Jeffrey Smith

b. 1953

Jeffrey Smith was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father is Reform, and his mother is Orthodox and a Holocaust survivor. He was raised Orthodox, going to a Jewish school in elementary and public schools from sixth grade. He went to Tulane University with a tennis scholarship. After college, he worked as a professional tennis player and tennis instructor. Smith attended law school in Birmingham, Alabama. Upon graduating from law school, he moved to New Orleans and joined a friend's practice, continuing to play tennis on the side. At age 47, he married a German patrilineal Jew who was taking classes to reconnect to her heritage. His stepdaughter, wife, and their two children (born before she converted) all underwent a conversion ceremony to be considered Jewish according to Orthodox standards.

Scope and Content Note

Jeffery Smith describes his parents, siblings, and childhood. He was raised Orthodox but stopped keeping kosher when he went to college. Jeffrey remains connected with his Judaism, attending events and synagogue. He discusses his Katrina experience and how it resulted in his wife, a patrilineal Jew, completing her conversion. Jeffrey explains how his stepdaughter and two children, born before the hurricane, went through their own conversions to Judaism. He details the hurricane's effect on their children. His income suffered in the aftermath of the hurricane, so Jeffrey switched their school but continued to send them to a Sunday school and hired a Jewish tutor to have the religious education he had. Jeffrey then talks about his own Jewish identity and Jewish life in New Orleans. He describes his usual synagogue and community and the nostalgia and connection they evoke. Jeffrey and his family evacuated on Sunday and were unsure of where they were going. Eventually, they joined friends who were evacuating in Taos, New Mexico. They were expecting to lose their house to the fires but were, fortunately, spared. Jeffrey was laid off as a public defender due to a lack of funds and eventually came to work for the Southeast Capital Defense Program, primarily representing "Jewish people on death penalty cases."  Finally, Jeffrey reflects on racism in the  United States, the Jewish community in New Orleans, and his hopes for his children.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

How to cite this page

Oral History of Jeffrey Smith. Interviewed by Rosalind Hinton . 16 July 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 29, 2024) <>.

Oral History of Jeffrey Smith by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at