Fellow Farewell: Allison’s Adventures

This is the second in a series of four farewell posts from the ISJL’s 2013-2015 Education Fellows, who will all begin their new adventures this June.

In the 1950s, there was a radio soap called Our Gal Sunday which opened every episode with the question, “Can this girl from a little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?” Recently, a rabbi introduced me to his congregation by referring to these lines, asking if a young Jewish woman from Medfield, Massachusetts, has been able to find happiness and success as a Jewish educator in the South.

The answer is unequivocally yes.

Bonding with the Vulcan in Birmingham, AL
Visiting the Vulcan in Birmingham, AL

First of all, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Rabbi Matt Dreffin, Rachel Stern, and my fellow Fellows in the ISJL Education Department. We do a lot of serious work, but it is always fun. I love the fast pace of our brainstorms, and the silliness that ensues when we try to come up with the “worst ever” way to do something as a way to help us arrive at an actually good idea. We play games, work on craft projects, blow bubbles, and pull pranks, all in the course of a legitimate work day.

What a great job.

Secondly, I have loved the adventure and travel that is the life of a Fellow. In the course of my two years with ISJL I have visited seven new states and at least 11 new cities. On my travels I have stood with the Vulcan overlooking Birmingham, Alabama, visited the Shaker Museum in Pleasant Hills, Kentucky, and toured the athletic complex at Texas A&M. I’ve met fascinating people, too. I met a Muslim diner-owner with Jewish children in Palestine, Texas. I’ve learned from star gardeners and sampled items from numerous gardens across our region. I even encountered another ex-pat from my hometown of Medfield, Massachusetts living in Alpharetta, Georgia. Spending time with these people and seeing how they have built communities across the South has been such a privilege.

Finally, I appreciate what I have learned from my time in the South. In my travels I have seen how Jews in small and sometimes under-resourced communities create meaningful Jewish experiences from their challenges. I have been thoroughly impressed by the sense of ownership Southern Jews have over their communities. People take personal responsibility for ensuring that programs are well-attended. Everyone steps up to the plate, and feels invested in the success of events and all aspects of Jewish communal life.

Gardening across the South!
Gardening across the South!

This Southern Jewish can-do attitude is what I want to take with me as I return to Boston and begin my studies at the Hebrew College Rabbinical School. I want to tell people about the vibrant Jewish community in the South. I would like to encourage people to emulate this sense of ownership and to take their Jewish identity a little less for granted.

I am so grateful for the time I have spent here in the South, the adventures I’ve had, the people who hosted me, and all the important new values I have come to appreciate.

Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me into their community. I’ve had a wonderful time here, and I promise to visit again soon!

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