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Conference Focuses on Small Communities Educational and Rabbinic Services

Betsy Karotkin, Macy B. Bart, and Alene Jo Kaufman at conference.

From June 27 through June 30, Alene Jo Kaufman, Director of Gait Arni Preschool, and Betsy Kamtkin, former Assistant Director of the United Jewish Federation of Tradewater, experienced a real southern experience. Traveling to Mississippi, they participated in a unique educational conference sponsored by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.

As it states on their web-site ( "The Goldring/ Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life is a not-for-profit organization that provide educational and rabbinic services to small Jewish communities, documents and preserves the rich history of the southern Jewish experience, and
promotes a strong Jewish cultural presence throughout a 12-state region. The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience operates under the auspices of the Institute"
This conference reflects just one piece of the educational program and services provided Macy B. Hart, President of the ISJL and a true visionary, conceived of the idea of creating a unified curriculum with specific delineated lesson plans in order to ensure that Jewish children living in this twelve state area would have a solid Jewish education. Many of the congregations do not have the benefit of professional clergy or educators and the curriculum was designed so volunteers could put the weedy lesson plans into action.

Since the curriculum is still in a development stage, it is being piloted in four states, with 10 additional congregations outside those four states included in the pilot representatives flow the synagogues gathered at this conference for instruction in the use of the curriculum and other timely educational topics. Educators from around the United States came to Mississippi to present workshops and kctums.

So how did Betsy and Alene end up in Mississippi? Through very different routes. Betsy has known Macy Hart for many years through their association with the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi. When the decision was made to include a Holocaust curriculum in the curriculum for Middle School students, Macy knew that Betsy was the right person to contact due to her
the fact that she has about the Holocaust for the last 13 years. Two years ago the Federation honored Linda as "Holocaust Educator of the Year" and sent her on a two-week study trip to Eastern Europe. Together Betsy and Linda worked for months to develop this curriculum for the Institute. Betsy was an official faculty member at the conference and presented a well-received session on how to implement the Holocaust curriculum.

Alene had a different purpose in attending the conference. Sent by the Early Childhood Department of national CAJE, the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, her official role was to serve as a liaison between the ISJL and CAJE to see how the two organizations could work together to create meaningful Early Childhood programs for the ISJL curriculum. However, attending the sessions, networking with the presenters, and meeting with the participants ended up being a meaningful learning experience for bet. One of the highlights of the conference for Alene was a real surprise. At the opening lunch, one of the attendees excitedly said, "Mrs. Kaufman, what are you doing here?" It was Shannon Edelson Rubin, a former member of Kempsville Conservative Synagogue, who Alene has known since she was a young girl (and taught inconfinnalion class) and who has where Shannon has accepted the position of Education Director at a temple in Pensacola- Her congregation has adopted the curriculum and is part of the pilot program. What a treat it was for teacher and former student to learn together. Alene stated, as she and Shannon embraced throughout the weekend, "This is my reward for being in Jewish education?"

The ISJL dreams of creating partnerships between the under- served congregations in the south and other congregations with more available resources. For more information about the Institute for Southern Jewish Life, their programs and vision, visit them on the web at