ISJL’s Rachel Stern leaving for Austin; Rabbi Dreffin to become education director

After 15 years of working with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Rachel Stern is heading to Austin to become the first-ever director of the new Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Jewish Culture and Education at Shalom Austin.

Stern, who first began consulting with the ISJL in 2003, has been its full-time director of education since 2005. Rabbi Matt Dreffin, who has worked in ISJL’s Education Department since 2013, will be promoted from associate director of education to director of education.

“Rachel has brought such incredible enthusiasm and leadership to the ISJL,” said ISJL CEO Michele Schipper. “She has grown the education department tremendously, supervised and mentored dozens of Education Fellows, and been an outstanding representative and cheerleader for the ISJL throughout our region and beyond. We will miss having her on our staff, but know she’ll always be part of the ‘ISJL team.’ And in the same breath, we could not be more enthused about Rabbi Dreffin stepping into the role of Director of Education. His five years with us have been inspiring and productive, and we know the future holds great things.”

In announcing Stern’s arrival, Shalom Austin said Stern is “one of the most highly regarded professionals in the field of Jewish education.”

Stern is excited to remain in the region while taking on this new position. “I am so lucky to have been in a job I loved with the ISJL, that also gave me the opportunity for more than a dozen years to do meaningful work while also preparing me for this next step. As I interviewed for the position with Shalom Austin, I realized that everything I brought to the table were skills truly honed during my time at the ISJL. I will always be an advocate and supporter of the ISJL, and am thankful to know the education team is in great hands and the good work will be ongoing as I take this terrific new journey with the Austin Jewish community.”

Dreffin said “When I took this position five years ago, I knew I’d love it, but I could never have imagined just how terrific a fit it would be. I am over the moon with excitement about my new role as director of education. Guiding the Fellows on their journeys throughout the South, working with our partner communities, expanding our impact — I’m honored to take the helm of a department that Rachel Stern has so masterfully built, and eager to ensure a smooth transition as our terrific team keeps all of our work going seamlessly.”

Stern will continue serving as director of education through the summer, assisting with all elements of the annual education conference, Education Fellows’ summer visits, and preparations for the 2018-2019 school year. She will relocate to Austin and begin her new role there in September. Dreffin will then assume his new role at ISJL.

A search is also underway for a new assistant director of education.

The Education Department oversees the Institute’s trans-denominational religious school curriculum, which was designed for congregations with minimal resources to design a religious school program, often staffed by volunteers with limited teaching experience or Judaic knowledge.

The curriculum is currently used by 77 congregations in 13 states.

As part of the curriculum package, a team of 12 ISJL Education Fellows provides support services to the participating congregations. Fellows are assigned to congregations and do three in-person weekends per year, leading training workshops, adult education and children’s programming. They also check in on a more frequent basis by phone.