Home to the oldest Jewish community in the state of Mississippi, Temple B’nai Israel tells a national story; it’s a story of the development of diverse American Jewish communities, a story of southern cultures, and, perhaps most importantly, a story of the American immigrant experience.
It's an important place for Mississippians and visitors alike—and it's in desperate need of restoration. We have received a Community Heritage Preservation Grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) , which will support the next phase of our preservation project: replacing the building's outdated electrical system and installing a fire suppression system.
We're so honored to have support from MDAH, but we need your help. We need $150,000 to match the funding we'll receive from the state of Mississippi as well as prepare for our next phase of restoration. Your support will ensure that Temple B'nai Israel is preserved, protected, and celebrated for years to come. Without donations from supporters like you, we will be unable to complete these much-needed repairs, and Temple B'nai Israel will face an uncertain future. Installing a new electrical system and fire suppression system, with the expertise of a historic preservation architect and an electrical engineer, will cost approximately $430,000—we need just $150,000 to match the funding from the state and make this project a reality.
All of the funds raised by this campaign will go directly to the Temple B'nai Israel Restoration and Preservation Fund, which is managed by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL).
Restoring the building will not only help ensure that this unique Beaux-Arts structure remains standing as a testament to the legacy of Jews in Natchez, the South, and the United States—but will also allow people from all walks of life to come together under the dome for shared experiences, artistic exploration, community-building, and civic engagement. Seating 350 people, Temple B’nai Israel is the only building of its kind in the city of Natchez, and in its iconic stained glass windows we see reflected the building’s history and the possibilities for its future.
The Temple B’nai Israel Board of Overseers has worked tirelessly to keep the temple and the community alive. We must completely renovate and restore the temple as well as maintain an endowment—the Temple B’nai Israel Restoration and Preservation Fund—to support the building in perpetuity.
The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) manages the Restoration and Preservation Fund, and is our partner in preserving the building and Natchez’s Jewish legacy in perpetuity. The ISJL helps make the temple accessible to all and brings enriching cultural programs to town. In this way, we ensure that the entire Natchez community can continue to celebrate a shared southern history and legacy of fellowship.
While the congregation is still active today, Temple B’nai Israel must plan for a time when there may no longer be a living Jewish presence in Natchez. In partnership with advocates and supporters in the city of Natchez and beyond, we will ensure that the legacy of the Natchez Jewish community continues to be celebrated. Temple B’nai Israel was named one of the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi in 2017, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributor to the Natchez-On-Top-of-the-Hill Historic District.
With an aging congregation and an aging structure, we are desperately in need of funds to sustain, rehabilitate, preserve, and restore Temple B’nai Israel. The complete replacement of the building’s electrical and mechanical systems and the installation of fire suppression systems is the next step in preserving the synagogue. Preserving and protecting the stained glass will further protect the historic fabric of the building and its architectural integrity as a pristine example of the American Beaux-Arts. Installing an elevator and accessible restrooms will bring us significantly closer to fully complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Your generous support will enable us to begin the temple’s next chapter and ensure that this historic building is safe and protected for generations to come.
Learn more about Temple B'nai Israel on our website.