Story of the Jews
10:55 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Righteous Remnant: Jewish Survival in Appalachia

Righteous Remnant: Jewish Survival in Appalachia is the West Virginia PBS documentary produced by West Virginia University School of Journalism Professor Maryanne Reed. The half-hour film, produced in 1997, examines the history and modern-day concerns of the small Jewish community in Beckley, W.Va. Click play below to watch the entire film.

Righteous Remnant Bartizvah
A Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth El in Beckley, 1994.
Credit Tom Sopher

This article is part of a special series highlighting the Jewish experience in West Virginia. It's a companion to the television series The Story of the Jews, airing March 25 and April 1 at 8 pm on West Virginia PBS.

The story of the Jewish citizens in Beckley and their beloved Temple Beth EL is somewhat representative of the the narratives of other small Jewish communities in the southern part of the state.

When the West Virginia coal industry was booming, Jewish people came to the area and established businesses that supported the coal-based economy. When the coal industry suffered decline in the late 1950s and '60s, many Jewish families, along with their Gentile neighbors, left the state for economic opportunities in other parts of the country.

Typically, young adult Jews did not return, in part for economic reasons, but also because of the cultural challenges they encountered as a matter of course in small Appalachian communities. 

The film focuses on those who remain, who are determined to preserve their faith and their place of worship.

You can visit the Righteous Remnant Home Page for more information on the film.

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