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!
Whether we participated in the Community Engagement Fellowship or the Education Fellowship, we have each worn many hats over the past two years: professional schmoozer, educator, Jewish professional, program developer, and community historian, just to name a few. As we wrap up our two years as Fellows at the ISJL, we realized that we had each taken an aspect from our position and developed it into the subsequent step in our professional journeys.
Read on to see where life will take us next and to discover how diverse ISJL Fellowships are.
Gabi Cohn: I began the Education Fellowship knowing full well that my desired next step would be rabbinical school. However, I wasn’t as sure what it was that led me to this desire. I’d spent my college years delving into the history and practice of American Judaism and through this fellowship, was excited to see it in action. I traveled from one community to another, both large and small, I have learned all the different ways that a Jewish community can and does function, something I did not fully understand from my background. Each time I entered a prayer space and community I felt some sort of connection. Leading a service and sharing a new bit of Jewish knowledge quickly became the highlight of my week. I am thrilled to continue my work with the professional Jewish world through the Rabbinical School of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and beyond. A piece of the ISJL will remain with me throughout my journeys ahead.
Rachel Fraade: One of my favorite things about the Education Fellowship has been all the connections I have made, and all of the impromptu deep conversations I have had across the South. This taught me that I want to work on a one-on-one basis with individuals, which combined with my commitment to social justice, makes social work the perfect field for me. I hope to continue working with teens, and to implement my experience volunteering at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization to inform a future in reproductive justice counseling. I look forward to earning my AM (the equivalent of a Masters in Social Work) from the University of Chicago. After six years in the South, I will miss it more than I can describe, but I have a feeling I’ll be back in the future.
Rachel Glazer: I’m told that if you love something, stick with it. So, after two years of empowering Southern Jewish communities to engage in meaningful social justice programs, as well as guiding public school students across the South through becoming confident readers, compassionate listeners, and leaders in the classroom, I feel so blessed to be continuing my work at the ISJL, this time as the Community Engagement Associate. Through our work with families and literacy, I have been reminded of the power of learning together; through our peer mediation program, I have been retaught how to listen to hear and not to respond; through our Jewish social justice initiatives, I have learned how to meet people where they are and how to employ my Jewish values to guide the work I do to benefit all the parts of my community, and not solely the Jewish one.
Leah Wittenberg: When I started the Education Fellowship in June of 2016, I planned to attend rabbinical school after my tenure with the ISJL. I have realized, however, that not only do I want to gain experience outside of the Jewish professional world, I am not yet ready to go to grad school. Through the Fellowship, I furthered my passion for fundraising, taking a grant writing class as part of a professional development opportunity this past year. I also honed my program and curriculum writing skills. I have learned how to talk to anyone, anywhere, of any age, and make them feel at ease. I cannot wait to use all of these skills as I embark on the next chapter in my life. I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to stay in Jackson and work for an incredible nonprofit organization–Growing Up Knowing–as their Program Specialist starting in August of 2018. And what’s on my plate in the meantime, you might wonder? I’ll be returning to the URJ camping world for the first time since 2009 as the Director of Hospitality and Marketing at Henry S. Jacobs Camp.
Shira Muroff: One of the best parts of the Education Fellowship has been the chance to see how the history of each partner community has impacted the way that they practice Jewishly and interact with their greater community. This, combined with the opportunities to become involved in the larger Jackson history and humanities world throughout my two years has shown me that educational history programming is the piece of the Education Fellowship that I want to develop in my next job. Next year, I’ll be staying in Jackson and working at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as an Education Historian. I look forward to providing access to Mississippi history to people across the state, and I’m hoping that my Google Doc skills gained at the ISJL serve me well in the future.
With our five distinct paths ahead of us, we are excited to be joining the Fellow Alumni Network and starting our new journeys. L’hitraot!