Home to the birthplace of blues and diner-style beignets, Mississippi is rich in Jewish history. Jews first arrived in North America in 1654, in what is now called the state of Mississippi in the mid-1700s when the region was under the rule of the Spaniards. However, the first significant Jewish community was not ascertained until 1800 in Natchez, when the first synagogue was reportedly held.
Need some fun facts to entertain you while you’re in transit on our Jewish Heritage Tours? Here are a few:
The Population of Jewish Inhabitants Dropped Recently
Mississippi’s Jewish population plummeted from 5,000 in 1900 to 1,550 in 2012. The Jewish community now only comprises 0.1% of the state’s population.
Civil Rights Activist
Perry Nussbaum, rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Jackson, was heavily involved in the civil rights movement. In September 1967, the synagogue in Jackson was bombed by Ku Klux Klan members. In November of that year, the KKK bombed Nussbaum’s house while he was sleeping. He and his wife survived.
Participation in Public Service Positions
Jewish civic involvement was not uncommon to Mississippi, as Jews across the South were elected to civil service positions. One reason for this agreement was that Jews adapted to Southern society. While staying faithful to their different religion and culture, Mississippi Jews have managed to reduce the boundaries and distinctions between themselves and their Gentile neighbors. They have adopted the cultural values of the region, for better or worse.
House of Worship
The first Jewish synagogue was built by the Beth Israel (House of Israel) Congregation in Jackson. On May 2, 1867, the Weekly Clarion of Jackson reported: “We are gratified that measures are in progress for the erection of a place of worship in this city by our fellow citizens of the Hebrew descent.”
Want to learn more about Jewish history through Jewish travel? Book a tour now on Kosher River Cruise. We set sail for the mighty Mississippi in 2020, but you need to hurry. We have limited seats available; the vessel can only house a maximum of 120 guests all in all. See you aboard!