he 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.
The Institute began as the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in 1986. The Museum, now a subsidiary of the ISJL, was formed as a response to an outcry from small-town southern Jews in need of a respository for artifacts, sacred objects, historical documents, and stories. The museum helps small Jewish communities make the transition from active to inactive status and ensures that the stories and impact of the southern Jewish community will not be forgotten.
In 2000, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience expanded its mission and changed its name to the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. In addition to maintaining the museum and preserving historical documents and artifacts, the ISJL works to provide Judaic services and cultural programs to Jewish communities across the South. The Institute covers thirteen states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Today, the Institute provides rabbinic services to small congregations across the region. It has developed a comprehensive religious school curriculum and support program that is being used by over 75 congregations in thirteen states. The History Department works to preserve and interpret the rich legacy of the southern Jewish experience. Its Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities offers detailed histories of over 200 Jewish communities and congregations in the South. The ISJL also sponsors a range of cultural programs throughout the region.