In March of 2013, I volunteered to swab people’s cheeks for a bone marrow registry drive at a National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) conference. For a few hours, I sat behind a table and walked women through the easy steps of being swabbed. Near the end of my shift, I picked up a test kit and added myself to the registry. Then the event ended, and my life went on.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to share a series of posts about my reflection on “becoming Southern and Jewish.” It’s been seven years since I moved to Mississippi, and my time in the South has absolutely shaped my identity today– and continues to shape it, day by day.
Here’s another in our periodic series about making a home in Mississippi, and feeling that there’s something special about the South!
In college I was tasked with writing a “This I Believe” essay about my guiding beliefs and values. This assignment wasn’t faith-based in nature; the “This I Believe” essay initiative is just about people writing on something, anything, about which they feel passionate certainty. In writing this essay, I found that the hardest part was not to articulate my beliefs, but to identify them in the first place. In fact, it was only after I submitted my assignment and read one of my classmates’ essays, that I truly began to discover my own beliefs. Ever since then, my understanding of my own sentiments has deepened, and now, a year and a half after being assigned that essay topic, I feel like I have better words to express my own sentiments of belief.
Today’s post comes from Rabbi Bruce Elder, who brought congregants from his suburban-Chicago congregation down South earlier this year.
Every person has a different way of dealing with grief; some cry, shout, pray, fast, or choose to celebrate and remember better times. At first thought, it would seem logical to ignore or downplay bad things, to push the pain aside and focus on the positive, the now. There are endless lyrics encouraging society to look forward and not to focus on the past. But Jewish tradition stands in stark contradiction to this. We do not ignore our history, which includes our tragedies. Each death, battle, war, destruction, eviction, genocide, slander is recognized as equally important as our celebrations.
Before I moved to Jackson, Mississippi, in 2003, I had only a passing familiarity with the South. Yes, I had family in Alabama and several other Southern states. I’d been “down South” (though not to Mississippi, until moving there). But it still felt like a whole new world.
My husband and I got married in April. We were engaged for a year-and-a-half, and I spent our entire engagement growing my hair out as long as I could. I did not know exactly how I wanted to have my hair done on our wedding day, but I did know that I wanted as many styling options as possible at my fingertips.
When you enter rabbinical school, you get used to a couple of questions. Chief among them: What made you decide to go to rabbinical school? And what do you want to do after you get ordained? For me, those answers are actually one and the same: I want to be a military chaplain.