Temple celebrates designationBy BETH BUNCH,
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Congregants and guests filled the sanctuary of the B’Nai Israel Temple last Thursday as the synagogue dedicated and celebrated its National Historic Registry designation.
“It’s awesome to be here with you to celebrate this momentous occasion,” said ADP President Chad Newell. “We love our churches and synagogues being involved in the business community and greatly appreciate your membership and participation with the ADP.”
According to Congregation President Brian Rifken, this process began more than a year ago as a way to preserve the temple, but the Jewish community has been a part of Hattiesburg for more than 120 years.
“I believe we have a history worth preserving,” he said.
He noted less than a dozen buildings, including the Saenger Theater, the Courthouse and several buildings on the University of Southern Mississippi and Camp Shelby campuses that have the National Register designation in the area.
“We are the 22nd building in this district to receive this honor,” Rifken said, noting there are less than 10 active synagogues in the state.
Only four state properties were singled out for this year’s designation and only one was a religious organization – B’Nai Israel.
The current synagogue was built in 1946 and Rifken described is as a “small, but stable, Jewish community with 85 members.”
“The history of B’Nai Israel, which means Children of God, is really the history of Hattiesburg itself. Our membership may have always been small in numbers, but our impact on the Greater Hattiesburg area has always been substantial.
He said B’Nai Israels ideals are based on fredom, hope, justice, charity, community, education and a belief in one God.
“We are working hard to preserve our meaningful and colorful history and thank the city for supporting diversity.”
A ribbon cutting and reception followed the dedication service.