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Synagogue to Host Menorah Lighting at Mississippi Capitol

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Holiday festivities in Mississippi mainly center around Christmas, but Chanukah at the Capitol will present a unique experience for those in the Magnolia state.

Congregation Beth Israel is set to orchestrate a menorah lighting at the south steps of the Mississippi Capitol on Wednesday evening. According to the synagogue, it will be the first time such an event has occurred at the state capitol. Along with synagogue leaders, Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) will also speak.

Local Jewish families on the Mississippi Gulf Coast founded Congregation Beth Israel in 1959 to establish a permanent home for their community. Beth Israel was first located in Biloxi. Following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it relocated to its current home at Three Rivers Road in Gulfport. It is the only synagogue on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Hannah Hall is co-director of the Gulfport synagogue, along with her husband Rabbi Akiva Hall. Growing up, both had strong Jewish upbringings. After their daughter Leah was born in 2013, they moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help grow, inspire and be a part of the Jewish community on the coast. Since moving to the state, the couple has done menorah lightings across the coast.

Hannah Hall reached out to the Governor’s office just before Thanksgiving to gauge interest in a potential menorah lighting. It quickly reached back out to her, expressing interest and support for the menorah lighting. The governor’s support meant a lot to Hall.

“That just brings an enormous amount of comfort that we’re safe here and that people know what’s going on,” Hall said.

The holiday celebrating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem stands in contrast to the horror inflicted by Hamas on Israel and Jewish people worldwide. It has affected not only the synagogue but also Leah’s school.

“My daughter goes to a Jewish school in New Orleans, and they’ve had to hire an armored guard to be there for the first time,” Hall said.

Since October 7, there has been a rise in anti-semitism across the United States. It has led to increased security measures at institutions across the country. This includes security at all of the menorah lightings in December.

According to Hall, however, the support from the local community has outnumbered the threats.

“It’s been really, really heartwarming to see all of the support and that really positive feedback,” Hall said.

Hall hopes that the menorah lighting ceremony can provide similar support for those in her community.

“Just to come together with other Jewish people right now who can understand that feeling and can sympathize with that feeling provides a lot of comfort,” Hall said.

Chanukah at the Capitol is set to begin at 4:30 on Wednesday. President of Congregation Beth Israel Ryan Goldin and Rabbi Hall will speak first. The governor will then deliver remarks and light a six-foot-tall menorah. Traditional Jewish food, music, and Jewish pride bracelets will also be at the event.

Source: 12 WJTV