Over the summer, I traveled to Greenville, Mississippi for one of my Education Fellow visits to Hebrew Union Congregation. Before we began Shabbat services, I visited with some of the congregants. One of the women I spoke to, Roseanne, had recently started coming to Greenville for Shabbat because her synagogue, just over the border in Dumas-McGehee, Arkansas, had closed its doors. Although it is always sad to hear about smaller congregations shutting down, I was so excited to learn that she had been a member at the Meir Chayim Temple.
A couple weeks ago, I was returning from vacation and was waiting for my bag at the Jackson airport baggage claim when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I whizzed around and to my surprise and excitement, I saw Ali Duhan, a second-year ISJL Education Fellow, who was picking me up from the airport. I was eager to see her after a long hiatus, because over the course of my first Fellowship year, she’s become a great friend and colleague. But I was also hit by a wave of déjà vu—back to almost a year ago, when I was interviewing for my Jewish job down South, and first met Ali in this very spot at the airport.
For as long as I can remember, my Nana has been making things for her six grandchildren. There were the crocheted ponchos that we begged for, the needle-pointed tallit cases that we all received upon becoming b’nai mitzvah, and even blankets in the colors of our alma maters. I wanted to know how to create in this same way – to start with a ball of yarn and end with a piece of clothing. I wanted to give these things the same way she had. I wanted to create exactly what I wanted for myself, and to know that no one else possessed the same item. I wanted to learn a craft that my great-grandmother, a seamstress, made her living through. So when I was 11, I asked my Nana if she would teach me to knit.
As the New Year approached, many people took out the pen and paper to note down their resolutions. Now the jokes about how quickly such resolutions fade has already begun — but still, many of us are still focusing on what we plan to improve on next year. Personally, I try not to think of it as what I am going to do better because it makes it seem as though I failed at something this year. Rather, I try to think of it as what I am going to do differently in the new year and the best way to make sure I follow through is to make a plan — and my best-laid plans are based around Jewish values.
On any given day, if I spend five minutes scrolling through Facebook I’m likely to see 20 posts bringing attention to some tragedy, big or small. Usually, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I keep on scrolling. Yesterday was different. There was a picture of my seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC) defaced with a swastika.
I love New Year’s Eve. I love reflecting on the past year, celebrating with friends, and watching the ball drop. I love the sense of newness and the feeling that anything is possible. I’m a holiday enthusiast in general, and this one is great. But while I enjoy the beginning of every new year, I am especially excited for the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 – because I’ll be that much closer to completing my Jewish graduate school experience while living in Mississippi.
This is a crazy time of year. Life is hectic. We’re working and scheduling those last few very important meetings before “EVERYONE” is on vacation through the end of 2016. We’re running out to (or hosting) holiday gatherings, and of course even a few days into Hanukkah, there’s probably still the pressure of shopping for that perfect gift for several people on your list! But there’s one gift we should seriously consider adding to all of our lists…
Around Thanksgiving, my baby girl had the first continuous cough we had ever experienced (thanks, daycare!) and, just to be safe, I took her to our pediatrician’s office.
Holidays are always prime family time. My whole family goes to my grandparents’ house for pretty much every holiday, and that’s very special. But one of my favorite parts of going home is catching up not only with family, but also with my friends from high school.
When I was a kid, the crème de la crème of latkes were the frozen ones. And I don’t mean frozen fresh. I mean frozen, mass produced, throw in the oven, no-oil necessary latkes. I lived for them! There may not have been any actual potato or onion found in the recipe, but who cares? To me, their starchy burnt goodness was heaven.