SHALOM Y’ALL: Historical Society Meeting Oct. 25
Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 22, 2022
The South has had a significant Jewish population beginning in its early days of settlement and this is true for Mississippi in particular, and especially so for the Natchez District.
Nowadays, our Jewish population in Natchez is much less in number than it was in the antebellum and post-Civil War periods up to the early and then mid-20th century. But the vestigial signs of our formerly large and impactful Jewish community are all around us. For example, Temple B’nai Israel at Commerce and Washington Streets and the extensive Jewish sections in Natchez City Cemetery tell us of an ethnic and cultural element to Natchez that was formative of what and who we are today.
Last year, in March, the Natchez Historical Society, through Anna Tucker, the Curator of the Museum of Southern Jewish Experience, located in New Orleans, addressed the significant Jewish history of Natchez. Now, this year, we are turning to the larger context of the Jewish history of Mississippi as a whole, albeit with particular attention to Natchez, since Natchez was a major center of Jewish development and collective life.
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Tuesday, October 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the Historic Natchez Foundation, 108 S. Commerce Street, the monthly meeting of the Historical Society will present Dr. Stuart Rockoff, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Humanities Council. The title of Dr. Rockoff’s presentation is, “Shalom Y’all: The Jewish History of Mississippi.” In the early 19th century, Jewish immigrants from Europe began arriving in Mississippi, settling initially in towns along the Mississippi River, such as Natchez, Port Gibson, Woodville, and Vicksburg. Concentrating in retail trade, these Jewish people were a prominent manifestation of the market economy in Mississippi. Throughout much of their history, Mississippi’s Jewish citizens have worked to lessen the cultural differences between themselves and their neighbors. This put them in a challenging position during the struggle for Black civil rights in the mid-20th century. In recent decades, due to region-wide economic and demographic trends, the Jewish population of Mississippi has declined and become concentrated in the state’s larger population centers. Jewish life, nonetheless, continues as a significant and vibrant presence in our state and Dr. Rockoff is highly qualified to tell us about it all.
All, members and non-members alike, are warmly welcome at the Historical Society’s meetings. We promise an informative, intriguing, and lively meeting October 25. Please accept our invitation to attend.
ALAN WOLF is a trustee of the Natchez Historical Society and chair of programming.