AUGUSTA, GA (WJBF) – A mezuzah is placed in the doorpost at the entrance of a Jewish home, and Thursday one was placed at the entrance of the Augusta Jewish Museum, signifying and blessing the space’s return to its original purpose.
“I’m pleased to announce this 161-year-old building that once was in danger of being torn down to make a parking lot, is now ready to become the Education Center of the new Augusta Jewish Museum,” president of Augusta Jewish Museum board of directors, Jack Weinstein said during the ceremony.
The Education Center will be open for tours and special programs on the second Sunday of every month beginning in August.
Educational programs will focus on four pillars: Jewish contribution to the CSRA, Jewish traditions and practice, remembering the Holocaust, and Israel’s land and people.
“Us as the state of Israel, we’re very please to see that the history continues of this Jewish community in this great city and to see the connection between the Jews of Augusta and the state of Israel,” Deputy Consul of Israel to the Southeast United States, Alex Gandler said.
Weinstein says historic Augusta played a significant role in keeping the buildings from being demolished.
“Historic Augusta learned long ago that if someone does not speak up to advocate for preservation, historic buildings will not be saved,” executive director of Historic Augusta Inc., Erick Montgomery said.
The museum is comprised of two historic buildings. The Education Center, and what some may know as the city planning department office… but that building is actually the oldest synagogue in Georgia. It will be brought back to life as a gathering and event space.
“The work is well underway,” Weinstein said. “Crews have already torn out the walls and the ceiling of the old planning department and you can see the bones of the synagogue and what it looked like in 1869.”
The Augusta Jewish Museum board of directors is developing plans to connect the synagogue and Education Center via a corridor.
“History is important,” Mayor Hardie Davis said. “When you have facilities like this that give us great opportunity to not only memorialize our history, but to have people from different generations to come back and visit, that is what this is all about today.”