Interfaith Families Center at NOLA Federation Names First Exec. Director

Erica Golden has been selected as the first executive director of the groundbreaking Sherry and Alan Leventhal Family Foundation Center for Interfaith Families at the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

The Center, one of two new Centers of Excellence announced by the Federation in January, will provide a centralized resource and support system for interfaith partnerships and families in Greater New Orleans. According to the latest research from the Pew Center, interfaith marriages now affect 58 percent of the entire Jewish community.

“Our hope is that Jewish interfaith couples and families in New Orleans find a welcoming manner in which to explore their Jewish values and traditions,” said Sherry and Alan Leventhal, in a statement earlier this year announcing the creation of the Center.

“I could not be more thrilled to be returning to New Orleans as the executive director of the Leventhal Center,” said Golden, a 2015 Tulane graduate. “I am eager to join the Jewish Federation, the Leventhals, and the wider community on a mission driven journey that is sure to leave a lasting impact on Jewish New Orleans.”

The other new Center is the Goldring Family Foundation Center for Jewish-Multicultural Affairs, which is headed by Mithun Kamath, and focuses on the Jewish community’s relations with the African-America and Latin-American communities, LGBTQ outreach and multi-faith relations.

The Leventhal Center will formally launch next month. It is supported by a three-year gift from the Sherry and Alan Leventhal Family Foundation. The Center is co-chaired by Teri Hunter and Alex Gershanik, who oversaw a national search for an executive director, drawing over 80 applicants.

After earning a double-major bachelor’s degree from Tulane in 2015, Golden earned a master’s degree from Tulane in Behavioral Health Psychology in 2016, followed by a Master’s of Social Work and a Certificate in Jewish Leadership from the University of Michigan.

During her time in New Orleans, Golden worked at Slater Torah Academy, and was actively involved in Chabad at Tulane, Tulane Hillel and Tulane’s Jewish Studies department. She has worked with numerous Jewish community organizations across the country, most recently serving as the youth engagement director at Temple Beth Am in Miami. In that position, Erica worked with hundreds of young congregants and their families, many of whom are interfaith families.

“We could not be more delighted with our good fortune” in bringing Golden back to the city, enthused Hunter. Golden “is warm, genuine, joyful, creative, and motivated.  With a background in Jewish education, family programming, social work, and Jewish leadership — and with strong ties to the New Orleans community, Erica is everything we dreamed of when we started imagining who would take the helm of this new center. We’re incredibly grateful to our search committee for their efforts.”

Gershanik emphasized the importance of interfaith support in New Orleans. “The opening of this Center is a watershed event in the history of the Greater New Orleans Jewish community.  For generations, members of the New Orleans community have yearned for education and support in navigating the opportunities and the challenges of interfaith relationships. Thanks to the generosity of the Leventhal family, this center will be positioned to provide nurturing and inclusive opportunities for people of all backgrounds to explore and connect to Jewish values, traditions, experiences, holidays, and culture in an open environment.”