Elsewhere at The Atlantic, a fascinating piece that touches on both the perception and reality of religious life The South:
Of the 140 houses of worship in Dothan, Alabama--a city of 68,000 residents and the self-proclaimed "Peanut Capital of the World"--just one is a synagogue. Members of that 80-year-old synagogue, the only one in 15 counties, are now offering as much as $50,000 to Jewish families willing to move to Dothan and join their religious ranks. Three couples have already taken the money and relocated. Many others are interested but remain wary about Alabama and the Deep South. "I tell them there's running water, that we wear shoes, have a Starbucks. There have never been any swastikas on the temple door," Rob Goldsmith, the director of the resettlement program and the husband of Temple Emanu-El's new rabbi, told me. "George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door was 50 years ago. Get over it."
Today, some 1.1 million Jews live in the South, including 655,000 in Florida--more than at any other time in the nation's history. Atlanta's Jewish population has increased fourfold since 1980. But small-town congregations, unlike those in large southern cities, have seen their numbers dwindle, as older generations have died off or joined children who left for college and never returned.
According to the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, an organization based in Jackson, Mississippi, that assists synagogues across the South, at least 29 southern synagogues have shut their doors in the past two decades. Forty years ago in Dothan, 110 families were affiliated with Temple Emanu-El; at the start of this century that number had fallen to 43.
The rest is here.