There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Most people mistake me for a New Yorker. I speak quickly, I’m an aggressive cab catcher, and then there’s the supposed giveaway: I’m Jewish. David Orlansky doesn’t have the same identity problem. As suggested by his Southern twang, Orlansky celebrated his bar mitzvah in a part of America better known for its catfish than its gefilte fish, its blues than its Jews. “People from the East, the larger metropolitan areas, are shocked to know, first, that there are Jews in Mississippi,” says Orlansky, who lives in Greenville. “I suppose, second, people are surprised to know that we like living here.” In his documentary, Delta Jews: A Film About Jews in the Land of the Blues, Mike DeWitt delivers a fascinating history—and bittersweet eulogy—of Jewish life in “the most Southern place on earth”—the Mississippi Delta. Through illuminating interviews, DeWitt explores how Delta Jews have forged an identity distinctly Southern yet unmistakably Jewish—one that, at times, has caused quite a bit of consternation, especially during the Civil Rights movement. “It was upsetting to a lot of people that this element had come into our community,” recalls Bettye Sue Kline about fellow Jews, largely from the Northeast, who invaded Mississippi for Freedom Summer. “They weren’t clean; they were crude; they were loud. They were not the kind of Jewish people we were used to.” DeWitt will introduce his film—which will be followed by “A Different Diaspora,” a panel discussion including DeWitt, former Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience Project Director Marcie Cohen Ferris, and author Janice Rothschild Blumberg—at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 11, at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 16th & Q Sts. NW. $7.50. (800) 494-8497. (Elissa Silverman)