Take a journey through your history

Published 12:06 am Thursday, September 3, 2009

This Saturday the Historic Natchez Foundation will celebrate the opening of Journey Stories, a traveling exhibit produced by the Smithsonian Institution in cooperation with the Mississippi Humanities Council. The foundation’s co-sponsor in producing and hosting the exhibit is the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute for Southern Jewish Life, the institution charged with the long-term preservation of Natchez’s historic Temple B’nai Israel.

The exhibit opens to the public at 10 a.m. at foundation headquarters, 108 S. Commerce St. and will be open free of charge daily through Oct. 20. The foundation and ISJL are also hosting a series of free special lectures and programs in September and October to highlight journey themes. Other sponsors include Britton & Koontz Bank, Concordia Bank and Trust Co. Regions Bank and United Mississippi Bank.

The Smithsonian Institution has created an outstanding traveling exhibit that uses engaging images with audio and artifacts to tell the stories that illustrate the critical roles travel and movement have played in building our country.

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The exhibit includes accounts of immigrants coming in search of promise to a new country; stories of individuals moving within our country to seek a better life; and the harrowing journeys of American Indians and African Americans who experienced forced migration. The exhibit will also feature Natchez journey stories told through historic photographs and objects.

The opening weekend of the exhibit will focus on Jewish Journeys. The public is invited to celebrate the Jewish heritage of Natchez by attending Friday night services at 7:30 at Temple B’nai Israel, 213 S. Commerce St., conducted by Rabbi Marshall Klaven.

On Saturday night, the foundation and ISJL will host a free cocktail reception from 5-7 p.m. at foundation headquarters, which will be followed at 7:30 p.m. by a performance and lecture on Jewish music at the temple. Rabbi Uri Barnea will present a program entitled, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Jewish Music and Were Afraid to Ask.”

The foundation hopes the community will take this special opportunity to experience Temple B’nai Israel, which was built about 1904 and is one of Mississippi’s finest examples of Beaux Arts Classicism. Its acoustics are outstanding and its historic organ produces music like no other instrument in town.

Although the congregation has dwindled in number, it has a great heritage in Natchez, where Jewish citizens have contributed for more than two centuries to the economic, social, and cultural welfare of the city.

Other organizations in the Natchez community are participating in the “Journey Stories” experience in September and October. The Natchez National Historical Park is offering walking tours in the historic district every Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

Natchez Pilgrimage Tours will be hosting the Fall Pilgrimage of historic house tours Sept. 26-Oct. 10.

The Natchez Historical Society will host its Sept. 22 meeting at the exhibit.

The Natchez Museum of African American History will be co-sponsoring an African American Journeys weekend Sept. 25-26.

The foundation will host its Historic Natchez Conference Oct. 8-10, and Balloon Journeys will dominate Oct. 16-18.

Please check the Foundation Web site www.natchez.org for information about special Journey Stories programming.

The Historic Natchez Foundation and Institute of Southern Jewish Life look forward to sharing the Smithsonian Journey Stories exhibit with the community.

Many of our school-age children have never experienced a professional museum exhibit.

We hope that this free exhibit, open seven days week, will bring lots of visitors and inspire them to think about their own personal journey stories.

Mimi Miller is the Historic Natchez Foundation executive director.