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In South Carolina, 78% of residents identify themselves as adhering to Christianity. This is a part of America which has created a stereotype about their extreme religious dedication. While the south is usually presented as being Baptist through and through, there is a small minority which adheres to a religion other than a Christian tradition. In South Carolina, 3 percent of the population is identified as adhering to a non-Christian tradition, 1 percent Jewish, and less than 1 percent Hindu and Muslim. Due to the south and South Carolina being a part of America which is made up mostly of people who adhere to Christianity, the lifestyles of those who adhere to other religions can be affected.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Jewish settlers first arrived in South Carolina during the colonial period, many hailing from Spain or Portugal.
One of the first five Jewish congregations in American was established in 1779 in Charleston. Many Jewish residents in South Carolina were supporters of the Confederacy during the civil war, and after the Holocaust, the population in America of Jewish residents grew.
An account was provided to me by my family of a distant relative who was a Jewish immigrant to South Carolina. Bernhard (Ben) Kaufman was born in 1815 in modern-day Bavaria to a Jewish family. In 1823, Ben fled from Prussia to Spain after his family was murdered by soldiers. The account quotes him as saying that he heard his mother crying and all praying all through the night. She awoke him before daybreak the next morning and gave him clothes and told him to leave and never come back to that country again.
In 1841, he immigrated to the United States, and found work as a peddler between Charleston and Sumter. He married a woman named Caroline in 1843, and would later have 11 children, at least one which died in childbirth.
At the time, he could not write in English. He had a strong sense of pride in America, and in 1846, he volunteered for service in the Mexican War, and served under the Francis Sumter, Co. A, Palmetto Regiment. At the Battle of Chisivabusco, he was wounded in the neck, which left him with little use of his eyes and left arm. He was discharged at Mobile Alabama. At the time of the Civil War, he expressed publicly his opposition to the Civil War and sympathy for the Union, claiming to be against succession and against any action by South Carolina against the United States. This caused him to be taunted at by neighbors and community members. He would not allow his family to make clothing for Confederate soldiers, and supposedly never forgave his son Joseph for fighting for the South. Days before his death, he was visited by a Rabbi but refused burial in the Jewish cemetery for reasons unknown. He died on May 23, 1885 and was buried on his own property in South Carolina. His descendants use the Anglicized form of his name-Caughman, and are scattered throughout the southeast.
Today in South Carolina, there are around 30 congregations which adhere to a form of Judaism, many of which also host a cemetery. Judaism still has an extremely strong presence in Charleston and the Low Country compared to the rest of the state. Charleston hosts the most synagogues and temples, and one of the three schools in the state which are focused on Hebrew tradition. There are about 13,280 people reported to adhere to Judaism in South Carolina (Jewish Virtual Library).One challenge the state has faced has been approaching the issue of Anti-Semitism. The publication The State reported on a recent and controversial bill which gave set criteria for whether an act on a college campus was defined as Anti-Semitic. Some found the bill controversial, one college student noting that a law against hate crimes would be more effective (South Carolina is one the only five states that does not have a law against hate crimes), while others found the bill to be against freedom of speech. Senator Brad Hutto was reported as being opposed to the bill, and was quoted as saying (Racism is) totally unacceptable everywhere, and you don’t need a definition to know that it is, and was noted to say he would support the bill if it was applicable everywhere, and applied to all minority groups.
Another minority religion which has a presence in South Carolina is Hinduism. Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions, yet according to The Vedic Center of Greenville, the arrival of families from India in South Carolina was not until the mid-1960s. There are six Hindu temples in South Carolina, most of which also are home to a cultural center. The majority were established at the end of the twentieth century. These centers are located mostly in major cities. There is not an exact number of people who adhere to Hinduism in South Carolina which is published, although the temples’ congregations range from the low hundreds to the low thousands. Many members of the Hindu congregations are immigrants from North India. The Vedic Center claims to have had an extremely peaceful relation with other members of the community and to have relations and partnerships with other Greenville churches. Many members are also members of interfaith organizations, such as Greenville Faith Communities United. It lists its main challenge as finding a steady preist, which, as Hinduism is a minority religion in South Carolina, is understandable.
A final minority religion which has a presence in South Carolina is Islam. According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, Islam is suspected to have first arrived in South Carolina during the time of slavery, with some slaves coming directly from an Islamic region of Africa. In the 1960s, there was a wave of immigration to South Carolina, which brought about a larger population to the state. Today, there are a few mosques in the state’s major cities, some which also provide education oriented in Islamic tradition.One notable Islamic community in South Carolina would be Holy Islamville, which is located near York county, in the upstate, and was established towards the end of the 20th century. Holy Islamville has a population of approximately 300 people, and is affiliated with Muslims of America. One challenge faced by residents of Holy Islamville are negative stereotypes. The Post and Courier reports that in 2015, there had been false rhetoric about terrorist training in the community.
A local sheriff was reported as saying that I would encourage any elected official who is hearing these same untrue things about Islamville and the people who live there to ask about visiting and see for themselves (The Post and Courier). Another challenge residents of Islamville have faced is the election of Donald Trump and the prejudice which has come to the global Islamic Community. The mayor of Islamville was quoted in The Guardian as saying Of course we feel uncomfortable and unsafe…It’s Islamophobia. about some comments made by the (at the time) candidate Donald Trump. In conclusion, many minority religions have an active presence in South Carolina. Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam all have had a complex history in South Carolina, and have faced challenges, but have also developed understanding with other members of local communities.
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