You may not picture central Mississippi as central to Jewish life. But every summer, one of the most dynamic Jewish conferences anywhere takes place in Jackson, Mississippi.
Every June, Jewish educators from throughout the South, and great presenters from around the country, gather together for three days of learning, networking, celebration and inspiration at the ISJL’s teacher training institute, AKA “the education conference.” While Jackson may not be known by most as a Jewish metropolis, and most folks wouldn’t guess that this Southern town is the location for one of the leading Jewish education conferences in the country, the simple truth is that if you come to Jackson in June, you’ll know it’s true.
That conference begins this Sunday, and as always, I couldn’t be more excited. Volunteer teachers, along with full-time educators, rabbis, and Jewish professionals from Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and all over the region will sit beside one another, sharing challenges, sharing best practices, and of course, sharing meals. (Hey, you can’t have a Jewish event without food!)
I’m certain this year’s conference will lead to wonderful connections, great stories and plenty of what I like to call “goosebump moments.” For now, our team is working hard to take care of every single last-minute detail so when participants arrive Sunday, everything is in place. We’re watering the seeds and can’t wait for this blossom to once again bloom into beautiful life, nurtured in the warmth of a Mississippi summer.
When you think “summer in Mississippi,” the first thing that comes to mind is the heat.
But for some people, what comes to mind is Jewish education.
Yes, that’s right. Jewish education. Because for ten years now, summer has meant the ISJL Education Conference and teacher training institute – and communities throughout the South send representatives to Mississippi to attend the annual event. They come to learn, and they leave ready to teach.
The reality for many small Southern congregations is that Jewish educational resources are hard to come by. Often times, parents are the volunteer teachers, and may not have a background in Jewish education. But they are committed to instilling their heritage in their children. And so they gather, each summer, in Mississippi.
Because Jewish education happens everywhere.
To see some of the images from this year’s gathering (accompanied by a fun ‘soundtrack’ provided by the ISJL Education Fellows), you can view the video montage of the ISJL’s Education Conference 2012.