As usual, a Jew was in North Carolina before anyone thought to name it. In 1585, a Prague-born metallurgist named Joachim Ganz joined Sir Walter Raleigh’s second expedition to the Roanake colony. Ganz may have inspired the character of Joabin, the Jewish scientist in Francis Bacon’s utopian fiction New Atlantis (1626).
In 1669, the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas, written by John Locke, opened immigration to “Jews, heathens, and other dissenters”. The traditional sequence of merchants, peddlers, philanthropists and academics followed.
Then as now, Jews never quite fitted into America’s racial rubric. North Carolina’s Jews supported the Confederacy, and as late as the 1950s, the Jews of High Point, NC organised a statewide debutante cotillion (a Southern coming-out ball).
At Williamston, NC in 1925, a mob castrated a salesman named Joseph Needleman after accusing him of looking the wrong way at a white woman. During the Civil Rights era, bombs were planted at synagogues in Gastonia and Charlotte.
The Jewish population of North Carolina is growing fast. Jewish Heritage of North Carolina report that since 1980, the Jewish presence in the South Atlantic states has grown by 62 per cent. North Carolina’s Jews have increased by 247 per cent, to 45,935.
These figures are in line with the demographic growth of the sunbelt states, though North Carolina’s Jews are still only 0.4 per cent of the state’s population, as against the national 2.1 per cent.
The arrival of liberals from the cold northern states has empurpled the once-red politics of the South. North Carolina has two Republican senators, and the Republicans run the state senate, but the governor and the attorney general are Democrats.
This might seem like the makings of heartwarming amity between the parties, but North Carolina’s politics are as demented as any other state’s. Jews, as ever, are in the middle.
The new South does not look like the old South, but it can sound like it. Mark Robinson, the Republican lieutenant governor, is the first African American to hold the office.
In 2021, he said that Marvel’s Black Panther movie was “created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic Marxists” to “pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets”.
Everyone’s a critic.
Robinson has described the Rothschild family as “one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, though he did not explain how the whole family would sit on a single horse. He has also called Barack Obama a “worthless, anti-American atheist”, denounced Islam, homosexuality and transgenderism, and suggested that Michelle Obama is a biological man.
Call it progress, Southern-style. Robinson is a self-made black Republican, yet his mind is as addled by the internet as that of any rednecks.
He is now running for the governor’s house, against the Jewish attorney general, Josh Stein. In March, Robinson was polling narrowly ahead of Stein, though another poll found that 57 per cent of voters had never heard of Robinson and 58 per cent had never heard of Stein.
Stein, a moderate Democrat, recently joined a bipartisan delegation of attorneys general on a trip to Israel via Auschwitz. It was, he said, a “profound experience” to go “from the heart of the Holocaust to Israel, a vibrant democracy”.
He has not yet suggested how the attorney general’s office will address the anti-Jewish incitement and violence that has increased along with the state’s Jewish population and the general dementing of American life.
Some of the incitement, as usual, comes from his own party. Robinson’s rise stimulated Jewish Democratic leaders to form a Jewish Democratic Caucus.
Its members pledge to advance the two-state solution, presumably in the expectation that Israel and Palestine will turn out like North and South Carolina.
Meanwhile, last June, the state Democratic party resolved that Israel is an “apartheid” state and called for sanctions, travel bans and asset freezes. For some reason, they forgot to pass a resolution on the motives behind Marvel’s Black Panther.