Celebrating Jewish History in One of the Deepest “Deep South” Towns

Last month, 150 members of the Southern Jewish Historical Society gathered for their 41st annual conference. Even for a group familiar with the Deep South, most had to head farther into the heart of Dixie than usual, as they gathered in one of the most Southern cities of them all: Natchez, Mississippi.

The conference theme, “Jews in the Southern Hinterland,” was enhanced by the setting and activities in Natchez, where participants got  firsthand experience of Jewish life in the small towns and rural areas of the South. Natchez has a long and rich Jewish history, and it provides the perfect venue to examine how Jews adapted and thrived in the small-town South. Natchez’s Temple B’nai Israel, our home congregation for the conference, is a testament to the resilience and commitment of small Jewish communities to survive amidst demographic changes.

Some highlights from the successful weekend:

Many thanks for everyone in Natchez who went above and beyond to provide Southern hospitality to our guests, and we are grateful as well to our  generous and enthusiastic conference participants.

It was a pleasure to meet and learn from everyone in our group. The SJHS gathering also provided a wonderful launching point for Temple B’nai Israel’s restoration and preservation campaign. Our long-term goal is for the building to regularly serve as a public space. We will ensure the temple is secure and accessible for extensive public use by the local community and visitors, which will increase awareness and appreciation of 200 years of Jewish presence in the state.. The building will be function as a cultural and meeting facility, accessible to all, with an elevator, 350-seat sanctuary, museum exhibits, and special programming to preserve and interpret the important legacy of the Natchez Jewish community. To learn more visit Temple B’nai Israel’s website – and maybe come on down and visit Natchez yourself!

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