Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
In December of 2012, I was six months away from graduating college… and I needed what every graduate is looking for: a job.
I spent my downtime surfing job openings with a furrowed brow, waiting to see something that I was both interested in and qualified to do. Of course, I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do, but I knew two things:
First, I wanted to work in the Jewish world.
Second, I wanted to go back to the South (I was a displaced Southerner in college up in Boston).
My plan was to look through every southern state on jewishjobs.com. When I saw Mississippi, I thought, “Hey, I haven’t looked in this state yet. Why not?” I clicked, and my journey began.
When I first saw the listing for the Education Fellowship, I thought it was a joke. I did not believe that a place like the ISJL existed, in Mississippi or anywhere else. I was so moved and inspired by the work I read about, and decided that it was ISJL or bust. I applied the very next day.
Needless to say, the ISJL actually did exist. And I really did get the job, which met both of my requirements by giving me a meaningful Jewish career and a Southern address. Two years later I can say without hesitation that my experience here has been everything I had hoped for and more.
It’s difficult for me to express all that I’ve learned or choose a favorite memory of my time teaching, so I’ll leave you with a top 5 list of things I learned as a Fellow:
- Long drives get easier the more you do them. As a Fellow, I hit the road to go to communities all over our 13-state territory, multiple times a month. Seven hours? Eight hours? Psh. Child’s play.
- Recent college grads from all over the country can become a family. I love my cohort, AKA my fellow Fellows. They are so much more than my coworkers, and I am so proud of the work we did together. I know we’ll be staying in touch even as our next steps take us far away from each other.
- High schoolers and first graders can learn together. Hey, in a small religious school, the choice might be “no other students” vs. “students of very different ages.” Different ages can learn together and build community. I know. I’ve facilitated it.
- Quantity does not equal quality. Most of the communities I served as a Fellow were quite small in numbers, but I’ve never encountered more committed Jews in any other part of the country.
- Judaism is relevant. It’s been a privilege to help my communities’ students connect to our heritage. This work helped strengthen my connections, too.
For all of that knowledge and so much more, thank you to everyone who made these two years so incredible. This is the part where I would say goodbye (and probably cry a little) if I were actually leaving…
But, lucky for me, I get to keep my Southern address and my Jewish career, right here at the ISJL. I’ll be stepping into a new role, no longer in the Education Department—but I will use all of the skills that I learned there in my new position. My Southern Jewish journey is continuing, and I couldn’t be more excited!