Around Town: Exhibit highlights Jewish experience in North Carolina

JEWISH HERITAGE: Asheville’s Congregation Beth Israel will host Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina on Tuesdays and Thursdays in July. Local historian Sharon Fahrer, left, will speak at an opening reception on Wednesday, July 6. Rochelle Reich, right, is executive director of Congregation Beth Israel. Photo by Jen Castillo

While Jewish people have called North Carolina home for more than 400 years, the Jewish experience in the state has been atypical in many ways.

“Jews, as urban people, have gravitated toward cities,” says Leonard Rogoff, president and lead historian for Jewish Heritage North Carolina. “Thus, most states have a Jewish metropolitan capital like New York, Atlanta, Baltimore or Philadelphia. North Carolina has never had such an urban concentration until very recently.”

Such topics will be the focus of Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina, a traveling museum exhibit that will be on display at Asheville’s Congregation Beth Israel Tuesdays and Thursdays in July, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. An opening reception with Rogoff and local historian Sharon Fahrer will be Wednesday, July 6, at 7:30 p.m.

The free, interactive exhibition, curated by Rogoff, debuted at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh in 2011 and has traveled to Wilmington, Greensboro and Charlotte. It consists of 10 panels detailing how Jews have shaped North Carolina life and how Southern customs and manners have in turn transformed Jewish culture. The exhibit is based on Rogoff’s 2010 book by the same name.

Also on display will be artifacts and photocopies from the Asheville Jewish archives housed at the Ramsey Library at UNC Asheville.

“The exhibit illustrates faith, family, commerce, community and learning across the state,” says Rochelle Reich, executive director of Congregation Beth Israel.

After Congregation Beth Israel  hosted a successful Hanukkah menorah exhibit in December, Fahrer recommended it host the Down Home exhibit. Fahrer is a board member of Jewish Heritage North Carolina.

“We hope that visitors will learn and appreciate the nuances of what Jewish life was like — and is still — in the South,” Reich says. “So many of us didn’t grow up here, so understanding our roots in North Carolina soil is very different than what many of us think we know.”

Congregation Beth Israel is at 229 Murdock Ave. For more information, go to

Circus is in town

When The Snozzberries drummer Sean Mason died unexpectedly in 2020, other members of the Asheville psychedelic band weren’t sure they should continue.

“But one of the things Sean always told us was that the music was bigger than any of us individually,” says group frontman Ethan Heller. “And so we knew that he would’ve wanted us to keep playing. It’s kind of our way of keeping his spirit alive.”

With new drummer Jerard Sloan in place, The Snozzberries will bring back their Psychedelic Circus concert to Asheville Music Hall on Saturday, July 16. Fellow Asheville band Dr. Bacon will open the show. Doors open at 9 p.m.

It will be the first Psychedelic Circus since the start of the pandemic. The show will feature projections, painters, performers and interactive exhibits. “You’re going to be surrounded by psychedelic artwork, and you’re just  going to be immersed in this creative space,” Heller says.

Asheville Music Hall is at 31 Patton Ave. For more information, go to

Success story

At 92, Charles Stallings knows he might not have much time left. That’s why he decided to put his life story into a book.

“I wanted my readers to see how I grew up and maybe learn from the story,” says Stallings. “I wanted people to know how times were back then, and maybe compare them to how they are today.”

Stallings’ memoir, A Path From Tobacco Road, was published recently by Catch the Spirit of Appalachia.

Although he earned his doctorate from the University of Georgia and was principal of Western Carolina University’s Camp Laboratory School for 14 years, Stallings’ beginnings weren’t rooted in academia.

He grew up working in tobacco fields in Eastern North Carolina, attended WCU as a baseball player, found love and became a father. He also served four years with the Air Force in Korea.

Through this book, he hopes to help children with similar upbringings; the publication also fulfills a promise he made to his nephew about documenting his life story.

“In order to leave a record of a life, you must tell the story about the life, so everyone will know that person lived, loved and certainly existed,” Stallings says.

The book is available at City Lights Bookstore. 3 E. Jackson St. Sylva, 

Flower power

Art in Bloom, Black Mountain Center for the Arts’ annual flower-filled fundraiser, is back with a series of events through July.

Things officially get underway Thursday, July 7, 5-7 p.m., with a preview party featuring food, drinks, live music and a chance to meet the designers and be the first to see the designs.

The centerpiece of the event will be 20 floral designs created by local master florists who use works of art selected from regional galleries as their inspiration. The displays are only available for viewing Friday-Saturday, July 8-9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Also those days, the BMCA is offering self-guided tours of six Black Mountain home gardens that will feature plein-air artists creating in each garden.

From Thursday, July 14-Friday, July 29, art created during the garden tours will be on display at the BMCA, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is at 225 W. State St. Ticket prices range from $5-$65. For more information, go to

Application deadline

The Community Foundation of Henderson County and the Arts Council of Henderson County are accepting applications for the Betty Taylor Memorial Award for Emerging Artists in visual arts and crafts through Friday, July 15.

Applicants may be either emerging or established artists and residing or working in Henderson, Polk or Transylvania counties for a minimum of one year prior to April.

Taylor was an artist who spent most of her career in Michigan. After her death in 1990, her husband, Ross Taylor, established the Betty Taylor Memorial Fund with Community Foundation of Henderson County to promote and support emerging artists.

To apply for the grant, visit

With additional reporting by Flora Konz 


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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