Jewish American History in Waycross, GA
Despite the extreme level of population turnover, the Jewish community of Waycross began to organize in the 1920s. In 1920, Jews in the area first gathered to pray together. Four years later, 13 men officially organized a congregation, with Alex Gilmore as its first president. All but one of these founders were immigrants from Russia or Poland. Half of them owned dry goods stores, though their numbers also included peddlers, store clerks, and a lawyer. A number of them were relatively recent arrivals in town; two had come to Waycross from Savannah and one from Brunswick.
In 1924, Waycross Jews traveled to Valdosta or Brunswick for the High Holidays; the local newspaper noted that the Jewish merchants in town closed their stores for the occasion. In the congregation’s early years, they met at the local Moose Hall; between 1926 and 1953, they rented space in the Knights of Pythias Hall on Plant Avenue. Alex Gilmore bought a Torah for the group in the 1920s; the Gilmore family donated a second Torah to the congregation in 1935 after Alex’s death. Morris Jacobson replaced Alex Gilmore as leader of the congregation, serving as president from 1934 to 1954.
By 1937, 47 Jews lived in Waycross, and they began to discuss the possibility of building a synagogue. Due to the effects of the Great Depression, the congregation had to postpone their plans for a permanent home. Finally, on May 22, 1952, the congregation broke ground on the Waycross Hebrew Center on Screven Avenue. Morris Jacobson was the head of the fundraising committee. They were able to raise money from local Jews, family members who lived in other cities, Jewish-owned wholesale firms in other cities that did business with the area’s Jewish merchants, and local Gentiles. When the synagogue was dedicated in the summer of 1953, the congregation held an open house in which their non-Jewish neighbors were invited to tour the synagogue and learn about Judaism. The members of the Waycross Hebrew Center welcomed the larger community “to express publicly our appreciation for the wonderful cooperation shown in our building program.” Local Christian ministers announced the open house from their pulpits and encouraged their members to attend. Rabbi Abraham Rosenberg of Savannah was the keynote speaker at the dedication, which drew a large crowd. The synagogue was dedicated in honor of Alex Gil-more, who had been the leader of the local Jewish community until his death in 1934.
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October – November
& December 2023
DID YOU KNOW?
When The “Waycross Victory” Ruled The High Seas
Waycross and Ware County men and women did more than their share to aid the effort in World War II. A little-known chapter in that effort was the building of the “Waycross Liberty.” Many Ware Countians drove daily to Brunswick to work in the Brunswick Shipyards, but the city’s namesake wasn’t built in Brunswick, but in Baltimore.
October – July, August & September 2023
In Memory of Susan Lott Clark
Susan Lott Clark, 98, passed away peacefully at her home on May 2, following a long and productive life. She was preceded in death over 20 years ago by her husband, Dr. S. William Clark, Jr., a prominent ophthalmologist in Waycross.
April, May & June 2023
Jewish American History in Waycross, GA
Despite the extreme level of population turnover, the Jewish community of Waycross began to organize in the 1920s. In 1920, Jews in the area first gathered to pray together. Four years later, 13 men officially organized a congregation, with Alex Gilmore as its first president.
October – Jan, Feb & March 2023 When Pogo’s Father Visited the Ok’fenok’
by Larry Purdom
Our memory returns to the good ol’ day of PogoFest and to the man who helped put our little corner of the world on the map. He was Walt Kelly, as almost everyone knows, the cartoonist who created Pogo…
October – December 2022
Gram Parsons Guitar Pull by Dave Griffin
Ingram Cecil Connor III, known to the world as Gram Parsons, spent the first 12 years of his life in the small, South Georgia railroad town of Waycross.
It was here in Waycross that he hunted and fished the Okefenokee Swamp …
April – June 2021
Waycross Entertainment History by Marla Howell
Waycross has a wealth of history but more specifically we are addressing two areas being those who performed live at our City Auditorium and the magnificent theaters of our town, one that hosted three world motion picture premiers.