Abrom Kaplan's Cajun Dream

Obscure Jewish Immigrant Made Southern Louisiana Boom

University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

By Johnna Kaplan

Published June 28, 2013, issue of July 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 5 of 5)

From Lafayette I drove to Crowley, where Kaplan had lived since first stepping off the train there at age 18. Listening to zydeco on the car radio, I passed billboards for “boudin” and “crackling” (sausages and pork rinds). Crowley, with its 1940s theater and plentiful diagonal parking on a wide street punctuated with grass dividers, was pleasingly retro. I stopped in front of a mural depicting a rice farm. The town of some 13,000 people seemed to support a disproportionate number of banks, notaries, loan providers and lawyers, as if its early entrepreneurial spirit had never quite dissipated.

Kaplan’s house was gone now, but it would have been in a comfortably suburban-looking neighborhood on Crowley’s east side. On the west side, the houses were smaller, the people poorer. The division seemed to be racial, as well; the first, rushed impression was of two towns — one black, the other white — improbably stuck together.

But to see the remnants of Abrom Kaplan’s legacy, I had to go to nearby Abbeville, where both a train station and a rice mill that Kaplan helped to build still stood. The air in Abbeville was fragrant with the scent of flowers, and heavy tree limbs were propped up by little metal stands. On one corner stood a massive former bank building, bright pink and turreted like a Disney castle.

The train station looked neat and freshly painted; it had been repurposed as a gift shop. But Kaplan’s Planters Rice Mill was still running. I stopped my car beside it and lowered the window. The mill hummed laboriously, like the world’s largest air conditioner, like a force that had powered this region to life more than 100 years ago and was deciding whether or not to hang on.

Johnna Kaplan writes about travel, history, and Jewish issues. She lives in New London, Conn., and blogs at www.thesizeofconnecticut.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.