6.9 Meridian, Mississippi
Beth Israel, corner of 11th Street and 24th Avenue
P. J. Krause, architect, 1906

C. T. Photochrom, publisher; no date

This postcard shows one of a group of three early 20th-century Mississippi synagogues, all built in a similar classical style, and clearly relating to each other.

Beth Israel (House of Israel) was founded in 1868 and joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1874. Four years later, the congregation built its first temple, a brick structure on 22nd Avenue, reputed to be the first building in the city with gas-powered lighting.

The congregation’s second building, the more substantial structure shown here, was constructed in 1906. Designed by architect P. J. Krause in the classical style, the building sat on a tall platform base, which was really a half-basement story, and 14 marble steps led to the main entrance set within a portico of large Ionic columns.

The synagogue interior could seat 500. The octagonal sanctuary was surmounted by a green glass dome, which united all the seating within an intimate range of the ark. There was a large pipe organ, and stained glass windows displayed the Ten Commandments, a menorah, the Star of David, Noah’s Ark, and other Jewish symbols.

In December 1964, the congregation dedicated its third synagogue, built on 56 acres in Broadmoor subdivision. The new facility was composed of three buildings, all designed by architect Chris Risher Sr. The sanctuary could hold 200 people, and facilities included a social hall with a kitchen and library, and an education building. The old building was demolished soon after the move.

Beth Israel was not the only synagogue in town. Eastern European immigrants arriving in Meridian formed, in 1895, Ohel Jacob (Tents of Jacob), a new Orthodox congregation. The two congregations cooperated, and many congregants maintained dual memberships. In 1929, Ohel Jacob built a small white-frame synagogue at 1300 25th Avenue as its permanent home. But beginning in the 1970s, Ohel Jacob’s membership declined until, in 1990, the congregation disbanded, and its members merged into Beth Israel.

Beth Israel, Meridian, Mississippi. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congregation_Beth_Israel_(Meridian,_Mississippi).