CARY, N.C. (WTVD) — JoAnne Aronson Rosenblum’s Jewish roots run deep in North Carolina. She was the first woman to become president of a temple in Asheville and follows a longstanding family tradition.

“My father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all involved as presidents of congregations in North Carolina,” said Rosenblum. “I think they would be very, very proud.”

Rosenblum can trace her roots back to the 1800s in North Carolina when her great-grandfathers founded the state’s first and second synagogues. Solomon Bear founded the Temple of Israel in Wilmington. Isaac Wallace formed Congregation Emmanuel in Statesville.

The North Carolina business established by Jewish immigrants David and Isaac Wallace in 1859 as a retail and wholesale mercantile house in Statesville was recognized on a highway historical marker last October. The brothers owned the largest herbarium in the world at the time. The dedication is located close to the Statesville Civic Center.

It is pride Rosenblum has shown daily since she was 16 years old by wearing the Star of David around her neck. At 74, that pride still shines.

“I was brought up in a very small town of Statesville. There were very few Jews at the time I was growing up. There was antisemitism, but it was instilled that being Jewish is a special thing,” she said.

It is so special that it’s something Leonard Rogoff spent years researching.

“No one had really done comprehensive research on the history of Jews in North Carolina,” he said.

The historian-turned-author wrote a book called “Down Home Jewish Life in North Carolina” that documents families who have lived in the state for hundreds of years.

“They felt unrecognized and disconnected from this newer community that has emerged. People are unaware of this history,” said Rogoff.

He told ABC11 that the Jewish community has grown over the last 30 years in North Carolina. He’s now hoping his work lives on and can bridge the gap between generations.

“This was a way of bringing the Jewish community back together again,” he said.

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