|Key people||Macy B. Hart, President|
The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, formerly the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, is a non-profit Jewish organization based in Jackson, Mississippi that provides a variety of educational, cultural and religious services to underserved Jewish communities throughout the South.
Founded in 1986 as the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life provides educational and rabbinic services to isolated Jewish communities, documents and preserves the rich history of the Southern Jewish experience, and promotes a Jewish cultural presence. Macy B. Hart, a longtime director of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi, established the Museum in an effort to preserve the artifacts and history of small Jewish communities across the South in risk of extinction. In 2000, Hart expanded the museum into the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.
Funded by both large foundations and individual patrons, the Institute serves the spiritual, educational, and cultural needs of isolated and underserved Jewish communities in the South. Many of communities have neither a full-time rabbi nor a full-time Jewish educator. In turn, the Institute supports these communities through providing the services of an itinerant rabbi, a non-denominational religious school curriculum written and implemented by a team of educators, and a variety of cultural programs. The Institute currently serves a thirteen-state region:
The Education Department aims to raise the level of Jewish education in small cities and towns of the region. Over the past few years, the Institute has developed a complete and detailed non-denominational religious school curriculum. The curriculum is distributed to partner congregations and is supplemented by community visits by the Institute's nine Education Fellows. Now in its sixth year, 61 congregations in 11 states implement the curriculum in their religious schools.
The Rabbinic Services Department nurtures religious life in small communities and to ensure that southern Jews have access to rabbinic services regardless of location. Travelling to congregations without a full-time rabbi, the Institute's itinerant rabbi leads Shabbat and Holiday services, addresses school groups and community organizations, teaches Torah, and ministers at life cycle events.
The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience and the documentation of the history of Southern Jews continue to be integral parts of the Institute. The Museum completed its first building in 1989 on the grounds of Jacobs Camp in Utica. In 1992, the museum entered into a preservation agreement with the local congregation in Natchez, Mississippi, which deeded their historic synagogue to the Museum. The Museum has created several award-winning exhibits, including "From Alsace to America: Discovering a Southern Jewish Heritage" and "Bagels and Grits: Images of Southern Jewish Life."
Working in tandem with the Museum is the History Department, which actively works to gather information about every Jewish community that ever existed in the South. This research manifests itself in scholarly historical publications as well as through the Institute's Digital Archival Project, an online compendium of short histories of significant Jewish communities and congregations.
The Institute works to bring leading Jewish cultural programs to small communities in the South. Projects include Jewish Cinema South, the Southern States Jewish Literary Series, and other events and exhibitions.
In Fall 2007, Jewish Cinema South will be presenting Jewish film festivals in the following cities: