Rabbi Salem Pearce to lead ISJL’s Spirituality division

The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson announced that Rabbi Salem Pearce will be their new Director of Spirituality.

She succeeds Rabbi Caroline Sim, who just completed a three-year stint at the institute and will become the rabbi at Temple Am Echad in Lynbrook, N.Y.

This is a return to Jackson for the Houston native, as she was a rabbinical intern at ISJL in 2017, before her 2018 ordination by Hebrew College.

Most recently, she was the first-ever executive director for Carolina Jews for Justice. Before that, she was Director of Organizing at T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Huan Rights.

“I am thrilled to be (re)joining the staff of ISJL and contributing to its vital work,” Pearce said. “Over the past three years in North Carolina, in addition to my social justice work it’s been my privilege to contribute to congregational life in Durham and to lead lifecycle events for Jews across the state. And as a born-Texan, I am excited to continue supporting Jewish life in communities all over the South.”

While in rabbinical school, she also interned with the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, and was a student fellow with Rabbis Without Borders, American Jewish World Service and T’ruah. She also trained as a chaplain at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.

Before enrolling in rabbinical school, she lived in Washington and worked as a fundraiser for several non-profit organizations, including the Campaign for America’s Future, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and  the Marijuana Policy Project. She also was a volunteer and board member at the DC Rape Crisis Center, and was a Glass Leadership Institute Fellow with the Anti-Defamation League. It was during the High Holidays in 2011 that she decided to pursue the rabbinate.

The Institute’s Spirituality division, formerly the Rabbinic Services department, serves communities too small to have their own local full-time Jewish clergyperson. The “roving rabbi” in charge of 13 states does community visits, officiates at lifecycle events, does remote counseling, weekly Taste of Torah emails, and more.

Institute CEO Michele Schipper noted that their rabbi’s role has expanded. Because of the rabbi shortage nationally, they are also serving congregations that normally have a rabbinic presence, but are currently between rabbis and have been unable to find a suitable match.