The Southern Jewish Historical Society is taking its annual conference to one of the smallest but most historic Jewish communities in the region: Natchez, Miss.
Held in partnership with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, the SJHS conference will run from Nov. 4 to 6 and focus on the experiences of Southern Jews in small towns and rural areas under the theme “Jews in the Southern Hinterland.”
From a beautiful old synagogue with museum exhibits to a scenic setting on the Mississippi River, Natchez offers a fine setting for the 41st an
The gathering starts Friday morning, Nov. 4, in Jackson, where buses with tour guides will depart for a drive of slightly more than 100 miles to Natchez via Vicksburg and Port Gibson.
In Vicksburg, bus riders will meet with members of Congregation Anshe Chesed; visit the Jewish cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places; and have lunch in the restored former home of the B’nai B’rith chapter.
In Port Gibson, people will visit the oldest standing synagogue building in Mississippi, Gemiluth Chassed.
Upon arrival in Natchez, conference attendees will gather under the dome of Temple B’nai Israel to learn about the state’s oldest Jewish community. B’nai Israel also will be the site of a community Shabbat service led by Rabbi Jeremy Simons, the ISJL’s director of rabbinic services, and reporter and editor Robin Amer will give a live performance of her radio story exploring the traditions and challenges of the Natchez Jewish community.
Topics to be discussed by panels and presenters the next two days include relations between Jews and gentiles, responses to natural disasters, the Ku Klux Klan, family history, and diaries and memoirs. Program details are available at www.jewishsouth.org/upcoming-conference.
The buses will leave Natchez for Jackson at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6.
“The city of Natchez is celebrating its tricentennial year, and hosting this conference is a wonderful way to honor their rich Jewish history,” said Rachel Myers, the museum and special projects coordinator for the ISJL and the conference host.
The B’nai Israel building “is part of the Natchez landscape and always will be,” she said. “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.”
Conference attendees will have several options for walking tours featuring antebellum homes and important Jewish sites, so they won’t be cooped up listening to papers all day.
Conference registration is $135 until Oct. 1, then rises to $150; it includes lunch and dinner Friday and lunch Saturday. You must be a member of the SJHS to register for the conference; membership is $36.
The fee for the bus to and from Jackson is $55, although you can get yourself to and from Natchez instead.
You can join the society, register for the conference and get hotel information at www.isjl.org/sjhs-natchez-program.html.