The Only Jew in Sevier County

MY TRUE STORY. OY VEY!

I have been living in Sevierville, Tennessee for over 9 years now. I am a Jewish woman. You might think of that as an oxymoron.

‘Well, it’s a longgg story’… actually, it’s not that long so I’ll explain.

In 1999 I was living in Las Vegas and began to sell my visual art for a living. From 1999 to 2003 I traveled to various Art Festivals around the country from Vegas to Scottsdale to Cincinnati (with my boyfriend Bob).

In 2003 I was struck by lightning at an outdoor show in Columbus, Ohio. YEP. I was the only artist that got struck it seems.

It was one of those flooky things.

A huge epic Benjamin Franklin type thunderstorm suddenly hit the Art Festival. My booth was filling up with water. My art was getting soaked and was crashing down to the ground wildly. Quickly, water was up to our ankles. Our EZ-UP tent started swaying from side to side precariously. Huge cracks of lighting were filling the sky. Bob was trying to hold the tent down. His arms were above his head hanging on to the pro panel bars with all his might.

Then he yelled ….’HURRY! Get the car!!! I’ll stay here and..try to salvage the art!”

So I started running to my car (like an idiot!! Who runs with keys in their hand in a lightning storm?)

I tried to cover my head with a plastic sheet while holding my car keys up high in my right hand. With rain drenching my head I reached my car door and started to turn the key into the keyhole when quickly I felt this weird ZAPPPPP!

‘WOW. IM NOT DEAD!!!” I screamed. The EMT came and I lived to tell…

Anyway, in order for me to keep making a living as an artist, Bob suggested “We might need to find you a place to sell your art that is INDOORS, where you won’t have the risk of getting struck by lightning?!” Ha!

Where can I sell my art now?

So, when we were visiting Bobs family in Louisville, Kentucky Bob suggested we go check out this quaint Arts and Crafts Community in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It was only a short 5-hour drive from Louisville so we got in the car to check it out.

This Arts Community was a winding 8-mile loop of galleries. He pointed at the brochure. ‘There just might be a customer base for you there!’

At the time it was a very successful very busy Arts Community. We noticed almost back to back trail of cars lining up to check out all the art studios and galleries that lined the roads. There was only one available gallery. It was a super small space but I grabbed it. The rent was reasonable and I figured I’d give it a whirl. I named it Imagine This Gallery.

“I really don’t know if my out of the box art will work in this traditional art community but hey I’ll give it a go!” I said to him.

So, it all worked pretty well. I made a pretty decent living for many years in my studio/gallery in the Great Smoky Mountains in my small studio.

( A few articles about me and my gallery ‘Imagine This’ )

In 2008 I closed my gallery for many reasons. Mainly the type of customer that bought my art was not coming in my door any longer. The economic downturn was also a big factor.

Anyway, I went back out on the road traveling to art shows again. This time without Bob because by that time he had found steady work as a wedding photographer in the area and he could no longer come with me on the weekends. (Weekends, when Art Shows took place were also when most of his weddings were.)

I traveled from Atlanta to Louisville to New Orleans for many years in my U-Haul until last year when I decided I was done! (more about this in an upcoming book).

Now that I have retired from the visual art business, for now, I am left here in Sevier County, Tennessee. Bob has an established stable job as a photographer here so leaving this town, (moving somewhere more ‘hip’ and ‘contemporary’) isn’t an easy option right now.

I must admit in all the years I had my gallery I don’t think I ever once sold a piece of art to a ‘local’. Honestly, I haven’t had many deep conversations or interactions with many locals either. In the grocery stores and other places around town I must admit I do feel like the oddball, the stranger in this town.

I do recall back when I had my gallery when a group of locals, a family of about 8, walked into my shop and for some reason, the conversation turned to the fact that I was Jewish.

The dad with overalls on had an oversized belly (the presumed patriarch of the gang) screamed with a startled hillbilly twang:

‘So, yer Jewishhhhh? Dayummm!! Wow. Can we take yer pitcher? I’ve never met a Jewwww before Look yawl she’s Jewish!! he turned to his clan with a stunned look.

I’m serious. This is no joke. So he pulled out his camera and asked me to smile which I did just to oblige him.haa.

Living in this area all these years has definitely given me a lot of good writing material.

I’m seriously considering writing a series of adventures called “THE ADVENTURES OF THE ONLY JEW IN SEVIER COUNTY’.

Just for kicks the other day I googled ‘Jews in Sevierville’ and ‘Jewish Sevierville’. Only two things came up.

Under RELIGIOUS OVERVIEW I found this tidbit interesting:

‘53.24% of the people in Sevierville, Tennessee are religious, meaning they affiliate with a religion. 3.25% are Catholic; 0.00% in Sevierville, Tennessee are Jewish; 0.00% are an eastern faith; 0.35% affilitates with Islam.’

So there are more Islamists here than Jews. Now I know why I haven’t been able to find a good bagel or any whitefish salad for 9 years!!

I wrote this poem in my first book Catch a Poem by The Tale. It explains my sentiments and frustrations pretty well:

THE ONLY JEW IN SEVIER COUNTY?

The only Jew in Sevier County?
Yep. Sevierville Tenesseeee.
There's Dollywood and moonshine shops
Do I live in Mayberryyy?
Gomer? Goober? Clyde? Aunt Bee?
And here I am a Jew.
No kosher delis, bagels, lox
But Billie Bob's and Emmy Lou's!
No synagogues, no kosher foods
The only Jew for miles?
'Jesus loves you!!" they all yell
With toothless hillbilly smiles.
Came to open my studio here
Where I sold my fun art work
My customers were all tourists
Who seemed to love my quirk.
But then my art sales floundered
The year 2008
I closed my doors went back to shows
It seemed that was my fate.
Here I am I'm back again.
Hearin 'Howdy there yaaaawlll'
Whats a Jewish girl doing in this town
With "Bubbas' in overalls?
I know I must accept this life
Bloom where youre planted they say.
Its 'just a fact I live here now
Sevierville, Tennessee.
OY VEY!

Funny but yesterday I was in the local Walmart mindlessly skimming through a magazine in the checkout line. I looked up and noticed a man in the checkout line in front of me wearing a yarmulka! OMG!!

Another Jew here? I had to do a double-take.

YEP. Two more jews I met in Walmart!

They must be tourists I thought. I looked up from behind my magazine ‘Hi.where are you guys from?’ They said ‘We live in Cosby. Not far from here”.

WOW. You live in Sevier County!? I jokingly said ‘I thought maybe they ‘only allowed one Jew in the County and I was it!” They grinned.

So now I might not be the ONLY Jew in Sevier County anymore.

I might be one of three Jews in Sevierville now. Hey, will I now have to re-title my poem? LOL


Stay tuned for my next episode:

Meeting the clinic doctor wendy who asked ‘why don’t rabbi’s go out on missions?’

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