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Mississippi Freedom Trail Marks Bombings in Jewish Community

Mississippi Freedom Trail Marks Bombings in Jewish Community
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Mississippi Freedom Trail at Beth Israel in Jackson
MPB News

The newest marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail is telling the story of the bombing of the state's first Jewish synagogue and the role a rabbi played in the fight for justice. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.

Helene Johnson is a lifetime member of Beth Israel Congregation. She remembers growing up in Jackson, less than a block away from the temple. Johnson says she'll never forget the bombing of the church in 1967.

"We lived growing up at the end of East Northside Drive and I remember mom and dad saying, the temple was bombed at four, four thirty in the morning and they heard it at the house and the house actually shook," said Johnson.

Ku Klux Klansmen bombed the temple, targeting Rabbi Perry Nussbaum's office and later bombed his home. No one was hurt. But, those who studied Nussbaum say he played a significant role in the freedom struggle in Mississippi. Stuart Rockoff is a member of the temple and the Executive Director of the Mississippi Humanities Council.

"It was after the bombing that was kind of a turning point when a lot of members of the congregation realized they needed to kind of get more involved and since then the congregation has played a very important role in the improvement of life here in Jackson in terms of race, Stewpot, and other work that grew out of the kind of interfaith relationships Rabbi Nussbaum did," said Rockoff.

Leslie-Burl McLemore is a longtime civil rights activist and chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force. He says he hopes the union of all races and religions during this time will inspire Mississippians today.

"People were able to coalesce together around what I clearly understand as biracial leadership. I'm hopeful that we can use these examples as an example of how we can work together and how we can move citizens together," said McLemore.

The marker at Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson is the 27th marker on the Freedom Trail. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.