‘AMERICAN TREASURE’ — Natchez synagogue awarded grant

Published 5:26 am Saturday, December 3, 2022

The National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services today announced $24.25 million in Save America’s Treasures grants to fund 80 projects in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Among the historically significant entities selected is Temple B’nai Israel of Natchez, Mississippi.

“Through private and public investments, the Save America’s Treasures program supports community-based preservation and conservation work on some of our nation’s most important collections, artifacts, structures, and sites for the benefit of future generations,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams.

Save America’s Treasures, funded through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), provided $356 million to more than 1,326 projects between 1999 and 2020. Requiring a dollar-for-dollar private match, these grants have leveraged more than $500 million in private investment and contributed more than 16,000 jobs to local and state economies.

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“We are absolutely thrilled that Temple B’nai Israel was selected for the Save America’s Treasures program,” said Nora Katz, Director of Heritage & Interpretation at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) and a member of the Natchez synagogue’s Board of Trustees. “Home to the oldest Jewish community in the state of Mississippi, Temple B’nai Israel tells a truly national story about the development of diverse American Jewish communities, southern cultures, and, perhaps most importantly, the American immigrant experience. The building needs work to ensure its survival, and this support will be vital in making that happen.”

Once the largest Jewish community in Mississippi, there are now only a half-dozen members of the synagogue in Natchez. The care and long-term planning for the building has been entrusted to the ISJL. The strategic plan for the Temple B’nai Israel building is to convert it into a communal arts and culture space for the city of Natchez, which will include an exhibit sharing the story of the Jewish community there. Funds are currently being raised to match the Save America’s Treasures funding, to meet the private dollar-for-dollar match requirement.

To learn more about the congregation, visit www.natcheztemple.org. To learn more about this grant and contributing to the matching fund, email heritage@isjl.org.