Our Mission & History
The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) promotes Judaism and our heritage through innovative programs and shared resources. The ISJL delivers rabbinic services, an education program, and cultural events to communities seeking new solutions, or where Jewish resources are limited. The ISJL also provides historic preservation and community engagement throughout the South.
We began as the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in 1986. The Museum, which is launching as a new independent entity in New Orleans in 2019, was formed as a response to an outcry from small-town southern Jews in need of a repository for artifacts, sacred objects, historical documents, and stories. The ISJL remains committed to supporting the museum efforts, and ensuring that the stories and impact of the southern Jewish community will not be forgotten.
But the story of Southern Jewish life is not merely a story of shuttering synagogues and diminishing numbers. It's also a story of growing communities, vibrant congregations, and active Jewish communities of all sizes.
Thus, in 2000, we expanded our mission and became the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. In addition to preserving historical documents and artifacts, the ISJL works to provide Judaic services and cultural programs to Jewish communities across the South. Our six departments (Community Engagement, Education, History, Heritage & Interpretation, Programming, and Rabbinic Services) cover thirteen states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
We are transformational, trans-denominational, and committed to serving Jewish communities of all sizes.
Learn more about our namesakes/founding funders, our departments, and read some of the press coverage we've gotten over the years!