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Separate Circle: Jewish Life Knoxville Tennessee Paperback – June 8, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 1 edition (June 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572331259
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572331259
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,106,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

“An insightful and well-written book. One of the best studies of local Jewish history extant.”—Leonard Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

For more than a century and a half, the Jewish citizens of the area in and around Knoxville, Tennessee, have maintained the rituals and traditions that define them as a separate people, even as they have blended quietly with their non-Jewish neighbors.

Wendy Lowe Besmann paints a vivid picture of this community, bringing alive the stories of merchants, grocers, immigrants from Eastern Europe, and scientists and university professionals who have come to call the area home. Drawing on interviews and other sources, she traces the growth of local synagogues, explores the role of Jewish community centers, looks at how children were shaped by school and Temple life, and even recalls the community’s summer vacations at nearby Neubert Springs.

With broad historical sweep, Besmann examines what life was like for Knoxville’s early Jewish community and how the events of their lives were affected by American expansion and depression, by social upheaval and urban migration. Successive waves of immigrants, from the traveling peddlers of the late nineteenth century to the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of the late twentieth, have both adapted to the culture of East Tennessee and shaped it in subtle ways. As they did in cities all over the South, Knoxville’s Jewish population followed jobs, meaning that most of them did not grow up in the region.

Besmann looks at topics as diverse as patterns of chain migration, the role of Jewish merchants in the Civil War, and the contributions of a Jewish-owned music store to the career of Elvis Presley. She describes the vital role of ritual and celebration in the community, from the importance placed on religious education to the songs played at bar mitzvahs.<A Separate Circle chronicles a wealth of memories, struggles, and achievements. The stories Besmann and her subjects tell reflect the complex bonds of kinship, ethics, and culture that have forged a unique way of life in a small southern, Jewish community.

The Author: Wendy Lowe Besmann is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, USA Today, The Atlantic, Self, and Better Homes & Gardens. She lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

About the Author

“An insightful and well-written book. One of the best studies of local Jewish history extant.”—Leonard Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

For more than a century and a half, the Jewish citizens of the area in and around Knoxville, Tennessee, have maintained the rituals and traditions that define them as a separate people, even as they have blended quietly with their non-Jewish neighbors.

Wendy Lowe Besmann paints a vivid picture of this community, bringing alive the stories of merchants, grocers, immigrants from Eastern Europe, and scientists and university professionals who have come to call the area home. Drawing on interviews and other sources, she traces the growth of local synagogues, explores the role of Jewish community centers, looks at how children were shaped by school and Temple life, and even recalls the community’s summer vacations at nearby Neubert Springs.

With broad historical sweep, Besmann examines what life was like for Knoxville’s early Jewish community and how the events of their lives were affected by American expansion and depression, by social upheaval and urban migration. Successive waves of immigrants, from the traveling peddlers of the late nineteenth century to the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of the late twentieth, have both adapted to the culture of East Tennessee and shaped it in subtle ways. As they did in cities all over the South, Knoxville’s Jewish population followed jobs, meaning that most of them did not grow up in the region.

Besmann looks at topics as diverse as patterns of chain migration, the role of Jewish merchants in the Civil War, and the contributions of a Jewish-owned music store to the career of Elvis Presley. She describes the vital role of ritual and celebration in the community, from the importance placed on religious education to the songs played at bar mitzvahs.<A Separate Circle chronicles a wealth of memories, struggles, and achievements. The stories Besmann and her subjects tell reflect the complex bonds of kinship, ethics, and culture that have forged a unique way of life in a small southern, Jewish community.

The Author: Wendy Lowe Besmann is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, USA Today, The Atlantic, Self, and Better Homes & Gardens. She lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ellie on August 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book explains the Knoxville Jewish community and the experience of Southern Jews quite thoroughly and with great fluidity. Besmann has captured my hometown in words.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. B. on May 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a delightful history of the small, but growing and ever present Jewish community of Knoxville, including Oak Ridge. Ms. Besman's book is not only enjoyable for those of us who have been connected with this community over the years, and know many of the individuals she writes about, it is also for anyone interested in the history of this beautiful southern city. "A Separate Circle: Jewish Life in Knoxville, Tennessee" is an affirmation that where ever Jewish roots are sown, significant contributions are made to the community as a whole.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book because I grew up in Knoxville as a part of the Jewish community. However, I returned this book after a review of the context, due to its lack of substance. The author was extremely weak on reporting the events which are now a part of the history of this Jewish community. There were many people who were an important part of the past that were not even mentioned. It was very obvious that the writer relied on personal friendships to gather the "facts" for her novel. If you are looking for a book concerning the history of the Jewish population in Knoxville, TN, don't look here. For those looking for a book that mentions their name, this book is perfect for you. My opinion is that it was tragic that some tree had to be wasted for the paper needed to print this book. Purchase at your own risk!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book for me since I am not from Knoxville or Jewish learned a lot has been fun discovering the old spots in the book as they are now.
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Format: Paperback
This is a delightful history of the small, but growing and ever present Jewish community of Knoxville, including Oak Ridge. Ms. Besmann's book is not only enjoyable for those of us who have been connected with this community over the years, and know many of the individuals she writes about, it is also for anyone interested in the history of this beautiful southern city. "A Separate Circle: Jewish Life in Knoxville, Tennessee" is an affirmation that where ever Jewish roots are sown, significant contributions are made to the community as a whole.
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