Meridian Star

Local News

September 27, 2009

Jewish influence shaped Meridian’s history

It's difficult to pinpoint when Meridian began to become Meridian.

The area was first settled by the Choctaw Indians, but in 1831 through treaties the Choctaws relocated.

Shortly after the Choctaws, the area that would become Meridian was settled by a man named Richard McLemore, according to the City of Meridian Web site. McLemore recruited more families to the area by doling out free land, and eventually the railroads caused the area to grow into one of the larger cities in the state of Mississippi.

But much of what shaped Meridian, according to the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, began with the neighboring community of Marion and the Jewish families that settled there.

In 1837, just a few years after Richard McLemore settled in Meridian, David Rosenbaum bought land in Marion. At least five jewish families are thought to have followed.

Names like Rosenbaum, Davidson, Threefoot, and Marks are all familiar to Meridianites and all began with Jewish families that immigrated to the area from Europe in the 19th Century.

According to ISJL, Meridian was once among the largest Jewish communities in the state, with 575 Jewish people living in Meridian in 1927.

Many of these Jewish families were highly active in the community. The Marks family, for example, aided in the creation of Highland Park through land donation.

This activism has continued even as the Jewish community in Meridian has dwindled: I.A. Rosenbaum, one of the most well-known local politicians in the history of Meridian, served as mayor into the 1980's. Barbaree Rosenbaum Heaster is a vocal advocate of downtown revitalization, serving with the Alliance for Downtown Meridian, and Marty Davidson is currently one of Meridian's leading philanthropists — just to name a few.

The Jewish community also had an enormous role in building business in Meridian. Some of those businesses, such as Loeb's clothing store and Meyer and Rosenbaum insurance, among others, still exist today.

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