Beth Israel Congregation Honored With Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker
Jackson, Mississippi — April 13, 2018 — A new historical marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail honors the role Beth Israel Congregation played during the civil rights movement. The marker will be unveiled at a ceremony today at 5 p.m. at 5315 Old Canton Road in Jackson.
“The leadership and people of Beth Israel Congregation provided a beacon of hope during a difficult chapter in our history,” says Visit Mississippi Director Craig Ray. “The Mississippi Freedom Trail gives visitors a way to discover these stories and explore the state.”
Beth Israel Congregation, chartered in 1861, founded the state’s first synagogue on South State Street in Jackson. Under the leadership of Rabbi Perry Nussbaum, who arrived in 1954, the synagogue became active in the civil rights movement. In 1964, he and other ministers helped found the Committee of Concern and raised money to rebuild African-American churches burned by the Ku Klux Klan.
Beth Israel Congregation moved into a new synagogue on Old Canton Road in Jackson in 1967. Six months later, the Klan bombed the temple, targeting Rabbi Nussbaum’s office. No one was in the building at the time. Two months later, Klansmen bombed the Nussbaum home, severely damaging the structure but sparing Rabbi Nussbaum and his wife, Arene, from injury. The congregation continued to support improved race relations and reconciliation efforts.
“The bombing of the Beth Israel Congregation ushered in a level of bi-racial cooperation and understanding that had not been present in the community before 1967,” said Dr. Leslie-Burl McLemore, chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force.
Added Susan Fijman, president of Beth Israel Congregation, “Beth Israel is proud of the legacy of Rabbi Nussbaum and others in our congregation who took a stand against racial injustices happening in our society during the 1960s. It is gratifying that Beth Israel has been selected for a Mississippi Freedom Trail marker to commemorate this tumultuous time in our synagogue’s history.”
Launched in 2011, the Mississippi Freedom Trail commemorates the people, places and events of the civil rights movement. For additional information, please visit www.visitmississippi.org.