ISJL's Rabbi Matt Dreffin: Covenant Foundation Pomegranate Prize Winner
Five emerging Jewish educators received the 2019 Covenant Foundation Pomegranate Prize; they join 40 others, who, since the Prize’s inception in 2011, have trailblazed a path toward the most dynamic, responsive, inclusive, and creative ideas in Jewish education.
The 2019 recipients are: Rabbi Matthew Dreffin, Director of Education at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) in Jackson, Mississippi, Natan Kuchar, Director of Edah in Berkeley, California, Na’amit Sturm Nagel, English Teacher and Associate Director of The Shalhevet Institute at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, California, Shara Peters, Head of School at Adat Ari El Day School in Valley Village, California and Beverly Socher-Lerner, Founding Director of Makom Community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Pomegranate Prize, inaugurated eight years ago, is designed to honor rising leaders who have been in the field of Jewish education for up to ten years. By encouraging Prize recipients in their pursuits, and enabling them to accelerate their professional development and amplify their impact on the field, The Covenant Foundation aims to nurture Pomegranate Prize recipients in an intentional way, and empower them to take risks and make a difference in the field of Jewish education.
“The five 2019 Pomegranate Prize recipients are truly multi-talented, which is reflective of an important trend in Jewish education,” said Cheryl R. Finkel, Board Chair of The Covenant Foundation. “By enhancing their educational practice with skills in visual arts, music, literature, community engagement strategies, and creative problem solving, they offer the learners they work with a more well-rounded and rich Jewish learning experience. We are so excited about the potential they promise to the field.”
“It is a tremendous privilege to welcome a new cohort of Poms each year, each of whom offers an innovative and impressive slate of accomplishments,” said Harlene Appelman, Executive Director of The Covenant Foundation. “And it is so encouraging that the field continues to produce Jewish educators year after year who are as motivated, as creative, as engaged, and as talented as our first cohort was in 2011. May we always be surrounded by the kind of excellence that is on display this morning.”
To read biographical snapshots of all five of the 2019 Pomegranate Prize recipients, click here.
Meet Risa Klein Herzog, the ISJL's new Director of Development
The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) is delighted to welcome its newest senior staff member, Risa Klein Herzog, who is now serving as the organization’s Director of Development.
Risa hails from Nashville, Tennessee, and will remain there working remotely for the ISJL and traveling frequently on their behalf. She brings thirty years of development experience to the team, having worked for twenty-two years at the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and eight years in the secular nonprofit world at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
An empty nester now, Risa is the proud mother of two daughters. She and her husband Drew Herzog are active in the Nashville community, and Risa is excited for this new Southern Jewish professional opportunity.
“I’ve kept an eye on the ISJL as it developed over the years,” says Risa. “My hometown, Nashville, is a larger southern Jewish community, and my husband, Drew, grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. So I’ve long known of the importance the ISJL has and how it impacts so many Southern Jewish communities, never forgetting the smaller and under-served communities like Meridian while also partnering with larger communities like Nashville. I’m honored to join the ISJL at such an important time in the organization’s history, and I’m so excited to connect with communities and help take the ISJL to the next level.”
The ISJL will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in 2020. The organization’s staff and board are planning a “Year of Vision,” with lots of engagement throughout the year including strategic planning, events, and continued partnerships with communities across the South. Having Risa Klein Herzog helming development efforts will help ensure success throughout the upcoming milestone year, and for many years ahead.
Other ISJL media resources:
The ISJL: An Organization "Working to Strengthen Jewish Communities"
We were recently featured in a video roundup of dynamic Jewish organizations working to strength Jewish continuity across the country and around the world.
You can read the article and see the accompanying video on the Ezvid Wiki site, or watch the full video to the right! Yasher koach to the other featured organizations; we're proud to be in your company.
The ISJL: An "Anchor" For Southern Jewish Communities
(From: Faith & Leadership. By: Yonat Shimron)
By blending new technology with traditional methods such as circuit-riding clergy, the Institute of Southern Jewish Life helps form young people in faith even in places where the community has disappeared.
