Jewish News also document Tidewater’s responses to these moments in Israel’s history.

As the exhibit moves into the Leon Family Gallery, UJFT is looking for more local connections to add to the timeline. Have you lived in Israel? Did you make a trip as a child? Were your grandparents early or long-time members of your congregation?

Share scanned photographs, scrapbook pages, and newspaper clippings that illustrate personal connections between Tidewater and Israel by submitting them to Hunter Thomas, director of Arts + Ideas, at HThomas@UJFT.org. Printed copies are also accepted and can be shared by mailing or dropping them off, with attention to Hunter Thomas, to the Simon Family JCC; 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Suite 200, Virginia Beach, VA, 23452. Submissions will be accepted throughout the run of the exhibit, through August 2023.

-Hunter Thomas