Temple to host Coming Together

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 12, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The monthly gathering for the Coming Together program continues this weekend as members of Temple B&8217;nai Israel open the doors of their historic house of worship to the community.

&8220;It will be our pleasure to host this gathering and to share some of the history of our faith and our beautiful building and religious symbols,&8221; said Elaine Lehmann, a lifelong member of the temple.

The program will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday in the main auditorium of the temple, which is located at the corner of South Commerce and Washington streets, sharing the intersection with Trinity Episcopal Church, the home of Dr. and Mrs. Randy Tillman and the George Armstrong Library.

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After a program in the main section of the temple, the group will take a short tour of the building and conclude with a time for light refreshments and an opportunity to visit with one another downstairs, where temple members also will share an exhibit that tells some of the history and provides interesting photographs documenting the life of Natchez&8217;s Jewish community through the years.

The temple is built in what is known as the Beaux Arts style, designed by H.A. Overbeck of Dallas in 1904. This building is the second temple to stand on this corner after the original building, constructed in 1872, was destroyed in a fire.

Jewish settlers began to make Natchez their home in large numbers in the mid 1800s prior to the Civil War. After the Civil War, the trend continued, as many others moved to the Natchez area.

Many of the most prominent buildings in the historic downtown commercial district were built by Jewish merchants who became successful in the post-Civil War years and helped Natchez to make the transition from the plantation economy to the mercantile economy.

Jewish families became an integral part not only of the business and economic vitality of Natchez but also played significant roles in social, cultural and educational activities.

&8220;We are proud of the heritage represented in the families who continue to worship at our temple, and we look forward to seeing a large group on Sunday, welcoming them and telling them more about our history and faith,&8221; Lehmann said.

The doors are open to all who would like to come to Temple B&8217;nai Israel, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

&8220;We commend the interfaith committee at St. Mary Basilica for organizing this program, which has provided since September an opportunity each month for the community to visit one of the historic downtown houses of worship,&8221; Lehmann said.