Marlene Trestman

© Devin Morton


Drawing on personal experience and scholarship for her books, Marlene Trestman grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a client of the Jewish Children’s Regional Service, the successor to the Jewish Orphans’ Home. Now living in Baltimore, Maryland, lawyer-turned-author Trestman won funding for her writing from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Supreme Court Historical Society, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, American Jewish Archives, Texas Jewish Historical Society, and Southern Jewish Historical Society. Trestman's first book was Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney & Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin.



11:15 am to 12:15 pm
State Capitol, House Committee Room 6
Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens: The South Louisiana Jewish Experience
with Brian J. Costello, Marlene Trestman, Peter Wolf, and moderator Marian D. Moore

12:30 pm to 1:15 pm
Cavalier House Books Tent
Book Signing


Most Fortunate Unfortunates: The Jewish Orphans’ Home of New Orleans

Marlene Trestman’s Most Fortunate Unfortunates is the first comprehensive history of the Jewish Orphans’ Home of New Orleans. Founded in 1855 in the aftermath of a yellow fever epidemic, the Home was the first purpose-built Jewish orphanage in the nation. It reflected the city’s affinity for religiously operated orphanages and the growing prosperity of its Jewish community. In 1904, the orphanage opened the Isidore Newman School, a coed, nonsectarian school that also admitted children, regardless of religion, whose parents paid tuition. By the time the Jewish Orphans’ Home closed in 1946, it had sheltered more than sixteen hundred parentless children and two dozen widows from New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana and the mid-South.

Based on deep archival research and numerous interviews of alumni and their descendants, Most Fortunate Unfortunates provides a view of life in the Jewish Orphans’ Home for the children and women who lived there. The study also traces the forces that impelled the Home’s founders and leaders—both the heralded men and otherwise overlooked women—to create and maintain the institution that Jews considered the “pride of every Southern Israelite.” While Trestman celebrates the Home’s many triumphs, she also delves deeply into its failures.

Most Fortunate Unfortunates is sure to be of widespread interest to readers interested in southern Jewish history, gender and race relations, and the evolution of social work and dependent childcare.


Book-loving volunteers are essential to the Louisiana Book Festival's success. Whether it's escorting authors, guiding visitors, selling refreshments, working with children in the Young Readers Pavilion or other fun and rewarding assignments, the Louisiana Book Festival wants you to join the volunteer team.

Read More


Follow on Twitter

We are social
Quick Email