Fortified by coffee and a nibble of fresh croissants, we’re off to explore more of the city.
First up, a guided tour of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, one of the oldest Jewish congregations in the United States.
Charleston was founded in 1670, and by 1695 the first Jewish settler had arrived. Others soon followed, attracted by the civil and religious liberty of South Carolina and ample economic opportunities. Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God) was established in 1749; the original Georgian synagogue was destroyed in the 1838 fire that devastated much of the city, and the current Greek Revival building was built on the same site in 1840.
The museum traces the history of these early families through maps, books, paintings and memorabilia. There’s also a wonderful letter written by George Washington to leaders of the Jewish community thanking them for their support and affirming his commitment to religious tolerance throughout the colonies.
Charleston was nicknamed “Holy City” for its religious freedoms and numerous places of worship: Calvinist, Catholic, Anglican, Quaker, Jewish, Baptist and Protestant. The many historic churches are pretty spectacular.
We slip inside Mount Zion AME to hear the minister’s rousing sermon. He exhorts his congregation to “Shake, shake, shake the devil out!” during this Easter/Passover season.
Then, it’s on to The Charleston Museum. Exhibits include artifacts, natural history, decorative arts and vivid depictions of plantation life. Since the museum is overrun with school groups, we beat a hasty retreat to tour the nearby Joseph Manigault House. The family still lives locally and has kept the good furniture so most displays are true to the period but not original; that’s disappointing.
Back in the now-deserted Charleston museum, we admire quilts and dinosaurs.
Next: a “light” lunch of crab cakes and hush puppies at Hyman’s Seafood, established in 1890 when portions (and people) were a lot smaller.
Then: antiquing on King Street, and a folk art exhibit at the Gibbes Museum.
We meet up with T&B for dinner at FIG, which is my favorite meal so far.