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Only Synagogue in Jackson, Miss., is Damaged in Night Bombing

September 20, 1967
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The synagogue of Congregation Beth Israel, the only synagogue in this capital city, was bombed at 10:30 P.M. last night and its administrative offices were virtually destroyed.

Rabbi Perry E. Nussbaum told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the bombing had been the work of “bigots” who may have been inspired to action by the flood of anti-Semitic campaign materials used extensively here in the recent Democratic gubernatorial primary election. He said there had been a “flare-up” of anti-Semitism among the white residents of Jackson.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation entered into the case immediately and today its agents were making an “inch-by-inch” investigation of the damaged premises. They had not been able to determine by late today whether the bomb had been planted in a lavatory or thrown into the offices from the synagogue corridors.

Three men were arrested later following the bombing. The FBI said that two of them, Joe Hawkins, 49; a painting contractor, and his 23-year-old son, were “active Ku Klux Klan members for a number of years.” The third man arrested was identified as J.L. Harper, 23, a painter.

The congregation, 108 years old, moved into its present $500,000 home last Spring. Rabbi Nussbaum said that despite the bomb damage, congregation activities would continue as scheduled and he would preach this Friday evening, basing his text on Deuteronomy. The congregation numbers about 150 families.

A native of Toronto, Ont., Rabbi Nussbaum has been spiritual leader of the Jackson congregation for 13 years. He has been an active civil rights worker and was prominent in efforts to raise funds to rebuild Negro churches destroyed by arson or bombs.

“I have always been subjected to harassment in Mississippi,” Rabbi Nussbaum told the JTA, “but I have always preached prophetic Judaism and social justice during my 13 years here and I hope there will be no curtailment of my activity now.”

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