Apr 6, 2017
It’s the season for communal meals, like Easter dinners and Passover Seders. In the Mississippi Delta town of Greenville, members of the Hebrew Union Congregation synagogue have been hosting a community meal on the past 130 years. It brings together hundreds of Jews and gentiles from all over the Delta to share a corned beef on rye.
In the past twenty years, Greenville’s once thriving Jewish population has dwindled to just a few dozen, and there wasn’t enough synagogue members to make the 1,500 sandwiches for the luncheon. So the Jews of Greenville got a little help from their friends - Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and Episcopalians.
Each year the number of Jews in Greenville gets smaller. Some older residents have died. The children have moved to places like Atlanta, Jackson, and Memphis. Even Esther Solomon - the matriarch of Greenville’s Jewish community whose great-great grandmother started the tradition in the 1880s - is leaving after this year’s luncheon to be with her adult children in Atlanta. Solomon worries that even with the help of Christian volunteers, the days of the luncheon - and the Jewish community in Greenville - are numbered, and the 130-year old tradition of Jews in Greenville and the deli lunch will disappear.