At the age of eighteen I hadn’t intended to escape the South, but that’s what I ended up doing. Fleeing from the good son that I was, and from a small stifling place where everyone knew me better than I knew myself, or thought they did.

Thirty-five years later, my husband and I bought a flat in an old house in my hometown of Savannah. I was back. But the foothold I’d gotten in the past turned out to be from a more remote time than I’d expected.

Also available from University of South Carolina Press

Liberty Street is where our townhouse is located, and also the name of my new book. It’s a house that came with a story: the rise and fall of a Southern Jewish family and a ghost story whose long-dead characters still haunt the present. Liberty Street chronicles my journey to understand the Solomon Cohen family and the way their lives intersected with their enslaved workers, Savannah’s Jewish community, and their Christian neighbors. 

I became interested in the way we talk about the Civil War, its origins and aftermath. What do we remember? Or choose to forget?  I came to know the denizens of Liberty Street 150 years before I moved there, and to understand my own story as a Jew, a Southerner, and an American.

This essay, which Moment magazine edited expertly and made look really great, is a taste of the research I’ve been doing over the last few years about the man who had my Savannah townhouse built–the tragedy of his life and the larger tragedy of the times in which he lived.

Essay | Searching for Solomon Cohen


“Friedman’s dismantling of myths becomes a thrilling mystery, a fearless reimagining, and a fresh historical portrait that seems to live and breathe. Scrupulous research and shimmering prose make for a fascinating read—I could not put it down. And neither will you.”

-Andrew Sean Greer, winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Less

“Written with clarity, intelligence, precision, and a healthy dose of sultry Southern detail.”

– Aaron Hamburger, author of Hotel Cuba

“By the blending of memoir, history (through the eyes of place as character), and social commentary, Liberty Street: A Savannah Family, Its Golden Boy, and the Civil War is a strange and fully compelling bildungsroman, though from a distant perspective, which I’ve never really seen before.”

– Jonathan Rabb, author of Among the Living

Events

  • Liberty Street Book Talk with Craig Seligman

    July 31, 2024  4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
    P&T Knitwear Bookstore, Coffee, & Podcast Studio, 180 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002, USA

    See more details

  • Liberty Street Book Talk

    August 3, 2024  11:00 am - 12:00 pm
    Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, 5556 Hwy 17, Brunswick, GA 31525, USA

    See more details

  • San Francisco Jewish Community Library Book Talk

    September 29, 2024  3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA

    See more details

  • Book Talk- Liberty Street: A Savannah Family, its Golden Boy, and the Civil War

    October 29, 2024  3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

    Purchasing a historic Savannah home unlocks the sweeping story of a Southern Jewish family.

    As Jason K. Friedman renovated his flat in a grand townhouse in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia, he discovered a portal to the past. The Cohens, part of a Sephardic community in London, arrived in South Carolina in the mid-1700s; became founding members of Charleston's Jewish congregation; and went on to build home, community, and success in Savannah.

    In Liberty Street: A Savannah Family, Its Golden Boy, and the Civil War Friedman takes the reader on a personal journey to understand the history of the Cohens. At the center of the story is a sensitive young man pulled between love and duty, a close-knit family straining under moral and political conflicts, and a city coming into its own. Friedman draws on letters, diaries, and his experiences traveling from Georgia to Virginia, uncovering hidden histories and exploring the ways place and collective memory haunt the present. At a moment when the hard light of truth shines on gauzy Lost-Cause myths, Liberty Street is a timely work of historical sleuthing.
    Join us online for a discussion with author Jason K. Friedman and moderator Laura Arnold Leibman!

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Photo of Jason K Friedman
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