The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) supports, connects, and celebrates Jewish life in the South.
The ISJL provides programs and services across the South. We offer resources tailored to meet the needs of communities of all sizes—from the largest congregations to the last-Jews-in-town. Throughout our thirteen-state region, we work with individuals, congregations, and organizations to preserve the storied past of southern Jewish life, while at the same time enriching the ongoing experience of Jews in the contemporary American South.
All of the programs we offer are designed to strengthen southern Jewish life. Our comprehensive Jewish education program is embraced by an array of congregations of various denominations and sizes, bringing exciting lifelong learning to communities across the region. Our community engagement efforts seek to make the world a better place, while also providing Jewish individuals with meaningful service-learning opportunities. Our History and Heritage & Interpretation departments preserve, interpret, and celebrate the legacy of Jews in the American South. Our cultural programming brings world class entertainment and enrichment to communities across the region. We also provide visits and remote rabbinical support to congregations without full-time clergy, so that in times of joy and sorrow, small-town Jews always have a rabbi upon whom they can call.
Everything we do is informed by the expressed needs of the communities we serve. We strive to be as responsive as possible to all of our partners as we continue the ongoing journey of supporting, connecting, and celebrating Jewish life in 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formed as a response to an outcry from small-town southern Jews in need of a repository for artifacts, sacred objects, historical documents, and stories.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 In addition to preserving historical documents and artifacts, the ISJL works to provide Judaic services and cultural programs to Jewish communities across the South.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, Heritage & Interpretation, History, Programming, and Rabbinical 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, our departments, and read some of the press coverage we've gotten over the years!