The ISJL Department of Community Engagement completes the Institute's mission by working in partnership with a broad network of service-based organizations, including local churches, to address a range of social issues that affect all people in the Southern region. The Department of Community Engagement also works with Jewish congregations in the region to establish strong and ongoing relationships with individuals and institutions in their local communities. You can learn more about our specific programs, including our award-winning peer mediation program, T.A.P. (Talk About the Problems), which impacts public school students throughout the metro-Jackson, Mississippi, area.
The ISJL's Programming Department dramatically expands Jewish cultural programming in small towns and big cities across the region. Through our Southern States Jewish Programming Series, we help communities throughout our region to host events by authors, speakers, musicians, comedians, actors, and storytellers that will appeal to a diverse range of interests. Big and small, we bring communities together and make is possible for even small and remote Southern congregations to bring top Jewish talent to their towns.
Our Education Department believes that every Jewish child, no matter where they live, deserves an excellent Jewish education. Even in communities lucky enough to have Jewish professionals, synagogue religious schools often have largely volunteer staffs, consisting of parents or other lay-people. These dedicated teachers give their weekend over to teaching religious school. They come with enthusiasm and commitment, and often work without any professional support and in many instances without much teacher-training of their own. We're committed to assisting these parents and helping to ensure that their students will become life-long participants in the Jewish community. We work with communities of all sizes and denominations to instill Jewish knowledge in the next generation.
The mission of our History Department is to preserve this story of Jewish life in the South and make it available to a wider audience. The ISJL History Department collects information and documents relating to every Southern Jewish community that has ever existed. You can see the fruits of this effort in our Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. The encyclopedia is a valuable resource for researchers, scholars, and people interested in their family history. Our Oral History Archive houses over 500 interviews; we are committed to making its oral history collection a nationally recognized resource for scholars and students.
Heritage & Interpretation
The Heritage and Interpretation Department celebrates the rich legacy of Jewish life in the American South through public programs, trips and tours, shared experiences, and more. Teaching students about Jewish immigration through hands-on engagement with primary sources? Traveling to the American South, visiting Jewish communities and Civil Rights Movement sites along the way? Experiencing a historic synagogue that’s home to the oldest Jewish community in Mississippi? The Heritage and Interpretation Department is here to make it happen.
The ISJL Rabbinical Services Department puts clergy on the road to bring spiritual leadership to places with little or no access to rabbinic support. Our rabbis travel among small Southern communities, leading Shabbat services, addressing school groups and community organizations, ministering at life cycle events, and teaching Torah to the young and old. We also coordinate visits from clergy from across the nation through our Rabbis on the Road initiative. Our mission is to nurture religious life in these small communities and to ensure that southern Jews have access to rabbinic services no matter where they live.