The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience explores the many ways that Jews in the American South influenced and were influenced by the distinct cultural heritage of their new homes. Through exhibits, collections and programs focused on the unique and remarkable history of Southern Jews, the Museum encourages new understanding and appreciation for identity, diversity, and acceptance.
In 1986, the original Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience (MSJE) opened at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp, in Utica, MS, a summer camp for Jewish children. This project was the vision of camp director Macy B. Hart, along with a group of like-minded supporters. The Museum served as a location supporting the preservation of Jewish culture in the deep South.
In 2000, the Museum expanded its mission to become the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL). In addition to maintaining the Museum and preserving historical documents and artifacts, the Jackson, MS, based ISJL, works to provide Judaic services and cultural programs to Jewish communities across a thirteen state Southern region.
The Jacobs Camp site was closed in 2012 in part due to its inaccessibility to the general public. A search was undertaken to identify the best location to relocate the Museum, with an eye toward reaching more people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. New Orleans was deemed that ideal spot. With a city selected, the ISJL board passed a resolution separating the Museum from the Institute to ease its relocation and provide the proper breathing room to grow into its own potential as an educational and cultural institution.
Today, the Museum is poised to become a popular tourist destination, an important educational facility, and a vibrant center for cultural exploration and understanding.