Conference to honor Jewish heritage in South

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016

from staff reports

NATCHEZ — The Southern Jewish Historical Society will honor Jewish heritage in Natchez and the South with a three-day conference in Natchez this week.

In partnership with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, the SJHS is hosting a conference titled “Jews in the Southern Hinterland,” focusing on the experience of Southern Jews in the small towns and rural areas of the South.

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Stopping first in Vicksburg, conference-goers will meet with members of the Congregation Anshe Chesed, visit the town’s historic Jewish cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and have lunch in the restored B.B. Club, once the home to the town’s thriving Jewish social organization. Attendees will then stop in Port Gibson, site of the oldest standing synagogue building in Mississippi, Gemiluth Chassed.

Upon arrival in Natchez, attendees will hear about the establishment and development of the state’s oldest Jewish community at Temple B’nai Israel.

A community Shabbat service will be led by ISJL Director of Rabbinic Services Rabbi Jeremy Simons, and award-winning reporter and editor Robin Amer will give a live performance of her radio story exploring the past traditions and current challenges of the Natchez Jewish community.

Conference host Rachel Myers, ISJL museum and special project coordinator, said she is excited that most of the conference programs will take place in the historic temple.

“The City of Natchez is celebrating its tricentennial year, and hosting this conference is a wonderful way to honor their rich Jewish history,” Myers said. “This building and the legacy of Natchez’s Jewish citizens, which it so beautifully represents, is part of the Natchez landscape — and always will be.  We very much look forward to having SJHS in Natchez to show support for the congregation and to continue the traditions of vibrant Jewish life in a historic community.”

The conference will include panels covering topics such as the impact of disease and natural disasters on Southern Jewish communities, the interactions of Jewish congregations and communities with the larger non-Jewish world, Southern Jewish memoirs and other topics.

A cocktail party benefitting the restoration of Temple B’Nai Israel is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at The Merrill House, 311 S. Commerce St.

The party will include a full bar and heavy hors d’oeuvres, as well as music provided by David Goldblatt. Food and beverages will be provided by Beau Bumgardner and Paris Winn.

Tickets are $60 for an individual or $100 for a couple and can be purchased by cash or check at the door.