The Jewish Contribution

Trail Marker

2200 5th Street, Meridian, MS

After the devastation of the Civil War, Jewish merchants were responsible for much of the growth Meridian experienced. They built many successful businesses in the downtown area. Buildings like the Grand Opera House, the adjoining Marks-Rothenberg building (together now known as the MSU Riley Center), the Threefoot Building, and the Rosenbaum Building are evidence of their prominent role in Meridian. Additionally, they became active in politics, education, and civic organizations. The Jewish community, while small, was an important part of civic life in Meridian.

During the 1960s, many local Jews feared being associated with the Civil Rights movement. Fear kept them silent – fear of losing their financial position and social acceptance, and fear of becoming targets of Ku Klux Klan violence themselves. Jewish Freedom Summer workers reported feeling unwelcomed in worship services because locals were afraid their presence could attract unwanted attention. Those who did support the movement usually did so quietly and behind the scenes.

There were notable exceptions, however. Jewish leaders felt compelled to speak out in support of Black churches that had been bombed or burned. As a result, their own Temple Beth Israel’s education building was bombed in 1968. Additionally, acting on an informant’s tip, the FBI was able to foil a plot to bomb the home of prominent Jewish businessman Meyer Davidson.

Directions to next marker (Federal Courthouse): Continue down 22nd Avenue to 9th Street, and turn right on 9th Street; marker located immediately on left.

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