Manny Crystal, leader of synagogue bombed by Klan, dies at 81

Emanuel “Manny” Crystal, who was president of Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson, Miss., when the synagogue was bombed in 1967 by the Ku Klux Klan, died Dec. 24 after a long illness. He was 81.

Born in Passaic, N.J., to Russian immigrants, Crystal moved to Jackson with his family when he was 10 years old. After serving in the Air Force and graduating from the University of Iowa, he returned to Jackson in 1949 with his new bride Elaine Gradinger.

Crystal joined his family’s scrap metal recycling business, Jackson Iron & Metal Company, Inc. The company expanded to encompass several other enterprises.

In 1952, the family opened Jackson Tractor Parts, Inc., a construction equipment parts sales and service company known throughout North America, Europe and Asia as Heavyquip.

In the 1980’s, Jackson Iron acquired Rockett, Inc., a contract metal fabricator.

Jackson Iron continues to operate several recycling operations in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Crystal served on the board of directors of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. from 1992 to February 2007. He also served on the board of the Institute of Scrap Iron & Steel.

Crystal and the Jewish community got involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Those activities led to the KKK bombing the synagogue in the fall of 1967. Later that same year, the Klan bombed the home of the congregation’s leader and then a synagogue in Meridian in 1968.

Crystal served as president of the Mississippi B’nai B’rith in 1960 and on the board of the United Jewish Appeal, which raises money for Jewish causes in America and abroad.

Survivors include his wife, Elaine; a son and a daughter, a brother and two grandchildren. — ap