Brian J. Costello
Brian J. Costello is the author of 28 titles in Louisiana, European, and spiritual studies and founding historian of the Pointe Coupee Parish Library Historic Materials Collection. A member of more than a dozen devotional and charitable apostolates, he is founding representative of Louisiana Centre 43 of St. Philomena Devotion, reactivator of St. Mary Church Holy Name Society, and an associate in the cause of Blessed Karl of Austria.
11:15 am to 12:15 pm
State Capitol, House Committee Room 6
Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens: The South Louisiana Jewish Experience
with Brian J. Costello, Marlene Trestman, Peter Wolf, and moderator Marian D. Moore
12:30 pm to 1:15 pm
Cavalier House Books Tent
Dry Goods, Cotton and Cane: 250 Years of Jewish Life, Business and Agriculture in Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana
With a record of permanent settlement since the 1720s, Pointe Coupée Parish is one of the oldest communities in the Mississippi River Valley. Créole in culture, owing to the predominance of its French, African, and blended ethnicities, the parish, however, owes much to its Jewish families, who once numbered in the hundreds and whose presence dated from the 1760s. In the wake of the Civil War, when the traditional plantation system collapsed, Jewish financiers, merchants, livestock dealers, and sugar and cotton brokers played prominent roles in shoring up Pointe Coupée's war-torn economy. Jews were held in respect and friendship, and not infrequently married into the larger Gentile population. The earliest Jewish families in Pointe Coupée hailed from the Iberian Peninsula, via the Netherlands and the Caribbean. They were succeeded by successive waves of immigrants from France, the German states, and, at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, from Austria-Hungary, Prussia, Romania and the Russian Empire. Their numbers were relatively small, but some communities had a particularly Jewish stamp, including the Lower Chenal of False River and Upper, or northern, Pointe Coupée. The Jewish people of Pointe Coupée Parish shared in the economic successes of their Gentile neighbors, and like them suffered from levee failures and disastrous floods, hurricanes, epidemics and crop failures. Most moved to better economic and educational opportunities in New Orleans and the cities of the American North and West. In the 21st century, the Jewish legacy lives on not only in local place names but in these immigrants' dedication to local education and philanthropy, thereby providing a rich tile in the cultural mosaic that is Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana.
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