I recently parted with something near and dear to my heart – my companion on many a Southern Jewish road trip: my car.
One of the best parts of being a parent for me has been seeing who my kids have become. They each have their own interests, talents and personalities that make them who they are. At 17 years old now, they are definitely their own people with their own ideas. It’s especially remarkable too see how different they are considering that they are twins.
This past weekend, hundreds of graves at the Shel Emeth Jewish cemetery in St. Louis were vandalized. No sooner was this terrible act publicized, than two Muslim activists mobilized their faith community to rebuild the cemetery. Within three hours, Linda Sarsour and Tarik El-Messidi’s campaign reached its goal of $20,000. By the end of 24 hours, the page “Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery” had raised $80,000.
The sharp increase in hate crimes in the United States doesn’t happen in a vacuum – and I think it’s important to maintain an awareness of the global context, because there are a lot of parallels between the current state of our nation and what is happening abroad. On the positive side– some of the responses from across the world can be informative and inspiring, too.
February is Black History Month, an important time to raise awareness – and February is also the month dedicated to raising awareness about something else close to me: it’s Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM).
I want my little Jewish baby to celebrate Black History Month. As a parent, I think of appropriately acknowledging this month as an almost-sacred obligation… especially these days. But just how should we celebrate?
The Talmud records Rabbi Chanina as stating, “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students.” That teaching was on my mind when I recently officiated at a Bat Mitzvah in Auburn, Alabama. It was my fourth b’nai mitzvah in that community, but this one was a little different. The Bat Mitzvah “girl,” Courtney, was an adult… and not only that, she had also been the teacher for all the other b’nai mitzvah students.
For many of us at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Mississippi is our home by choice rather than our home by birth. But no matter whether we’re a native Mississippian or a transplant from a distant locale, we are all Southern Jewish ambassadors. We spend a substantial amount of time answering questions about both the South in general and Southern Judaism in particular.
I may not keep traditionally kosher, but when I shop, I follow my own sort of kashrut. You won’t find a commandment saying, “Thou shalt thrift shop,” but in my estimation, being an intentional secondhand consumer is vital to purifying my consumption.
Recently I had the privilege of participating in the Southern Jewish Historical Society Conference in Natchez, MS, organized by the ISJL’s own Rachel Myers. My role was pretty simple: lead Shabbat services the opening night of the conference. Having led services many times in that sanctuary, I had what I soon realized was a false sense of complacency. Less than two weeks before the conference I realized what I had overlooked: I’m used to the building and the congregation, but not the crowd. We were expecting 150 people. That’s about 138 more than the typical Friday night. “Do they have books for 150 people?!” – That’s a question I’d never had to worry about until now. A few phone calls later and the answer became clear: not even close. I knew where I could find more than enough: Henry S. Jacobs Camp, a scant 45 minutes away. The problem was, they’d been in the ground since July. And it seemed like such a good idea at the time!