South Mississippi Jewish community starts over again

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After Katrina destroyed their synagogue in Biloxi, members of Congregation Beth Israel decided to rebuild in Gulfport north of the interstate with the stipulation that there be no mortgage. Danielle Thomas reports on what those of the Jewish faith say having a home of their own will mean for future generations.

With a few words in Hebrew, C.J. Perry wrote what it feels like to finally see his new synagogue taking shape.

"We've been waiting for it for so long," said Perry. "Plus, since I saw the last one destroyed, it kind of upset me. So I'm glad to see that they're having a new one."

The president of Congregation Beth Israel Brad Kessie said, "For three years we wandered through our own desert, and we've questioned if there really was a promised land. Well, this right here is that land. What you see behind me is the rebirth of our congregation."

Congregation Beth Israel not only celebrated the construction of a new temple in Gulfport, members also thanked those who helped them along the way either by donating worship space or money towards rebuilding.

"We had people from all over the world come in and have people from all over the world here today that have flown in and given us much support," said Jay Reubenstein. "Not only the Jewish community but all communities across the country. We appreciate all the assistance and people caring about us surviving."

Members say the key to the survival of their faith is creating a solid foundation for their children and their children's children. Milton Grishman is also a member.

"Each generation has an important part. You do what you can. Do what you can to prepare for the next generation, so the tradition is continued. "

"The synagogue is the heart and soul," said Grishman. "So the synagogue is the house of assembly. The house of worship. The house of prayer. So it's the beating heart of the community."

The new synagogue will be 5,100 square feet and is scheduled to be dedicated in May.