Read the rest of the story...
"JPS Students Avoid Conflict with (the ISJL's TAP) Peer Mediation"
(From: Jackson Free Press. By: Sierra Mannie)
In a world where students have to deal with realities of violence and division in their communities, tackling conflict is a tall order. But the ISJL's peer mediation initiative, T.A.P., is doing just that - and it's making a difference in Jackson Public Schools and beyond. Students are the ones taking the lead, too.
Read the rest of the story...
No Hate In Our State: HB 1523
Going the Distance
(From: Jackson Free Press. By: Sierra Mannie)
Rabbi Jeremy Simons knows his Bible too well to lend credence to people who cherry-pick verses to use it to support House Bill 1523, a law that many criticize as discriminatory against the LGBT community. "If you read those very same pages of the Bible, you will read the commandment: 'You shall not oppress the stranger,'" Simons said at a rally at the state capitol. Read the rest of the story...
(From: The New York Times. By: Emily Jane Fox)
Many communities without a rabbi of their own work throughout the year with the Institute of Southern Jewish Life and its staff rabbi, Jeremy Simons. Most weekends, he travels from one remote Jewish community to the next in a rented cayenne-red Nissan Cube to lead bar mitzvah services, hold Torah studies and, of course, eat traditional Friday night chicken (only fried, Southern style). Read the rest of the story...
Rabbi Marshal Klaven, ISJL Honored in Forward 50
(From: The Jewish Daily Forward)
Rabbi Marshal Klaven does exactly what any one rabbi would do for any one congregation. He just does it with 110 congregations in 13 states. As the outgoing itinerant rabbi of the Mississippi-based Goldring / Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Klaven, 35, has spent the past five years traveling among underserved communities from Oklahoma to Virginia. His mission is to bring rabbinic services to any congregation that wants them — even if it’s a congregation of one. Read the rest of the story...
ISJL Featured on BBC News
(From: BBC News. By: Jonny Dymond)
The BBC came down South prepared "not to bury the Jews of the Delta, but to mourn them." But when they got down to Mississippi, they found another story here - and also learned a lot about the ISJL and its Jewish-programs-on-the-road. Read the rest of the story (and listen to the audio news magazine)...
ISJL: Setting the Slingshot Standard, Year After Year
The Slingshot Guide is published annually to highlight the most innovate, groundbreaking Jewish organizations around. Why did the ISJL make into the Slingshot Guide for the ninth year in a row? The ISJL works as a laboratory to develop methods that engage small and far-flung Jewish communities across the American South. The ISJL has mastered this delicate progress, continually evolving its programs to meet the changing needs of partner communities. Read the rest of the story...
The Minivan Rabbi of Mississippi
(From: The Forward. By: Anne Cohen and Sigal Samuel)
Most rabbis wait for Jews to come to them. Rabbi Jeremy Simons goes to the Jews. As the new itinerant rabbi for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Simons drives through 13 states, serving 110 congregations from Oklahoma to Virginia. Read the rest of the story...
Giving Our Gorilla a Much-Needed Banana
(From: eJewishPhilanthropy. By: Rabbi Matt Dreffin and Rachel Stern)
We never really thought of ourselves as zookeepers, but as it turns out, we’re pretty good at taking care of 800-pound gorillas. At least, if the “800-pound gorilla” in question is the same simian David Steiner references in a piece just featured on eJewish Philanthropy: “...I am struck by the absence of conversation about the 800-pound gorilla sitting in front of us: the fact that our Jewish educators are largely untrained as teachers…” Read the rest of the story...
The ISJL on Story Corps
Three interviews were conducted for the StoryCorps project, thanks to the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Participants talked about many things, including growing up in Mississippi, their childhood understanding of the Holocaust taking place in Europe, and whether or not they felt and/or were treated differently because of their religion. Read the rest of the story, and listen to the audio...
What about the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience?