Dina Weinstein writes in the JTA newsletter about the nine fellows from the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life traveling around the South to provide professional Jewish educational resources to small Jewish communities that don't have them.
The two-year fellowship program started nine years ago to reach out to isolated Jewish communities in the American South. Without the Jewish population and knowledge base of larger urban areas, the communities often have religious schools run by all-volunteer staffs, including parents with little or no formal educational training.
The fellows, who work with communities on a standard curriculum of Jewish learning, split their time among 72 congregations and 59 schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The program works with adults and students at Conservative, Reform and Orthodox synagogues, as well as unaffiliated. The fellows lead youth group events, children’s services, yoga Havdalah services and confirmation classes. The Institute for Southern Jewish Life also employs a circuit-riding rabbi for small congregations.
The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) Education Fellows work with Jewish communities across the South that range in size from one student to over 600 students, many of which have limited access to professional Jewish resources. The ISJL’s mission is to ensure that all Jewish children in our Southern region will receive an excellent Jewish education no matter where they live or the size of their religious school.
Education Fellows work to create a common body of Jewish knowledge by:
- Assisting teachers in implementing a comprehensive religious school curriculum
- Traveling twice a month to Jewish communities across the South
- Leading Shabbat and holiday services
- Creating religious school programming for all age groups
- Organizing and directing an annual education conference
- Assisting with community and cultural programming
- Recruiting new communities
The institute is interested in recruiting new fellows for the next cohort.