40th Anniversary of Beth Israel Bombing - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 09/18/07

40th Anniversary of Beth Israel Bombing

Beth Israel in 1967 Beth Israel in 1967
Inside Beth Israel in 1967 Inside Beth Israel in 1967
40th Anniversary Gathering 40th Anniversary Gathering

By Kandiss Crone
kandiss@wlbt.net

It was a hate crime that rocked the Jackson community.

In the early night of September 18th, 1967 members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the city's only Jewish house of worship, the Beth Israel Congregation.

"It was frightening," said Beatrice Gotthelf. "I never thought I'd live in the United States and be frightened, but I was."

Gotthelf remembers that tragic day all too well.

"I never thought anything would happen to our synagogue," she said. "After it happened I realized because we were Jews, it was going to happen. And it did."

On the 40th anniversary of the bombing, she and dozens of people of all races and religions gathered at the synagogue to celebrate those who fought for equality during the civil rights era.

"During the heat of the civil rights movement, to challenge white supremacy was to lose acceptance and possibly your life," said historian Stuart Rockoff. "Many kept quiet."

Local clergymen did not keep quiet. Three days after the bombing they expressed their sorrow and support for the Jewish community in a "Walk of Penance."

Lou Shornic recalls that peaceful demonstration and admits that Tuesday's commemorative ceremony mirrors that same type of support.

"I'm pleased the community is getting together," he said. "It brings awareness to what used to be the problem."

While racial tensions don't appear to be what they were 40 years ago, former governor William Winter says the battle for equality must still be fought even today.

"Let us each one looking in the mirror ask ourselves, 'What can I do to break down the barriers that separate ourselves from God and one another?" Winter said.

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